Backup Route 53 zones

We have all heard about DNS catastrophes.  I just read about horror story on reddit the other day, where an Azure root DNS zone was accidentally deleted with no backup.  I experienced a similar disaster a few years ago – a simple DNS change managed to knock out internal DNS for an entire domain, which contained hundreds of records.  Reading the post hit close to home, uncovering some of my own past anxiety, so I began poking around for solutions.  Immediately, I noticed that backing up DNS records is usually skipped over as part of the backup process.  Folks just tend to never do it, for whatever reason.

I did discover, though, that backing up DNS is easy.  So I decided to fix the problem.

I wrote a simple shell script that dumps out all Route53 zones for a given AWS account to a json file, and uploads the zones to an S3 bucket.  The script is a handful lines, which is perfect because it doesn’t take much effort to potentially save your bacon.

If you don’t host DNS in AWS, the script can be modified to work for other DNS providers (assuming they have public API’s).

Here’s the script:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

set -e

# Dump route 53 zones to a text file and upload to S3.

# Use full paths for cron

# Dump all zones to a file and upload to s3
function backup_all_zones () {
  local zones
  # Enumerate all zones
  zones=$($CLIPATH/aws route53 list-hosted-zones | jq -r '.HostedZones[].Id' | sed "s/\/hostedzone\///")
  for zone in $zones; do
  echo "Backing up zone $zone"
  $CLIPATH/aws route53 list-resource-record-sets --hosted-zone-id $zone > $BACKUP_DIR/$zone.json

  # Upload backups to s3
  $CLIPATH/aws s3 cp $BACKUP_DIR s3://$BACKUP_BUCKET --recursive --sse

# Create backup directory if it doesn't exist
mkdir -p $BACKUP_DIR
# Backup up all the things
time backup_all_zones

Be sure to update the <user> and <bucket> in the script to match your own environment settings.  Dumping the DNS records to json is nice because it allows for a more programmatic way of working with the data.  This script can be run manually, but is much more useful if run automatically.  Just add the script to a cronjob and schedule it to dump DNS periodically.

For this script to work, the aws cli and jq need to be installed.  The installation is skipped in this post, but is trivial.  Refer to the links for instructions.

The aws cli needs to be configured to use an API key with read access from Route53 and the ability to write to S3.  Details are skipped for this step as well – be sure to consult the AWS documentation on setting up IAM permissions for help with setting up API keys.  Another, simplified approach is to use a pre-existing key with admin credentials (not recommended).

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Backing up Jenkins configurations to S3

If you have worked with Jenkins for any extended length of time you quickly realize that the Jenkins server configurations can become complicated.  If the server ever breaks and you don’t have a good backup of all the configuration files, it can be extremely painful to recreate all of the jobs that you have configured.  And most recently if you have started using the Jenkins workflow libraries, all of your custom scripts and coding will disappear if you don’t back it up.

Luckily, backing up your Jenkins job configurations is a fairly simple and straight forward process.  Today I will cover one quick and dirty way to backup configs using a Jenkins job.

There are some AWS plugins that will backup your Jenkins configurations but I found that it was just as easy to write a little bit of bash to do the backup, especially since I wanted to backup to S3, which none of the plugins I looked at handle.  In genereal, the plugins I looked at either felt a little bit too heavy for what I was trying to accomplish or didn’t offer the functionality I was looking for.

If you are still interested in using a plugin, here are a few to check out:

Keep reading if none of the above plugins look like a good fit.

The first step is to install the needed dependencies on your Jenkins server.  For the backup method that I will be covering, the only tools that need to be installed are aws cli, tar and rsync.  Tar and rsync should already be installed and to get the aws cli you can download and install it with pip, from the Jenkins server that has the configurations you want to back up.

pip install awscli

After the prerequisites have been installed, you will need to create your Jenkins job.  Click New Item -> Freestyle and input a name for the new job.

jenkins job name

Then you will need to configure the job.

The first step will be figuring out how often you want to run this backup.  A simple strategy would be to backup once a day.  The once per day strategy is illustrated below.

backup periodically

Note the ‘H’ above means to randomize when the job runs over the hour so that if other jobs were configured they would try to space out the load.

