Archives For debian

When you create firewall rules with iptables on Linux, you want to make them persistent over reboot, because they are not by default. Different Linux distributions have different methods of achieving this, although the basics are similar. I’ve been working with Debian, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and in this blog I’ll describe how to configure each of them to save your iptables rules across reboots.

First the good news: the iptables package, the administration tool for packet filtering and NAT, always ships with Linux distributions. The package also includes the ‘iptables-save‘ and ‘iptables-restore‘ tools. These do what you might already expect from their names: save or restore iptables rules. ‘iptables-save‘ outputs to stdout, which you can save to a file:

iptables-save > /etc/iptables/rules

To load these again:

iptables-restore < /etc/iptables/rules

These really are the basics that work across Linux distributions and that you can use in your custom boot scripts. In addition to this, each Linux distribution has its own way to make this process easier.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL):

RHEL (and the same counts for CentOS and Fedora) has some built in mechanism to help automate this. First of all, there are some settings in ‘/etc/sysconfig/iptables-config‘:


You can set them to “yes” to have persistent iptables rules. In fact, there are many more settings in that file that allow for finer control. That’s all, since the rest is handled automatically.

At any time it’s possible to save the current state. Just run:

service iptables save

And it will, like on reboot, save the rules to: ‘/etc/sysconfig/iptables‘. Pretty easy and pretty powerful!

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES 11):

suse-logo SLES (and the same counts for OpenSUSE) is yet another story. SLES 11 now ships with SUSE Firewall. Instead of defining the rules yourself, you tell Yast what you want to achieve and it generates the needed iptables rules for you. Although SUSE Firewall does allow you to add custom rules, it isn’t really designed for it. The tool is pretty nice though, because it integrates fully with Yast and allows for easy maintenance of rules. When you install a package, it automatically opens the associated port, for example.

This all might seems a bit scary for us sysadmins, right?! Don’t worry, it’s still possible to manage rules on your own by disabling SUSE Firewall. But have a look at it first, as you might as well like it.

To start the SUSE Firewall admin module, run:

yast2 firewall

The interface is pretty self-explaining. Afterwards, to activate the changes run:


It’s even possible to by-pass Yast, and edit the config file directly. It’s safe to combine the two methods, no problem.

vim /etc/sysconfig/SuSEfirewall2

For example, to open a port you’d edit the ‘FW_SERVICES_EXT_TCP’ variable. Just make a list (space separated) with protocols you want to allow. These protocols refer to files in ‘/etc/sysconfig/SuSEfirewall2.d’.

Like with using Yast, activate the changes when you’re done.


I’ve used it for some time and it’s actually pretty easy. It just depends on the project whether or not to use it, I guess.

debian-logoWhen I was using Debian (same counts for Ubuntu as well), I used to create a small shell script and place it in ‘/etc/network/if-pre-up.d’. Just before the network interface is brought up, the iptables rules will be restored. The idea is to do the same when the interface goes down (use the ‘/etc/network/if-post-down.d’ folder to place the script in). Using these thechniques, you can create something and have fine control over it.

Recently I heard about a tool called ‘iptables-persistent’ that can automate this out-of-the-box. Here’s the package description:

iptables-persistent - boot-time loader for iptables rules: Current iptables rules can be saved to the configuration file '/etc/iptables/rules.v4'. These rules will then be loaded automatically during system startup.

To install it:

sudo apt-get install iptables-persistent

During install, the program asks to save both ipv4 and ipv6 iptables rules. Please note this counts for Wheezy, the current stable release uses the file ‘/etc/iptables/rules’.

To manually save the iptables rules, run:

/etc/init.d/iptables-persistent save

Although this should be done automatically when you reboot. It looks like the Red Hat way of doing things, but just with an extra package installed.

iptables all over the place, just with different tooling to automate it 🙂

I’ve been building redundant storage solutions for years. At first, I used it for our webcluster storage. Nowadays it’s the base of our CloudStack Cloud-storage. If you ask me, the best way to create a redundant pair of Linux storage servers using Open Source software, is to use DRBD. Over the years it has proven to be rock solid to me.

