git push to non-bare repo: warning: updating the current branch

17 Aug 2012

Some doco for my work mates, and others learners of git…

When I was starting with git (many moons ago), learning to pull from a remote repository was easy. But the book I read didn’t explain how to push to a remote repository. There was lots of doco on pushing to github, but I wanted to push and pull between my own repositories. When I pushed, I got messages saying warning: updating the current branch, and sometimes I’d have to manually clean up the remote branch - yuk.

localbox% git push remotebox master
Counting objects: 1, done.
Writing objects: 100% (1/1), 252 bytes, done.
Total 1 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0)
remote: warning: updating the current branch
   f387640..13740c5  master -> master

Then I learned about bare repositories. Sweet, now I could cleanly push to (bare) remote repositories:

# convention with bare repositories is .git suffix

remotebox% git clone --bare dotfiles dotfiles.git
Cloning into bare repository 'dotfiles.git'...

But what if you want to push to a non-bare repo? Firewalls mean you often have to hop across several machines using ssh tunnels, and setting up bare repositories all over the place is ‘non-optimal’. Or, you want to push between laptops. Or, whatever…

Here’s a recipe - just push to a dummy branch (I usually call it ‘push’), then do a normal merge on the remote:

# I'm on localbox and I want to push to remotebox, which isn't bare
# git br -a shows me all the remote branches:

localbox% git br -a
* master

# pushing to master, foo or bar will give problems, let's push to 'push'

localbox% git push remotebox master:push
Total 0 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0)
 * [new branch]      master -> push

# let's look at that command:

% git push remotebox master:push
           ^         ^      ^
           remote    |      ^
                     from   |

# ie I'm pushing from master branch to the push branch on remotebox

On the remotebox, merge in the push:

remotebox% git br -a               # check all my branches
* master

remotebox% git co master           # checkout master
remotebox% git merge push          # merge push into master
remotebox% git br -d push          # cleanup

Et VoilĂ ! Done.


After a bit more reading on git, I realised that there is another solution. You can push to any branch on a non-bare repository, as long as that branch isn’t currently checked out on the remote.

PS I have lots of shortcuts in my ~/.gitconfig, like co and br. Saves typing!

    ui = auto
[color "branch"]
    current = green
    local = yellow
    remote = red
[color "diff"]
    meta = blue bold
    frag = magenta bold
    old = red bold
    new = green bold
    ci = commit
    co = checkout
    st = status
    br = branch
    sb = show-branch
    sbs = show-branch --sha1-name
    gr = log --graph --oneline --left-right
    cl = clean -x -d -f
    dt = difftool
    difft = difftool
    default = matching
    denyCurrentBranch = warn
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