Category Archives: Platform

Platform features, security updates, technical stuff

Announcing fc-userscan

NixOS manages dependencies in a very strict way—sometimes too strict? Here at Flying Circus, many users prefer to compile custom applications in home directories. They link them against libraries they have installed before by nix-env. This works well… until something is updated! On the next change anywhere down the dependency chain, libraries get new hashes in the Nix store, the garbage collector removes old versions, and user applications break until recompiled.

In this blog post, I would like to introduce fc-userscan. This little tool scans (home) directories recursively for Nix store references and registers them as per-user roots with the garbage collector. This way, dependencies will be protected even if they cease to be referenced from “official” Nix roots like the current-system profile or a user’s local Nix profile. After registering formerly unmanaged references with fc-userscan, one can fearlessly run updates and garbage collection.

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How to renew Puppet CA and server certificates in place

It used to run fine for years… but now the (deprecated) Puppet infrastructure at the Flying Circus is showing signs of aging. It’s not about server hardware or something like this (fully virtualized anyway) – it’s about SSL certificates of Puppet’s own SSL infrastructure. Time for a face lift.

In the following, I will describe what we did to renew both CA and Puppet server certificates. Despite that this problem should occur on every Puppet server running for a prolonged amount of time, I found remarkably few resources on the net (that did not involve completely replacing the CA) – so I’m going to share our findings.

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Release 2017_010 with many security updates

During the last weeks we have prepared a larger update for our Gentoo based VMs. It will include many basic libraries as well as added support for Python 3.5 and 3.6. A detailed list of affected packages and changes can be found as usual in our ChangeLog. Please review the list of updated packages for libraries and tools that may have compiled into your applications. While we have tried to avoid link-level compatibility issues, a small chance remains that applications will not start afterwards due to dynamic linkage problems. Recompiling usually  solves this kind a problem.

As the update is a bit bulky, we opted for a staged roll out during the week. Each VM will get an individual scheduled maintenance slot according to the agreed pre-announcement period. Development and staging VMs will already receive updates during this weekend.

Please feel free to contact our support if you need assistance.

Dirty Cow: Restarting all VMs

All VMs are currently affected by the “Dirty Cow” kernel bug. The upcoming release 2016_034 contains a kernel update which upgrades Linux to the unaffected version 4.4.28. As usual, the kernel update requires to reboot all VMs.

Schedule:

  • Tue 15 through Thu 17 November 2016: reboot staging VMs
  • Thu 17 through Thu 24 November 2016: reboot productive VMs.

VM reboots will be scheduled along the agreed maintenance windows. We will piggy-back a Qemu binary environment update which would require a separate reboot otherwise.

Vulnix v1.0 release

Intro

Back in May I introduced you to the development of vulnix, a tool which initially was done to find out whether a system (might) be affected by a security vulnerability. It does this by matching the derivations name with the product and version specified in the cpe language of the so-called CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures). In the meantime we introduced the tool to the community at the Berlin NixOS Meetup and got some wonderful input in which directions we might extend the features. We sprinted the next two days to improve the code quality and broaden the feature set.

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Old red telephone and an old computer in between cogs and wheels.

Sneak Preview: Upcoming FC Platform and Infrastructure Features

We are planning to implement some cool stuff for the Flying Circus hosting platform and its underlying infrastructure during the second half of this year. In this post, I will give a preview to technical improvements you can happily look forward to.

All of these improvements are included in the platform subscription (this is what the platform subscription is actually for!) so you don’t have to pay extra for any of them.

Continue reading Sneak Preview: Upcoming FC Platform and Infrastructure Features