"git annex watch" command, which runs, in the background, watching via inotify for changes, and automatically annexing new files, etc. Now available!

known bugs

  • Kqueue has to open every directory it watches, so too many directories will run it out of the max number of open files (typically 1024), and fail. I may need to fork off multiple watcher processes to handle this. See bug. (Does not affect OSX any longer, only other BSDs).

beyond Linux

I'd also like to support OSX and if possible the BSDs.

  • kqueue (haskell bindings) is supported by FreeBSD, OSX, and other BSDs.

    In kqueue, to watch for changes to a file, you have to have an open file descriptor to the file. This wouldn't scale.

    Apparently, a directory can be watched, and events are generated when files are added/removed from it. You then have to scan to find which files changed. example

    Gamin does the best it can with just kqueue, supplimented by polling. The source file server/gam_kqueue.c makes for interesting reading. Using gamin to do the heavy lifting is one option. (haskell bindings for FAM; gamin shares the API)

    kqueue does not seem to provide a way to tell when a file gets closed, only when it's initially created. Poses problems..

    kqueue is now supported

  • hfsevents (haskell bindings) is OSX specific.

    Originally it was only directory level, and you were only told a directory had changed and not which file. Based on the haskell binding's code, from OSX 10.7.0, file level events were added.

    This will be harder for me to develop for, since I don't have access to OSX machines..

    hfsevents does not seem to provide a way to tell when a file gets closed, only when it's initially created. Poses problems..

    hfsevents is now supported

  • Windows has a Win32 ReadDirectoryChangesW, and perhaps other things.

    It was easy to get watching to work in windows. But there is no lsof, to check if a file can safely be added. So, need to carefully consider how to make adding a file safe in windows.

    Without lsof, an InodeCache is generated in "lockdown" (which doesn't do anything to prevent new writers), and is compared with the stat of the file after it's ingested (and checksummed). This will detect many changes to files, which change the size or mtime.

    So, we have 2 cases to worry about.

    1. A process has the file open for write as it's added, does not change it until the add is done.

      As long as an event is generated once the file does get closed, this is fine -- the modified version will be re-added. And such events are indeed generated on windows.

    2. A process has the file open for write as it's added, and changes it in some way that does not affect size or mtime.

      If an event is generated when the file does get closed, this is the same as a scenario where a process opens the file after it's added, makes such a change, and closes it. In either case, a file closed event is generated, and the Watcher will not detect any change using the inode cache, so will not re-add the file.

      So, this scenario is a potential problem, but it seems at least unlikely that a program would modify a file without affecting its mtime. Note that this same scenario can happen even with lsof, and even on linux (although on linux the InodeCache includes an actual inode, which might detect the change too).

    Conclusion: It's probably ok to run without lsof on Windows.

    Corrolary: lsof might not generally be needed in direct mode, on systems that do generate file close events (but not when eventsCoalesce). The same arguments given above seem to apply to !Windows. Note that lsof is needed in indirect mode, as discussed below.

    windows is now supported

the races

Many races need to be dealt with by this code. Here are some of them.

  • File is added and then removed before the add event starts.

    Not a problem; The add event does nothing since the file is not present.

  • File is added and then removed before the add event has finished processing it.

    Minor problem; When the add's processing of the file (checksum and so on) fails due to it going away, there is an ugly error message, but things are otherwise ok.

  • File is added and then replaced with another file before the annex add moves its content into the annex.

    Fixed this problem; Now it hard links the file to a temp directory and operates on the hard link, which is also made unwritable.

  • File is added and then replaced with another file before the annex add makes its symlink.

    Minor problem; The annex add will fail creating its symlink since the file exists. There is an ugly error message, but the second add event will add the new file.

  • File is added and then replaced with another file before the annex add stages the symlink in git.

    Now fixed; git annex watch avoids running git add because of this race. Instead, it stages symlinks directly into the index, without looking at what's currently on disk.

  • Link is moved, fixed link is written by fix event, but then that is removed by the user and replaced with a file before the event finishes.

    Now fixed; same fix as previous race above.

  • File is removed and then re-added before the removal event starts.

    Not a problem; The removal event does nothing since the file exists, and the add event replaces it in git with the new one.

  • File is removed and then re-added before the removal event finishes.

    Not a problem; The removal event removes the old file from the index, and the add event adds the new one.

  • Symlink appears, but is then deleted before it can be processed.

    Leads to an ugly message, otherwise no problem:

    ./me: readSymbolicLink: does not exist (No such file or directory)

    Here me is a file that was in a conflicted merge, which got removed as part of the resolution. This is probably coming from the watcher thread, which sees the newly added symlink (created by the git merge), but finds it deleted (by the conflict resolver) by the time it processes it.


  • on startup, add any files that have appeared since last run done
  • on startup, fix the symlinks for any renamed links done
  • on startup, stage any files that have been deleted since last run (seems to require a git commit -a on startup, or at least a git add --update, which will notice deleted files) done
  • notice new files, and git annex add done
  • notice renamed files, auto-fix the symlink, and stage the new file location done
  • handle cases where directories are moved outside the repo, and stop watching them done
  • when a whole directory is deleted or moved, stage removal of its contents from the index done
  • notice deleted files and stage the deletion (tricky; there's a race with add since it replaces the file with a symlink..) done
  • Gracefully handle when the default limit of 8192 inotified directories is exceeded. This can be tuned by root, so help the user fix it. done
  • periodically auto-commit staged changes (avoid autocommitting when lots of changes are coming in) done
  • coleasce related add/rm events for speed and less disk IO done
  • don't annex .gitignore and .gitattributes files done
  • run as a daemon done
  • A process has a file open for write, another one closes it, and so it's added. Then the first process modifies it.

    Or, a process has a file open for write when git annex watch starts up, it will be added to the annex. If the process later continues writing, it will change content in the annex.

    This changes content in the annex, and fsck will later catch the inconsistency.

    Possible fixes:

    • Somehow track or detect if a file is open for write by any processes. lsof could be used, although it would be a little slow.

      Here's one way to avoid the slowdown: When a file is being added, set it read-only, and hard-link it into a quarantine directory, remembering both filenames. Then use the batch change mode code to detect batch adds and bundle them together. Just before committing, lsof the quarantine directory. Any files in it that are still open for write can just have their write bit turned back on and be deleted from quarantine, to be handled when their writer closes. Files that pass quarantine get added as usual. This avoids repeated lsof calls slowing down adds, but does add a constant factor overhead (0.25 seconds lsof call) before any add gets committed. done

    • Or, when possible, making a copy on write copy before adding the file would avoid this.

    • Or, as a last resort, make an expensive copy of the file and add that.
    • Tracking file opens and closes with inotify could tell if any other processes have the file open. But there are problems.. It doesn't seem to differentiate between files opened for read and for write. And there would still be a race after the last close and before it's injected into the annex, where it could be opened for write again. Would need to detect that and undo the annex injection or something.
  • If a file is checked into git as a normal file and gets modified (or merged, etc), it will be converted into an annexed file. See day 7 bugfixes. done; we always check ls-files now

  • When you git annex unlock a file, it will immediately be re-locked. See ?watcher commits unlocked files. Seems fixed now?