During the Data Science Immersive (DSI) program in General Assembly (Washington, DC), we usually have a GitHub Enterprise repo for each lecture, which we are asked to fork and clone to our own computers. Periodically, the instructors would post updates after we clone a repo, such as solution code for labs, or updated code-alongs after lectures. Checking for these updates can be tedious, especially when we don’t know exactly when a certain repo would be updated (and it doesn’t help my OCD). So I wrote a script to automate that. I’ve tested and debugged the script pretty extensively during the DSI program. Unfortunately, by the time I have worked out all the kinks, the repos aren’t updated that much anymore. But I hope this will help future cohorts. (Script is shown at the end.)

Flow Chart

To better explain the logic flow of my script, I have made a flow chart:

flow chart

Usage Notes

  • You MUST fill in a few variables in the script (lines 6-23). I have given instructions and examples in the comments. When you fill in the GitHub repo patterns (lines 15, 19, and 23), use the SSH (beginning with git@...), not HTTPS (beginning with https://...). This way, you won’t be prompted for username and password every time (which my script isn’t able to handle).
  • To run the script, you can either use an IDE (e.g. Spyder, PyCharm), or run python <path to script> in a terminal.
  • I’ve only tested the script with Python 3, and some of the functions I use from the subprocess library may be new in Python 3, so I cannot guarantee it’s Python 2 compatible. If you’re using Python 2 (but why?), try it out. If you run into errors, create a virtual environment that runs Python 3 following these instructions.
  • You may notice that in the script, I first define a main function (lines 26-55) and then use a conditional to call it at the end (lines 120-121). This is a common format of a Python script. It ensures the main function will only be called when the script is directly run (vs. importing the functions in it by import auto_git_pull). Read more here.


You may receive certain error messages. Here are some ways to troubleshoot:

  • “Error occurred during merge.”
    • This usually means there were conflicts when git was trying to merge your local branch with the remote branch. In a terminal, cd into the directory where the error occurred. Then enter git status; it would tell you what the conflicts are, and give you instructions. Follow these instructions; you’d need to manually solve the conflicts and continue with the merge. Anytime you’re not sure how to proceed, run git status again and see what it says.
  • “… does not have remote upstream.”
    • This means the repo is a public GitHub repo (non-Enterprise) and it doesn’t have a remote upstream. If you forked this repo from someone else, go back to the original repo from which you forked, and copy the “Clone or download” path (again, choose SSH, not HTTPS). Then, in a terminal, cd into the repo, and enter git remote add upstream <copied path>.

If you run into errors not described above, feel free to shoot me a message.

I’ll describe how to set up a cronjob to run the script periodically in another blog post. Stay tuned!