Skip to main content

Managing dot-files with vcsh and myrepos

Say I want to get my dot-files out on a new computer. Here's what I do:

# install vcsh & myrepos via apt/brew/etc
vcsh clone https://github.com/tfnico/config-mr.git mr
mr update

Done! All dot-files are ready to use and in place. No deploy command, no linking up symlinks to the files. No checking/out in my entire home directory as a Git repository. Yet, all my dot-files are neatly kept in fine-grained repositories, and any changes I make are immediately ready to be committed:

config-atom.git
    -> ~/.atom/*

config-mr.git
    -> ~/.mrconfig
    -> ~/.config/mr/*

config-tmuxinator.git  
    -> ~/.tmuxinator/*

config-vim.git
    -> ~/.vimrc
    -> ~/.vim/*

config-bin.git   
    -> ~/bin/*

config-git.git          
    -> ~/.gitconfig

config-tmux.git  
    -> ~/.tmux.conf    

config-zsh.git
    -> ~/.zshrc

How can this be? The key here is to use vcsh to keep track of your dot-files, and its partner myrepos/mr for operating on many repositories at the same time.


I discovered vcsh when I had its creator, Richard Hartmann guesting on GitMinutes, and I'm still surprised how little known this great tool is. Partly responsible for this I guess is that it's a bit hard to understand how vcsh works, and the README only does a half-good job at explaining it.

So let me try with my own words:

vcsh is a sort of a Git wrapper that let's you track files in Git repositories, while the actual files (work-tree) are in your home directory. 

For example, my .gitconfig is tracked in this repository: 

~./config/mr/repo.d/config-git.git (see it on GitHub)

But vcsh sets the working directory to be ~, so when I check out the contents of the repository, it lands directly in my home directory.

vcsh works pretty much like Git, except for most commands you tell it which repository to work on:

vcsh init git # creates a bare repository by with the name 'git' under ~./config/mr/repo.d/
vcsh git add .gitconfig # adds the file to the 'git' repository
vcsh git commit -m "My initial .gitconfig"
vcsh git diff # shows any changes you have made to your .gitconfig since

If you know about Git's ability to keep the GIT_DIR separate from the work-tree, this should be pretty easy to grasp.

Enter myrepos

If you're happy to keep all your dot-files in one repository, you'd be well off using vcsh by itself. But if you prefer having several repositories (perhaps you don't want all dot-files on a particular computer), or if you have any other Git repositories you always need checked out on your computer, myrepos is the tool for syncing a bunch of repositories in one go.

Imagine myrepos like this: It's a file with a list of repositories to should be managed on your computer:

[$HOME/projects/foo]
checkout = git clone git@github.com:tfnico/foo.git

[$HOME/projects/bar]
checkout = git clone git@github.com:tfnico/bar.git

Lucky for us, it also does the right thing with vcsh repositories:

[$HOME/.config/vcsh/repo.d/various.git]
checkout = vcsh clone git@github.com:tfnico/config-various.git various

That's pretty straight forward. Now you'll soon realize that myrepos and vcsh overlap in the sense that they both can do Git operations, and this can be a bit confusing. I'll try postulating a bit on which is for what:
  • myrepos is for checking out or operating a bunch of repositories at the same time. This includes your vcsh repositories.
  • vcsh is for managing files and directories in your home directory. The contents of a vcsh repository is all relative to home.
  • The myrepos configuration is kept in a vcsh repository. So in order to bootstrap, doing a vcsh clone of our mr repository is the first thing we do (as we did near the top of this blog post).
  • As myrepos also operates your vcsh repositories, it also manages its own configuration. As an effect, if you make any changes to your myrepos config on one computer, you'll have to run `mr update` twice in order to see the changes on another computer.
  • If you're making changes on one repository, like your vim-config, use vcsh to diff and commit the changes.
  • If you want to push or pull all the latest changes in all your repositories, use myrepos.
Some food for thought: Consider my vcsh repo for myrepos - I could have kept the .mrconfig file by itself in a vcsh repository, and then have mr check out the ~/.conf/mr/ stuff as a normal mr.git repo inside of ~/.conf/. This hypothetical aside, it makes more sense to keep files for one purpose in one repo.

