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Android Candy: My World, in a Lock Screen

Linux Journal - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 08:10

It feels weird to mention a Microsoft product in Linux Journal. But to be honest, there are some cool things coming out of the Microsoft Garage One of those things is "Next Lock Screen", which is an Android app that brings interactive tools to the lock screen. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Linux Journal August 2017

Linux Journal - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 00:44
The Wacky World of Linux

One of the nifty things about being a Linux user is how bizarre life can get. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Sysadmin 101: Automation

Linux Journal - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 12:03

This is the second in a series of articles on systems administrator fundamentals. These days, DevOps has made even the job title "systems administrator" seem a bit archaic, much like the "systems analyst" title it replaced. These DevOps positions are rather different from sysadmin jobs in the past. more>>

Categories: Linux News

PSSC Labs' Eco Blade 1U

Linux Journal - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 08:26

Arguably "the greenest blade server on the market", PSSC Labs' new Eco Blade 1U rack server offers power and performance with energy savings of up to 46% over competing servers, says the company. more>>

Categories: Linux News

My free software activities, July 2017

Anarcat - Sat, 07/29/2017 - 16:16
Debian Long Term Support (LTS)

This is my monthly working on Debian LTS. This time I worked on various hairy issues surrounding ca-certificates, unattended-upgrades, apache2 regressions, libmtp, tcpdump and ipsec-tools.

ca-certificates updates

I've been working on the removal of the Wosign and StartCom certificates (Debian bug #858539) and, in general, the synchronisation of ca-certificates across suites (Debian bug #867461) since at least last march. I have made an attempt at summarizing the issue which led to a productive discussion and it seems that, in the end, the maintainer will take care of synchronizing information across suites.

Guido was right in again raising the question of synchronizing NSS across all suites (Debian bug #824872) which itself raised the other question of how to test reverse dependencies. This brings me back to Debian bug #817286 which, basically proposed the idea of having "proposed updates" for security issues. The problem is while we can upload test packages to stable proposed-updates, we can't do the same in LTS because the suite is closed and we operate only on security packages. This issue came up before in other security upload and we need to think better about how to solve this.


Speaking of security upgrades brings me to the question of a bug (Debian bug #867169) that was filed against the wheezy version of unattended-upgrades, which showed that the package simply stopped working since the latest stable release, because wheezy became "oldoldstable". I first suggested using the "codename" but that appears to have been introduced only after wheezy.

In the end, I proposed a simple update that would fix the configuration files and uploaded this as DLA-1032-1. This is thankfully fixed in later releases and will not require such hackery when jessie becomes LTS as well.


Next up is the work on the libmtp vulnerabilities (CVE-2017-9831 and CVE-2017-9832). As I described in my announcement, the work to backport the patch was huge, as upstream basically backported a whole library from the gphoto2 package to fix those issues (and probably many more). The lack of a test suite made it difficult to trust my own work, but given that I had no (negative) feedback, I figured it was okay to simply upload the result and that became DLA-1029-1.


I then looked at reproducing CVE-2017-11108, a heap overflow triggered tcpdump would parse specifically STP packets. In Debian bug #867718, I described how to reproduce the issue across all suites and opened an issue upstream, given that the upstream maintainers hadn't responded responded in weeks according to notes in the RedHat Bugzilla issue. I eventually worked on a patch which I shared upstream, but that was rejected as they were already working on it in their embargoed repository.

I can explain this confusion and duplication of work with:

  1. the original submitter didn't really contact
  2. he did and they didn't reply, being just too busy
  3. they replied and he didn't relay that information back

I think #2 is most likely: the folks are probably very busy with tons of reports like this. Still, I should probably have contacted directly before starting my work, even though no harm was done because I didn't divulge issues that were already public.

Since then, tcpdump has released 4.9.1 which fixes the issue, but then new CVEs came out that will require more work and probably another release. People looking into this issue must be certain to coordinate with the tcpdump security team before fixing the actual issues.


