Running Circles Around Detecting Containers

Recently my monitoring service warned me that my Raspberry Pi was not syncing its time any more. I logged into the devices and tried restarting systemd-timesyncd.service and it failed.

The error it presented was:

ConditionVirtualization=!container was not met

I was confused. Although I was running containers on this device, this was on the host! 😯

I checked the service definition and it indeed had this condition. Then I tried to look up the docs for the ContainerVirtualization setting and found out Systemd has a helper command that can be used to find out if it has been run inside a Container/VM/etc.

To my surprise running systemd-detect-virt determined it was being run inside a Podman container, although it was run on the host. I was totally confused. Does it detect any Container or being run in one? 😵‍💫

I tried to dig deeper, but the docs only tell you what known Container/VM solutions can be detected, but not what it uses to do so. So I searched the code of systemd-detect-virt for indications how it tried to detect Podman containers … and I found it: it looks for the existence of a file at /run/.containerenv. 😯

Looking whether this file existed on the host I found out: it did!!! 😵 How could this be? I checked another device running Podman and the file wasn’t there!?! 😵‍💫 … Then it dawned on me. I was running cAdvisor on the Raspberry Pi and it so happens that it wants /var/run to be mounted inside the container, /var/run just links to /run and independent of me mounting it read-only it creates the /run/.containerenv file!!! 🤯

I looked into /run/.containerenv and found out it was empty, so I removed it and could finally restart systemd-timesyncd.service. The /run/.containerenv file is recreated on every restart of the container, but at least I know what to look for. 😩

Dropbear vs SSH woes between Ubuntu LTSes

Imagine you’re using dropbear-initrd to log in to a server during boot for unlocking the hard disk encryption and you’re greeted with the following error after a reboot:

root@server: Permission denied (publickey).

🤨😓😖 You start to sweat … this looks like extra work you didn’t need right now. You try to remember: were there any updates lately that could have messed up the initrd? … deep breath, lets take it slowly.

First try to get SSH to spit out more details:

$ ssh -vvv server-boot
debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Offering public key: /home/user/.ssh/... RSA SHA256:... explicit
debug1: send_pubkey_test: no mutual signature algorithm

That doesn’t seem right … this worked before. The server is running Ubuntu 20.04 LTS and I’ve just upgraded my work machine to Ubuntu 22.04 LTS. I know that Dropbear doesn’t support ed25519 keys (at least not on the version on the server), that’s why I still use RSA keys for that. 🤔

Time to ask the Internet, but all the posts with a “no mutual signature algorithm” error message are years old … but most of them were circling around the SSH client having deprecated old key types (namely DSA keys). 😯

Can it be that RSA keys have also been deprecated? 😱 … I’ve recently upgraded my client machine 😶 … no way! … well, yes! That was exactly the problem.

Allowing RSA keys in the connection settings for that server allowed me to log in again 😎:

PubkeyAcceptedKeyTypes +ssh-rsa

But this whole detour unnecessarily wasted an hour of my life. 😓

My First Container-based Postgres Upgrade

Yesterday I did my first container-based PostgreSQL version upgrade. In my case the upgrade was from version 13 to 14. In hindsight I was quite naïve. 😅

I was always wondering why distros kept separate data directories for different versions … now I know: you can’t do in-place upgrades with PostgreSQL. You need to have separate data directories as well as both version’s binaries. 😵 Distros have their mechanisms for it, but in the container world you’re kind of on your own.

Well not really … it’s just different. I found there’s a project that specializes in exactly the tooling part of the upgrade. After a little trial an error (see below) it went quite smoothly.


In the end it came down to the following steps:

  1. Stop the old postgres container.
  2. Backup the old data directory (yay ZFS snapshots).
  3. Create the new postgres container (with a new data directory; in my case via Ansible)
  4. Stop the new postgres container.
  5. Run the upgrade. (see command below)
  6. Start the new postgres container.
  7. Run vacuumdb as suggested at the end of the upgrade. (see command below)

The Upgrade Command

I used the tianon/postgres-upgrade container for the upgrade. Since my directory layout didn’t follow the “default” structure I had to mount each version’s data directory separately.

docker run --rm \
-e POSTGRES_INITDB_ARGS="--no-locale --encoding=UTF8" \
-v /tmp/pg_upgrade:/var/lib/postgresql \
-v /tank/containers/postgres-13:/var/lib/postgresql/13/data \
-v /tank/containers/postgres-14:/var/lib/postgresql/14/data \

I set the POSTGRES_INITDB_ARGS to what I used when creating the new Postgres container’s data directory. This shouldn’t be necessary because we let the new Postgres container initialize the data directory. (see below) I left it in just to be safe. 🤷

I explicitly mounted something to the container’s /var/lib/postgresql directory in order to have access to the upgrade logs which are mentioned in error messages. (see below)

The Vacuumdb Command

Upgrading finishes with a suggestion like:

Upgrade Complete
Optimizer statistics are not transferred by pg_upgrade.
Once you start the new server, consider running:
/usr/lib/postgresql/14/bin/vacuumdb –all –analyze-in-stages

We can run the command in the new Postgres container:

docker exec postgres vacuumdb -U postgres --all --analyze-in-stages

We use the postgres user, because we didn’t specify a POSTGRES_USER when creating the database container.


