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git-cvsserver - A CVS server emulator for Git



export CVS_SERVER="git cvsserver"
cvs -d :ext:user@server/path/repo.git co <HEAD_name>

pserver (/etc/inetd.conf):

cvspserver stream tcp nowait nobody /usr/bin/git-cvsserver git-cvsserver pserver


git-cvsserver [options] [pserver|server] [<directory> ...]


All these options obviously only make sense if enforced by the server side. They have been
implemented to resemble the git-daemon(1) options as closely as possible.

--base-path <path>
Prepend path to requested CVSROOT

Don’t allow recursing into subdirectories

Don’t check for gitcvs.enabled in config. You also have to specify a list of allowed
directories (see below) if you want to use this option.

-V, --version
Print version information and exit

-h, -H, --help
Print usage information and exit

You can specify a list of allowed directories. If no directories are given, all are
allowed. This is an additional restriction, gitcvs access still needs to be enabled by
the gitcvs.enabled config option unless --export-all was given, too.


This application is a CVS emulation layer for Git.

It is highly functional. However, not all methods are implemented, and for those methods
that are implemented, not all switches are implemented.

Testing has been done using both the CLI CVS client, and the Eclipse CVS plugin. Most
functionality works fine with both of these clients.


CVS clients cannot tag, branch or perform Git merges.

git-cvsserver maps Git branches to CVS modules. This is very different from what most CVS
users would expect since in CVS modules usually represent one or more directories.


1. If you are going to offer CVS access via pserver, add a line in /etc/inetd.conf like

cvspserver stream tcp nowait nobody git-cvsserver pserver

Note: Some inetd servers let you specify the name of the executable independently of
the value of argv[0] (i.e. the name the program assumes it was executed with). In this
case the correct line in /etc/inetd.conf looks like

cvspserver stream tcp nowait nobody /usr/bin/git-cvsserver git-cvsserver pserver

Only anonymous access is provided by pserve by default. To commit you will have to
create pserver accounts, simply add a gitcvs.authdb setting in the config file of the
repositories you want the cvsserver to allow writes to, for example:

authdb = /etc/cvsserver/passwd

The format of these files is username followed by the encrypted password, for example:


You can use the htpasswd facility that comes with Apache to make these files, but
Apache’s MD5 crypt method differs from the one used by most C library’s crypt()
function, so don’t use the -m option.

Alternatively you can produce the password with perl’s crypt() operator:

perl -e 'my ($user, $pass) = @ARGV; printf "%s:%s\n", $user, crypt($user, $pass)' $USER password

Then provide your password via the pserver method, for example:

cvs -d:pserver:someuser:somepassword <at> server/path/repo.git co <HEAD_name>

No special setup is needed for SSH access, other than having Git tools in the PATH. If
you have clients that do not accept the CVS_SERVER environment variable, you can
rename git-cvsserver to cvs.

Note: Newer CVS versions (>= 1.12.11) also support specifying CVS_SERVER directly in

cvs -d ":ext;CVS_SERVER=git cvsserver:user@server/path/repo.git" co <HEAD_name>

This has the advantage that it will be saved in your CVS/Root files and you don’t need
to worry about always setting the correct environment variable. SSH users restricted
to git-shell don’t need to override the default with CVS_SERVER (and shouldn’t) as
git-shell understands cvs to mean git-cvsserver and pretends that the other end runs
the real cvs better.

2. For each repo that you want accessible from CVS you need to edit config in the repo
and add the following section.

# optional for debugging

Note: you need to ensure each user that is going to invoke git-cvsserver has write
access to the log file and to the database (see Database Backend. If you want to offer
write access over SSH, the users of course also need write access to the Git
repository itself.

You also need to ensure that each repository is "bare" (without a Git index file) for
cvs commit to work. See gitcvs-migration(7).

All configuration variables can also be overridden for a specific method of access.
Valid method names are "ext" (for SSH access) and "pserver". The following example
configuration would disable pserver access while still allowing access over SSH.


