Debugging a Nix Build Failure


I’m new to Nix. I’m experimenting with moving a bunch of development environments to Nix. Part of that is rubygems, for which we’re using bundix.

Yesterday, after I taught Bundix how to fetch gems from a private gemserver, I ran into a compile error on one gem (gctrack). Here’s the especially-relevant part of the error:

compiling gctrack.c
gctrack.c:26:7: warning: implicit declaration of function 'clock_gettime' is invalid in C99 [-Wimplicit-function-declaration]
  if (clock_gettime(CLOCK_MONOTONIC, &ts) == -1) {
gctrack.c:26:21: error: use of undeclared identifier 'CLOCK_MONOTONIC'
  if (clock_gettime(CLOCK_MONOTONIC, &ts) == -1) {
1 warning and 1 error generated.
make: *** [Makefile:242: gctrack.o] Error 1

I found this issue on nixpkgs that describes pretty well this exact issue, but without resolution. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to fix this, but I’ll at least document here my attempt to get to the root cause.

Minimal reproduction

with import <nixpkgs>{};
  gems = bundlerEnv {
    name = "shopify";
    ruby = ruby_2_5;
    # nix doesn't really parse these so I'm cheating for this example.
    gemfile = ./gemset.nix;
    lockfile = ./gemset.nix;
    gemset = ./gemset.nix;
stdenv.mkDerivation rec {
  name = "shopify";
  buildInputs = [ gems ];
  gctrack = {
    groups = ["default"];
    platforms = [];
    source = {
      remotes = [""];
      sha256 = "1sn5f753lff1kap8dg3msf920p6cnm75q83i7929k3jvqdjzmz0d";
      type = "gem";
    version = "0.1.0";

Success (or failure): running nix-shell . gives me the same failure. Now I want to get bundlerEnv out of the way and get gemset.nix integrated into default.nix somehow.

I cloned nixpkgs and searched it for “bundlerEnv =”, and got:

8069:  bundlerEnv = callPackage ../development/ruby-modules/bundler-env { };

This points to …/bundler-env/default.nix. At a really quick read, it kind of looks like it’s just a wrapper around basicEnv, but that doesn’t exist in the top-level namespace so I’m not totally sure how to get at it. Still, I can see that basicEnv comes from bundled-common.

Looking at this file, I don’t see a super easy way to hook into this, or any obvious place that I might want to, but I do spot a function call that seems interesting:

buildGem = name: attrs: (
    gemAttrs = composeGemAttrs ruby gems name attrs;
  if gemAttrs.type == "path" then
    pathDerivation (gemAttrs.source // gemAttrs)
    buildRubyGem gemAttrs # <---- this

…and searching the top-level does actually turn something up:

$ ag 'buildRubyGem =' pkgs/top-level
8065:  buildRubyGem = callPackage ../development/ruby-modules/gem { };

There must be a nix command for this. It seemed like nix-env might work but I guess buildRubyGem isn’t a derivation:

$ nix-env -qaPA nixpkgs.firefox
nixpkgs.firefox  Firefox-64.0.2
$ nix-env -qaPA nixpkgs.buildRubyGem
error: expression does not evaluate to a derivation (or a set or list of those)

Alright, this is looking like where the gem install is actually happening.

I guess what I’d really like to be able to do here is:

  1. Capture all of the attributes passed to this derivation when I try to build it via bundlerEnv; and/or
  2. Figure out how to call it directly from my default.nix.

For the latter, the gem build is actually its own derivation, so we can just extract it from the store. From the error output:

builder for '/nix/store/nlrp8pbf0y32zp63hbi5k9s0fhiwqrag-ruby2.5.3-gctrack-0.1.0.drv' failed with exit code 1

If I cat $that_file, I get… a technically-readable but kinda difficult mess. I think I remember there being a command for this, and found it:

$ nix show-derivation /nix/store/nlrp8pbf0y32zp63hbi5k9s0fhiwqrag-ruby2.5.3-gctrack-0.1.0.drv

This actually looks useful:

So this is an interesting thing to realize a little quicker next time: I can get closer to the root of a failure by just checking the log for the actual derivation path that failed.

I understand from that GitHub issue way back that the issue has something to do with the impurely-sourced libSystem, which I can see in the derivation:

"__impureHostDeps": "/bin/sh /usr/lib/libSystem.B.dylib ...",

And finally I can sort-of-minimally reproduce that error by running:

nix-build /nix/store/nlrp8pbf0y32zp63hbi5k9s0fhiwqrag-ruby2.5.3-gctrack-0.1.0.drv

So that issue mentioned that it’s a mismatch between libSystem and whatever headers are available. If we have the library available as an impure input, we probably need some sort of explicit buildInput for the headers, and we don’t seem to:

nix show-derivation /nix/store/<hash>-ruby2.5.3-gctrack-0.1.0.drv| grep uildInputs
deactivated shadowenv.
      "buildInputs": "...-ruby-2.5.3 ...-hook ...-objc4-osx-10.11.6",
      "nativeBuildInputs": "",
      "propagatedBuildInputs": "",
      "propagatedNativeBuildInputs": "",

I’m spending some time googling and whatnot to see if I can figure out what’s missing…