F1 (random) thoughts

I had not watched a F1 championship for years. Maybe the occasional race once or twice per year. My interest in the sport was renewed by Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It offered a unique (although with a bit of reality) insight in the sport. So I watched the second half of last year’s championship and am watching the 2021 also.

I started wondering about the telemetry, monitoring, observability tools the teams use. After all, using your current understanding of things to understand something new is what we humans do most of the time. I understand monitoring and analytics infrastructures, I have an interest how people setup these in F1. Atlas 10 was mentioned in my FB feed by a friend.

I then started paying attention to the small advertising stickers on the cars. Not for the usual suspects like Oracle, Kaspersky and Citrix. JuliaHub what are you doing there? Julia is a programming language for scientific programming for those who don’t know about it. Not everything is about Python in computational science. Fascinating.

And then there was the most interesting observation, Tezos. I’ve seen it on McLaren and Red Bull. And to show that advertising works, I had $5 invested once in Etherium. I converted it to Tezos :)

While you’re here, bored, check this WIPO decision about the f1.com domain name once upon a time.

So on which Jenkins system am I running on?

It is often the case that you run a staging / test Jenkins server that has identically configured jobs as the production one. In such cases you want your pipeline to be able to distinguish in which system it runs on.

One way to do so it by checking the value of the BUILD_URL environment variable. However, this is not very helpful when you’re running the master inside a container, in which case you get back the container hostname in response.

There are also a number of solutions in StackOverflow you can look at, but you may opt to utilise the fact that you can add labels to each master accordingly and then query the master for the value of the labels it carries. Our solution depends on the httpRequest plugin in order to query the master.

import groovy.json.JsonSlurper

def get_jenkins_master_labels() {
    def response = httpRequest httpMode: 'GET', url: ""
    def j = new JsonSlurper().parseText(response.content)
    return j.assignedLabels.name

def MASTER_NODE = get_jenkins_master_labels()

pipeline {
    agent {
        label 'docker'
    stages {
        stage("test") {
            steps {
                println MASTER_NODE

The trick here is that the part outside of the pipeline { ... } block runs directly on the master, so we can go ahead and call to figure out stuff. get_jenkins_master_labels() queries the master and returns a list of all the labels assigned to the master (or a single string, master if no other labels are assigned to it). By checking the values of the list, one can infer in which Jenkins environment they are running on and continue from there.

So is any string proper for a docker image tag?

There was a failure for a build in our system that looked like this:

docker build -t yiorgos/my-cool-application:service/1.1.2 .

invalid argument "yiorgos/my-cool-application:service/1.1.2" for "-t, --tag" flag: invalid reference format
See 'docker build --help'.

Sometimes you get this error when you forget a space between the dot (the current directory where your Dockerfile usually lives and the tag). But this was not the case. Docker actually did not like the tag for the image.

My hunch was that it does not like slashes inside the actual tag part (right of the :).

And indeed by checking out the source code of podman we that this is indeed the case:

//	tag                             := /[\w][\w.-]{0,127}/

reference.go contains the full specification of a tag for anyone interested.

What does the file $JENKINS_HOME/.owner do?

I have four books that on Jenkins and have read numerous posts on the Net that discuss weird Jenkins details and internals (more than I ever wished to know about), but none that explains what the file $JENKINS_HOME/.owner does (even though they include listings like this ). I found out about it recently because I was greeted by the message:

Jenkins detected that you appear to be running more than one instance of Jenkins
that share the same home directory. This greatly confuses Jenkins and you will
likely experience strange behaviours, so please correct the situation.

This Jenkins:  1232342241 contextPath="" at 2288@ip-
Other Jenkins: 863352860 contextPath="" at 1994@ip-

[Ignore this problem and keep using Jenkins anyway]

Indeed it appears that Jenkins, after initialisation, does run a test to check whether another process already runs from the same directory. When the check is run, it creates the file $JENKINS_HOME/.owner, The .owner part of the name is hardcoded.

Even more interesting is the fact, that in order to avoid having the two processes write information on .owner at the same time, randomises when the process is going to write on the file, so even if both processes start at the same time, chances that their writes coincide are slim.

What does it write in this file, you ask? There you go. When was this feature added? 2008/01/31. The mechanism is documented in the comments of the code:

The mechanism is simple. This class occasionally updates a known file inside the hudson home directory, and whenever it does so, it monitors the timestamp of the file to make sure no one else is updating this file. In this way, while we cannot detect the problem right away, within a reasonable time frame we can detect the collision.

You may want to keep that in mind, especially in cases when you’re greeted by the above message but know for a fact that a second process is not running. Some abrupt ending of the previous process occurred and you did not take notice. Or indeed a second process is messing with your CI

“I tell them that there are three mistakes that people make in their careers, and that those three mistakes limit their potential growth.”

The first mistake is not having a five-year plan. I meet so many people who say: I just want to contribute. But that doesn’t necessarily drive you to where you want to go in your career. You have to know: Where do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to be in five years?