When you’re not using the default directory structure there’re some pitfalls. Mounting the two versions’ data directories separately is easy enough … it says so in the README. It’s what it doesn’t say that makes it more difficult than necessary. 😞

Errors When Initializing the New Data Directory

The first error I encountered was that the new data directory would get initialized with the default initdb options. where I used an optimized cargo-culted incantation which was incompatible (in my case --no-locale --encoding=UTF8). The upgrade failed with the following error:

lc_collate values for database “postgres” do not match: old “C”, new “en_US.utf8”

So I made sure I created the new database container (with the correct initdb args) before the migration fixed this.

Extra Mounts for the Upgrade

What tripped me really up was that when something failed it said to look into a specific log file which I couldn’t find. 🤨 I had to also mount something to the /var/lib/postgres directory which then had all the upgrade log files. 😔

This also solved another of my problems where the upgrade tool wanted to start an instance of the Postgres database, but failed because it couldn’t find a specific socket … which also happens to be located in the directory mentioned above.

Authentication Errors After Upgrade

After the upgrade I had a lot of authentication errors although non of the passwords should have changed.

FATAL: password authentication failed for user “nextcloud”

After digging through the internet and comparing both the old and new data directories it looked like the password hashing method changed. It changed from md5 to scram-sha-256 (in pg_ hda.conf the line saying host all all all scram-sha-256). 😑Just re-setting (i.e. setting the same passwords again) via ALTER ROLE foo SET PASSWORD '...'; on all users fixed the issue.🤐

Moving LXD Containers From One Pool to Another

When I started playing with LXD I just accepted the default storage configuration which creates an image file and uses that to initialize a ZFS pool. Since I’m using ZFS as my main file system this seemed silly as LXD can use an existing dataset as a source for a storage pool. So I wanted to migrate my existing containers to the new storage pool.

Although others seemed to to have the same problem there was no ready answer. Digging through the documentation I finally found out that the lxc move  command had a -s  option … I had an idea. ? Here’s what I came up with …


First we create the dataset on the existing ZFS pool and add it to LXC.

sudo zfs create -o mountpoint=none mypool/lxd
lxc storage create pool2 zfs source=mypool/lxd

lxc storage list should show something like this now:

| pool1 |             | zfs    | /path/to/pool1.img | 2       |
| pool2 |             | zfs    | mypool/lxd         | 0       |

pool1 is the old pool backed by the image file and is used by some containers at the moment as can be seen in the “Used By” column. pool2 is added by not used by any contaiers yet.


We now try to move our containers to pool2.

# move container to pool2
lxc move some_container some_container-moved -s=pool2
# rename container back for sanity ;)
lxc move some_container-moved some_container

We can check with lxc storage list whether we succeeded.

| pool1 |             | zfs    | /path/to/pool1.img | 1       |
| pool2 |             | zfs    | mypool/lxd         | 1       |

Indeed pool2 is beeing used now. ? Just to be sure we check that zfs list -r mypool/lxd  also reflects this.

NAME                                  USED  AVAIL  REFER  MOUNTPOINT
mypool/lxd/containers                 1,08G  92,9G    24K  none
mypool/lxd/containers/some_container  1,08G  92,9G   704M  /var/snap/lxd/common/lxd/storage-pools/pool2/containers/some_container
mypool/lxd/custom                       24K  92,9G    24K  none
mypool/lxd/deleted                      24K  92,9G    24K  none
mypool/lxd/images                       24K  92,9G    24K  none
mypool/lxd/snapshots                    24K  92,9G    24K  none


⚠ Note that this only moves the container, but not the LXC image it was cloned off of.

We can repeat this until all containers we care about are moved over to pool2.


To prevent new containers to use pool1  we have to edit the default  profile.

# change devices.root.pool to pool2
lxc profile edit default

Finally …. when we’re happy with the migration and we’ve verified that everything works as expected we can now remove pool1.

lxc storage rm pool1



After reading how CloudFlare handles their PKI and that LetsEncrypt will use it I wanted to give CFSSL a shot.

Reading the project’s documentation doesn’t really help in building your own CA, but searching the Internet I found Fernando Barillas’ blog explaining how to create your own root certificate and how to create intermediate certificates from this.