The next step is to backup the Jenkins files.  The logic is all written in bash so if you are familiar it should be easy to follow along.

# Delete all files in the workspace
rm -rf *

# Create a directory for the job definitions
mkdir -p $BUILD_ID/jobs

# Copy global configuration files into the workspace

# Copy keys and secrets into the workspace
cp $JENKINS_HOME/identity.key.enc $BUILD_ID/
cp $JENKINS_HOME/secret.key $BUILD_ID/
cp $JENKINS_HOME/secret.key.not-so-secret $BUILD_ID/
cp -r $JENKINS_HOME/secrets $BUILD_ID/

# Copy user configuration files into the workspace
cp -r $JENKINS_HOME/users $BUILD_ID/

# Copy custom Pipeline workflow libraries
cp -r $JENKINS_HOME/workflow-libs $BUILD_ID

# Copy job definitions into the workspace
rsync -am --include='config.xml' --include='*/' --prune-empty-dirs --exclude='*' $JENKINS_HOME/jobs/ $BUILD_ID/jobs/

# Create an archive from all copied files (since the S3 plugin cannot copy folders recursively)
tar czf jenkins-configuration.tar.gz $BUILD_ID/

# Remove the directory so only the tar.gz gets copied to S3
rm -rf $BUILD_ID

Note that I am not backing up the job history because the history isn’t important for my uses.  If the history IS important, make sure to add a line to backup those locations.  Likewise, feel free to modify and/or update anything else in the script if it suits your needs any better.

The last step is to copy the backup to another location.  This is why we installed aws cli earlier.  So here I am just uploading the tar file to an S3 bucket, which is versioned (look up how to configure bucket versioning if you’re not familiar).

export AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID="xxx"

# Upload archive to S3
echo "Uploading archive to S3"
aws s3 cp jenkins-configuration.tar.gz s3://<bucket>/jenkins-backup/

# Remove tar.gz after it gets uploaded to S3
rm -rf jenkins-configuration.tar.gz

Replace the AWS_DEFAULT_REGION with the region where the bucket lives (typically us-east-1), make sure to update the AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY to use an account with access to write to AWS S3 (not covered here).  The final thing to note, <bucket> should be replaced to use your own bucket.

The backup process itself is usually pretty fast unless the Jenkins server has a massive amount of jobs and configurations.  Once you have configured the job, feel free to run it once to test if it works.  If the job worked and returns as completed, go check your S3 bucket and make sure the tar.gz file was uploaded.  If you are using versioning there should just be one file, and if you choose the “show versions” option you will see something similar to the following.

s3 backup

If everything went okay with your backup and upload to s3 you are done.  Common issues configuring this backup method are choosing the correct AWS bucket, region and credentials.  Also, double check where all of your Jenkins configurations live in case there aren’t in a standard location.

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Intro to Hyperterm

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Hyperterm (not to be confused with hyperterminal) is a cool new project that brings javascript to the terminal.  Basically, Hyperterm allows for a wide variety of customization and extension to be added to the terminal, yet doesn’t add extra bloat and keeps things fast.  For those who don’t know, Hyperterm is based on the electron project which leverages nodejs to build desktop applications that are cross platform.

At its simplest, Hyperterm is a drop in replacement for other shells, like iterm2 or the default terminal app that comes packaged with most OS’s.  Since Hyperterm is built on top of node (via Electron) it is by default cross platform so works on  Mac and Linux and Windows soon.  Obviously this is a win because you can port your configuration to different platforms and don’t need to reconfigure anything, and can also store your configuration in source control so that if your machine ever dies or you get a new one, you have a nice place to pick things up again, which is pretty slick.

If you know javascript, you can already start hacking on the look and feel of Hyperterm, the Chromium browser tools are literally built into it (cmd+option+i).


To get started, head over to the official Hyperterm website and download the latest release.

Once that is done and you go through the installation process you are ready to get started.  Just fire up Hyperterm and you are good to go.


The stock Hyperterm is definitely usable.  The real power though, comes from the flexibility and design of the plugin system and configuration files which makes customization really easy to get going with and really powerful.


Hyperterm uses its own configuration file to extend the basic functionality.  The docs are a great resource for learning more about customization and configuration.

