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wscott Release notes for bk-7.3.2
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Latest commit 616740d Sep 23, 2017

BitKeeper Distributed Source Control System

Welcome to BitKeeper!

BitKeeper is the original distributed source control system. Well, sort of. Larry wrote a semi-distributed source-control system back at Sun (productized as Teamware) and Rick had a research system of sorts, but for better or worse, BitKeeper was the first widely used distributed source-control system.

The BitKeeper history needs to be written up but the short version is that it happened because Larry wanted to help Linux not turn into a bunch of splintered factions like 386BSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, DragonFlyBSD, etc. He saw that the problem was one of tooling. He built a team and built BitKeeper so the kernel guys would have a reasonable tool and no need to split up the team (the problem was that Linus refused to use any source management system: "they all suck!" which wasn't bad for him but really sucked for the downstream people who had to merge everything by hand each time Linus released).

It took a couple years. Then the PowerPC people led by Cort Dougan took a chance on early BK. A couple years later Linus moved to it and most of the developers followed. They stayed in it for three more years before moving to Git because BitKeeper wasn't open source.


BitKeeper is now distributed under the Apache 2.0 license. It is free to use and free to modify. There are some open source components and they have their own licenses.

Getting Started

Information on using BitKeeper can be found of the website or using the built in manpages. Try running bk helptool for a GUI help browser.

System Requirements

The BitKeeper source tree is highly portable and compiles on most platforms. This includes:

  • Linux (x86, PPC, Arm & MIPS)
  • FreeBSD
  • Windows
  • Solaris

and used to include IRIX, AIX, HP-UX, etc. Any Posix-like system is a pretty easy port.

Getting Sources for Bitkeeper

Building BitKeeper

BitKeeper requires the following prerequisites to build:

  • GNU make
  • GNU gperf
  • GNU bison
  • some lex
  • GNU groff
  • X libraries for Tk
  • tomcrypt (*)
  • tommath (*)
  • pcre (*)
  • zlib (*)
  • lz4 (*)

The requirement marked with (*) are optional, if not installed locally and BitKeeper is currently installed and we are building from a BitKeeper repository then local copies of these requirements will be automatically populated and included.

If you are building on a Debian based Linux then the following packages are required:

sudo apt-get install make gperf groff bison flex libxft2-dev libtommath-dev libtomcrypt-dev libpcre3-dev zlib1g-dev liblz4-dev

Build using the following sequence (we build on 12 core systems; hence the -j12 sprinkled here and there):

cd src
make -j12 p		# 'p'roduction build
make image		# create install image (at src/utils)
./utils/bk-*.bin	# run installer created above

(make must be GNU make)

If bk fails to locate your pre-installed libraries then edit the file src/ to provide the needed information. If you want to share the config with others please label it like "# Macos with homebrew" and put the configs commented out in there and send us a patch.

Building on Windows requires msys and is more involved. See the thread on the forum about Windows builds.

Testing BitKeeper

An extensive regression suite is found in src/t and can be run using the doit script in that directory. The test harness can be run in parallel using multiple cores like so:

cd src
make p
cd t
./doit -j12

Look here for help with getting regressions to pass cleanly.

Contributing to BitKeeper

See our community page for information on how to contact us with questions or contribute improvements.

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