Using multiple GitHub accounts from the Command Line with Environment Variables (using `direnv`) and per-account SSH keys

I recently was in the situation where I had two github profiles (one work, one personal) that I needed to incorporate in projects.

My work account on this device is my “default”, I use it to push, pull and so on, but the occasional personal activities (like terminate-notice) all should be attributed to my personal account.

To make this happen, I used direnv which reads a .envrcfile in the parents of the directory you’re currently in. I created a directory for my personal projects – ~/Code/Personaland placed a .envrc file which contains:

export GIT_AUTHOR_EMAIL=jon@sprig.gs
export GIT_COMMITTER_EMAIL=jon@sprig.gs
export GIT_SSH_COMMAND="ssh -i ~/.ssh/personal.id_ed25519"
export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=

This means that I have a specific SSH key just for my personal activities (~/.ssh/personal.id_ed25519) and I’ve got my email address defined as two environment variables – AUTHOR (who wrote the code) and COMMITTER (who added it to the tree) – both are required when you’re changing them like this!

Because I don’t ever want it to try to use my SSH Agent, I’ve added the fact that SSH_AUTH_SOCK should be empty.

As an aside, work also require Commit Signing, but I don’t want to use that for my personal projects right now, so I also discovered a new feature as-of 2020 – the environment variables GIT_CONFIG_KEY_x, GIT_CONFIG_VALUE_x and GIT_CONFIG_COUNT=x

By using these, you can override any system, global and repo-level configuration values, like this:

export GIT_CONFIG_KEY_0=commit.gpgSign
export GIT_CONFIG_VALUE_0=false
export GIT_CONFIG_KEY_1=push.gpgSign
export GIT_CONFIG_VALUE_1=false
export GIT_CONFIG_KEY_2=tag.gpgSign
export GIT_CONFIG_VALUE_2=false
export GIT_CONFIG_COUNT=2

This ensures that I *will not* GPG Sign commits, tags or pushes.

If I accidentally cloned a repo into an unusual location, or on purpose need to make a directory or submodule a personal repo, I just copy the .envrc file into that part of the tree, run direnv allowand hey-presto! I’ve turned that area into a personal repo, without having to remember the .gitconfigstring to mark a new part of my tree as a personal one.

The direnv and SSH part was largely inspired by : Handle multiple github accounts while the GIT_CONFIG_* bit was found via this StackOverflow answer.

Featured image is “Mirrored Lotus” by “Faye Mozingo” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.

Using Github Actions to create Debian (DEB) and RedHat (RPM) Packages and Repositories

Last week I created a post talking about the new project I’ve started on Github called “Terminate-Notice” (which in hindsight isn’t very accurate – at best it’s ‘spot-instance-responses’ and at worst it’s ‘instance-rebalance-and-actions-responder’ but neither work well)… Anyway, I mentioned how I was creating RPM and DEB packages for my bash scripts and that I hadn’t put it into a repo yet.

Well, now I have, so let’s wander through how I made this work.

TL;DR:

Please don’t hesitate to use the .github directory I’m using for terminate-notice, which is available in the -skeleton repo and then to make it into a repo, you can reuse the .github directory in the terminate-notice.github.io repo to start your adventure.

Start with your source tree

I have a the following files in my shell script, which are:

  • /usr/sbin/terminate-notice (the actual script which will run)
  • /usr/lib/systemd/system/terminate-notice.service (the SystemD Unit file to start and stop the script)
  • /usr/share/doc/terminate-notice/LICENSE (the license under which the code is released)
  • /etc/terminate-notice.conf.d/service.conf (the file which tells the script how to run)

These live in the root directory of my repository.

I also have the .github directory (where the things that make this script work will live), a LICENSE file (so Github knows what license it’s released under) and a README.md file (so people visiting the repo can find out about it).

A bit about Github Actions

Github Actions is a CI/CD pipeline built into Github. It responds to triggers – in our case, pushes (or uploads, in old fashioned terms) to the repository, and then runs commands or actions. The actions which will run are stored in a simple YAML formatted file, referred to as a workflow which contains some setup fields and then the “jobs” (collections of actions) themselves. The structure is as follows:

# The pretty name rendered by Actions to refer to this workflow
name: Workflow Name

# Only run this workflow when the push is an annotated tag starting v
on:
  push:
    tags:
      - 'v*'

# The workflow contains a collection of jobs, each of which has
# some actions (or "steps") to run
jobs:
  # This is used to identify the output in other jobs
  Unique_Name_For_This_Job:
    # This is the pretty name rendered in the Github UI for this job
    name: Job Name
    # This is the OS that the job will run on - typically
    # one of: ubuntu-latest, windows-latest, macos-latest
    runs-on: runner-os
    # The actual actions to perform
    steps:
      # This is a YAML list, so note where the hyphens (-) are
        # The pretty name of this step
      - name: Checkout Code
        # The name of the public collection of actions to perform
        uses: actions/checkout@v3
        # Any variables to pass into this action module
        with:
          path: "REPO"

