Kubernetes Starter Pack


Optional, but screw it, go all in. This is going to be a fairly ‘Rancher-oriented’ affair. RancherOS is a Linux distribution made to run Docker.

RancherOS doesn’t have a wizard like other Linux install media. Instead, you boot into it, and run a command to install to a block device. That command needs a cloud-config.yml thing. You can put a lot of things in there, but for my purposes, I just put my SSH key, and a static IP config. I also switch the console to the ‘ubuntu’ console, as I find it to be more comfortable than the default.

The install guide mentions that you could have your cloud-config.yml at some URL, but I just put a second USB stick in the thing I’m installing on. One USB thing is the RancherOS live media, the other is a USB thing with my cloud-config.yml. I boot into the live environment, mount my USB with cloud-config.yml somewhere, and run the install.


This is definitely one of my new favorite things. Follow the instructions, run the little wizard thing, adjust it as you need to, and fire away.

I’ve switched my stuff from Ubuntu to RancherOS, but RKE doesn’t care. It just needs whatever minimum version of Docker to be running, and that’s it. rke up, wait a little bit, and you’ll have yourself a functional cluster. I haven’t had any problems with it, and I’ve done many rounds of rke up and rke remove (cluster creation, cluster removal). It even has the ability to SSH through a bastion host to your cluster nodes.

Pro tip: don’t mess with “cluster_domain:”. I thought I was gonna be cute and set my cluster domain to ‘’. That was a bad idea and led to A LOT of frustration with DNS and cert-manager/letsencrypt stuff.

Only change what you need to in that cluster.yml. The only special stuff I have in my cluster.yml has to do with the nodes: section at the beginning, otherwise everything is default from the config generator wizard thing.

Learn from my mistakes: if you use rke to create a cluster, and your cluster isn’t behaving right when you’re trying to do stuff with it later, tear your cluster down and make a new cluster.yml, get it back to as vanilla as possible, then test again.

Ubuntu note: when I was using rke to create a node on some ubuntu hosts, I ran into a problem with a particular setting in /etc/sysctl.conf. To change temporarily, run

sysctl net.ipv4.conf.all.rp_filter=0

Add this line in /etc/sysctl.conf to make the change persistent across reboots:


The default setting, whatever it was, caused problems with some network thing in kubernetes. I looked at the logs for that container to see why it wasn’t coming up, and the error made specific reference to that sysctl setting. I did not need to make this change when creating nodes running RancherOS.


kubectl is the CLI utility used to interact with your kubernetes cluster. I have kubectl installed on a desktop in my apartment (not one of the kubernetes nodes, though it could be). Once kubectl is installed, copy the kube_config_cluster.yml generated by rke to ~/.kube/config. Assuming everything is alright you should be able to issue commands like ‘kubectl get all’ and get something back from your newly minted kubernetes cluster.

BONUS: kubectl autocomplete! Very handy.



You get the idea. Helm is a way of deploying (I think that’s the right word) multi-resource applications. I think its quite powerful. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with it, but it is a good thing to have setup. It doesn’t come with kubernetes, but I’d wager that everyone using kubernetes is using helm to some degree.

HELM JUST HAD AN UPDATE. A lot of the examples you see in guides use the old version and will throw some kind of error if you copy-paste using the new version. Not a huge deal. Keep banging on it, and it will eventually work. See the FAQ for some of the changes.


cert-manager provides automatic letsEncrypt functionality, and is a dependency for Rancher. This is easy to setup, via helm or manifest. The instructions on the website are sufficient. I made a script to do it for me:

kubectl apply --validate=false -f
kubectl create namespace cert-manager
helm repo add jetstack
helm repo update
helm install cert-manager --namespace cert-manager --version v0.12.0 jetstack/cert-manager

I still have more to learn about how to do things with cert-manager. The instructions are reasonably clear, though I am not 100% confident in my cert-manager abilities yet. I recommend installing cert-manager, and running through the tutorials/examples to get a feel for it.


At first, I made a Rancher container, and then used that to make a cluster, but that’s weak not HA. A better method is to install Rancher INTO your kubernetes cluster. The instructions on the website work BUT THERE IS CURRENTLY A BUG with the ‘latest’ Rancher version with regards to how it interacts with cert-manager. I needed to specify –version v2.3.4-rc7 when installing from helm. This worked for me:

helm repo add rancher-latest
helm repo update
kubectl create namespace cattle-system
helm install rancher rancher-latest/rancher \
  --version v2.3.4-rc7 \
  --namespace cattle-system \
  --set \
  --set ingress.tls.source=letsEncrypt \

Adjust the –set hostname= and –set fields to your desired rancher domain and email respectively.

Wait a while for everything to come up and go to to use your new HA Rancher install!


Kubernetes facilitates the creation of a compute resource from separate nodes, but it doesn’t do the same for storage. That’s where software defined storage options like Longhorn come in. Longhorn is still a developing project, but it does work. It lets you combine storage across nodes into one giant pool. It also has backup and restore functionality, as well as the ability to replicate your data across multiple physical disks for durability. I haven’t played with this much other than installation and throwing disks at it, but its very easy to get off the ground. Currently it only supports ext4 and xfs filesystems.

RancherOS currently does not include open-iscsi which is required by Longhorn. Enable and start the open-iscsi service on RancherOS with the following:

ros service enable open-iscsi

ros service up open-iscsi

To be continued

This has been a SUPER EXCITING past few days. I’ve learned how to:

  • Comfortably install RancherOS
  • Create (and tear down) a cluster using RKE
  • Interact with the cluster with kubectl and helm
  • Install cert-manager into the cluster
  • Install Rancher into the cluster

My reference material has mainly been the official documentation for the various projects (kubernetes, rancher, kubectl, helm, and cert-manager). I got help with the cluster domain problem in the cert-manager slack channel. The next issue I ran into was that problem with Rancher working with cert-manager. Googled a bit, found issues (here and here) on github similar to what I was experiencing, used a solution described there, and it worked. I suspect that fairly soon the latest rancher version will work fine with the latest cert-manager version, it just isn’t this week in January 2020.