Another package that didn't quite have a working solution is the ipsec-tools suite, in which the racoon daemon was vulnerable to a remotely-triggered DOS attack (CVE-2016-10396). I reviewed and fixed the upstream patch which introduced a regression. Unfortunately, there is no test suite or proof of concept to control the results.

The reality is that ipsec-tools is really old, and should maybe simply be removed from Debian, in favor of strongswan. Upstream hasn't done a release in years and various distributions have patched up forks of those to keep it alive... I was happy, however, to know that a maintainer will take care of updating the various suites, including LTS, with my improved patch. So this fixes the issue for now, but I would strongly encourage users to switch away from ipsec-tools in the future.


Finally, I was bitten by the old DLA-841-1 upload I did all the way back in February, as it introduced a regression (Debian bug #858373). It turns out it was possible to segfault Apache workers with a trivial HTTP request, in certain (rather exotic, I might add) configurations (ErrorDocument 400 directive pointing to a cgid script in worker mode).

Still, it was a serious regression and I found a part of the nasty long patch we worked on back then that was faulty, and introduced a small fix to correct that. The proposed package unfortunately didn't yield any feedback, and I can only assume it will work okay for people. The result is the DLA-841-2 upload which fixes the regression. I unfortunately didn't have time to work on the remaining CVEs affecting apache2 in LTS at the time of writing.


I also did some miscellaneous triage by filing Debian bug #867477 for poppler in an effort to document better the pending issue.

Next up was some minor work on eglibc issues. CVE-2017-8804 has a patch, but it's been disputed. since the main victim of this and the core of the vulnerability (rpcbind) has already been fixed, I am not sure this vulnerability is still a thing in LTS at all.

I also looked at CVE-2014-9984, but the code is so different in wheezy that I wonder if LTS is affected at all. Unfortunately, the eglibc gymnastics are a little beyond me and I do not feel confident enough to just push those issues aside for now and let them open for others to look at.

Other free software work

And of course, there's my usual monthly volunteer work. My ratio is a little better this time, having reached an about even ratio between paid and volunteer work, whereas this was 60% volunteer work in march.

Announcing ecdysis

I recently published ecdysis, a set of template and code samples that I frequently reuse across project. This is probably the least pronounceable project name I have ever chosen, but this is somewhat on purpose. The goal of this project is not collaboration or to become a library: it's just a personal project which I share with the world as a curiosity.

To quote the README file:

The name comes from what snakes and other animals do to "create a new snake": they shed their skin. This is not so appropriate for snakes, as it's just a way to rejuvenate their skin, but is especially relevant for anthropods since then "ecdysis" may be associated with a metamorphosis:

Ecdysis is the moulting of the cuticle in many invertebrates of the clade Ecdysozoa. Since the cuticle of these animals typically forms a largely inelastic exoskeleton, it is shed during growth and a new, larger covering is formed. The remnants of the old, empty exoskeleton are called exuviae. — Wikipedia

So this project is metamorphosed into others when the documentation templates, code examples and so on are reused elsewhere. For that reason, the license is an unusally liberal (for me) MIT/Expat license.

The name also has the nice property of being absolutely unpronounceable, which makes it unlikely to be copied but easy to search online.

It was an interesting exercise to go back into older projects and factor out interesting code. The process is not complete yet, as there are older projects I'm still curious in reviewing. A bunch of that code could also be factored into upstream project and maybe even the Python standard library.

In short, this is stuff I keep on forgetting how to do: a proper config, some fancy argparse extensions and so on. Instead of having to remember where I had written that clever piece of code, I now shove it in the crazy chaotic project where I can find it again in the future.

Beets experiments

Since I started using Subsonic (or Libresonic) to manage the music on my phone, album covers are suddenly way more interesting. But my collection so far has had limited album covers: my other media player (gmpc) would download those on the fly on its own and store them in its own database - not on the filesystem. I guess this could be considered to be a limitation of Subsonic, but I actually appreciate the separation of duty here. Garbage in, garbage out: the quality of Subsonic's rendering depends largely on how well setup your library and tags are.

