Chargen.One

Chargen.One

The latest posts from Chargen.One.

from steve

Sometimes I miss things on the Internet the first time round. I'm not aware they were things until I stumble across them randomly some time later. A week ago I came across the writing of Bronnie Ware, a pallative nurse in Australia who in 2009, documented the 5 most common regrets she encountered from the dying.

The regrets themselves weren't surprising. I've encountered all of them at some point. What surprised me was that the ones I'd encountered were the common ones. In her post, the regrets of the dying, Bonnie lists 5 regrets she commonly encountered from her patients:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bonnie went on to write a book about this, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Her blog post touched a lot of people at the time, including YCombinator founder Paul Graham.

Graham viewed at these regrets as errors, in this case of omission. Not everyone has the opportunities Graham has had in life, and while I can understand his rationale, I'm not sure I agree with it. I believe these regrets have an internal element, but rarely arise in a vacuum.

I looked for signs of these regrets in myself and those around me. I found examples everywhere amongst my neighbours, family and friends:

  1. The regret of the women who married the man who knocked them up because it was expected at the time.
  2. The regret of the men who try so hard to provide for their children they never get to grow close to them.
  3. The gay men and trans women who attempted suicide because they couldn't reconcile their identity with their devout cultural or religious beliefs.
  4. The old man living alone in his house, slowly forgetting everything and everyone he knew.
  5. The women who spend their lives looking after everyone else, barely, if ever making time for herself.

I've experienced all 5 forms of Bronnies' regrets. Thankfully I've always had the ability to do something about it. I don't pretend that others have that capability. In fact I doubt most people are aware of these regrets until long after they've formed.

What I can do, is when I see this in others is be kind, be patient, encourage them to open up, and to listen. But I felt I should find a way to identify the first signs of these regrets in myself.

Graham inverted the regrets to create a list of 5 commands, but I found these to be very negative. Perhaps that's ok for him. It's not really for me. Instead, I chose 5 questions to periodically ask myself. Their purpose is to help me become more mindful of things that make me sad:

  1. Have I been authentic throughout the month, or was there a moment where I became a version of me to meet the expectations of others?
  2. Have I made enough time and space this week to be with those I love?
  3. This week, have I been continuously open and honest with myself and those around me?
  4. When did I last talk about something other than work to those I really care for?
  5. What did I do for me this week?

I've put these 5 questions up here, so I can check in on myself now and again. I also have them in a notes folder so I can go through the list once a week.

If the answer to a question is no, I make a note in Joplin about why the answer is no, and what I'll do to address it. It's ok for there to be a no response to a question, but I should at least make a conscious decision about it when it arises. There are no wrong answers, the thinking alone is often enough to kick me into gear.

My hope is that by asking these questions regularly, I can avoid things before they become regrets, instead of fixing them later on. That way, whenever it's time to die, I can do so with no regrets.

 
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from steve

*The approach and scripts discussed here use mysqldump to back up a database at one point. Yes I know this isn't in OpenBSD base, but this was added just for a specific system. It's easy not to add it, and everything else is done through tools from the base system.

With any system, it's important backups and restores work properly. With #Chargen.One, I wanted to protect user data, and be able to easily restore. The important things for the backup were:

  • Single timestamped backup file
  • No additional software installed above what's already on the box
  • Backups are pulled from a central server, not pushed to one
  • Portable script
  • Use privilege separation so local accounts can't access backups

Most services like borg backup work best with a backup server visible from the server being backed up. I use a huge NAS to store my backups, and a separate server to store backups of backups. The NAS is behind a Firewall and the other server can see the NAS but not the Internet. As such, I need a backup system that lets me use the NAS to pull from Chargen.One onto the NAS, and then allow my isolated backup server to pull from the NAS. If that sounds a little paranoid, at least you understand why I use OpenBSD.

Backups are taken by root on a nightly basis, and put into a folder belonging to a dedicated backup user. Early in the morning, the backup is pulled from a system which deletes the backup from chargen.one. The remote backup system will store 30 days' worth of backups.

Configuring a backup account

The /home partition is the largest on the VPS, so I created an account to store backups in a temporary folder, create an archive, delete the temporary folder and change permissions so the remote backup system can pull and remove the backup archive.

To set up the backup user account, use the following commands (as root):

# useradd -m backup
# chmod 700 /home/backup
# su - backup
$ cd .ssh

On the backup system, generate an ssh keypair using ssh-keygen -t ed25519. Copy the contends of id_ed25519.pub from the backup system into /home/backup/.ssh/authorized_keys on the server being backed up.

SSH into the backup account on the server from the NAS to make sure everything works.

Each backup archive is created by a script that creates and stores content in /home/backup/backup/. Once backed up, the script will create a timestamped archive file and delete the /home/backup/backup/ directory. The script starts off very simply:

#!/bin/sh

mkdir /home/backup/backup
# Add stuff below here


# Don't add stuff below here
rm -rf /home/backup/backup

Backing up MySQL data

If you want to implement my backup scheme and don't run MariaDB or MySQL, then skip this section and backup using commands from base only.

