Initial setup

To begin, locate the home directory of the account you'll be using to launch svnserve. Make sure the account has an SSH public/private keypair installed, and that the user can log in via public-key authentication. Password authentication will not work, since all of the following SSH tricks revolve around using the SSH authorized_keys file.

If it doesn't already exist, create the authorized_keys file (on Unix, typically ~/.ssh/authorized_keys). Each line in this file describes a public key that is allowed to connect. The lines are typically of the form:

  ssh-dsa AAAABtce9euch…

The first field describes the type of key, the second field is the base64-encoded key itself, and the third field is a comment. However, it's a lesser known fact that the entire line can be preceded by a command field:

  command="program" ssh-dsa AAAABtce9euch…

When the command field is set, the SSH daemon will run the named program instead of the typical svnserve -t invocation that the Subversion client asks for. This opens the door to a number of server-side tricks. In the following examples, we abbreviate the lines of the file as:

  command="program" TYPE KEY COMMENT