ChatGPT Features For Beginners

Introduction

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the way we interact with technology. One of its most user-friendly manifestations is ChatGPT. This AI-driven tool is designed to understand and generate human-like text, providing responses in a conversational manner. Commonly, ChatGPT is employed in customer service, education, and content creation, helping to automate responses and assist with information retrieval.

However, the potential applications of ChatGPT extend far beyond these well-known paths. In this article, we will delve into some of the lesser-known yet fascinating ways that ChatGPT can be utilized across different sectors. Whether you’re completely new to AI or just curious about the capabilities of ChatGPT, join us as we explore its innovative uses that are quietly transforming industries.

Creative Writing and Artistic Assistance

ChatGPT is proving to be a transformative tool in the realm of creative writing and music. It offers innovative ways for artists to push the boundaries of their creativity. Writers facing writer’s block can find in ChatGPT a valuable collaborator. It can suggest plot twists, character developments, and even specific dialogues, serving as a source of inspiration and helping writers navigate through creative stalls.

For musicians, ChatGPT’s potential is equally fascinating. Artists can use it to help compose lyrics or brainstorm musical concepts that align with their personal styles or desired themes. By suggesting rhymes, rhythms, and thematic elements, ChatGPT can introduce musicians to ideas that may not have occurred to them, enriching their compositions and providing a fresh perspective on their work.

Moreover, there have been notable instances where entire novels and musicals have been co-created by humans and AI. These collaborative projects highlight the capability of ChatGPT as a co-creator, not merely a tool, facilitating new forms of expression and innovation in creative fields. This emerging partnership between human artists and artificial intelligence is reshaping the landscape of creative production, promising a new era of artistic expression.

Digital Image Creation with ChatGPT

In the expanding world of digital art, ChatGPT emerges as an innovative tool that assists artists in the creation of digital images. While ChatGPT itself does not generate visual content directly, it aids in the conceptualization and planning stages of digital art creation. Artists can engage with ChatGPT to generate ideas, themes, and detailed descriptions of scenes or characters that they envision for their projects.

By inputting desired emotions, themes, or even abstract concepts, artists can use ChatGPT to flesh out complex ideas that can then be visually interpreted through their preferred digital mediums. For instance, an artist might describe a futuristic cityscape or a serene landscape, and ChatGPT can help expand on these ideas with suggestions for elements that could enhance the scene, such as atmospheric effects, lighting conditions, or architectural styles.

Moreover, ChatGPT can be used to write descriptions for artworks, helping artists articulate the vision and intent behind their creations, which can be particularly useful for presentations or gallery exhibitions. This collaborative process between AI and artists not only streamlines the creative workflow but also opens up new avenues for artistic exploration and expression in the digital age.

Code Review, Analysis and Generation With ChatGPT

ChatGPT is increasingly being utilized by software developers for code review and analysis. This AI tool can be programmed to understand coding patterns and flag potential issues, such as syntax errors, logical mistakes, or inefficient code blocks. By integrating ChatGPT into the code review process, developers can automate preliminary checks, saving time and reducing the cognitive load during manual reviews.

Moreover, ChatGPT can suggest alternative coding methods or optimizations, providing educational insights that can improve a developer’s coding skills. This AI-driven approach not only speeds up the development cycle but also enhances code quality, making it a valuable asset in any developer’s toolkit.

When learning a new language and scouring the internet for boiler plate templates for your needs, it can be a difficult task. With ChatGPT you can ask it to generate that for you for your specific language and use case! Tools like GitHub CoPilot integrate nicely with it for autocomplete assistance.

Personalized Learning and Education

ChatGPT stands out as a transformative tool in personalized education, functioning effectively as a tutor tailored to individual learning styles and paces. This adaptability is crucial for educational technologies, particularly those emphasizing customized learning experiences. ChatGPT can dynamically adjust lesson plans based on a student’s responses, ensuring a truly personalized educational journey.

