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I hope this guide has been of help. It should be of use for anyone tinkering with Alpine on their Raspberries, and likely some parts for those running other Linux flavors on different hardware as well.
 
I hope this guide has been of help. It should be of use for anyone tinkering with Alpine on their Raspberries, and likely some parts for those running other Linux flavors on different hardware as well.
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[[Category:Raspberry]]

Latest revision as of 18:59, 16 July 2021

Tinker, Tailor, Raspberry Pi

I went ahead and got myself a Raspberry Pi 4B with 4GB RAM, which I intend to use as a job scheduling server, only to find out that the suggested OS, Raspberry Pi OS, is 32-bit. Fortunately, the Linux distro Alpine, which I’ve grown very fond of lately, is available for Raspberry Pi as aarch64, meaning it’s both 64-bit kernel and userland. Unfortunately the distro is currently, as of version 3.12, not set up for persistent storage and is more of a live playground. Gathering bits and pieces from various guides online, that can be remedied with some tinkering. On this page you will find how to set up a persistent 64-bit OS on the Raspberry Pi, share a USB attached disk, as well as some interesting software.

Note: the Pi 4 has micro-HDMI ports. I thought they were mini, for which I already had cabling, but alas, another adapter had to be purchased. Also, when attaching a USB disk it is better if it is externally powered. The Pi can however power newer external SSD drives that have low power consumption. I tried with a USB powered magnetic disk drive, but it behaved somewhat strangely. With that said, let’s look at how to get yourself a shiny, tiny, new server.

Tinkering for Persistence

After downloading the Alpine v3.12 tarball, the next step is to set up the SDHC card for the Pi. I borrowed a MacBook Air, since it has a built-in card reader. The Pi boots off a FAT32 partition, but ultimately, we want the system to reside in an ext4 partition. We'll start by reserving a small portion of the card for the boot partition. This is done using Terminal in macOS with the following commands.

diskutil list
diskutil partitionDisk /dev/disk2 MBR "FAT32" ALP 256MB "Free Space" SYS R
sudo fdisk -e /dev/disk2
> f 1
> w
> exit

The tarball should have decompressed once it hit your download folder. If not, use the option “xvzf” for tar.

cd /Volumes/ALP
tar xvf ~/Downloads/alpine-rpi-3.12.0-aarch64.tar
nano usercfg.txt

The newly created file usercfg.txt should contain the following:

enable_uart=1
gpu_mem=32
disable_overscan=1

The smallest amount of memory for a headless install is 32MB. Removing overscan gives you more usable screen area. If you intend to use this as a desktop computer rather than a headless server, you probably want to allocate more memory to the GPU and enable sound. Full specifications for options can be found on the official Raspberry Pi homepage.

After that, you need to make sure the card is not busy. Change to a safe directory then eject the card (making sure that any pending writes are finalized).

cd
diskutil eject /dev/disk2

Put the SDHC card in the Pi and boot. Login with “root” as username and no password. This presumes that you have connected everything else, e.g. a keyboard and monitor.

setup-alpine

During setup, select your keymap, hostname, etc, as desired. However, when asked where to store configs, type “none”, and the same for the apk cache directory. If you want to follow this guide to the point, you should also select “chrony” as the NTP client. The most important part here though is to get your network up and running. A full description of the setup programs can be found on the Alpine homepage.

apk update
apk upgrade
apk add cfdisk
cfdisk /dev/mmcblk0

In cfdisk, select “Free space” and the "New" option. It will suggest using the entire available space, so just press enter, then select the option "primary" followed by "Write". Type "yes" to write the partition table to disk, then select "Quit".

apk add e2fsprogs
mkfs.ext4 /dev/mmcblk0p2
mount /dev/mmcblk0p2 /mnt
setup-disk -m sys /mnt
mount -o remount,rw /media/mmcblk0p1

Ignore the warnings about extlinux. This and the following trick was found in the Alpine Wiki, but in a confusing order.

rm -f /media/mmcblk0p1/boot/*
cd /mnt
rm boot/boot
mv boot/* /media/mmcblk0p1/boot/
rm -Rf boot
mkdir media/mmcblk0p1
ln -s media/mmcblk0p1/boot boot

