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My last post about attributes was really born out of this issue I had had creating an InSpec profile that tests the build configuration of a machine within a pipeline in TeamCity and testing all of the different environments, making sure the correct Mysql passwords were entered in for each environment. In my last post, I had given you a crash course in how to use attributes,so now I’m going to show you how I used attributes to create the passwords that I needed using environment variables.

But first, if you’ve missed out on any of my tutorials, you can find them here:

Okay, so I had to create a way in which my profile could read a variable for a password within a control. In this post I’ll lead you through how I did that.

Here are the steps I took:

  1. Query the Mysql database manually
  2. Make the password in the control into an attribute
  3. Make mysql password attribute configurable
  4. Create a rakefile
  5. Test it out in TeamCity

Query the Mysql database manually

Before I could shoot off a bunch of code, I needed to make sure I could do it manually. So I needed to query the Mysql database in an ssh session. I was having issues doing this in Test Kitchen, so I knew the surefire way to get the proper output that I needed was to ssh into a real, live, development environment. So with access to that, I ssh’ed into it and ran the appropriate Mysql command to get the output I needed.

mysql -uUSER -pPASSWORD -e "SELECT User, Host FROM mysql.user;"

That stdout was exactly what I needed to write the proper control that I needed to test that I had the right users set up in my database. So now I could go back to my control and hard-code the password to see if it would test properly.

The control would end up looking something like this, but I added my hard-coded password as the default:

password = attribute('password', default: 'HARDCODEDpasswordHERE', description: 'password for admin user in mysql database')
db = mysql_session('admin', password)

describe db.query("SHOW DATABASES LIKE 'mydatabase'") do
  context "'mydatabase' database exists" do
    its('stdout') { should include 'mydatabase' }

describe db.query('SELECT User, Host FROM mysql.user') do
  its('stdout') { should include 'admin	%' }
  its('stdout') { should include 'admin	localhost' }
  its('stdout') { should include 'user	%' }
  its('stdout') { should include 'user	localhost' }

After some trial and error (it took a while to get to this point), it worked, and I was ready to move on.

Make the password in the control into an attribute

So you see up there how the password calls an attribute? Well, eventually I would have to make an attributes yaml, but don’t worry, before that I just hard-coded the value. So I made a directory in my profile called attributes. Then I created a file in there called attributes.yml. The yaml was very simple, like this:

password: HARDCODEDpasswordHERE

Scroll down to the bottom of THIS page for more info on it. So I tested that out to see if it worked on my development environment. From my profile directory on the command line I ran:

inspec exec . -t ssh://USERNAME@DEVENV -i ~path/to/key/.ssh/id_rsa --attrs attributes/attributes.yml # OR --password=PASSWORD if not using a key

It worked; great! Let’s keep moving!

Make mysql password attribute configurable

So I still needed a different password for each environment that I ran this on, right? So this hard-coded yaml wasn’t gonna cut it. I needed a different yaml for each environment. Enter the erb and rakefile. I created a template that builds this yaml each time for me.

If you haven’t used an erb before, it’s basically a template that creates files for you. You have to run a rake command before you run your InSpec profile so that your desired file, in this case, our attributes.yml, is generated from the erb.

First thing I did was to create another file in my attributes directory called attributes.yml.erb (same name as my attributes.yml just with erb at the end.)

Now to figure out which environment variable to use for the database password. It was something like <%= ENV['Password'] %>.

So I copied what was in my attributes.yml and pasted it into my attributes.yml.erb. Then I changed the hard-coded password to be the environment variable password.

password : <%= ENV['Password'] %>

Create a rakefile

Once I had my template (erb), I needed to generate the desired file (attributes.yml). So to do that, I had to create another file in my InSpec profile called rakefile.rb. That’s the magic file that tells the rake command what to create.

require 'erb'

task :default => :generate

task :generate do
  Dir.glob('./attributes/*.yml.erb') do |rb_file|
    template =, nil, '%''.erb'), 'w') do |f|
      f.write template.result(binding)

As you can see, this file is going to generate another file out of all of the .yml.erb files in the attributes directory (at this point there was just one). So first, I made sure my rake works. I deleted the attributes.yml (copying and pasting its contents somewhere else to be safe is never a bad idea).

Then, from my command line inside my profile’s directory, I ran rake. And guess what; it created my attributes.yml!

Test it out in TeamCity

So I won’t give you a tutorial in TeamCity, but I did need to test it out there, so I ran my same inspec exec command inside a development environment build configuration in TeamCity to see if the environment variables worked there. I did have to tweak it a bit to work within that pipeline but not a big deal.

First, of course, I had set another build step to do the rake.

After all of that we decided to wrap it in Ruby code and run the rake and profile that way, but all in all, it was just fine!

Concluding Thoughts

As I said in my last post, I learned that it is not a waste of time to do things manually first. It saves a ton of time and gains you better insight into what you actually need to code.

Also, as far as my blog posts go, it looks like I’ll be pivoting away from the straight tutorials and moving more toward “how I did it” type of posts. I was getting in the weeds about making it perfectly follow-able, but I got a lot of good feedback at the Chef Community Summit that it wasn’t really all that necessary. So there you go!

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Annie Hedgpeth



Annie Hedgpeth

Test Infrastructure Engineer committed to growth and community

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