One to read: A Beginner’s Guide to IPFS

One to read: “A Beginner’s Guide to IPFS”

Ever wondered about IPFS (the “Inter Planetary File System”) – a new way to share and store content. This doesn’t rely on a central server (e.g. Facebook, Google, Digital Ocean, or your home NAS) but instead uses a system like bittorrent combined with published records to keep the content in the system.

If your host goes down (where the original content is stored) it’s also cached on other nodes who have visited your site.

These caches are cleared over time, so are suitable for short outages, or you can have other nodes who “pin” your content (and this can be seen as a paid solution that can fund hosts).

IPFS is great at hosting static content, but how to deal with dynamic content? That’s where PubSub comes into play (which isn’t in this article). There’s a database service which sits on IPFS and uses PubSub to sync data content across the network, called Orbit-DB.

It’s looking interesting, especially in light of the announcement from CloudFlare about their introduction of an available IPFS gateway.

It’s looking good for IPFS!

This was automatically posted from my RSS Reader, and may be edited later to add commentary.

One to read/watch: IPsec and IKE Tutorial

Ever been told that IPsec is hard? Maybe you’ve seen it yourself? Well, Paul Wouters and Sowmini Varadhan recently co-delivered a talk at the NetDev conference, and it’s really good.

Sowmini’s and Paul’s slides are available here:

A complete recording of the tutorial is here. Sowmini’s part of the tutorial (which starts first in the video) is quite technically complex, looking at specifically the way that Linux handles the packets through the kernel. I’ve focused more on Paul’s part of the tutorial (starting at 26m23s)… but my interest was piqued from 40m40s when he starts to actually show how “easy” configuration is. There are two quick run throughs of typical host-to-host IPsec and subnet-to-subnet IPsec tunnels.

A key message for me, which previously hadn’t been at all clear in IPsec using {free,libre,open}swan is that they refer to Left and Right as being one party and the other… but the node itself works out if it’s “left” or “right” so the *SAME CONFIG* can be used on both machines. GENIUS.

Also, when you’re looking at the config files, anything prefixed with an @ symbol is something that doesn’t need resolving to something else.

It’s well worth a check-out, and it’s inspired me to take another look at IPsec for my personal VPNs :)

I should note that towards the end, Paul tried to run a selection of demonstrations in Opportunistic Encryption (which basically is a way to enable encryption between two nodes, even if you don’t have a pre-established VPN with them). Because of issues with the conference wifi, plus the fact that what he’s demoing isn’t exactly production-grade yet, it doesn’t really work right, and much of the rest of the video (from around 1h10m) is him trying to show that working while attendees are running through the lab, and having conversations about those labs with the attendees.

Ansible Behaviour Change

For those of you who are working with #Ansible… Ansible 2.5 is out, and has an unusual documentation change around a key Ansible concept – `with_` loops Where you previously had:

with_dict: "{{ your_fact }}"
- "{{ your_fact }}"
- some_subkey

This now should be written like this:

loop: "{{ lookup('dict', your_fact) }}"
loop: "{{ lookup('subelements', your_fact, 'some_subkey') }}"

Fear not, I hear you say, It’s fine, of course the documentation suggests that this is “how it’s always been”…… HA HA HA Nope. This behaviour is new as of 2.5, and needs ansible to be updated to the latest version. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to indicate to Ansible “Oh, BTW, this needs to be running on 2.5 or later”… so I wrote a role that does that for you.

ansible-galaxy install JonTheNiceGuy.version-check

You’re welcome :)

More useful URLs:

Defining Networks with Ansible

In my day job, I’m using Ansible to provision networks in OpenStack. One of the complaints I’ve had about the way I now define them is that the person implementing the network has to spell out all the network elements – the subnet size, DHCP pool, the addresses of the firewalls and names of those items. This works for a manual implementation process, but is seriously broken when you try to hand that over to someone else to implement. Most people just want something which says “Here is the network I want to implement –″… and let the system make it for you.

So, I wrote some code to make that happen. It’s not perfect, and it’s not what’s in production (we have lots more things I need to add for that!) but it should do OK with an IPv4 network.

