Revision control and distribution of home configuration files with Bash and git

For year, I managed different copies of home configuration files over different hosts with some revision control,  but however better are modern system like git in comparison to old CVS, it would still be quite unpractical to put your whole home directory within one single repository:

  • for obvious reason, there are only a few files that you can actually move around carelessly and put on gitlab for instance; but these files are actually nice to have there, so you can retrieve them whenever and wherever you want;
  • even if you could/would made the rest of your home directory public, most of the configuration files cannot adjust to each host they are run onto; you can obviously adjust a ~/.bashrc according to $HOSTNAME, but it gets a bit more annoying for, say, ~/.Xdefaults;

I am quite sure most people using many different hosts have all their own way to deal with that. There are too many use cases for one solution to be practical for everybody.

I already made public a small script to distributed SSH public keys, that I was using for quite a while before. Next is the script I am using now to distribute home configuration files among hosts: it needs to be added within a git repository (in my case, gitlab “rc” repository), from there, based on a pre-decided list of files or directories:

  • keep a copy of each file/directory per hostname (ex: bashrc.$HOSTNAME, config/awesome.$HOSTNAME);
  • default can be set by renaming $item.$HOSTNAME to $item.default of such file/directory (ex: bashrc.default);

It obeys to the following general rules:

  • it wont copy symlinks but their content;
  • if we only have a local file, save it in the repository;
  • if we have a local file and a repository copy, and if there is a difference, update the repository;
  • if we only have a repository copy, no local file, create the local file with a warning;

Regarding $item.default:

  • $item.default  be will used only unless a $item.$HOSTNAME exists;
  • $item.default will never be updated automatically: if the local copy based on the default is modified, then a $item.$HOSTNAME will be created instead; if it is to made default, you’ll need to rename $item.$HOSTNAME to $item.default; alternatively, you could edit $item.default first and remove the local file at once;
  • similarly, $item.default will never overwrite a local file: to use it on other hosts after an update, the local file will need to be removed;

I admit this $item.default handling is a bit cumbersome but these files update presents risk (lockout, security, etc).

If updaterc exists in the same directory, it will be sourced. It is convenient way to change the $ITEMS variable without editing the script itself.

To use it, you just need to set up and clone some git repository and, within this repository:

chmod +x
# eventually create a custom list of items
echo 'ITEMS="bashrc config/awesome"' > updaterc
# run

The task can be automated by a cronjob, add the following to a call to crontab -e:

3 12 * * * ~/.rc/ >/dev/null 2>/dev/null

(side note: that won’t work properly if one of your hosts is named “default”)

Using networked filesystems hosted by LXC containers with Samba

For more than a decade, I used NFS on my home server to share files. I did not consider using Samba for anything but to provide Windows access to shares. NFSv3 then NFSv4 suited me, allowing per host/IP write access policy. The only main drawback was very crude handling of NFS server downtime: X sessions would be half-frozen, requiring restart to be usable once again.

However, I moved recently my servers to LXC (which I’ll probably document a bit later) and NFS server on Debian, as you can guess from nfs-kernel-server package’s name, is kernel-based: not only it apparently defeats the purpose of LXC containers to actually have a server within a container tied to the kernel, but it does not seems to really work reliably. I managed to get it running, but it had to be run on both the master host and within the container. Even then, depending which started first could make the shares unavailable to hosts.

I checked a few articles over the web (, etc) and it looked that, as of today, you can expect decent performances from Samba, as much as of NFS. That could possibly be proven wrong if I was using massively NFS, writing a lot through networked file systems, opening a big number of files simultaneously, moving big files around a lot, but I have really simple requirements: no latency when browsing directories, no latency when playing 720p/1080p videos and that’s about it.

I had already a restricted write access directory per user, via Samba, but I use it only on lame systems as temporary area: on proper systems, I use SSH/scp/rsync/git to manipulate/save files.

