Declarative Containers with NixOS

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I spent some time recently attempting to setup some software on a NixOS system I have at home. It looks like declarative containers were removed in an earlier version of NixOS as they weren't quite ready for use. After some searching I was able to find an example with rkt!

Setting up a container can be as simple as adding this to your /etc/nixos/configuration.nix:

virtualisation.rkt.enable = true;"rkt-nginx" = {
  description = "Nginx (rkt)";
  wantedBy = [ "" ];
  serviceConfig = {
    Slice = "machine.slice";
    ExecStart = ''\
      ${pkgs.rkt}/bin/rkt run --insecure-options=image \
      --net=host \
    KillMode = "mixed";
    Restart = "always";

OmniosCE Networking on OVH

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I recently found that my DHCP leasing on OVH was unreliable. The address worked at one point, but after a few months/reboots I found that the instance could not longer obtain a lease. After a few attempts to release/renew, I decided to set a static IP.

The General Administration page has general information about setting this. The IP from your OVH control panel for the specific server is needed. From that information the routing gateway can be determined.

The gateway is the same as the IP of the server with the last octet replaced with 254. If the IP is, the gateway is To set this on the host:

ipadm create-addr -T static -a $SERVER_IP/32 ixgbe0/v4
route -p add default $GATEWAY_IP

Listing All Versions of an IPS Package

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Listing all packages (with FMRI) can be useful to see what you could install. It wasn't immediately obvious to me and couldn't easily find how to do.

pkg list -afv $PACKAGE

-af lists all versions, regardless of installation state

-v Includes the FMRI in the output

If you don't see a newer version you think should be there, try a pkg refresh!

Copying IPS Packages Across Repositories

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With the release of OmniosCS I've found myself needing packages from OmniTI's Managed Services repository.

My first attempt was to copy packages with pkgrecv. This however caused problems where the IPS server doesn't know about the repository. Adding the repository to the IPS server didn't fix the problem.

This can be fixed by changing the repository FMRI before uploading.

Deploying This With CircleCI

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Despite using automated deploys for most things I work on I had put off setting up such a mechanism for this site. Not sure what took so long.

With CircleCI I added a circle.yml file of:

    - pip install -r requirements.txt

    - make build

    branch: master
      - make upload

And then an S3 user with the right permissions.

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Sid": "Stmt1492350849000",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": [
            "Resource": [

Execute AWS User Data on OmniOS

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As I started to use the OmniOS on AWS I ran into the problem that it does not, by default, include a way to execute the AWS User Data script when starting an instance. The User Data scripts provides a wonderful mechanism to bootstrap new instances. Without it, you may be required to use a configuration management tool or manually configure instances after they have booted.

The script is helpfully available through the instance metadata API at with the URL It should be simple to pull that down and execute the script with SMF!

I've put together a script to do this. It runs with SMF with a default timeout 15 minutes and will restart if there are errors. There is a handy dandy install script in the repo that will download and install the needed files. At the moment this isn't packaged as this script is needed before I would set up a package repository.

There is still the problem of how to get this into an AWS AMI. Packer can build the image for us so that the AMI we launch will already have this script. The buildfile for this image is rather simple but the whole process is a powerful one.

To get your own OmniOS AMI with AWSMF-Data installed you can use the above Packer build.

  • Install Packer

  • Clone the repo

$ git clone`
  • Execute after setting a few variables
$ export AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID=...
$ export VPC_ID=...
$ export SUBNET_ID=...

$ ./

VPC_ID and SUBNET_ID are only required if you have a need to specify them (like no default VPC in your account), in which case the can be modified.

From here we can create User Data scripts in AWS and have new EC2 instances run code when they start!

How To Package a Service For OmniOS

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A previous post showed how to install files. If you wanted to run a service from that package there are a few more steps.

Service Management Facility

The Service Management Facility provides a way to manage services in OmniOS. If you are running a service you installed from a package, this is the way to do it.

Steps to Package and Run a Service

We will need to complete a few steps to package up a service and deploy it with IPS.

  • Create an SMF manifest that instructs SMF how to run our service

  • Deploy the SMF manifest

  • Start the service.

Optionally, the service can be modified to read SMF properties so that it can be configured through svccfg


Creating an Echo Server

Creating an SMF Manifest

A service manifest is an XML documents that contain the information required to run a command as a service. This would normally mean that you have to create a new XML document for each service. Thankfully there is the tool Manifold that can create an manifest with answers to the relevant questions.