DRBD is a Distributed Replicated Block Device. You can think of DRBD as RAID-1 between two servers. Data is mirrored from the primary to the secondary server. When the primary fails, the secondary takes over and all services remain online. DRBD provides tools for failover but it does not handled the actual failover. Cluster management software like Heartbeat and PaceMaker are made for this.

In this post I’ll show you how to install and configure DRBD, create file systems using LVM2 on top of the DRBD device, serve the file systems using NFS and manage the cluster using Heartbeat.

Installing and configuring DRBD
I’m using mostly Debian so I’ll focus on this OS. I did setup DRBD on CentOS as well. You need to use the ELREPO repository to find the right packages.

Squeeze-backports has a newer version of DRBD. If you, like me, want to use this version instead of the one in Squeeze itself, use this method to do so:

echo "
deb squeeze-backports main contrib non-free
" >> /etc/apt/sources.list

echo "Package: drbd8-utils
Pin: release n=squeeze-backports
Pin-Priority: 900
" > /etc/apt/preferences.d/drbd

Then install the DRBD utils:

apt-get update
apt-get install drbd8-utils

As the DRBD-servers work closely together, it’s important to keep the time synchronised. Install a NTP system for this job.

apt-get install ntp ntpdate

You also need a kernel module but that one is in the stock Debian kernel. If you’re compiling kernels yourself, make sure to include this module. When you’re ready, load the module:

modprobe drbd

Verify if all went well by checking the active modules:

lsmod | grep drbd

The expected output is something like:

drbd 191530 4 
lru_cache 12880 1 drbd
cn 12933 1 drbd

Most online tutorials instruct you to edit ‘/etc/drbd.conf’. I’d suggest not to touch that file and create one in /etc/drbd.d/ instead. That way, your changes are never overwritten and it’s clear what local changed you made.

vim /etc/drbd.d/redundantstorage.res

Enter this configuration:

resource redundantstorage {
 protocol C;
 startup { wfc-timeout 0; degr-wfc-timeout 120; }

disk { on-io-error detach; }
 on {
  device /dev/drbd0;
  disk /dev/sda3;
  meta-disk internal;
 on {
  device /dev/drbd0;
  disk /dev/sda3;
  meta-disk internal;

Make sure your hostnames match the hostnames in this config file as it will not work otherwise. To see the current hostname, run:

uname -n

Modify /etc/hosts, /etc/resolv.conf and/or /etc/hostname to your needs and do not continue until the actual hostname matches the one you set in the configuration above.

Also, make sure you did all the steps so far on both servers.

It’s now time to initialise the DRBD device:

drbdadm create-md redundantstorage
drbdadm up redundantstorage
drbdadm attach redundantstorage
drbdadm syncer redundantstorage
drbdadm connect redundantstorage

Run this on the primary server only:

drbdadm -- --overwrite-data-of-peer primary redundantstorage

Monitor the progress:

cat /proc/drbd

Start the DRBD service on both servers:

service drbd start

You now have a raw block device on /dev/drbd0 that is synced from the primary to the secondary server.

Using the DRBD device
Let’s create a filesystem on our new DRBD device. I prefer using LVM since that makes it easy to manage the partitions later on. But you may also simply use the /dev/drbd0 device as any block device on its own.

Initialize LVM2:

pvcreate /dev/drbd0
vgcreate redundantstorage /dev/drbd0

We now have a LVM2 volume group called ‘redundantstorage’ on device /dev/drbd0

Create the desired LVM partitions on it like this:

lvcreate -L 1T -n web_files redundantstorage
lvcreate -L 250G -n other_files redundantstorage

The partitions you create are named like the volume group. You can now use ‘/dev/redundantstorage/web_files’ and ‘/dev/redundantstorage/other_files’ like you’d otherwise use ‘/dev/sda3’ etc.

