Stackage is an infrastructure to create stable builds of complete package sets (henceforth we call them “snapshots”). Think “stable Hackage”. Let's recap.
By running automated builds before releasing a new snapshot, Stackage gives the following assurances:
This means that as a user of an snapshot verified by Stackage, you can expect all packages to install first time.
Also, we are currently building on these GHC versions:
This gives plenty of time to update your GHC versions in a gradual manner.
Each snapshot is given a unique hash which is a digest of that
snapshot's package set. Snapshots don't change. Once you have the
hash, it refers only to that snapshot. So if you write a project using
aba1b51af, and in two months you switch to another machine
and build your project with
aba1b51af, it will succeed. You can
continue hacking without hopping onto the Hackage treadmill.
¹ A build plan refers to the process Cabal makes when trying to install the dependencies of a package and then the package itself: it determines which packages are candidates by their version restrictions and produces a list of package versions that it will install. This is part I of version hell.
² Versions don't necessarily mean a package really compiles, just that the author thought it might or did on their platform. This is part II of version hell.
To have the knowledge that your package builds and tests successfully across the current, stable and old GHC versions is valuable information. As a library author, you have guarantees that users of Stackage can easily use your library and can do so on a reasonable number of GHCs.
You're also informed, as an author, when a newly uploaded package breaks yours, meaning it's time to update your package if you want to be included in the latest snapshot.
In the two years since the initial announcement, library authors have been submitting their packages and contributing to this process. The steps are simple:³
Once you have submitted the pull request, a build will be started. There is a dedicated jenkins server at this location: jenkins.stackage.org From here you can track the progress, status and results of Stackage builds.
If there is a problem, you will get a ping notifying you that there is a build problem. Once the problem is fixed, that change will be accepted into the next Stackage snapshot.
Later on, if the uploading of a new package breaks your package, you will be pinged to update.
For example, here is an issue created when haskell-src-exts bumped to 1.15.0. Each author of the packages were notified, made updates, and now we had a new snapshot.
In the past, use of Stackage was limited to either manually downloading the project and building it all locally, or by using FP Haskell Center. In the coming month, we will be announcing for beta testing a new project, based on the Stackage infrastructure: Stackage server.
Upon release, you will be able to go to the server web site and pick a
snapshot. On the build will be a simple copy/paste line to use as a
Cabal repo, to replace your existing
cabal update and you're set! You now have all the advantages
listed in the users section. Everything will build
in your cabal now.⁴
When a new package is released and has been properly updated via the process explained for authors, if you want that package, you can go to the Stackage home page and get the latest snapshot and update your repo.
We will also support uploading custom snapshots, so: as a company, as a Linux distribution, organisation, a university, or just as a general hacker who wants to keep all their projects under one package set, you can maintain your own custom series of snapshots, and also make it available to other people. Of course, then the burden will be on you to make sure it builds, rather than the recommended snapshots which we maintain and to which authors contribute.
⁴ It will be suggested on the web site that you start from a base install, with either instructions of how to clear your setup or start from scratch.
Stackage doesn't include all of Hackage. So sometimes there will be packages that you want, which aren't included on Stackage. This means it's not certain that they will build or their tests will pass. However, we will distinguish between two types of snapshots:
Which one you choose will depend on how “bleeding edge” you want to be.
To compare with other approaches, here's a quick rundown:
Though, we also do snapshots which are based upon the Haskell Platform. This is especially important for Windows users.
An additional use-case not mentioned so far is for application writers. Programs that have lots of very particular dependencies. FP Haskell Center itself is such a piece of software. Any Haskeller who's worked on a big program knows that it's important to freeze all dependency versions so that:
There are various ways to tackle such a problem. I've seen all of them used in places I've worked or talked to about it:
Stackage is another way to do this. Similar to the local Hackage
approach, you, as an author, or as a team of developers, would choose
a snapshot to build your application against. Everyone shares the same
Now if random Billy Opensauce wants to contribute to your big project, and wants to be able to build it, all you have to do is tell them to make a cabal sandbox and use the snapshot that your project builds with and it will work for him first time.
This is a bit like doing
cabal freeze. Although one handy
side-effect is that you can have a big program consisting of many
sub-systems, and they all just specify e.g.
text in their
dependency, and your whole project depends upon a snapshot, rather
than keeping n .cabal build-depends entries in sync.
We're also offering custom installations for businesses who want to build their development platform upon Stackage. If you're considering this for your business and want to find out more, please email us at: email@example.com
The next stable Stackage snapshot will be on GHC 7.8 (and included in the FP Haskell Center). This means that if you want your packages on that snapshot, you should submit them ahead of time. Currently we have 552 packages available on GHC 7.8. Submit your packages or packages you like and let's get them building!