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SubjectRe: Git training wheels for the pimple faced maintainer

On Sat, 21 Oct 2006, Pierre Ossman wrote:
> >
> > HOWEVER! The above obviously only really works correctly if "master" is a
> > strict subset of "for-linus".
> Ah, that's a bit of a gotcha. Any nice tricks to keep track of where you
> where in sync with upstream last? Create a dummy branch/tag perhaps?

You don't need to. Git keeps track of the fork-point, and you can always
get it with

git merge-base a b

where "a" and "b" are the two branches.

HOWEVER. If you have _merged_ since (ie your branch contains merges _from_
the branch that you are tracking), this will give you the last
merge-point (since that's the last common base), and as such a "diff" from
that point will _ignore_ your changes from before the merge. See?

But holding a tag to the "original fork point" is equally useless in that
case, since if you have merged from my tree since that tag, and you do a
"git diff tag..for-linus", then the diff will contain all the new stuff
that came from _me_ through your merge as well. See?

In other words: in both cases you really really shouldn't merge from me
after you started developing. And the reason in both cases is really
fundamnetlly the same: because merging from me obviously brings in commits
_from_me_, so any single diff thus obviously turns pointless: it will
_not_ talk about all your new work.

Anyway, notice the "single diff" caveat above. Git obviously does actually
keep track of individual commits, so the individual commits that are
unique to your repository are _still_ unique to your repository even after
you've merged with me - since I haven't merged with you. So you _can_ get
the information, but now you have to do something fundamentally
So if you've done merges with me since you started development, you cannot
now just say "what's the difference between <this> point and <that> point
in the development tree", because clearly there is no _single_ line of
development that shows just _your_ changes. But that doesn't mean that
your development isn't separatable, and you can do one of two things:

(a) work on a "individual commit" level:

git log -p linus..for-linus

will show each commit that is in your "for-linus" branch but is _not_
in your "linus" tracker branch. This does the right thing even in the
presense of merges: it will show the merge commit you did (since that
individual commit is _yours_), but it will not show the commits
merged (since those came from _my_ line of development)

So now a

git log -p linux..for-linus | diffstat
will give something that _approximates_ the diffstat I will see when
merging. I say _approximates_, because it only really gives the right
answer if all the commits are entirely independent, and you never
have one commit that changes a line one way, and then a subsequent
commit that changes the same lines another way.

If you have commits that are inter-dependent, the diffstat above will
show the "sum" of the diffs, which is not what I will see when I
actually merge. I will see just the end result, which is more like
the "union" of the diffs. And the two are the same only for
independent diffs, of course.

So the above is simple, and gives _almost_ the right answer. The other
alternative is slightly smarter, and more involved, and gives the exact
right answer:

(b) create a temporary new merge, and see what the difference of the
merge is, as seen by me (eg as seen from "linus"). So this is

git checkout -b test-branch for-linus
git pull . linus
git diff -M --stat --summary linus..

will create a new branch ("checkout -b") based on your current
"for-linus" state, and within that branch, do a merge of the "linus"
branch (or you could have done it the other way around and made the
merge as if you were me: check out the state of "linus" and then
pull the "for-linus" branch instead).
And then, the final step is to just diff the result of the merge
against the "linus" branch. This obviously gives the same diffstat
as the one _I_ should see when I merge, because you basically
"pre-tested" my merge for me.

See? git does give you the tools, but if you merge from me and don't have
a branch that is a nice clear superset of what you started off with, but
have mixed in changes from _my_ tree since you started developing, you end
up having to do some extra work to separate out all the new changes.

So that's why I suggest not doing a lot of criss-crossing merges. It
generates an uglier history that is much harder to follow visually in
"gitk", but it also generates some extra work for you. Not a lot, but
considering that there are seldom any real upsides, this hopefully
explains why I suggest against it.

And again, as a final note: none of this is "set in stone". These are all
_suggestions_. Notice the "seldom any real upsides". I say "seldom" on
purpose, because quite frankly, sometimes it's just easier for you to
merge (especially if you know there are likely to be clashes), so that you
can fix up any issues that the merge brings.

Anyway, I hope this clarified the issue. I don't think we've actually had
a lot of problems with these things in practice. None of this is really
"hard", and a lot of it is just getting used to the model. Once you are
comfortable with how git works (and using "gitk" to show history tends to
be a very visual way to see what is going on in the presense of merges),
and get used to working with me, you'll do all of this without even
thinking about it.

It really just _sounds_ more complicated than it really is.

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