Introducing Vault


Vault is a command line utility for encrypting & decrypting things. Those things are stored on disk in hidden files, meaning in *nix they simply have a ‘.’ in front and don’t show up unless you type ls -la 😉 But anyway, who cares if someone can locate the files ! They are AES encrypted !

I wrote Vault for a couple of reasons.

  1. To learn how to use encryption in Python
  2. To store passwords for stuff
  3. To turn Vault into methods in my Utilities class that I use for my daily programming activities. First write a command line utility, then write a class 🙂

Vault Usage

I literally wrote vault earlier today and even though it is super simple, I still find it cool & useful so I had to share. Here’s a demo on it’s simple usage !


AES / Vault supports 16, 24, or 32 byte encryption keys. A byte is one character. Your key should be something ambiguous that you can remember and you should not use the ‘0123…’ example below. What would really be paranoid is to encrypt your keys in a separate vault somewhere 🙂 Note, you will need to use the same key to encrypt as decrypt for a given stored piece of encrypted data.


Can You Read The File Contents ?


Alternatively, you can hide the key from the command line, by not specifying it. 

Clone Vault on github

Enjoy !
Jason Riedel

Runner Features Have Been Updated !

Runner Reminder

Runner is a command line tool for running commands on thousands of devices that support SSH. I wrote Runner and use it every single day, because unlike Ansible, Runner truly has no dependencies on the client or server side other than SSH. I have used Runner to build entire datacenters, so it is proven and tested and has a lot of well thought out features, which brings me to todays post. Since I initially debuted Runner I have added a lot of features, but I had yet to check them into github, until now. Here is a run down of Runner’s features.


  • Runner takes your login credentials & doesn’t require you to setup SSH keys on the client machines/devices.
  • Runner can be used through a bastion/jump host via an SSH tunnel (see
  • Runner reads it’s main host list from a file ~/.runner/hosts/hosts-all
  • Runner can accept custom hosts lists via -f
  • -e can be used to echo a command before it is run, this is useful for running commands on F5 load balancers for example, when no output is returned on success.
  • -T will allow you to tune the number of threads, but be careful you can easily exhaust your system or site resources (I.E. do NOT DOS your LDAP authentication servers by trying to do hundreds of threads across thousands of machines, unless you know they can handle it 😉 ).
  • -s is for sudo for those users who have permissions in the sudoers file.
  • -1 reduces any host list down to one host per pool. It uses a regex, which you will likely have to modify for your own host / device naming standard.
  • -r can be used to supply a regular expression for matching hosts. Remember sometimes you have to quote the regex and/or escape the shell when using certain characters.
  • -c will run a single command on many hosts, but -cf will run a series of commands listed in a file on any hosts specified. This is particularly useful for automations. For example, I used it to build out load balancer virtuals and pools on an F5.
  • -p enables you to break apart the number of hosts to run at a time using a percentage. This is a handy & more humanized way to ensure you do not kill your machine or the infrastructure you are managing when you crank threads through the roof 😉

Now that I have taken the time to explain some of those cool features, here’s an example of what it looks like in action.

Runner Demo

Host List

Basic Run Using Only -c, -u and defaults

Note: User defaults to the user you are logged in as if you don’t specify -u . Since I am logged in as ‘jriedel’ I have specified the user tuxninja instead.

The Same Run Using Sudo 

Note: I just realized if you do not prompt for a password for sudo it will fail, I will have to fix that ! Whoops ! P.S. You should always prompt for a password when using sudo !

Runner with a command file in super quiet mode  !

Example of a simple regex & a failure

I hope you enjoyed the overview and new features. You can clone Runner on github.

Jason Riedel

Object-Oriented Programming With Python : Encapsulation (1/3)

Justification For Learning OOP

linux-python-logo1Since 1995, I have written some form of code, but over the years my career has never taken shape with a primary focus on development. Instead in my various roles of Systems, Network, Application and Datacenter engineering & architecture, I have found excuses to let the inner code hacker in me, out. Allowing me to consistently pursue my passion for coding and automation within the scope of my daily duties. However, this approach has never allowed me to work on a development team and thus the necessity for using object oriented programming rarely has occurred.

