Keeping your home in Git, the right way
Published on 2014-12-17. Modified on 2021-04-08.
This tutorial describes how you can keep your home directory in a Git repository.
So a lot of interesting websites on the Internet are talking about the benefits and pitfalls of keeping your entire $HOME directory in Git. As with most technology there are many ways to accomplish the same goal, but some are better than others.
Some are using makefiles with a lot of symbolic links, others are using a huge
.gitignore which results in an unmaintainable nightmare, others are trying to script themselves out of the problems. But there actually exists a really easy and simple way to accomplish this.
First of all, it makes no sense at all to keep your entire $HOME in a Git repository. Only the relevant files in your $HOME should be put in Git. But how do we accomplish that while at the same time not having to maintain a huge
.gitignore with a bunch of files to ignore (that we have to remember to update each time an unimportant file gets added to our $HOME)? And what about other Git repositories that resides in our $HOME directory as well?
Here's how you can accomplish your goal. Create a
.gitignore in your $HOME directory and let it only contain a single asterisk sign
$ cat .gitignore *
The asterisk sign in
.gitignore makes Git ignore everything by default, which is exactly what we want. Then we just add stuff manually from $HOME into Git with the
-f (force) option:
$ git init $ git add -f foo.txt $ git add -f bar.txt $ git commit -a -m "Add two new files"
Now the files
bar.txt" has been added to our $HOME Git repository and everything else has been ignored.
The benefit of this approach is:
- You're using a white list and only adding stuff you really need Git to follow.
- All other repositories in $HOME automatically gets ignored and they are not effected by your main .gitignore in your $HOME.
- Your $HOME Git repository is not affected by any other .gitignore in another ignored repository.
- You don't have to update .gitignore.
- If you're using a remote bare repository you can then easily push and pull to and from that repository without affecting any other files in your $HOME.
You just have to remember to add files manually using the
-f options and then commit changes when needed and it's easy to turn that into an alias.
This is a really simply, yet powerful way to keep your $HOME directory in Git.
So, how do you clone your $HOME directory from your bare repository server to a new box?
Let's say you're using some remote SSH server as your bare git repository (called home.git)
$ git clone --bare . home.git
You then need to upload that to your SSH server and turn it into your origin:
$ git remote add origin ssh://firstname.lastname@example.org/home/foo/repo/home.git
You can also just log into the server and create the remote repository there:
$ mkdir -p foo/repo/home.git $ cd foo/repo/home.git $ git init --bare
The first time you need to push something you need to set it upstream:
$ git push --set-upstream origin main
Now you can push and pull to the remote repository from your $HOME directory.
But what if you have just finished installing your favorite Linux or BSD on a new box and of want a copy of your $HOME on this new machine. You cannot simply start cloning.
This will NOT work:
$ git clone ssh://email@example.com/home/foo/repo/home.git
Git will complain with:
fatal: destination path '.' already exists and is not an empty directory.
This makes sense.
And you cannot do a "pull" either as Git will complain about overwriting files - if similar files already exists.
What you need to do on the new box is this:
$ git init $ git remote add origin ssh://firstname.lastname@example.org/home/foo/repo/home.git $ git fetch $ git reset --hard origin/main
Again, the first time you need to push something you need to set it upstream:
$ git branch --set-upstream-to origin/main
The same goes if you begin by a pull.
Now you can push and pull on that box too.