[gitcvs "ext"]

3. If you didn’t specify the CVSROOT/CVS_SERVER directly in the checkout command,
automatically saving it in your CVS/Root files, then you need to set them explicitly
in your environment. CVSROOT should be set as per normal, but the directory should
point at the appropriate Git repo. As above, for SSH clients not restricted to
git-shell, CVS_SERVER should be set to git-cvsserver.

export CVSROOT=:ext:user@server:/var/git/project.git
export CVS_SERVER="git cvsserver"

4. For SSH clients that will make commits, make sure their server-side .ssh/environment
files (or .bashrc, etc., according to their specific shell) export appropriate values
For SSH clients whose login shell is bash, .bashrc may be a reasonable alternative.

5. Clients should now be able to check out the project. Use the CVS module name to
indicate what Git head you want to check out. This also sets the name of your newly
checked-out directory, unless you tell it otherwise with -d <dir_name>. For example,
this checks out master branch to the project-master directory:

cvs co -d project-master master


git-cvsserver uses one database per Git head (i.e. CVS module) to store information about
the repository to maintain consistent CVS revision numbers. The database needs to be
updated (i.e. written to) after every commit.

If the commit is done directly by using git (as opposed to using git-cvsserver) the update
will need to happen on the next repository access by git-cvsserver, independent of access
method and requested operation.

That means that even if you offer only read access (e.g. by using the pserver method),
git-cvsserver should have write access to the database to work reliably (otherwise you
need to make sure that the database is up-to-date any time git-cvsserver is executed).

By default it uses SQLite databases in the Git directory, named
gitcvs.<module_name>.sqlite. Note that the SQLite backend creates temporary files in the
same directory as the database file on write so it might not be enough to grant the users
using git-cvsserver write access to the database file without granting them write access
to the directory, too.

The database can not be reliably regenerated in a consistent form after the branch it is
tracking has changed. Example: For merged branches, git-cvsserver only tracks one branch
of development, and after a git merge an incrementally updated database may track a
different branch than a database regenerated from scratch, causing inconsistent CVS
revision numbers. git-cvsserver has no way of knowing which branch it would have picked if
it had been run incrementally pre-merge. So if you have to fully or partially (from old
backup) regenerate the database, you should be suspicious of pre-existing CVS sandboxes.

You can configure the database backend with the following configuration variables:

Configuring database backend
git-cvsserver uses the Perl DBI module. Please also read its documentation if changing
these variables, especially about DBI->connect().

Database name. The exact meaning depends on the selected database driver, for SQLite
this is a filename. Supports variable substitution (see below). May not contain
semicolons (;). Default: %Ggitcvs.%m.sqlite

Used DBI driver. You can specify any available driver for this here, but it might not
work. cvsserver is tested with DBD::SQLite, reported to work with DBD::Pg, and
reported not to work with DBD::mysql. Please regard this as an experimental feature.
May not contain colons (:). Default: SQLite

Database user. Only useful if setting dbDriver, since SQLite has no concept of
database users. Supports variable substitution (see below).

Database password. Only useful if setting dbDriver, since SQLite has no concept of
database passwords.

Database table name prefix. Supports variable substitution (see below). Any
non-alphabetic characters will be replaced with underscores.

All variables can also be set per access method, see above.

Variable substitution
In dbDriver and dbUser you can use the following variables:

Git directory name

Git directory name, where all characters except for alpha-numeric ones, ., and -
are replaced with _ (this should make it easier to use the directory name in a
filename if wanted)

CVS module/Git head name

access method (one of "ext" or "pserver")

Name of the user running git-cvsserver. If no name can be determined, the numeric
uid is used.


These variables obviate the need for command-line options in some circumstances, allowing
easier restricted usage through git-shell.

GIT_CVSSERVER_BASE_PATH takes the place of the argument to --base-path.

GIT_CVSSERVER_ROOT specifies a single-directory whitelist. The repository must still be
configured to allow access through git-cvsserver, as described above.

When these environment variables are set, the corresponding command-line arguments may not
be used.