Particularly valuable for language learners, ChatGPT facilitates real-world conversation practice in various languages, helping users grasp complex grammatical structures and idiomatic expressions typically challenging through traditional study methods. This function is not just limited to language acquisition but extends to cultural learning, making the tool an integral part of holistic language education.

Moreover, ChatGPT can help mitigate educational disparities by reaching students in remote areas with limited access to quality tutors or educational resources. Accessible via simple technologies like mobile phones and requiring minimal internet bandwidth, ChatGPT can deliver high-quality, adaptive educational content globally, democratizing learning and potentially transforming educational outcomes in underserved communities.

Conclusion

There are many use cases for AI and ChatGPT. We are just starting to scratch the surface as it evolves. One common theme is that it is a great resource for creativity. It can help plow through writer’s block on one hand. On the other it can create imaging to go along with content.

This blog was written as a test with ChatGPT’s help to see the possible!

Sprucing up a Site with AI – DALL-E

Summary

I like to tinker. It is the way I learn best. Along with that I love sharing information and documenting it through various mediums like this blog. One of my shortcoming however is I have no artistic sense.

As I started to dive into Generative AI, one of the areas that intrigued me the most was the area of Text To Image. Most of my sites have been extremely bland because I lack any sort of graphic design capabilities. In my recent reading of Artificial Intelligence & Generative AI for Beginners, it helped me work through an area where AI could help me.

Image Generators

For this project of sprucing up my https://tools.woohoosvcs.com site I used DALLE-E but it is not the only one. There are many and easy to find. It does require the Plus subscription of ChatGPT. The Bing Image Creator is a free version of that with limits. It uses the same engine, as I understand it.

Prompting

Prompting is key. We want to ensure that we’re guiding AI in the right direction. Perhaps this will not be as necessary in the future but for now it really helps. A simple prompt of “Generate an image logo to depict an ssl certificate” and DALL-E will get to going. The more specific guidance you can give it the better though. This will help ensure uniqueness as well as specificity.

Site

For this, I updated the https://tools.woohoosvcs.com and if you want to see what it used to look like you can go to https://tools.woohoosvcs.com/old

For a side by side

Further Down AI Powered Chatbot Rabbit Hole

Summary

In my previous article Chatbots, AI and Docker! I talked about a little of the theory behind this but for this article I wanted to fully go down the rabbit hole and produced my own chatbot. To do this, I had to find an updated chatterbot fork, learn a little more python to handle dependencies better, create my own fork of corpus/training material and learn Google Cloud Run. Ultimately you can skip straight to the source if you like. That’s the great part of GitOps/IaC

And Then Some

Previously, I had a workable local instance that I was able to host in podman/kind but I wanted to put this in my hosting environment on Google. In order to personalize this, I wanted to be able to add some training data and use some better practices. Having previously used Google App Engine, assumedly that would naturally be the landing place for this. I then ran into some hiccups and came across Cloud Run which was not originally available and seemed like a suitable fit as it is built for containerized workflows. It provided me a way to use my existing Dockerfile to unify the build and deploy. For tools, I have a separate build and test workflow in my cloudbuild.yaml.

Get on with Chatbots!

In my last article, I mentioned I had to find a fork of chatterbot because it has not been recently maintained. In reality though it only allowed command line prompting which is not terribly useful for a wider audience to test. I came across this amazing medium post which I have to give full credit for (and do in the html as well). The skin is pretty amazing. It also provides a wealth of in depth details.

For the web framework, I opted to use Flask and gunicorn which was fairly trivial to get going after finding that great medium post above.

Training Data

Without any training data AI/ML does not really exist. It needs to be pre-trained and/or train “on the job”. For this, chatterbot-corpus comes into play. This is a pre-built training data set for the chatterbot library. It has some decent basic training. I wanted to be able to add my own and based on the input of casmith, its in python so shouldn’t it be able to converse with Monty Python quotes? So I did and created my own section for that.

categories:
- Monty
- humor
conversations:
- - What is your name?
  - My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.
- - What is your quest?
  - To seek the Holy Grail.
- - What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  - What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
- - How do know so much about swallows?
  - Well, you have to know these things when you're a king, you know.

