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://email@example.com/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://firstname.lastname@example.org/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://email@example.com/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.
If you have any comments or corrections please feel free to email them to me. Also, if you found this content useful consider supporting me on Patreon