(Locally) Testing ansible deployments

I’ve always felt my playbooks undertested. I know about a possible solution of spinning up new OpenStack instances with the ansible nova module, but felt it to be too complex as a good idea to implement. Now I’ve found a quicker way to test your playbooks by using Docker.

In principal, all my test does is:

  1. create a docker container
  2. create a copy of the current ansible playbook in a temporary directory and mount it as a volume
  3. inside the docker container, run the playbook

This is obviously not perfect, since:

  • running a playbook locally vs connecting via ssh can be a different beast to test
  • can become resource intensive if you want to test different scenarios represented as docker images.

There is possibly more, but for myself in small it is a workable solution so far.

Find the code on github if you’d like to have a look. Improvements welcome!


(lxml) XPath matching against nodes with unprintable characters

Sometimes you want to clean up HTML by removing tags with unprintable characters in them (whitespace, non breaking space, etc). Sometimes encoding this back and forth results in weird characters when the HTML is rendered. Anyways, here is the snippet you might find useful:

def clean_empty_tags(node):
    Finds all tags with a whitespace in it. They come out broke and
    we won't need them anyways.
    for empty in node.xpath("//p[.='\xa0']"):

Common docker pitfalls

I’ve ran into a few problems with docker I’d like to document myself and how to solve them.

Overwriting an entrypoint

If you’ve configured a script as an entrypoint which fails, you can run the docker image with a shell in order to fiddle with the script (instead of continously rebuilding the image):

#--entrypoint (provides a new entry point which is the nominated shell)
docker run -i --entrypoint='/bin/bash'  -t f5d4a4d6a8eb

Possible errors you face otherwise are these:

/bin/bash: /bin/bash: cannot execute binary file

Weird errors when building the image

I’ve ran into this a few times. Errors like:

Error in PREIN scriptlet in rpm package libvirt-daemon-
useradd: failure while writing changes to /etc/passwd

If you’ve set SELinux to enforcing, you may want to temporarily disable SELinux for just building the image. Don’t disable SELinux permanently.

Old (base) image

Check if your base image has changed (e.g. docker images) and pull it again (docker pull <image>)


Abort a git commit –amend

The situation

You hack on a patch, add files to the index and with a knee jerk reaction do:

git commit --amend

(In fact, I do this in my editor with the vim-fugitive plug-in, but it also happened in the terminal). For the commit message git places you in your text editor. If you quit, your changes are merged with the last commit. Being aware of your trapped situation, what do you do?

The solution

Simply delete the commit message (up to where the comments start with #). The typical git commit-hook will see it as a commit with an empty message and abort the commit and therefore the merge.

git: rework a commited patch

Since I’m working with gerrit and following a few best practices from colleagues. Here is one I found very helpful.


A bad commit can happen from time to time, which perhaps addresses only partially a problem. Best practice is to revert the commit, rework it until it fixes the problem. Why? That way you can grab the “right” patch which fixes the specific problem instead of searching for multiple patches and fix of fixes.

How you do it

  1. Create a branch with bad commit on top (a0eae90 is the SHA of the bad commit):
    # puts you in detached head state with a0eae90b45f9b94c3f0742df627eefd864c089c8 at the top
    git checkout a0eae90b45f9b94c3f0742df627eefd864c089c8
    # checkout new branch with the name fixup/bug_2312312 in order to work on it.
    git checkout -b fixup/bug_2312312
  2. Revert the patch (HEAD~1 == a0eae90):
    git revert a0eae90b45f9b94c3f0742df627eefd864c089c8
  3. Cherry pick the “bad” commit:
    git cherry-pick a0eae90b45f9b94c3f0742df627eefd864c089c8
  4. Unstage the cherry picked commit to work on the patch:
     git reset HEAD~1

Kudos to Simon Baird and Peter Hutterer for their help on this.