I have the real-time training disabled or rather put my chatterbot into read only mode because the internet can be a cruel place and I don’t need my creation coming home with a foul mouth! For my lab, the training is loaded at image creation time. This is primarily because its using the default sqlite back end. I could easily use a database for this and load the training out of band so it doesn’t require a deploy.

Logic Adapters

You may be thinking this is a simple bot that’s just doing string matching to figure out how to respond. For the most part you’re correct. This is not deep learning and it doesn’t fully understand what you are asking. With that said its very extensible with multiple logic adapters. The default is a “BestMatch” based on text input. Others allow it to report time and do math. It will weigh the confidence of the response on each adapter to let the highest scoring/weighing response win. Pretty neat!

chatbot = ChatBot(
    "Sure, Not",
    logic_adapters=[
        'chatterbot.logic.BestMatch',
        'chatterbot.logic.MathematicalEvaluation',
        'chatterbot.logic.TimeLogicAdapter'
    ],
    read_only=True
)

Over To The Infrastructure

For all of this, it starts with a Dockerfile. I already had this but it was a little bloated with build dependencies. Therefore, I created a multistage image using virtual python environment as guided by https://pythonspeed.com/articles/multi-stage-docker-python. I am not new to multistage images. My golang images use it. I was, however, new to doing this with Python. Not only did it reduce my image size down 100MB but it also removed 30 vulnerabilities from the images because of a dependency on git for some of the python libraries.

Cloud Run

To get deployed to Cloud Run, it was pretty simple although there were a few trial an errors due to permissions. The service account needed Cloud Run Admin access. Aside from that, this pumped everything through and let me keep my singular Dockerfile.

steps:
  # Docker Build
  - name: 'gcr.io/cloud-builders/docker'
    args: ['build', '-t', 
           'us.gcr.io/${PROJECT_ID}/chatbot:${SHORT_SHA}', '.']

  # Docker push to Google Artifact Registry
  - name: 'gcr.io/cloud-builders/docker'
    args: ['push',  'us.gcr.io/${PROJECT_ID}/chatbot:${SHORT_SHA}']

  # Deploy to Cloud Run
  - name: google/cloud-sdk
    args: ['gcloud', 'run', 'deploy', 'chatbot', 
           '--image=us.gcr.io/${PROJECT_ID}/chatbot:${SHORT_SHA}', 
           '--region', 'us-central1', '--platform', 'managed', 
           '--allow-unauthenticated', '--port', '5000', '--memory', '256Mi',
           '--no-cpu-boost']

# Store images in Google Artifact Registry 
images:
  - us.gcr.io/${PROJECT_ID}/chatbot:${SHORT_SHA}

It really was this simple since I had a working local environment and working Dockerfile. Just don’t look at my commit history 🙂 Quite a few silly mistakes were made if you look deep enough.

Caveat

Google App Engine lets you use custom domain mapping and bring your own certificates. I use Cloudflare to protect my entire environment and for this in GAE I placed a Cloudflare Origin certificate to help prevent it from being accessed by the outside world as no browser would trust it bypassing Cloudflare.

Google Cloud run has a preview feature of custom domain mapping. The easiest of the options doesn’t support custom certificates and therefore wants to issue you a certificate. The temp workaround for this is to not proxy through Cloudflare until the certificate is issued and then turn on proxy. Rinse and repeat yearly when the cert needs to be renewed.

I have to imagine this will get rectified once out of preview to be feature parity with Google App Engine since it seems Cloud Run intends to replace GAE.

Credits

For Multi-stage help with Python Docker Images – https://pythonspeed.com/articles/multi-stage-docker-python

For the entire UI of this demo/test – https://medium.com/@kumaramanjha2901/building-a-chatbot-in-python-using-chatterbot-and-deploying-it-on-web-7a66871e1d9b

Chatbots, AI and Docker!

