Tag Archives: systemd

/tmp mounted as tmpfs on CentOS

After a recent reboot of my CentOS servers, I’ve inherited an issue where the server comes up running with /tmp mounted using tmpfs. tmpfs is a memory-based volatile filesystem and has some uses for people, but others like myself may have servers with very little free RAM and plenty of disk and prefer the traditional mounted FS volume.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 23.06.28

As a service it should be possible to disable this as per the above comment… except that it already is – the following shows the service disabled on both my server and also by default by the OS vendor:

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 22.50.23

The fact I can’t disable it, appears to be a bug. The RPM changelog references 1298109 and implies it’s fixed, but the ticket seems to still be open, so more work may be required… it looks like any service defining “PrivateTmp=true” triggers it (such as ntp, httpd and others).

Whilst the developers figure out how to fix this properly, the only sure way I found to resolve the issue is to mask the tmp.mount unit with:

systemctl mask tmp.mount

Here’s something to chuck into your Puppet manifests that does the trick for you:

exec { 'fix_tmpfs_systemd':
 path => ['/bin', '/usr/bin'],
 command => 'systemctl mask tmp.mount',
 unless => 'ls -l /etc/systemd/system/tmp.mount 2>&1 | grep -q "/dev/null"'

This properly survives reboots and is supposed to survive systemd upgrades.

Puppet modules

I’m in the middle of doing a migration of my personal server infrastructure from a 2006-era colocation server onto modern cloud hosting providers.

As part of this migration, I’m rebuilding everything properly using Puppet (use it heavily at work so it’s a good fit here) with the intention of being able to complete server builds without requiring any manual effort.

Along the way I’m finding gaps where the available modules don’t quite cut it or nobody seems to have done it before, so I’ve been writing a few modules and putting them up on GitHub for others to benefit/suffer from.




Trying to do anything consistently with host naming is always fun, since every organisation or individual has their own special naming scheme and approach to dealing with the issue of naming things.

I decided to take a different approach. Essentially every cloud provider will give you a source of information that could be used to name your instance whether it’s the AWS Instance ID, or a VPS provider passing through the name you gave the machine at creation. Given I want to treat my instances like cattle, an automatic soulless generated name is perfect!

Where they fall down, is that they don’t tend to setup the FQDN properly. I’ve seen a number of solution to this including user data setup scripts, but I’m trying to avoid putting anything in user data that isn’t 100% critical and sticking to my Pupistry bootstrap so I wanted to set my FQDN via Puppet itself.

(It’s even possible to set the hostname itself if desired, you can use logic such as tags or other values passed in as facts to define what role a machine has and then generate/set a hostname entirely within Puppet).

Hence puppet-hostname provides a handy way to easily set FQDN (optionally including the hostname itself) and then trigger reloads on name-dependent services such as syslog.

None of this is revolutionary, but it’s nice getting it into a proper structure instead of relying on yet-another-bunch-of-userdata that’s specific to my systems. The next step is to look into having it execute functions to do DNS changes on providers like Route53 so there’s no longer any need for user data scripts being run to set DNS records at startup.




There are various parts of my website that I want to be publicly reachable, such as the WordPress login/admin sections, but at the same time I also don’t want them accessible by any muppet with a bot to try and break their way in.

I could put up a portal of some kind, but this then breaks stuff like apps that want to talk with those endpoints since they can’t handle the authentication steps. What I can do, is setup a GeoIP rule that restricts access to the sections to the countries I’m actually in, which is generally just NZ or AU, to dramatically reduce the amount of noise and attempts people send my way, especially given most of the attacks come from more questionable countries or service providers.

I started doing this with mod_geoip2, but it’s honestly a buggy POS and it really doesn’t work properly if you have both IPv4 and IPv6 connections (one or another is OK). Plus it doesn’t help me for applications that support IP ACLs, but don’t offer a specific GeoIP plugin.

So instead of using GeoIP, I’ve written a custom Puppet function that pulls down the IP assignment lists from the various Regional Internet Registries and generate IP/CIDR lists for both IPv4 and IPv6 on a per-country basis.

I then use those lists to populate configurations like Apache, but it’s also quite possible to use it for other purposes such as iptables firewalling since the generated lists can be turned into Puppet resources. To keep performance sane, I cache the processed output for 24 hours and merge any continuous assignment blocks.

Basically, it’s GeoIP for Puppet with support for anything Puppet can configure. :-)




Provides a fact which exposes details from the Digital Ocean instance API about the instance – similar to how you get values automatically about Amazon EC2 systems.




The great thing about the open source world is how we can never agree so we end up with a proliferation of tools doing the same job. Even init systems are not immune, with anything tha intends to run on the major Linux distributions needing to support systemd, Upstart and SysVinit at least for the next few years.

Unfortunately the way that I see most Puppet module authors “deal” with this is that they simply write an init config/file that suits their distribution of choice and conveniently forget the other distributions. The number of times I’ve come across Puppet modules that claim support for Red Hat and Amazon Linux but only ship an Upstart file…. >:-(

Part of the issue is that it’s a pain to even figure out what distribution should be using what type of init configuration. So to solve this, I’ve written a custom Fact called “initsystem” which exposes the primary/best init system on the specific system it’s running on.

It operates in two modes – there is a curated list for specific known systems and then fallback to automatic detection where we don’t have a specific curated result handy.

It supports (or should) all major Linux distributions & derivatives plus FreeBSD and MacOS. Pull requests for others welcome, could do with more BSD support plus maybe even support for Windows if you’re feeling brave.




Not my module, but I recently submitted a PR to it (subsequently merged) which introduces support for a number of different distributions via use of my initfact module so it should now run on most distributions rather than just Ubuntu.

