Running Build in Debug Mode

If you are having trouble resolving complex build errors, or you suspect there are significant differences between your local development environment and the Travis CI build environment, you can restart builds in debug mode to get shell access to the virtual machine or container.

Restarting a job in debug mode

This feature is available for private repositories and those public repositories for which the feature is enabled. To have the feature enabled for a public repository, please email us at indicating which ones. Push access to the repository is also required.

For private repositories, the “Debug build” or “Debug job” button is available on the upper right corner of the build/job page.

Screenshot of debug build/job buttons

For public repositories, an API call is required, in addition to the feature being enabled.

Restarting a job in debug mode via API

To restart a job in debug mode via API, send a POST request to the job’s debug endpoint, along with your Travis CI API token in the Authorization header. As public repositories do not show the Debug button, this is the only way to restart builds in the debug mode for public repositories.

$ curl -s -X POST \
  -H "Content-Type: application/json" \
  -H "Accept: application/json" \
  -H "Travis-API-Version: 3" \
  -H "Authorization: token ********************" \
  -d "{\"quiet\": true}" \${id}/debug

For private repositories, the API endpoint is${id}/debug.

Echoing debug session’s output to the logs

To show any command input and output you see while connected to the VM running in the debug mode, pass an empty JSON object ({}) in the payload instead.

Connecting to the job running in the debug mode

When the job starts in the debug mode, it will go through the initial steps, including setting up language run times and caches (if applicable) and installing debug utilities.

When it is ready for your connection, you will see:

Debug build initiated by BanzaiMan
Setting up debug tools.
Preparing debug sessions.
Use the following SSH command to access the interactive debugging environment:
This build is running in quiet mode. No session output will be displayed.
This debug build will stay alive for 30 minutes.

Running the ssh command above will drop you in on a live VM.

Security considerations

At this time, there is no authentication beyond the ssh command displayed in the logs.

You may choose to share the ssh command with another person who might be able to help you out in debugging the build.

However, this also means that anyone who can see the command while the debug VM is live can connect to the debug VM and potentially look at your secrets. This is the reason that the feature is not available by default on public repositories.

Do note that when another ssh connection starts, that new connection will be attached to the session you are already in. When you are already connected to the live debug VM, and a new user connects to the VM using the same ssh command, you can see what the new user is doing. For example, if the new user runs env to list all the environment variables, you can see the output on your terminal as well. This gives a clear indication that your secrets are at risk, and you should take measures to mitigate any possible damage.

If you suspect malicious activity, you can either close all your windows, or cancel the debug job on the Web UI to disconnect the attacker.

“Permission denied” error message

Upon entering the ssh command, you may see an error message such as this:

$ ssh
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is c7:a1:51:36:d2:bb:35:4b:0a:1a:c0:43:97:74:ea:42.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added ',' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
Permission denied (publickey).

If you see this, run the command ssh-keygen (go through the prompts), and try again.

Things to do once you are inside the debug VM

Once inside the debug VM, you are able to explore.

You are in a tmate session, at the point where your before_install (even if it is not defined) phase is about to start.

Convenience bash functions

Various build phases are defined in convenience bash functions named travis_run_* (e.g., travis_run_before_install, travis_run_install). Run these build phases to observe your build:


Basic tmate features

tmate is a fork of tmux. Your debug VM session uses the default configuration; thus, the command prefix is ctrl-b.

A subset of functionalities are available for you in this debug session.

Creating a new window

ctrl-b c

The first window is indexed 0. So repeating command will give you windows 1, 2, and so on.

Switching to a different window

ctrl-b 0

This switches your session’s focus to the window with the index 0. You can substitute 0 with any valid index to switch to that window.

Switching between windows can be helpful if you want to run long-running process in one window while looking at the debug VM in another.

Scrolling up and down the terminal history

ctrl-b [

Enter the log scroll mode. Here, you can move your cursor with your arrow keys to go through the log history.

Press q to exit the log scroll mode.

Getting out of the debug VM

Once you exit from all the live tmate windows, the debug VM will terminate after resetting the job’s status to the original status before you restarted it. No more phases (before_install, install, etc.) will be executed.