The process of changing themes or adding additional functionality is pretty straight forward.  All the plugins that Hyperterm uses are just npm modules, so can be installed and managed via npm.  So for example, to change the default theme, you would open up your ~/.hyperterm.js file.

Look for the “plugins” section.

plugins: [],

Add the desired plugin.

plugins: [

And then reload hyperterm to pick up the new configuration by pressing (Cmd+Shift+R) or by clicking View -> Reload.  You should notice the new theme right away.  A nice status line should show up at the bottom of the terminal because of the ‘hyperline’ package, and there was practically no time spent enabling the functionality, which is a big win in my opinion.

For more ideas, definitely go check out the awesome-hyperterm project.  This repo is a great place to find out more about hyperterm and other cool projects that are related.  The official docs are also a great resource for getting started as well as finding some ideas.

Finally, you can also run,

npm search hyperterm

To get a full listing of npm projects with hyperterm in their name for even more ideas.  Outside of the plugins, you can easily hack on the configuration file itself to test out how things work.  Again, the config is just javascript so if you know JS it is easy to get started modifying things.

Additionally, you can tweak the configuration by hand to customize things like font sizes, colors, cursor, etc. without having to install or use any plugins.  The process to customize these values is similar to installing plugins, just pop open the ~/.hypertem.js file, make any adjustments, then reload the terminal and you should be good to go.


The Hyperterm project is still very new but it is already capable of being the default terminal.  As the project grows in popularity, there will be more and more options for customization and the terminal itself will continue to improve.  It is exciting to see something new in the terminal emulator space because there are so few options.  It will be cool to see what new developments are in the works for the project.

It is definitely hard to adjust to something new but it is also good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes as well.  There are lots of things to poke around at and plugins to try out with Hyperterm.

I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun when I was fiddling around with terminal settings.  So at the very least, if you don’t switch full time to Hyperterm, give it a try and see if it is a good fit.

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Easily login to Rancher containers locally

Sometimes managing containers through the Rancher web console can be tedious and painful.  Especially if you need to copy/paste things into or out of the terminal.  I recently discovered a nice little project on Github called Rancher SSH which allows you to connect to a container running in your Rancher environment as if it was local to the machine you are working on, much like SSH and hence the name.

I am still playing around with the functionality but so far it has been very nice and is very easy to get started with.  To get started you can either install it via Homebrew or with Golang.  I chose to use the homebrew option.

brew install fangli/dev/rancherssh

After it is finished installing (it might take a minute or two), you should have access to the rancherssh command from the CLI.  You might need to source your shell in order to pick up tab completion for the command but you should be able to run the command and get some output.


In order to do anything useful with this tool, you will first need to create an API key for rancherssh in Rancher.  Navigate to the environment you’d like to create the key for and then click the API tab in Rancher.  Then click  the “Add Environment API Key” to bring up the dialogue to create a new key.

add api key

After you create your key make not of the Access key (username)  and Secret key (password).  You will need these to configure rancherssh in the step below.  First, create a file somewhere that is easy to remember, called config.yml and populate it, similar to the following, updating the endpoint, access key and secret key.

endpoint: https://your.rancher.server/v1
user: access_key
password: secret_key

That’s pretty much it.  Make sure the endpoint matches your environment correctly, otherwise you should now be able to connect to a container in your Rancher environment.  You’ll need to make sure you run the rancherssh command from the same directory that you configured your config.yml file, but otherwise it should just work.

rancherssh my-stack_container_1

Optionally you can provide all of the configuration information to the CLI and just skip the config file completely.

rancherssh --endpoint="https://your.rancher.server/v1" --user="access_key" --password="secret_key" my-test-container_1

There is one last thing to mention.  rancherssh provides a nice fuzzy matching mechanism for connecting to containers.  For example, if you can’t remember which containers are available to a stack in Rancher you can run a pattern to match the stack, and rancherssh will tell you which containers are running in the stack and allow you to choose which one to connect to.

ranchserssh %my-stack%

If there are multiple containers this command will allow you to pick which one to connect to.

Searching for container %my-stack%
We found more than one containers in system:
[1] my-stack_container_1, Container ID 1i91308 in project 1a216, IP Address
[2] my-stack_container_2, Container ID 1i94034 in project 1a216, IP Address
[3] my-stack_container_3, Container ID 1i94036 in project 1a216, IP Address

I didn’t have any issues at all getting started with this tool, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  Especially if you do a lot of work in your Rancher containers.  It is fast, easy to use and is really useful for the times that using the Rancher UI is too cumbersome.

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Bootstrap servers to a Rancher environment

If you’re not familiar already, Rancher is an orchestration and scheduling tool for containers.  I have written a little bit about Rancher in the past but haven’t covered much on the specifics about how to manage a Rancher environment.  One cool thing about Rancher is its “single pane of glass” approach to managing servers and containers, which allows users and admins to quickly and easily manage complicated environments.  In this post I’ll be covering how to quickly and automatically add servers to your Rancher environment.

One of the manual steps that can(and in my opinion should) be automated is the server bootstrapping process.  The Rancher web interface allows users to add hosts across different cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCE, etc) and importantly the ability to add a custom host.  This custom host registration is the piece that allows us to automate the host addition process by exposing a registration token via the Rancher API.  One important thing to note if you are going to be adding hosts automatically is that you will need to actually create the entries necessary in the environment that you bootstrap servers to.  So for example, if you create a new environment you will either need to programatically hit the API or in the web interface navigate to Infrastructure -> Add Host to populate the necessary tokens and entries.

Once you have populated the API with the values needed, you will need to create an API token to allow the server(s) that are bootstrapping to connect to the Rancher server to add themselves.  If you haven’t done this before, in the environment you’d like to allow access to navigate to API -> Add Environment API Key -> name it and make a note of key that gets generated.

rancher api

That’s pretty much all of the prep work you need to do to your Rancher environment for this method to work.  The next step is to make a script to bootstrap a server when it gets created.  The logic for this bootstrap process can be boiled down to the following snippet.


INTERNAL_IP=$(ip add show eth0 | awk '/inet/ {print $2}' | cut -d/ -f1 | head -1)

RANCHER_URL=$(curl -su $TOKEN $SERVER/v1/registrationtokens?projectId=$PROJID | head -1 | grep -nhoe 'registrationUrl[^},]*}' | egrep -hoe 'https?:.*[^"}]')

docker run \
  -e CATTLE_HOST_LABELS='your=label' \
  -d --privileged --name rancher-bootstrap \
  -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
  rancher/agent:$AGENT_VER $RANCHER_URL

The script is pretty straight forward.  It attempts to gather the internal IP address of the server being created, so that it can add it to the Rancher environment with a unique name.  Note that there are a number of variables that need to get set to reflect.   One that uses the DNS name of the Rancher server, one for the token that was generated in the step above and one for the project ID, which can be found by navigating to the Environment and then looking at the URL for /env/xxxx.

After we have all the needed information and updated the script, we can curl the Rancher server (this won’t work if you didn’t populate the API in the steps above or if your keys are invalide) with the registration token.  Finally, start a docker container with the agent version set (check your Rancher server version and match to that) along with the URL obtained from the curl command.

The final step is to get the script to run when the server is provisioned.  There are many ways to do this and this step will vary depending a number of different factors,  but in this post I am using Cloud-init for CoreOS on AWS.  Cloud-init is used to inject the script into the server and then create a systemd service to run the script the first time the server boots and use the result of the script to run the Rancher agent which allows the server to be picked up by the Rancher server and its environment.

Here is the logic to run the script when the server is booted.


  - name: rancher-agent.service
    command: start
    content: |
      Description=Rancher Agent


The full version of the cloud-init file can be found here.

After you provision your server and give it a minute to warm up and run the script, check your Rancher environment to see if your server has popped up.  If it hasn’t, the first place to start looking is on the server itself that was just created.  Run docker logs -f rancher-agent to get information about what went wrong.  Usually the problem is pretty obvious.

A brand new server looks something like this.

bootstrapped server

I typically use Terraform to provision these servers but I feel like covering Terraform here is a little bit out of scope.  You can image some really interesting possibilities with auto scaling groups and load balancers that can come and go as your environment changes, one of the beauties of disposable infrastructure as well as infrastructure as code.

If you are interested in seeing how this Rancher bootstrap process fits in with Terraform let me know and I’ll take a stab at writing up a little piece on how to get it working.

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