It turns out there is an amazing tool called beets to do exactly that kind of stuff. I originally discarded that "media library management system for obsessive-compulsive [OC] music geeks", trying to convince myself i was not an "OC music geek". Turns out I am. Oh well.

Thanks to beets, I was able to download album covers for a lot of the albums in my collection. The only covers that are missing now are albums that are not correctly tagged and that beets couldn't automatically fix up. I still need to go through those and fix all those tags, but the first run did an impressive job at getting album covers.

Then I got the next crazy idea: after a camping trip where we forgot (again) the lyrics to Georges Brassens, I figured I could start putting some lyrics on my ebook reader. "How hard can that be?" of course, being the start of another crazy project. A pull request and 3 days later, I had something that could turn a beets lyrics database into a Sphinx document which, in turn, can be turned into an ePUB. In the process, I probably got blocked from MusixMatch a hundred times, but it's done. Phew!

The resulting e-book is about 8000 pages long, but is still surprisingly responsive. In the process, I also happened to do a partial benchmark of Python's bloom filter libraries. The biggest surprise there was the performance of the set builtin: for small items, it is basically as fast as a bloom filter. Of course, when the item size grows larger, its memory usage explodes, but in this case it turned out to be sufficient and bloom filter completely overkill and confusing.

Oh, and thanks to those efforts, I got admitted in the beetbox organization on GitHub! I am not sure what I will do with that newfound power: I was just scratching an itch, really. But hopefully I'll be able to help here and there in the future as well.

Debian package maintenance

I did some normal upkeep on a bunch of my packages this month, that were long overdue:

  • uploaded slop 6.3.47-1: major new upstream release
  • uploaded an NMU for maim 5.4.64-1.1: maim was broken by the slop release
  • uploaded pv 1.6.6-1: new upstream release
  • uploaded kedpm 1.0+deb8u1 to jessie (oldstable): one last security fix (Debian bug #860817, CVE-2017-8296) for that derelict password manager
  • uploaded charybdis 3.5.5-1: new minor upstream release, with optional support for mbedtls
  • filed Debian bug #866786 against cryptsetup to make the remote initramfs SSH-based unlocking support multiple devices: thanks to the maintainer, this now works flawlessly in buster and may be backported to stretch
  • expanded on Debian bug #805414 against gdm3 and Debian bug #845938 against pulseaudio, because I had trouble connecting my computer to this new Bluetooth speaker. turns out this is a known issue in Pulseaudio: whereas it releases ALSA devices, it doesn't release Bluetooth devices properly. Documented this more clearly in the wiki page
  • filed Debian bug #866790 regarding old stray Apparmor profiles that were lying around my system after an upgrade, which got me interested in Debian bug #830502 in turn
  • filed Debian bug #868728 against cups regarding a weird behavior I had interacting with a network printer. turns out the other workstation was misconfigured... why are printers still so hard?
  • filed Debian bug #870102 to automate sbuild schroots upgrades
  • after playing around with rash tried to complete the packaging (Debian bug #754972) of percol with this pull request upstream. this ended up to be way too much overhead and I reverted to my old normal history habits.
Categories: External Blogs

Gabriel Ford, Sadie Ford and Melissa Ford's Hello, Scratch!

Linux Journal - Fri, 07/28/2017 - 09:22

In the new book Hello, Scratch! (published by Manning Publications), parents and kids work together to learn programming skills, but not in just any old way. They create new versions of old retro-style arcade games with the Scratch open-source visual programming language from the MIT Media Lab. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Gabedit: the Portal to Chemistry

Linux Journal - Thu, 07/27/2017 - 11:59

Many chemistry software applications are available for doing scientific work on Linux. I've covered several here in previous issues of the magazine, and of them have their own peculiar specialties—areas where one may work better than another. So, depending on what your research entails, you may need to use multiple software packages to handle all of the work. more>>

Categories: Linux News


Linux Journal - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 07:02

Pydio describes itself as the world's largest open-source file sharing and synchronization project for the enterprise, and the newly announced Pydio 8 boasts a new user experience that the company says extends the platform's lead in design and simplicity, oversight, security and control. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Postmortem: What to Do After a Security Incident

