Linux Fu: Deep Git Rebasing

If you spend much time helping people with word processor programs, you’ll find that many people don’t really use much of the product. They type, change fonts, save, and print. But cross-references? Indexing? Largely, those parts of the program go unused. I’ve noticed the same thing with Git. We all use it constantly. But do we? You clone a repo. Work on it. Maybe switch branches and create a pull request. That’s about 80% of what you want to do under normal circumstances. But what if you want to do something out of the ordinary? Git is very flexible, but you do have to know the magic incantations.

For example, suppose you mess up a commit message — we never do that, of course, but just pretend. Or you accidentally added a file you didn’t want in the commit. Git has some very useful ways to deal with situations like this, especially the interactive rebase.

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Stupid Git Tricks

My apologies if you speak the Queen’s English since that title probably has a whole different meaning to you than I intended. In fact, I’m talking about Git, the version control system. Last time I talked about how the program came to be and offered you a few tutorials. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool software developer, you probably don’t need to be convinced to use Git. But even if you aren’t, there are a lot of things you can do with Git that don’t fit the usual mold.

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History Of Git

Git is one of those tools that is so simple to use, that you often don’t learn a lot of nuance to it. You wind up cloning a repository from the Internet and that’s about it. If you make changes, maybe you track them and if you are really polite you might create a pull request to give back to the project. But there’s a lot more you can do. For example, did you know that Git can track collaborative Word documents? Or manage¬†your startup files across multiple Linux boxes?

Git belongs to a family of software products that do revision (or version) control. The idea is that you can develop software (for example) and keep track of each revision. Good systems have provisions for allowing multiple people to work on a project at one time. There is also usually some way to split a project into different parts. For example, you might split off to develop a version of the product for a different market or to try an experimental feature without breaking the normal development. In some cases, you’ll eventually bring that split back into the main line.

Although in the next installment, I’ll give you some odd uses for Git you might find useful, this post is mostly the story of how Git came to be. Open source development is known for flame wars and there’s at least a few in this tale. And in true hacker fashion, the hero of the story decides he doesn’t like the tools he’s using so… well, what would you do?

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