Monday, August 1, 2011

svn, ssh, /bin/false, git, /etc, etc.

I just spent almost two hours troubleshooting an svn server. It was set up to allow ssh access from a few users over ssh as described in this helpful blog post.

Today I realized none of the svn clients could run svn update: "svn: Network connection closed unexpectedly"

Part of the challenge was that I'd not run "svn update" in 1-2 months, so I had a big time frame for breakage. But all I could remember changing recently was commenting out some lines in my iptables firewall, so I spent quite a while staring at that. And I'd updated some packages and rebooted.

I spent a lot of time looking at ssh verbose output. To do this use
export SVN_SSH="ssh -vv"
(-v for quite verbose, -vv for more, -vvv for even more, etc.) No error messages: it connects, runs the svnserve command, passes up some environmental variables, sends some data, and then simply loses the connection.

Then I wondered if the svn user had somehow lost permission for something important. It has /bin/false as its shell, so I gave it /bin/bash, used su to become root, then "su - svn". Ran the svnserve command. It is fine. Looked at the repository. It is fine. Ran svnadmin to check for locks. None.

Giving up, I started crafting an email to post somewhere asking for help. I went back to get the exact error message svn update was giving me... and it worked. Yep, the other client works now too. My first guess was running svnadmin had quietly fixed something. But then, on a hunch, I changed svn's shell back to /bin/false. Yep, that broke it. It seems the svn user has to have a valid login shell.

Okay, problem solved. But I'm sure that svn has always had /bin/false, and now I wanted to know if that is true, and if and when it changed. It is too late now, but ready for next time, I decided to put all of /etc into a git repository (no need for a central repository, so git is far better choice than svn for this). The git commands (all run as root) are trivial:
cd /etc
git init
git add .
git commit -m "Initial files" -a
I found this page of someone who has done something similar, and he suggested sending the git status report from a daily cron, so I did that too.

It is so easy, and disk space so plentiful, that I think I will do it on all my linux machines.

UPDATE: /etc has some files that get edited a lot, so to reduce noise this is my .gitignore file so far:

(Use "git rm --cached cups/printers.conf*" (for instance) to stop git tracking the files if they've already been added.)

No comments: