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Running irssi as an interactive service

I revamped my server-side IRC setup a bit. I run irssi there, mainly for logging, so I want it to always run, but only really use it interactively from time to time.

I used to have it running in a separate tmux session under my own user, started at boot-time through a crontab entry like

@reboot tmux -u new-session -d -s irssi /usr/local/bin/irssi

Now I wanted it to

  • run under the irc user
  • be controlled by runit
  • have all relevant files in /srv

This is on a new server running Debian Wheezy but should apply roughly on all UNIXoid systems.

Setting up a service with runit is quite simple, but a bit different to traditional (self-backgrounding) services: There is a run script that performs all necessary setup, and then execs the actual program. This is necessary to keep the same PID so the stop/restart functions work properly. Additionally, the service itself must not fork; it should just keep running. Optionally, stdout is piped into a dependent log service. Should either ever crash or exit, they will be restarted automatically.

The multi-user support in tmux is a bit weak, and it lacks any way to synchronously wait for the session to end without attaching to it. I settled on using screen instead– since they (by default) use different shortcuts it is quite convenient to attach to a screen session within my normal tmux.

The default Debian irc user has a home directory /var/run/ircd which does not exist unless ircd is installed (which I don't need), so just symlink this:

ln -s /srv/irc /var/run/ircd

Install the packages:

apt-get install runit irssi screen

And create the scaffolding for the service:

mkdir -p /etc/sv/irssi /etc/sv/irssi/log/main /etc/sv/irssi/supervise /etc/sv/irssi/log/supervise
cat >/etc/sv/irssi/log/run <<EOF
exec svlogd -tt ./main
chmod +x /etc/sv/irssi/log/run

Finally, create the run script for irssi itself:


exec 2>&1

export HOME=/srv/irc
export LANG=en_US.UTF-8

echo "Starting irssi..."
exec chpst -uirc screen -S irssi -m -D irssi

Explanation of the steps:

  • exec 2>&1: fold stderr into stdout so it is captured in the logs (just in case; I do this in all run-scripts)
  • exports: the run script, and subsequently the service, have an almost empty environment. Set $HOME so screen can find .screenrc, and $LANG to work correctly with UTF-8 characters
  • echo: a marker to track restarts, as screen won't produce any output
  • chpst: a tool that comes with runit to run the service in the context of another user. Easier to use than su and does not interfere with runit
  • screen -S irssi -m -D: set the session name to irssi so there is a fixed name to attach to, start detached but wait until the session finishes

Make it executable (chmod +x /etc/sv/irssi/run), and add /srv/irc/.screenrc to enable multiuser operation:

multiuser on
acladd <your username>

Then enable the service, it will start automatically:

ln -s ../sv/irssi /etc/service/irssi

and attach to it

screen -r irc/irssi

To detach without exiting, press ^A d.

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