How to Package Your Software for OmniOS

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Packaging for OmniOS goes over how to create a package using the same build system as is used for building OmniOS. The layout of this repository seems designed for building already written software to be used in OmniOS. If you need to package your own software then this can be more overhead then you are looking for. The tools used by that GitHub repository are included in the default installation of OmniOS and have plenty of documentation on Oracle's site about how to use IPS. It turns out you can start making packages for OmniOS with only a few commands.

This post will cover the tools required to create a package, not necessarily best practices in packaging for OmniOS.

I've created an example repository that can build and upload a package to an IPS package depot if you want to skip ahead.


The packaging commands we will be using are

  • pkgsend - Generates the package manifest and publishes the package

  • pkgmogrify - Transforms the package manifest

  • pkglint - Linter for package manifests

  • pkgfmt - Formatter for package manifest

  • pkgrepo - (optional) Refresh the repository search index after upload

Example Application

We will be packaging a Hello World script stored in


echo Hello World!

This file needs an execute bit as well so we will run

chmod +x

Building the Manifest

pkgsend will generate a manifest for us if we can build a directory that mimics the deployed layout. If we put our script in build/usr/bin (and remove the extension) then run pkgsend generate build we will get a manifest of files and directories to package.

$ /usr/bin/pkgsend generate build
dir group=bin mode=0755 owner=root path=usr
dir group=bin mode=0755 owner=root path=usr/bin
file usr/bin/hello-world group=bin mode=0755 owner=root path=usr/bin/hello-world

Our manifest so far says we need two directories and a file. This would be enough of a manifest to start with but can be problematic if the directories don't line up with the host used to install the package. It would be better to remove the directories and assume that /usr/bin already exists on the system, since it really should already be there.

The command pkgmogrify can take a manifest and a transform file and output a transformed manifest.

A simple transform to do this will be stored in transform.mog

<transform dir path=usr -> drop>

This will drop any directories that include the path usr. If you need are building a more complex directory structure then using something like usr/bin$ as the path will only drop the common /usr/bin elements from the manifest.

For this we will write the manifest to a file the mogrify it to remove the directories.

$ /usr/bin/pkgsend generate build > manifest.pm5.1
$ /usr/bin/pkgmogrify manifest.pm5.1 transform.mog

file usr/bin/hello-world group=bin mode=0755 owner=root path=usr/bin/hello-world

This now has just our script in the manifest. Using pkgmogrify we can easily script changes to manifests instead of relying on manual changes to clean up a generated manifest.

We'll write the updated manifest to a new file

$ /usr/bin/pkgmogrify manifest.pm5.1 transform.mog > manifest.pm5.2

Package Metadata

We have the manifest for what the package should contain but we still need to describe the package with metadata. We will need to include at least a name, version, description, and summary for the package.

The name and version are contained in an Fault Managed Resource Identifier or FMRI.

I recommend reading the link above about proper format and conventions for FMRIs but for now we will write metadata.mog to contain

set name=pkg.fmri value=example/hello-world@0.1.0,0.1.0-0.1.0:20160915T211427Z
set name=pkg.description value="Hello World"
set name=pkg.summary value="Hello World shell script"

We can use pkgmogrify to combine our metadata and current manifest file to make a file manifest used for publishing our package. In this case we use pkgfmt to format the file as well.

$ /usr/bin/pkgmogrify metadata.mog manifest.pm5.2 | pkgfmt >


The manifest we have now should work for publishing the package. We can verify using pkglint on the final manifest to check.

$ /usr/bin/pkglint
Lint engine setup...
Starting lint run...
$ echo $?

No errors or warnings, wonderful!

Publishing the Package

We now have a directory structure for the package we would like to create as well as a manifest saying how to install the files. We can publish these components to an IPS package depot with pkgsend

$ pkgsend publish -s PKGSERVER -d build/

-s specifies the package server, -d specifies the directory to read, and we pass along the path to our manifest. Our package was then published!


If you are using an HTTP depotd server to publish and see the error pkgsend: Publisher 'default' has no repositories that support the 'open/0' you will need to disable read-only mode for the server or publish to a filesystem repository.

