When npm@5 came bringing package-locks with it, I was confused about the benefits it provided, since running
npm install more than once could resolve all the dependencies again and yield yet another fresh
package-lock.json file. The message saying “you should add this file to version control” left me hesitant on what to do1.
However the addition of
npm ci filled this gap: it’s a stricter variation of
npm install which guarantees that “subsequent installs are able to generate identical trees”. But are they really identical? I could see that I didn’t have the same problems of different installation outputs, but I didn’t know for sure if it was really identical.
Computing the hash of a directory’s content
I quickly searched for a way to check for the hash signature of an entire directory tree, but I couldn’t find one. I’ve made a poor man’s Merkle tree implementation using
sha256sum and a few piped commands at the terminal:
Going through it line by line:
- #1 we define a Bash function called
- #2 it accepts a single argument: the directory to compute the merkle tree from. If nothing is given, it runs on the current directory (
- #3 we go to the directory, so we don’t get different prefixes in
find’s output (like
- #4 we get all files from the directory tree. Since we’re using
sha256sumto compute the hash of the file contents, we need to filter out folders from it;
- #5 we need to sort the output, since different file systems and
findimplementations may return files in different orders;
- #6 we use
xargsto compute the hash of each file individually through
sha256sum. Since a file may contain spaces we need to escape it with quotes;
- #7 we compute the hash of the combined hashes. Since
sha256sumoutput is formatted like
<hash> <filename>, it produces a different final hash if a file ever changes name without changing it’s content;
- #8 we get the final hash output, excluding the
-in this case, aka
- ignore timestamp: running more than once on different installation yields the same hash;
- the name of the file is included in the final hash computation.
- it ignores empty folders from the hash computation;
- the implementation’s only goal is to represent using a digest whether the content of a given directory is the same or not. Leaf presence checking is obviously missing from it.
Testing locally with sample data
mkdir /tmp/merkle-tree-test/ cd /tmp/merkle-tree-test/ mkdir -p a/b/ a/c/ d/ echo "one" > a/b/one.txt echo "two" > a/c/two.txt echo "three" > d/three.txt merkle-tree . # output is be343bb01fe00aeb8fef14a3e16b1c3d1dccbf86d7e41b4753e6ccb7dc3a57c3 merkle-tree . # output still is be343bb01fe00aeb8fef14a3e16b1c3d1dccbf86d7e41b4753e6ccb7dc3a57c3 echo "four" > d/four.txt merkle-tree . # output is now b5464b958969ed81815641ace96b33f7fd52c20db71a7fccc45a36b3a2ae4d4c rm d/four.txt merkle-tree . # output back to be343bb01fe00aeb8fef14a3e16b1c3d1dccbf86d7e41b4753e6ccb7dc3a57c3 echo "hidden-five" > a/b/one.txt merkle-tree . # output changed 471fae0d074947e4955e9ac53e95b56e4bc08d263d89d82003fb58a0ffba66f5
It seems to work for this simple test case.
You can try copying and pasting it to verify the hash signatures.
merkle-tree to check the output of
I’ve done all of the following using Node.js v8.11.3 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this test case I’ll take the main repo of Lerna2:
cd /tmp/ git clone https://github.com/lerna/lerna.git cd lerna/ git checkout 57ff865c0839df75dbe1974971d7310f235e1109 npm ci merkle-tree node_modules/ # outputs 11e218c4ac32fac8a9607a8da644fe870a25c99821167d21b607af45699afafa rm -rf node_modules/ npm ci merkle-tree node_modules/ # outputs 11e218c4ac32fac8a9607a8da644fe870a25c99821167d21b607af45699afafa npm ci # test if it also works with an existing node_modules/ folder merkle-tree node_modules/ # outputs 11e218c4ac32fac8a9607a8da644fe870a25c99821167d21b607af45699afafa
npm ci :)
#6 and #9 take some time to run (21 seconds in my machine), but this specific use case isn’t performance sensitive. The slowest step is computing the hash of each individual file.
npm ci really “generates identical trees”.
I’m not aware of any other existing solution for verifying the hash signature of a directory. If you know any I’d like to know.
2019/05/22: Fix spelling.
The documentation claims
npm installis driven by the existing
package-lock.json, but that’ actually a little bit tricky.↩
Finding a big known repo that actually committed the
package-lock.jsonfile was harder than I expected.↩