Because MySQL is configured to use passwords, a /root/.my.cnf file containing credentials for the mysqldump command is needed.

[mysqldump]
user=root
password=your_password_here

The mysqldump command fully backs up all mysql databases, routines, events and triggers.

Add the following to the backup script (all one line):

mysqldump -A -R -E --triggers --single-transaction  > /home/backup/backup/mysql.gz

The --single-transaction option causes the backup to take place without locking tables.

Backing up a package list

OpenBSD uses it's own package management system called pkg. To create a backup of installed packages add the following to the backup script:

pkg_info -mz > /home/backup/backup/packages.txt

This can then be restored from a backup using pkg_add -l packages.txt.

Backing up files

The following files and directories should be backed up:

  • /etc
  • /root
  • /var/www
  • /var/log
  • /var/cron
  • /home, excluding /home/backup
  • /usr/local/bin/writefreely
  • /usr/local/share/writefreely

Use the tar command to create backups. A discussion of the tar command is best left to man tar, but as the backup isn't very large, I'm not using incremental backups, which keeps things simple...up to a point.

OpenBSD's tar implementation doesn't add the --exclude option as it's a GNU extension. Other BSDs such as FreeBSD do add the option, but the OpenBSD team prefer not to have it. I could've added the GNU tar package, but one of the stated goals of the script is to not require additional software to keep things portable. Paths such as /home/backup are excluded using shell expansion instead.

To test this, try the following command:

# tar cvf bk.tar /home/!(backup)

The exclamation mark means exclude anything in the parentheses. For multiple directories, separate the names with a pipe symbol, e.g. !(backup|user) to exclude both backup and user directories.

There are complications and error messages will be shown on each backup if absolute paths are added to the tar command. This means that an email would be generated every night, even if the backup succeeds. Ain't nobody got time for that.

As a workaround, changing to the root directory at the start makes all paths relative, and allows the shell expansion to work. The -C switch can be used instead, but this breaks shell expansion.

The final commands to go in the script look like this:

cd /
tar cf /home/backup/backup/files.tar etc/!(spwd.db) root \
	var/www var/log home/!(backup) /var/cron \
	usr/local/bin/writefreely usr/local/bin/backup.sh \
	usr/local/share/writefreely 

I've used backslashes to break up the lines for readability, but all the paths could be put on a single line if preferred.

I've excluded /etc/spwd.db from the backup because OpenBSD's built-in tar uses a feature called pledge that restricts access to certain files. The file isn't particularly important to this specific backup, but contains the shadow password database, which I'm happy to recreate as part of the restore process.

At this point you might wonder why gzip compression isn't being used in the tar archive. This is because the final archive will be compressed, and there's no point in compressing twice.

Creating the final archive

To distinguish between backups by date, I used a timestamp, generated by the date command. By default there are spaces and colons, neither of which are good for interoperability across Operating Systems and filesystems. Use date +%F_%H%M%S to generate a more reasonable format. Using tar's -C switch changes the tar working directory to /home/backup and stops a leading / error message appearing in the backup.

The final tar command in the backup script should look like this:

tar zcf /home/backup/c1_$(date +%F_%H%M%S).tgz -C /home/backup backup

It's also important to change the file ownership to the backup user so the remote system can delete the backup after it's been created.

chown backup:backup /home/backup/c1_*

The full backup script on chargen.one looks like this:

#!/bin/sh

mkdir /home/backup/backup
# Add stuff below here

# MySQL Backup
mysqldump -u root -A -R -E --triggers --single-transaction | gzip -9 > /home/backup/backup/mysql.gz

# Packages backup
pkg_info -mz > /home/backup/backup/packages.txt

# Files backup
cd /
tar cf /home/backup/backup/files.tar etc/!(spwd.db) root \
	var/www var/log home/!(backup) /var/cron \
	usr/local/bin/writefreely usr/local/bin/backup.sh \
	usr/local/share/writefreely 

# Final archive
tar zcf /home/backup/c1_$(date +%F_%H%M%S).tgz \
	-C /home/backup backup

# Fix permissions
chown backup:backup /home/backup/c1_*

# Don't add stuff below here
rm -rf /home/backup/backup

Automating the backup

As root (via su -, not doas), use crontab -e and add the following entry:

0 1 * * * /usr/local/bin/backup.sh

A new backup is created at 1am, every morning. On the remote server, a cron job calls a script at 3am to pull the backup down via scp using the following:

#!/bin/sh

find /Backups/c1/ -mtime +30 -exec rm {} \;
scp -q backup@chargen.one:./c1_*.tgz /Backups/c1/
ssh backup@chargen.one rm c1_*.tgz

And that's it! The secondary backup server pulls down the contents of /Backups from the NAS, so there's nothing left to do.

I'll write a separate post about restoring, as this post is already getting long, but hopefully it's useful to people who want pull, rather than push backups.

 
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