      # This action will run a shell command
      - name: Run a command
        run: echo "Hello World"

Build a DEB package

At the simplest point, creating a DEB package is;

  1. Create the directory structure (as above) that will unpack from your package file and put the files in the right places.
  2. Create a DEBIAN/control file which provides enough details for your package manager to handle it.
  3. Run dpkg-deb --build ${PATH_TO_SOURCE} ${OUTPUT_FILENAME}

The DEBIAN/control file looks like this:

Package: PACKAGE_NAME
Version: VERSION_ID
Section: misc
Priority: optional
Architecture: all
Maintainer: YOUR_NAME <your_email@example.org>
Description: SOME_TEXT

Section, Priority and Architecture have specifically defined dictionaries you can choose from.

Assuming the DEBIAN/control file was static and also lived in the repo, and I were just releasing the DEB file, then I could make the above work with the following steps:

name: Create the DEB

permissions:
  contents: write

on:
  push:
    tags:
      - 'v*'

jobs:
  Create_Packages:
    name: Create Package
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
      - name: Checkout code
        uses: actions/checkout@v3
        with:
          path: "REPO"

      - name: Copy script files around to stop .github from being added to the package then build the package
        run: |
          mkdir PKG_SOURCE
          cp -Rf REPO/usr REPO/etc REPO/DEBIAN PKG_SOURCE
          dpkg-deb --build PKG_SOURCE package.deb

      - name: Release the Package
        uses: softprops/action-gh-release@v1
        with:
          files: package.deb

But no, I had to get complicated and ALSO build an RPM file… and put some dynamic stuff in there.

Build an RPM file

RPMs are a little more complex, but not by much. RPM takes a spec file, which starts off looking like the DEBIAN/control file, and adds some “install” instructions. Let’s take a look at that spec file:

Name: PACKAGE_NAME
Version: VERSION_ID
Release: 1
Summary: SOME_TEXT
BuildArch: noarch
Source0: %{name}
License: YOUR_LICENSE

%description
SOME_TEXT
MORE_DETAIL

%prep

%build

%install
install -D -m 600 -o root -g root %{SOURCE0}etc/config/file ${RPM_BUILD_ROOT}%{_sysconfdir}/config/file
install -D -m 755 -o root -g root %{SOURCE0}usr/sbin/script ${RPM_BUILD_ROOT}%{_sbindir}/script

%files
etc/config/file
usr/sbin/script

The “Name”, “Version”, “Release” and “BuildArch” values in the top of that file define what the resulting filename is (NAME_VERSION-RELEASE.BUILDARCH.rpm).

Notice that there are some “macros” which replace /etc with %{_sysconfdir}, /usr/sbin with %{_sbindir} and so on, which means that, theoretically, this RPM could be installed in an esoteric tree… but most people won’t bother.

The one quirk with this is that %{name} bit there – RPM files need to have all these sources in a directory named after the package name, which in turn is stored in a directory called SOURCES (so SOURCES/my-package for example), and then it copies the files to wherever they need to go. I’ve listed etc/config/file and usr/sbin/script but these could just have easily been file and script for all that the spec file cares.

Once you have the spec file, you run sudo rpmbuild --define "_topdir $(pwd)" -bb file.spec to build the RPM.

So, again, how would that work from a workflow YAML file perspective, assuming a static spec and source tree as described above?

name: Create the DEB

permissions:
  contents: write

on:
  push:
    tags:
      - 'v*'

jobs:
  Create_Packages:
    name: Create Package
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
      - name: Checkout code
        uses: actions/checkout@v3
        with:
          path: "REPO"

      - name: Copy script files around to stop .github from being added to the package then build the package
        run: |
          mkdir -p SOURCES/my-package-name
          cp -Rf REPO/usr REPO/etc SOURCES/my-package-name
          sudo rpmbuild --define "_topdir $(pwd)" -bb my-package-name.spec

      - name: Release the Package
        uses: softprops/action-gh-release@v1
        with:
          files: RPMS/my-package-name_0.0.1-1.noarch.rpm

But again, I want to be fancy (and I want to make resulting packages as simple to repeat as possible)!

