writing about things, sometimes.

Poor man's unbound dashboard

Written by Omar Polo on 16 October 2019.

I have a tiny i686 at home with OpenBSD where I run, amongst some other things, an instance of unbound.

Last night I decided that I wanted a dashboard to collect some statistics about it.

My first thought was the ELK stack. The only problem is the ram. The little i686 has 1GB of ram, I don't know if it's enough to run logstash, let alone the whole ELK.

A simple solution would be to collect the logs elsewhere, but I'm not going to do this for various reason (lazyness being the first, followed by the fact that having statistics about my dns queries isn't that useful in my opinion, even if it's nice-to-have.)

Instead, my solution involves a bit of bash (don't hate me on this), some fifos, tmux and ttyplot.

The primarly source of inspiration is this post that I red some time ago: it's about plotting various system statistics with ttyplot.

The result is this

unbound dashboard screenshot

(note that I usually disable colors in xterm)

The flow

                   /     various   ------->     multiple
unbound stats  -------    fifos    ------->      ttyplot
                   \               ------->   per tmux pane

The idea is to run unbound-control stats every once in a while, multiplexing its output and draw each (interesting) stats with ttyplot in a tmux pane.

Why the fifos? Well, if I'm not wrong, every time you call unbound-control stats it will clear the statistics, so you can't run it n times to collect n different stats. And since the whole setup requires only a couple of script, the easiest way was to use some fifos.

The whole setup requires three script:

  • gen-dashboard.sh
  • dashboard.sh
  • mystatd.sh


This is the startup script. I run it on my crontab as @reboot /path/to/gen-dashboard.sh. It will create the required fifos, then spawn a tmux session and create two windows and some panes.


# create the fifos
for f in netstat queries hit miss time; do
        mkfifo /tmp/my-$f


tmux new-session -d -s $session

# start mystatd.sh
tmux new-window -t $session:1 -n 'logs'
tmux send-keys "/path/to/mystatd.sh" C-m

# create the dashboard
tmux select-window -t $session:0

# setup the layout of the panes
tmux split-window -h
tmux select-pane -L
tmux split-window -v
tmux select-pane -R
tmux split-window -v -p 66
tmux split-window -v -p 50

# load the correct ttyplot in the panes
tmux select-pane -t 0
tmux send-keys "/path/to/dashboard.sh netstat" C-m

tmux select-pane -t 1
tmux send-keys "/path/to/dashboard.sh queries" C-m

tmux select-pane -t 2
tmux send-keys "/path/to/dashboard.sh hit" C-m

tmux select-pane -t 3
tmux send-keys "/path/to/dashboard.sh miss" C-m

tmux select-pane -t 4
tmux send-keys "/path/to/dashboard.sh time" C-m

(A possible improvement may be to tell tmux which command to run when creating a pane instead of sending the keys to the shell, but it works neverthless.)

There's nothing special about this script, so let's move to the next.


This script also isn't interesting, all it does is pull the data out of the correct fifo and start ttyplot with the correct labels and units.


if [ -z "$1" ]; then
        echo "missing dashboard type"
        echo "usage: $0 <dashboard-name>"
        exit 0

case "$1" in
                (while :; do
                        cat /tmp/my-netstat
                done) | ttyplot -t "IN Bandwidth in KB/s" \
                                -u "KB/s" -c "#"

                (while :; do
                        cat /tmp/my-queries
                done) | ttyplot -t "DNS Queries/5s" \
                                -u "q/5s" -c "#"

                (while :; do
                        cat /tmp/my-hit
                done) | ttyplot -t "DNS cache hit/5s" \
                                -u "ch/5s" -c "#"

                (while :; do
                        cat /tmp/my-miss
                done) | ttyplot -t "DNS cache miss/5s" \
                                -u "cm/5s" -c "#"

                (while :; do
                        cat /tmp/my-time
                done) | ttyplot -t "DNS query time avg/5s" \
                                -c "#"

                printf "%s\n" "$1 is not a valid dashboard"
                exit 1


This is the (only?) interesting script. It's also the only one that requires bash, because I'm lazy, it was already installed as dependecy of something, and because of the >(cmd) construct. Rewriting the script using only pure sh(1) constructs is left as an exercise to the reader (hint: you need some extra fifo.)

#!/usr/bin/env bash

filter() {
        grep "$1" | awk -F= '{print $2}' > /tmp/my-$2

# unbound stats
( while :; do
        unbound-control stats                           \
        | grep -v thread0                               \
        | tee >(filter queries= queries)                \
        | tee >(filter hit hit)                         \
        | tee >(filter miss miss)                       \
        | filter time.avg time

        sleep 5
done ) &

# netstat - ty solene@ for the awk
        (while :; do
                netstat -ibn
                sleep 1
        done) | awk '
        BEGIN {
        /^em0/ { 
                if(!index($4,":") && old>=0) {
                        print ($5-old)/1024
                        old = $5
                if(old==-1) {
                        old = $5
        }' | tee -a /tmp/my-netstat
) &


The first piece collects the stat from unbound. Let's break it in pieces.

  • unbound-control stats outputs the stats. Keep in mind that this requires some privileges. I've solved this by creating a script in /usr/local/bin that executes the command and allowed my user to launch that script via doas(1). Or you can run mystatd.sh as root. Do as you please.
  • grep -v thread0 removes the per-thread stats (since my unbound uses only one thread). A more solid approach like egrep -v ^thread is probably better.
  • tee >(filter queries= queries) | duplicates the stream: one copy goes to the subshell with filter and another copy goes on the pipes.
  • filter is just a small function to grep the desired entry and send it to /tmp/my-$something

The netstat bit filters the output of netstat (the awk is copied-pasted from the previously linked post by solene@). You may want to change the ^em0 to match your network device.

And that's all!

Possible improvements

  • if you SIGINT mystatd.sh some of its subprocess still run. Maybe a trap is needed. Since it is the only bash running on that system, pkill bash is, albeit a bit aggressive, a working solution.
  • replace bash. It's not difficult, but requires more fifos.
  • ...

Final considerations

This was fun. Now I have a tmux session I remotely attach with cool graphs. This doesn't cover the archiviation of the statistics tho. I think it should be trivial to add (just one more |tee -a to a local file, maybe a cronjob to do rotation, ...) but for the moment I'm happy with this result.