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CLI gem to help make use of build artifacts cache in a CI system
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mtime_cache helps you make use of build artifacts cache in a CI system (like Travis CI, AppVeyor or Codeship) for a language whose build typically depends on the source files' modification time rather than their contents (like most C or C++ build systems).


You have a C/C++ project with many, many files and you're using Travis CI (or AppVeyor, or Codeship) to build and test it. The thing is that Travis CI makes a fresh clone of your project for every build. This leads to builds of 10, or 20, or 40 minutes, or more, even if what's changed is a single source file (or none at all).

Frustrated you discover that Travis CI supports caching of build artifacts. And you cache your intermediate (.o or .obj) file directory. That however seems to do nothing and again a full build is triggered every time. This is because git doesn't store meta information such as mtime for the files. So the source files from your fresh clone at Travis CI have modification times newer than the cached .o files. So the C/C++ build system "thinks" that they should be rebuilt.



Run the command line tool before you build and it will store the modification time of each source file in a json cache (which you need to cache along with your build artifacts). It will generate a md5 hash for each source file and if it remains the same after the next clone, it will restore the cached mtime for it. So changed files will be re-compiled, but unchanged ones won't be.

Making use of the build artifact cache can save you tens of minutes of build time for commits which change little or no source files.

Plus it's greener, as it saves CPU time, electricity and the rain forest.



You can either install mtime_cache as a gem (with $ gem install mtime_cache) or make a copy of the script in your repo.

Running mtime_cache

The most basic usage is $ mtime_cache <globs>

This will generate a file .mtime_cache.json in the current directory with cached mtimes for the files matching the globs.

You must provide globs to make a cache.


Globs are one or more ruby-style glob patterns that must match the source files for which you need an mtime cache.

Additionally the tool supports built in extension patterns. You can add an extension pattern in a %{} block.

Valid globs are:

  • src/*.cpp - all .cpp files in src
  • my/src/**/*.{cpp,hpp} - all .cpp and .hpp files in my/src and all its subdirectories
  • some/dir/**/*.{%{cpp}} - all files typical for C/C++ in some/dir and all its subdirectories

The supported extension patterns are:

  • %{cpp} - common C/C++ extensions: c,cc,cpp,cxx,h,hpp,hxx,inl,ipp,inc,ixx

Additional configuration:

  • --cache or -c: Lets you provide a custom cache file instead of using the default ./.mtime_cache.json. Sample usage: $ mtime_cache src/*.{c,h} -c .my_cache/mtime_cache.json
  • --globfile or -g: Lets you provide a text file where each non-empty line is a glob instead of adding all globs as command-line arguments. Sample usage: mtime_cache -g myglobs.txt
  • --quiet or -q: Prevents any logging to the standard output whatsoever.
  • --verbose or -V: Shows extra logging. For each file matching a glob a log line will be displayed showing whether its mtime was restored or left unchanged (if it doesn't match the cached md5 hash).
  • --dryrun or -d: Doesn't write to the file system. Only logs and reads matching files, and cache file if it exists.
  • --version or -v: Only displays version and exits.
  • --help or -h or -?: Displays help screen and exits.

Using mtime_cache with Travis CI

  • Choose a directory name the json cache (for example .mtime_cache) and add it to your .gitignore. Then add it to your Travis CI cache. Then your cache section in .travis.yml might look like this
  - my/build/dir
  - .mtime_cache
  • Run mtime_cache in your script before you trigger the actual build. Then your script section might look like this:
  - ./configure
  - ./mtime_cache src/**/*.{%{cpp}} -c .mtime_cache/cache.json
  - make
  - ./test

You can also take a look at .travis.yml in this repo to see how the demo project is being built.


There is a demo project in this repo which is build by the Travis CI integration. It has three .cpp files and a .hpp file. You can see that commits that don't change one of those, don't trigger a build of the C++ code (or that commits that only change one or two .cpp files trigger a recompilation of only those).


This software is distributed under the MIT Software License.

See accompanying file LICENSE.txt or copy here.

Copyright © 2016 Borislav Stanimirov

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