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Use .iso and Kickstart files to automatically create Ubuntu VMs

I was looking for a way to automate the creation of VMs for testing various distributed system / cluster software packages. I’ve used Vagrant in the past but I wanted something that would:

  • Allow me to use raw ISO files as the basis for guest VMs.
  • Guest VMs should be set up with bridged IPs that are routable from the host.
  • Guest VMs should be able to reach the Internet.
  • Other hosts on the local network should be able to reach guest VMs. (Setting up additional routes is OK).
  • VM creation should work with any distro that supports Kickstart files.
  • Scripts should be able to create and delete VMs in a scripted, fully-automatic manner.
  • Guest VMs should be set up to allow passwordless ssh access from the “ansible” user.

I’ve previously used virsh’s virt-install tool to create VMs and I like how easy it is to set up things like extra network interfaces and attach existing disk images. The scripts in this repo fully automate the virsh VM creation process.

Scripts

I put all of my code into a Github repo containing these scripts:

  • create-vm – Use .iso and kickstart files to auto-generate a VM.
  • delete-vm – Delete a virtual machine created with create-vm.
  • get-vm-ip – Get the IP address of a VM managed by virsh.
  • encrypt-pw – Returns a SHA512 encrypted password suitable for pasting into Kickstart files.

I’ve also included a sample ubuntu.ks Kickstart file for creating an Ubuntu host.

Host setup

I’m running the scripts from a host with Ubuntu Linux 18.10 installed. I added the following to the host’s Ansible playbook to install the necessary virtualization packages:

  - name: Install virtualization packages
apt:
name: "{{item}}"
state: latest
with_items:
- qemu-kvm
- libvirt-bin
- libvirt-clients
- libvirt-daemon
- libvirt-daemon-driver-storage-zfs
- python-libvirt
- python3-libvirt
- system-config-kickstart
- vagrant-libvirt
- vagrant-sshfs
- virt-manager
- virtinst

If you’re not using Ansible just apt-get install the above packages.

Sample Kickstart file

There are plenty of documents on the Internet on how to set up Kickstart files.

A couple of things that are special about the included Kickstart file

The Ansible user: Although I’d prefer to create the “ansible” user as a locked account,with no password just an ssh public key, Kickstart on Ubuntu does not allow this, so I do set up an encrypted password.

To set up your own password, use the encrypt-pw script to create a SHA512-hashed password that you can copy and paste into the Kickstart file. After a VM is created you can use this password if you need to log into the VM via the console.

To use your own ssh key, replace the ssh key in the %post section with your own public key.

The %post section at the bottom of the Kickstart file does a couple of things:

  • It updates all packages with the latest versions.
  • To configure a VM with Ansible, you just need ssh access to a VM and Python installed. on the VM. So I use %post to install an ssh-server and Python.
  • I start the serial console, so that virsh console $vmname works.
  • I add a public key for Ansible, so I can configure the servers with Ansible without entering a password.

Despite the name, the commands in the %post section are not the last commands executed by Kickstart on an Ubuntu 18.10 server. The “ansible” user is added after the %post commands are executed. This means that the Ansible ssh public key gets added before the ansible user is created.

To make key-based logins work I set the UID:GID of authorized_keys to 1000:1000. The user is later created with UID=1000, GID=1000, which means that the authorized_keys file ends up being owned by the ansible user by the time the VM creation is complete.

Create an Ubuntu 18.10 server

This creates a VM using Ubuntu’s text-based installer. Since the `-d` parameter is used,progress of the install is shown on screen.

create-vm -n node1 \
-i ~/isos/ubuntu-18.10-server-amd64.iso \
-k ~/conf/ubuntu.ks \
-d

Create 8 Ubuntu 18.10 servers

This starts the VM creation process and exits. Creation of the VMs continues in the background.

for n in `seq 1 8`; do
create-vm -n node$n \
-i ~/isos/ubuntu-18.10-server-amd64.iso \
-k ~/conf/ubuntu.ks
done

Delete 8 virtual machines

for n in `seq 1 8`; do
delete-vm node$n
done

Connect to a VM via the console

virsh console node1

Connect to a VM via ssh

ssh ansible@`get-vm-ip node1`

Generate an Ansible hosts file

(
echo '[hosts]'
for n in `seq 1 8`; do
ip=`get-vm-ip node$n`
echo "node$n ansible_ip=$ip ansible_user=ansible"
done
) > hosts

Handy virsh commands

  • virsh list – List all running VMs.
  • virsh domifaddr node1 – Get a node’s IP address. Does not work with all network setups,which is why I wrote the get-vm-ip script.
  • virsh net-list – Show what networks were created by virsh.
  • virsh net-dhcp-leases $network – Shows current DHCP leases when virsh is acting as the DHCP server. Leases may be shown for machines that no longer exist.