Before we can actually use them, we need to create a file system on top:

mkfs.ext4 /dev/redundantstorage/web_files
mkfs.ext4 /dev/redundantstorage/other_files

Finally, mount the file systems:

mkdir /redundantstorage/web_files
mkdir /redundantstorage/other_files
mount /dev/redundantstorage/web_files /redundantstorage/web_files
mount /dev/redundantstorage/other_files /redundantstorage/other_files

Using the DRBD file systems
Two more steps are needed to set up before we can test our new redundant storage cluster: Heartbeat to manage the cluster and NFS to make use of it. Let’s start with NFS, so Heartbeat will be able to manage that late on as well.

To install NFS server, simply run:

apt-get install nfs-kernel-server

Then setup what folders you want to export using your NFS server.

vim /etc/exports

And enter this configuration:


Pay attention to the the ‘fsid’ parameter. It is really important because it tells the clients that the file system on the primary and secondary are both the same. If you omit this parameter, the clients will ‘hang’ and wait for the old primary to come back online after a fail over happens. Since this is not what we want, we need to tell the clients the other server is simply the same. Fail-over will then happen almost without notice. Most tutorials I read do not tell you about this crucial step.

Make sure you have all this setup on both servers. Since we want Heartbeat to manage our NFS server, we need not to start NFS on boot. To do that, run:

update-rc.d -f nfs-common remove
update-rc.d -f nfs-kernel-server remove

Basic Heartbeat configuration
Install the heartbeat packages is simple:

apt-get install heartbeat

If you’re on CentOS, have a look at the EPEL repository. I’ve successfully setup Heartbeat with those packages as well.

To configure Heartbeat:

vim /etc/ha.d/

Enter this configuration:

autojoin none
auto_failback off
keepalive 2
warntime 5
deadtime 10
initdead 20
bcast eth0
logfile /var/log/heartbeat-log
debugfile /var/log/heartbeat-debug

I set ‘auto_failback’ to off, since I do not want another fail-over when the old primary comes back. If your primary server has better hardware than the secondary one, you may want to set this to ‘on’ instead.

The parameter ‘deadtime’ tells Heartbeat to declare the other node dead after this many seconds. Heartbeat will send a heartbeat every ‘keepalive’ number of seconds.

Protect your heartbeat setup with a password:

echo "auth 3
3 md5 your_secret_password
" > /etc/ha.d/authkeys
chmod 600 /etc/heartbeat/authkeys

You need to select an ip-address that will be your ‘service’-address. Both servers have their own 10.10.0.x ip-address, so choose another one in the same range. I use in this example. Why we need this? Simply because you cannot know to which server you should connect. That’s why we will instruct Heartbeat to manage an extra ip-address and make that alive on the current primary server. When clients connect to this ip-address it will always work.

In the ‘haresources’ file you describe all services Heartbeat manages. In our case, these services are:
– service ip-address
– DRBD disk
– LVM2 service
– Two filesystems
– NFS daemons

Enter them in the order they need to start. When shutting down, Heartbeat will run them in reversed order.

vim /etc/ha.d/haresources

Enter this configuration: \
IPaddr:: \
drbddisk::redundantstorage \
lvm2 \
Filesystem::/dev/redundantstorage/web_files::/redundantstorage/web_files::ext4::nosuid,usrquota,noatime \
Filesystem::/dev/redundantstorage/other_files::/redundantstorage/other_files::ext4::nosuid,usrquota,noatime \
nfs-common \

Use the same Heartbeat configuration on both servers. In the ‘haresources’ file you specify one of the nodes to be the primary. In our case it’s ‘storage-server0’. When this server is or becomes unavailable, Heartbeat will start the services it knows on the other node, ‘storage-server1’ in this case (as specified in the config file).

