Issue with files created by Ansible

I’m looking at using to setup some new servers at a new ISP and I’ve been doing some basic steps to test first. I am new but have done some testing on diff servers at another ISP which seemed to go OK (I had created files there no problem). Both are Unbuntu 12 but the original testing had been on a server that had already its kernel updated to 3.8.0-44-generic and other maint added. This new server is also Ubuntu 12 but comes from the ISP template, and is using Kernel 3.5 (Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS (GNU/Linux 3.5.0-23-generic x86_64))

My first test was going to be creating new users and uploading their already existing SSH keys for future login. The user was created with no issues, and the file creation gave no indication of any errors during the creation process, but did when I tried to use them. I tried to login(new user)_ using the key but the system acted as if the SSH key file wasn’t there. Since this was the first new user I had been logged in as root and did my first looking and creation as root

As root everything looks good. The file “authorized_keys” in the .ssh directory exists and appears to have the correct permissions and does have the correct content. But trying to login via SSH acts as if it is not there. I logged out of root and logged back in as the new user (using the password since the key wasn’t being recognized ). I do an “ls -al” and see the .ssh directory fine, but doing “ls -al .ssh” to see the “authorized_keys” file in the directory gives me a very strange result. ‘ls’ put out a “Permission denied” error message for each item inside the directory, and then displays what should be command results, but while the file name is visible everything else (permissions, file size, user/group, date) are replaced by question marks.

First as user - myusername

myusername@my-server:~$ ls -al .ssh
ls: cannot access .ssh/authorized_keys: Permission denied
ls: cannot access .ssh/..: Permission denied
ls: cannot access .ssh/.: Permission denied
total 0
d????????? ? ? ? ?            ? .
d????????? ? ? ? ?            ? ..
-????????? ? ? ? ?            ? authorized_keys

Now as root

sudo bash
[sudo] password for myusername:
root@my-server:~# sudo ls -al .ssh
total 12
drw-r--r-- 2 myusername myusername 4096 Sep 17 19:54 .
drwxr-xr-x 4 myusername myusername 4096 Sep 17 22:51 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 myusername myusername  406 Sep 17 19:54 authorized_keys

As far as the documentation goes, my server meets the minimum requirements (linux, SSH and Python)

The specs are - Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS (GNU/Linux 3.5.0-23-generic x86_64)

The ansible version is 1.7.1

I am running the ansible session from my OSX (10.9.4) Python Python 2.7.5 laptop

Below is the Ansible Playbook I ran to do this

# This playbook create my user {{userid}} and loads the public ssh-key

- name: create my user {{userid}} and loads the public ssh-key  
  hosts: myservername-public 
#  gather_facts: no
#  remote_user: myusername
#    security_groups: "sudo,adm"
    security_groups: ""
    userid: testjunk01
  - name: test connection
    remote_user: myusername

  - name: Create user {{userid}} groups={{security_groups}} 
    user: name={{userid}} shell=/bin/bash groups={{security_groups}} append=yes 

  - name: Verify that needed directories are in place before file copy 
    file: dest="/home/{{userid}}/.ssh"
          owner={{userid}} group={{userid}} 

  - name: Copy file into user {{userid}}'s directory 
    copy: src="/Users/osx_user/Documents/Projects/Projects Internal/Security/ssh-key-public/myusername"
          owner={{userid}} group={{userid}} 

  - name: Reset permissions for file after file copy 
    file: dest="/home/{{userid}}/.ssh/authorized_keys"
          owner={{userid}} group={{userid}} 

===== Just upgraded to ansible 1.7.2 and tried again. Same results. Execution below

server name and IP address masked

$ ansible-playbook playbooks/test01/Test02/create-user -i  ansible-hosts --ask-pass -vv
SSH password:

PLAY [create my user testjunk01 and loads the public ssh-key] *****************

GATHERING FACTS ***************************************************************
<192..168.1.1> REMOTE_MODULE setup
ok: [myserver-public]