Linux Journal - Tue, 07/25/2017 - 07:13

Incidents happen. Vulnerabilities happen. The quality of your response can make the difference between a bad day and a disaster. What happens after the response can make the difference between endless firefighting and becoming stronger with every battle. A quality postmortem analysis is free ammunition. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Rogue Wave Software's Zend Studio

Linux Journal - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 06:52

The quick pitch for Rogue Wave Software's Zend Studio, recently updated to version 13.6, is "the PHP IDE for smarter development". Zend Studio 13.6, says Rogue Wave, offers 3X faster performance in indexing, validation and searching of PHP code, and it allows users to code faster, debug more easily and leverage the massive performance gains in PHP 7. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Managing Docker Instances with Puppet

Linux Journal - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 08:40

In a previous article, "Provisioning Docker with Puppet", in the December 2016 issue, I covered one of the ways you can install the Docker service onto a new system with Puppet. By contrast, this article focuses on how to manage Docker images and containers with Puppet. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Getting Sticky with It

Linux Journal - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 08:33

Although they might not be so good for credit cards or floppy disks, magnets are one of those things that always have fascinated me. For the past few years, I've wanted to get a set of the round Zen Magnets to play with—they're sort of like an extra science-y version of LEGOs. Unfortunately, before I was able to purchase any, the US government banned their sale! more>>

Categories: Linux News

Scissors, Paper or Rock?

Linux Journal - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 06:05

In this article, I'm going to tackle a children's game that's extraordinarily complicated, with many variations, and the programming task is going to be quite tricky. Just kidding! Rock Paper Scissors (or RPS, as it's known) is pretty darn easy to simulate because there aren't really many variants or possible outcomes. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Celtra's AdCreator Platform

Linux Journal - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 06:53

Mobile advertising campaigns today are often hampered by broken, non-viewable ads with a poor UX experience. An important open-source initiative aimed at solving this problem and making the web better for all is the AMP Project, which enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms. more>>

Categories: Linux News

All Your Accounts Are Belong to Us

Linux Journal - Thu, 07/13/2017 - 08:47

Last weekend my work phone suddenly stopped working. Not the phone itself, but rather all service stopped. I first noticed (of course) due to an inability to load any web pages. Then I tried calling someone and realized my phone was disconnected. In fact, when someone tried to call me, it said the line was no longer in service. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Applied Expert Systems, Inc.'s CleverView for TCP/IP on Linux

Linux Journal - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 10:13

The contemporary data center is typified by an ever-increasing amount of traffic occurring between servers, observes Applied Expert Systems, Inc. (AES), sagely. Fulfilling the logical need to facilitate improved server-to-server communications, AES created CleverView for TCP/IP on Linux, now at v2.7. CleverView provides IT staff access to current and more>>

Categories: Linux News

Sysadmin 101: Alerting

Linux Journal - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 05:59

This is the first in a series of articles on system administrator fundamentals. These days, DevOps has made even the job title "system administrator" seem a bit archaic, much like the "systems analyst" title it replaced. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Android Candy: Exploding Kittens!

Linux Journal - Mon, 07/10/2017 - 07:18

I don't very often play games. I know that seems odd, because I do often write about gaming. Honestly though, I very rarely actually take the time to play video games. Recently, however, there has been an exception to that rule. more>>

Categories: Linux News

Mistral Solutions' 820 Nano SOM

Linux Journal - Fri, 07/07/2017 - 09:56

One of the smallest System on a Module (SOM) solutions currently available in the market—measuring a mere 51mm x 26mm—is Mistral Solutions' 820 Nano SOM. The company predicts that its new 820 Nano SOM solution is "destined to be a preferred SoM in the industry". more>>

Categories: Linux News

Linux for Everyone—All 7.5 Billion of Us

Linux Journal - Thu, 07/06/2017 - 05:58

Linux has long since proven it's possible for one operating system to work for everyone—also that there's an approach to development that opens and frees code so everyone can use it, improve it and assure its freedoms spread to everyone doing the same. more>>

Categories: Linux News
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