I can understand after writing this that it's really hard to come up with a good README for vcsh. But I like to consider how much time I've spent on dealing with my dot-files, and how much more time I spent not managing them. In light of that, spending half a day on getting vcsh and mr set up right doesn't seem too bad. They are simply the best tools for the job (and other jobs), and the only draw-back is a little learning curve.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Open source CMS evaluations

I have now seen three more or less serious open source CMS reviews. First guy to hit the field was Matt Raible ( 1 2 3 4 ), ending up with Drupal , Joomla , Magnolia , OpenCms and MeshCMS being runner-ups. Then there is OpenAdvantage that tries out a handful ( Drupal , Exponent CMS , Lenya , Mambo , and Silva ), including Plone which they use for their own site (funny/annoying that the entire site has no RSS-feeds, nor is it possible to comment on the articles), following Matt's approach by exluding many CMS that seem not to fit the criteria. It is somewhat strange that OpenAdvantage cuts away Magnolia because it "Requires J2EE server; difficult to install and configure; more of a framework than CMS", and proceed to include Apache Lenya in the full evaluation. Magnolia does not require a J2EE server. It runs on Tomcat just like Lenya does (maybe it's an idea to bundle Magnolia with Jetty to make it seem more lightweight). I'm still sure that OpenAdvant

Git Stash Blooper (Could not restore untracked files from stash)

The other day I accidentally did a git stash -a , which means it stashes *everything*, including ignored output files (target, build, classes, etc). Ooooops.. What I meant to do was git stash -u , meaning stash modifications plus untracked new files. Anyhows, I ended up with a big fat stash I couldn't get back out. Each time I tried, I got something like this: .../target/temp/dozer.jar already exists, no checkout .../target/temp/core.jar already exists, no checkout .../target/temp/joda-time.jar already exists, no checkout .../target/foo.war already exists, no checkout Could not restore untracked files from stash No matter how I tried checking out different revisions (like the one where I actually made the stash), or using --force, I got the same error. Now these were one of those "keep cool for a second, there's a git way to fix this"situation. I figured: A stash is basically a commit. If we look at my recent commits using   git log --graph --

Leaving eyeo

Thirteen blog posts later, this one notes my departure from eyeo after 4 years and 3 months. I joined eyeo around the headcount of 80 employees, and now I think there's just over 250 people there. My role coming in was as operations manager, doing a mix of infrastructure engineering and technical project management. I later on took on organizational development to help the company deal with its growing pains . We introduced cross-functional teams, departments (kind of like guilds), new leadership structures, goal-setting frameworks, onboarding processes and career frameworks.  And all of this in a rapidly growing distributed company. I'm proud and happy that for a long time I knew every employee by name and got to meet every single new-hire through training them on company structure and processes.  At some point, we had enough experienced leaders and organizational developers that I could zoom back in on working in one team, consulting them on  Git and continuous integration

Git tools for keeping patches on top of moving upstreams

At work, we maintain patches for some pretty large open source repositories that regularly release new versions, forcing us to update our patches to match. So far, we've been using basic Git operations to transplant our modifications from one major version of the upstream to the next. Every time we make such a transplant, we simply squash together the modifications we made in the previous version, and land it as one big commit into the next version. Those who are used to very stringent keeping of Git history may wrinkle their nose at this, but it is a pragmatic choice. Maintaining modifications on top of the rapidly changing upstream is a lot of work, and so far we haven't had the opportunity to figure out a more clever way to do it. Nor have we really suffered any consequences of not having an easy to read history of our modifications - it's a relatively small amount of patches, after all. With a recent boost in team size, we may have that opportunity. Also the need for be