Fossil: Serving via launchd on macOS

Fossil SCM

launchd is the default service management framework on macOS since the release of Tiger in 2005. If you want a Fossil server to launch in the background on a Mac, it’s the way Apple wants you to do it. launchd is to macOS as systemd is to most modern Linux desktop systems. (Indeed, systemd arguably reinvented the perfectly good, pre-existing launchd wheel.)

Unlike in our systemd article, we’re not going to show the per-user method here, because those so-called LaunchAgents only start when a user is logged into the GUI, and they stop when that user logs out. This does not strike us as proper “server” behavior, so we’ll stick to system-level LaunchDaemons instead.

However, we will still give two different configurations, just as in the systemd article: one for a standalone HTTP server, and one using socket activation.

For more information on launchd, the single best resource we’ve found is . The next best is:

    $ man launchd.plist

Standalone HTTP Server

To configure launchd to start Fossil as a standalone HTTP server, write the following as

xml <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" ""> <plist version="1.0"> <dict> <key>Label</key> <string></string> <key>ProgramArguments</key> <array> <string>/usr/local/bin/fossil</string> <string>server</string> <string>--port</string> <string>9000</string> <string>repo.fossil</string> </array> <key>WorkingDirectory</key> <string>/Users/you/museum</string> <key>KeepAlive</key> <true/> <key>RunAtLoad</key> <true/> <key>StandardErrorPath</key> <string>/tmp/fossil-error.log</string> <key>StandardOutPath</key> <string>/tmp/fossil-info.log</string> <key>UserName</key> <string>you</string> <key>GroupName</key> <string>staff</string> <key>InitGroups</key> <true/> </dict> </plist>

In this example, we’re assuming your development organization uses the domain name “”, that your short macOS login name is “you”, and that you store your Fossils in “~/museum”. Adjust these elements of the plist file to suit your local situation.

You might be wondering about the use of UserName: isn’t Fossil supposed to drop privileges and enter a chroot(2) jail when it’s started as root like this? Why do we need to give it a user name? Won’t Fossil use the owner of the repository file to set that? All I can tell you is that in testing here, if you leave the user and group configuration at the tail end of that plist file out, Fossil will remain running as root!

Install that file and set it to start with:

    $ sudo install -o root -g wheel -m 644 \
    $ sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/

Because we set the RunAtLoad key, this will also launch the daemon.

Stop the daemon with:

    $ sudo launchctl unload -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/

Socket Listener

Another useful method to serve a Fossil repo via launchd is by setting up a socket listener:

xml <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" ""> <plist version="1.0"> <dict> <key>Label</key> <string></string> <key>ProgramArguments</key> <array> <string>/usr/local/bin/fossil</string> <string>http</string> <string>repo.fossil</string> </array> <key>Sockets</key> <dict> <key>Listeners</key> <dict> <key>SockServiceName</key> <string>9001</string> <key>SockType</key> <string>stream</string> <key>SockProtocol</key> <string>TCP</string> <key>SockFamily</key> <string>IPv4</string> </dict> </dict> <key>inetdCompatibility</key> <dict> <key>Wait</key> <false/> </dict> <key>WorkingDirectory</key> <string>/Users/you/museum</string> <key>UserName</key> <string>you</string> <key>GroupName</key> <string>staff</string> <key>InitGroups</key> <true/> </dict> </plist>

Save it as “” and install and load it into launchd as above.

This version differs in several key ways:

  1. We’re calling Fossil as fossil http rather than fossil server to make it serve a single request and then shut down immediately.

  2. We’ve told launchd to listen on our TCP port number instead of passing it to fossil.

  3. We’re running the daemon in inetd compatibility mode of launchd with “wait” mode off, which tells it to attach the connected socket to the fossil process’s stdio handles.

  4. We’ve removed the Standard*Path keys because they interfere with our use of stdio handles for HTTP I/O. You might therefore want to start with the first method and then switch over to this one only once you’ve got the daemon launching debugged, since once you tie up stdio this way, you won’t be able to get logging information from Fossil via that path. (Fossil does have some internal logging mechanisms, but you can’t get at them until Fossil is launching!)

  5. We’ve removed the KeepAlive and RunAtLoad keys because those options aren’t appropriate to this type of service.

  6. Because we’re running it via a socket listener instead of as a standalone HTTP server, the Fossil service only takes system resources when it’s actually handling an HTTP hit. If your Fossil server is mostly idle, this method will be a bit more efficient than the first option.

Return to the top-level Fossil server article.