Refresh the Package Search Index

The HTTP depotd interface doesn't refresh the search index when a package is published. This can be done with the pkgrepo command.

$ pkgrepo refresh -s PKGSERVER

Refreshing pkg.depotd After Package Upload

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After uploading a package to an OmniOS package repository I was unable to find the package by searching. The package could be installed and local searching would find it, but the depotd server didn't know how to find the package when searching. Restarting pkg/server would work around the issue but having to do that after each publish would get annoying.

There is a command pkgrepo that will refresh the search index remotely!


pkgrepo refresh -s PKGSRVR

is enough to reload the search index.

Error Publishing to pkg.depotd

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When publishing to an IPS depotd server you may see the line

pkgsend: Publisher 'default' has no repositories that support the 'open/0' operation.

If the depotd server will show you a web page but publishing does not work with pkgsend you may have the server setup in read only mode. svccfg will allow you to change the property with

svccfg -s pkg/server setprop pkg/readonly = false

Don't do this to a server on the internet though, placing an HTTP server in front of depotd will allow you to add authentication. This is otherwise insecure!

Building IPS Packages For OmniOS

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I've started trying to package some software for OmniOS for personal use. The OmniOS Packaging page in the wiki goes through how to do it using the tools used to build the OS. This is a bit more than I would want to do when publishing software to GitHub. I would rather not rely on a repository used to build the OS just to package one piece of software.

A few months ago I was trying to package a personal project and got most of the way there! So far there is a make target that will package an Erlang release into an IPS package. I think it only got as far as putting the files on disk. I still to add the SMF manifest and fix permissions, but it's much smaller when used to package a single piece of software.

Upgrading OmniOS is Surprisingly Easy

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As part of the process of shaving some yaks today I wound up needing to upgrade my development server to the latest version of OmniOS. I originally installed the LTS version and planned to stay there till the next release. It turns out there isn't much reason not to upgrade to the latest version. You will get needed security updates either way but be able to get around any bugs with OS-related things that have been fixed in the mean time.

The Upgrading to r151014 or later page had the needed information and worked quickly. I ran into an issue with the datasets for my zones causing the problem pkg: Unable to clone the current boot environment when trying to update with pkg. All the zones I care about are recreated with configuration management so I didn't have a problem destroying the dataset and recreating them. If it were production I would have at least snapshotted the needed datasets before destroying them.

For the next release I think I'll update a bit sooner!

Ansible ZFS Bug For Solaris

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While updating Ansible I ran into an issue with an extras module for ZFS and Solaris. A playbook that used to work to set a mount point no longer worked. I was seeing errors that ended in

if int(version) >= 34:\r\nValueError: invalid literal for int() with base 10: '-'\r\n", "msg": "MODULE FAILURE"

An issue was filed in June and fixed last month. This change isn't in the latest Ansible which I was using. For the time being I've added the extras repository devel branch as a submodule and used ANSIBLE_LIBRARY=... to get a fixed version.


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I recently came across a static site generator written in Erlang called LambdaPad. I looked around a bit while trying to find a static site generator that would work with Contentful that I would enjoy working with. Most static site generators expect to source documents from the filesystem but LambdaPad allows any source of data you can write in Erlang!

Contentful is a CMS with an API and is free for small use cases. It is easier to use their API as a source then to have other people edit a Git repository in my expected case.

My Github has a branch that can source Contentful entries and provide them to templates. After adding some documentation, examples, and handling Contentful pagination it should be ready for a PR.

... another example of me spending more time on infrastructure instead of a user-facing project which began this tangent!.

OmniOS on Vultr

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This week I started trying to install OmniOS in a Vultr instance. I'm not sure where I first saw Vultr listed but was drawn to it because they offer custom ISO installs. OmniOS isn't supported by most hosting vendors so I would need to install via a custom ISO.

Setting up an account was quick on Vultr, including $5 free credit for opening an account. When creating a new instance you can select the custom ISO after you've added it via URL to your account. They will transfer the ISO to the right datacenter, attach it, then boot up the instance.

The ISO booted fine but installing OmniOS onto the instance didn't work. It turns out that the OmniOS installer doesn't like the way Vultr exposes disks as block devices to the instance. This was mentioned by Dan McDonald in the #omnios channel after he helped me debug. Originally I tweeted about trying to install it and he followed up. He was very helpful and mentioned that the installer is due to be replaced which will work around this issue, but it won't be right away.