Summary

I have started my learning journey about AI. With that I started reading Artificial Intelligence & Generative AI for Beginners. One of the use cases it went through for NLP (Natural Language Processing) was Chatbots.

To the internet I went – ready to go down a rabbit hole and came across a Python library called ChatterBox. I knew I did not want to bloat and taint my local environment so I started using a Docker instance in Podman.

Down the Rabbit Hole

I quickly realized the project has not been actively maintained in a number of years and had some specific and dated dependencies. For example, it seemed to do best with python 3.6 whereas the latest at the time if this writing is 3.12.

This is where Docker shines though. It is really easy to find older images and declare which versions you want. The syntax of Dockerfile is such that you can specify the image and layer the commands you want to run on it. It will work every time, no matter where it is deployed from there.

I eventually found a somewhat updated fork of it here which simplified things but it still had its nuances. chatterbox-corpus (the training data) required PyYaml 3.13 but to get this to work it needed 5.

Dockerfile

FROM python:3.6-slim

WORKDIR /usr/src/app

#COPY requirements.txt ./
#RUN pip install --no-cache-dir -r requirements.txt
RUN pip install spacy==2.2.4
RUN pip install pytz pyyaml chatterbot_corpus
RUN python -m spacy download en

RUN pip install --no-cache-dir chatterbot==1.0.8

COPY ./chatter.py .

CMD [ "python", "./chatter.py" ]

Here we can see, I needed a specific version of Python(3.6) whereas at the time of writing the latest is 3.12. It also required a specific spacy package version. With this I have a repeatable environment that I can reproduce and share (to peers or even to production!)

Dockerfile2

Just for grins, when I was able to use the updated fork it did not take much!

FROM python:3.12-slim

WORKDIR /usr/src/app

#COPY requirements.txt ./
#RUN pip install --no-cache-dir -r requirements.txt
RUN pip install spacy==3.7.4 --only-binary=:all:
RUN python -m spacy download en_core_web_sm

RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y git
RUN pip install git+https://github.com/ShoneGK/ChatterPy

RUN pip install chatterbot-corpus

RUN pip uninstall -y PyYaml
RUN pip install --upgrade PyYaml

COPY ./chatter.py .

CMD [ "python", "./chatter.py" ]

Without Docker

Without Docker(podman) I would have tainted my local environment with many different dependencies. At the point of getting it all working, I couldn’t be sure it would work properly on another machine. Even if it did, was their environment tainted as well? With Docker, I knew I could easily repeat the process from a fresh image to validate.

Previous projects I worked on that were python related could have also tainted my local to cause unexpected results on other machines or excessive hours troubleshooting something unique to my machine. All of that avoided with a container image!

Declarative Version Management

When it becomes time to update to the next version of Python, it will be a really easy feat. Many tools will even parse these types of files and do dependency management like Dependabot or Snyk

Mozilla SOPS To Protect My cloudflared Secrets In Kubernetes

Summary

Aren’t these titles getting ridiculous? When talking about some of these stacks, you need a laundry list of names to drop. In this case I was working on publishing my CloudFlare Tunnels FTW work that houses my kind lab into my public GitHub Repository. I wanted to tie in FluxCD to it and essentially be able to easily blow away the cluster and recreate with secrets all through FluxCD.

I was able to successfully achieve that with all but the private key which needs to be manually loaded into the cluster so it can decrypt the sensitive information.

Why Do We Care About This?

While trying to go fully GitOps for Kubernetes, everything is stored in a Git Repository. This makes change management extremely simple and reduces complexities of compliance. Things like policy bots can automate change approval processes and document. But generally everything in Git is clear text.

Sure, there are private repositories but do all the the developers that work on the project need to read sensitive records like passwords for that project? Its best that they don’t and as a developer you really don’t want that responsibility!

Mozilla SOPS To The Rescue!

Mozilla SOPS is very well documented. In my case I’m using Flux which also has great documentation. For my lab, this work is focusing on “cluster3” which simply deploys my https://www.woohoosvcs.com and https://tools.woohoosvcs.com in my kind lab for local testing before pushing out to production.

