Leading a Double Life on GitHub

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A lot of us write computer code. Some of us do it as a part of school. Some of us do it for a living. Whether we like it or not, at some point, we who write code are going to have to deal with using GitHub in our lives. Some of us use separate accounts to keep two sides of our lives separated from each other. And now you, also living in that boat, feel like you’re swamped trying when switching from one side to another. You have a plug-in for your browser that even lets you handle the Web site as your aliases. What about pushing and pulling with SSH? It’s totally manageable!

But we’re not covering the basics of using Git with SSH over here. We’re presuming you’re here because you have a special use-case involving a separation of church and state. I’ll leave deciding which aspect of your life is the church and which is the state as a philosophical exercise to the reader. It must be a pain in the rumpus to keep pushing and switching between your work and pleasure accounts. We’re presuming you made separate SSH keys and have added them to your accounts. If you use a single GitHub account for both sides, your presence is no longer necessary for the remainder of this experiment.

The Trick

The trick is in your SSH configuration at ${HOME}/.ssh/config and your remotes’ URIs. When you create a new repository on GitHub, do you remember the instructions it gives you? They have you run git remote add origin git@github.com:your-name/your-repo.git. What if I told you that you can turn the user-name and host-name you SSH into a unique nick-name for your convenience?

# ~/.ssh/config

# Work account
Host gh_pain
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_pain
HostName github.com
User     git

# Personal account
Host gh_pleasure
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_pleasure
HostName github.com
User     git

SSH’s documentation may not be the most helpful for fresh minds, but it’ll help to follow along as I explain this snippet. The Host specifies a name for the following settings until the next time you use it again. That name becomes your nick-name for those settings! At minimum, you will need to specify which IdentityFile is associated with which nick-name and the typical SSH User and Hostname. Those last two settings will be git and github.com, respectively.

Now that’s taken care off, all that is left is to change your repositories’ remotes’ URIs to match their intention. Just replace git@github.com to gh_pain or gh_pleasure or whatever else you named them. Give your repositories a good push and a pull to make sure they work. This time, you won’t need to worry about which alter ego is being business casual on the streets or hacking the planet in the sheets.

[rocx@compy386 ~]$ git remote add origin gh_pleasure:your-name/your-repo.git