Sure I’ve written classes and modules for re-use, but I have never had to place a tremendous amount of forethought into the design for flexibility or inflexibility of the interfaces those classes provide because I was the only one using them. This hasn’t change, but as of late, I find myself realizing my career may be ready for a change. It is likely the next step for me in my career is a full blown software development role. This is partly because of boredom and mastery in my existing field after decades of experience, but mostly because of my own career planning and the apparent industry trends.

Simply put more jobs are moving to software development, and Systems Engineering is on a steady decline due to the advent of Cloud computing, Containers and more. Due to the amazing products, platforms and tools that are now available less and less Systems Engineers are required and I would say Systems Engineers that don’t code are already obsolete, whether they realize it yet or not.

In todays world if you are or are going to be a developer, knowing how to write object oriented code is a requirement and more importantly thinking ahead about who and how your code will be used becomes paramount when designing effective software. This article is intended to help you get a better understanding of how to write object oriented programming using Python.

Procedural Programming vs. Object Oriented Programming

Procedural programming  is a more antiquated paradigm for software design that can be described as:

  • Code that processes data
  • The data we process is stored in variables
  • Then we create functions to process the data in those variables

In the object oriented programming paradigm:

  • We organize data into Objects
  • Functions become Methods
  • And The design of these objects & methods is specified in a Class, which is essentially a blue print.

Object oriented programming is the primary software design paradigm in existence today because it provides programmers with a way to effectively organize and share code for re-use while to protecting the integrity of the existing code. To understand how this works we need to jump right into it with The Three Pillars of Object Oriented Programming.

The Three Pillars (Encapsulation, Inheritance, and Polymorphism)


Encapsulation is about ensuring the safe storage of data as attributes in an instance.

Encapsulation tells us that :

  • Data should only be accessed through instance methods.
  • Data should always be correct based on the validation requirement set in the class methods.
  • And Data should be safe from changes by external processes.

Great so what does that mean 🙂 It means we should be using ‘setter’ and ‘getter’ methods to access object attribute values. Here’s an example of a class that uses a setter and getter method (note the name setter & getter is not actually required) to set and get the variable/attribute value.

The output of this code is: 

It’s important to recognize that encapsulation is not enforced by Python. So a programmer using a class is not required to access the data through the getter and setter methods. For example, in the class above someone could set website, without ever interacting with the defined setter and getter classes. This is called breaking encapsulation, and it’s bad form / practice for a programmer to this because the class author & maintainer can no longer validate the data that is being accessed and this can cause unforeseen problems with a program that is dependent on the class it is inheriting from. Here’s a modified example where we are breaking encapsulation. 

Here is the output of the above example: 

A number of things have changed.

  1. We added a variable website to make the example more clear and easy to follow.
  2. We added validation to our setter() method, it now checks to make sure ‘http’ is contained in the value that we are setting for website.
  3. If ‘http’ is not in website the setter() method will throw an error and will not set website!
  4. We added some additional formatting to our getter() method so we can tell when it is being used verses when encapsulation is being broken. getter() now pre-pends any website passed with ‘Website is now set to:’

So let’s walk thru how these changes effected the program and what actually happened. First, we tried to set website to ‘’ and then we changed it to ‘’. In both of these examples we followed the rules of encapsulation, setting and getting the attribute value through methods in the class. These examples are correct and set website to the value passed and outputed them with the correct formatting we implemented in getter().

Next, we tried setting website to a really long string, without using setter() ! So we did = website directly on the instance of our class ! We also circumvented using getter() and just printed in exactly the same, broken way print Unfortunately, as previously mentioned nothing requires the programmer to use our setter and getter methods directly, and thus website is not being checked for containing ‘http’ here and so it can printed our very long string (“I should not be accessing website in the class directly!, but since I am breaking encapsulation it does still work, it\’s just naughty!”).

