svn: Can’t convert string from native encoding to ‘UTF-8’

The error “svn: Can’t convert string from native encoding to ‘UTF-8′” suddenly made it impossible to update one of the projects on our staging servers. The project contains loads of file under SVN control, and several data directories which up to this time wasn’t svn:ignore’d. One of the files in one of these directories had norwegian letters in ISO-8859-1 in its filename (which didn’t work in the project anyhow, as it was something left around from earlier).

This single file borked svn from actually being able to update or do anything useful with the actual files under SVN control. When Subversion analyzed the directory structure to check which files it should attempt to update, it would just barf before seeing any files with the error message about the file name not being in UTF-8. You’d think it would be better to ignore errors for filenames that aren’t a part of svn and that you’re not trying to add, but there’s probably a good reason for this behaviour.

Anyways: The solution: delete the file. We didn’t use it anyway. There’s also a good chapter in the SVN Book about localization issues which contain information about how you can solve the issue by changing your active character set.

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