Wrapping up
DRBD combined with Heartbeat and NFS creates a powerful, redundant storage solution all based on Open Source software. When using the right hardware you will be able to achieve great performance with this setup as well. Think about RAID controllers with SSD-cache and don’t forget the Battery Backup Unit so you can enable the Write Back Cache.

Enjoy building your redundant storage!

I’ve had some trouble when using the Mac OSX Terminal app for some time now. Until today, it just gave me some annoying warnings from time to time. Like when installing an application with apt-get in Debian:

perl: warning: Setting locale failed.
perl: warning: Please check that your locale settings:
LANGUAGE = (unset),
LC_ALL = (unset),
LANG = “en_US.UTF-8”
are supported and installed on your system.
perl: warning: Falling back to the standard locale (“C”).
locale: Cannot set LC_CTYPE to default locale: No such file or directory
locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default locale: No such file or directory

It did work, so nothing too serious. I’ve also found applications, like iotop for example, that refuses to start when LC_ALL was unset. But a quick


made the application start, so I didn’t take the time to investigate it further. Today I run into a more serious issue that cost me quite some time to figure out.

I had stopped the pure-ftpd deamon to do some maintenance and then started it again. It did start without error, but connecting failed:

server:~# ftp
Connected to
perl: warning: Setting locale failed.

Nothing had changed in the ftp configuration. After some debugging and trial & error, I found out that when I started the deamon from within a shell on Ubuntu it worked, but when I started it within a shell on my MacBook, it didn’t.

When looking at the locales I found:

server:~# locale
locale: Cannot set LC_CTYPE to default locale: No such file or directory
locale: Cannot set LC_ALL to default locale: No such file or directory

Notice the two errors at the top. I talked to a colleague about this and he suggested looking at the Terminal app settings. There I found a setting called “Set locale environment variables on startup” which was activated. The setting is located in Preferences | Settings | Advanced. I’ve unchecked the button now as you can see in this screenshot:

When closing the Terminal app, and reopening it again, I tried again:

server:~# locale

No more errors! I tried restarting the pure-ftpd deamon from my Terminal app and it now works as expected. Even the warnings and errors when installing applications in Debian (apt-get) are gone. In fact, it seems this is the way it is supposed to work.

Glad I’ve fixed this 🙂

Update: As Reza mentions in the comments, it’s also possible to fix this problem on the server side. This is the best way to go if you want to fix this for your users. Thanks Reza!

I’m running Keepalived on our loadbalancers for many years and I’m really happy with it. Today I run into an issue that took me some time to solve. I thought I’d share it 🙂

In my current setup I have a pair of Debian Squeeze boxes running version 1.1.20. Since I’m rolling out ipv6 at the moment, I need to upgrade to 1.2.2. Fortunately, Debian provides this version in Squeeze-Backports.

So, I decided to upgrade the Backup loadbalancer first (lb-1). It was a simple ‘apt-get’ procedure to get it installed. But soon these errors popped up in my syslog:

Jun 16 21:12:25 lb-1 Keepalived_vrrp: bogus VRRP packet received on bond1 !!!
Jun 16 21:12:25 lb-1 Keepalived_vrrp: VRRP_Instance(CLOUD_MGT_GW) ignoring received advertisment...
Jun 16 21:12:25 lb-1 Keepalived_vrrp: receive an invalid passwd!

No messages were to be found in the primary loadbalancer, lb-0. The two loadbalancers weren’t talking to each other any more. I did’t try a failover, as this apparently wouldn’t work. To be sure, I stopped keepalived on the lb-1.

Using tcpdump I found the problem: version 1.1.20 uses a password in its broadcast advertisement that was truncated to the first 7 characters, while the version 1.2.2 uses the full length password, as configured in /etc/keepalived/keepalived.conf. This of course did not match, and so they refused to talk to each other.

The solution was simple: I changed the password in the version 1.2.2 loadbalancer, to be 7 characters long. Then restarted keepalived, and all was working again. After upgrading both loadbalancers, I changed back the password to the longer version and since the versions are now both 1.2.2 it still worked 🙂