HOWTO: Master/Local repositories - Please read the HOWTO: Backup first,
to know about basic steps using FSVS.
If you manage a lot of machines with similar or identical software, you
might notice that it’s a bit of work keeping them all up-to-date. Sure,
automating distribution via rsync or similar is easy; but then you get
identical machines, or you have to play with lots of exclude patterns
to keep the needed differences.
Here another way is presented; and even if you don’t want to use FSVS
for distributing your files, the ideas presented here might help you
keep your machines under control.
Preparation, repository layout
In this document the basic assumption is that there is a group of (more
or less identical) machines, that share most of their filesystems.
Some planning should be done beforehand; while the ideas presented here
might suffice for simple versioning, your setup can require a bit of
This example uses some distinct repositories, to achieve a bit more
clarity; of course these can simply be different paths in a single
repository (see Using a single repository for an example
Repository in URL base:
Repository in URL machine1 (similar for machine2):
User data versioning
If you want to keep the user data versioned, too, a idea might be to
start a new working copy in every home directory; this way
· the system- and (several) user-commits can be run in parallel,
· the intermediate home directory in the repository is not needed, and
· you get a bit more isolation (against FSVS failures, out-of-space
errors and similar).
· Furthermore FSVS can work with smaller file sets, which helps
performance a bit (less dentries to cache at once, less memory used,
A cronjob could simply loop over the directories in /home, and call
fsvs for each one; giving a target URL name is not necessary if every
home-directory is its own working copy.
URL names can include a forward slash / in their name, so you might
give the URLs names like home/Andrew - although that should not be
needed, if every home directory is a distinct working copy.
Using master/local repositories
Imagine having 10 similar machines with the same base-installation.
Then you install one machine, commit that into the repository as
base/trunk, and make a copy as base/released.
The other machines get base/released as checkout source, and another
(overlaid) from eg. machine1/trunk.
Per-machine changes are always committed into the machineX/trunk of
the per-machine repository; this would be the host name, IP address,
and similar things.
On the development machine all changes are stored into base/trunk; if
you’re satisfied with your changes, you merge them (see Branching,
tagging, merging) into base/released, whereupon all other machines can
update to this latest version.
So by looking at machine1/trunk you can see the history of the machine-
specific changes; and in base/released you can check out every old
version to verify problems and bugs.
You can take this system a bit further: optional software packages
could be stored in other subtrees. They should be of lower priority
than the base tree, so that in case of conflicts the base should
always be preferred (but see 1).
Here is a small example; machine1 is the development machine, machine2
is a client.
machine1$ fsvs urls name:local,P:200,svn+ssh://lserver/per-machine/machine1/trunk
machine1$ fsvs urls name:base,P:100,http://bserver/base-install1/trunk
# Determine differences, and commit them
machine1$ fsvs ci -o commit_to=local /etc/HOSTNAME /etc/network/interfaces /var/log
machine1$ fsvs ci -o commit_to=base /
Now you’ve got a base-install in your repository, and can use that on
the other machine:
machine2$ fsvs urls name:local,P:200,svn+ssh://lserver/per-machine/machine2/trunk
machine2$ fsvs urls name:base,P:100,http://bserver/base-install1/trunk
machine2$ fsvs sync-repos
# Now you see differences of this machines’ installation against the other:
machine2$ fsvs st
# You can see what is different:
machine2$ fsvs diff /etc/X11/xorg.conf
# You can take the base installations files:
machine2$ fsvs revert /bin/ls
# And put the files specific to this machine into its repository:
machine2$ fsvs ci -o commit_to=local /etc/HOSTNAME /etc/network/interfaces /var/log
Now, if this machine has a harddisk failure or needs setup for any
other reason, you boot it (eg. via PXE, Knoppix or whatever), and do
# Re-partition and create filesystems (if necessary)
machine2-knoppix$ fdisk ...
machine2-knoppix$ mkfs ...
# Mount everything below /mnt
machine2-knoppix$ mount <partition[s]> /mnt/[...]
machine2-knoppix$ cd /mnt
# Do a checkout below /mnt
machine2-knoppix$ fsvs co -o softroot=/mnt <urls>
Branching, tagging, merging
Other names for your branches (instead of trunk, tags and branches)
could be unstable, testing, and stable; your production machines would
use stable, your testing environment testing, and in unstable you’d
commit all your daily changes.
Please note that there’s no merging mechanism in FSVS; and as far
as I’m concerned, there won’t be. Subversion just gets automated
merging mechanisms, and these should be fine for this usage too.
Thoughts about tagging
Tagging works just like normally; although you need to remember to tag
more than a single branch. Maybe FSVS should get some knowledge about
the subversion repository layout, so a fsvs tag would tag all
repositories at once? It would have to check for duplicate tag-names
(eg. on the base -branch), and just keep it if it had the same
But how would tags be used? Define them as source URL, and checkout?
Would be a possible case.
Or should fsvs tag do a merge into the repository, so that a single URL
contains all files currently checked out, with copyfrom-pointers to the
original locations? Would require using a single repository, as such
pointers cannot be across different repositories. If the committed data
includes the $FSVS_CONF/.../Urls file, the original layout would be
known, too - although to use it a sync-repos would be necessary.
Using a single repository
A single repository would have to be partitioned in the various
branches that are needed for bookkeeping; see these examples.
Depending on the number of machines it might make sense to put them in
a 1- or 2 level deep hierarchy; named by the first character, like
Here only the base system gets branched and tagged; the machines simply
backup their specific/localized data into the repository.
# For the base-system:
# For the machines:
Here every part gets its trunk, branches and tags:
Common trunk, tags, and branches
Here the base-paths trunk, tags and branches are shared:
Conflicts should not be automatically merged. If two or more trees
bring the same file, the file from the highest tree wins - this way you
always know the file data on your machines. It’s better if a single
software doesn’t work, compared to a machine that no longer boots or is
no longer accessible (eg. by SSH)).
So keep your base installation at highest priority, and you’ve got good
chances that you won’t loose control in case of conflicting files.
If you don’t know which files are diffent in your installs,
· install two machines,
· commit the first into fsvs,
· do a sync-repos on the second,
· and look at the status output.
As debian includes FSVS in the near future, it could be included on the
next KNOPPIX, too!
Until then you’d need a custom boot CD, or copy the absolute minimum of
files to the harddisk before recovery.
There’s a utility svntar available; it allows you to take a snapshot of
a subversion repository directly into a .tar -file, which you can
easily export to destination machine. (Yes, it knows about the meta-
data properties FSVS uses, and stores them into the archive.)
Why no file merging? Because all real differences are in the per-
machine files -- the files that are in the base repository are changed
only on a single machine, and so there’s an unidirectional flow.
BTW, how would you merge your binaries, eg. /bin/ls?
If you’ve got any questions, ideas, wishes or other feedback, please
tell us in the mailing list users [at] fsvs.tigris.org.