Avahi Aliases Notes Save

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Avahi aliases

On most Linux variants your machine is automatically advertised on the local network in the .local domain by Avahi using multicast DNS.

So you or any other machine on the local network can ping your machine like so:

$ ping myhostname.local

Where myhostname is the value returned by:

$ hostname

In addition to the normal advertising of a machine's hostname it would be nice to advertise CNAMEs, i.e. aliases, for it. E.g. if I was running an Apache Spark master on my machine I might want to advertise it as spark-master.local.

If you Google for this you find a fair number of projects - I downloaded the main hits and took a look at all of them.

In the end it turns all of them are just variants on a Python script that was originally published on the Avahi wiki. There was one exception - a Ruby script that's part of the OpenShift Origin server project.

First off Avahi doesn't seem to support aliases directly through one of their standard commands (someone did submit a patch, see here and here, but it never got accepted) but their website (essentially offline since sometime in 2016) used to host a very short and simple Python script that would do this.

That script is included here as avahi-alias-python2 and was taken from the October 2015 archived version of the original wiki page as found on the Wayback Machine.

Note that the script depends on avahi and dbus imports. Dbus should be installed by default but for avahi you need to do:

$ sudo apt-get install python-avahi

Then to advertise a CNAMEs simply run the script like so:

$ ./avahi-alias-python2 spark-master.local

You can specify as many names as you want (separated by spaces). The names will be advertised as long as the script is left running, just press control-C to exit.

Note: all names must end in .local.

Python 3

The original avahi-alias script was written for Python 2. It has been updated to Python 3 and now depends on python3-avahi rather than the old Python 2 dependency python-avahi. However, at the time of writing (July 27th, 2019), this dependency is not yet availble for Ubuntu. It is already available for distributions such as Fedora and bug #1771033 is tracking making it available for Ubuntu. As noted in the bug the source is ready and YavDR has made a packaged version available.

So first I'd suggest seeing if python3-avahi has been released by the time you read this:

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install python3-avahi
E: Unable to locate package python3-avahi

If a version is still not available then use the one from the bug. There's no point installing a PPA for a single package (and one that's so trivial) so just download it. Go to the page ~yavdr/.../experimental-main, find and click on python3-avahi-... and you'll see a list of package files. Click on the .deb and the file will be downloaded.

Let's have a look at the downloaded package:

$ cd ~/Downloads
$ dpkg -c /home/ghawkins/Downloads/python3-avahi_0.0.1-1yavdr1_bionic_all.deb
-rw-r--r-- root/root      3517 2016-01-10 17:13 ./usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/avahi/ServiceTypeDatabase.py
-rw-r--r-- root/root      3082 2016-01-10 16:52 ./usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/avahi/__init__.py
-rw-r--r-- root/root       187 2018-03-01 09:52 ./usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/pyhton3_avahi-0.0.1.egg-info
-rw-r--r-- root/root       290 2018-03-01 09:52 ./usr/share/doc/python3-avahi/changelog.Debian.gz
-rw-r--r-- root/root      5453 2018-03-01 09:52 ./usr/share/doc/python3-avahi/copyright
$ dpkg -I /home/ghawkins/Downloads/python3-avahi_0.0.1-1yavdr1_bionic_all.deb
 Depends: python3:any (>= 3.3.2-2~), python3-dbus, python3-gdbm

So basically it just consists of two Python files - ServiceTypeDatabase.py and __init__.py and, in addition to Python 3 itself, has just two dependencies - python3-dbus and python3-gdbm.

So go ahead and install the package:

$ sudo apt install ./python3-avahi_0.0.1-1yavdr1_bionic_all.deb

Now you can run the Python 3 version of the script included here:

$ ./avahi-alias spark-master.local

Credits: the avahi-alias script is just a lightly modified version of the original Python 2 script but thank you to Robert Nagtegaal for submitting a pull request that motivated these changes and which includes a more thorough rewrite of avahi-alias into a Python class that does not depend on python3-avahi (but instead defines the few additional constants, that are needed, itself).


If you're running a modern Linux variant it's probably running systemd. So if you want to install the above as a service that's run at system startup you just need a unit file for systemd.

The necessary unit file is trivial - it's included here as avahi-alias.service. To install the Python script and systemd unit file and start things as a service just do:

$ sudo cp avahi-alias /usr/local/bin
$ echo spark-master.local > aliases
$ sudo mv aliases /etc/avahi
$ sudo cp avahi-alias.service /etc/systemd/system
$ sudo systemctl daemon-reload
$ sudo systemctl start avahi-alias

Check the status and ping the alias:

$ systemctl status avahi-alias
$ ping spark-master.local

To change an alias or add additional ones just edit /etc/avahi/aliases and then run:

$ sudo systemctl restart avahi-alias

To enable the service to be started automatically at startup:

$ sudo systemctl enable avahi-alias


The avahi-alias.service at just ten lines hardly seems to warrant a license, but as I was asked about this I've included a LICENSE file here and release the service file under the version 2 Apache license.

The Python script, that does the real work, was written by Damjan Georgievski and contributed to the Avahi wiki in 2006. I wrote Damjan and he replied (see gdamjan-email.txt) saying that he considered this script to be public domain.

Alternative projects

So as we've seen aliases just require one short Python script (and a systemd unit file it you want to run it as a service). So what are all all the other projects that Google turns up?