It seems just running OmniOS on baremetal is the way to go. I might wind up getting a colo'd box at this point.

Debian Packaging an Erlang Relx Release

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Creating an Erlang release with Relx is straightforward and quick but you still need to get it onto a machine. You could script something yourself, maybe even using a configuration management tool. You could also create a Debian package which would make your sysadmin happy and even make it easy to uninstall!

In this example I'll use FPM although the Debian toolchain would work as well. This will assume that you can already make a release with Relx and that you put your release files into rel within your project. This may not follow all Debian best-practices but it will give you a .deb file that will install and look kind of like any other package. The package will include the Erlang Runtime System so you won't need to install Erlang on the target system or any other dependencies before installing your package.

Application configuration

You likely already include a sys.config file with your release but it would be nice to be able to configure the release after the package has been installed. This is usually done with files in /etc or /etc/PACKAGE. Your sys.config can be easily updated to make this happen!

Assuming you aren't configuring anything to start your sys.config would look like


With a relx.config including

{sys_config, "./rel/sys.config"}.

To make this include an /etc file using the config documentation says you can include a file path (absolute path preferred). This would make your Relx sys.config look like:


Simple! We don't need any post-install configuration right now but we should include the config-less file so that Erlang can find it when trying to use sys.config Create a file in rel/PACKAGE/PACKAGE.config:


Now this file can be updated with your configuration management tool without requiring changing any files within the release!

On Debian/Ubuntu systems it's not uncommon to have a /etc/default/PACKAGE file as well that allows you to add any environment variables you would like to use for your application. I ran across this needing to set the ulimit. For now we will create a file in rel/etc/default/PACKAGE that sets the ulimit.

ulimit -n 65536

Making a user

It's nice to have a system user that runs your release and not require some other tool to create it. This can be done with FPM's --before-install option to pass in the path to an appropriate script. More can be included but for now we will create a file rel/before-install with the contents

adduser PACKAGE --system

So that before this package is installed dpkg will create the user for us.


Your release should generally start right after the system does and it is helpful to follow the standard init system of your distribution. This becoming SystemD or Upstart depending on your distribution/derivative but for this example we will stick with SysV-style init. This get slightly more complex but we will start with the example and then walk through each line. This requires that you use the extended start script from Relx with the option {extended_start_script, true}.


[ -f /etc/default/PACKAGE ] && . /etc/default/PACKAGE

mkdir -p /var/log/PACKAGE

chown -R /opt/PACKAGE /var/lib/PACKAGE /opt/PACKAGE/log /var/log/PACKAGE

su PACKAGE -mc "/opt/PACKAGE/bin/PACKAGE $@"

First #!/bin/sh, use the sh to execute.

Erlang and your release really want a HOME variable. We will for now install the application into /opt so that /opt/PACKAGE will be used as HOME

Next we test for the defaults file we created before and if it exists we will source it into this script. While the package will create the file it's still polite to check if it exists before sourcing.

mkdir and chown are used so that the log/var directories and the release itself all belong to the user we created in before-install. More directories can be added if you need something specific.

Finally with su we will pass the arguments to the init script through to the extended start script from Relx. The extended start script includes things like start and stop that are familiar for an init script but also includes ways to easily get a remote console connected to the Erlang VM!

Since this script will use a dir in /var/lib create the respective directory within rel rel/var/lib/PACKAGE

Creating the Package

Until now we just created files that would be used by FPM, now we can tell FPM to create the package. This could be done on any OS, not just the one that you intend to distribute the package to, but it's generally easier to use the same OS as we will include the Erlang Runtime System with the package as well.

fpm -s dir -t deb -n PACKAGE -v VERSION \
	--before-install=rel/before-install \
	_rel/PACKAGE=/opt/ \
	rel/init=/etc/init.d/PACKAGE \
	rel/var/lib/PACKAGE/=/var/lib/PACKAGE/ \
	rel/etc/PACKAGE/PACKAGE.config=/etc/PACKAGE/PACKAGE.config \

Going through some of the options

-s dir says to create this package from a directory, instead of some other packaging format (of which FPM supports many!)

-t deb creates a Debian package as output

-n PACKAGE name the package

-v VERSION Give the package this version. This should probably be determined by your Makefile or build system and not be hardcoded.

