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This blogpost is about how to install the semaphore user-interface for running ansible. Ansible is an automation language for automating IT infrastructures. It consists of command-line executables (ansible, ansible-playbook for example) that can run a single task using a module (using the ansible executable), or can run multiple tasks using multiple modules in order to perform more complex setup requirements (using the ansible-playbook executable). The downside of running IT tasks via the command-line is that there is no logging by default, unless someone decides to save the standard out to a file, which, if multiple people start doing that by hand will probably lead to a huge collection of text files which are hard to navigate. Also, when tasks are run via a common place, it’s an all or nothing situation: everybody has access to all the scripts, or to nothing.

This is where semaphore comes in: semaphore is a web-based user interface for running Ansible playbooks, for which you can define users, grant users access to certain templates (groups of playbooks, inventories (=groups of hosts) and ssh keys), which they can run, for which the output is saved in a database.

Semaphore is an alternative to Ansible Tower, which is a non-free product from RedHat. Semaphore is an open source project under active development, and is relatively “young”, which means it can (still) have “sharp edges”. Also Ansible Tower has more functionality.

An other feature from semaphore (and tower for that matter), is that any manipulation done via the web interface can also be done via a REST API. This means that if you use another language or product for the planning and/or deployment of (virtual, cloud, etc) machines which can do REST calls, or if you can craft REST calls with it, you can hand over the management of running Ansible for provisioning to a machine or a group of machines to semaphore, so tracking and logging of running Ansible is taken care of.

However, I did find the documentation of how to install semaphore in a real-life usable way not as verbose as I would like it. For that reason, I decided to write it down in this blogpost. Actually, most of the tasks are done using an Ansible playbook, so the installation is quite simple.

I am using a machine running Centos 7.3, I think this instruction is usable on any version of enterprise linux 7.

1. Install EPEL
EPEL has additional packages to the packages in the distribution repositories.

# rpm -i https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/epel-release-latest-7.noarch.rpm

2. Install Ansible and git

# yum install -y ansible git

Git is necessary for being able to clone from a git repository, and ansible is necessary to run a playbook. The playbook will actually update git to version 2.x because that is stated as a requirement on the semaphore repository.

3. Clone install_semaphore repository

# git clone https://gitlab.com/FritsHoogland/install_semaphore.git 

You might want to change the admin_(username|email|desc|password), which are the credentials for the semaphore superuser in the install_semaphore.yml file. If you like you can change the mysql credentials, however I do think the default settings are okay, because the mysql database will be hidden behind the firewall.

4. Run the semaphore install playbook from the repository

# ansible-playbook install_semaphore/install_semaphore.yml

Please mind this requires root to be allowed to sudo to any user.

Done!

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This is a quick post on using git on a server. I use my Synology NAS as a fileserver, but also as a git repository server. The default git package for Synology enables git usage on the command line, which means via ssh, or via web-DAV. Both require a logon to do anything with the repository. That is not very handy if you want to clone and pull from the repository in an automated way. Of course there are ways around that (basically setting up password-less authentication, probably via certificates), but I wanted simple, read-only access without authentication. If you installed git on a linux or unix server you get the binaries, but no daemon, which means you can only use ssh if you want to use that server for central git repositories.

Running git via inetd
What I did is using inetd daemon to launch the git daemon. On any linux or unix server with the inetd daemon, and on Synology too, because it uses linux under the covers, it’s easy to setup git as a server.

First, check /etc/services for the following lines:

git               9418/tcp                   # git pack transfer service
git               9418/udp                   # git pack transfer service

Next, add the following line in the inetd.conf (which is /etc/inetd.conf on my synology):

git stream tcp nowait gituser /usr/bin/git git daemon --inetd --verbose --export-all --base-path=/volume1/homes/gituser

What you should look for in your setup is:
– gituser: this is the user which is used to run the daemon. I created a user ‘gituser’ for this.
– /usr/bin/git: of course your git binary should be at that fully specified path, otherwise inetd can’t find it.
– git daemon:
— –inetd: notify the git executable that it is running under inetd
— –export-all: all git repositories underneath the base directory will be available
— –base-path: this makes the git root directory be set to this directory. In my case, I wanted to have all the repositories in the home directory of the gituser, which is /volume1/homes/gituser in my case.

And make the inetd deamon reload it’s configuration with kill -HUP:

# killall -HUP inetd

Please mind this is a simple and limited setup, if you want to set it up in a way with more granular security, you should look into gitolite for example.

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