So, this is my release.yml as of today:

name: Run the Release

permissions:
  contents: write

on:
  push:
    tags:
      - 'v*'

jobs:
  Create_Packages:
    name: Create Packages
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
      - name: Checkout code
        uses: actions/checkout@v3
        with:
          path: "REPO"

      - name: Calculate some variables
        run: |
          (
            echo "GITHUB_REPO_NAME=$(echo "${GITHUB_REPOSITORY}" | cut -d/ -f2)"
            echo "VERSION=$(echo "${GITHUB_REF_NAME}" | sed -e 's/^v//')"
            echo "DESCRIPTION=A script which polls the AWS Metadata Service looking for an 'instance action', and triggers scripts in response to the termination notice."
            echo "DEB_ARCHITECTURE=${ARCHITECTURE:-all}"
            echo "RPM_ARCHITECTURE=${ARCHITECTURE:-noarch}"
            echo "RELEASE=1"
            cd REPO
            echo "FIRST_YEAR=$(git log $(git rev-list --max-parents=0 HEAD) --date="format:%Y" --format="format:%ad")"
            echo "THIS_COMMIT_YEAR=$(git log HEAD -n1 --date="format:%Y" --format="format:%ad")"
            echo "THIS_COMMIT_DATE=$(git log HEAD -n1 --format="format:%as")"
            if [ "$FIRST_YEAR" = "$THIS_COMMIT_YEAR" ]
            then
              echo "YEAR_RANGE=$FIRST_YEAR"
            else
              echo "YEAR_RANGE=${FIRST_YEAR}-${THIS_COMMIT_YEAR}"
            fi
            cd ..
          ) >> $GITHUB_ENV

      - name: Make Directory Structure
        run: mkdir -p "SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}" SPECS release

      - name: Copy script files into SOURCES
        run: |
          cp -Rf REPO/[a-z]* "SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}"
          cp REPO/LICENSE REPO/README.md "SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/usr/share/doc/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/"
          if grep -lr '#TAG#' SOURCES
          then
            sed -i -e "s/#TAG#/${VERSION}/" $(grep -lr '#TAG#' SOURCES)
          fi
          if grep -lr '#TAG_DATE#' SOURCES
          then
            sed -i -e "s/#TAG_DATE#/${THIS_COMMIT_YEAR}/" $(grep -lr '#TAG_DATE#' SOURCES)
          fi
          if grep -lr '#DATE_RANGE#' SOURCES
          then
            sed -i -e "s/#DATE_RANGE#/${YEAR_RANGE}/" $(grep -lr '#DATE_RANGE#' SOURCES)
          fi
          if grep -lr '#MAINTAINER#' SOURCES
          then
            sed -i -e "s/#MAINTAINER#/${MAINTAINER:-Jon Spriggs <jon@sprig.gs>}/" $(grep -lr '#MAINTAINER#' SOURCES)
          fi

      - name: Create Control File
        # Fields from https://www.debian.org/doc/debian-policy/ch-controlfields.html#binary-package-control-files-debian-control
        run: |
          mkdir -p SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/DEBIAN
          (
            echo "Package:      ${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}"
            echo "Version:      ${VERSION}"
            echo "Section:      ${SECTION:-misc}"
            echo "Priority:     ${PRIORITY:-optional}"
            echo "Architecture: ${DEB_ARCHITECTURE}"
            if [ -n "${DEPENDS}" ]
            then
              echo "Depends: ${DEPENDS}"
            fi
            echo "Maintainer: ${MAINTAINER:-Jon Spriggs <jon@sprig.gs>}"
            echo "Description: ${DESCRIPTION}"
            if [ -n "${HOMEPAGE}" ]
            then
              echo "Homepage: ${HOMEPAGE}"
            fi
          ) | tee SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/DEBIAN/control
          (
            echo "Files:"
            echo " *"
            echo "Copyright: ${YEAR_RANGE} ${MAINTAINER:-Jon Spriggs <jon@sprig.gs>}"
            echo "License: MIT"
            echo ""
            echo "License: MIT"
            sed 's/^/ /' "SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/usr/share/doc/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/LICENSE"
          ) | tee SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}/DEBIAN/copyright

      - name: Create Spec File
        run: PATH="REPO/.github/scripts:${PATH}" create_spec_file.sh

      - name: Build DEB Package
        run: dpkg-deb --build SOURCES/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME} "${{ env.GITHUB_REPO_NAME }}_${{ env.VERSION }}_${{ env.DEB_ARCHITECTURE }}.deb"

      - name: Build RPM Package
        run: sudo rpmbuild --define "_topdir $(pwd)" -bb SPECS/${GITHUB_REPO_NAME}.spec

      - name: Confirm builds complete
        run: sudo install -m 644 -o runner -g runner $(find . -type f -name *.deb && find . -type f -name *.rpm) release/

      - name: Release
        uses: softprops/action-gh-release@v1
        with:
          files: release/*

So this means I can, within reason, drop this workflow (plus a couple of other scripts to generate the slightly more complex RPM file – see the other files in that directory structure) into another package to release it.

OH WAIT, I DID! (for the terminate-notice-slack repo, for example!) All I actually needed to do there was to change the description line, and off it went!