Create Key with Age

Age appears to be the preferred encryption tool to use right now. It is pretty simple to use and going by the flux documentation we simply need to run

age-keygen -o age.agekey

This will create a file that contains both the public and private key. The public key will be in the comment and the command line will output the public key. We will need the private key later to add as a secret manually to decrypt. I’m sure there are ways of getting this into the cluster securely but for this blog article this is the only thing done outside of GitOps.

Let’s Get To the Details!

With Flux I have a bootstrap script to load flux into the environment. I also have a generate_cluster3.sh script that creates the yaml.

The pertinent lines to add to it above the standard are the following. The first line indicates that sops is a decryption provider. The second indicates the name of the secret to be stored. Flux requires this to be in the flux-system namespace

    --decryption-provider=sops \
    --decryption-secret=sops-age \

From there you simpley need to run the bootstrap_cluster3.sh which just loads the yaml manifests for flux. With flux you can do this on the command line but I preferred to have this generation and bootstrapping in Git. As you want to upgrade flux there’s also a upgrade_cluster3.sh script that is really a one liner.

flux install --export > ./clusters/cluster3/flux-system/gotk-components.yaml

This will update the components. If you’re already bootstrapped and running flux, you can run this and commit to push out the upgrades to use flux to upgrade itself!

In the root of the cluster3 folder I have .sops.yaml. This tells the kustomization module in flux what to decrypt and which public key to use.

Loading Private Key Via Secret

Once you have run the bootstrap_cluster3.sh you can then load the private key via

cat age.agekey | kubectl create secret generic sops-age \
  --namespace=flux-system --from-file=age.agekey=/dev/stdin

Caveat

This lab won’t work for you out of the box. This is because it requires a few confidential details

  1. My cloudflared secret is encrypted with my public key. You do not have my private key so you cannot load it into your cluster to decrypt it
  2. I have some private applications I am pushing into my kind cluster. You will have to clone and modify for your needs

CloudFlare Tunnels FTW

Summary

CloudFlare provides VPN tunnels between your web application and the CloudFlare network for private and direct access. There are a multitude of use cases for this. The nice part about this is the tunnels are available in all tiers (including free).

Use Cases

The main use case for this is Least Privileged Security. Without tunnels, the common use case for CloudFlare is to add ACLs to your edge allowing in connections from CloudFlare. With Tunnels you run an appliance or daemon/service internally that creates an outbound tunnel to CloudFlare for your web applications. What this allows is only allowing egress traffic, worst case. Best case only opening up FQDN based whitelists on specific ports to CloudFlare’s network to allow the tunnel to negotiate. In essence, only allowing specific outbound connections needed to support the applications.

An interesting secondary use case for this is self-hosting of your web application. Years ago if you wanted to self-host something at your home, you would have to either ask your ISP for a static IP or use a Dynamic DNS provider that would constantly update your DNS with your IP. With CloudFlare Tunnels, once configured, the tunnel will come up regardless of your location or IP address. This is great for self-hosting at home (when you can’t afford a cloud provider and want to reuse some equipment) or even having a local lab that you want to share out to friends for testing.

Technical Setup

There are other articles that walk through the setup and it really depends on your implementation but I will share a few links of what I did to setup a Kubernetes lab up with CloudFlare Tunnels to expose my local lab running podman + kind + Kubernetes with a custom app I wrote onto the Internet.

This is a create tutorial by CloudFlare on the steps – https://developers.cloudflare.com/cloudflare-one/tutorials/many-cfd-one-tunnel/

Some of the dependencies for it are to

  1. Have a working Kubernetes cluster. For a quick lab, I highly recommend kind+podman but many use minikube.
  2. Have a local cloudflared that you can run to setup the tunnel and access token

One of the tweaks I had to make though is that the cloudflared manifest is a bit dated. As of the time of this writing I made the following changes

#Image was set to 2022.3.0 which did not even start
image: cloudflare/cloudflared:2024.3.0

# Reduce replicas - this was a lab with a single node!
replicas: 1

# Update the ingress section.
# This maps the CloudFlare proxied address to a kubernetes service address.
# Since cloudflared runs int the cluster it will use K8 DNS to resolve
    - hostname: k8s-fcos-macos.woohoosvcs.com
      service: http://tools-service:80

Don’t forget to import the secret from the CloudFlare instructions!

