Underestimated or underused: Portage (e)logging


Sven Vermeulen Wed 25 September 2013

Within 30 minutes of each other, two people on the #gentoo channel asked if Portage kept logs of the messages displayed during the build and installation of a package. Of course, the answer is a sounding "yes" - and depending on your needs, you can even save more of the logging. If you haven't read the Gentoo handbook yet, do so - it contains a section on Logging Features that explains how and when logging is enabled.

Let's start with the default elog support. By default, Gentoo's Portage will log messages that ebuild developers have put in the packages through the use of the elog, ewarn and eerror functions. These methods are used by the developers to notify the administrator about something useful or important (usually elog), a potential issue that might occur (ewarn) or even a problem that was found (eerror). Let's look at a snippet of the app-admin/eselect-postgresql-1.0.10 package:

pkg_postinst() {
    ewarn "If you are updating from app-admin/eselect-postgresql-0.4 or older, run:"
    ewarn "    eselect postgresql update"
    ewarn "To get your system in a proper state."
    elog "You should set your desired PostgreSQL slot:"
    elog "    eselect postgresql list"
    elog "    eselect postgresql set "

Here, the developer warns the administrator that, if an upgrade of the package from version 0.4 or older occurred, an additional action needs to be taken. For others, he informs the administrators how to mark the proper active PostgreSQL slot (using the elog methods).

Portage will save this information by default in /var/log/portage/elog as separate files for each deployment:

~$ ls /var/log/portage/elog/*eselect-postgres*

If FEATURES="split-elog" is set in your make.conf file, then the elog files will be stored in separate category subdirectories. Below is the content of such a single file:

~$ cat /var/log/portage/elog/app-admin\:eselect-postgresql-1.0.10\:20130818-184756.log
INFO: setup
Package:    app-admin/eselect-postgresql-1.0.10
Repository: gentoo
Maintainer: titanofold@gentoo.org postgresql
USE:        abi_x86_64 amd64 elibc_glibc kernel_linux multilib selinux userland_GNU
FEATURES:   preserve-libs sandbox selinux sesandbox
WARN: postinst
If you are updating from app-admin/eselect-postgresql-0.4 or older, run:

    eselect postgresql update

To get your system in a proper state.
LOG: postinst
You should set your desired PostgreSQL slot:
    eselect postgresql list
    eselect postgresql set <slot>

In the file, package information is provided, and each set of logging paragraphs is accompanied with information where in the build process the logging came up. For instance, WARN: postinst sais that the following text is through the ewarn method in the post install phase of the package installation process.

By default Portage logs this, but you can ask it to mail the logs as well. For more information about that, check the handbook link earlier and look for the PORTAGE_ELOG_SYSTEM and PORTAGE_ELOG_MAIL* variables. Or look at man make.conf which also contains all the information needed.

Now, this only pertains to the specific logging that ebuild maintainers added in the packages. But what if you want to keep track of all the build logs? In that case, you need to define PORT_LOGDIR in your make.conf file. This variable has to point to a location where Portage (which usually runs as the portage Linux user) has write access to and where it is allowed to store the build logs:

~$ grep PORT_LOGDIR /etc/portage/make.conf 
~$ ls -ldZ /var/log/portage/
drwxrwsr-x. 3 portage portage system_u:object_r:portage_log_t 679936 Sep 24 13:12 /var/log/portage/

With the variable set, build logs will be provided for each emerge (and unmerge) operation of the package. These logs contain everything shown on the terminal during a build process. Of course, this directory will grow considerably in size so it is wise to properly handle old log files. You can use logrotate for this, or just a single cronjob that cleans up log files older than say 6 months. But Portage also provides this functionality. If you set FEATURES="clean-logs" in your make.conf file, then all log files older than 7 days will be removed from the system. You can fine-tune this by setting PORT_LOGDIR_CLEAN to the command you want executed. Its default value can be found in the /usr/share/portage/config/make.globals file.

If you set PORT_LOGDIR, be aware that the elog files (described at the beginning) will be stored in ${PORT_LOGDIR}/elog. Similar to the elogging, build logging can also be done in category subdirectories. If FEATURES="split-log" is set, the build logs will be stored in ${PORT_LOGDIR}/build/<category> instead of ${PORT_LOGDIR} directly.

Hopefully this post brings some users closer to this nice feature of Portage.