If you’re not familiar with yas3fs, it’s a FUSE driver that turns S3+SNS+SQS into a shared filesystem between multiple servers. Ideal for dealing with legacy applications that demand state on disk, but don’t require high I/O performance, I’m in the process of doing a proof-of-concept with it and it looks like it should work OK for low activity sites such as WordPress, although with no locking I’d advise against putting MySQL on it anytime soon :-)


These modules can all be found on GitHub, as well as the Puppet Forge. Hopefully someone other than myself finds them useful. :-)

First thoughts and tips on EL 7

Generally one RHEL/CentOS/Scientific Linux (aka EL) release isn’t radically different to another, however the introduction of EL 7 is a bit of a shake up, introducing systemd, which means new init system, new ways of reading logs plus dropping some older utilities you may rely on and introducing new defaults.

I’m going through and upgrading some of my machines currently so I’ve prepared a few tips for anyone familiar with EL 4/5/6 and getting started with the move to EL 7.



The big/scary change introduced by RHEL 7 is systemd – love it or hate it, either way it’s here to stay. The good news is that an existing RHEL admin can keep doing most of their old tricks and existing commands.

Red Hat’s “service” command still works and now hooks into either legacy init scripts or new systemd processes. And rather than forcing everyone to use the new binary logging format, RHEL 7 logs messages to both the traditional syslog plain text files, as well as the new binary log format that you can access via journalctl – so your existing scripts or grep recipes will work as expected.

Rather than write up a whole bunch about systemd, I recommend you check out this blog post by CertDepot which details some of the commands you’ll want to get familiar with. The Fedora wiki is also useful and details stuff like enabling/disabling services at startup time.

I found the transition pretty easy and some of the new tricks like better integration between output logs and init are nice changes that should make Linux easier to work with for new users longer term thanks to better visibility into what’s going on.


Packages to Install

The EL minimum install lacks a few packages that I’d consider key, you may also want to install them as part of your base installs:

  • vim-enhanced – No idea why this doesn’t ship as part of minimum install so as a vim user, it’s very, very frustrating not having it.
  • net-tools – this provides the traditional ifconfig/route/netstat family of network tools. Whilst EL has taken the path of trying to force people onto the newer iproute tools there are still times you may want the older tools, such as for running older shell scripts that haven’t been updated yet.
  • bind-utils – Like tools like host or nslookup? You’ll want this package.
  • mailx – Provides the handy mail command for when you’re debugging your outbound mail.



Firstly be aware that your devices might no longer be simple named ethX, as devices are now named based on their type and role. Generally this is an improvement, since the names should line up more with the hardware on big systems for easier identification, and you can still change the device names if you prefer something else.

Changing the hostname will cause some confusion for long time RHEL users, rather than a line in /etc/sysconfig/network, the hostname is now configured in /etc/hostname like other distributions.

The EL 7 minimum installation now includes NetworkManager as standard. Whilst I think NetworkManager is a fantastic application, it doesn’t really have any place on my servers where I tend to have statically configured addresses and sometimes a few static routes or other trickiness like bridges and tunnels.

You can disable network manager (and instead use the static “network” service) by running the following commands:

systemctl stop NetworkManager
systemctl disable NetworkManager
systemctl restart network

Red Hat have documentation on doing static network configuration, although it is unfortunately weak on the IPv6 front.

Most stuff is the same as older versions, but the approach of configuring static routes bit me. On EL 5 you configured a /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/route-ethX file to define IPv4 and IPv6 routes that should be created when that interface comes up. With EL7 you now need to split the IPv4 and IPv6 routes apart, otherwise you just get a weird error when you bring the interface up.

For example, previously on an EL 5 system I would have had something like:

# cat /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/route-eth1 via dev eth1
2001:db8:1::/48 via 2001:db8:5::2 dev eth1

Whereas you now need something like this:

# cat /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/route-eth1 via dev eth1

# cat /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/route6-eth1
2001:db8:1::/48 via 2001:db8:5::2 dev eth1

Hopefully your environment is not creative enough to need static routes around the place, but hey, someone out there might always be as crazy as me.



EL 7 introduces FirewallD as the default firewall application – it offers some interesting sounding features for systems that frequently change networks such as mobile users, however I’m personally quite happy and familiar with iptables rulesets for my server systems which don’t ever change networks.

Fortunately the traditional raw iptables approach is still available, Red Hat dragged their existing iptables/ip6tables service scripts over into systemd, so you can still save your firewall rules into /etc/sysconfig/iptables and /etc/sysconfig/iptables respectively.

# Disable firewalld:
systemctl disable firewalld
systemctl stop firewalld

# Install iptables
yum install iptables-service
systemctl enable iptables
systemctl enable ip6tables
systemctl start iptables
systemctl start ip6tables


LAMP Stack

  • Apache has been upgraded from 2.2 to 2.4. Generally things are mostly the same, but some modules have been removed which might break some of your configuration if you take a lift+shift approach.
  • MySQL has been replaced by MariaDB (community developed fork) which means the package names and service have changed, however all the mysql command line tools still exist and work fine.
  • PHP has been upgraded to 5.4.16 which a little bit dated already – over the lifespan of EL 7 it’s going to feel very dated very quickly, so I hope Red Hat puts out some php55 or php56 packages in future releases for those whom want to take advantage of the latest features.


Other Resources

  1. If you haven’t already, check out Red Hat’s release notes,they detail heaps of new features and additions to the platform.
  2. To learn more about the changes from previous releases, check out Red Hat’s Migration Guide as a starter.
  3. My guide to running EL 7 on EL 5 as a Xen guest for those of you running older Xen hypervisors.