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Development Guidelines

The Secure Systems Lab is a highly collaborative and distributed workspace. To allow everyone to keep track of everyone else's work, we use the version control system git and publicly host our repositories on GitHub.

Basic knowledge about git and GitHub is key for contributing not only to our lab projects but also with many other open source projects. If you strongly prefer to contribute by other means than git/GitHub please let us know. Otherwise, use our general development workflow below.

General Workflow

  1. Fork the repository you want to contribute to. Our projects are distributed over many GitHub organizations. You can find the relevant links in the projects section on our website. Read more about forking on GitHub here.

  2. Create a branch. Whether fixing a bug or adding a new feature, in git creating new branches is cheap and makes collaboration easy. Make sure to chose an expressive branch name, and try to make each branch self-contained.

  3. Follow our code style guidelines when you write code, please.

  4. Commit early and often. Make commits to your branches. Split commits up so that different changes for different reasons are in different commits. Write concise and descriptive commit messages. This helps you and others understand the commit itself and commit history at a glance. See our guidelines for commits.

  5. Push early and often. Don't be afraid to publish your chef-d'œuvre even if it's a work in progress. You can add something like (WIP) in your commit message if functionality is incomplete. Pushing on a regular basis ensures that nothing gets lost and allows others to easily jump in and help you.

  6. Submit a pull request. If you want your contribution to be integrated in one of our projects, you have to request that it gets pulled from your fork into the base repo. Take a look at Creating a pull request from a fork for further instructions. And beware of the following pitfalls:

    • Choose the correct base branch and make sure that the PR contains all and only the intended commits.
    • Sort out conflicts if they appear. This usually happens if the base repo moved forward while you were working in your fork. Keeping your fork in sync with the base (or upstream, as it is often called) is a good way to avoid huge conflicts.
    • As with docstrings, comments, and commit messages, make sure your PR title is concise and the description tells the reader enough to really understand what the PR is about. This is really important for reviewers!
    • Read our git history guidelines for more details.
  7. Review tests. After submitting a pull request to most lab projects, continuous integration (CI) should run automated test builds (commonly via Travis-CI and AppVeyor) and report the results in the pull request page itself. This helps identify possible problems in pull requests, or point to indicate where test code needs to be modified due to the changes. If builds fail for your pull request, look through the output and see if you can fix the problems. You can also run tests locally! Check the .travis.yml or appveyor.yml files to see what commands the build systems run.

  8. Request a review. You can request reviews directly in GitHub. Also, don't be afraid to re-ask if no one has been on it after a couple of days.