While my trajectory hasn’t been a perfectly straight line, I am very satisfied with the progress I’ve made over the past week or so. I’ve joined the Kubernetes and Rancher slack things:

They’re not official support channels, so be friendly. It might take a while for someone to respond.

Planning to churn through the Kubernetes lessons on Katacoda and whatever else I can get my hands on. Making a giant distributed computing thing out of crap laying around my apartment is really, really fun.



Life before Docker

After ages musing about learning Docker, I have finally made the switch, and now I can never go back. I’d previously played with Docker on some of my Raspberry Pi 3’s and a surplus laptop, but I wasn’t happy with the pace of my learning. I figured that the best way to learn Docker quickly was to nuke my existing setup so that I’d have no choice but to rebuild.

I backed up the data for my most important services, namely Mastodon and Synapse, and ferried it off of the apartment server. Reformatted and installed the most recent Ubuntu LTS, which happened to be 19.04 Disco. Then, I installed the usual No-IP update client so I could reliably SSH in from outside. Installed Docker via the convenience script, and I was off to the races.

tt-rss FreshRSS

Tiny Tiny RSS had been a favorite of mine for a long time, and its something that I used regularly. Also, its reasonably simple: PHP stuff, a database, a webserver, and a daemon that periodically scrapes feeds for new articles. Its utility and simplicity made it a good first Docker project. After some searching around, I landed on a now removed tt-rss image from It was a great first success. This provided good experience with docker commands and docker-compose syntax. Recently, it seems that there was a bit of drama between the tt-rss maintainer and the people, and the tt-rss image has been removed from docker hub. As there is no official tt-rss image, and the docker solution that is provided is a bit messy and involves building an image, I’ve switched to FreshRSS. It has a nearly perfect-for-me docker-compose.yml that took just a few minutes to get running. Highly recommended.


Early on I adopted traefik as a reverse proxy to handle incoming connections to my containers. The timing was a bit interesting, as traefik v2 had just been released, and most of the examples online used the old v1 configuration. For my simple purposes, the tutorial and the Let’s Encrypt guide were enough to get me going.


I also knew that I should be managing stuff in a git repo. I’d looked at GitLab, tried to set it up a few times, and was unsuccessful. I eventually settled on Gitea. Gitea is similar to tt-rss in terms of complexity. Gitea was easy to get going, and also provided an opportunity to become familiar with version control (other than just ‘git clone’). All of my dockerized services are in Gitea repositories. I guess every professional programmer is already familiar with version control, but as I’m not a developer by trade, I’m only now realizing its benefits. Along with managing changes to code, I also like that I can leave notes (open issues) with myself. Having a place to chronicle and document my services has been so wonderful.


Watchtower is a thing to automatically keep your containers up to date. Watchtower periodically checks for new versions of the image your containers are using, downloads the new image, and restarts your container using the new image. There are some risks associated with having your containers update automatically, but this gets into the ‘art’ of doing docker things. From what I’ve read, if stability is more important than newness, don’t use the ‘latest’ image tag. Use the image tagged with the specific version of the software you want, that way you wont be surprised when a new ‘latest’ comes out and your configuration doesn’t work and all of your sites go down (see: traefik v2 release). In my configurations, I sometimes specify a version, in others I do not. I like to live on the edge, and I’m the only one that uses the services on my server. So far, no surprises.. yet.


Portainer is a web interface to manage your docker hosts. It can manage images, containers, volumes, and networks. It can also show graphs of CPU, RAM, and network usage. Everything you would do with docker commands and docker-compose can be done using the Portainer interface. Currently, I have Portainer running on my apartment server, but I’ve exposed the docker API on my Dallas server (following this guide). This way, I can manage multiple docker hosts from a single interface. While it is possible to use Portainer to create multi-container services (stacks), I prefer to write docker-compose.yml files because they can be managed in version control.


If I am setting up services for myself, there is no going back. Everything is tidier and easier to manage. Services are isolated in their own network. Configurations are managed in version control. The difference is night and day. I had grown restless with my apartment server. It was doing everything I needed, but after a while I was too afraid to do anything with it because I’d forgotten how anything worked. This new combination of docker and version control has given me more confidence to manage my server. The problem of “how the hell did I do that” when troubleshooting an old service has largely been alleviated.

I believe that I was able to become familiar with docker reasonably quickly because I’d already spent so much time doing things “the old way.” It feels like docker provides layer of abstraction over the usual administration of services. I was already familiar with how these services are supposed to be setup, I just needed to learn how make docker do it. I already know wordpress needs the php source, a webserver, something to process the php, and a database. That part wasn’t new. It was just the docker bits that were new. Previous knowledge accelerated the process immensely.

If you haven’t taken the docker plunge, do it now. If you want to learn quickly, start by tearing down what you have so you have to rebuild. Start with a simple service you use regularly. Take time, bang on it, and eventually you’ll get it.

Additional Resources


Forgemasters -Track With No Name


2 In A Room – Somebody In The House Say Yeah (Club House Mix)


Adonis – We’re Rocking Down The House


Tom Salta – The New Generation


Electra – Feels Good


Moondata – Let The Moonshine In


KDA – Hate Me ft. Patrick Cash



Thank youuu phantoms revenge for sharing: