Frequently Asked Questions about rancid - last updated 20040107.
This FAQ contains information that may not apply directly to versions of
rancid prior to 2.3. It also contains paths containing tags such as
<PREFIX>, which refer to paths that are site-specific and are determined
by how rancid is or was configured at installation time. These are explained
briefly in the configure --help output. Below are the defaults used in
PREFIX configure --prefix= option. default: /usr/local/rancid
EPREFIX configure --exec-prefix= option. default: <PREFIX>
BINDIR configure --bindir= option. default: <EPREFIX>/bin
The location of clogin, etc.
SYSCONFDIR configure --sysconfdir option. default: <PREFIX>/etc
The location of rancid.conf, etc.
LOCALSTATEDIR configure --localstatedir option. default: <PREFIX>/var
The location of the CVS repository, log files, etc.
1) Platform specific
Q. I have a Cisco Catalyst 6500 series switch running the IOS (NOT catOS)
software, is the router.db device type cisco or cat5?
A. A catalyst running IOS is type "cisco". The 'show version' output will
have banner including a phrase similar to "Cisco Internetwork Operating
System Software". See the router.db(5) manual page.
Q. I have Hybrid Cisco switch, like a cat5k with an RSM. How do I collect
both the routing engine and switch configurations?
A. Recommended way is to use two entries in the router.db, one for each.
Q. I have a Cisco ??? on which collection stopped working, but clogin works
A. Check if 'write term' produces output. Some IOS combined with large
configs and low free memory produce zero 'write term' output, esp. combined
with a memory leak. The device will have to be rebooted and/or upgraded.
Q. I have a Cisco Catalyst switch. clogin connects, but after receiving the
prompt, it stalls until it times out. Why?
A. This may be due to your prompt. CatOS does not include an implicit '>' in
it's prompt, like IOS does. clogin looks for '>' during login, so specify
your prompt with a trailing '>'. Also see cat5rancid(1). For example:
Q. Polling a ZebOS box fails from cron, but is successful from the command-
A. This is the tty/pty handling of either your O/S or ZebOS. Supposedly,
changing the TERM in <SYSCONFDIR>/rancid.conf to the following seems to
COLUMNS=160; LINES=48; export COLUMNS LINES
2) CVS and filesystem permissions
WARNING: Be careful when mucking around with the repository!
Q. I am new to CVS, where can I find additional information?
A. The manual page for CVS is quite complete, but can be be overwhelming even
for someone familiar with RCS. There are some excellent resources on the
web. See http://www.loria.fr/~molli/cvs-index.html
Q. Errors are showing up in the logs like:
cvs [diff aborted]: there is no version here; run 'cvs checkout' first
A. The directory was not imported into CVS properly or was not properly checked
out afterward, so CVS control files or directories do not exist. rancid-cvs
should always be used to create the directories and perform the CVS work.
If it is just the directories that have been created manually, save a copy of
the router.db file, then remove the group's directory, use rancid-cvs, and
replace the router.db file. If the CVS import was also performed manually,
cd to <LOCALSTATEDIR> and use 'cvs co <rancid group>' to create all the CVS
Q. I keep receiving the same diff for a (or set of) devices, but I know the
data is not changing repeatedly. Why?
A. This is probably a CVS or filesystem permissions problem. Check the log
file from the last run for that group for clues first; it may provide the
Note: It is very important the following be done as the user who normally
runs the rancid collection from cron.
Check the cvs status of the device's file. example:
guelah  cvs status rtr.shrubbery.net
File: yogi.shrubbery.net Status: Up-to-date
Working revision: 1.197 Tue Jul 10 15:41:16 2001
Repository revision: 1.197 /usr/local/rancid/var/CVS/shrubbery/configs/rtr.shrubbery.net,v
Sticky Tag: (none)
Sticky Date: (none)
Sticky Options: (none)
The Status: should be Up-to-date. If the status is "Unknown", then somehow
the file has been created without being cvs add'ed. This should be
corrected by removing that device's entry from the group's router.db file,
run rancid-run, replace the entry in router.db, and run rancid-run again.
If the Status is anything else, someone has most likely been touching the
files manually. Sane state can be achieved by removing the file and running
cvs update <file> to get a fresh copy from the repository.
Check the ownership and permissions of the file and directory and the
directory and file in the cvs repository (<LOCALSTATEDIR>/CVS/). They
should be owned by the user who runs rancid-run from cron. At the very
least, the directory and files should be writable by the rancid user. Group
and world permissions will determined by the umask (default 027), which is
set in <SYSCONFDIR>/rancid.conf. Likely the easiest way to fix the
ownership on the cvs repository is
chown -R <rancid user> <LOCALSTATEDIR>/CVS <LOCALSTATEDIR>/<GROUPS>
Q. I am renaming a device but would like the retain the history in CVS. How
is this done?
