Quartermaster - Documentation

QMSTR creates an integrated Open Source toolchain that implements industry best practises of license compliance management.

The QMSTR Validator

The QMSTR Validator is a command line program that validates the manifests for a package or a distribution. It verifies the content of packages against the compliance manifest and answers three questions:

  • Does the manifest match the package? The manifest matches the package if the checksums for the files contained in the package match the information in the manifest. This check will fail, for example, if a binary has been changed or rebuilt after the documentation was created so that the checksums do not match.
  • Does the package only contain files that are documented? This test will fail if there are files in the package that are not described in the manifest.
  • Is the documentation complete? The manifest is complete if it describes all files in the package and contains all required information about these files. This check will fail, for example, if license or authorship information is missing even though the file is listed in the manifest.

To validate a package, the QMSTR Validator must have been implemented to support that package format. For each format, a standard or a best practice needs to exist that describes how the package compliance documentation and the package payload content are shipped together. Initially, the validator supports the Debian file format as a starting point.

The validator validates one package, however “traversing into elements”. That means it first validates that the distribution is “correct”, and then validates that the same goes for all element packages. There should be no separate concepts for packages and distributions. Distributions are simply packages that contain other packages instead of files to be installed. Or - if you “install” a distribution file into a directory, you get the element packages.


  • Package: A package is a concrete “form of archive” intended for distribution that is created during a build. It could be a tarball, a Debian or RPM package, or even a file system overlay that contains only what was packaged. For the first implementation, we want to focus specifically on Debian packages and then abstract the concept.
  • Distribution: A distribution is a collection of packages. The concept is not related to “Linux distribution”, but to a software delivery. It is a file-like entity, not a process (as in handover). If distribution is imagined as a file, it is also a package. The concepts are purposefully recursive, so that validation can be applied to both exactly the same way.
  • Software delivery: A software delivery is the handover and acceptance of a package (or set of packages, a distribution) from a supplier to a customer. Software delivery always involves two parties, one that provides a package with a manifest and one that receives those and validates them against each other.
  • Manifest: A manifest in the context of validation is a SPDX file that describes exactly one package, including its sub-packages (which are files), but not the content of the sub-packages. The manifest for a distribution describes the content of the distribution (the packages in the collection). The elements of the distribution contain or bring their own manifests.

Invoking the QMSTR Validator

The QMSTR Validator is invoked on a package and the corresponding manifest file:

> qmstr validate curl-a.b.c.deb curl-a.b.c.deb.spdx
Verifying package content against manifest curl-a.b.c.deb.spdx...
* manifest matches the package content
* all files in the package are documented
* manifest is complete
Package validation passed.

In case of a validation error, the return code of the validator depends on which of the checks failed (1, 2 or 3). If the validation succeeds the return code is zero.

Depending on the file format, the manifest file may be included in the package. Support for that may be added to the validator.

Verifying distributions

In the QMSTR context, a distribution is a set of packages that is shipped together as a unit. The validator can be used to evaluate distributions. The validation succeeds if the validation for each package contained in the distribution succeeds.

The basic algorithm is

  • validate the package itself
  • for each element package
    • validate the element package
  • succeed if both steps validate, fail if not

Development plan

QMSTR 0.6: TRL 6

For QMSTR 0.6, validation is suppossed to reach H2020 TRL 6 (“technology demonstrated in relevant environment “). In detail, this means:

  • A first working version of the QMSTR Validator will be implemented against the Debian package file format.
  • The package manifest reporter will be implemented to produce manifests that match the format expectations of the validator (one-to-one match between package amd manifest, mandatory manifest content).
  • The validator will be implemented to validate the package against the manifests generated by the package manifest reporter.
  • The QMSTR CURL demo will be extended to showcase the validation feature. The demonstration will consist of two separate steps, build and validation (the steps are separate since they could be performed by different entities in real life, simulating a software delivery):
    • On the build side, the demo should build curl and create the .deb packages for it, as well as the manifests for the packages.
    • On the validation side, the demo should validate the packages against the generated manifests.

The validation feature will be merged into the QMSTR master branch after this demonstration.

QMSTR 0.7: TRL 7

The validation feature will be demonstrated at conferences in Q4/2019. Based on the feedback, the feature will be completed at TRL 7 (“system prototype demonstration in operational environment”). Other packages formats may be added, in particular plain tar files and Android .apk packages.


The QMSTR Validator runs stand-alone and does not require a QMSTR master to be available. The package manifest reporter runs as part of the QMSTR reporting phase.

Potential additional features (iceboxed)

Validation Levels

Once the validation basics are complete, it is conceivable that the results may correspond to different validation levels:

  • level 1: manifest has at least checksums
  • level 2: manifest has rights holder and license information for all artifacts
  • level 3: ???

Delivery receipts

On delivery, the validator could generate and cryptographically sign a delivery receipt. Delivery receipts could be collected in a central place, like an online repository or a blockchain.

Self-contained packages

Package formats could be extended so that they contain the manifests. This means that the software delivery would only contain package files that can be validated against themselfes.

Additional package formats

Feature completeness for the implemented formats currently has higher priority than adding additional formats. However, if there is enough interest, support for additional package formats should be added.

Last updated on 1 Jan 0001