words of wisdom from a systems engineer

Setting up a telnet handler for OpenStack Zuul CI jobs in GNOME 3

The OpenStack Zuul system has gone through some big changes recently, and one of those changes is around how you monitor a running CI job. I work on OpenStack-Ansible quite often, and the gate jobs can take almost an hour to complete at times. It can be helpful to watch the output of a Zuul job to catch a problem or follow a breakpoint.

New Zuul

In the previous version of Zuul, you could access the Jenkins server that was running the CI job and monitor its progress right in your browser. Today, you can monitor the progress of a job via telnet. It’s much easier to use and it’s a lighter-weight way to review a bunch of text.

Some of you might be saying: “It’s 2016. Telnet? Unencrypted? Seriously?”

Before you get out the pitchforks, all of the data is read-only in the telnet session, and nothing sensitive is transmitted. Anything that comes through the telnet session is content that exists in an open source repository within OpenStack. If someone steals the output of the job, they’re not getting anything valuable.

I was having a lot of trouble figuring out how to set up a handler for telnet:// URL’s that I clicked in Chrome or Firefox. If I clicked a link in Chrome, it would be passed off to xdg-open. I’d press OK on the window and then nothing happened.

Creating a script

First off, I needed a script that would take the URL coming from an application and actually do something with it. The script will receive a URL as an argument that looks like telnet://SERVER_ADDRESS:PORT and that must be handed off to the telnet executable. Here’s my basic script:


# Remove the telnet:// and change the colon before the port
# number to a space.
TELNET_STRING=$(echo $1 | sed -e 's/telnet:\/\///' -e 's/:/ /')

# Telnet to the remote session
/usr/bin/telnet $TELNET_STRING

# Don't close out the terminal unless we are done
read -p "Press a key to exit"

I saved that in ~/bin/ A quick test with localhost should verify that the script works:

$ chmod +x ~/bin/
$ ~/bin/ telnet://
telnet: connect to address Connection refused
Press a key to exit

Linking up with GNOME

We need a .desktop file so that GNOME knows how to run our script. Save a file like this to ~/.local/share/applications/telnet.desktop:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Telnet Client
Exec=/home/major/bin/ %U

Change the path in Exec to match where you placed your script.

We need to tell GNOME how to handle the x-scheme-handler/telnet mime type. We do that with xdg utilities:

$ xdg-mime default telnet.desktop x-scheme-handler/telnet
$ xdg-mime query default x-scheme-handler/telnet

Awesome! When you click a link in Chrome, the following should happen:

  • Chrome will realize it has no built-in handler and will hand off to xdg-open
  • xdg-open will check its list of mime types for a telnet handler
  • xdg-open will parse telnet.desktop and run the command in the Exec line within a terminal
  • Our script runs with the telnet:// URI provided as an argument
  • The remote telnet session is connected