So, this is all well and good, but how can I distribute these? Enter Repositories.

Making a Repository

Honestly, I took most of the work here from two fantastic blog posts for creating an RPM repo and a DEB repo.

First you need to create a GPG key.

To do this, I created the following pgp-key.batch file outside my repositories tree

%echo Generating an example PGP key
Key-Type: RSA
Key-Length: 4096
Name-Real: YOUR_ORG_NAME
Name-Email: your_org_name@users.noreply.github.com
Expire-Date: 0
%no-ask-passphrase
%no-protection
%commit

To make the key, I used this set of commands:

export GNUPGHOME="$(mktemp -d /tmp/pgpkeys-XXXXXX)"
gpg --no-tty --batch --gen-key pgp-key.batch
gpg --armor --export YOUR_ORG_NAME > public.asc
gpg --armor --export-secret-keys YOUR_ORG_NAME > private.asc
rm -Rf "$GNUPGHOME"

Store the public.asc file to one side (you’ll need it later) and keep the private.asc safe because we need to put that into Github.

Creating Github Pages

Create a new Git repository in your organisation called your-org.github.io. This marks the repository as being a Github Pages repository. Just to make that more explicit, in the settings for the repository, go to the pages section. (Note that yes, the text around this may differ, but are accurate as of 2023-03-28 in EN-GB localisation.)

Under “Source” select “GitHub Actions”.

Clone this repository to your local machine, and copy public.asc into the root of the tree with a sensible name, ending .asc.

In the Github settings, find “Secrets and variables” under “Security” and pick “Actions”.

Select “New repository secret” and call it “PRIVATE_KEY”.

Now you can use this to sign things (and you will sign *SO MUCH* stuff)

Building the HTML front to your repo (I’m using Jekyll)

I’ve elected to use Jekyll because I know it, and it’s quite easy, but you should pick what works for you. My workflow for deploying these repos into the website rely on Jekyll because Github built that integration, but you’ll likely find other tools for things like Eleventy or Hugo.

Put a file called _config.yml into the root directory, and fill it with relevant content:

title: your-org
email: email_address@example.org
description: >- 
  This project does stuff.
baseurl: ""
url: "https://your-org.github.io"
github_username: your-org

# Build settings
theme: minima
plugins:
  - jekyll-feed
exclude:
  - tools/
  - doc/

Naturally, make “your-org” “email_address@example.org” and the descriptions more relevant to your environment.

Next, create an index.md file with whatever is relevant for your org, but it must start with something like:

---
layout: home
title: YOUR-ORG Website
---
Here is the content for the front page.

Building the repo behind your static content

We’re back to working with Github Actions workflow files, so let’s pop that open.

.github/workflows/repo.yml

name: Deploy Debian and RPM Repo plus Jekyll homepage

on:
  push:
    branches: ["main"]
  # Allows you to run this workflow manually from the Actions tab
  workflow_dispatch:

permissions:
  contents: read
  pages: write
  id-token: write

concurrency:
  group: "pages"
  cancel-in-progress: false

jobs:
  build:
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    steps:
      - name: Checkout
        uses: actions/checkout@v3

      - name: [REPO] Install required packages
        run: |
          until sudo apt update
          do
            sleep 1
          done
          sudo apt install -y jq createrepo-c coreutils gnupg2 dpkg-dev

      - name: [REPO] Insert environment variables
        run: |
          echo GNUPGHOME="$(mktemp -d /tmp/pgpkeys-XXXXXX)" >> $GITHUB_ENV
          echo REPO_OWNER="$(echo "${GITHUB_REPOSITORY}" | cut -d/ -f1)" >> $GITHUB_ENV
          echo REPO_NAME="$(echo "${GITHUB_REPOSITORY}" | cut -d/ -f2)" >> $GITHUB_ENV

      - name: [REPO] Import GPG key
        id: import_gpg
        uses: crazy-max/ghaction-import-gpg@v5
        with:
          gpg_private_key: ${{ secrets.PRIVATE_KEY }}

      - name: [JEKYLL] Setup Pages
        uses: actions/configure-pages@v3

      - name: [JEKYLL] Build with Jekyll
        uses: actions/jekyll-build-pages@v1
        with:
          source: ./
          destination: ./_site

      - name: [REPO] Set permissions on the _site directory
        run: sudo chown -R runner:docker _site

      - name: [REPO] Build DEB and RPM Repos
        run: |
          export GPG_FINGERPRINT="${{ steps.import_gpg.outputs.fingerprint }}"
          export ORIGIN="${{ steps.import_gpg.outputs.name }}"
          .github/scripts/build_repos.sh

      - name: [JEKYLL] Upload artifact
        uses: actions/upload-pages-artifact@v1

  deploy:
    environment:
      name: github-pages
      url: ${{ steps.deployment.outputs.page_url }}
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    needs: build
    steps:
      - name: [JEKYLL] Deploy to GitHub Pages
        id: deployment
        uses: actions/deploy-pages@v1

I’ve basically changed the “stock” Jekyll static site Github Actions file and added every step that starts [REPO] to make the repository stuff fit in around the steps that start [JEKYLL] which build and deploy the Jekyll based site.

