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Version Control with Subversion
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Version Control with Subversion - svnserve, a custom server

svnserve, a custom server

The svnserve program is a lightweight server, capable of speaking to clients over TCP/IP using a custom, stateful protocol. Clients contact an svnserve server by using URLs that begin with the svn:// or svn+ssh:// schema. This section will explain the different ways of running svnserve , how clients authenticate themselves to the server, and how to configure appropriate access control to your repositories.

Invoking the Server

There are a few different ways to invoke the svnserve program. If invoked with no options, you'll see nothing but a help message. However, if you're planning to have inetd launch the process, then you can pass the -i (--inetd) option:

$ svnserve -i
( success ( 1 2 ( ANONYMOUS ) ( edit-pipeline ) ) )

When invoked with the --inetd option, svnserve attempts to speak with a Subversion client via stdin and stdout using a custom protocol. This is the standard behavior for a program being run via inetd . The IANA has reserved port 3690 for the Subversion protocol, so on a Unix-like system you can add lines to /etc/services like these (if they don't already exist):

svn           3690/tcp   # Subversion
svn           3690/udp   # Subversion

And if your system is using a classic Unix-like inetd daemon, you can add this line to /etc/inetd.conf:

svn stream tcp nowait svnowner /usr/bin/svnserve svnserve -i

Make sure “svnowner” is a user which has appropriate permissions to access your repositories. Now, when a client connection comes into your server on port 3690, inetd will spawn an svnserve process to service it.

On a Windows system, third-party tools exist to run svnserve as a service. Look on Subversion's website for a list of these tools.

A second option is to run svnserve as a standalone “daemon” process. Use the -d option for this:

$ svnserve -d
$               # svnserve is now running, listening on port 3690

When running svnserve in daemon mode, you can use the --listen-port= and --listen-host= options to customize the exact port and hostname to “bind” to.

There's still a third way to invoke svnserve , and that's in “tunnel mode”, with the -t option. This mode assumes that a remote-service program such as RSH or SSH has successfully authenticated a user and is now invoking a private svnserve process as that user . The svnserve program behaves normally (communicating via stdin and stdout ), and assumes that the traffic is being automatically redirected over some sort of tunnel back to the client. When svnserve is invoked by a tunnel agent like this, be sure that the authenticated user has full read and write access to the repository database files. (See Servers and Permissions: A Word of Warning.) It's essentially the same as a local user accessing the repository via file:/// URLs.

Once the svnserve program is running, it makes every repository on your system available to the network. A client needs to specify an absolute path in the repository URL. For example, if a repository is located at /usr/local/repositories/project1, then a client would reach it via svn://host.example.com/usr/local/repositories/project1 . To increase security, you can pass the -r option to svnserve , which restricts it to exporting only repositories below that path:

$ svnserve -d -r /usr/local/repositories
…

Using the -r option effectively modifies the location that the program treats as the root of the remote filesystem space. Clients then use URLs that have that path portion removed from them, leaving much shorter (and much less revealing) URLs:

$ svn checkout svn://host.example.com/project1
…

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Version Control with Subversion
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