# Updating Snap Bases

This is a bit of a dayjob post, but as I maintain a bunch of snaps in my own time, I figured it’s not out of place here.

Typically when I (or indeed any developer) uses snapcraft to build a snap, a snapcraft.yaml drives the process. I’ll integrate some kind of CI or build system, and start publishing to the Snap Store. Usually, once created, the yaml doesn’t need much in the way of changes. Back when we first started building snaps, we were using Ubuntu 16.04 LTS systems. At runtime the snap would leverage the base of core. The core snap is a super minimal Ubuntu 16.04 LTS runtime environment.

Since then we’ve had releases of core18 based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and more recently, core20 based off Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. The observant will note the original base core isn’t called core16 which is a shame, but hey-ho. In the early days it wasn’t necessary to specify a base in the snapcraft.yaml because it was assumed to always be core. Indeed I don’t think early releases of snapcraft even had a base option.

Since then snapcraft has been re-engineered and restructured such that specifying base makes it behave differently than if you don’t specify one at all. Effectively not specifying a base gives backwards-compatibility so existing snaps continue to build. However the newer features and optimisations that land in snapcraft are only in the codepath where a base is specified.

So to get access to these juicy features, we reccommend developers migrate their snaps from not specifying a base, to specifying one, specifically one newer than Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Specifying a newer base like core18 or core20 means that as well as newer snapcraft, the publisher also gets access to updated packages from the Ubuntu 18.04 or 20.04 archives.

Sadly it’s not just a case of adding base: core20 and you’re done. There’s a few other things that need adjusting. We’re working on comprehensive documentation to cover all of the.. uh.. bases, but below you’ll find a taster.

I noticed the cointop snap wasn’t using a base. By “noticed”, I grepped:

alan@robot:~$snap install cointop cointop 0a0530d from Miguel Mota (miguelmota) installed alan@robot:~$ grep ^base /snap/cointop/current/meta/snap.yaml
alan@robot:~$ No base found implies core which is Ubuntu 16.04 LTS based, as mentioned earlier. So what did I do to update it? Here’s the diff. -version: master -version-script: git -C parts/cointop/build rev-parse --short HEAD +adopt-info: cointop summary: Interactive terminal based UI application for tracking cryptocurrencies description: | cointop is a fast and lightweight interactive terminal based UI application for tracking and monitoring cryptocurrency coin stats in real-time. grade: stable confinement: strict +base: core20 parts: - go: - source-tag: go1.14 cointop: - after: [go] source: . plugin: go - go-importpath: github.com/miguelmota/cointop + build-packages: + - git + override-pull: | + snapcraftctl pull + snapcraftctl set-version$(git rev-parse --short HEAD)

apps:
cointop:
-    command: cointop
+    command: bin/cointop
plugs:
- network
- network-bind


Let’s break it down!

The version-script option is deprecated, replaced by adopt-info and snapcraftctl set-version inside the override-pull section.

-version: master
-version-script: git -C parts/cointop/build rev-parse --short HEAD


The override-pull is a series of commands which can be run to override the pull stage of the snapcraft lifecycle. Here we yoink the git revision and use that as the version number on the built snap.

+    override-pull: |
+      snapcraftctl pull
+      snapcraftctl set-version $(git rev-parse --short HEAD)  The go plugin pulls in a newer golang, so we don’t need to have a separate part which forces us to get a newer go binary than shipped in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Further, the go-importpath is no longer required, simplifying this section. - go: - source-tag: go1.14 cointop: - after: [go] source: . plugin: go - go-importpath: github.com/miguelmota/cointop  Somehow the old version of snapcraft or maybe the go part was pulling in a git binary from somewhere. We try not to automagically do stuff that is unexpected. So I need to be explicit that we need the git build package as part of the build. So I added that. + build-packages: + - git  The newer snapcraft code-path is more strict on explicitly specifying binary locations in the apps section. As the cointop binary ends up in $SNAP/bin we just need to prepend bin/ to solve this.

-    command: cointop
+    command: bin/cointop


Oh, and we need to actually add the new base.

+base: core20


That’s it. I submitted this as a pr on the upstream project.

Other snaps will certainly require more invasive changes, but I thought this would be a good example of a simple snap which only needed a few updates to bring it up to spec.