Posts Tagged ‘linux’

NSA-proof SSH

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

ssh-pictureOne of the biggest takeaways from 31C3 and the most recent Snowden-leaked NSA documents is that a lot of SSH stuff is .. broken.

I’m not surprised, but then again I never am when it comes to this paranoia stuff. However, I do run a ton of SSH in production and know a lot of people that do. Are we all fucked? Well, almost, but not really.

Unfortunately most of what Stribika writes about the “Secure Secure Shell” doesn’t work for old production versions of SSH. The cliff notes for us real-world people, who will realistically be running SSH 5.9p1 for years is hidden in the repo.

Edit your /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

Ciphers aes256-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes128-ctr
MACs hmac-sha2-512,hmac-sha2-256,hmac-ripemd160
KexAlgorithms diffie-hellman-group-exchange-sha256

Basically the nice and forward secure aes-*-gcm chacha20-poly1305 ciphers, the curve25519-sha256 Kex algorithm and Encrypt-Then-MAC message authentication modes are not available to those of us stuck in the early 2000s. That’s right, provably NSA-proof stuff not supported. Upgrading at this point makes sense.

Still, we can harden SSH, so go into /etc/ssh/moduli and delete all the moduli that have 5th column < 2048, and disable ECDSA host keys:

cd /etc/ssh
mkdir -p broken
mv moduli ssh_host_dsa_key* ssh_host_ecdsa_key* ssh_host_key* broken
awk '{ if ($5 > 2048){ print } }' broken/moduli > moduli
# create broken links to force SSH not to regenerate broken keys
ln -s ssh_host_ecdsa_key ssh_host_ecdsa_key
ln -s ssh_host_dsa_key ssh_host_dsa_key
ln -s ssh_host_key ssh_host_key

Your clients, which hopefully have more recent versions of SSH, could have the following settings in /etc/ssh/ssh_config or .ssh/config:

Host all-old-servers


Note: Sadly, the -ctr ciphers do not provide forward security and hmac-ripemd160 isn’t the strongest MAC. But if you disable these, there are plenty of places you won’t be able to connect to. Upgrade your servers to get rid of these poor auth methods!

Handily, I have made a little script to do all this and more, which you can find in my Gone distribution.

There, done.

sshh obama

Updated Jan 6th to highlight the problems of not upgrading SSH.
Updated Jan 22nd to note CTR mode isn’t any worse.
Go learn about COMSEC if you didn’t get trolled by the title.

sound sound

Monday, December 8th, 2014


Recently I been doing some video editing.. less editing than tweaking my system tho.
If you want your jack output to speak with Kdenlive, a most excellent video editing suite,
and output audio in a nice way without choppyness and popping, which I promise you is not nice,
you’ll want to pipe it through pulseaudio because the alsa to jack stuff doesn’t do well with phonom, at least not on this convoluted setup.

Remember, to get that setup to work, ALSA pipes to jack with the pcm.jack { type jack .. thing, and remove the alsa to pulseaudio stupidity at /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf.d/50-pulseaudio.conf

So, once that’s in place, it won’t play even though Pulse found your Jack because your clients are defaulting out on some ALSA device… this is when you change /etc/pulse/client.conf and set default-sink = jack_out.

danger at the docks

Friday, November 14th, 2014 is taking the world by storm, but a day at the docks is not without its perils. Here I hope to inspire you to try out docker by showing you how to avoid its pitfalls.

In the days of yore

As the FreeBSD jailers and Solaris zoners will attest to, containerizing your services is a great boon, saving space and resources and providing easy management akin to chroots and potential security benefits, without the overheads of full-blown virtual machines.

FreeBSD Jail Linux has had containers for the longest time, in the ancient form of User Mode Linux, which actually ran a kernel in userland, and more recently OpenVZ, which was more like jails.

The former didn’t lend itself to production deployments and the latter never made it into the linux mainline, coming at a time when people were more interested in virtualization than containment. In recent years, a kernel facility named Cgroups has made LinuX Containers (LXC) possible, which as afforded the management, if not security, of bsd jails.

what can be gained

The biggest potential benefit from containers is that CPU, memory and disk resources are 100% shared at native speeds, so no libraries and no data need ever be duplicated on disk nor in memory.

