Ok, so the other week I wrote a little bit about migrating my git server from gitosis (which is no longer maintained), over to gitolite.

Along side this, I also run a gitlist server. Gitlist is a web front end for git, similar to gitweb, which provides a slick and modern looking “github” style interface. It is also remarkably easy to set up and configure.

One gotcha I found was that, while unmodified gitosis repositories displayed correctly, as soon as you pushed a change, gitlist presented an error:

Oops! fatal: Failed to resolve HEAD as a valid ref.

After some investigation, it seems the problem stems from a permission issue. By default, gitolite creates new files and repositories with a slightly more restricted set of permissions.

Fixing the problem

Once the problem was identified, the solution is thankfully fairly trivial:

  1. First, stop gitolite making the situation any worse. Go to the gitolite home directory and edit .gitolite.rc, and set

    $REPO_UMASK = 0027;

    This will cause new files to be created with access to group, as well as user.

  2. Next, give your web server process access to the gitolite group. Assuming, as with me, the user is git, modify /etc/group and add your webserver user to the git group, e.g. git:x:128:www-data
  3. Restart apache for your changes to come into effect.

Fixing broken repositories

New repositories and files should now be created using the more permissive access permissions, which gitlist/gitweb will now be able to see. However, you may need to fix the permissions on some existing repositories.

find repository-name.git -type d | xargs -i{} chmod 750 {};
find repository-name.git -type f | xargs -i{} chmod 640 {}

Hope this helps!