If setup properly you’ll see success!

More Than Tunnels

This is just the beginning. This is just a piece of the full Zero Trust Offering by Cloud Flare. It is a bit out of scope for this article but the nice part about CloudFlare is a lot of it is set it and forget it and let them manage once its configured properly.

Conclusion

Whether you are a large enterprise needing full Zero Trust or just a startup hosting a few servers out of your garage off your home internet, CloudFlare has tiers and offerings that can meet your budget. Its a great tool that I have used for this site and my https://tools.woohoosvcs.com/ for a number of years.

Local Kubernetes Lab – The Easy Way With podman and kind

Summary

In a few articles, I’ve shared how to provision your own local Kubernetes (K8s) lab using VMs. Over the years this has simplified from Intro To Kubernetes to Spinning Up Kubernetes Easily with kubeadm init!. With modern tools, many of us do not need to manage our own VMs.

These days there are many options but one of my favorites is kind. To use kind, you need either Docker Desktop or Podman Desktop.

Podman is quickly becoming a favorite because instead of the monolithic architecture of Docker Desktop, Podman is broken out a bit and the licensing may be more appeasable to people.

Installation

Installing Podman is relatively easy. Just navigate to https://podman.io and download the installer for your platform. Once installed you will need to provision a Podman Machine. The back end depends on your platform. Windows will use WSL2 if available. MacOS will use a qemu VM. This is nicely abstracted.

Installing kind is very easy. Depending on your platform you may opt for a package manager. I use brew so its a simple

brew install kind

The site https://kind.sigs.k8s.io/docs/user/quick-start/#installation goes through all the options.

Provisioning the Cluster

Once these two dependencies are in play its a simple case of

kind create cluster

The defaults are enough to get you a control plane that is able to schedule workloads. There are custom options such as specific K8s version and multiple control plans and worker nodes to more properly lab up a production environment.

kind create cluster

From here we should be good to go. Kind will provision the node and set up your KUBECONFIG to select the cluster.

As a quick validation we’ll run the recommended command.

We can see success and we’re able to apply manifests as we would expect. We have a working K8s instance for local testing.

Extending Functionality

In IaC & GitOps – Better Together we talked about GitOps. From here we can apply that GitOps repo if we wanted to.

We can clone the specific tag for this post and run the bootstrap

git clone https://github.com/dcatwoohoo/k8-fcos-gitops.git --branch postid_838 --single-branch

cd k8-fcos-gitops

./bootstrap_cluster1.sh

# We can check the status with the following until ingress-nginx is ready
kubectl get pods -A

# From there, check helm
helm ls -A

And here we are. A local testing cluster we stood up and is controlled by GitOps. Once flux was bootstrapped it pulled down and installed the nginx ingress controller.

A Look at Telsa Through the Team of Teams Lens

Summary

Going down a reading rabbit hole, I recently read Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal. I was not sure what I was in for with this. Paraphrasing what General Stanley McChrystal wrote, while he was going through the events in the book, he was not sure if what he experienced was a fluke or there was something more to it.

While this article is not a review as there are plenty around, this book did start to move me. I started thinking about other applicable lenses to view this through. In the book, the automotive industry is cited a couple of times. This opened Pandora’s box for me. In it, one of the examples was the GM Ignition Recall that took nearly 10 years to have fixed for a $2 part. Ultimately it was an organizational structure failure. The low level teams had known about this months after the new ignition switches were sent out into the wild and reports had started coming back.

Why Tesla?

It is easy to get wrapped up in the politics and public displays for which Elon Musk is known. Setting that aside, what Tesla is doing is revolutionary for a few reasons. In these times, it is extremely hard to start a new automobile company. Tesla not only a new automobile company but using a fuel source that is not industry standard.