--before-install=rel/before-install Adds the before-install script for FPM so that it can be executed when you are installing the package.

The rest of the options tell FPM to take the relative file location and place it at the absolute location when installing the package. This includes the release into /opt/, our init script, var/lib directory, etc config, and defaults file.

You now have a package!

Running this command will create the package for you and output a .deb file you can install on another machine. This includes ERTS and requires no dependencies beyond what comes in a fresh install! If you've found this helpful please let me know on Twitter!

Testing Riak Core VNodes

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I've started trying to test ETSDB with Common Test and found that it wasn't terribly straightforward to test the Riak Core vnode. The vnode is managed by a Riak Core gen_fsm and isn't a built-in OTP behavior.

I wanted to include the Riak Core gen_fsm to make sure that I integrated it properly. First you want to spin up the riak_core_vnode with your vnode implementation and save the config in the Pid.

Similarly to tear it down you should send a message to stop the FSM. This requires a tear down call and adding a handler in your vnode to return a stop.

That includes the send_command which is a variation from the Riak Core source. It will handle sending the message in a way that can get the response sent back to the sending process. Riak Core does some mucking around to deal with running with the full application.

Now you can call send_command with the Pid of the FSM and with the ref returned can pull that messages out of the mailbox!


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I've started splitting out useful time-series database functions from ETSDB into their own library as LevelTSDB. This is mostly so I don't have to test everything again for some things I would eventually like to make.

Nikola Generator

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Starting to use a new static site generator now that there are bunch of good ones in Python. I find Python/pip more sane to use than Ruby/bundler/rbenv

Deploying Python Without Downtime

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When you first start out deploying your application it can be easy to just run supervisor restart all or service my_app restart to get your current version into production. This is great when you are starting out but eventually you will try to connect while your application is starting up and see HTTP 503s while you application is booting up.

Eventually you might discover that Gunicorn and uWSGI can reload your application without closing the socket so your web requests will just be delayed a bit delayed as your application starts. This works fine as long as your application doesn't take too long to start. Unfortunately some applications at work can take a minute to start, too long to have connections waiting at the socket.

The Gunicorn reloading using kill -HUP $PID will stop all worker processes then start them again. The slow init for workers tends to cause problems. uWSGI has chain reloading which will restart workers one at a time. I need support for Tornado which doesn't fit well with uWSGI.

With a Load Balancer

A common technique is to remove a single server from the load balancer, upgrade/restart the application, then bring it back. We are using load balancers but it requires coordination while provisioning nodes using the HAProxy management socket in order to schedule this. Our deploys currently deploy to all nodes simultaneously, not one-by-one, an even larger change. It would also be possible to fool the healthcheck by 404'ing the status page then waiting for LBs to take the node out of the pool. That requires a bit more waiting than I want, 2 healthcheck failures with 5 second intervals, for each server, plus time to reintegrate the web process once the upgrade is finished.

Gunicorn Reload ++

Gunicorn will automatically restart failed web processes so it would be possible to just kill each process, sleeping in between, until you get through all the child processes. This works but if application start times change significantly we are either waiting too long for restarts or not long enough and risking some downtime.

Since Gunicorn includes Python hooks into the application it should be possible to write a snippet that will notify the restart process when the worker application is ready. Gunicorn didn't have the needed hook but it was simple to contribute the change. It requires master until a new release is made.

Now our restart process takes advantage of the fact that a single socket has multiple processes accepting connections. Restarting will slightly diminish our capacity (1/N) but we will continue to handle traffic without letting connections wait too long.

The general process for this is

  for child_pid of gunicorn-master:
    kill child_pid
    wait for app startup

My first version of this used shell and nc to listen on UDP for an application startup. This worked well although integrating our process manager into shell was a bit more then I would like to do.

The restart script should be called with the PID of the Gunicorn master $PID

and works in tandem with a post_worker_init script that will notify the script when the app is running.

If we had this WSGI application for example:

We could even do things like check the /_status page to verify the application is working.

Be careful with trying to run too much of your application in this healthcheck, if for any reason your post_worker_init raises an error then the worker will exit, preventing your application from starting. This may be a problem when you are checking a DB connection that may go away, even if you application could work it won't be able to boot.

Now with our applications that take a minute to start we can do a rolling restart without taking the application down or dropping any connections!