To get a checkout with the Eclipse CVS client:

1. Select "Create a new project → From CVS checkout"

2. Create a new location. See the notes below for details on how to choose the right

3. Browse the modules available. It will give you a list of the heads in the repository.
You will not be able to browse the tree from there. Only the heads.

4. Pick HEAD when it asks what branch/tag to check out. Untick the "launch commit wizard"
to avoid committing the .project file.

Protocol notes: If you are using anonymous access via pserver, just select that. Those
using SSH access should choose the ext protocol, and configure ext access on the
Preferences→Team→CVS→ExtConnection pane. Set CVS_SERVER to "git cvsserver". Note that
password support is not good when using ext, you will definitely want to have SSH keys

Alternatively, you can just use the non-standard extssh protocol that Eclipse offer. In
that case CVS_SERVER is ignored, and you will have to replace the cvs utility on the
server with git-cvsserver or manipulate your .bashrc so that calling cvs effectively calls


· CVS 1.12.9 on Debian

· CVS 1.11.17 on MacOSX (from Fink package)

· Eclipse 3.0, 3.1.2 on MacOSX (see Eclipse CVS Client Notes)

· TortoiseCVS


All the operations required for normal use are supported, including checkout, diff,
status, update, log, add, remove, commit.

Most CVS command arguments that read CVS tags or revision numbers (typically -r) work, and
also support any git refspec (tag, branch, commit ID, etc). However, CVS revision numbers
for non-default branches are not well emulated, and cvs log does not show tags or branches
at all. (Non-main-branch CVS revision numbers superficially resemble CVS revision numbers,
but they actually encode a git commit ID directly, rather than represent the number of
revisions since the branch point.)

Note that there are two ways to checkout a particular branch. As described elsewhere on
this page, the "module" parameter of cvs checkout is interpreted as a branch name, and it
becomes the main branch. It remains the main branch for a given sandbox even if you
temporarily make another branch sticky with cvs update -r. Alternatively, the -r argument
can indicate some other branch to actually checkout, even though the module is still the
"main" branch. Tradeoffs (as currently implemented): Each new "module" creates a new
database on disk with a history for the given module, and after the database is created,
operations against that main branch are fast. Or alternatively, -r doesn’t take any extra
disk space, but may be significantly slower for many operations, like cvs update.

If you want to refer to a git refspec that has characters that are not allowed by CVS, you
have two options. First, it may just work to supply the git refspec directly to the
appropriate CVS -r argument; some CVS clients don’t seem to do much sanity checking of the
argument. Second, if that fails, you can use a special character escape mechanism that
only uses characters that are valid in CVS tags. A sequence of 4 or 5 characters of the
form (underscore ("_"), dash ("-"), one or two characters, and dash ("-")) can encode
various characters based on the one or two letters: "s" for slash ("/"), "p" for period
("."), "u" for underscore ("_"), or two hexadecimal digits for any byte value at all
(typically an ASCII number, or perhaps a part of a UTF-8 encoded character).

Legacy monitoring operations are not supported (edit, watch and related). Exports and
tagging (tags and branches) are not supported at this stage.

CRLF Line Ending Conversions
By default the server leaves the -k mode blank for all files, which causes the CVS client
to treat them as a text files, subject to end-of-line conversion on some platforms.

You can make the server use the end-of-line conversion attributes to set the -k modes for
files by setting the gitcvs.usecrlfattr config variable. See gitattributes(5) for more
information about end-of-line conversion.

Alternatively, if gitcvs.usecrlfattr config is not enabled or the attributes do not allow
automatic detection for a filename, then the server uses the gitcvs.allBinary config for
the default setting. If gitcvs.allBinary is set, then file not otherwise specified will
default to -kb mode. Otherwise the -k mode is left blank. But if gitcvs.allBinary is set
to "guess", then the correct -k mode will be guessed based on the contents of the file.

For best consistency with cvs, it is probably best to override the defaults by setting
gitcvs.usecrlfattr to true, and gitcvs.allBinary to "guess".


git-cvsserver depends on DBD::SQLite.


Part of the git(1) suite

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