In FreeBSD jails, this was achieved by providing most of the system read-only like /usr, /lib and /bin, and sharing it amongst jails. This worked quite well, but was surprisingly tricky to update.

You can do similar stuff with LXC, just as long as you understand that if it breaks, you get to keep all the pieces. This gives you full control, and means that I for one have LXC instances in production with uptimes of 1200 days and counting.


Taking the approach of single-container-single-responsibility further, you could instead of deploying whole system containers create image filesystems that contained only the bare necessities. For instance, your python application would have apart from its code,just the python runtime, libc and other dependant libraries, and naught much else.

Inspired by the “leaner is better” philosophy backed by the experience of running LXC in production, we built this minimal deployment framework complete with a tool to magically find all the required libraries.
leaner is better
Awesomely small images come from this approach, where the “contact surface” of the application has shrank to nothing but the app itself. It was far from perfect, serving to make the images awesomely less debuggable and managable, and never made it into production proper.

layer upon layer is two steps further

In comes Docker, and its concept of filesystem image layers based on AUFS. The approach isn’t novel itself, having been used by live-CD distributions for the longest time, but it’s the first that provides tools to manage the layers effortlessly for containers. So you can now have 100 servers with 100 application layers, and all your Ruby applications share one runtime layer and your Python applications share another, and they all run on the same base image of Ubuntu, and they do all that transparently, without you having to consciously think about which bit goes where.

layersDocker takes another step further, borrowing heavily from distributed social source control ala github, allowing you to clone, build, push, pull, commit, share and remix images as easy as that.

This is the type of thing that blows disk-image-based virtualization straight out of the water.

Perils and rough starts

The Docker docs are well written and will get you spawning containers and dockerizing applications in no time at all. What they will not tell you is how to run containers in production for all values of production.

In particular, the following things require special attention:

  • changing ips
  • service discovery
  • dns issues
  • cache clash

.. and that is precisely what we will talk about next time.
see you later

systemd crash course, with remote logging

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

live a better life

The world is taking systemd by storm and there is no looking back now.

Still, there are some elements that you would expect to be there that are missing. One of them is remote logging!

Another thing missing is a decent crash course [*]. This is frustrating because making init scripts and checking logs is the staple diet of any old sysadmin.

Read on to readjust gently but quickly.
she wants it

Systemd crash course

Find “unit” – that’s the new name for “init script name” to us oldtimers:

systemctl list-units --type=service
# this one is way more verbose
systemctl list-units

Start, stop, restart, reload, status:

systemctl start sshd
systemctl stop sshd
systemctl restart sshd
systemctl reload sshd
# status, gives some log output too
systemctl status sshd

Check ALL the logs, follow the logs, get a log for a service:

journalctl -l
journalctl -f
journalctl -u sshd

Install a systemd service:
(This is what a systemd service description looks like)

    cat > ossec.service << EOF
Description=OSSEC Host-based Intrusion Detection System

ExecStart=/var/ossec/bin/ossec-control start
ExecStop=/var/ossec/bin/ossec-control stop


# now copy that file into the magic place, /etc/init.d in the old days
install -Dm0644 ossec.service /usr/lib/systemd/system/ossec.service

# now make systemd pick up the changes
systemctl daemon-reload

Enable or disable a service:

systemctl enable ossec
systemctl disable ossec

systemd components

Remote logging

OK so you now know your way around this beast.
Now you want remote logging.

According to the Arch wiki [#], systemd doesn’t actually do remote logging (yet. what else doesn’t it do?) but it will helpfully spew its logs onto the socket /run/systemd/journal/syslog if you knock twice, gently.

To convince systemd to write to this socket, go to /etc/systemd/journald.conf and set


then issue a journald restart

systemctl restart systemd-journald

You can install syslog-ng and it should pick up the logs. Test it now by making a log entry with

logger -t WARN zool

and check /var/log/syslog.log

If you have a distro running systemd, then hopefully syslog-ng will be recent enough to be aware enough of systemd that things should just work at this point.

If it don’t, syslog-ng.conf’s source src { system(); }; isn’t picking up the socket file. Fix this by adding the socket explicitly by changing the source in /etc/syslog-ng/syslog-ng.conf like so:

source src {

if you are working with a laptop or desktop then the console_all on tty12 is handy too:

log { source(src); destination(console_all); };

the systemd monster

[*] IMHO Fedora’s cheatsheet on systemd is a little too cluttered
[#] Arch has a decent intro to systemd

No sockpuppets were harmed in the making of this blog entry. Any and all images are © whomever made them, and I love you for not sueing me.

Grsecurity on the desktop

Friday, August 8th, 2014

In my last post I presented Grsecurity kernel packages for Debian Wheezy. Now would be a good time to review the hows and whys of Grsecurity, so you can decide if it is something you need.

Today we will quickly look at Grsecurity’s viability and impact on a typical desktop or laptop.

Why do I need Grsecurity on the desktop?

  • Often run unsecure code? Limit its impact on the system.
  • Employ chroots and containers? Enforce stricter containment.
  • Connect to hostile networks? Reduce and mitigate impact of exploitation attacks.
  • Allow others to use your system? Increase monitoring and control over your machine.

Or perhaps you choose to run Grsecurity on your laptop simply for the sheer paranoia-factor and to impress friends.

How does Grsecurity behave on the desktop?

In addition to the invisible yet significant hardening efforts againt kernel exploitation, there are some changes that an experienced user will notice immediately:

  • you need root to dmesg
  • grsec reports denied resource oversteps in dmesg
  • top only shows this user’s running processes
  • mappings and other sensitive information is only available to the process owner in /proc

The very few programs that depend on a specific kernel version, or that read /sys/kcore or write directly to kernel constructs will not work under Grsecurity.

And of course, there is the feeling of solidity and the sight of the reported kernel version:

~# uname -a
Linux amaeth 3.2.60-grsec-lied #1 SMP Wed Aug 6 17:40:27 CEST 2014 x86_64 GNU/Linux

kernel security for debian

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

TL;DR – links to Grsecurity-enabled up-to-date debian wheezy-kernel packages at the bottom of this post.

Kernel security is becoming more important nowadays, especially since the Linux kernel has grown so big and the platform is rife with misbehaving programs.

Some enthusiasts have illusions that the Linux kernel is somehow magically very secure, but those in the know will tell you there are quicker ways to gain root than sudo.
you did what?
Grsecurity is by far the best patchset for increasing the security of a system, whether it be a virtual LAMP box, a login shell server or a desktop machine. I have been tracking it and using it for years and consider it superior to the SELinux and AppArmor approaches.

It has only one major drawback: most distributions of Linux do not provide tested and up-to-date grsec-patched kernel packages, making Grsec-level security features nearly unobtainium for the common mortal.

I have been rolling my own kernel patches since the millenium and so I put in the work to put Grsecurity back into Debian.

So far I have built and tested kernels for Debian 7.5 and 7.6 Stable codenamed Wheezy. This is the standard, debian-patched kernel with added Grsecurity.

I have built separate packages which are suitable for servers, virtualized servers and desktops, and these have been tested on run-of-the-mill LAMP boxen as well as custom and well-trafficed shell servers, and of course my trusty desktops and laptops.

Download and Install

You can download and install the grsec desktop. server and virtual server debian packages today!

Note, to avoid running out of space in /boot, change MODULES=most to MODULES=dep in /etc/initramfs-tools/initramfs.conf

Install the lied apt repository

sudo -i
wget -O- | apt-key add -
wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/lied.list
apt-get update

Grsecurity Desktop/Laptop HOWTO

apt-get install linux-image-3.2.60-grsec-lied

Grsecurity Server HOWTO

dpkg -i linux-image-3.2.54-grsec-nose-server_3.2.54-grsec-nose-server-1_amd64.deb

Grsecurity Virtual Server HOWTO

dpkg -i linux-image-3.2.54-grsec-nose-virtual_3.2.54-grsec-nose-virtual-1_amd64.deb

Furthermore I commit to also merging the patchsets and making available Grsecurity packages for Debian 8/Jessie and providing it all in a debian repo. I will then make this available in a repo so that people can easily add it to their setup.
I also commit to keeping these packages up to date on all the platforms I care about.

Quick Howto build your own
To build your own Grsec-enabled debian kernel packages, execute the following commands:

gpg grsec-201408032014-debian-3.2.60-1.patch.gpg
apt-get source linux
cd linux-3.2.60
patch -p1 < ../grsec-201408032014-debian-3.2.60-1.patch
wget -O .config
make deb-pkg LOCALVERSION=-myversion

You can replace “grsec-config-server” with “grsec-config-desktop” or “-virtual” if you need one of the other configurations.

3g wwan pain revisited with gobi

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Hi all,
after a long hiatus I’ve finally found a something annoying enough to share with you: namely, my 3g modem.
I have spoken at lengths about 3g on linux before.

I have a Thinkapd X201 laptop and it has a Qualcomm Gobi 2000 3g modem. This modem does some fancy mode switching, but not in the regular way by getting some control bytes. Therefore, usb-modeswitch can’t help you.

Instead, the modem needs firmware loaded to switch from usb id 05c6:9204 to usb id 05c6:9205.
On linux, the firmare loading is achieved with gobi-loader.

All this is nicely documented at thinkwiki, unfortunately it doesn’t make it one bit easier for the regular joe.

The trouble is, the firmware is not redistributable, so the whole thing is quite tricky!

  1. download 7xwc48ww.exe from the Thinkpad support site,
  2. unpack the drivers with wine or cabextract. I used wine:
    cp 7xwc48ww.exe ~/.wine/drive_c
    wine 7xwc48ww.exe

    Make sure you run the driver installation after extraction, otherwise execute setup again: wine ~/.wine/drive_c/DRIVERS/WWANQL/setup.exe

  3. copy the firmware:
    cd ~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/QUALCOMM/Images/Lenovo
    sudo mkdir /lib/firmware/gobi
    sudo cp 6/UQCN.mbn UMTS/* /lib/firmware/gobi/

    This was the tricky part, unpacking and selecting the correct firmware out of the 12 different sets of files provided in that directory.

  4. reload the driver: modprobe -r qcserial; modprobe qcserial
  5. dmesg should now show you have three USB serial devices /dev/ttyUSB0 (control interface), /dev/ttyUSB1 (the actual modem), and /dev/ttyUSB2 (the GPS, which you need windows to enable once).
    usb 2-1.4: Product: Qualcomm Gobi 2000
    usb 2-1.4: Manufacturer: Qualcomm Incorporated
    qcserial 2-1.4:1.1: Qualcomm USB modem converter detected
    usb 2-1.4: Qualcomm USB modem converter now attached to ttyUSB0
    qcserial 2-1.4:1.2: Qualcomm USB modem converter detected
    usb 2-1.4: Qualcomm USB modem converter now attached to ttyUSB1
    qcserial 2-1.4:1.3: Qualcomm USB modem converter detected
    usb 2-1.4: Qualcomm USB modem converter now attached to ttyUSB2
  6. If you have gotten this far, your 3g modem is basically working and you can set up wvdial as in my previoius post pointing at the /dev/ttyUSB1 modem.

    Note however you still need to enable the modem with echo enable > /proc/acpi/ibm/wan

software defined radios with alsa, jack and pulseaudio and a professional sound card

Monday, September 9th, 2013



All the people out there are neatly divided in two piles:
the “it works for me and does what I need”-camp, and
the “always always always gets in the way so killitwithfire”-camp,
and this fragmentation may be the best argument that pulseaudio should be up for a whammy.

For all of you tl;dr’s (too lazy, doyou read?) here’s a short summary:

  • alsa: just works. confusion in the .asoundrc
  • pulseaudio: controls per process, less buffer fuckups, “just works”
  • jack: controls per process, realtime, firewire/usb, pro audio apps
  • firewire: fantastic, massive pain but getting there
  • software defined radios: so worth it!

But read on to learn the recipie to the secret magic sauce.

The reason I am writing this is not because pulseaudio is evil and sucks. However, it was the last straw in a long and windy road that broke the camels back. Pulseaudio assumes you are running systemd, and talks to console-kit-daemon which is surely one of Satan’s most trusted advisers and a harbinger of the Apocalypse.


We know all this, and yet why do I bother?
I didn’t come here to rant about Pulseaudio though:
I’ve gathered you here today to tell a story about Software Defined Radios.

Introducing a large and characteristic cast of characters, and howto make them work together in the best possible way.

My way.

The Cook

Well: a friend of mine got a hold of a few Terratec DVB-dongles with the awesome rtl-chipset and Elonics tuner, which means I can play with radio!

terratec dongle

Except the first time I tried I got stuck in gnuradio dependency hell and never got anything working… which was very nearly a year ago.

