All information about file entries is stored in the manifest file hamstercage.yaml. This YAML file consists of these top-level entries:

  • hosts: each entry describes one host, in particular the set of tags that apply to it
  • tags: each entry contains a list of files managed for this tag

This is a very minimal example with one host, one tag and one file:

    description: ''
    - all
    description: files that apply to all hosts
        group: root
        mode: 0o444
        owner: root
        type: file


Each entry in this dict defines one host. Hosts are distinguished by their fully-qualified hostname. When running Hamstercage, you can override the hostname by specifying the -h option. Each host definition can have these fields:

  • description: allows you to add a description or note to this entry. Optional.
  • tags: a list of one or more tags to apply to this host.


Each entry in this dict defines one tag. Tag names can be freely chosen; it is recommended to stick to alpha-numeric identifiers though, to keep the names compatible with shell scripts, etc. Each entry has these fields:

  • description: allows you to add a description or note to this entry. Optional.
  • entries: a dict of files managed through this tag. See below for details.
  • hooks: a dict of hook scripts that will be run. See below for details.

Tags: Entries

The entries field in a tag entry describes files, directories, and symbolic links that are managed through that tag. Each entry can have these fields:

  • group: the group name owning this file.
  • mode: the access mode for this file. You need to specify the mode as an octal number (0o644) or as a string in quotes ("644"). If you simply give a number, it will be interpreted as a base-10 integer, leading to unexpected mode bits
  • owner: the user name owning this file.
  • target: the path the link points to, only applicable to type=link
  • type: must be one of dir, file, or link.

Note that Hamstercage only manages symbolic links (soft links). Hard links are not supported.

Tags: Hooks

The hooks dict in a tag allows you to hook scripts into Hamstercages execution. The name of each entry defines when to run the script; the contents of the dict define what command to execute.

The name consists of two parts separated by a dash: the prefix pre or post, and the name of the Hamstercage command. For example, the hook defined by the name pre-save will be executed when you run hamstercage save, just before the contents of the files will be copied from the target system to the repository. A hook post-apply will be run right after all files have been updated by the command hamstercage apply.

Hamstercage searches for a matching hook definition in this order:

  1. for the exact match step-command (for example, pre-save)
  2. for the wildcard match *-command (for example, *-save)
  3. for the wildcard match step-* (for example, pre-*)
  4. for the fallback wildcard *.

Only the first match found will be executed.

Each entry has these fields:

  • command: the command or script to execute.
  • description: allows you to add a description or note to this entry. Optional.
  • type: the type of command or script to run.
    • exec: run the program specified by command. If command is not an absolute path, the system will search for it on the PATH. See subprocess.Popen for details. The command will be invoked with the Hamstercage command, the step, and the tag the hook is defined in as parameters, for example .../ apply post all.
    • python: command should specify a Python script. A relative path is interpreted relative to the repository directory. See below for global variables available to the script.
    • shell: run command through the shell. Typically, this will be the shell of the user running Hamstercage.

The exec and shell hooks receive the following environment variables:

  • HAMSTERCAGE_CMD: the command being executed
  • HAMSTERCAGE_MANIFEST: the manifest file path name
  • HAMSTERCAGE_HOOK: the name of the hook entry
  • HAMSTERCAGE_REPO: the repo directory, which is the directory the manifest file lives in
  • HAMSTERCAGE_STEP: the step (pre or post)
  • HAMSTERCAGE_TAG: the tag name this hook is defined in

The python script receives these global variables:

  • cmd: the command being executed
  • manifest: the manifest object
  • hook: the name of the hook entry
  • repo: the repo directory, which is the directory the manifest file lives in
  • step: the step (pre or post)
  • tag: the tag object this hook is defined in
  • __file__: the Python hook file
  • __name__: the constant __hamstercage__.