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Version Control with Subversion
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Version Control with Subversion - Autoversioning


While the Subversion client is not a full DeltaV client, nor the Subversion server a full DeltaV server, there's still a glimmer of WebDAV interoperability to be happy about: it's called autoversioning.

Autoversioning is an optional feature defined in the DeltaV standard. A typical DeltaV server will reject an ignorant WebDAV client attempting to do a PUT to a file that's under version control. To change a version-controlled file, the server expects a series proper versioning requests: something like MKACTIVITY, CHECKOUT, PUT, CHECKIN. But if the DeltaV server supports autoversioning, then write-requests from basic WebDAV clients are accepted. The server behaves *as if* the client had issued the proper series of versioning requests, performing a commit under the hood. In other words, it allows a DeltaV server to interoperate with ordinary WebDAV clients.

Because so many operating systems already have integrated WebDAV clients, the use case for this feature borders on fantastical: imagine an office of ordinary users running Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. Each user “mounts” the Subversion repository, which appears to be an ordinary network folder. They use the shared folder as they always do: open files, edit them, save them. Meanwhile, the server is automatically versioning everything. Any administrator (or knowledgeable user) can still use a Subversion client to search history and retrieve older versions of data.

This scenario isn't fiction: it's real and it works, as of Subversion 1.2 and later. To activate autoversioning in mod_dav_svn, use the SVNAutoversioning directive within the httpd.conf Location block, like so:

<Location /repos>
  DAV svn
  SVNPath /path/to/repository
  SVNAutoversioning on

When SVNAutoversioning is active, write requests from WebDAV clients result in automatic commits. A generic log message is auto-generated and attached to each revision.

Before activating this feature, however, understand what you're getting into. WebDAV clients tend to do many write requests, resulting in a huge number of automatically committed revisions. For example, when saving data, many clients will do a PUT of a 0-byte file (as a way of reserving a name) followed by another PUT with the real filedata. The single file-write results in two separate commits. Also consider that many applications auto-save every few minutes, resulting in even more commits.

If you have a post-commit hook program that sends email, for example, you may want to disable email generation either altogether, or on certain sections of the repository; it depends on whether you think the influx of emails will still prove to be valuable notifications or not. Also, a smart post-commit hook program can distinguish between a transaction created via autoversioning and one created through a normal svn commit . The trick is to look for a revision property named svn:autoversioned. If present, the commit was made by a generic WebDAV client.

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Version Control with Subversion
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