The Great GitHub Escape

2022-07-09, post № 261

version-control, freedom, #git, #proprietary, #seeking-refuge

As so many naturally grown things, my tiny corner of the IT space I inhabit is, too, a local state. A maximum of sorts, it is a snapshot in time of my path meandering this young, unexplored constructed world. Steps are often taken on a whim and thus not pondered on for long, the juicy sign on button all too elusive.

When I first signed on to the then independant Octocat service, it was with little care nor need: my fellow students flocked there out of habit, yet to convincing them of an alternative there was no barrier errected: our project a clean slate, and our university offering a Git server indeed. Now, nigh four years later, my public projects released and shared, the feline bought by one Big Brother and me having taken on a job centered around a repository hosted yonder, a fence has risen.
For long I dreamt escaping, yet where to? Another bloated webby clone with all the same deceptive ties just in a different coat of paint? No; Git’s bible [1] rightfully proclaims in its fourth chapter this proper unixy task’s ease, yet assumes a healthy management of keys; focussing on one sole project — not managing a few dozens. Coupled with the aformentioned trapping ties, leaving stayed mere a distant dream for months.

Yet dreams come true when acted upon and action ought to be sparked. It was a fortnight past when I first read Drew DeVault’s GitHub Copilot and open source laundering [2], a text which threw me into an action frenzy: I could no longer bear to take a part in this monopolistic pile of vigilantes, not bear to help their efforts further. Though sprinting off is only half the story: all my repositories now seeking refuge, the question where to grew louder.

With revitalized spirits, one needn’t fret: I coded up a thin SSH-Git authentication layer together with a Dumb HTTP Git protocol layer for public projects around a thousand lines of Go strong. It is called gruau and publicly served by itself [3], free for anyone to use or inspect and try to break into.

I was pleasently surprised what profound impact the reclaiming of my Git repositories had on my connection with my data. I will surely try to never open a new repository on any of the lock-in services out there again. On the technical side, I found my own shallow plumbing solution to be around twice as fast when it comes to small exchanges which are most likely dominated by handshake overhead. Aside from the moralistic reasons, this increase in remote Git snappiness alone would make me take on this journey again.

I wholeheartedly thank Drew DeVault for sparking the cinder.

One is invited to interpret my account of seeking refuge as a call to action. Yet, a shallow glance of introspection later, I sincerly do not aim to deflect anyone’s life’s trajectory. As such, this post should be understood as an outlet for my wretched digital encounters.


  1. Chacon, Scott and Straub, Ben: Pro Git (second edition). Online: https://git-scm.com/book/en/v2/ [accessed 2022-07-09]
  2. DeVault, Drew: GitHub Copilot and open source laundering. Blog post, 2022-06-23. Online: https://drewdevault.com/2022/06/23/Copilot-GPL-washing.html [accessed 2022-07-09]
  3. Available under: https://git.jfrech.com/~jfrech/gruau.git/ (git clone https://git.jfrech.com/~jfrech/gruau.git)
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