A. CVS does not provide a way (AFAIK) to rename files or to rename or delete
directories. The best way is to copy the CVS repository file manually
like this (disclaimer: BE VERY CAREFUL mucking around with the repository):
% su - rancid_user
% cd <LOCALSTATEDIR>
% echo "new_device_name:device_type:up" >> GROUP/router.db
% cp -p CVS/GROUP/configs/old_device_name,v \
where GROUP is the name of the rancid group that the device is a member of.
Rancid will pick-up the new file with a CVS update the next time it runs.
Once the renaming is complete, remove the old name from the router.db file
and leave the CVS clean-up of the old filename to rancid.
If one wanted to move a device to a different group and maintain the
history, the same procedure would work. Substituting the new group name
Q. I am removing a group and would like to remove all traces of it from the
rancid directory and the CVS repository. How is this done?
A. As far as I know, CVS does not provide a way to remove directories. First,
remove the group from <SYSCONFDIR>/rancid.conf. If rancid is running,
wait for it to complete. Then just recursively remove the
directory. For example, a group named "fubar":
% su - rancid_user
% cd <LOCALSTATEDIR>
% rm -rf fubar CVS/fubar
Q. I have a (set of) device(s) on which collection fails. How can I debug
A. Our usual diagnostic procedure for this is:
- Make sure that the appropriate *login (example: clogin for cisco) works.
This tests to make sure you don't have routing or firewall issues, DNS
or hostname errors, that your .cloginrc is correct, your banner does
not have some character that *login does not like, and that the *login
script doesn't have a bug of some sort. For example:
Should login to cisco_router and produce a router prompt that you can
use normally, as if clogin were not used (i.e.: telnet cisco_router).
- See if commands can be executed on the router via clogin. This will
exercise the *login functionality needed for rancid. For example:
clogin -c 'show version; show diag' cisco_router
Should login to cisco_router, run show version and show diag, then
disconnect and exit. The output will be displayed on your terminal.
- Then see if the correct rancid commands work against the router. For
Should produce a cisco_router.new file (cooked to a golden rancid-style
colour) in the current directory. If it does not, try again with the
-d option, so that the cisco_router.new file will not be removed if
an error is detected. Note: if you have NOPIPE set in your environment,
a cisco_router.raw file will be produced that is the raw output of the
dialogue with the device.
If all of these work, make sure that the device's entry in the group's
router.db file is correct and check the group's last log file for errors.
Q. Are there any characters in the banner that rancid has problems with OR
I changed the device's command prompt and now collection is failing?
A. The trickiest part about clogin (et al) is recognizing the prompt
correctly. clogin looks for '>' and '#' to figure out if it is logged
in or in enable mode. So if you have a '>' or '#' in your login banner
(other other motd), then clogin gets all confused and will not be
able to log in correctly, and thus rancid will fail.
Don't use '>' or '#' in your prompt or in your banner or other motd.
Q. I use <BINDIR>/*login -c to run commands on multiple boxes. Sometimes
these are commands that take secondary input, like a filename. How can
enter the data for that secondary prompt?
A. Two methods will work. Write an expect script to be used with clogin's
-s option, for which a few examples come with rancid like cisco-load.exp.
OR provide all the input in one command with the -c option like so:
Clear "show interface" counters on all interfaces [confirm]
clogin -c 'clear counters\n'
The specific return (\n) will be entered after 'clear counters' followed
by the normal return after the command.
Q. I would like to collect device configurations every hour, but only receive
diffs every Nth collection or every N hours. Is this possible?
A. Certainly, but rancid does not provide such a mechanism natively. Two
approaches are recommended:
1) Using your preferred mail-list software, add a list with a digest
and configure your MTA (example: sendmail) to send diffs to the
list. Configure the mail-list software to force the digest at the
interval desired. This allows folks to choose which type they
prefer, after each collection or every N hours.
This method also provides easy methods to archive the diff mail and
retrieve previous diffs.
2) Write a script to send diffs, which saves the time it last ran
and passes this to the -D option of CVS.
Obviously, the first option is the cleanest and most featureful, which is
why the script mention in the second option is not provided.
Q. I'm still stuck on this problem. Where can I get more help?
A. A discussion list is available, firstname.lastname@example.org. You must
be a subscriber to post. Subscribe like this:
shell% echo "subscribe" | mail email@example.com
Q. What else can I do with rancid?
A. The possibilities are endless...rancid is non-toxic when applied properly.
see Joe Abley and Stephen Stuart's NANOG presentation:
or our NANOG presentation: