git hooks – reel in

In the last post I sketched out a simple jabber-notification script for remote git repositories. There are some things, that can be improved there.

First I added an additional argument to exclude the commiter from the message queue. I know that I commited, so I don’t have to be informed about that later (I updated my github repo). So, I have another argument in the call, but what now?
In there is a dict to hold the name of the commiter (or email) as key and the jabberid as a value.

But that in itself is pretty useless, so we have to tweak the hook a little to give the name of the commiter as 2 parameter. This is best achieved in using

git log -1

which gives us the last commit entry. Better stil we can add a formatting instructions like this

git log -1 --pretty=format:"%ce"

which gives us the email-address of the commiting party. I will use this as the key in the pushbot dict holding the jabber-ids to which the push-notification shoudl be sent. I don’t use the commiters name here, beccause of formatting hubub and the fact, that I am less likely to run into problems with doubles.

So, in I will add an email-address as a key

rcps_list={'email@server' :  'jabber@server'}

Now the commiter should not receive any message concerning his now commits. But still we could improve the notification message by using the very same git log statement.

In hooks/post-receive we could generate a more detailed message using

git log -1 --pretty=format:"%cn, %s"

Which gives us the name of the commiter and the subject line. Insert this into the message and you have a nice push notification with sufficient details to decide what you should do without too much overhead.


Git Hook, Line and Sinker

Selfhosting your git repositories is not a bad idea. In fact it is a great idea and it’s pretty simple too.

First you make a new directory on an accessible machine which by convention ends on .git. Something like /allmycode/repo1.git

Move into the directory and execute

 git init --bare --share

Great, we got ourselves a shareable git repository. If you dont’ want ro be the only one to be working on that repository and have no intention of making it public either you should create a user specific for git operations on the machine you serve your repositories from.
Let’s assume your specialized user is called “git”

You can now add ssh-public-keys from all parties that should have access on the repos via copy-ssh-id to /home/git/.ssh/ and have a nice passwordless access-control.

Now we can start to work on the remote repository.
In you local working directory we

git init

and provide the user information that is used in the commit message

git config --global "Your Name"

git config --gloabl your@email.sth

This was all local, so let’s add the information about remote

git remote add origin git@server:/allmycode/repo1.git

this enables us to make a push to remote with the shorter

git push origin master

It is completely viable to add differently labeled remote repositories e.g.

 git remote add github sth@github

and push a specialised branch (without passwords for example) there via

 git push github public

Nice, self-hosted remote repositories! You can start collaborating. And when you do you, you might want to automate transferring the newest version to a testing server. You could do this with a cronjob and some copying, or, you could use git’s very own hooks, to be specific a post-push hook.
Connect to the remote repository and enter the directory hooks/. Here you find some nice samples, but we want something different. We want a post-receive hook, which means everytime somebody pushes changes to
the remote repository this action is called. So we create that hook:

touch post-receive

then we paste in

GIT_WORK_TREE=/path/to/serverroot/ git checkout -f

and save. Make it executable and you made a git hook. Congrats!
Since we have a user named git who is the owner of all the repos on our remote machine we must add him to the group that controls the webserver paths (www-data or else) Full instructions to make the checkout work.

Now every push to the remote repository should trigger a checkout which hopefully makes the newest version available on the webserver.

But let’s tweak things a little. Say we want to be notified whenever a commit has been pushed. Email and telephone are viable but timeconsuming and you don’t want to, and frankly should not have to, bother. I think Jabber is a great way of getting the information across without spamming the whole team. So I made a little script to send a message to everybody who cares to give me his jabber-id. You can get it here via

git clone

If you add to the post-receive hook

 python /<path-to-repo>/ "Something has been pushed."

not only will your testing/demo/development server automatically have been updated, but all listed members of the working group will be informed about it on Jabber.

Legacy code and the “SuperProgrammer”

I started an online python course some days ago and part of the assignment is to peer evaluate other peoples code. The task was to print a message on the screen. Yes, I know, a boring task.
There I came upon something like this:

string = "xdxlxrxoxW xoxlxlxexH"
string = string[::-2]
print string

And this, in three lines, is the essence of problems I’ve encountered over the years with big complex projects and legacy code. Remarkably it seems to be a trap each projects “Super-Programmer” falls in…

1. Show-off programming
It’s okay to be proud of ones knowledge but, come on, this is about the job, not your ego.

2. The code is the documentation
NO, definitely not, code is just a small part of any bigger or more complex project. There ususally are configuration, directory structures, external dependencies (libraries) etc. Put it somewhere to be seen, the init file, a readme, a getting-started txt file but don’t assume.

3. Don’t oversmart
You found this very cool, super cryptic looking function that does unexpected thing… Yeah, probably use something that can be understood right away or at least leave a comment about what it does.

4. Modularize to death
Especially in ruby (but any other language as well) I found many people building modules around simple functions, meta programming things to bits and doing stuff they found in years old posts somewhere.
Those techniques are all good and useful at times but not every function is predestined to be reused in another project, so why not declare it a helper function?

In short:
1. Write code that can be read with by an average coder, not just by the “Super-Programmer”. Projects or companies dev teams seldom have an even knowledge distribution. (And in most cases you don’t even want that.)
2. Documentation!
4. Put your ego aside. I rarely think stuff like “Oh my, he/she came up with a fancy solution”, mostly it is along the line of “WTF! Why didn’t he use the obvious solution?” So if there is a reason for doing it differently go back to point 2 or 3.