The key part to all this though is the step Build DEB and RPM repos which calls a script that downloads all the RPM and DEB files from the various other repository build stages and does some actions to them. Now yes, I could have put all of this into the workflow.yml file, but I think it would have made it all a bit more confusing! So, let’s work through those steps!

Making an RPM Repo

To build a RPM repo you get and sign each of the RPM packages you want to offer. You do this with this command:

rpm --define "%_signature gpg" --define "%_gpg_name ${FINGERPRINT}" --addsign FILENAME.rpm

Then, once you have all your RPM files signed, you then run a command called createrepo_c (available in Debian archives – Github Actions doesn’t have a RedHat based distro available at this time, so I didn’t look for the RPM equivalent). This creates the repository metadata, and finally you sign that file, like this:

gpg --detach-sign --armor repodata/repomd.xml

Making a DEB Repo

To build a DEB repo you get each of the DEB packages you want to offer in a directory called pool/main (you can also call “main” something else – for example “contrib”, “extras” and so on).

Once you have all your files, you create another directory called dists/stable/main/binary-all into which we’ll run a command dpkg-scanpackages to create the list of the available packages. Yes, “main” could also be called “contrib”, “extras” and “stable” could be called “testing” or “preprod” or the name of your software release (like “jaunty”, “focal” or “warty”). The “all” after the word “binary” is the architecture in question.

dpkg-scanpackages creates an index of the packages in that directory including the version number, maintainer and the cryptographic hashes of the DEB files.

We zip (using gzip and bzip2) the Packages file it creates to improve the download speeds of these files, and then make a Release file. This in turn has the cryptographic hashes of each of the Packages and zipped Packages files, which in turn is then signed with GPG.

Ugh, that was MESSY

Making the repository available to your distributions

RPM repos have it quite easy here – there’s a simple file, that looks like this:

[org-name]
name=org-name Repository
baseurl=https://org-name.github.io/rpm
enabled=1
gpgcheck=1
gpgkey=https://org-name.github.io/public.asc

The distribution user simply downloads this file, puts it into /etc/yum.sources.d/org-name.repo and now all the packages are available for download. Woohoo!

DEB repos are a little harder.

First, download the public key – https://org-name.github.io/public.asc and put it in /etc/apt/keyrings/org-name.asc. Next, create file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/org-name.list with this line in:

deb [arch=all signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/org-name.asc] https://org-name.github.io/deb stable main

And now they can install whatever packages they want too!

Doing this the simple way

Of course, this is all well-and-good, but if you’ve got a simple script you want to package, please don’t hesitate to use the .github directory I’m using for terminate-notice, which is available in the -skeleton repo and then to make it into a repo, you can reuse the .github directory in the terminate-notice.github.io repo to start your adventure.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Featured image is “Some Math” by “Behdad Esfahbod” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

Quick tip: Preventing `Vagrant Destroy`

I’m using Vagrant to test out some scripts, and I really need to stop myself from destroying my caching proxy that I’m running in the test.

To do that, I’ve got this Vagrantfile:

Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
  config.vm.define "caching-proxy" do |this|
    this.trigger.before :destroy do |trigger|
      trigger.info = "This machine is currently prevented from being destroyed. Please remove the trigger to be able to destroy it.
      trigger.abort = 1
    end
    this.vm.box = "ubuntu/jammy64"
    # etc
  end
  config.vm.define "normalnode" do |this|
    this.vm.box = "ubuntu/jammy64"
  end
end

Now when I try to run vagrant destroy caching-proxy I get:

==> caching-proxy: Running action triggers before destroy ...
==> caching-proxy: Running trigger...
==> caching-proxy: This machine is currently prevented from being destroyed. Please remove the trigger to destroy it.
==> caching-proxy: Vagrant has been configured to abort. Terminating now...

Running vagrant destroy normalnode I get:

    normalnode: Are you sure you want to destroy the 'normalnode' VM? [y/N] y
==> normalnode: Forcing shutdown of VM...
==> normalnode: Destroying VM and associated drives...

Perfect.

Featured image is “Explosion” by “Quinn Dombrowski” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY-SA License.

Responding to AWS Spot Instance “Instance Actions” (like terminate and stop)

During some debugging of an issue with our AWS Spot Instances at work, a colleague noticed that we weren’t responding to the Instance Actions that AWS sends when it’s due to shut down a spot instance.

