Create the AWS credentials file from a Chef Data Bag

When a process on a server instance needs access to an AWS account, the user who will execute the AWS CLI commands needs to be able to automatically authenticate in AWS.

For automatic AWS authentication, the AWS CLI creates two files in the .aws directory:

  • config and
  • credentials.

The location of this directory depends on the operating system and the type of user.

  • On Linux, the location is ~/.aws ( the user’s home directory )
  • On Windows, it is located at C:\Users\USER_NAME\.aws
  • On Windows, if the file was created by SYSTEM, the location is C:\Windows\System32\config\systemprofile\.aws

Store the AWS key values

To create these files, you need to store the AWS Access Key and Secret Key. The safest place for these values is an encrypted data bag. To automatically generate the AWS files, create a data bag file and name it the same as the “id” in the following structure:

  "MY_PROFiLE_1": {
    "region": "MY_REGION_1",
    "aws_access_key_id": "MY_ACCESSKEY_1",
    "aws_secret_access_key": "MY_SECRET_KEY_1"
  "MY_PROFiLE_2": {
    "region": "MY_REGION_2",
    "aws_access_key_id": "MY_ACCESSKEY_2",
    "aws_secret_access_key": "MY_SECRET_KEY_2"

To create and encrypt the data bag see my post on Chef Data Bags

Create the AWS authentication files

  1. In your Chef recipe, first install the AWS CLI and reboot the server, so the new path entry will be available for the Chef process.
  2. The following Chef code will create the AWS config and credential files. The script
    1. opens and decrypts the data bag,
    2. loads it into a hash table,
    3. iterates through the hash items,
    4. skips the “id” item,
    5. stores the AWS key values in a temporary file,
    6. executes the “aws configure” command to generate the AWS config and credential files.
  # Iterate through the data bag and create the credentials file

  puts "***** Creating the AWS credentials file"

  # Load the encrypted data bag into a hash
  aws_credentials = Chef::EncryptedDataBagItem.load('MY_DATA_BAG_NAME', 'MY_DATA_BAG_ITEM_NAME').to_hash

  # Iterate through the items, skip the "id"
  aws_credentials.each_pair do |key, value|

    # skip the "id"
    next if key == "id"

    # Add the credentials to the .aws/credentials file
    puts "Account #{key}, Region #{value['region']}"

    batch "add_aws_credentials_#{key}" do
      code <<-EOF echo #{value["aws_access_key_id"]}> input.txt
        echo #{value["aws_secret_access_key"]}>> input.txt
        echo #{value["region"]}>> input.txt
        echo.>> input.txt
        aws configure --profile #{key} < input.txt



Ruby Gem Management

Ruby gems are Ruby programs and libraries with a name, version and the platform that can execute them.

List the installed gems on your system

gem list

Detailed list that includes the author, homepage, license, install location and a short description

gem list -d

Install the latest version of the gem

gem install GEM_NAME

Install a specific version of the Gem

gem install GEM_NAME -v GEM_VERSION

Uninstall the gem from your system

gem uninstall GEM_NAME

Uninstall a  gem from a specific location


Update the Gem list in your system after Gem uninstallation

gem update --system





Bootstrap Chef nodes to connect them to the Chef server

A Chef node is a physical or virtual machine with an operating system that is connected to the Chef server. Once the node has made the connection to the Chef server, the installed Chef Client can execute Chef cookbooks to configure the machine.

Bootstrapping is the process to connect the node the first time to the Chef server, or to attach it again if the node lost the connectivity to the Chef server. To be able to bootstrap a node, your workstation needs to have the Chef Development Kit installed. The kit includes the ‘knife’ command that communicates with the Chef server. Your workstation also has to be able to connect to the Chef server with the YOUR_USERNAME.pem file you store in the .chef directory just above your cookbooks.

Bootstrap a Linux node

To bootstrap a Linux node, open a terminal window on your workstation and execute the command:

knife bootstrap MY_NODE_IP -x MY_USERNAME -P MY_PASSWORD --sudo --node-name THE_NODE_NAME --environment THE_ENVIRONMENT --run-list 'recipe[MY_COOKBOOK1::default],recipe[MY_COOKBOOK2::default]'

Bootstrap a Windows node

knife bootstrap windows winrm MY_NODE_IP -x MY_USERNAME -P MY_PASSWORD --node-name THE_NODE_NAME --environment THE_ENVIRONMENT --run-list 'recipe[MY_COOKBOOK1::default],recipe[MY_COOKBOOK2::default]' -V


  • MY_NODE_IP is the IP address of the node you want to attach to the Chef server,
  • MY_USERNAME and MY_PASSWORD are the credentials to connect to the node,
  • THE_NODE_NAME is the unique name you want the node to use in the Chef server database. If you are bootstrapping a server that lost connectivity to the Chef server, find the node name in the node list.
  • THE_ENVIRONMENT is the name of the environment the node will run the cookbook in,
  • the run list is a list of cookbooks and roles

Dynamically set Chef resource attributes

When you need to set a Chef resource attribute based on the current state of the environment, there is a way to dynamically provide the value.