Hope this makes sense!

- hosts: localhost
  - networks:
      # Defined as a subnet with specific router and firewall addressing
        subnet: ""
        firewall: ""
        router: ""
      # Defined as an IP address and CIDR prefix, rather than a proper network address and CIDR prefix
        subnet: ""
      # A valid smaller network and CIDR prefix
        subnet: ""
      # A tiny CIDR network
        subnet: ""
      # These two CIDR networks are unusable for this environment
        subnet: ""
        subnet: ""
      # A massive CIDR network
        subnet: ""
  # Based on with serious help from mgedmin and apollo13 via #ansible on Freenode
  - name: Add router and firewall addressing for CIDR prefixes < 30     set_fact:       networks: >
        {{ networks | default({}) | combine(
          {item.key: {
            'subnet': item.value.subnet | ipv4('network'),
            'router': item.value.router | default((( item.value.subnet | ipv4('network') | ipv4('int') ) + 1) | ipv4),
            'firewall': item.value.firewall | default((( item.value.subnet | ipv4('broadcast') | ipv4('int') ) - 1) | ipv4),
            'dhcp_start': item.value.dhcp_start | default((( item.value.subnet | ipv4('network') | ipv4('int') ) + 2) | ipv4),
            'dhcp_end': item.value.dhcp_end | default((( item.value.subnet | ipv4('broadcast') | ipv4('int') ) - 2) | ipv4)
        }) }}
    with_dict: "{{ networks }}"
    when: item.value.subnet | ipv4('prefix') < 30   - name: Add router and firewall addressing for CIDR prefixes = 30     set_fact:       networks: >
        {{ networks | default({}) | combine(
          {item.key: {
            'subnet': item.value.subnet | ipv4('network'),
            'router': item.value.router | default((( item.value.subnet | ipv4('network') | ipv4('int') ) + 1) | ipv4),
            'firewall': item.value.firewall | default((( item.value.subnet | ipv4('broadcast') | ipv4('int') ) - 1) | ipv4)
        }) }}
    with_dict: "{{ networks }}"
    when: item.value.subnet | ipv4('prefix') == 30
  - debug:
      var: networks

"Copying and Pasting from Stack Overflow" Spoof O'Reilly Book Cover

Just a little reminder (to myself) about changing the path of a git submodule

Sometimes, it’s inevitable (maybe? :) ), you’ll add a git submodule from the wrong URL… I mean, EVERYONE’S done that, right? … right? you lot over there, am I right?… SIGH.

In my case, I’m trying to make sure I always use the https URLs with my github repo, but sometimes I add the git URL instead. When you run git remote -v in the path, you’ll get something like:

origin (fetch)

instead of

origin (fetch)

which means that when someone tries to clone your repo, they’ll be being asked for access to their public keys for all the submodules. Not great

Anyway, it should be easy enough – git creates a .gitmodules file in the repo root, so you should just be able to edit that file, and replace the git@ with https:// and the com: with com/… but what do you do next?

Thanks to this great Stack Overflow answer, I found you can just run these two commands after you’ve made that edit:

git submodule sync ; git submodule update --init --recursive --remote

Isn’t Stack Overflow great?

Using inspec to test your ansible

Over the past few days I’ve been binge listening to the Arrested Devops podcast. In one of the recent episodes (“Career Change Into DevOps With Michael Hedgpeth, Annie Hedgpeth, And Megan Bohl (ADO102)“) one of the interviewees mentions that she got started in DevOps by using Inspec.

Essentially, inspec is a way of explaining “this is what my server must look like”, so you can then test these statements against a built machine… effectively letting you unit test your provisioning scripts.

I’ve already built a fair bit of my current personal project using Ansible, so I wasn’t exactly keen to re-write everything from scratch, but it did make me think that maybe I should have a common set of tests to see how close my server was to the hardening “Benchmark” guides from CIS… and that’s pretty easy to script in inspec, particularly as the tests in those documents list the “how to test” and “how to remediate” commands to execute.