Things weren’t easy back then, gqrx, the pretty waterfall app wasn’t mature enough and you were stuck using something far more fugly (.net code running under mono, shudder the thought).

You still have to build gnuradio from source (because the packaged versions aren’t new and shiny enough), but the piper’s playing to a different tune now, with the advent of build-gnuradio it’s possible to sit back and relax while gnuradio and all its dependencies builds before your very eyes.

Yes indeed this takes longer than getting the cows back from pasture but it’s worth it, because with a full gnuradio build you can now have a hope of getting gqrx the shiny waterfall to compile!

gnuradio companion

The Thief

Except you didn’t realize that without the -m option ti build-gnuradio it builds gnuradio 4.6 which is not 4.7 which gqrx needs! Joke’s on you haha ha ha.

Then you build gqrx and realize you can’t get it to talk to your Terratec, because why? Because it’s a DVB dongle and the kernel has helpfully inserted the DVB module to enable it! So run along now and add

# rtlsdr
blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu

to your /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf – now you are ready to fire up gqrx and gnuradio-companion.

His Wife

That’s when you might discover that if you are lucky there is no sound in gqrx. It’s working and showing you a waterfall but you can’t hear the demodulated waves!

GQRX gnuradio waterfall

Why oh why, well let me tell you why: It absolutely needs, requires Pulseaudio to produce sound!

OK, fair enough, some of you out there are in the “works-for-me”-camp and ipso facto you’re done here, gqrx works and IT ALL JUST WORKS but the world is not so easy for the rest of us.

The rest of us bite the bullet and install pulseaudio to get this thing working. Which is as far as you need to go if you’re semi-sane and normal or even when you are running this thing on a Raspberry PI or you’re building a beagleboard spectrum analyzer.

Actually you don’t even need Pulseaudio for that last project..

Her Lover


What I have neglected to tell you however is that I have an Echo Audiofire. I was impressed with these little firewire-driven sound cards back when my bro had the small and portable Audiofire2.

Sound quality and flexibility wise they are unbeatable, certainly if you want professional quality sound input and output.

Firewire sound also has the major advantage over USB sound in that firewire packets aren’t quantized in time, which means a lot if you’re doing midi or other realtime music stuff. Latency is a killer.

You might also be aware that the higher the sample rate of your sound card, the higher the bandwidth of your homebrew SDR radio..

Anyways, firewire soundcards “just work” with asio drivers in Windoze but are a small pain of their own to set up in Linux. ALSA never heard of them. Pulseaudio doesn’t speak firewire. For anything resembling realtime professional audio under Linux you’ll have to go FFADO and JACK.

JACK audio kit

Also, never think that just any firewire card will work in Linux: a lot of vendors continue to ignore the platform (understandibly, because of the atrocious state of professional audio under linux) and there are some wonderous cards out there that have just pitiful support here.

The jackd brothers

You’re walking down a long path, you’re going to Mecca. You come upon a fork in the road where two brothers live. They are twins, and you know that one of them always speaks the truth, and the other always lies. You need to ask them the way to Mecca, but how?

As there are two problems with anything in this world, there are two problems with Jack. Firstly, jack forked into jack1 and jack2, and both versions are strangely alive to this day, and there is netjack1 and netjack2 and well, what the fuck.


To complicate matters there are two competing linux driver subsystems for firewire and both of them live to this day, with one supporting some firewire devices and one supporting other firewire devices, and one being supported in jack1 and the other in jack2. Furthermore you need a recent FFADO to get it all working.

Thankfully in recent debians and ubuntus the right kind of jackd talks to the right kind of firewire device in the kernel and matches the right ffado to get things to work, but you still need to know your way around.


The Answer, not The Question

Know what question to ask to get the right answer, which is that at least for the Echo Audiofire, jackd2 works nicely with ffado and recent-ish kernels as long as
you run jackd as your X user
with jackd -v -dfirewire and then fire off qjackctl and ffado-mixer and then all your sweet sweet jack apps. For now, lets assume you are jackd2′ing things, but let us just say that at this point it no longer matters.

What you don’t know is that to get the Echo to work, you will likely have to upgrade your Echo firmware, either by hooking it up to a windoze with the right drivers and letting them reflash the rom, or play with the scary commands ffado-diag and ffado-fireworks-downloader, insert magic (literally!), etc.

