Notes on builds.sr.ht

For the past few months I've been using sourcehut's platform to work on software an it has been quite an interesting experience. Nonetheless, one of the services I really enjoy using is the their build service called builds.sr.ht....

builds.sr.ht is a service on sr.ht that allows you to submit "build manifests" for us to work on.


The thing I don't like on GitHub Actions is that it is kind of magical. For example, you don't actually know what it is doing when you define that an action should only run when a specific path is modified. Not to even mention their custom actions which usually takes a non-trivial amount of TypeScript/JavaScript.

Contrary to this, builds.sr.ht is really explicit on its build manifest. You're basically expected to write plain shell scripts for your builds.

Reducing resource usage

As I said previously, there's no special syntax to work on specific paths, branches, pull requests and such. By default your task will run on every commit you push. In order to reduce our CI usage we can restrain our tasks to run on specific scenarios:

On path change

if ! $(git diff --quiet HEAD HEAD^ -- "<your-path>")
  # do something

NixOS on builds.sr.ht

As I don't like to write shell scripts I use Nix and this is my favorite feature of this service. builds.sr.ht supports NixOS by default1. This means that we can leverage Nix Flakes for truly declarative and reproducible builds there! Let's consider a small example using Go to show you how easy it really is. A small flake.nix containing the following content should suffice our needs:

  inputs.nixpkgs.url = "github:nixos/nixpkgs/nixos-unstable";

  outputs = { self, nixpkgs, ... }:
    let pkgs = import nixpkgs { system = "x86_64-linux"; };
      devShells."x86_64-linux".ci = with pkgs; mkShell {
        buildInputs = [ go golangci-lint ];

This definition is capable of giving us a shell containing Go and golangci-lint on $PATH. Now let's write the build manifest for our CI:

image: nixos/unstable
- nixos.nixUnstable
  NIX_CONFIG: "experimental-features = nix-command flakes"
  - lint: |
      cd source
      nix develop .#ci -c golangci-lint run
  - test: |
      cd source
      nix develop .#ci -c go test ./...
  - build: |
      cd source
      nix develop .#ci -c go build

And that's it! We have our CI up and running with the guarantee of having our tools being the same on every run. No sudden updates or unexpected behavior.