7.2. Updating Zone Data FilesSomething is always changing on your network -- new workstations arrive, you finally retire or sell the relic, or you move a host to a different network. Each change means that zone data files must be modified. Should you make the changes manually? Or should you wimp out and use a tool to help you?
First we'll discuss how to make the changes manually. Then we'll talk about a tool to help out: h2n. Actually, we recommend that you use a tool to create the zone data files -- we were kidding about that wimp stuff, okay? Or at least use a tool to increment the serial number for you. The syntax of zone data files lends itself to making mistakes. It doesn't help that the address and pointer records are in different files, which must agree with each other. However, even when you use a tool, it is critical to know what goes on when the files are updated, so we'll start with the manual method.
7.2.1. Adding and Deleting HostsAfter creating your zone data files initially, it should be fairly apparent what you need to change when you add a new host. We'll go through the steps here in case you weren't the one to set up those files or if you'd just like a checklist to follow. Make these changes to your primary master name server's zone data files. If you make the changes to your slave name server's backup zone data files, the slave's data will change, but the next zone transfer will overwrite it.
Sometimes your users won't want to wait for the slaves to pick up the new zone data -- they'll want it available right away. (Are you wincing or nodding knowingly as you read this?) Can you force a slave to load the new information right away? With Version 8 or 9 masters and slaves, the slaves pick up the new data quickly because the primary master notifies the slaves of changes within 15 minutes of the change. If your name server is 4.9 or later, you can reload it just as you did for your primary master name server. The reload induces the name server to refresh all of its slave zones. If your name server is 4.8.3 or earlier, remove all the slave's backup zone data files (or just the ones you want to force), kill the slave server, and start up a new one. Since the backup files are gone, the slave must immediately pull new copies of the zones.
To delete a host, remove the resource records from the db.DOMAIN and from each db.ADDR file pertaining to that host. Increment the serial number in each zone data file you changed and reload your primary master name server.
7.2.2. SOA Serial NumbersEach of the zone data files has a serial number. Every time you change the data in a zone data file, you must increment the serial number. If you don't increment the serial number, slave name servers for the zone won't pick up the updated data.
the updated zone data file would have this SOA record:movie.edu. IN SOA terminator.movie.edu. al.robocop.movie.edu. ( 100 ; Serial 3h ; Refresh 1h ; Retry 1w ; Expire 1h ) ; Negative caching TTL
This simple change is the key to distributing the zone data to all of your slaves. Failing to increment the serial number is the most common mistake made when updating a zone. The first few times you make a change to a zone data file, you'll remember to update the serial number because the process is new and you're paying close attention. After modifying the zone data file becomes second nature, you'll make some "quickie" little change, forget to update the serial number . . . and none of the slaves will pick up the new zone data. That's why you should use a tool that updates the serial number for you! It could be h2n or something you write yourself, but it's a good idea to use a tool.movie.edu. IN SOA terminator.movie.edu. al.robocop.movie.edu. ( 101 ; Serial 3h ; Refresh 1h ; Retry 1w ; Expire 1h ) ; Negative caching TTL
BIND does allow you to use a decimal serial number like 1.1, but we recommend that you use only integer values. Here's how BIND Version 4 handles decimal serial numbers: if there is a decimal point in the serial number, BIND multiplies the digits to the left of the decimal by 1000. The digits to the right of the decimal point are then concatenated to the digits on the left. Therefore, a number like 1.1 is converted to 10001 internally, and 1.10 is converted to 100010. This creates certain anomalies; for example, 1.1 is "greater" than 2, and 1.10 is "greater" than 2.1. Because this is so counterintuitive, we think it's best to stick with integer serial numbers.
There are several good ways to manage integer serial numbers. The most obvious is just to use a counter: increment the serial number by one each time you modify the file. Another method is to derive the serial number from the date. For example, you could use the eight-digit number formed by YYYYMMDD. Suppose today is January 15, 1997. In this form, your serial number would be 19970115. This scheme allows only one update per day, though, and that may not be enough. Add another two digits to this number to indicate how many times the file has been updated that day. The first number for January 15, 1997 would then be 1997011500. The next modification that day would change the serial number to 1997011501. This scheme allows 100 updates per day. It also has the advantage of leaving you an indication in the zone data file of when you last incremented the serial number. h2n will generate the serial number from the date if you use the -y option. Whatever scheme you choose, the serial number must fit in a 32-bit integer.