These are in the process of being drawn up (so far, all I have is an inspec test saying “confirm you’re running on Ubuntu 16.04″… not very complex!!) but, from the looks of things, the following playbook would work relatively well!

Experiments with USBIP on Raspberry Pi

At home, I have a server on which I run my VMs and store my content (MP3/OGG/FLAC files I have ripped from my CDs, Photos I’ve taken, etc.) and I want to record material from FreeSat to play back at home, except the server lives in my garage, and the satellite dish feeds into my Living Room. I bought a TeVii S660 USB FreeSat decoder, and tried to figure out what to do with it.

I previously stored the server near where the feed comes in, but the running fan was a bit annoying, so it got moved… but then I started thinking – what if I ran a Raspberry Pi to consume the media there.

I tried running OpenElec, and then LibreElec, and while both would see the device, and I could even occasionally get *content* out of it, I couldn’t write quick enough to the media devices attached to the RPi to actually record what I wanted to get from it. So, I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t be recording any of the Christmas Films… until I stumbled over usbip.

USBIP is a service which binds USB ports to a TCP port, and then lets you consume that USB port on another machine. I’ll discuss consuming the S660’s streams in another post, but the below DOES work :)

There are some caveats here. Because I’m using a Raspberry Pi, I can’t just bung on any old distribution, so I’m a bit limited here. I prefer Debian based images, so I’m going to artificially limit myself to these for now, but if I have any significant issues with these images, then I’ll have to bail on Debian based, and use something else.

  1. If I put on stock Raspbian Jessie, I can’t use usbip, because while ships its own kernel that has the right tools built-in (the usbip_host, usbip_core etc.), it doesn’t ship the right userland tools to manipulate it.
  2. If I’m using a Raspberry Pi 3, there’s no supported version of Ubuntu Server which ships for it. I can use a flavour (e.g. Ubuntu Mate), but that uses the Raspbian kernel, which, as I mentioned before, is not shipping the right userland tools.
  3. If I use a Raspberry Pi 2, then I can use Stock Ubuntu, which ships the right tooling. Now all I need to do is find a CAT5 cable, and some way to patch it through to my network…

Getting the Host stood up

I found most of my notes on this via a wiki entry at Github but essentially, it boils down to this:

On your host machine, (where the USB port is present), run

sudo apt-get install linux-tools-generic
sudo modprobe usbip_host
sudo usbipd -D

This confirms that your host can present the USB ports over the USBIP interface (there are caveats! I’ll cover them later!!).

You now need to find which ports you want to serve. Run this command to list the ports on your system:


You’ll get something like this back:

Bus 001 Device 004: ID 9022:d662 TeVii Technology Ltd.
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0424:ec00 Standard Microsystems Corp. SMSC9512/9514 Fast Ethernet Adapter
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0424:9514 Standard Microsystems Corp. SMC9514 Hub
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

And then you need to find which port the device thinks it’s attached to. Run this to see how usbip sees the world:

usbip list -l

This will return:

- busid 1-1.1 (0424:ec00)
unknown vendor : unknown product (0424:ec00)
- busid 1-1.3 (9022:d662)
unknown vendor : unknown product (9022:d662)

We want to share the TeVii device, which has the ID 9022:d662, and we can see that this is present as busid 1-1.3, so we now we need to bind it to the usbip system, with this command:

usbip bind -b 1-1.3

OK, so now we’re presenting this to the system. Perhaps you might want to make it available on a reboot?

echo "usbip_host" >> /etc/modules

I also added @reboot /usr/bin/usbipd -D ; sleep 5 ; /usr/bin/usbip bind -b 1-1.3 to root’s crontab, but it should probably go into a systemd unit.