I took it a step further I wrote a script generating new certificates for several services with different intermediates and possibly different configurations (e.g. depending on your distro and services certain cyphers (e.g. using ECC) may not be supported).
I also streamlined generating service specific key, cert and chain files. 😀

Have a look at the full Gist or just the most interesting part:

You’ll still have to deploy them yourself.

Update 2016-10-04:
Fixed some issues with this Gist.

  • Fixed a bug where intermediate CA certificates weren’t marked as CAs any more
  • Updated the example CSRs and the script so it can now be run without errors

Update 2017-10-08:

  • Cleaned up `` by extracting functions for generating root CA, intermediate CA and service keys.

too long for Unix domain socket

If you’re an Ansible user and encounter the following error:

unix_listener: "..." too long for Unix domain socket

you need to set the control_path option in your ansible.cfg file to tell SSH to use shorter path names for the control socket. You should have a look at the ssh_config(5) man page  (under


) for a list of possible substitutions.

I chose:

control_path = %(directory)s/ssh-%%C

Making RabbitMQ Recover from (a)Mnesia

In the company I work for we’re using RabbitMQ to offload non-timecritical processing of tasks. To be able to recover in case RabbitMQ goes down our queues are durable and all our messages are marked as persistent. We generally have a very low number of messages in flight at any moment in time. There’s just one queue with a decent amount of them: the “failed messages” dump.

The Problem

It so happens that after a botched update to the most recent version of RabbitMQ (3.5.3 at the time) our admins had to nuke the server and install it from scratch. They had made a backup of RabbitMQ’s Mnesia database and I was tasked to recover the messages from it.
This is the story of how I did it.

Since our RabbitMQ was configured to persist all the messages this should be generally possible. Surely I wouldn’t be the first one to attempt this. ?

Looking through the Internet it seems there’s no way of ex/importing a node’s configuration if it’s not running. I couldn’t find any documentation on how to import a Mnesia backup into a new node or extract data from it into a usable form. ?

The Idea

My idea was to setup a virtual machine (running Debian Wheezy) with RabbitMQ and then to somehow make it read/recover and run the broken server’s database.

In the following you’ll see the following placeholders:


      on Debian (see RabbitMQ’S file locations)

  • BROKEN_NODENAME the $RABBITMQ_NODENAME of the broken server we have backups from
  • BROKEN_HOST the hostname of said server

One more thing before we start: if I say “fix permissions” below I mean

sudo chown -R rabbitmq:rabbitmq $RABBITMQ_MNESIA_DIR

1st Try

My first try was to just copy the broken node’s Mnesia files to the VM’s $RABBITMQ_MNESIA_DIR failed. The files contained node names that RabbitMQ tried to reach but were unreachable from the VM.

Error description:
            "Mnesia could not connect to any nodes."},

So I tried to be a little bit more picky on what I copied.

First I had to reset $RABBITMQ_MNESIA_DIR by deleting it and have RabbitMQ recreate it. (I needed to do this way too many times ?)

sudo service rabbitmq-server stop
sudo service rabbitmq-server start

Stopping RabbitMQ I tried to feed it the broken server’s data in piecemeal fashion. This time I only copied the


  and restarted RabbitMQ.

RabbitMQ Management Interface lists all the queues, but the node it thinks they're on is "down"
RabbitMQ’s management interface lists all the queues, but it thinks the node they’re on is “down”

Looking at the web management interface there were all the queues we were missing, but they were “down” and clicking on them told you

The object you clicked on was not found; it may have been deleted on the server.

Copying any more data didn’t solve the issue. So this was a dead end. ?

2nd Try

So I thought why doesn’t the RabbitMQ in the VM pretend to be the exact same node as on the broken server?

So I created a




  in there.

I copied the backup to $RABBITMQ_MNESIA_DIR (now with the new node name) and fixed the permissions.

Now starting RabbitMQ failed with

ERROR: epmd error for host $BROKEN_HOST: nxdomain (non-existing domain)

I edited


  to add $BROKEN_HOST to the list of names that resolve to

Now restarting RabbitMQ failed with yet another error:

Error description:

Now what? Why don’t I try to give it the Mnesia files piece by piece again?

  • Stop RabbitMQ
  • Copy

      files in again and fix their permissions

  • Start RabbitMQ

All our queues were back and all their configuration seemed OK as well. But we still didn’t have our messages back yet.

RabbitMQ Data Recovery Screen Shot 2 - Node Up, Queues Empty
The queues have been restored, but they have no messages in them


So I tried to copy more and more files over from the backup repeating the above steps. I finally reached my goal after copying








. Fixing their permissions and starting RabbitMQ it had all the queues restored with all the messages in them. ?

RabbitMQ Data Recovery Screen Shot 3 - Messages Restored
Queues and messages restored

Now I could use ordinary methods to extract all the messages. Dumping all the messages and examining them they looked OK. Publishing the recovered messages to the new server I was pretty euphoric. ?