Known Issues

  • VMs created without the -d (debug mode) parameter may be created in “stopped” mode. To start them up, run the command virsh start $vmname
  • Depending on how your host is set up, you may need to run these scripts as root.
  • Ubuntu text mode install messes up terminal screens. Run reset from the command line to restore a terminal’s functionality.
  • I use Ansible to set a guest’s hostname, not Kickstart, so all Ubuntu guests created have the host name “ubuntu”.

Hope you find this useful.

create-vm script

Download create-vm from Github

#!/bin/bash

# create-vm - Use .iso and kickstart files to auto-generate a VM.

# Copyright 2018 Earl C. Ruby III
#
# Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
# you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
# You may obtain a copy of the License at
#
# http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0
#
# Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
# distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
# WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied.
# See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
# limitations under the License.

HOSTNAME=
ISO_FQN=
KS_FQN=
RAM=1024
VCPUS=2
STORAGE=20
BRIDGE=virbr0
MAC="RANDOM"
VERBOSE=
DEBUG=
VM_IMAGE_DIR=/var/lib/libvirt

usage()
{
cat << EOF
usage: $0 options

This script will take an .iso file created by revisor and generate a VM from it.

OPTIONS:
-h Show this message
-n Host name (required)
-i Full path and name of the .iso file to use (required)
-k Full path and name of the Kickstart file to use (required)
-r RAM in MB (defaults to ${RAM})
-c Number of VCPUs (defaults to ${VCPUS})
-s Amount of storage to allocate in GB (defaults to ${STORAGE})
-b Bridge interface to use (defaults to ${BRIDGE})
-m MAC address to use (default is to use a randomly-generated MAC)
-v Verbose
-d Debug mode
EOF
}

while getopts "h:n:i:k:r:c:s:b:m:v:d" option; do
case "${option}"
in
h)
usage
exit 0
;;
n) HOSTNAME=${OPTARG};;
i) ISO_FQN=${OPTARG};;
k) KS_FQN=${OPTARG};;
r) RAM=${OPTARG};;
c) VCPUS=${OPTARG};;
s) STORAGE=${OPTARG};;
b) BRIDGE=${OPTARG};;
m) MAC=${OPTARG};;
v) VERBOSE=1;;
d) DEBUG=1;;
esac
done

if [[ -z $HOSTNAME ]]; then
echo "ERROR: Host name is required"
usage
exit 1
fi

if [[ -z $ISO_FQN ]]; then
echo "ERROR: ISO file name or http url is required"
usage
exit 1
fi

if [[ -z $KS_FQN ]]; then
echo "ERROR: Kickstart file name or http url is required"
usage
exit 1
fi

if ! [[ -f $ISO_FQN ]]; then
echo "ERROR: $ISO_FQN file not found"
usage
exit 1
fi

if ! [[ -f $KS_FQN ]]; then
echo "ERROR: $KS_FQN file not found"
usage
exit 1
fi
KS_FILE=$(basename "$KS_FQN")

if [[ ! -z $VERBOSE ]]; then
echo "Building ${HOSTNAME} using MAC ${MAC} on ${BRIDGE}"
echo "======================= $KS_FQN ======================="
cat "$KS_FQN"
echo "=============================================="
set -xv
fi

mkdir -p $VM_IMAGE_DIR/{images,xml}

virt-install \
--connect=qemu:///system \
--name="${HOSTNAME}" \
--bridge="${BRIDGE}" \
--mac="${MAC}" \
--disk="${VM_IMAGE_DIR}/images/${HOSTNAME}.img,bus=virtio,size=${STORAGE}" \
--ram="${RAM}" \
--vcpus="${VCPUS}" \
--autostart \
--hvm \
--arch x86_64 \
--accelerate \
--check-cpu \
--os-type=linux \
--force \
--watchdog=default \
--extra-args="ks=file:/${KS_FILE} console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200n8 serial" \
--initrd-inject="${KS_FQN}" \
--graphics=none \
--noautoconsole \
--debug \
--location="${ISO_FQN}"

if [[ ! -z $DEBUG ]]; then
# Connect to the console and watch the install
virsh console "${HOSTNAME}"
virsh start "${HOSTNAME}"
fi

# Make a backup of the VM's XML definition file
virsh dumpxml "${HOSTNAME}" > "${VM_IMAGE_DIR}/xml/${HOSTNAME}.xml"

if [ ! -z $VERBOSE ]; then
set +xv
fi

ubuntu.ks Kickstart file

Download ubuntu.ks on Github.

