Entries tagged automation

Related tags: cfengine, esp8266, lighting, osram lightify, puppet, slaughter.

A busy week or two

Thursday, 12 October 2017

It feels like the past week or two has been very busy, and so I'm looking forward to my "holiday" next month.

I'm not really having a holiday of course, my wife is slowly returning to work, so I'll be taking a month of paternity leave, taking sole care of Oiva for the month of November. He's still a little angel, and now that he's reached 10 months old he's starting to get much more mobile - he's on the verge of walking, but not quite there yet. Mostly that means he wants you to hold his hands so that he can stand up, swaying back and forth before the inevitable collapse.

Beyond spending most of my evenings taking care of him, from the moment I return from work to his bedtime (around 7:30PM), I've made the Debian Administration website both read-only and much simpler. In the past that site was powered by a lot of servers, I think around 11. Now it has only a small number of machines, which should slowly decrease.

I've ripped out the database host, the redis host, the events-server, the planet-machine, the email-box, etc. Now we have a much simpler setup:

  • Front-end machine
    • Directly serves the code site
    • Directly serves the SSL site which exists solely for Let's Encrypt
    • Runs HAProxy to route the rest of the requests to the cluster.
  • 4 x Apache servers
    • Each one has a (read-only) MySQL database on it for the content.
      • In case of future-compromise I removed all user passwords, and scrambled the email-addresses.
      • I don't think there's a huge risk, but better safe than sorry.
    • Each one runs the web-application.
      • Which now caches each generated page to /tmp/x/x/x/x/$hash if it doesn't exist.
      • If the request is cached it is served from that cache rather than dynamically.

Finally although I'm slowly making progress with "radio stuff" I've knocked up a simple hack which uses an ultrasonic sensor to determine whether I'm sat in front of my (home) PC. If I am everything is good. If I'm absent the music is stopped and the screen locked. Kinda neat.

(Simple ESP8266 device wired to the sensor. When the state changes a message is posted to Mosquitto, where a listener reacts to the change(s).)

Oh, not final. I've also transfered my mobile phone from DNA.fi to MoiMobile. Which should complete soon, right now my phone is in limbo, active on niether service. Oops.

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I joined the internet of things.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

In my old flat I had a couple of simple radio-controlled switches, which allowed me to toggle power to a pair of standing lamps - one at each side of the bed. This was very lazy, but also really handy and I've always been curious about automation..

When it comes to automation there seems to be three main flavours:


The original standard, with stuff produced by many vendors and good Linux support.

X10 supports two ways of sending/receiving commands - over the electrical wiring, and over RF.


This is the newcomer, which despite that seems to be well-supported and extensible. It allows "measurements" to be sent/received in addition to the broadcast of events like "switch on", and "switch off".

Other systems - often lighting-centric

There are toy-things like the previously noted power-controlling things, there are also stand-alone devices from people like Philips with their philips hue system, but given how Philips recently crippled their devices to disable third-party bulbs I've no desire to use them.

One company caught my eye though, Osram make a smart lightbulb and mini-hub to work with it.

So I bought one of the osram lightify systems, consisting of a magic box and a pair of lightbulbs. The box connects to your wifi, and gets an IP address. The IP address is then used by the application on your mobile phone (i.e. the magic box does the magic, not the bulbs). The phone application can be used to trigger "on", "off", "dim", "brighter", and the various colour-changing commands, as you would expect.

You absolutely must use the phone-based application to do the setup, but after that the whole point was that I could automate things. I wanted to be able to setup my desktop computer to schedule events, and started hacking.

I've written a simple Perl module to let me discover bulbs, and turn them off and on. No doubt it'll be on CPAN in the near future, once I can pick a suitable name for it:

$ ol --bridge= --list
hall       MAC:8418260000d9c70c RGBW:255,255,255,255 STATE:On
kitchen    MAC:8418260000cb433b RGBW:255,255,255,255 STATE:On

$ ol --bridge= --off=kitchen

$ ol --bridge= --list
hall       MAC:8418260000d9c70c RGBW:255,255,255,255 STATE:On
kitchen    MAC:8418260000cb433b RGBW:255,255,255,255 STATE:Off

The only niggle was the fiddly pairing, and the lack of any decent documentation. The code I wrote was loosely based on the python project python-lightify written by Mikael Magnusson. Also worth noting that the bridge/magic-box only exposes a single port so you can find the device on your VLAN by nmapping for port 4000:

$ nmap -v -p 4000

The device doesn't seem to allow any network setup at all - it only uses DHCP. So you might want to make sure it gets assigned a stable IP.

Anyway I'm going to bed. When I do so I'll turn the lights off with my mobile phone. Neat.

In the future I will look at more complex automation, and I think Z-wave is the way I'll go. Right now I'm in a rented flat so replacing wall-switches, etc, is something I can't do. But the systems I've looked at seem neat, and this current setup will keep me amused for several months!



Dammit, Martin! This is compressed air!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

So I previously mentioned I'd knocked up a simple automation tool, for deploying policies (read "scripts") from a central location to a number of distinct machines.

There seemed to be a small amount of interest, so I've written it all up:

  • slaughter - Perl System Administration & Automation tool

Why slaughter? I have no idea. Yesterday evening it made sense, somehow, on the basis it rhymed with auto - (auto as in automation). This morning it made less sense. But meh.

This list of primitives has grown a little and the brief examples probably provide a little bit of flavour.

In short you:

  • Install the package upon a client you wish to manage.
  • When "slaughter" is invoked it will fetch http://example.com/slaughter/default.policy
    • This file may include other policy files via "IncludePolicy" statements.
  • Once all the named policies have been downloaded/expanded they'll be written to a local file.
  • The local file will have Perl-fu wrapped around it such that the Slaughter::linux module is available
    • This is where the definitions for "FetchFile", "Mounts", etc are located.
  • The local file will be executed then removed.

All in all its probably more complex than it needs to be, but I've managed to get interesting things primarily with these new built-in primitives and none of it is massively Debian, or even Linux, specific.

ObSubject: Jaws



I don't like this ending...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I've talked before about the minimal way in which I've been using a lot of the available automation tools. I tend to use them to carry out only a few operations:

  • Fetch a file from a remote source.
    • If this has changed run some action.
  • Ensure a package is installed.
    • If this is carried out run some action.
  • Run a command on some simple criterion.
    • E.g. Every day at 11pm run a mirror.

In the pub I've had more than a few chats about how to parse a mini-language and carry these operations out, and what facilities other people use. It'd be almost trivial to come up with a mini-language, but the conclusion has always been that such mini-languages aren't expressive enough to give you the arbitrary flexibility some people would desire. (Nested conditionals and the ability to do things on a per-host, per-day, per-arch basis for example.)

It struck me last night that you could instead cheat. Why not run scripting langues directly on your client nodes? Assume you could write your automation in Ruby or Perl and all you need to do is define a few additional primitives.

For example:

#  /policies/default.policy - the file that all clients nodes poll.

#  Fetch the per-node policy if it exists.
FetchPolicy $hostname.policy ;

#  Ensure SSH is OK
FetchPolicy ssh-server.policy ;

#  Or explicitly specify the URL:
# FetchPolicy http://example.com/policies/ssh-server.policy ;

#  Finally a quick fetch of a remote file.
if ( FetchFile(
                Source => "/etc/motd",
                Dest => "/etc/motd",
                Owner => "root",
                Group => "root",
                Mode => "0644" ) )

    RunCommand( "id" );

This default policy attempts to include some other policies which are essentially perl files which have some additional "admin-esque" primitives. Such as "InstallPackage", "PurgePackage", and "FetchFile".

FetchFile is the only one I've fully implemented, but given a server it will fetch http://server/prefix/files/$FILENAME - into a local file, and will setup the owner/gid/mode. If the fetch succeeded and contents differ from the current contents of the named file (or the current file doesn't exist) it will be moved into place and the function will return true.

On the server side I just have a layout that makes sense:

|-- files
|   `-- etc
|       |-- motd
|       |-- motd.silver.my.flat
|       `-- motd.gold
`-- policies
    |-- default.policy
    |-- ssh-server.policy
    `-- steve.policy

Here FetchFile has been implemented to first request /files/etc/motd.gold.my.flat, then /files/etc/motd.gold, and finally the global file /files/etc/motd.

In short you don't want to be forced to write perl which would run things like this:

# install ssh
if ( -e "/etc/apt/sources.list" )
  # we're probably debian
  system( "apt-get update" );
  system( "apt-get install openssh-server" );

You just want to be able to say "Install Package foo", and rely upon the helper library / primitives being implemented correctly enough to be able to have that work.

I'll probably stop there, but it has given me a fair amount to think about. Not least of which : What are the minimum required primitives to usefully automate client nodes?

ObFilm: Moulin Rouge!



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