7.2.3. Starting Over with a New Serial NumberWhat do you do if the serial number on one of your zones accidentally becomes very large and you want to change it back to a more reasonable value? There is a way that works with all versions of BIND, a way that works with Version 4.8.1 and later, and one that works with 4.9 and later.
The way that always works with all versions is to purge your slaves of any knowledge of the old serial number. Then you can start numbering from one (or any convenient point). Here's how. First, change the serial number on your primary master server and restart it; now the primary master server has the new integer serial number. Log onto one of your slave name server hosts and kill the named process with the command ndc stop. Remove its backup zone data files (e.g., rm bak.movie.edu bak.192.249.249 bak.192.253.253) and start up your slave name server. Since the backup copies were removed, the slave must load a new version of the zone data files -- picking up the new serial numbers. Repeat this process for each slave server. If any of your slave name servers aren't under your control, you'll have to contact their administrators to get them to do the same.
If all your slaves run a version of BIND newer than 4.8.1 (and we pray you're not using 4.8.1) but older than BIND 9, you can take advantage of the special serial number zero. If you set a zone's serial number to zero, each slave will transfer the zone the next time it checks. In fact, the zone will be transferred every time the slave checks, so don't forget to increment the serial number once all the slaves have synchronized on serial number zero. But there is a limit to how far you can increment the serial number. Read on.
The other method of fixing the serial number (with 4.9 and later slaves) is easier to understand if we first cover some background material. The DNS serial number is a 32-bit unsigned integer whose value ranges from to 4,294,967,295. The serial number uses sequence space arithmetic, which means that for any serial number, half the numbers in the number space (2,147,483,647 numbers) are less than the serial number and half the numbers are larger.
Let's go over an example of sequence space numbers. Suppose the serial number is 5. Serial numbers 6 through (5 + 2,147,483,647) are larger than serial number 5 and serial numbers (5 + 2,147,483,649) through 4 are smaller. Notice that the serial number wrapped around to 4 after reaching 4,294,967,295. Also notice that we didn't include the number (5 + 2,147,483,648), because this is exactly halfway around the number space and could be larger or smaller than 5, depending on the implementation. To be safe, don't use it.
Now back to the original problem. If your zone serial number is 25,000 and you want to start numbering at 1 again, you can speed through the serial number space in two steps. First, add the largest increment possible to your serial number (25,000 + 2,147,483,647 = 2,147,508,647). If the number you come up with is larger than 4,294,967,295 (the largest 32-bit value), you'll have wrap around to the beginning of the number space by subtracting 4,294,967,296 from it. After changing the serial number, you must wait for all of your slaves to pick up a new copy of the zone. Second, change the zone serial number to its target value (1), which is now larger than the current serial number (2,147,508,647). After the slaves pick up a new copy of the zone, you're done!
7.2.4. Additional Zone Data File EntriesAfter you've been running a name server for a while, you may want to add data to your name server to help you manage your zone. Have you ever been stumped when someone asked you where one of your hosts is? Maybe you don't even remember what kind of host it is. Administrators have to manage larger and larger populations of hosts these days, making it easy to lose track of this information. The name server can help you out. And if one of your hosts is acting up and someone notices remotely, the name server can help them get in touch with you.
So far in the book, we've covered SOA, NS, A, CNAME, PTR, and MX records. These records are critical to everyday operation -- name servers need them to operate, and applications look up data of these types. DNS defines many more datatypes, though. The next most useful resource record types are TXT and RP; these can be used to tell you a host's location and responsible person. For a list of common (and not-so-common) resource records, see Appendix A, "DNS Message Format and Resource Records".
184.108.40.206. General text informationTXT stands for TeXT. These records are simply a list of strings, each less than 256 characters in length. Versions of BIND prior to 4.8.3 do not support TXT records. In Version 4, BIND limits the zone data file TXT record to a single string of almost 2K of data.
BIND 8 and 9 have the same 2K limit, but you can specify the TXT record as multiple strings:cujo IN TXT "Location: machine room dog house"
cujo IN TXT "Location:" "machine room dog house"
220.127.116.11. Responsible PersonDomain administrators will undoubtedly develop a love/hate relationship with the Responsible Person, or RP, record. The RP record can be attached to any domain name, internal or leaf, and indicates who is responsible for that host or zone. This enables you to locate the miscreant responsible for the host peppering you with DNS queries, for example. But it also leads people to you when one of your hosts acts up.