The second mistake is not telling somebody. If you don’t go talk to your boss, if you don’t go talk to your mentors, if you don’t go talk to people who can influence where you want to be, then they don’t know. And they’re not mind readers.

The third thing is you have to have a mentor. You have to have someone who’s watching out, helping you navigate the decision-making processes, how things get done, how you’re perceived from a third-party view.


PS: Funny how sometimes I repeat myself

Mass disabling all Jenkins jobs

There are times that you need to disable all jobs on a Jenkins server. Especially when you’ve made a backup copy for testing or other purposes. You do not want jobs to start executing from that second server before you’re ready. Sure you can start Jenkins in quiet mode but sometime you have to exit it and scheduled jobs will start running. What can you do?

Well, there are plenty of pages that show Groovy code that allows you to stop jobs, and there are even suggestions to locate and change every config.xml file by running something like sed -i 's/disabled>false/disabled>true/' config.xml on each of them. Or even better use the Configuration Slicing plugin. Firstly, you may feel uneasy to mass change all config.xml file from a process external to Jenkins. Secondly, the Configuration Slicing plugin does not give you a "select all option" nor does it handle Multibranch Pipeline jobs. Thirdly, the Groovy scripts I’ve found shared by others online, also do not handle Pipelines and Multibranch Pipelines. If you’re based on Multibranch Pipelines, you’re kind of stuck then. Or you have to go and manually disable each one of them.

Thankfully there’s a solution using Jenkins’s REST API and python-jenkins. An example follows:

import jenkins

server = jenkins.Jenkins('', username='USERNAME', password='PASSWORD_OR_TOKEN')

queue_info = server.get_queue_info()
for i in range(len(queue_info)):

I hope it helps you out maintaining your Jenkins.

The old Magic Mouse

I have an old Apple Magic Mouse, I got around 2010. It has grown so old that the notch of the aluminum cover that holds the batteries is cut, and as such, it does not close. I tape it in order to close the cover.

However, as people who use the same Magic Mouse for years have notices, it also randomly disconnects. Some people hit it to reconnect, but it disconnects again soon enough. The solution for this is to fold a piece of paper (like a Post-It) and place it between the batteries.

You owe me a coffee now :)

PS. You may not want to tape the aluminum cover. In such a case your solution is some blue-tac and hard paper

making nginx return HTTP errors randomly

It’s been a while since I last posted, so let’s write a tiny hack I did because I wanted to get random errors from an nginx server.

location / {
  return 200 "Hello $remote_addr, I am $server_addr\n";

location /healthz {
  set_by_lua_block $health {
    local x = math.random(1, 100)
    if x <= 20 then return 500 else return 200 end

  if ($health = 200) {
    return 200 "OK\n";

  return 500;

The above snippet recognizes your IP address and greets you when you hit any URL on the web server. However, when you hit /healthz, then 20% of the time it returns Internal Server Error (HTTP 500). So your monitor might get tricked into thinking the application is not working as expected.

Bear in mind that the Lua PRNG is not seeded and if you plan to use this more seriously you need to initialize the Lua module and seed the PRNG properly. Otherwise you will always get errors at the exact sequence of calls.

VGA display connected to USB-C adapter stuck after power saving mode

I have a Philips 190SW VGA monitor which, while it cannot display a super resolution, it can be a descent second display for things that you need, yet they do not need to grab your immediate attention. So I got a USB-C to VGA adapter and hooked it up.

Sure enough Windows 10 recognized the monitor and I arranged the displays to my liking and was very happy. Only there was a problem. After the power saving mode kicked in, Windows lost the monitor. It could never figure out that it should come off the power saving mode when I started working again. The quick, yet not very practical, solution was to unplug and plug again the USB-C adapter.

Searching the Internet I saw that I am not alone in this issue and the proposed solutions vary and seem like random shots in the dark. There is even at least one adapter by StarTech offering a presentation mode claiming that it never allows the (VGA) projector to go to sleep mode. And the best hack I found (sorry, I’ve lost the reference) that suggested:

> In my case, one of my VGA monitor’s was connected to a VGA to DVI connector going into my graphics card. I simply pulled PIN 12 from the VGA cable going into the VGA to DVI converter, problem solved. Monitor does not go into Power Savings mode, shown as Generic Non-PNP monitor in Device Manager. The signal for Auto Detect/PNP is not transmitted through to the VGA to DVI converter and the problem is gone!!!

Short before actually going through with this, I decided to boot to Linux (Ubuntu) and see whether the behavior gets replicated there. It did not! Bang. So it must have something to do with how Windows handles the monitor. Rebooting back to Windows, I fired up the Device Manager and went ahead and updated the monitor driver to …Generic Pnp Monitor. Success!

If you’ve scoured through the net for this very same problem with no solution, then this post might help you out too.

PS: Sometimes, even the above trick does not help. In those cases it seems your only alternative is to disable turning off sleeping your screen altogether, and just set a screen saver.