deterministic build environment
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Latest commit 7bf79cf Oct 9, 2018

AXE deterministic builds

This is a deterministic build environment for AXE that uses Gitian.

Gitian provides a way to be reasonably certain that the AXE executables are really built from the exact source on GitHub and have not been tampered with. It also makes sure that the same, tested dependencies are used and statically built into the executable.

Multiple developers build from source code by following a specific descriptor ("recipe"), cryptographically sign the result, and upload the resulting signature. These results are compared and only if they match is the build is accepted.

More independent Gitian builders are needed, which is why this guide exists.


4GB of RAM, at least two cores

It relies upon Vagrant and VirtualBox plus Ansible.


If you use Linux, we recommend obtaining VirtualBox through your package manager instead of the Oracle website.

sudo apt-get install linux-headers-amd64 virtualbox

Linux kernel headers are required to setup the /dev/vboxdrv device and VirtualBox kernel module via virtualbox-dkms.


Download the latest version of Vagrant from their website.


Install prerequisites first: sudo apt-get install build-essential libssl-dev libffi-dev python python-dev python-pip. Then run:

sudo pip install -U ansible

How to get started

Edit settings in gitian.yml

# URL of repository containing AXE source code.
axe_git_repo_url: ''

# Specific tag or branch you want to build.
axe_version: 'master'

# The name@ in the e-mail address of your GPG key, alternatively a key ID.
gpg_key_name: 'F16219F4C23F91112E9C734A8DFCBF8E5A4D8019'

# OPTIONAL set to import your SSH key into the VM. Example: id_rsa, id_ed25519. Assumed to reside in ~/.ssh
ssh_key_name: ''

Make sure VirtualBox, Vagrant and Ansible are installed, and then run:

vagrant up --provision axe-build

This will provision a Gitian host virtual machine that uses a container (Docker) guest to perform the actual builds.

Use git stash to save one's local customizations to gitian.yml.

Building AXE

vagrant ssh axe-build
#replace $SIGNER and $VERSION to match your gitian.yml
./ --setup $signer $version

The output from gbuild is informative. There are some common warnings which can be ignored, e.g. if you get an intermittent privileges error related to LXC then just execute the script again. The most important thing is that one reaches the step which says Running build script (log in var/build.log). If not, then something else is wrong and you should let us know.

Take a look at the variables near the middle of ~/ and get familiar with its functioning, as it can handle most tasks.

It's also a good idea to regularly git pull on this repository to obtain updates and re-run the entire VM provisioning for each release, to ensure current and consistent state for your builder.

Generating and uploading signatures

After the build successfully completes, gsign will be called. Commit and push your signatures (both the .assert and .assert.sig files) to the AXErunners/gitian.sigs repository, or if that's not possible then create a pull request.

Signatures can be verified by running --verify, but set build=false in the script to skip building. Run a git pull beforehand on gitian.sigs so you have the latest. The provisioning includes a task which imports AXE developer public keys to the Vagrant user's keyring and sets them to ultimately trusted, but they can also be found at contrib/gitian-keys within the AXE source repository.

Working with GPG and SSH

We provide two options for automatically importing keys into the VM, or you may choose to copy them manually. Keys are needed A) to sign the manifests which get pushed to gitian.sigs and B) to interact with GitHub, if you choose to use an SSH instead of HTTPS remote. The latter would entail always providing your GitHub login and access token in order to push from within the VM.

Your local SSH agent is automatically forwarded into the VM via a configuration option. If you run ssh-agent, your keys should already be available.

GPG is trickier, especially if you use a smartcard and can't copy the secret key. We have a script intended to forward the gpg-agent socket into the VM,, but it is not currently working. If you want your full keyring to be available, you can use the following workaround involving sshfs and synced folders:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-sshfs

Uncomment the line beginning with gitian.vm.synced_folder "~/.gnupg" in Vagrantfile. Ensure the destination mount point is empty. Then run:

vagrant sshfs --mount axe-build

Vagrant synced folders may also work natively with vboxfs if you install VirtualBox Guest Additions into the VM from contrib, but that's not as easy to setup.

Copying files

The easiest way to do it is with a plugin.

vagrant plugin install vagrant-scp

To copy files to the VM: vagrant scp file_on_host.txt :file_on_vm.txt

To copy files from the VM: vagrant scp :file_on_vm.txt file_on_host.txt

Other notes

Port 2200 on the host machine should be forwarded to port 22 on the guest virtual machine.

The automation and configuration management assumes that VirtualBox will assign the IP address to the Gitian host Vagrant VM.

Tested with Ansible 2.6.4 and Vagrant 2.1.5 on macOS Mojave (10.14)