Now the mountpoints need fixing, so run:

apk add nano
nano etc/fstab

If you prefer some other editor (since people tend to become religious about these things) feel free to use whatever you want. Add the following line:

/dev/mmcblk0p1   /media/mmcblk0p1   vfat   defaults   0 0

Now the kernel needs to know where the root filesystem is.

nano /media/mmcblk0p1/cmdline.txt

Append the following at the end of the one and only line in the file:

root=/dev/mmcblk0p2

After exiting nano, reboot:

reboot

After rebooting, login using "root" as username, and the password you selected during setup-alpine earlier. Now you have a persistent system, as opposed to the way the original distro was configured.

Tailoring for Remote Access

OpenSSH should already be installed, but it will not allow remote root login. Initially, we'll relax this restriction. Last in this article is a section on hardening where we again disallow root login. If you intend to have this box accessible from the Internet, I strongly advise hardening the Pi.

nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Uncomment and change the line (about 30 lines down) with PermitRootLogin to:

PermitRootLogin yes

Then restart the service:

rc-service sshd restart

Now you should be able to ssh to your Pi. The following steps are easier when you can cut and paste things into a terminal window.

Keeping the Time

If you selected chrony as your NTP client, it may take a long time for it to correct the clock. Since the Pi does not have a hardware clock, it’s necessary to have the correct time at bootup. We'll change the configuration such that the clock gets set if it is more than 60 seconds off during the first 10 lookups.

nano /etc/chrony/chrony.conf

Add the following line at the bottom of the file.

makestep 60 10

Check the date, restart the service, and check the (now hopefully corrected) date again.

date
rc-service chronyd restart
date

Having the correct time is a good thing, particularly when building a job scheduling server.

Silencing the Fan

Together with the Pi, I also bought a fan, the Pimoroni Fan Shim. According to reviews it is one of the better ways to cool your Pi. Unless control software is installed, it runs at full speed. It’s not noisy, but still noticeable a meter from the Pi. Again, some tinkering will be needed since the control software needs some prerequisites installed. We lost nano between reboots, so we'll reinstall it.

apk update
apk upgrade
apk add nano

Other software we need is in the “community” repositories of Alpine. In order to activate that repository, we need to edit a file:

nano /etc/apk/repositories

Uncomment the second line (ending in v3.12/community), exit, then install the necessary packages.

apk update
apk add git bash python3 python3-dev py3-pip py3-wheel build-base

After those prerequisites are in place, install the fan shim software using:

git clone https://github.com/pimoroni/fanshim-python
cd fanshim-python
./install.sh
apk add py3-psutil
cd examples
./install-service.sh

The last script will fail with “systemctl: command not found”, since Alpine uses OpenRC as its init system, and not systemd which this script presumes. We'll write our own startup script:

nano /etc/init.d/fanshim

The new file should have the following contents:

#!/sbin/openrc-run
name="fanshim"
command="/usr/bin/python3 /root/fanshim-python/examples/automatic.py"
command_args="--on-threshold 65 --off-threshold 55 --delay 2"
pidfile="/var/run/$SVCNAME.pid"
command_background="yes"

There are a lot of interesting options for fanshim you can explore, like tuning it’s RGB led. We want this to run at boot time, so add it the the default runlevel, then start it.

rc-update add fanshim default
rc-service fanshim start

Enjoy the silence!

Adding and Sharing a Disk

Some of files we'll be transferring are quite large. It would also be neat to be able to access files easily from the Finder in macOS, so I am adding a USB3 connected hard disk with 4TB storage. What follows will be very similar to setting up a NAS, and in fact, the way I fell in love with Alpine was by building my own NAS from scratch (with the minor differences being more disks and using zfs).

