Nginx and Letsencrypt on SmartOS

acme_tiny is a nice, small utility for creating and renewing your doman SSL/TLS certificates.

It’s less than 200 lines of bash and just works. Here’s how to set it up and have your certificate automatically renewed once a month.

First, let’s get things installed; nginx and the acme-tiny client and setup the necessary directories.

pkgin in nginx py36-acme-tiny
mkdir -p /opt/local/etc/acme /opt/local/www/acme

Add the following stanza towards the top of your nginx config and reload nginx.

vi /opt/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf
  location ^~ /.well-known/acme-challenge/ {
     alias /opt/local/www/acme/;
     try_files $uri =404;
nginx -s reload

Now, let’s setup the necessary keys so we can request a new certificate for our site.

cd /opt/local/etc/acme
openssl genrsa 4096 > account.key
openssl genrsa 4096 > domain.key
openssl req -new -sha256 -key domain.key -subj "/" > domain.csr

Now we can create the initial request for our domain.

acme_tiny   --account-key /opt/local/etc/acme/account.key \
            --csr /opt/local/etc/acme/domain.csr \
            --acme-dir /opt/local/www/acme \
            > /opt/local/etc/acme/signed.crt
curl -s '' > /opt/local/etc/acme/intermediate.pem
cat /opt/local/etc/acme/signed.crt /opt/local/etc/acme/intermediate.pem > /opt/local/etc/acme/fullchain.pem

If you get an error complaining about the expired terms of service pdf don’t fret, we just need to update the acme script with the name of the updated version.

vi /opt/local/bin/acme_tiny
 # search for 'pdf' and replace the url with the one from the error you recieved during your (failed) certificate request.

If you got an error complaining about not being able to access the acme-challenge token, double check your nginx config and be sure to restart nginx.

One last step before we can setup nginx with our new certs. We need to create a diffie-helman key. This will take a while, go grab some coffee and when you get back it should be done.

openssl dhparam 4096 > /opt/local/etc/nginx/dhparam.pem

Now that we have our dh key, certificate and private key. Let’s setup nginx to use them. Here are the relevant SSL bits that can be added to your server stanza in _opt/local/etc/nginx.conf_ .

server_tokens off;
ssl_certificate /opt/local/etc/acme/fullchain.pem;
ssl_certificate_key /opt/local/etc/acme/domain.key;
ssl_dhparam dhparam.pem;
add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000; includeSubDomains";
ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
ssl_session_timeout 10m;
ssl_session_tickets off;
ssl_stapling on;
ssl_stapling_verify on;
ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;

Let’s automate this thing. Here, we’re creating a script to be called by a cron job for automatic renewal of our certificate. We do this on a somewhat frequent schedule as lets-encrypt only issues certificates that are valid for 3 months.

cat > /opt/local/etc/acme/ <<EOF
acme_tiny --account-key /opt/local/etc/acme/account.key --csr /opt/local/etc/acme/domain.csr --acme-dir /opt/local/www/acme > /opt/local/etc/acme/signed.crt
curl -s '' > /opt/local/etc/acme/intermediate.pem
cat /opt/local/etc/acme/signed.crt /opt/local/etc/acme/intermediate.pem > /opt/local/etc/acme/fullchain.pem
cp fullchain.pem /opt/local/etc/nginx/ssl/fullchain.pem 
nginx -s reload

Okay, with our script in place, let’s create the cron job to run once a month (on the first).

crontab -e 
0 0 1 * * /opt/local/etc/acme/ >/dev/null 2>&1

All set! Good Job 🙂

Install elasticsearch 5.x on SmartOS

Whenever possible, I like running software in containers instead of kvms. Aside from the obvious performance gains, server density increases significantly since you’re not kidnapping huge chunks of DRAM from the OS and holding it hostage.

I recently had a need to setup an elasticsearch 5.x cluster on a SmartOS machine. It was mostly straight-forward except for a couple gotchas. Here’s how you do it.

1. Create the zone/container. Here, we’re just using a stock ubuntu 16.04 LTS image. Note, the key here is the max_lwps field. Elasticsearch requires at least 2048.

vmadm create << EOF
  "brand": "lx",
  "image_uuid": "7b5981c4-1889-11e7-b4c5-3f3bdfc9b88b",
  "autoboot": true,
  "alias": "elastic1",
  "hostname": "es01",
  "dns_domain": "",
  "resolvers": [
  "max_physical_memory": 8192,
  "max_swap": 4096,
  "quota": 60,
  "max_lwps": 2048,
  "nics": [
      "nic_tag": "admin",
      "ip": "",
      "netmask": "",
      "gateway": "",
      "primary": true

2. Login to the container and install elasticsearch

zlogin `vmadm list | awk '/elastic/{print $1}'`
echo "deb stable main" &amp;gt; /etc/apt/sources.list.d/elastic-5.x.list
apt-get update ; apt-get install elasticsearch

3. Disable system_call_filter install during bootstrap phase

echo "bootstrap.system_call_filter: false" >> /etc/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.yml

4. Enable and fire it up!

systemctl enable elasticsearch ; systemctl start elasticsearch

5. Tail the logs to make sure everything started up OK.

tail -f /var/log/elasticsearch/elasticsearch.log

Starting out in IT

I recently received an email from a family friend asking what courses or certifications he should look into for getting started in IT. Without knowing what particularly interests him about IT, I wrote the following email and decided it might be useful for others just starting out.

TL;DR: Learn Linux, a scripting language of some kind (Python, Javascript, Bash, etc.), and basics of networking.

I’d whole-heartedly recommend starting with some sort of Linux certification/course. This will provide a solid foundation for whatever direction you decide to take in the I.T. field, be it developer, networking, operations, sys admin., cyber-security etc. They all take root in Linux/Unix systems and having a solid background in it will definitely get you off the ground running.

After this, I’d recommend picking up some sort of scripting language (Python, Bash, Javascript), it doesn’t really matter which, just get really good with at least one and build some stuff with it (even silly/stupid stuff). As you progress in your career/education, you’ll naturally pick up others along the way.

Things I’ve learned the hard way:

– Be a team player and learn from each other. Nobody makes it on their own and everyone is better than you at *something*, learn from this.

– Don’t get discouraged. Everybody in IT was once where you are right now. You’ll never learn everything there is to know, and any employer or individual that expects you to, isn’t worth your time. IT is a life of learning.

– Leave you ego at the door. This can sometimes be a difficult one and it may just be something you learn over time. I’ve interviewed several individuals that we passed on due to ego. Some of the best technologists I’ve worked with are those that always kept an open mind to different ways of doing things and didn’t succumb to one-up-man ship. It’s okay to be right, but be willing to entertain other points-of-view.

– Use the best tool for the job. There’s no single piece of technology for every task. Don’t pigeon-hole your skill-set. Just because you can make something work, doesn’t mean you should.