# System language
lang en_US
# Language modules to install
langsupport en_US
# System keyboard
keyboard us
# System mouse
mouse
# System timezone
timezone --utc Etc/UTC
# Root password
rootpw --disabled
# Initial user
user ansible --fullname "ansible" --iscrypted --password $6$CfjrLvwGbzSPGq49$t./6zxk9D16P6J/nq2eBVWQ74aGgzKDrQ9LdbTfVA0IrHTQ7rQ8iq61JTE66cUjdIPWY3fN7lGyR4LzrGwnNP.
# Reboot after installation
reboot
# Use text mode install
text
# Install OS instead of upgrade
install
# Use CDROM installation media
cdrom
# System bootloader configuration
bootloader --location=mbr 
# Clear the Master Boot Record
zerombr yes
# Partition clearing information
clearpart --all 
# Disk partitioning information
part / --fstype ext4 --size 3700 --grow
part swap --size 200 
# System authorization infomation
auth  --useshadow  --enablemd5 
# Firewall configuration
firewall --enabled --ssh 
# Do not configure the X Window System
skipx
%post --interpreter=/bin/bash
echo ### Redirect output to console
exec < /dev/tty6 > /dev/tty6
chvt 6
echo ### Update all packages
apt-get update
apt-get -y upgrade
# Install packages
apt-get install -y openssh-server vim python
echo ### Enable serial console so virsh can connect to the console
systemctl enable serial-getty@ttyS0.service
systemctl start serial-getty@ttyS0.service
echo ### Add public ssh key for Ansible
mkdir -m0700 -p /home/ansible/.ssh
cat <<EOF >/home/ansible/.ssh/authorized_keys
ssh-rsa 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 ansible@host
EOF
echo ### Set permissions for Ansible directory and key. Since the "Initial user"
echo ### is added *after* %post commands are executed, I use the UID:GID
echo ### as a hack since I know that the first user added will be 1000:1000.
chown -R 1000:1000 /home/ansible
chmod 0600 /home/ansible/.ssh/authorized_keys
echo ### Change back to terminal 1
chvt 1
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Redirect mail links to GMail on Ubuntu 18.04 using Desktop Webmail

My Ubuntu 18.04 box has Thunderbird installed as the default mail client. I was a Thunderbird user for years, but I currently spend most of my time using GMail, and when I click on a email mailto: link on a web page Ubuntu will load Thunderbird.

The documented fix is to go to Settings > Details > Default Applications and pick a different mail client. However, I don’t want a mail client at all, I want mail links to go to my default browser (Firefox, on this machine), load GMail, and open a to email “to” the name in the link.

The documented fix for that issue is to install the gnome-gmail package, but I don’t always use Gnome, so I installed Desktop Webmail instead.

If you want to try it, these are the steps:

  • Fire up Synaptic Package Manager
  • Install the desktop-webmail package
  • Go to Settings > Details > Default Applications and pick Desktop Webmail as your default mail client.

The next time you click a mailto: link Desktop Webmail will ask you what web mail service you want to use. Desktop Webmail currently supports Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and Zoho. Select Gmail and it’ll pop up a new email message using GMail, set the “to” address to the mailto: link, using your preferred browser.

Hope you found this useful.

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Adding a LUKS-encrypted iSCSI volume to Synology DS414 NAS and Ubuntu 15.04

I have an Ubuntu 15.04 “Vivid” workstation already set up with LUKS full disk encryption, and I have a Synology DS414 NAS with 12TB raw storage on my home network. I wanted to add a disk volume on the Synology DS414 that I could mount on the Ubuntu server, but NFS doesn’t support “at rest” encrypted file systems, and using EncFS over NFS seemed like the wrong way to go about it, so I decided to try setting up an iSCSI volume and encrypting it with LUKS. Using this type of setup, all data is encrypted both “on the wire” and “at rest”.