First we need to change the filesystem. The disk comes formatted as FAT32, which is very poorly suited for a network disk. Samba, which is what we will be using for sharing, more or less requires a filesystem that supports extended attributes. After plugging in the drive, we will repartition the drive and format it to ext4.

cfdisk /dev/sda

Using cfdisk, delete any existing partitions and create one new partition. It should become "Linux filesystem" by default. Don’t forget to "Write" before "Quit"ing. Next, format it:

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1

Now we need to add autofs to get automatic mounting. This package is in edge/testing though, so we need to enable that branch and repository, but still have main and community take preference. This can be done by labelling a repository.

nano /etc/apk/repositories

Change the line with the testing repository to the following. Note that yours will have some server.from.setup/path depending on what you selected in setup-alpine. You only uncomment and add the @testing label in other words.

@testing http://<server.from.setup/path>/edge/testing

Now autofs can be installed from the labelled repo.

apk add autofs@testing

Note that dependencies are still pulled from main/community to the extent it is possible. In order to configure autofs, first:

nano /etc/autofs/auto.master

Add the following line after the uncommented line starting with /misc. It will also disconnect the hard disk after 5 minutes to save energy:

/-   /etc/autofs/auto.hdd   --timeout=300

Then create this new config file:

nano /etc/autofs/auto.hdd

Add the the following line to the empty file.

/hdd   -fstype=ext4   :/dev/sda1

Now, the user pi needs to be created.

adduser pi
smbpasswd -a pi

Select passwords for the pi user. The latter one will later be stored in the macOS keychain and therefore easy to forget, so make note of it somewhere.

Add autofs to startup and start it now. Change the ownership of /hdd to pi.

rc-update add autofs default
rc-service autofs start
chown -R pi.pi /hdd

With that in place (disk can be accessed through /hdd) it is time to set up the sharing. For this we will use samba and avahi for network discovery.

apk add samba avahi dbus
nano /etc/samba/smb.cfg

Now, this is what my entire smb.cfg file looks like, with all the tweaks to get stuff running well from macOS.

[global]
 create mask = 0664
 directory mask = 0775
 veto files = /.DS_Store/lost+found/
 delete veto files = true
 nt acl support = no
 inherit acls = yes
 ea support = yes
 security = user
 passdb backend = tdbsam
 map to guest = Bad User
 vfs objects = catia fruit streams_xattr recycle
 acl_xattr:ignore system acls = yes
 recycle:repository = .recycle
 recycle:keeptree = yes
 recycle:versions = yes
 fruit:aapl = yes
 fruit:metadata = stream
 fruit:model = MacSamba
 fruit:veto_appledouble = yes
 fruit:posix_rename = yes 
 fruit:zero_file_id = yes
 fruit:wipe_intentionally_left_blank_rfork = yes 
 fruit:delete_empty_adfiles = yes 
 server max protocol = SMB3
 server min protocol = SMB2
 workgroup = WORKGROUP    
 server string = NAS      
 server role = standalone server
 dns proxy = no
[Harddisk]
 comment = Raspberry Pi Removable Harddisk                     
 path = /hdd    
 browseable = yes          
 writable = yes            
 spotlight = yes           
 valid users = pi       
 fruit:resource = xattr 
 fruit:time machine = yes
 fruit:advertise_fullsync = true

Those last two lines can be removed if you are not interested in using the disk as a Time Machine backup for your Apple devices. I will likely not use it, but since this is how I configured my NAS and it was a hassle to figure out how to get it working I thought I’d leave it here for reference. Doesn’t hurt to keep it there.

Let us also configure the avahi-daemon, by creating a config file for the samba service. Avahi will announce the server using Bonjour, making them easily recognizable from macOS (where they automagically show up in the Finder).

nano /etc/avahi/services/samba.service

This new file should have the following contents:

<?xml version="1.0" standalone='no'?>
<!DOCTYPE service-group SYSTEM "avahi-service.dtd">
<service-group>
<name replace-wildcards="yes">%h</name>
<service>
<type>_smb._tcp</type>
<port>445</port>
</service>
<service>
<type>_device-info._tcp</type>
<port>0</port>
<txt-record>model=RackMac</txt-record>
</service>
<service>
<type>_adisk._tcp</type>
<txt-record>sys=waMa=0,adVF=0x100</txt-record>
<txt-record>dk0=adVN=HDD,adVF=0x82</txt-record>
</service>
</service-group>

Not that the txt-record containing adVN=HDD can be removed if you are not interested in using the disk as a Time Machine backup. Still, leaving it won’t hurt.

