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I've setup svnserve with SASL authentication and encryption for encrypting the traffic. Anonymous access should be allowed. My configuration file conf/svnserve.conf (with comments stripped) looks like this:

anon-access = read
auth-access = write
realm = realm-of-repo

use-sasl = true
min-encryption = 128
max-encryption = 256

The related sasl configuration file:

pwcheck_method: auxprop
auxprop_plugin: sasldb
sasldb_path: /path/to/sasldb
mech_list: DIGEST-MD5

When supplying an username and password, everything works as expected: I can checkout and make changes. However, anonymous access (no username or password) fails with the next error message:

svn: SASL(-1): generic failure: All-whitespace username.

How do I enable anonymous SVN read access using svnserve and SASL ? I'm not looking for a solution with Apache.

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The use-sasl = true forces authentification (tells SVN to prohibit anonymous access).

You could either create a user with read-only privileges and use it for anonymous access or use http for read-only access and sasl for read-write.

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I would like to avoid HTTP for performance reasons. How would I add anonymous access? – Lekensteyn May 7 '11 at 10:22
You can't allow anonymous access with use-sasl = true. A little workaround here is to create a user called "guest" or similar with read-only access and provide its credentials to your users for anonymous access. – Viktor Stískala May 7 '11 at 10:45
how would I add a read-only user in SASL? The only options I can pass to sasldbpass2 are realm and username. – Lekensteyn May 7 '11 at 11:49
I was convinced that you can create groups with different privileges, but this probably works only with mod_authz_svn. Sorry, my bad. – Viktor Stískala May 7 '11 at 20:25
On mailing lists and fora I see indeed declining messages on anonymous access with SASL. Thanks for your answer anyway. – Lekensteyn May 7 '11 at 20:27

I was looking for this information recently, and thought I'd share what I've found. It is possible to allow anonymous access when using SASL for authentication, but you should be aware that any anonymous access will not be encrypted or integrity protected.

You already have anon-access = read in svnserve.conf, as required.

Next, you will have to set min-encryption = 0, since the anonymous access mechanism supports neither encryption nor integrity protection. Skipping this step would make anonymous access unavailable when authentication mechanisms are negotiated.

The last step is to set your SASL authentication mechanisms, in svn.conf (your SASL configuration file for Subversion). Change the line:

mech_list: DIGEST-MD5



which will make the anonymous mechanism available. Restart svnserve, and you should be able to perform a check-out with no authentication prompt. If you are using per-directory access control, you may want to confirm that user $anonymous has been granted the appropriate access.

There are a few things to consider. As mentioned, all access done anonymously will be in clear-text, which you may not want if you are dealing with confidential code over a public network. Also, all users will perform read accesses (check-out, etc.) via anonymous access, so your logs may not be as useful for tracking. Furthermore, if you allow anonymous writes, all code will likely be committed anonymously, meaning you won't know which changes were committed by whom.

As mentioned in the comments, one option is to create an actual user called anonymous, with a simple password (it will fail without a password), and use per-directory access control to make sure only read access is granted, and only to the directories you choose. This allows you to keep encryption/integrity checking, while still offering access that is almost as convenient as true anonymous access.

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