Setting Up an Ubuntu Subversion Server
This tutorial describes setting up a Subversion server on an Ubuntu system and configuring it for use by a group of developers. The goal is to allow each member of a development team to access the Subversion repositories from a remote location (e.g., a workstation at home), using either the svn or svn+ssh protocol.
It is assumed that you already have a basic Ubuntu server running, and that the other developers can connect to it. If you want to allow them to access the Subversion server with the secure svn+ssh protocol, then each developer must also be able to login to your machine with SSH.
Basic Subversion Setup
Begin by installing the Subversion package:
$ sudo apt-get install subversion
You're going to need a directory for your repositories, as well as other
Subversion-related files. Most people use
/usr/local/svn for this purpose, and you can choose either. I
/home/svn, as I
like to keep /home for home directories of real users of the system.
$ sudo mkdir /usr/local/svn
Inside this directory, create another one to hold your repositories:
$ sudo mkdir /usr/local/svn/repos
Now, you need to set some access permissions on those directories. You only
want to allow certain users of your system (that is, yourself and the other
developers) to access the repositories, so add a new group for those users.
Name the group
$ sudo groupadd svn
Then, change the group ownership of
/usr/local/svn/repos to the
new group using the
$ sudo chgrp svn /usr/local/svn/repos
The members of the
svn group also need write access to the
repos directory, so use
chmod to add the write
permission for the group:
$ sudo chmod g+w /usr/local/svn/repos
Additionally, you need to make sure that all new files and directories
created in the
repos directory (in other words, anything committed
to the repositories) will also be owned by the group. To
accomplish this, use
chmod again to set the set-group-ID bit on
the directory, which causes any file created inside it to have the same group
ownership as the directory itself. Effectively, everything in
repos will belong to the
$ sudo chmod g+s /usr/local/svn/repos
OK, so you now have the repositories directory with proper permissions,
ready to be used by the
svn group. Go ahead and add yourself to
$ sudo usermod -a -G svn michal
However, your new group membership will not be effective for the current session, so you need to log out and log back in. When you're back, you can verify that your account is recognized as a member of the svn group:
$ groups michal adm dialout cdrom plugdev lpadmin admin sambashare svn
If the other developers have user accounts on your server, add them to the group too:
$ sudo usermod -a -G svn jimmy $ sudo usermod -a -G svn craig
If they don't, they will still be able to access the repositories, but only using the basic svn protocol, not the secure svn+ssh method.
Creating a Test Repository
You can now create a repository. In the following steps, I'll demonstrate how to create a simple test repository containing one text file, and how to check out and commit files. If you're not familiar with Subversion, then this could be a good exercise to learn the basics. Otherwise, you can skip all the test checkouts and commits and just create the repository for your project.
The repository will be a subdirectory in the
and will have its group ownership set to
svn (thanks to the
chmod g+s you did earlier). However, that's not all – you also
need to make sure the repository will be group writable, so that the other
members of the
svn group will be able to commit files. To do this,
set the umask to
$ umask 002
This command sets the new file mode creation mask which controls the default
permissions of any new file that you create. The default value is
022 and it corresponds to read/write permissions for the file
owner, and read permissions for the group and others. The new value,
002, also gives write permissions to the group, which is just what
Create the repository using the
$ svnadmin create /usr/local/svn/repos/test
And set back the default umask:
$ umask 022
So you now have an empty repository, waiting for you to commit something to it. But, before you do this, you need to check out the current version (i.e., the empty directory) to create a working copy.
$ svn checkout file:///usr/local/svn/repos/test Checked out revision 0.
The working copy has been checked out to a new directory named
test. Go ahead and create a simple "hello world" text file in that
$ cd test $ echo 'Hello, World!' > hello.txt
Then, add it to version control with the
svn add command:
$ svn add hello.txt A hello.txt
Finally, commit it using
$ svn commit -m "Added a 'hello world' text file." Adding hello.txt Transmitting file data . Committed revision 1.
hello.txt file is now in the repository.
Accessing the Repository with the Svn Protocol
Remote repository access with the svn protocol requires you to use
svnserve, a Subversion server program. Each repository has a
svnserve configuration file (stored in the
conf subdirectory) which controls how the repository can be accessed with
First, create a passwords file that lists the users of the repository and their passwords. This will be a common passwords file for your development team and you will be able to use it with multiple repositories.
$ sudo gedit /usr/local/svn/passwd-team
Here's a sample passwords file. Each line (except the first one, which is the configuration section name) defines a user name and the corresponding password.