Nearly all of them are minor variants on the Avahi wiki script. Here are my notes on what I found.

Python variants

Github user Gdamjan took the original Avahi wiki script (as you can see from the commit history) and modified it slightly to create this gist. The only changes are that it outputs some helpful usage information if you don't specify any aliases, uses some more concise Python constructs and automatically adds .local if required.

Update: it turns out that Github user Gdamjan and the author of the original Avahi wiki script are the same person - Damjan Georgievski.

Github user Airtonix took Gdamjan's gist and turned in into avahi-aliases - making it pip installable and useable as a daemon (with names stored in /etc/avahi/aliases.d/default). A script for use with Upstart (Ubuntu's old init system) is included. The core Avahi code is identical to that in Gdamjan's gist.

Let's demonstrate it quickly by modifying it slightly to run from the command line (rather than as a daemon) and then getting it to advertise simple-test.local:

$ sudo apt-get install python-avahi
$ curl -O https://github.com/airtonix/avahi-aliases/blob/master/avahi_aliases/bin/avahi-alias
$ sed -i 's/ALIAS_DEFINITIONS =.*/ALIAS_DEFINITIONS = [ "aliases-list" ]/' avahi-alias
$ sed -i '/daemon/d' avahi-alias
$ echo '        AvahiAliases().run()' >> avahi-alias
$ echo simple-test.local > aliases-list
$ python avahi-alias

In another terminal window ping simple-test.local and it should ping your current machine. To stop the advertising just kill the Python process with control-C.

The last commit to this project was in 2013 - and a number of forks have been made. Looking at the Github fork graph for the most interesting ones (in terms of numbers of commits are) one finds:

  • a systemd version - this forked from the Airtronix project before it incorporated Gdamjan's minor changes, so the core Avahi code is identical to the original Avahi wiki code. In addition to a systemd unit file, this fork adds command line commands allowing one to add, list and remove aliases on the fly (without having to edit a configuration file). A little oddly this version starts a separate version of the underlying Python script for each name advertised.
  • the till/avahi-aliases and PraxisLabs/avahi-aliases versions - despite the apparent number of additional commits, beyond those in the original, neither involves any noteworthy change to the Airtronix setup (the PraxisLabs changes all seem to be related to adding Aegir support).

Separately to avahi-aliases and its many forks Github user Jinko created a similar project with an almost identical name avahi-alias. This uses the original wiki Python script unchanged and adds an old style Debian init script and rather than reading names from the command line it reads them from an XML formatted file. Bizarrely despite the complex format of the XML file (described in the README) that makes it look like it supports all kinds of additional DNS-SD features, it actually ignores everything except the simple hostname entries and advertises them just like the original script.

Like the other projects it's long inactive - the last commit was in 2012. Minor further development occurred in the fork by user Asharpe that removes the pointless XML configuration, replacing it with a simple text file with a hostname per line (and instead of a Debian init script provides Upstart scripts).

OpenShift Origin server

All the projects above are just minor variants on the original Avahi wiki script and none are undergoing active development (which isn't necessarily a bad thing - the original is simple and works).

The only Avahi alias code that I found that seems to be part of an actively maintained project is the Avahi-CNAME-manager that's part of the OpenShift Origin server.

Note: while the overall server project sees regular commits, the Avahi-CNAME-manager code itself is unchanged since January 2014.

The Avahi-CNAME-manager comes with a systemd unit file and has a built in REST server that allows on-the-fly adding and removing of aliases. Unlike all the other projects the code here has been written from scratch in Ruby. And unlike the Avahi wiki code:

  • It does not make use of the IDN ToASCII algorithm (which is only relevant if you plain to advertise names that involve non-ASCII characters).
  • It can publish aliases for any machine on the local network, not just the machine that it's running on.

Let's demonstrate it quickly by modifying it slightly to run from the command line (rather than as a daemon) and then getting it to advertise simple-test.local:

$ sudo apt-get install ruby-dbus ruby-sinatra ruby-parseconfig
$ curl -O https://raw.githubusercontent.com/openshift/origin-server/master/extras/avahi-cname-manager/bin/avahi-cname-manager
$ sed -i -e 's?/var/lib/avahi-cname-manager/??' -e 's?/etc/avahi/??' avahi-cname-manager
$ echo simple-test.local=$(hostname).local > aliases
$ printf 'KEY_NAME=alpha\nKEY_VALUE=beta' > cname-manager.conf
$ ruby avahi-cname-manager

In another terminal window you should then be able to ping simple-test.local and you can also add and remove aliases using curl like so:

$ curl --data "key_name=alpha&key_value=beta&cname=simpletest.local&fqdn=$(hostname).local" http://localhost:8053/add_alias

Important: if either the hostname for the cname or the fqdn values contains anything other than the letters a to z then it will generate a 400 response and a message like this:

Invalid CNAME 'another-name.local'

This is odd as it doesn't care about characters like the minus sign if they're used in the aliases file. As the host I'm working on does include a minus in its name it's impossible to specify it as the fqdn value.

And what's the alpha and beta thing about? It's a simple form of authentication, you could change beta in the file cname-manager.conf to e.g. some more obscure passphrase and then only remote parties that know the passphrase could add or delete aliases (I don't know why it's useful to be able to configure both a key name and a key value).

Open Source Agenda is not affiliated with "Avahi Aliases Notes" Project. README Source: george-hawkins/avahi-aliases-notes
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