The Chronicle

of a ColdFusion Expatriate

I love git. A lot.

March 07, 2013

I love git. A lot.

Judging by the growing ubiquity of github.com in nearly every corner of digital life that can be captured in text form, I have concluded that I am not alone in this sentiment. So much do I love git and github.com that I have taken to using it for as much as possible.

My latest thing is dotfiles. You know all of those preference and settings files that start to pile up in your Mac or Linux home directory? The ones that start with a period? For a while I had been keeping the longer, more important ones on github.com, which is really helpful when using a new computer or reinstalling your OS from scratch.

Today, though, I took it to the next level. Want to know more?

Maybe this isn’t an Earth-shattering, life-changing revelation, but it occurred to me that every time I clone this repository I wind up copying out the files I want and then sort of forgetting about it, neglecting it, and letting the various files on different computers fall out of sync.

I don’t like things to get neglected and I don’t like it when things are out of sync. I have been storing my whole Vim configuration in a git repository for a long time and now I could never give that up. It’s too easy to pull the changes that I made into a different environment or to set up Vim on a new computer (or server).

Actually, the only dotfiles I store so far are:

.bashrc
.gitconfig
.screenrc
.tmux.conf
.ttytterrc

And even among those, .screenrc is sort of redundant because I now use tmux almost everywhere. That said, I wanted to build up a storage and installation system for dotfiles that I could use anywhere… So I did.

You can see the repository for yourself in its entirety on github.com, but the really magical part is this little bash script called linkall.

It’s so short, I’ll show you the whole thing right here:

#!/bin/bash

# Get options.
LNOPTS=""
if [ $# -gt 0 ] && [ "$1" == "-f" ]; then
    LNOPTS="-f"
else
    echo "Unrecognized option '$1'!"
    exit 1
fi

# This appears to be the "best" way to get the canonicalized path to where this 
# script is located, which is, presumably, where all of my dotfiles are.
# Lifted from http://stackoverflow.com/a/4774063
pushd `dirname $0` > /dev/null
SCRIPTPATH=`pwd`
popd > /dev/null

pushd ~ > /dev/null
for dotfile in `find /Users/airborne/dotfiles -type f -iname '.*'`; do
    (echo -n "Linking ${dotfile##*/}... ")
    ln -s $LNOPTS "$dotfile" "${dotfile##*/}" > /dev/null 2>&1
    if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
        echo "OK"
    else
        echo "Failed"
    fi
done
popd > /dev/null

All it does is scan the directory it lives in for files starting with a period (it skips directories right now because I don’t store any in my dotfiles repo except for the .git repository metadata directory itself, which should not be linked to from elsewhere) and creates symbolic links to them from the running user’s home directory.

In short, a file like .bashrc stored alongside linkall gets a symlink created called ~/.bashrc. Additionally, to be safe, it will not overwrite existing files or symlinks and will instead print “Failed” for that file. If you are sure you want to wipe them out and replace them, just pass -f to the script.

There is only a small amount of bash-fu in this one; feel free to drop me a comment below if you’d like me to explain how any of this actually works.

How cool is that? So now, on a new system, and assuming that git is installed, setting up all of my preferences is as simple as:

$ git clone git@github.com:aaronbieber/dotfiles
$ dotfiles/linkall

Now, when I want to make changes to my .tmux.conf, for example, I don’t have to remember to copy anything. vim ~/.tmux.conf will edit the file in the repository so that I can later push it up and receive those changes on my other machines.

How cool is that?

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