Getting a git server
with Gitolite

19th August 2016

Github helped popularize git and its concepts to many. Nevertheless, it involves making public all the codes you want to host, unless you buy a fairly expensive subscription, and for a limited number of projects. Moreover, Github is not open, and it is therefore necessary to give it some trust to store its projects.

Several solutions exist to host a git server on his personal server. For example, Gitlab aims to become equal to Github, with a graphical interface and many tools; thereby, it is very large and relatively heavy for a small server.

Here we will see how to install Gitolite, which provides a very light and functional git server, in order to synchronizing repositories between different working stations.


Creating git user on the server

First, we will create on the server a git user, which will be needed:

sudo adduser git

Once connected to git on the server, we create a bin directory that will contain binaries, that we then add to the path:

cd ~
mkdir bin

Creating an authentication key

In order to connect to Gitolite, we will used SSH key-based authentication, both simpler and more secure than HTTP. If you do not already have a key, it is necessary to create one. For this, we will used ssh-keygen locally:

cd ~/.ssh
ssh-keygen -t ed25519

When the path is requested, enter your username <user>. The password is optional: if you choose one, it will be asked each time a git command is requesting the server.

We then send the public key on the server:

cat ~/.ssh/<user>.pub | ssh git@<hostname> -p <port> 'umask 0077; mkdir -p .ssh; cat >> <user>.pub'

Finally, we create a  /.ssh/config file that contains the following information:

Host git
  HostName <hostname>
  Port <port>
  User git
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/<user>

Installing Gitolite

Back to the user git on the server, we can now install Gitolite:

cd ~
git clone git://
gitolite/install -ln
gitolite setup -pk ~/<user>.pub

Locally, you can now check that everything works well with ssh git. This should return something like:

PTY allocation request failed on channel 0
hello <user>, this is git@<hostname> running
gitolite3 v3.6.5-9-g490b540 on git 2.1.4

 R W    gitolite-admin
 R W    testing

That’s all ! Now, if you want to clone a repo directory, simply run the command git clone git:repo. The git push, pull, fetch … will operate without password.


The main originality of Gitolite is that its configuration system uses a specific git repository. To configure Gitolite, simply clone the gitolite-admin repository:

git clone git:gitolite-admin

This repository contains a conf/gitolite.conf file that lists the directories and permissions, and a keydir folder containing the users public keys (your <user>.pub key, provided during the installation, is already there).

For example, to add a project repository, just edit conf/gitolite.conf to add:

repo project
    RW+     =   <user>

To apply all changes, commit then push those files on the server. Don’t hesitage to check the very complete Gitolite documentation.

Published on the 19th August 2016 by Sylvain Durand.