Having done all this voodoo I still had problems that required rebooting the sound card or booting into windoze to reset it to a known state that jackd could talk to, but with newer kernels/libffado/jackd versions the problem evaporated somewhere along the line.

Jack meters

Realtime patchset to the Linux kernel? Lets not get into it… I am not a professional musician nor am I a sound engineer, and they would probably use windows or mac.

The Waitress


Synthesizer clutter

At that point you might be wondering where I’m going with things. Lets recap:
I’ve got a gqrx waterfall on Terratec DVB RTL-SDR that only supports Pulseaudio, and I’ve got an Echo Audiofire soundcard on firewire that only listens to jack. I can hook pulseaudio to Alsa.

Indeed, installing pulseaudio I discovered it will do this automatically, /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf.d/pulse.conf suddenly appears and fucks your setup by putting everything in ALSA through Pulseaudio.

There is also some shit in /etc/pulseaudio/ that is supposed to detect jackdbus and make pulseaudio use jack, but that stuff just never worked.

Of course, I have an .asoundrc file that takes everything from ALSA and puts it up JACK, so how do you think that’s gonna work?

Well, it doesn’t work.
So, it’s time to bring out the guns again.

The Heist

# convert alsa API over jack API
# use it with
# % aplay foo.wav

# use this as default
pcm.!default {
    type plug
    slave { 
       pcm "jack" 
       #rate 96000

ctl.mixer0 {
    type hw
    card 1

# pcm type jack
pcm.jack {
    type jack
    playback_ports {
        0 system:playback_1
        1 system:playback_2
    capture_ports {
        0 system:capture_1
        1 system:capture_2

(that was .asoundrc)

load-module module-jack-sink
load-module module-jack-source 

in your /etc/pulseaudio/
but put it somewhere near the top, instead of load-module module-alsa-sink, before the ifexists module-jackdbus shit.

and rm /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf.d/pulse.conf

Now remember that jack is running as you, so make sure that Pulseaudio is running as you as well:

sudo service pulseaudio stop
pulseaudio -v

The Payoff

Pulses playing through jack audio

At this point you can run your freshly compiled gqrx waterfall radio outputting to pulseaudio outputting to jackd and at the same time enjoy ALSA apps talking to jack directly and jack apps doing jack.

live online root migration

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Hey all, yep before you ask, yes OHM was fantastic.
Others have eloquently described that experience, so I’m here to tell you a different story.
fuck cairo

I got an SSD this summer. They finally reached my cost-benefit pricepoint, and I’m not going to waste breath talking about how phun SSDs are. However, I will tell you about the little things I did that others would probably not do, most notably how I migrated a live running debian linux system from one disk to another.

I already RAID-1 my home partition, which has completely different data storage requirements, and besides it wouldn’t fit on 10 SSDs.

The SSD was to be my root drive, the OS disk. The OS is not so important in my setup, because the argument goes that if something dies, I can always reinstall it, I can always boot from USB, I can always configure it and the heavier stuff is in gone already.

I decided to put NILFS2 on it, which I’ve successfully used before to save my girlfriend from inadvertantly discovering how ext2undelete sucks, the argument being that log structured filesystems are better suited to solid state drives, then researched the heck out of it and found out about F2FS, which seemed like a better fit – if nothing else then because it’s faster, I don’t need log-based snapshots on the root disk and it’s not btrfs.

brain fuck schedule

I’m allowed the luxury to try out new things – I compile my very own kernels, complete with Con Kolivas patches as always, and I know I how to keep the pieces if something breaks.

Let’s try out this new magic.

First, the simple stuff; cfdisk/gparted to create one small /boot partition, one large root partition (all primaries of course, because extended partitions are evil) and leave some space for “something unexpected”.. then mkfs.ext2 -L boot /dev/sda1; mkfs.f2fs -l root /dev/sda2.

Why the boot partition? Just in case, mainly because experience has taught me this makes booting a whole lot easier in case of troubles that may or may not be ancient and deprecated in 2013. Let’s get the files there mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/target; rsync -a /boot /mnt/target/; umount /mnt/target.

