This is a quick post about an issue I debugged in a package build that didn't matter, which may however still be instructive.

I was packaging ios-webkit-debug-proxy for NixOS, not having noticed it was already there (oops! I noticed after fixing my build), and I ran into an issue where my build was not working, so I tried building it manually, and it worked. Wat.

Here is the package.nix I was using:

{ stdenv, fetchFromGitHub, autoconf, automake, libtool, pkg-config, libimobiledevice }:
stdenv.mkDerivation {
pname = "ios-webkit-debug-proxy";
version = "unstable-2023-09-23";
src = fetchFromGitHub {
owner = "google";
repo = "ios-webkit-debug-proxy";
rev = "c5d2e959043293ee7d0587618af2bcc4dde7feef";
sha256 = "sha256-vBrYbCzH83BqB7uTybEmF/yp2N40qJp+97lu+nKulXM=";
preConfigure = ''
# These are the fix ;)
# dontAddDisableDepTrack = true;
# dontDisableStatic = true;
nativeBuildInputs = [
buildInputs = [

This is what was happening:

$ nix build -L --impure --expr 'with import <nixpkgs> {}; (callPackage ../package.nix {})'
error: builder for '/nix/store/0ci7kyfmcbbxq5g5svzlp316y98vvgng-ios-webkit-debug-proxy-unstable-202
3-09-23.drv' failed with exit code 2;
       last 10 log lines:
       > gcc -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I..  -I../include -I../src   -I/nix/store/n4wwsam3rk07mghksrp46sn
lmf7cdi33-libimobiledevice-1.3.0+date=2023-04-30-dev/include -I/nix/store/cykm9dyc58l9jfilgrd0aflfn
znzrc39-libplist-2.3.0-dev/include -I/nix/store/cykm9dyc58l9jfilgrd0aflfnznzrc39-libplist-2.3.0-dev
/include -I/nix/store/3g9fg7cdh3234xi5b14v1fp135q8ix49-libusbmuxd-2.0.2+date=2023-04-30/include -I/
nix/store/lqsfdc4p9vax2h55csza9iw46zjpghl6-openssl-3.0.10-dev/include -g -O2 -Wall -Werror -c -o ..
/src/socket_manager.o ../src/socket_manager.c
       > ../src/socket_manager.c:34:10: fatal error: socket_manager.h: No such file or directory
       >    34 | #include "socket_manager.h"
       >       |          ^~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
       > compilation terminated.
       > make[2]: *** [Makefile:464: ../src/socket_manager.o] Error 1
       > make[2]: Leaving directory '/build/source/examples'
       > make[1]: *** [Makefile:410: all-recursive] Error 1
       > make[1]: Leaving directory '/build/source'
       > make: *** [Makefile:342: all] Error 2
       For full logs, run 'nix log /nix/store/0ci7kyfmcbbxq5g5svzlp316y98vvgng-ios-webkit-debug-pro

$ nix develop --impure --expr 'with import <nixpkgs> {}; (callPackage ../package.nix {})'
$ cd manually-cloned-src
$ make -j8

So, we know that the issue is one of two problems, either:

What I did was to run the failing nix build with --keep-failed, then looked in /tmp/nix-build-* for the failed tree. From this failed tree I found I could reproduce the failure again using make.

Let's figure out what differs between these directory trees. To do this, we can use diffoscope, an advanced diff tool that can compare directory structures with nice structural diffs.

We believe that it's an inconsistent Makefile, so let's dig through the output and test that:

--- ./src/Makefile
+++ /tmp/nix-build-ios-webkit-debug-proxy-unstable-2023-09-23.drv-0/source/src/Makefile
+#include ./$(DEPDIR)/sha1.Plo # am--include-marker
+#include ./$(DEPDIR)/socket_manager.Plo # am--include-marker
+#include ./$(DEPDIR)/webinspector.Plo # am--include-marker
+#include ./$(DEPDIR)/websocket.Plo # am--include-marker
-include ./$(DEPDIR)/base64.Plo # am--include-marker
-include ./$(DEPDIR)/char_buffer.Plo # am--include-marker
-include ./$(DEPDIR)/device_listener.Plo # am--include-marker

Interesting, so the Makefile would have included some things in the successful build that were not in the other build. For context, the way that autotools works is:

Autotools is a turducken of string templating on more string templating on more string templating. String templates generate string templates which generate new string templates which finally generate a Makefile.

In a distribution tarball, autoconf and automake were already run so configure and will be included in the tarball.

If we look for where that probably came from in src/, we find:

@AMDEP_TRUE@@am__include@ @am__quote@./$(DEPDIR)/webinspector.Plo@am__quote@ # am--include-marker
@AMDEP_TRUE@@am__include@ @am__quote@./$(DEPDIR)/websocket.Plo@am__quote@ # am--include-marker

We also observe in config.status:






and in config.log:

 This file contains any messages produced by compilers while
 running configure, to aid debugging if configure makes a mistake.

 It was created by ios_webkit_debug_proxy configure 1.9.0, which was
 generated by GNU Autoconf 2.71.  Invocation command line was

-  $ ./configure
+  $ ./configure --disable-static --disable-dependency-tracking --prefix=/nix/store/19fsba4r1c0jwsqcdjs76y83ndah7vyh-ios-webkit-debug-proxy-unstable-2023-09-23


 configure:4539: checking dependency style of gcc
-configure:4651: result: gcc3
+configure:4651: result: none


 configure:13417: checking whether to build static libraries
-configure:13421: result: yes
+configure:13421: result: no

Well. It looks like the synthesis of all of this is that different configure arguments were used, causing this. But why?!

As is often the case, is responsible:

$ rg -C3 -- --disable-dependency-track ~/dev/nixpkgs
1260-    fi
1262-    if [[ -f "$configureScript" ]]; then
1263:        # Add --disable-dependency-tracking to speed up some builds.
1264-        if [ -z "${dontAddDisableDepTrack:-}" ]; then
1265-            if grep -q dependency-tracking "$configureScript"; then
1266:                prependToVar configureFlags --disable-dependency-tracking
1267-            fi
1268-        fi

and likewise for --disable-static, if dontDisableStatic is unset.

Indeed, changing the derivation to set both dontAddDisableDepTrack and dontDisableStatic fixes the build.

This all took altogether far longer than it should have to derive a hypothesis for why it was broken.