Getting the Guest stood up

All these actions are being performed as root. As before, let’s get the modules loaded in the kernel:

apt-get install linux-tools-generic
modprobe vhci-hcd

Now, we can try to attach the module over the wire. Let’s check what’s offered to us (this code example uses but this would be the static IP of your host):

usbip list -r

This hands up back the list of offered appliances:

Exportable USB devices
1-1.3: TeVii Technology Ltd. : unknown product (9022:d662)
: /sys/devices/platform/soc/3f980000.usb/usb1/1-1/1-1.3
: (Defined at Interface level) (00/00/00)
: 0 - Vendor Specific Class / unknown subclass / unknown protocol (ff/01/01)

So, now all we need to do is attach it:

usbip attach -r -b 1-1.3

Now I can consume the service from that device in tvheadend on my server. However, again, I need to make this persistent. So, let’s make sure the module is loaded on boot.

echo 'vhci-hcd' >> /etc/modules

And, finally, we need to attach the port on boot. Again, I’m using crontab, but should probably wrap this into a systemd service.

@reboot /usr/bin/usbip attach -r -b 1-1.3

And then I had an attached USB device across my network!

Unfortuately, the throughput was a bit too low (due to silly ethernet-over-power adaptors) to make it work the way I wanted… but theoretically, if I had proper patching done in this house, it’d be perfect! :)

Interestingly, the day I finished this post off (after it’d sat in drafts since December), I spotted that one of the articles in Linux Magazine is “USB over the network with USB/IP”. Just typical! :D

A brief guide to using vagrant-aws

CCHits was recently asked to move it’s media to another host, and while we were doing that we noticed that many of the Monthly shows were broken in one way or another…

Cue a massive rebuild attempt!

We already have a “ShowRunner” script, which we use with a simple Vagrant machine, and I knew you can use other hypervisor “providers”, and I used to use AWS to build the shows, so why not wrap the two parts together?

Firstly, I installed the vagrant-aws plugin:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-aws

Next I amended my Vagrantfile with the vagrant-aws values mentioned in the plugin readme:

Vagrant.configure(2) do |config|
    config.vm.provider :aws do |aws, override| = "ShowMaker"
    aws.tags = { 'Name' => 'ShowMaker' }
    config.vm.box_url = ""
    # AWS Credentials:
    aws.access_key_id = "DECAFBADDECAFBADDECAF"
    aws.secret_access_key = "DeadBeef1234567890+AbcdeFghijKlmnopqrstu"
    aws.keypair_name = "TheNameOfYourSSHKeyInTheEC2ManagementPortal"
    # AWS Location:
    aws.region = "us-east-1"
    aws.region_config "us-east-1", :ami => "ami-c29e1cb8" # If you pick another region, use the relevant AMI for that region
    aws.instance_type = "t2.micro" # Scale accordingly
    aws.security_groups = [ "sg-1234567" ] # Note this *MUST* be an SG ID not the name
    aws.subnet_id = "subnet-decafbad" # Pick one subnet from
    # AWS Storage:
    aws.block_device_mapping = [{
      'DeviceName' => "/dev/sda1",
      'Ebs.VolumeSize' => 8, # Size in GB
      'Ebs.DeleteOnTermination' => true,
      'Ebs.VolumeType' => "GP2", # General performance - you might want something faster
    # SSH:
    override.ssh.username = "ubuntu"
    override.ssh.private_key_path = "/home/youruser/.ssh/id_rsa" # or the SSH key you've generated
    # /vagrant directory - thanks to
    override.nfs.functional = false # It tries to use NFS - use RSYNC instead
  end = "ubuntu/trusty64"
  config.vm.provision "shell", path: "./"
  config.vm.provision "shell", run: "always", path: "./"

Of course, if you try to put this into your Github repo, it’s going to get pillaged and you’ll be spending lots of money on monero mining very quickly… so instead, I spotted this which you can do to separate out your credentials:

At the top of the Vagrantfile, add these two lines:

require_relative 'settings_aws.rb'
include SettingsAws

Then, replace the lines where you specify a “secret”, like this:

    aws.access_key_id = AWS_ACCESS_KEY
    aws.secret_access_key = AWS_SECRET_KEY

Lastly, create a file “settings_aws.rb” in the same path as your Vagrantfile, that looks like this:

module SettingsAws
    AWS_SECRET_KEY = "DeadBeef1234567890+AbcdeFghijKlmnopqrstu"

This file then can be omitted from your git repository using a .gitignore file.