We had a bit of a poke around, and found that no-one seems to have a service solution to respond to these events, to shut things down cleanly… so I wrote a set of shell scripts and a SystemD service to react to them.

On the journey, I discovered that there is a metadata mocking service that AWS provides, I learned how to create both RPM and DEB packages with Github actions (still not got them into a repo yet though!) and found that my new employer is really nice because they let me write this and release it as open source 😀

So, if this seems like something that might help you, or perhaps you’ve found a better way of doing this, let me know!

A screen shot of the github organisation for the terminate-notice script (link)

Project logo: Target icons created by Freepik – Flaticon

"Apoptosis Network (alternate)" by "Simon Cockell" on Flickr

Multipass on Ubuntu with Bridged Network Interfaces

I’m working on a new project, and I am using Multipass on an Ubuntu machine to provision some virtual machines on my local machine using cloudinit files. All good so far!

I wanted to expose one of the services I’ve created to the bridged network (so I can run avahi-daemon), and did this by running multipass launch -n vm01 --network enp3s0 when, what should I see but: launch failed: The bridging feature is not implemented on this backend. OH NO!

By chance, I found a random Stack Overflow answer, which said:

Currently only the LXD driver supports the networks command on Linux.

So, let’s make multipass on Ubuntu use LXD! (Be prepared for entering your password a few times!)

Firstly, we need to install LXD. Dead simple:

snap install lxd

Next, we need to tell snap that it’s allowed to connect LXD to multipass:

snap connect multipass:lxd lxd

And lastly, we tell multipass to use lxd:

multipass set local.driver=lxd

Result?

user@host:~$ multipass networks
Name             Type      Description
enp3s0           ethernet  Ethernet device
mpbr0            bridge    Network bridge for Multipass

And when I brought my machine up with avahi-daemon installed and configured to broadcast it’s hostname?

user@host:~$ ip -4 addr
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
    inet 127.0.0.1/8 scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
37: br-enp3s0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc noqueue state UP group default qlen 1000
    inet 192.0.2.33/24 brd 192.0.2.255 scope global dynamic noprefixroute br-enp3s0
       valid_lft 6455sec preferred_lft 6455sec
user@host:~$ multipass list
Name         State       IPv4             Image
vm01         Running     203.0.113.15     Ubuntu 22.04 LTS
                         192.0.2.101
user@host:~$ ping vm01.local
PING vm01.local (192.0.2.101) 56(84) bytes of data.

Tada!

Featured image is “Apoptosis Network (alternate)” by “Simon Cockell” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

Releasing a Presentation on “An introduction to Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)”

Over the last year, the team I was in had a routine that every week we’d have a briefing-come-good-news meeting. About a third of the way through the year the routine changed and it would be fronted by a presentation on a subject of interest to that team member. It was loosely encouraged to be relevant to the job, but it wasn’t a formal requirement.

For whatever reason, my slot got bumped (I think it was the day of the Queen’s funeral, but I’m not sure), and then I rescheduled myself for December… and the meeting was cancelled as we were having an in-person meetup. Bah.

Anyway, I wrote a deck, and planned to deliver it. That isn’t going to happen now, so I’m releasing it for anyone to read, or maybe even play Powerpoint Karaoke with.

Click here to visit the deck. Press “S” to see the speaker notes (you’ll need them!)
LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302 in vehicle mode, with the axe, jetpack and Energon cube on the table alongside the informational plaque.

My review of the LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302

My history

Earlier this year LEGO released the Optimus Prime set, 10302, and I said to my friends at the time “£150… It’s good, but is it that good? (Who am I kidding… Add to basket)” but, of course, I didn’t.

Later in the year, I was fortunate enough to visit Billund in Denmark, the home of LEGO, and I got to see the glory of the Optimus Prime set in the … plastic? Anyway, because I was there with hand luggage only, I couldn’t fit the box and set into the luggage, so I couldn’t get it abroad, and assumed that was it – no more Optimus for me.

Until Christmas Day arrives, and my (amazing, beautiful, best person ever) wife hands me a box… As I pick it up from her, I say “That… sounds like Lego” but I still haven’t put two-and-two together yet. I peel open the paper and my mouth drops. It’s this set.

See, I’m of the era that watched all the cartoons, had all the comics, and (thanks to, in hindsight, my verygenerous parents) had a few of the toys… so this is a true throwback for me.

The build itself

Jules and I agreed that today would be the “build our Lego sets” day, so as I started my breakfast I cracked open the box.

The Optimus Prime LEGO set (10302) box, showing the robot-form.
The Optimus Prime LEGO set (10302) box, showing the robot-form.
The rear of the box shows the transforming model, plus the accessories which come with the build.
The rear of the box shows the transforming model, plus the accessories which come with the build.
11 bags of the LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302, plus a cardboard envelope containing instructions and 5 stickers.
11 bags of the LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302, plus a cardboard envelope containing instructions and 5 stickers.