[users] michal = somepassword jimmy = anotherpassword craig = yetanotherpassword
Since the passwords are stored unencrypted, it's important that you protect
the passwords file by setting the proper permissions. The file should not be
readable by anyone except the owner (which is
root), so change its
$ sudo chmod 600 /usr/local/svn/passwd-team
Then, open the
svnserve configuration file in the test
$ gedit /usr/local/svn/repos/test/conf/svnserve.conf
There's probably some default configuration in the file, but you can just remove everything and enter this:
[general] anon-access = none password-db = /usr/local/svn/passwd-team realm = Team
anon-access = none line denies access to the repository to
unauthenticated users (by default, they are allowed read access, so they can do
password-db setting tells svnserve where to look
for the passwords file when authenticating users, and the
setting defines the name of the authentication realm.
OK, the configuration is ready, so you can now launch
$ sudo svnserve -d --foreground -r /usr/local/svn/repos
The command-line options tell
svnserve to run in daemon mode
-d) as a foreground process (
--foreground), and to
look for repositories in the
repos dir that was created earlier
-r /usr/local/svn/repos). Normally the program should be running
in the background (that's what daemon processes do), but at this moment you
only need to test it, so it's more convenient to run it in the foreground,
where you can easily kill it with
Now, try accessing the repository using the svn protocol. You can try it on
another machine over the network, or on the same computer (in another
terminal). In the latter case, make sure you're not doing the checkout in the
same directory where the previous test working copy was checked out, because it
won't work – either delete the test directory, or
cd to some
Enter the following
svn checkout command, replacing
192.168.10.11 with the IP address of your Subversion server (if
you're testing on the same machine, you can use
$ svn checkout svn://192.168.10.11/test --username jimmy
The server will ask you for password:
Authentication realm: <svn://192.168.10.11:3690> Team Password for 'jimmy':
Then, it proceeds with the checkout.
A test/hello.txt Checked out revision 1.
And there's your working copy. Now, check if it works the other way –
try modifying the file and committing it back to the repository. Open
hello.txt with a text editor and add some text:
$ cd test $ gedit hello.txt
When you're done, commit it:
$ svn commit -m "Modified the hello.txt file." Sending hello.txt Transmitting file data . Committed revision 2.
Sweet, it works both ways.
Accessing the Repository with the Svn+SSH Protocol
Setting up your Subversion server for svn+ssh access is simple, as it
doesn't even require using the
svnserve program. Assuming you have a SSH server
running on the Subversion machine, and the other developers can login to it,
you don't have to configure anything – just set up the repository.
You can just go ahead and check out the test project. The checkout operation is slightly different with the svn+ssh access method. First, you must specify the full path to the repository in the checkout URL:
$ svn checkout svn+ssh://192.168.10.11/usr/local/svn/repos/test --username jimmy
Then, when the server asks you for a password, you need to enter the user's
SSH password, not the one from the
And there it goes:
A test/hello.txt Checked out revision 2.
From here, you can use your working copy the same way as with the
Svnserve Initialization Script
If you plan on using
svnserve in the long run, you probably don't want to start it from the command-line every time the server is rebooted. The proper way to start system services is with init scripts located in the
The Subversion package for Ubuntu does not include an init script, so you have to make one yourself. Or, you can download this init script, written by yours truly. Save the script as
/etc/init.d/svnserve and make it executable:
$ sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/svnserve
If you chose anything other than
/usr/local/svn/repos for the repositories directory, make sure to change the path in the init script.
update-rc.d to install the script:
$ sudo update-rc.d svnserve defaults Adding system startup for /etc/init.d/svnserve ... /etc/rc0.d/K20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve /etc/rc1.d/K20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve /etc/rc6.d/K20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve /etc/rc2.d/S20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve /etc/rc3.d/S20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve /etc/rc4.d/S20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve /etc/rc5.d/S20svnserve -> ../init.d/svnserve
And that's it –
svnserve will be started automatically when your system boots up. To start it manually, run this command:
$ sudo /etc/init.d/svnserve start
Version Control with Subversion
This is the official Subversion book, written by the people who developed the version control system. The complete text of the book is available online, and one of the chapters is fully devoted to server configuration.
- Subversion - Community Ubuntu Documentation
A guide on setting up a Subversion server on Ubuntu, published as part of the Ubuntu Community Documentation. It covers some of the tasks presented in this tutorial, and provides instructions on how to configure other methods of repository access (e.g., HTTP).