On Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 12:31:45PM -0400, Jeff King wrote:
> On Tue, Aug 16, 2016 at 09:18:39AM -0700, Josh Triplett wrote:
> > Commit 5e7dcad771cb873e278a0571b46910d7c32e2f6c in September 2013 added
> > support to upload-pack to show the symbolic target of non-HEAD symbolic
> > refs.  However, commit d007dbf7d6d647dbcf0f357545f43f36dec46f3b in
> > November 2013 reverted that, because it used a capability to transmit
> > the information, and capabilities have a limited size (limited by the
> > pkt-line format which can't send lines longer than 64k) and can't
> > transmit an arbitrary number of symrefs.
> > 
> > (Incidentally, couldn't the same problem occur if the HEAD points to a
> > long enough path to exceed 64k?
> Yes. But it's a lot easier to say "your 64k symref is ridiculous; don't
> do that" than it is to say "oh, you happened to have a lot of symrefs in
> your repository, so we overflowed and failed".
> Besides which, the whole protocol cannot handle refnames larger than
> 64k, so it's not a new problem.

Absolutely agreed.  I mentioned it only because if a server provided any
mechanism to send it symbolic ref targets, this could lead to a
situation where you could push a repository that you could not
subsequently pull.  Depending on the protocols involved, that could
potentially require manual admin intervention, or could even result in a

Not something that can arise with git itself, as send-pack/receive-pack
doesn't support sending symbolic ref targets, but I could imagine a
server doing so to allow setting HEAD.

> > I'd like to be able to see the targets of non-HEAD symbolic refs for a
> > repository (symbolic refs under refs/).  I'm interested in extending
> > upload-pack to expose those somehow.  What seems like a sensible format
> > to do so?
> > 
> > Would it make sense to advertise a new capability for symbolic ref
> > targets, which would allow the client to send back a dedicated request
> > for the targets of all symrefs?
> It will definitely require a new capability. You cannot just send a
> "\0symref=..." trailer after each ref, because older clients treat
> multiple "\0" trailers as overwriting one another (so it essentially
> overwrites the old capabilities).
> Sadly you cannot use a capability to fix that, because all of this
> happens before the client agrees to any capabilities (you can find
> discussion of a "v2" protocol on the list which solves this, but it's
> sort of languishing in the design phase).

As a potential 1.1 version, which could work in a backward-compatible
way with existing servers and no additional round-trip: what if, in the
smart HTTP protocol, the client advertised client capabilities with an
additional HTTP header (e.g.  "Git-Client-Caps: symrefs othershiny
featurenames"?  git-http-backend could then pass those capabilities to
git-upload-pack (--client-caps='...'), which could take them into
account in the initial response?

That wouldn't work as a single-pass approach for SSH, since the client
can't know if the server's upload-pack supports --client-caps, but it
would work for the smart HTTP protocol.

> So you are stuck introducing a new phase into the protocol, which is
> probably rather tricky (especially with the http protocol, which is very
> sensitive to extra round-trips). I guess the least-invasive way would be
> to communicate the desires in the "want" phase, and then have the server
> dump it out with the packfile. Like:
>   - server claims "I support symref-wants" in the capability phase
>   - during the negotiation phase, in addition to "want" and "have", the
>     client may send "symref <ref>" packets. Probably <ref> should be a
>     wildcard to avoid having to ask about each ref individually.
>   - before outputting the packfile in the final phase, if any "symref"
>     wants were sent by the client, the server dumps a list of "symref
>     <from> <to>" packets, followed by a flush packet.
> That should Just Work over the existing http protocol without requiring
> an extra request.

It'd require one extra request for git ls-remote, which normally doesn't
need the second round-trip, but that still seems reasonable.
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