TASK: [test connection] *******************************************************
<192..168.1.1> REMOTE_MODULE ping
ok: [myserver-public] => {"changed": false, "ping": "pong"}

TASK: [Create user testjunk01 groups=] ****************************************
<192..168.1.1> REMOTE_MODULE user name=testjunk01 shell=/bin/bash groups= append=yes password=VALUE_HIDDEN
ok: [myserver-public] => {"append": true, "changed": false, "comment": "", "group": 1003, "groups": "", "home": "/home/testjunk01", "move_home": false, "name": "testjunk01", "password": "NOT_LOGGING_PASSWORD", "shell": "/bin/bash", "state": "present", "uid": 1003}

TASK: [Verify that needed directories are in place before file copy] **********
<192..168.1.1> REMOTE_MODULE file dest="/home/testjunk01/.ssh" mode=0644 owner=testjunk01 group=testjunk01 state=directory
changed: [myserver-public] => {"changed": true, "gid": 1003, "group": "testjunk01", "mode": "0644", "owner": "testjunk01", "path": "/home/testjunk01/.ssh", "size": 4096, "state": "directory", "uid": 1003}

TASK: [Copy file into user testjunk01's directory] ****************************
changed: [myserver-public] => {"changed": true, "dest": "/home/testjunk01/.ssh/authorized_keys", "gid": 1003, "group": "testjunk01", "md5sum": "fd6c6017993e847026a010bf67a96c1a", "mode": "0644", "owner": "testjunk01", "size": 406, "src": "/root/.ansible/tmp/ansible-tmp-1412114658.34-25330110994991/source", "state": "file", "uid": 1003}

TASK: [Reset permissions for file after file copy] ****************************
<192..168.1.1> REMOTE_MODULE file dest="/home/testjunk01/.ssh/authorized_keys" mode=0644 owner=testjunk01 group=testjunk01 state=file
ok: [myserver-public] => {"changed": false, "gid": 1003, "group": "testjunk01", "mode": "0644", "owner": "testjunk01", "path": "/home/testjunk01/.ssh/authorized_keys", "size": 406, "state": "file", "uid": 1003}

PLAY RECAP ********************************************************************
myserver-public         : ok=6    changed=2    unreachable=0    failed=0
  • Unrelated comment: there is no reason to reset permissions after copy, since you've already set them in the copy.
    – Jeter-work
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


The first ls you quoted is what happens when you try to ls -l a directory on which you have r permission but no x permission. The r bit on a directory gives you the ability to call readdir on it, so you can get the filenames inside it, but without x you can't stat them to find out all the other information that ls -l normally prints.

ls told you about the inability to get the information with its Permission denied error messages and fields full of question marks.

The second ls confirms the diagnosis with this line:

drw-r--r-- 2 myusername myusername 4096 Sep 17 19:54 .

The user myusername has read permission but no execute permission. You probably want to u+x or a+x that directory.

One interesting thing I learned from your post is that r-without-x now gives slightly more information than it did in olden times... you can see in the original listing that authorized_keys is a regular file and . and .. are directories (first column d vs. -). On an older Unix/Linux system that first column would be a question mark too! Nowadays readdir returns file type information as a bonus so you can get it without stating.

...I kind of skimmed past the second half of your question because I've never seen that stuff before, but this looks like the culprit

file: dest="/home/{{userid}}/.ssh"

I'd expect a .ssh directory to be 0700 normally. And the files inside to be 0600. It's an area where you really don't want other users wandering in. Anyway it needs to be at least 0500 for ls -l to function normally for the owner.

  • Thank You very much. The root cause of the issue was the X execute permission not being on the.ssh directory. In addition that was the reason that using the key during an SSH login wasn't recognized Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 17:25
  • BTW, I would up the answer but I don't have that authority in this group yet Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 15:42
  • If you're in a secure setting, the user is the only one who needs permissions on ~/.ssh. mode=0700. authorized_keys file needs to have 0644 to work.
    – Jeter-work
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 19:43

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