Finally, it’s time to add samba and avahi to the startup, and start the services.

rc-update add samba default
rc-update add avahi-daemon default
rc-service samba start
rc-service avahi-daemon start

The disk should now be visible from macOS. Remember to click “Connect as…” and enter “pi” as the username and your selected smbpasswd from earlier. Check the box “Remember this password in my keychain” for quicker access next time. Sometimes, due to a bug in Catalina, you may get “The original item cannot be found” when accessing the remote disk. If that happens, force quit Finder, and you should be good to go again. If anyone knows of any other fix to this issue, let me know!

Automation

This server will be used as a job server. Some of the jobs running will need the psql command from PostgreSQL and some others will be R jobs. Let’s install both, or whatever you need to satisfy your desire. You can skip this step for now if you are undecided about what to run or just need basic services like the built-in shell scripting.

apk add R postgresql

In order to automate these jobs, we will be using Cronicle. It depends on node.js so we need to install the prerequisites. It’s run script is fetched using curl, so that will also need to be installed.

apk add nodejs npm curl

The installation is done as follows (it is a oneliner even if it looks broken here).

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/jhuckaby/Cronicle/master/bin/install.js | node

I want to use standard ports, so I had to change the config slightly.

nano /opt/cronicle/conf/config.json

Change base_app_url from port 3012 to 80. Much further down, change http_port from 3012 to 80, and https_port from 3013 to 443. If you want mail to be sent, change smtp_hostname at the beginning of the file to the mail relay you are using. After that, an initialization script needs to be run.

/opt/cronicle/bin/control.sh setup

We need to get it running at boot time. This is, however, a service that we do not want to “kill” using a PID, so we are going to enable local scripts that start and stop the service in a controlled manner instead.

rc-update add local default
nano /etc/local.d/cronicle.start

This new file should have the following line in it:

/opt/cronicle/bin/control.sh start

Now we need to create a stop file as well:

nano /etc/local.d/cronicle.stop

This file should have the contents:

/opt/cronicle/bin/control.sh stop

In order for the local script daemon to run these, they need to be executable.

chmod +x /etc/local.d/cronicle.*

With that, let’s secure things.

Hardening

Now that most configuring is done, it’s time to harden the Pi. First we will install a firewall with some basic login protection using the builtin 'limit' in iptables. Assuming you are in the 192.168.1.0/24 range, which was set during setup-alpine, the following should be run. Only clients on the local network are allowed access to shared folders.

apk add ufw@testing
rc-update add ufw default
ufw allow 22
ufw limit 22/tcp
ufw allow 80
ufw allow 443
ufw allow from 192.168.1.0/24 to any app CIFS
ufw allow Bonjour

With the rules in place, it’s time to disallow root login via ssh, and make sure only fresh protocols are used.

nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Change the line that previously said yes to no, and add the other lines at the bottom of the file (borrowed from this security site):

PermitRootLogin no
PrintMotd no
Protocol 2
HostKey /etc/ssh/ssh_host_ed25519_key
HostKey /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key
KexAlgorithms curve25519-sha256@libssh.org,diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha256
Ciphers chacha20-poly1305@openssh.com,aes256-gcm@openssh.com,aes128-gcm@openssh.com,aes256-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes128-ctr
MACs hmac-sha2-512-etm@openssh.com,hmac-sha2-256-etm@openssh.com,umac-128-etm@openssh.com,hmac-sha2-512,hmac-sha2-256,umac-128@openssh.com

After that, enable ufw and restart sshd. Note: if something goes wrong here, you will need to plug in a monitor and keyboard again to login locally and fix things.

ufw enable
rc-service sshd restart

Now is a good time to reboot and reconnect to check that everything is working.

reboot

With root not being able to login, you will instead login as "pi". It is possible for this user to (temporarily, until exit) elevate privileges with the following command:

su

Another option is to use sudo, but I will leave it like this for now, and go ahead with setting up some jobs. That’s a story for another article though.

I hope this guide has been of help. It should be of use for anyone tinkering with Alpine on their Raspberries, and likely some parts for those running other Linux flavors on different hardware as well.