I set to work. Right from the outset, the classic windscreen was visible, and it’s a perfect opening section for the set, and builds the anticipation for the final build.

The result of the first bag of lego - the classic windscreen for Optimus which hides the Matrix of Leadership (built later)
The result of the first bag of lego – the classic windscreen for Optimus which hides the Matrix of Leadership (built later)

Several hours later (including a few rounds of Singstar and Buzz, lunch and dinner), Optimus Prime is complete.

The completed model, standing in robot form, with gun in hand. Axe and Energon cube on the table in front of the robot, and a plaque about Optimus Prime.
The completed model, standing in robot form, with gun in hand. Axe and Energon cube on the table in front of the robot, and a plaque about Optimus Prime.
LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302 with the axe in hand and the Energon Cube, gun and plaque on the table in front of Robot-Form Optimus Prime.
This time Optimus in Robot-Form, with the axe in hand.
LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302 features a detachable jetpack as part of the build.
And finally, in robot form, showing off the detachable jetpack.
LEGO Optimus Prime set 10302 in vehicle mode, with the axe, jetpack and Energon cube on the table alongside the informational plaque.
In vehicle mode, the gun is part of the wheel-train, but the axe, Energon cube and jetpack need to travel separately!

Conclusion

This was a great build, and I’m glad I got the set – I’ll have plenty of enjoyment from showing it off and transforming it. I’m also really impressed at the level of detail they’ve gone into (although, to be fair, the grand piano which I got for Jules last year also set this bar pretty high).

Total build time was probably about 6 hours all-in, mostly building by myself, although Emily weighed in and helped for a bit. There were just enough pieces in each bag to justify having a new bag, but probably could have reduced things down to about 6 bags without too many worries.

It’s mildly frustrating that the jetpack and axe aren’t somehow incorporated into the vehicle-form, and the axe does occasionally fall off or pull the arm off, but, eh… it’s just there for the battles, and he’d be more likely to just shoot the gun. These are definitely things I can live with, I just need to be sure I don’t lose them!

So, final review – glad I got it, and the build revealed a few Easter eggs about the build that I really appreciated. 9/10

Thinking of getting the set? Consider buying it through my referral link: Amazon UK

"Sensitive Species" by "Rennett Stowe" on Flickr

HOWTO: Do DynDNS-style (DDNS) updates with Terraform (without leaking your credentials in the console)

For some of my projects, I run a Dynamic DNS server service attached to one of the less-standard DNS Names I own, and use that to connect to the web pages I’m spinning up. In a recent demo, I noticed that the terraform “changes” log where it shows what things are being updated showed the credentials I was using, because I was using “simple” authentication, like this:

data "http" "ddns_web" {
  url = "https://my.ddns.example.org/update?secret=${var.ddns_secret}&domain=web&addr=192.0.2.1"
}

variable "ddns_secret" {
  default = "bob"
}

For context, that would ask the DDNS service running at ddns.example.org to create a DNS record for web.ddns.example.org with an A record of 192.0.2.1.

While this is fine for my personal projects, any time this goes past, anyone who spots that update line would see the credentials I use for this service. Not great.

I had a quick look at the other options I had for authentication, and noticed that the DDNS server I’m running also supports the DynDNS update mechanism. In that case, we need to construct things a little differently!

data "http" "ddns_web" {
  url             = "https://my.ddns.example.org/nic/update?hostname=web&myip=192.0.2.1"
  request_headers = {
    Authorization = "Basic ${base64encode("user:${var.ddns_secret}")}"
  }
}

variable "ddns_secret" {
  type      = string
  sensitive = true
  default   = "bob"
}

So now, we change the URL to include the /nic/ path fragment, we use different names for the variables and we’re using Basic Authentication which is a request header. It’s a little frustrating that the http data source doesn’t also have a query type or a path constructor we could have used, but…

In this context the request header of “Authorization” is a string starting “Basic” but then with a Base64 encoded value of the username (which for this DDNS service, can be anything, so I’ve set it as the word “user”), then a colon and then the password. By setting the ddns_secret variable as being “sensitive”, if I use terraform console, and ask it for the value of data.http.ddns_web I get

> data.http.ddns_web
{
  "body" = <<-EOT
  good 192.0.2.1
  
  EOT
  "id" = "https://my.ddns.example.org/nic/update?hostname=web&myip=192.0.2.1"
  "request_headers" = tomap({
    "Authorization" = (sensitive)
  })
  "response_body" = <<-EOT
  good 192.0.2.1
  
  EOT
  "response_headers" = tomap({
    "Content-Length" = "18"
    "Content-Type" = "text/plain; charset=utf-8"
    "Date" = "Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 UTC"
    "Server" = "nginx"
    "Strict-Transport-Security" = "max-age=31536000; includeSubDomains"
    "X-Content-Type-Options" = "nosniff"
    "X-Xss-Protection" = "1; mode=block"
  })
  "url" = "https://my.ddns.example.org/nic/update?hostname=web&myip=192.0.2.1"
}
>

Note that if your DDNS service has a particular username requirement, this can also be entered, in the same way, by changing the string “user” to something like ${var.ddns_user}.

Featured image is “Sensitive Species” by “Rennett Stowe” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

Barcamp Manchester 2022 – my review

Outside of work, I attended my first technical event since the 2020 lockdown. A Barcamp is a community run conference where the attendees propose the talks they want to present. In past years, I have attended with an intention to speak, and in some cases present several talks.

This a a picture of “the grid” – the cards on the far left are the rooms in which talks occur, the cards on the top row are time slots in which talks were to be delivered, and the rest of the cards were proposed talks.
This picture by Martin Rue on Twitter and used with his kind permission.

The first talk I attended was a talk by Patrick Hurley who was asking people to propose ideas to that would benefit people in the north of England. These will be written up into a book and used as inspiration for projects big and small. Well worth a look! 100ideasnorth.org

I missed the next slot, as I was making my way around groups of people I’d not spoken to for a while, but then my next talk of interest was “I’m an AWS Engineer… Ask me Anything (we’re hiring)” by Martin. I didn’t know anyone else from AWS was going to be there, so I went, if only to introduce myself and say hi… Well, one thing lead to another, and then I found myself joining Martin answering questions from my perspective in a different part of the organisation. I loved this session, and I’m really glad to have caught up with Martin, if only because he was such a lovely man and so enthusiastic about everything he was talking about!

After that, I went to the talk about Living in Japan by Fran. This was a quick ad-hoc talk, but totally adorable because it was just completely heartfelt and had loads of questions that were answered with fab anecdotes about life at a ladies-only university outside Tokyo… the questions were really good too!

Over lunch and slot 5, I put together a talk about my boardgame collection, and agreed to co-host a talk about working at AWS with Martin again.

I also found myself in a small talk, hosted by Harper, the 8 year old daughter of one of the attendees, who was very keen to present her first talk. It was a beautiful and well delivered talk about the elements of a pen, her favourite pen and what each element is for. She also fielded questions from the audience with a lot of confidence and spoke with great authority. She was fab, and I made a point of letting everyone I saw know about her talk!

I went to a talk in Slot 6 called “Dude, where’s my meetup” – a slightly confused talk which seemed to be asking “what happened to all the groups that met up in Manchester”, while also not being clear whether it was asking “and who’s going to run them again now we’re all meeting back up” or “why haven’t they restarted” or “what is replacing them” or even “why aren’t the groups which have restarted making more noise about themselves to make them found”… I plugged the North West UK Tech Community and encouraged groups to register themselves on there, and individuals to help clean out older groups that have closed.

I gave my talk on the Board Game spreadsheet I have created, and got a great couple of ideas on categorising the games we have, and whether expansions should be games in their own right, or not. Several people took links away, and I picked up this great alternative version that I could be reusing!

Next up was the conversation with the audience about working at AWS. Lots of really good questions again, and Martin and I developed quite a good raport. I think we’ll be trying to do things like these talks again!

After that session, I spoke to one of the audience members from the AWS session about being recruited by AWS, and then to another person about how they were using AWS. I really enjoyed being part of a conversation about how other people see AWS – I know it’s a lot of my day job, but it was just a nice reassurance that it’s not just something I can do inside my working hours!

Then we had the wrap-up, and there were lots of claps and cheers for the organising team and for anyone who spoke at the event. Great work everyone!

Afterwards, I went to the pub with some people who used to go to Geekup (and it was glorious!) and then made my way home.

All in all, a great day, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

"matrix" by "Jordi nll" on Flickr

I’m on a #Podcast: “It’s a Chat Episode 53 – More! – #TheMatrix: Reloaded”

Yep, they let me back on! And so, following the last recording (probably around November-ish), we recorded the chat that became Episode 53 of the It’s a Chat podcast. Much like the last episode, we talk about things which are connected to The Matrix: Reloaded (and get about 1/3rd of the way through the film), and talk about other stuff as well. I talk a fair amount about the Animatrix and we briefly discuss the game (that I don’t think any of us played).

I reference a series of books which I read, that I referred to as “Sand” but instead actually meant the first book, called “Wool” of the series “Silo“, which I rated 3/5 on Goodreads.

I also draw a conclusion that Agent Smith is actually rickrolling us, four years before rickrolling was a thing.

Featured image is “Matrix” by “Jordi nll” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.