Error handling

Importance of error handling

Decent error handling is important because:

  • Errors must be detected before Portage tries to install a broken or incomplete package onto the live filesystem. If build failures aren't caught, a working package could be unmerged and replaced with nothing.
  • When receiving bug reports, it is a lot easier to figure out what went wrong if you know exactly which call caused the error, rather than just knowing that, say, something somewhere in src_compile broke.
  • Good error handling and notification can help cut down on the number of bug reports received for a package.

The die function

The die function should be used to indicate a fatal error and abort the build. Its parameters should be the message to display.

Although die will work with no parameters, a short message should always be provided to ease error identification. This is especially important when a function can die in multiple places.

Ebuild helpers automatically die on failure. Some eclass-provided functions will automatically die upon failure, others will not. Developers should check the eclass reference when in doubt.

Sometimes displaying additional error information beforehand can be useful. Use eerror to do this. See Messages.

die and subshells

The following code will not work as expected, since the die is inside a subshell:

[[ -f foorc ]] && ( update_foorc || die "Couldn't update foorc!" )

The correct way to rewrite this is to use an if block:

if [[ -f foorc ]] ; then
	update_foorc || die "Couldn't update foorc!"

When using pipes, a subshell is introduced, so the following is unsafe:

cat list | while read file ; do eapply ${file} ; done

Using input redirection (see Abuse of cat) avoids this problem:

while read file ; do eapply ${file} ; done < list

The assert function and $PIPESTATUS

When using pipes, simple conditionals and tests upon $? will not correctly detect errors occurring in anything except the final command in the chain. To get around this, bash provides the $PIPESTATUS variable, and Portage provides the assert function to check this variable.

bunzip2 "${DISTDIR}/${VIM_RUNTIME_SNAP}" | tar xf

If you need the gory details of $PIPESTATUS, see the bash manpage. Most of the time, assert is enough.

The nonfatal command

If a non-zero exit status from an ebuild helper function is expected, you may call it under the nonfatal function. Instead of dying on failure, the command will then return non-zero exit status, as in the following example:

src_test() {
	if ! nonfatal emake check ; then
		local a
		eerror "Tests failed. Looking for files to add to your bug report..."
		while IFS='' read -r -d $'\0' a ; do
			eerror "    ${a}"
		done < <(find "${S}" -type f -name '*.log' -print0)
		die "Make check failed"