The record takes two arguments as its record-specific data: an electronic mail address in domain name format, and a domain name pointing to additional data about the contact. The electronic mail address is in the same format the SOA record uses: it substitutes a "." for the "@". The next argument is a domain name, which must have a TXT record associated with it. The TXT record then contains free-format information about the contact, like full name and phone number. If you omit either field, you must specify the root domain (".") as a placeholder instead.
Here are some example RP (and associated) records:
Note that TXT records for root.movie.edu and richard.movie.edu aren't necessary, since they're only the domain name encoding of electronic mail addresses, not real domain names.robocop IN RP root.movie.edu. hotline.movie.edu. IN RP richard.movie.edu. rb.movie.edu. hotline IN TXT "Movie U. Network Hotline, (415) 555-4111" rb IN TXT "Richard Boisclair, (415) 555-9612"
This resource record didn't exist when BIND 4.8.3 was implemented, but BIND 4.9 supports it. Check the documentation for your version of the name server to see if it supports RP before trying to use it.
7.2.5. Generating Zone Data Files from the Host TableAs you saw in Chapter 4, "Setting Up BIND", we defined a process for converting host table information into zone data. We've written a tool in Perl to automate this process, called h2n. Using a tool to generate your data has one big advantage: there will be no syntax errors or inconsistencies in your zone data files -- assuming we wrote h2n correctly! One common inconsistency is to have an A (address) record for a host but no corresponding PTR (pointer) record, or the other way around. Because this data is in separate zone data files, it is easy to err.
In case you've forgotten how to get h2n, see the Preface" in the Preface.What does h2n do? Given the /etc/hosts file and some command-line options, h2n creates the data files for your zones. As a system administrator, you keep the host table current. Each time you modify the host table, you run h2n again. h2n rebuilds each zone data file from scratch, assigning each new file the next higher serial number. It can be run manually or from cron each night. If you use h2n, you'll never again have to worry about forgetting to increment the serial number.
First, h2n needs to know the domain name of your forward-mapping zone and your network numbers. (h2n can figure out the names of your reverse-mapping zones from your network numbers.) These map conveniently into the zone data filenames: movie.edu zone data goes in db.movie, and network 192.249.249/24 data goes into db.192.249.249. The domain name of your forward-mapping zone and your network number are specified with the -d and -n options, as follows:
For greater control over the data, you can use other options:% h2n -d movie.edu -n 192.249.249 -n 192.253.253
Contents of file opts:% h2n -f opts
If an option requires a host name, you can provide either a full domain name (e.g., terminator.movie.edu) or just the host's name (e.g., terminator). If you give the host name only, h2n forms a complete domain name by adding the domain name given with the -d option. (If a trailing dot is necessary, h2n adds it too.)-d movie.edu -n 192.249.249 -n 192.253.253 -s terminator.movie.edu -s wormhole -u al -h terminator -o 10800:3600:604800:86400 -v 8 -y
There are more options to h2n than we've shown here. For the complete list of options, you'll have to look at the manpage.
Of course, some kinds of resource records aren't easy to generate from /etc/hosts -- the necessary data simply isn't there. You may need to add these records manually. But since h2n always rewrites zone data files, won't your changes be overwritten?
Well, h2n provides a "back door" for inserting this kind of data. Put these special records in a file named spcl.DOMAIN, where DOMAIN is the first label of the domain name of your zone. When h2n finds this file, it will "include" it by adding the line:
to the end of the db.DOMAIN file. (The $INCLUDE statement is described later in this chapter.) For example, the administrator of movie.edu may add extra MX records into the file spcl.movie so that users can mail to movie.edu directly instead of sending mail to hosts within movie.edu. Upon finding this file, h2n would put the line:$INCLUDE spcl.DOMAIN
at the end of the zone data file db.movie.$INCLUDE spcl.movie
7.2.6. Keeping the Root Hints CurrentAs we explained in Chapter 4, "Setting Up BIND", the root hints file tells your name server where the servers for the root zone are. It must be updated periodically. The root name servers don't change very often, but they do change. A good practice is to check your root hints file every month or two. In Chapter 4, "Setting Up BIND", we told you to get the file by FTPing to ftp.rs.internic.net. And that's probably the best way to keep current.
% dig @a.root-servers.net . ns > db.cache
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