FreeBSD The Power to Serve

Policies of the Ports Management Team

In accordance with its Charter, the Ports Management Team has adopted certain policies to try to meet each of its goals.

Assure The Integrity Of The Ports Collection

To help assure the integrity of the Ports Collection, portmgr acts as sole committer for certain files that are integral to it, such as Since the ports tree is not branched (unlike some of the other BSD projects), any fatal error in these files will be quickly picked up by the many users who run automated updates of their ports.

portmgr also runs periodic builds of proposed large changes to the Ports Collection on a dedicated area of the automated ports building cluster. These are termed experimental builds (often referred to as "exp-runs"). Examples of changes that should be tested here before committing include:

  • changes to

  • changes to packages with many dependencies, including X11 servers, GNOME, KDE, autotools, and so forth

  • changes that change the "accepted best practice" for ports Makefiles, such as definitions or usage of common make variables (or `Makevar`s). (e.g., consolidation of various implementations of USE_*, WITH_*, and so forth)

  • large changes to the repository (such as when an existing port category is divided up)

Any large-scale failures that might be caused by any of the above need to be caught first before a large number of user installations are affected.

At other times, especially during the preparations for a new release, there are other restrictions on when commits are allowed.

portmgr reserves the right to act as final arbiter of other commits in certain unusual cases, such as: commits that in their opinion destabilize the Ports Collection; violate the Principle Of Least Astonishment for FreeBSD’s users; or in cases of inter-committer disputes that cannot be solved among the committers themselves.

Maintain The Automated Ports Building Cluster

portmgr maintains a set of machines that automatically build packages on combinations of FreeBSD source tree versus CPU architecture (in our terminology, build environments or `buildenv`s). Where license distribution permits, the resulting packages are regularly uploaded to the main FTP mirror as the "new latest package" so that they are available for download by FreeBSD users. Port build failures are reported to the responsible maintainers and/or committers for the appropriate corrective action.

In some cases ports may become broken by changes to the FreeBSD base system (src/ tree). In such a case, the Ports Management Team expects the responsible Source Committer to develop fixes to the affected ports, in consultation with the relevant port maintainers.

Work With The FreeBSD Security Team

Work with FreeBSD Ports and Documentation Committers

portmgr will attempt to help keep the FreeBSD Porter’s Handbook up to date with what it believes to be the "best practices" for individual ports.

(The intent is not just to lay down 'rules' but to say 'here is why something that we advocate as The Right Thing in the ports Makefiles is done.' In particular, there are a number of "edge cases" that bsd.*.mk has some very convoluted code to handle — such as ensuring that ports can be installed from CD-ROM, over NFS, and so forth — and failing to understand these issues can lead to maintainers using shortcuts that will not work in these edge cases.)

portmgr is not the sole owner of the Porter’s Handbook, as it is actually in the doc/ tree. We welcome PR submitters and doc committers to work on it to add documentation that helps to clarify existing practice. However, we would like to request, as a courtesy, the right to review any changes that would seem to change existing practice.

In addition, there has been recent discussion about creating a "Rights And Responsibilities of FreeBSD Ports Maintainers and Committers" document. portmgr supports this effort and looks forward to being able to review any drafts.

portmgr also is responsible for certain other documentation such as the ports-specific portions of the Committer’s Guide and the Contributing to FreeBSD Guide.

To the extent possible with a volunteer project, portmgr will work to ensure that the legal rights of authors whose works are installed via the Ports Collection are respected. This includes making sure that the appropriate entries are made to ports/LEGAL and to the makevars that control package building and thus automated distribution of binaries.

In rare cases this may also require removing a port and all distfiles and binaries if the original author demands it.

portmgr asks our volunteer committers to carefully consider authors' licensing restrictions when committing new ports, since it is infeasible for the members of portmgr to do so themselves due to the huge number of ports.

Act As Arbiter Of First Resort For Disputes Between FreeBSD Community Members Such As Maintainers And Committers

portmgr encourages members of the FreeBSD community to work together in accordance with the principles set out in the Committer’s Guide. In case of disputes, it reserves the right to arbitrate, subject to review by the Core Team.

Manage Commit Access To The Ports Tree

The FreeBSD Core Team has delegated the responsibility to manage commit access to the ports/ tree to portmgr. Core reviews granting and revocation of commit bits and has final authority over all the entire FreeBSD repositories.

New Ports Committers are proposed by an existing Ports Committer who wishes to act as a mentor. The proposals should include a brief summary of the history of contributions made by the proposed new committer such as number of PRs submitted, number of ports currently maintained, and existing commit bits in other trees, if any.

In its votes the team will consider that history as well as any other relevant factors. The results of the votes are made available to the FreeBSD developer community.

In accordance with practice elsewhere in the project, inactive Ports Committers are periodically contacted to enquire about their status and interest in continuing to work with the ports tree. Committers who do not respond to such email, or who respond in the negative, have their commit bits reclaimed for safekeeping. Currently, this period is one year.

In unusual cases it may become necessary to remove Ports Committers for other reasons. This will only be done after serious deliberation, and is subject to review by Core.

Establish Guidelines And Policies Governing The Rights And Responsibilities Of Ports Committers And Maintainers

portmgr has the responsibility to establish guidelines and policies governing the rights and responsibilities of Ports Committers and maintainers, such as expected standards of maintainership, conditions under which maintainers may be overridden or removed, and other policies.

To ensure that ports Problem Reports are handled in a timely manner, portmgr has established a guideline about how long a PR assigned to a committer may remain open before being eligible for being committed by another committer via a "maintainer timeout". This time period applies to such things as updates that do not require a regression run; for other updates, please contact portmgr directly. The time period does not count ports freezes and generally recognized holidays.

In addition, to ensure that ports are maintained in a timely fashion, portmgr has established a guideline about how long a port maintainer may be inactive before forfeiting maintainership. "inactive" is not interpreted strictly, but is intended to encompass such things as unresolved open PRs, commits made by others via maintainer timeouts, and unresolved build problems.

The intent of these policies is not to assign punishment or blame, but to reflect the fact that the software installed by the Ports Collection undergoes rapid development that is outside FreeBSD’s control. Part of the responsibility that a ports maintainer accepts is to try to keep a port working and as up-to-date as feasible. It is unfair to our users to let unfixed problems languish and stale versions remain. However, we also recognize that all of our maintainers and committers are volunteers just as we are, and that as with any volunteer project, it is easy to overcommit, or lose interest in a particular port.

Maintainers and committers who feel overcommitted or have lost interest in any particular port should feel free to ask for new volunteers and/or reassignment of the port back to the general pool. Not only will this help keep the Ports Collection current, but hopefully will help prevent volunteer burnout.

Help Prioritize Future Directions For The Overall Ports Collection

portmgr recognizes that the development and evolution of the Ports Collection is primarily driven by the work of community members. However, due to the unbranched nature of the Ports Collection, it is sometimes necessary to coordinate, or even choose among, any proposed changes.

To some extent this involves choosing which patches are adopted for testing on the build cluster, but it also involves such issues as working to build consensus over architectural decisions, creating lists of "interesting projects", and so forth.

Last modified on: December 29, 2023 by Benedict Reuschling