Tesla is different. They are not just an automobile manufacturing company. Elon himself in numerous interviews cites that Tesla is actually a “hardcore” engineering company. They manufacture numerous parts for the vehicle in house as well as write all of the software (Software Engineering).

Outside the scope of this article, they’re also a data mining company. They have driving details on now millions of their vehicles. This has various uses such as road mapping, driving patterns and improving their autonomous driving.

How Legacy Automotive Companies Operate

Many of the legacy automotive manufacturers are extremely siloed using the “reductionist” methodology of breaking down areas into small teams and pushing them for efficiency. There are many different vendors that make components for legacy car companies. They build them to the Original Equipment Manufacturers specifications to ensure interoperability. These vendors do not typically communicate with each other or all of them to understand the whole picture. What this means is that the Engine Control Module (ECM) may be manufactured by one company and the Transmission Control Module (TCM) may be manufactured by another. The software may then be subcontracted out by those vendors. They use interoperability standards but may have little idea of how the Battery Control Module (BCM) interacts with these two modules.

This allows scale and efficiency. Vendor management is a very strong tool to help mitigate concerns. Many, like Toyota are great at this. They many times will have supply manufacturing happen in the same plant as the cars are assembled. Contracts also tend to indicate suppliers have a certain stock of supplies to weather temporary supply chain issues.

How Tesla Operates?

Many of its key components are manufactured in house, such as its seats. This is not to say it does not outsource any manufacturing. It certainly does. One critical piece that Telsa handles in house is to write its own software. This was instrumental in its adaptability during the computer chip shortages of 2020 and onward.

Chip Shortage

During the chip shortages, OEMs could not get their hands on chips. Many of the big ones had lots filled with unfinished vehicles. They were simply waiting on chips to arrive with no end in sight. Cars were delivered without features, in many cases.

Tesla did deal with a delay in production because of this. Its adaptability in writing its software, allowed it to utilize chips that were available. Not only did it adapt its software, Tesla realized it could in some cases reduce the need for some of them. This is very well documented in https://www.utilitydive.com/news/tesla-chip-semiconductor-shortage/628150/

Wrapping it Up

Traditional car manufacturers are very siloed. They are built this way for efficiency and scalability. With this, they are very inflexible and not very adaptable. Many of them are struggling to become profitable on their Electric Vehicles (EVs). Recently even Ford has started to bring its software development in house. This allows for constant updates that are needed without ever having to go into the dealership. Many of the Tesla recalls have been corrected via OTA (Over the Air) updates to software.

Conclusion

In a modern world of complexity, teams cannot work in isolation. They need to be aware of what other teams are doing to have a shared vision. Cognitive load needs to be minimized or information overload will occur but in this new world of complexity and constant information, silos do not work.

IaC & GitOps – Better Together

Summary

Building on the prior article of Fedora CoreOS + Ansible => K8s we want complete Infrastructure As Code. The newest way of doing this is GitOps where nearly everything is controlled by SCM. For that, flux is one of my favorites but Argo will also work.

The benefit of GitOps and K8s is that developers can have complete but indirect access to various environments. This makes it really easy for a DevOps team to provision the tooling very easily to either spin up environments effortlessly or let the developers do it themselves. That helps us get close to Platform Engineering.

Flux GitOps Repo

For this article, this is the tagged version of the GitOps repo used. At its core, we manually generated the yaml manifests via scripts commands. Namely upgrade_cluster1.sh and generate_cluster1.sh. Combined these create the yaml manifests needed. Upgrade cluster can be run to refresh the yaml during an upgrade but do not let it trick you. It can also be used to generate the initial component yaml. The generate_cluster1.sh should only need to be run once.

The bootstrap_cluster1.sh is used by our ansible playbook to actually apply the yaml.