Dropping NFS, I have now quite a simple setup, here are relevant parts of my /etc/samba/smb.conf:


## Browsing/Identification ###

# What naming service and in what order should we use to resolve host names
# to IP addresses
 name resolve order = lmhosts host wins bcast

#### Networking ####

# The specific set of interfaces / networks to bind to
# This can be either the interface name or an IP address/netmask;
# interface names are normally preferred
 interfaces = eth0

# Only bind to the named interfaces and/or networks; you must use the
# 'interfaces' option above to use this.
# It is recommended that you enable this feature if your Samba machine is
# not protected by a firewall or is a firewall itself. However, this
# option cannot handle dynamic or non-broadcast interfaces correctly.
 bind interfaces only = true

#### File names ####

# remove characters forbidden on Windows
mangled names = no

# charsets
dos charset = iso8859-15
unix charset = UTF8

####### Authentication #######

# "security = user" is always a good idea. This will require a Unix account
# in this server for every user accessing the server. See
# /usr/share/doc/samba-doc/htmldocs/Samba3-HOWTO/ServerType.html
# in the samba-doc package for details.
 security = user

# Private network
 hosts allow = 192.168.1.

# You may wish to use password encryption. See the section on
# 'encrypt passwords' in the smb.conf(5) manpage before enabling.
 encrypt passwords = true

# If you are using encrypted passwords, Samba will need to know what
# password database type you are using. 
 passdb backend = tdbsam

obey pam restrictions = yes

guest account = nobody
 invalid users = root bin daemon adm sync shutdown halt mail news uucp operator www-data sshd Debian-exim debian-transmission
 map to guest = bad user

# This boolean parameter controls whether Samba attempts to sync the Unix
# password with the SMB password when the encrypted SMB password in the
# passdb is changed.
 unix password sync = yes

#======================= Share Definitions =======================

realm = ...

comment = Commun
path = /srv/common
browseable = yes
writable = yes
public = yes
guest ok = yes
valid users = @smbusers
force group = smbusers
create mode = 0660
directory mode = 0770
force create mode = 0660
force directory mode = 0770

comment = Données protégées
path = /srv/users/thisuser
browseable = yes
writable = yes
public = yes
valid users = thisuser
create mode = 0600
directory mode = 0700
force create mode = 0600
force directory mode = 0700
guest ok = no


I installed package libpam-smbpass and edited /etc/pam.d/samba as follow:

@include common-auth
@include common-account
@include common-session-noninteractive
@include common-password

For this setup to work, you need every user allowed to connect:

  • to be member of group smbusers – including nobody (or whatever the guest account is) ;
  • to have a unix password set ;
  • to be known to samba (smbpasswd -e thisuser or option -a).

If you are not interested in per user access restricted area, only nobody account will need to be taken care of.

And, obviously, files and directories ownership and modes must be set accordingly:

cd /srv/common
# (0770/drwxrwx---) GID : (nnnnn/smbusers)
find . -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 770 -v
find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 660 -v
cd /srv/users
# (0700/drwx------) UID : ( nnnn/ thisuser) GID : ( nnnn/ thisuser)
find . -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 700 -v
find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 600 -v
# main directories, in addition, need sticky bit some future directory get proper modes
chmod 2770 /srv/common/*
chmod 2700 /srv/users/*

To access this transparently over GNU/Linux systems, just add in /etc/fstab:

//servername/commun /mountpoint cifs guest,uid=nobody,gid=users,iocharset=utf8 0 0

This assumes that any users entitled to access files belongs to users group. If not, update accordingly.

With this setup, there is no longer any IP based specific write access set but, over years, I found out it was quite useless for my setup.

The only issue I have is with files with colon within  (“:”). Due to MS Windows limitations, CIFS list these files but access is made impossible. The easier fix I found was to actually rename these files (not a problem due to the nature of the files served) through a cronjob /etc/cron.hourly/uncolon :

# a permanent cifs based fix would be welcomed
find "/srv" -name '*:*' -exec rename 's/://g' {} +

but I’d be interested in better options.