Gitosis for kittens

Gitosis is a great way to super-securely provide repository management for teams. However, there's a few points at which it kind of falls on its face.

  • Creating new repositories requires write-access to gitosis-admin

  • Forking teammate's repositories basically requires you to write a script to handle adding the readonly and writeable bits to every existing user's group. Past a team of two, this quickly gets unmaintainable.

  • In my opinion, it tries to do too much. It handles git, it handles auth, it handles what happens when the ssh command comes in from OpenSSH — it's monolithic.

With these points in mind, I set out to chop all of these little pieces of functionality up into little, single-concern bits. I ended up with three projects, Nappingcat, Kittygit, and Felix. These projects slice gitosis functionality into two app-level constructs, and one framework-level project. Nappingcat is the framework; it provides functionality for routing SSH commands and hooks for loading a simple auth backend. Kittygit is the git functionality; it knows how to speak to git, and provides a few niceties like creation of repositories and forking of existing repositories over the wire. Felix is the last (and probably most experimental piece), providing an authentication backend based around a JSON flat file, and providing over-the-wire commands for creating new users, adding SSH keys to those users, and granting permissions to the users.

Introducing Nappingcat

the archetypical cat

Setting things up with nappingcat isn't immensely hard. It basically follows these easy steps:

  1. Clone the nappingcat repository.
  2. Run sudo install to provide everyone the nappingcat-serve command.
  3. Create a new user

     useradd -m \        # create a home directory
             -U \        # create a new group for the user
             -s /bin/bash \
             -r \        # it's a system account.
             git         # the name of the user
  4. Clone kittygit and felix into the new user's home directory.

  5. Open up ~/nappingcat.conf, fill out the following data:

     routers =
     auth = felix.JSONAuth
     paths =
             /home/<your git user>/kittygit
             /home/<your git user>/felix
             <wherever you installed nappingcat>
     git = /usr/bin/git
     repo_dir = ~/repos
     user = <your git user> 
     host = <the externally accessible url for this server>
     file = ~/auth.json
  6. Create a basic auth.json layout using the felix/bin/create_superuser file.

     cd ~/felix
     cat ~/.ssh/ | python bin/ YOUR_USERNAME > ~/auth.json
  7. Great! Back to your computer. Put this at the end of your ~/.bashrc, and source ~/.bashrc

     kittygit() {
         case $1 in
                 ssh "kitty-git create-repo '$2'"
                 ssh "kitty-git fork '$2/$3.git'"
                 ssh "add-permission $2 '$3'"
                 ssh "remove-permission $2 '$3'"
                 ssh "add-user $2"
                 ssh "add-key-to-user $2"
  8. Give yourself the right to create repositories:

     $ kittygit grant YOUR_USERNAME kittygit::create

creating repos

like a boss

Creating repos is easy enough at this point. It's just kittygit create reponame. Kittygit will send you back an beautifully green message saying "oh hey, here's the repo to clone." Go ahead and clone it. Things are great!

kittygit create garybusey

But oh wait. No one is around to care. Maybe it's time to populate this lonely little cat-themed world. Let's pretend your name is "William Howard Taft", and you have a friend, "Harry Truman."

kittygit adduser harrytruman 
cat | kittygit addkey harrytruman 
kittygit grant harrytruman kittygit::read::williamhowardtaft/garybusey

Now your friend has access to read your repository. Your friend, we'll call him If he or she installs the kittygit bash function above, working with your code is now as easy as:

kittygit fork williamhowardtaft garybusey
git clone
kittygit grant williamhowardtaft kittygit::read::harrytruman/garybusey

And now Harry Truman can tell Taft — casually over a light lunch, perhaps — that Taft can add his copy of garybusey as a remote.