  1. Set the value of a boolean variable with a test,
  2. Declare the Chef resource and assign a reference to it to a variable,
  3. Set the resource attribute based on the value of the boolean variable.
# Set a boolean variable with a test 
  "#{node['domain']}" != ""

# Execute a resource and get a reference to it into a variable
# Set the attribute value based on the boolean variable



No instances for regex `’, try running `kitchen list’ in Chef Test Kitchen

When I tried to execute the “kitchen list” command in Chef Test Kitchen the following error came up:

No instances for regex `’, try running `kitchen list’

I could not find the reason for the error, but when I opened the .kitchen.yml file in the Atom editor, made an insignificant change and saved the file, the error went away.

Berks update fails with ‘Missing artifacts’ error message

When you add cookbooks as dependencies with the “depends” statement to the metadata.rb file of your Chef cookbook, to be able to test your cookbooks in Chef Test Kitchen, you also have to specify the location of those cookbooks in the Berksfile file.

For all the cookbooks that are available on the Chef Supermarket, one line

source ""

is sufficient to specify their location. If a cookbook is only available at GitHub, specify the location with

cookbook 'COOKBOOK_NAME', git: ''

If the cookbook is available on the local drive of the workstation, specify the path with


Use the above relative path if all of your cookbooks are under the same cookbooks directory.

If a reference to a Chef cookbook is missing from the Berksfile file, the following message appears when you execute berks update.

Unable to satisfy constraints on package …, which does not exist, due to solution constraint (… = …). Solution constraints that may result in a constraint on …: [(… = …) -> (… >= …)]
Missing artifacts: ...
Demand that cannot be met: (… = …)
Unable to find a solution for demands: … (…)

Chef Attributes

Chef attributes are global variables that are available for every cookbook on the node. There are multiple formats to declare and use an attribute. For important notes on the syntax, please see Undefined method or attribute error in a Chef recipe.

To override the value of an attribute that is defined in another cookbook, use the following syntax

node.override['ATTRIBUTE_NAME'] = 'NEW_VALUE'

During compilation, this line will replace the default value of the attribute with the NEW_VALUE.


Getting started with InSpec

InSpec is an open-source testing framework to verify your infrastructure satisfies the design requirements.

In this article, we will learn to install and use InSpec with Chef.

Install InSpec

  1. Navigate to, and download the installer for the operating system of your workstation.
  2. Execute the downloaded installer.

Allow InSpec to verify Red Hat Enterprise Linux instances

InSpec needs “sudo” access to execute the tests, but Red Hat Enterprise Linux prevents that access. Execute the following code on every instance when it runs in Test Kitchen:

if (node.chef_environment == "_default")
  # Running in Test Kitchen

  # Ensure sudo is installed
  package 'Install sudo' do
    package_name 'sudo'
    action :install

  file '/etc/sudoers' do
    mode 0440
    owner 'root'
    group 'root'
    action :create

  delete_lines 'remove hash-comments from /some/file' do
    path '/etc/sudoers'
    pattern '^.*requiretty'



Start to use InSpec

To use InSpec as the default integration testing tool in Chef Test Kitchen

  1. Open the .kitchen.yml file of the cookbook,
  2. Delete the following lines from the platform section if exist:
      sudo: true
  3. Add the following lines to the file:
      name: inspec
  4. Place the test files into the default location of the InSpec integration test. The “verify” command executes all files in the directory.
  5. To use the test file of another suite, add this to the suite. With a relative path, you can use tests from other cookbooks (../ANOTHER_COOKBOOK/test/recipes/ANOTHER_SUITE_NAME).
        - path: test/recipes/ANOTHER_SUITE_NAME
  6. Create an integration test for your recipe. Create a new file in the test/recipes/THE_SUITE_NAME folder. The name does not matter, if you are planning to create only one test file for the suite, name the file after the suite: default_test.rb,
  7. The following is a simple example of an InSpec integration test:
    # # encoding: utf-8
    # Inspec test for recipe my_cookbook::default
    # The Inspec reference, with examples and extensive documentation, can be
    # found at
     describe user('root') do
     it { should exist }
     skip 'This is an example test, replace with your own test.'
    describe port(80) do
     it { should_not be_listening }
     skip 'This is an example test, replace with your own test.'

As you can see, the syntax of InSpec is (intentionally) very similar to ServerSpec, that it replaces. It is very easy to convert existing ServerSpec integration tests to InSpec compliance tests.

Differences between ServerSpec and InSpec

ServerSpec “process”

changed from

 describe process('PROCESS_NAME') do
   it { should be_running }


describe processes('PROCESS_NAME') do
  its('states') { should eq ['R<'] }

For more information

For more information on the Kitchen InSpec verifier visit

Undefined method or attribute error in a Chef recipe

There are multiple reasons Chef can display the following error message

 Undefined method or attribute `...' on `node'


There are multiple ways to reference an attribute in a Chef recipe:

node['ATTRIBUTE_NAME'] (the recommended way)
node[:ATTRIBUTE_NAME]  ( use it only if the single or double quotes (' or ") would cause a problem in the expression)


To check if the attribute value is nil, use the following format:

if ( !node['ATTRIBUTE_NAME'].nil? )

If you use the node.ATTRIBUTE_NAME format and the value is nil Chef throws the above error message.