Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gitblit - The Little Git Repo Manager That Could

I've been tweeting about Gitblit every now and then, and also recommended it to people who want to run some Git infrastructure on Windows.

Seeing Gitblit v1.0.0 was released a few hours ago (Google+), I would like to celebrate and congratulate the project with a two blog-posts. This is the first, and the second I hope to do soon in shape of some interviews with a couple of Gitblit users.

Uh, what is a Git repository manager?

It can be several things. Most people look for these features in a repo manager:

  • A central place to share repositories
  • A web-frontend for said repositories
  • Manages users and access-control 
Just to mention an alternative setup: At my dayjob, we use:
  • A simple folder on a Linux server to put central repositories, accessible over SSH
  • Gitweb as a web-frontend
  • Access-control with SSH users and certificates
We're quite happy with the above setup because we are a very Linux/Mac oriented shop, with a small team that have no fancy requirements on the access-control part. For a larger, Windows based shop it won't be so easy.

An alternative is to use Github, which is probably the best all-round solution for repository management. But it costs money, which can be a hard pill to swallow for some organizations.

Other free alternatives are Gitorious, Gitlab (wich uses Gitolite) and Gitolite, but I think these three are pretty Linux oriented.

Note that both Gitorious and Github are available in SaaS form (that is, you store the central repositories on their servers, so you don't need any infrastructure yourself), and they are free to use for open-source projects.

My favorite things about Gitblit


  • It's free/open source (Apache license).
  • Comes with authorization built in. No need to figure out OpenSSH on Windows (a lot of people really struggle with this).
  • It's Java. Call it a plus or a minus, but a cool consequence of this is that Gitblit has Groovy hooks.
  • Another consequence: Runs well on Windows.
  • Great just-works factor

Wait, who makes this Gitblit anyway? What's the catch?

No catch, it's just a project that was started to scratch an itch. It's a really charming story really. James Moger, the author of the project, wrote about it a while ago, and I recommend you give it a read.

A small tour of Gitblit

I just took version 1.0.0 for a spin on my Ubuntu laptop. Downloaded the Gitblit GO, unzipped and started with java -jar gitblit.jar (could it be any easier?).

Just started Gitblit GO, no configuration necessary
Browse to https://localhost:8443/ and there it is (it generates a self-signed https certificate if you don't tell it otherwise, that's why you get a warning in your browser).

First view of Gitblit. You'll need to log in as admin/admin top-left there to start creating repos
Just created an empty repo. Note the helpful instructions for getting started.
Note that I had to do:

git config http.sslVerify false 

in my local repository before I could push as described above (more about this in the Gitblit Setup docs).

First repo up and running!
Managing users and teams in Gitblit

Pretty, isn't it? It also runs well on Windows of course, also as a Windows service (with the right coctail of Java versions and configuration).

There are more screenshots on the Gitblit homepage, and also a live instance you can try out.

I'll come back to some more reasons on when or why you should choose to run Gitblit in the next blog post.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Git Users Mailing List

A year ago or so, I came across the Git-user mailing list (aka. "Git for human beings").


Over the year, I grew a little addicted to helping people out with their Git problems. When the new git-scm.com webpage launched, and the link to the mailing list had disappeared, I was quick to ask them to add it again. I think this mailing list fills an important hole in the Git community between:

  • The Git developer mailing list git@vger.kernel.org - which I find to be a bit too hard-core and scary for Git newbies. Besides, the Majordomo mailing list system is pretty archaic, and I personally can't stand browsing or searching in the Gmane archives.
  • The IRC channel #git on Freenode, which is a bit out-of-reach for people who never experienced the glory days of IRC. Furthermore, when the channel is busy, it's a big pain to follow any discussion.
  • StackOverflow questions tagged git, these come pretty close, but it's a bit hard to keep an overview of what questions people are asking right now. And I reckon people are also a bit afraid of asking too stupid questions here, because of the ranking system.
Then there's the joy of using (the new) Google Groups. It's easy to join (if you've got a Google account). Spam is virtually eliminated. The mobile version works pretty well on my phone. Search is great and it all looks pretty good (actually today they announced another bunch of improvements). Big hand to the Google Groups team, this stuff is awesome (now Google would just have to make something IRC-like, and we'd be well off).

My favorite thing about helping out on the Git-user list (well, apart from that fuzzy warm feeling when someone says thanks) is that it keeps my Git basics sharp. Any time a colleague asks me how to set a new upstream, or rebase one branch onto another, chances are I was just practicing that recently for the mailing list. Keep in mind that if the Go-to-guy for Git questions in the team doesn't know her/his basics, people will get annoyed at Git rather quickly.

Of  course there are occasionally more challenging questions, and I end up learning something from somebody else on the list. And then in a few cases, we just have to give up and bounce people over to the Git development list (usually for feature requests and bug reports).

I like to think that we are doing the Git community a big service by elevating the average Git knowledge in the field, and also shielding the development list from some of the more repeating questions. 

So here's the little sales-pitch in the end: The list has gotten rather busy lately, so if you've got some Git-foo to spare, it would be great if you could answer a couple of threads. Personally I make it an evening routine to drop by groups.google.com, and see if there are any unread or unanswered threads there.