Bootstrapping Flux

The flux cli has a bootstrap command that can be used but for this, we want disposable K8s clusters that can be torn down and then new ones rebuilt and attached to the same repo. Not only does this allow the workloads running to be treated like cattle but also the infrastructure itself.

To achieve this, we are manually creating the yaml manifests (still using the supported CLI tools) but decoupling that from the initial setup, deploy and running of the environment.

What Did We Get?

From a simple set of changes to pull and deploy flux, we have a sample ingress controller (nginx). In it you can specify any parameter about it and have clear visibility as to what is deployed. In this scenario we are just specifying the version but we could also specify how many instances or whether to deploy via daemonset (one instance per worker node).

Wrapping It All Up – What Is The Big Deal?

It might be a natural question as to what is the big deal about K8s, IaC, GitOps and this entire ecosystem. True IaC combined with GitOps allows complete transparency into what is deployed into production because flux ensures what is in Git is reconciled with the configured cluster. No more, one off configurations that nobody knows about until upgrade to replacement time on the server.

The fact that we have so much automation allows for tearing down and rebuilding as necessary. This allows for easy patching. Instead of applying updates and hoping for the best, just instantiate new instances and tear down the old ones.

Fedora CoreOS + Ansible => K8s

Summary

Kubernetes is a personal passion of mine and I have written a few times about how to standup one of my favorite Container Optimized Operating Systems, PhotonOS. Most recently I wanted to rebuild my lab because it has been a while. While some of my prior posts have served as a Standard Operating Procedure for how to do it, its lost its luster doing it manually.

Because of this, I sought out to automate the deployment of PhotonOS with Ansible. Having already learned and written about SaltStack, I wanted to tool around with Ansible. I thought, great, Photon is highly orchestrated by VMware, this should be simple.

Unfortunately PhotonOS 5 does not work well with Ansible, namely due to the package manager.

Container Optimized Operating Systems

In my search for one that did work well with Ansible, I came across a few. Flatcar was the first. It seemed to have plenty of options. I think came across Fedora CoreOS. These seem to be two of many forks of an older “CoreOS” distribution. Since Ansible and Fedora fall under the RedHat umbrella, I went with FCOS.

The interesting thing about Flatcar and CoreOS is that they use Ignition (and Butane) for bootstrapping. This allows for first time boot provisioning. This is the primary method for adding authentication such as ssh keys.

My Lab

My lab consists of VMware Fusion since I’m on a Mac. For that a lot of my steps are specific to that but I attempted to make them generic enough so that it could be modified for your environment.

Here is my full repo on this – https://github.com/dcatwoohoo/k8-fcos/tree/postid_822

Setting up Ignition

To help ensure your ssh keys are put into the environment, you’ll need to update butane with the appropriate details. Particularly the section “ssh_authorized_keys”

Butane is a yaml based format that is designed to be human read/writable. Ignition is designed to be human readable but not easily writable. For that reason, we use a conversion tool to help.

docker run -i --rm quay.io/coreos/butane:release --pretty --strict < ignition/butane.yaml > ignition/ignition.json

Don’t worry, this is baked into the ovf.sh script

Instantiating the OVF

The first step was acquiring the OVA template (Open Virtual Appliance). On https://fedoraproject.org/coreos/download?stream=stable#arches that would be over here!

For this I scripted it via ovf.sh that instantiates it for a given number of instances. As documented, its 2 nodes, fcos-node01 and fcos-node02

Once they are done and powered one, along with a 45 second pause/sleep, we’re good to run Ansible and get the cluster going.

Running Ansible

Because I can be lazy, I created a shell script called k8s-fcos-playbook.sh that runs the playbook. At this point, sit back and enjoy the wait.

If all goes well you’ll have a list of pods up and running successfully and a bare bones cluster.

kubectl get pods -A

Concluding thoughts

While I did not go specifically into Ansible and the details, it is a public repository and written in a fairly self explanatory way. It’s not the best or most modular but is easy to follow.

Special Thanks!

A special thanks to Péter Vámos and his repository on doing this similarly. He gave me some great ideas, although some of it I went in a different direction.