Moving over to Git

Mar 28, 2008

So you've seen that Rails/Capistrano now natively supports Git? You've bearing hearing all the hype about it but don't really know what it is, how to use it, or how to install it. But like most, you know it was invented by that Linus guy that invented Linux, so it can't be all bad. Well then come jump on board!

What is Git?

Git is a distributed version control system (you can skip this bit if you've

used mercurial). If you can imagine SVN, but without

the need to check back to a central server you're probably about half way

there. Without the concept of a central server, it means I can check out code

and develop until my heart is content on my laptop, while in transit, without

an internet connection. While SVN wouldn't stop me

from doing this it did prevent me from committing any check-ins during this

period. That's problematic if I've a particularly long trip (on a plane) as I

then end up checking in a large chunk of functionality in one single big

commit and I wont be able to undo just a portion of it. It's particularly good

with a distributed team (which often happens these days with coders all around

the world) as I can check out, check in, and not fear that I'm occasionally

breaking someone else's code until it comes time to bundle up all my work and

submit it to the core code base. I get all the benefits of tiny atomic commits

so that I can easily undo just a small change, and none of the failings of

running your own SVN repository as a silo.

That's because, while there is no dependency on a central server, you can

commit and checkout to and from a central Git server whenever you like. Even

better, you can commit and checkout directly with a colleague or any other

user who has pulled a copy of the code and bypass the server altogether (e.g.,

two remote developers working on the same code who don't want to disrupt the

central repo just yet).

Installing Git on linux

If you're on a linux distro you may very well find you already have Git

installed. If you don't, it should be available as a package:

sudo yum install git-core

Installing Git on Mac OS X (or installing Git from source)

For the Mac OS X users out there it will probably be

easiest to install it from source. The following commands should get you




tar xjvf git-1.5.4.tar.bz2

cd git-1.5.4



sudo make install

cd ..

sudo tar xjvf git-manpages-1.5.4.tar.bz2 -C /usr/local/share/man

If you're so inclined, now would probably be a good time to change to default

settings to get coloured output and a whole host of nifty shortcuts and

improvements. Check out this git quickstart guide for a list of them

Using Git

If you've used mercurial before this should all seem like second nature. If

you're used to SVN, then there is only a minor

learning curve. The thing you need to keep in mind is that your local working

copy of the checkout, is also a server. So when you do a commit, you are

really only saving it to your local machine. Likewise, if you did a checkout,

you're doing it on the local machine. If you want to update your local copy

from a remote server like you would in SVN you need

to pull, to send your updates somewhere else you need to

push. Let's quickly go through how you'd checkout a working copy, and

make some changes to it. Firstly, you need to create a local clone of the


git clone git:// my_local_dir

This will create a new directory called mylocaldir and pull in a

copy of the the repository from the remote server. Next you make some changes

locally to the files and try to check them in:

cd my_local_dir

git commit -a

This will commit all local changes, to your local server. Now it's time topush those changes back upstream:

git push

But what if we want to check if there are any changes from the remote server?

Well we just pull them in:

git pull

Creating a remote Git repository

That's all well and good if you've got a repository already setup to check out

from. But what if you want to create your own. Well you can go with a hosted

option from providers like GitHub or Gitorious or if you are the DIY type, host your own. Go to the remote server location

where you want to have your repo and:

mkdir myrepo.git

cd myrepo.git

git --bare init

Now obviously we've created a directory and initialised a new Git repository

within it here. What the bare option does is inform Git that this

won't be a working copy. We don't need to waste disk with the actual files

here, we just need to version control information and the changes (delta)

between files.

You've probably got a local codebase that you now want to check into your

brand new remote repo so you can code away, check in, remotely back it up, and

have others contribute. So locally:

cd myapp

git init

git add .

git commit -m "Initial check in"

What we've done here is initialise the local Git repository in our myapp

directory, add all the files in, and then commit the new files. All that is

left to do is let this repository know about a remote host, and then push our

changes there:

git remote add origin ssh://

git push origin master

This lets the local repository know to treat the remote server as the origin

of the source, followed by a command to push our local master copy up to the

origin server. From now on, you can send any changes to the server with a


git push

And that's it! Following shortly, how to port your existing SVN projects over and/or peacefully let Git and SVN projects co-exist.

Hi, I'm Glenn! 👋 I'm currently Director of Product @ HashiCorp, and we're hiring! If you'd like to come and work with me and help make Terraform Cloud even more amazing we have multiple positions opening in Product ManagementDesign, and Engineering & Engineering Management across a range of levels (i.e., junior through to senior). Please send in an application ASAP so we can get in touch.