What I am doing next is not difficult. It’s just not something anyone would consider safe. I want to sync the root filesystem over to the SSD. But I can’t be bothered rebooting into a USB stick, I want to continue using my system while I sync the 40 odd gigs (yes, fourty, ask me why), and I want to do it all in one go, creating the “cleanest” new filesystem with no fragmentation and with directories ordered spatially together on disk.

clever trap, sir

Therefore, first I disable any and all services that might write to root or var:

for daemon in prads gpsd munin-node hddtemp mpd atop powernowd atd and cron ddclient dictd libvirt-bin ntpd ssh timidity smartd uml-utilities postfix rsyslog arpwatch mcelog
  service $daemon stop

Afterwards, I give it a minute while watching pidstat -d 10 to see if anything else might write to disk. I see nothing and proceed:

mount -o bind / /mnt/src
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/target
rsync -a /mnt/src/ /mnt/target/

Why did I bindmount? because I don’t want rsync to cross filesystem boundries, which it sometimes does regardless whether I tell it not to.

There are only two more things to do: update fstab and the boot loader. I’ve already disabled swap beforehand, but the rest of this I forget to do. Instead, I am excited to try out the new SSD-enabled system and reboot a little too early.


Thankfully I’m running grub – grub 1 at that, so much more user-friendly than grub2 – and I tell it to boot into (hd0,0). This fails because initrd cannot mount /dev/sda6. Well duh, that was the old disk at the old location. I mount /dev/sda2 and rewrite fstab. I reboot. Again it fails: the root= argument to the kernel doesn’t match fstab. I reboot again, edit the grub boot again, and it fails on the third try. Because f2fs doesn’t have fsck, and I’ve told it to do a pass in fstab. This is a modern filesystem, it fsck’s on mount. I tell it not to pass with a magic zero in the fstab and hoppla, fourth time is the charm, my machine boots with no further ado, and somewhat faster.

And before you ask, I am not fond of disk UUIDs either, they are terrible from a usability standpoint. Ever tried to type an UUID by hand, let alone remember one?


Kernel command line: root=/dev/sda2 ro crashkernel=128M zcache vga=791
zcache: using lzo compressor
zcache: cleancache enabled using kernel transcendent memory and compression buddies
zcache: frontswap enabled using kernel transcendent memory and compression buddies
zcache: created ephemeral local tmem pool, id=0

hell yeah, zcache is finally in mainline, which means the ancient war between Time and Space has another battle and I get compressed memory pages which (hopefully) are both faster and more plentiful in physical RAM, now that I’ve foregone a swap partition.

I promptly recompile my kernel, timing the difference now that I use an SSD and zcache aand… it’s not much faster. Oh well, I guess it’s time to upgrade the system :-P

dark nite

bup quick reference

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Git is nice and flexible. I wish my backups were that flexible. Thankfully, my wishes have been answered, as bup was created.
I used to lookup the 28c3 bup slides for a quick reference, until I realized I was always looking for just one page of the slides. Best docs are short docs.

# Install
sudo apt-get install python2.6-dev python-fuse python-pyxattr python-pylibacl
git clone
cd bup && make && make test && sudo make install
# index zz's home directory
bup index -ux /home/zz
# backup to default BUP_DIR and label the backup 'laptop'
bup save -n laptop /home/zz
# backup to remote myserver, naming the backup 'laptop'
bup save -r myserver -n laptop /home/zz
# index /home/zz on myserver
bup on myserver index -ux /home/zz
# backup myserver:/home/zz, naming the backup 'server'
bup on myserver save -n server /home/zz
# check the latest laptop backup
bup ls laptop/latest/home/zz

It’s hard to migrate from tivoli, rsnapshot, tarsnap and friends when you don’t know how. So here we go, without further ado, all you needed to know about bup but never daret to ask, ie

Some reasons to use bup:

  • global deduplication
    • rsnapshot: 4.97G = 2.18G with bup
    • rsnapshot: 12.6G = 4.6G with bup
  • save transmission time
  • backups are oneliners
  • anytime snapshots
  • uid,gid,permissions,acl,selinux
  • par2 anti-bitrot and corruption resistance
  • runs on dd-wrt

This is awesome, but there are two caveats. One is I am unaware of Enterprise&tm; shops using bup yet, the other is a common question: no, bup doesn’t encrypt data.

You can either encrypt or deduplicate. Choose. If you want the other, you probably want duplicity or tarsnap.