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Fix strange chown error during Discourse bootstrap or rebuild


Discourse is an forum software runs in Docker. When using overlayfs/overlayfs2 storage driver, Docker requires the backing filesystem supports d_type. Or else some strange error will just pop up during some very basic file operations, such as chown command.

The symptom

When bootstrapping or rebuilding Discourse on CentOS, the process fails with chown command related errors.

# ./launcher bootstrap app
Pups::ExecError: cd /var/www/discourse && chown -R discourse /var/www/discourse failed with return # Location of failure: /pups/lib/pups/exec_command.rb:108:in `spawn'
exec failed with the params {"cd"=>"$home", "hook"=>"web", "cmd"=>["gem update bundler", "chown -R discourse $home"]}

How to confirm whether you are hit by this problem.

If you are running CentOS 7 and the filesystem was created all by default, you get it. CentoOS installer and the mkfs.xfs command both by default create XFS with ftype=0, which does not meet Docker requirement for filesystem d_type support.

Check the xfs_info command output, mind the ftype=0 thing.

# xfs_info /
naming =version 2 bsize=4096 ascii-ci=0 ftype=0

Then run docker info command to see if Docker pointed it out. You will have to use a new enough Docker version, older ones don’t report d_type information. Below is the output from Docker 1.13.

Storage Driver: overlay
Backing Filesystem: extfs
Supports d_type: false

If you see above in your system, then you are in trouble now. Not only Discourse but other container apps may run into strange problem when they do file operations on the overlayfs. Fix it ASAP!

The solution

The key is to get your Docker a filesystem with d_type support. Unfortunately this option can only be set while creating the filesytem. Once filesystem creation is done, the only way to change it is to:

  1. Backup data
  2. Recreate filesystem
  3. Restore data.

Step #1 & 3 is out of the scope of this post. Let’s focus on step #2, how to create the filesystem in the correct way. Two options exist, use XFS or Ext4.

If you prefer XFS

When you run mkfs.xfs command to create XFS on your partition/volume, make sure you pass the -n ftype=1 parameter. The command line looks like below

mkfs.xfs -n ftype=1 /path/to/your/device

If you prefer Ext4 FS

Ext4 filesystem created with default option supports d_type, so there is no special parameter to use when you create Ext4 filesystem on your partition/volume. Easy!

Tips for Docker and Discourse

Since Docker puts its files under /var/lib/docker directory, you only need to make sure d_type is supported for this specific directory. So if you have free space on your disk, you don’t have to touch your whole root filesystem. Just allocate some space, create a new filesystem with correct parameter, then mount it under /var/lib/docker and it’s done.

As regards to Discourse, this procedure won’t even hurt your Discourse data. Discourse puts all data under /var/discourse/share directory. When you get a new /var/lib/docker directory, only the container definition is gone. You just need to recreate the container with launcher script, then the site will just back to normal.

With that said, backup data before doing any filesystem or disk related operation is still a good practice!


My post regarding this issue on Discourse official forum.

Issue: Centos 7 fails to remove files or directories which are created on build of the image using overlay or overlay2.

Issue: overlayfs: Can’t delete file moved from base layer to newly created dir even on ext4

Published inTips