Log into the Synology Admin Panel and select Main Menu > Storage Manager:

  • Add an iSCSI LUN
    • Set Thin Provisioning = No
    • Advanced LUN Features = No
    • Make the volume as big as you need
  • Add an iSCSI Target
    • Use CHAP authentication
    • Write down the login name and password you choose

On your Ubuntu box switch over to a root prompt:

sudo /bin/bash

Install the open-iscsi drivers. (Since I’m already running LUKS on my Ubuntu box I don’t need to install LUKS.)

apt-get install open-iscsi

Edit the conf file

vi /etc/iscsi/iscsid.conf

Edit these lines:

node.startup = automatic
node.session.auth.username = [CHAP user name on Synology box]
node.session.auth.password = [CHAP password on Synology box]

Restart the open-iscsi service:

service open-iscsi restart
service open-iscsi status

Start open-iscsi at boot time:

systemctl enable open-iscsi

Now find the name of the iSCSI target on the Synology box:

iscsiadm -m discovery -t st -p $SYNOLOGY_IP
iscsiadm -m node

The target name should look something like “iqn.2000-01.com.synology:boxname.target-1.62332311”

Still on the Ubuntu workstation, log into the iSCSI target:

iscsiadm -m node --targetname "$TARGET_NAME" --portal "$SYNOLOGY_IP:3260" --login

Look for new devices:

fdisk -l

At this point fdisk should show you a new block device which is the iSCSI disk volume on the Synology box. In my case it was /dev/sdd.

Partition the device. I made one big /dev/sdd1 partition, type 8e (Linux LVM):

fdisk /dev/sdd

Set up the device as a LUKS-encrypted device:

cryptsetup --verbose --verify-passphrase luksFormat /dev/sdd1

Open the LUKS volume:

cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdd1 backupiscsi

Create a physical volume from the LUKS volume:

pvcreate /dev/mapper/backupiscsi

Add that to a new volume group:

vgcreate ibackup /dev/mapper/backupiscsi

Create a logical volume within the volume group:

lvcreate -L 1800GB -n backupvol /dev/ibackup

Put a file system on the logical volume:

mkfs.ext4 /dev/ibackup/backupvol

Add the logical volume to /etc/fstab to mount it on startup:

# Synology iSCSI target LUN-1
/dev/ibackup/backupvol /mnt/backup ext4 defaults,nofail,nobootwait 0 6

Get the UUID of the iSCSI drive:

ls -l /dev/disk/by-uuid | grep sdd1

Add the UUID to /etc/crypttab to be automatically prompted for the decrypt passphrase when you boot up Ubuntu:

backupiscsi UUID=693568ca-9334-4c19-8b01-881f2247ae0d none luks

If you found this interesting, you might want to check out my article Adding an external encrypted drive with LVM to Ubuntu Linux.

Hope you found this useful.

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Click to stream .m3u files in Ubuntu

I just recently heard about CCMixter.org on FLOSS Weekly. CCMixter.org is a resource and collaborative space for musicians and remixers. They have thousands of music tracks which can be downloaded, remixed, sampled, or streamed.

I recently did a fresh install of Ubuntu on the computer I was using, and clicking on any of CCMixter’s streaming links caused a window to pop up asking me if I wanted to play the stream using Rhythmbox or “Other”. Selecting Rhythmbox popped up Rhythmbox, but it wouldn’t play the stream. Googling around a bit led me to discussions of Rhythmbox brokenness going back to 2008, so I took a different tack.

I fired up Synaptic Package Manager and installed the VLC Media Player.

Then I clicked the gear icon on Unity’s upper right menu bar, selected “About this Computer”, clicked Default Applications, and changed the default application for Music to “VLC Media Player.”

Now when I click on a link to an .m3u stream, Ubuntu sends the link to VLC, and the music starts to play.

Hope you find this useful.

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Bring Pidgin’s window into front focus when there’s an inbound IM

I was talking to a co-worker about Pidgin not coming into focus when there’s a new, inbound IM. The Pidgin window used to come into focus, front and center, when I was running Ubuntu/Gnome and when running OpenSUSE/KDE, but when I upgraded my office desktop to Ubuntu/Unity it stopped behaving this way. My co-worker noticed the same behavior with Fedora17/Gnome. A new IM would come in, but the Pidgin IM window would remain in the background, hidden, unseen and unread.

I thought “There has to be a setting that controls this,” and there is…

  • Bring up Pidgin’s Buddy List
  • Click Tools > Plugins
  • Locate the Message Notification plugin and highlight it
  • At the bottom of the Plugins window is a Configure Plugin button. Click it
  • Under Notification Methods check both Raise conversation window and Present conversation window
  • Click Close

That’s it. The next time someone IM’s you, your Pidgin Conversation will pop up in the center of your screen, in front of all of your other windows.

Hope you find this useful.

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