The last and final example, is an example of encapsulations value proposition. We try to set website to something that does not contain ‘http’ and therefore is not a website. An error is thrown and website is not set, which is exactly what we want.

Encapsulation is  simple, easy to follow and powerful when your programming on or with a team of developers that are going to share code amongst each other. In these scenarios encapsulation is obviously a must promoting collaboration through protecting programmers from potentially mis-using each others code. It should be easy to see now that breaking encapsulation is bad and very poor practice because code that perfectly functions one day, could be broken the next without any changes from you, because you are violating the contract that encapsulation methods of the class provide.

This concludes our learning about encapsulation. Still to come, Inheritance, Polymorphism, and some real world examples!

Until next time…Keep learning,
Jason Riedel

Upgrading to Python 2.7 on CentOS 6.5

Hey Folks,

The systems running Tuxlabs are currently running CentOS 6.5 to emulate a production RHEL like setup for an Openstack Cloud. Running an operating system this old has it’s drawbacks such as dependencies. I was recently installing a well know Python framework and ran into compatibility issues. The framework required Python 2.7 and CentOS 6.5 comes with 2.6. The below is a step by step procedure for how to upgrade to Python 2.7 on CentOS 6.5 if  you ever should need it. However, as a reminder run a newer OS when possible and for god sakes if you don’t need Redhat support, run Ubuntu.

Step one, we verify we are indeed running Python 2.6

Ok then, let’s upgrade Python to 2.7. First let’s update all of our system applications, just in case for version dependencies and it’s good for security etc.

Next, we have to install Develop Tools, it is a required dependency to install Python.

Additionally, we will need these…

Now, let’s install Python 2.7

It is important to use ‘altinstall’ otherwise you will end up with two different versions of Python on your filesystem, both named ‘python’.

You can verify the install like so

That’s it ! Enjoy.

SSH Tunneling

In my last post about Runner I briefly explained needing to modify your ~/.ssh/config to use a ProxyCommand to allow for automatic tunneling with SSH.

What I didn’t explain is there is an alternative method that is arguably simpler. It requires creating three small shells scripts & placing them in your path or a common host path like /usr/local/bin/ with the chmod +x permission. Here is the script that sets up the ssh tunnel.

Script: starttunnel

Running starttunnel, will connect you to your bastion/jump box and then background this connection with keep alives on. It will listen / dynamically forward ssh requests to 8081 through or to Additionally, if you wanted to tunnel a web port specifically on a machine that sits within your network back to the machine you are tunneling from, you can add it to the script. Such that the required host/port always gets tunneled and is available on your machine when you run starttunnel. Example config would look like.

Script: starttunnel + forwarding http


Now that you have authenticated to your bastion and have a working tunnel you need to get ssh requests to go through this tunnel. However, if your like me you still want the ability to ssh to other stuff without going through that tunnel. So I created a new script called ‘sshp’. When I want to ssh through the tunnel / proxy I use ‘sshp’, when I want to ssh to somewhere else on the internet or another network I use plain old ‘ssh’. Here is my sshp script used to connect to machines behind the bastion.

Script: sshp

Now, when you run sshp you will be connection through the tuxlabs bastion into tuxlabs1. Also notice in my previous post I used sconnect as the proxy command in this one we are using ‘nc’ aka netcat. I have found this method of tunneling to be the most simplistic and effective in my daily life. One more script you need is if you want to copy files you need to use scp. So you have to make a similar command ‘scpp’ for tunneling your copying of files. Here’s the script.

Script: scpp

One final note…if you need use ‘*’ aka splat for copying many files you cannot use the script above, because the shell or script converts that incorrectly. Instead just use the full command yourself from the command line.

scp’ing with *

This would copy all files named ‘copy.all.<whatever>’ to the  bastion. Hope this hopes the folks out there feeling limited by bastions. They provide great security and are an absolute requirement in secure environments so learning tricks that make sure you only need to authenticate once for an extended period of time can come in real handy.

Jason Riedel