Ifblog (ponderings 2.0)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Remote-controling Linux from any mobile device

Filed under: Coding, Free Software, Security, Ubuntu — ifireball @ 20:12

Remote ControlsRemote-controlling desktop computers from mobile devices is an idea that is typically implemented in the form of an Android/Iphone app that connects to the controlled computer over SSH, VNC, RDP or some proprietary protocol typically requiring a closed-source server component.

It had occurred to me a while ago that it shouldn’t be too difficult to write a webapp that would turn any mobile device with a web browser into a remote control for the server its running on, and I was wondering why I didn’t see any implementations of that idea around.

Well now there is one such implementation in the form of “Linux Remote Control“.

(more…)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I joind the PRSM social network

Filed under: EFF, Free Software, Security — ifireball @ 11:50

Please come and join too, its awesome.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Quick list of open-source webmail clients

Filed under: Free Software, Sysadmin — ifireball @ 16:19

Cory Doctorow recently wrote about Mailpile, an Indiegogo-based effort to fund development of a new open-source web-based E-Mail client.

I really have to wonder, does the world really need another such client? Here is a bunch of them:

  • Roundcube – Written in PHP with a moderm AJAX UI.
  • The Horde Project – Not only provides E-Mail, but a full groupware suit.
  • Zimbra – Not only provides a client but also a full server that can replace Microsoft Excange.
  • SquirrlMail – Includes a rather old style UI, but seems to be very popular. Most web hosting providers support installing it directly with their site management tools.
  • Mailr – Not very pretty, but written with Ruby On Rails, if you don’t want to run PHP.
  • And many, manymore.

I’ve been running my own mail sever for years. In my view, that is where the bigger  problems are, the constant flood of spam and other E-Mail attacks, seems to have led most internet service providers to block all E-Mail sent from anyone who doesn’t look like a large service provider. When running my own server I’d often find out that my mail get rejected unless I relay it through such a provider.

Ways to self-host your own website

Filed under: Free Software, IndieWeb, Sysadmin — ifireball @ 15:35

It seems that recent news have triggered a wave of distrust in cloud and hosted web service. The popularity of hosting your website on your own computer seems to be growing. Personally, I’ve been running my own mail server for years, but several concerns have prevented me from trying to host my own website:

  1. Asymmetric bandwidth – The existing broadband infrastructure was laid by large a powerful communications companies that are more interested in broadcasting video and other media to passive “consumers” then in allowing “users” to communicated. A typical 100Mbit broadband cable connection tends to provide only mere 1 or 2Mbit of upload bandwidth.
  2. Security – Hosting a website from your own internal network typically means potentially exposing your network directly to outside threats.
  3. Availability – If anything happens to your home network – it happens to your website. Power failures, computer crashes, bandwidth-eating games and peer-to-peer software, they will all affect your site.
  4. You are on your own – Support services can be very useful when your tile is limited. There is no one to turn to we you do your own hosting.

Having considered the above, recent disappointment with a hosting service I use, had led me to consider self-hosting once more, hare are some ways one can accomplish that:

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Monday, March 25, 2013

IndieWeb and running my own pipes

Filed under: Evil Plans, Free Software, IndieWeb — ifireball @ 12:37

Indie Web Camp logo

It seems that by deciding to run my own instance of Tiny Tiny RSS as a response to the looming shut down of Google Reader, I’ve joined a movement called IndieWeb.

I’m thinking about expanding my operation with that regard, maybe run my own web event processor, or even move this blog or my mail account, I’m also wondering about trying to run and use my own ownCloud or Dispora instances.

Friday, March 22, 2013

They are trying to add DRM to HTML. Really?

Filed under: Coding, Copyrights, EFF, Free Software — ifireball @ 12:55

StopI can’t believe that in 2011 people still think DRM can work for anything but limit end user choices, security and privacy. Here is an article from EFF  explaining what is going on with this on the HTML standardization front. Please join this struggle and sign EFF’s petition.

In case you don’t know or understand what this is all about, here is my attempt at explaining, by writing a fictional conversation between a DRM Programmer and a Technology Literate User.

DRM Programmer: I want you to buy my data (Movie/Music/Book/Game) and then be able to read (Watch/Listen to/Play) it but not copy it.

Technology Literate User: That is impossible, on computers reading is copying.

D: I will protect the data by encrypting it.

T: If you encrypt the data I won’t be able to read it.

D: I will give you a decryption key so you can decrypt the data and read it.

T: If you give me the decryption key, and let me read the data, I can then write (E.g. save) it, unencrypted, to somewhere else, and therefore copy it.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quick list of server deployment/life cycle management systems

Filed under: Free Software, Linux, Puppet, Sysadmin — ifireball @ 20:20

I’ve recently decided to take the time and look into the various open-source systems for server deployment and life cycle management. As the amount of servers in the data-center grows, as well the the demands for quicker response to rapidly changing IT needs in the organization, performing manual server installation, or even using a manually configured Kickstart server simply doesn’t cut it.

The following is a list of server deployment and life cycle management systems I could find on the Internet, and what I could learn from reading the documentation available on their websites. (more…)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Running Fedora’s liveusb-creator on Ubuntu

Filed under: Fedora, Free Software, Linux, Ubuntu — ifireball @ 16:06

One of the things I find most annoying about Linux distributions is that when it comes to distribution-oriented tools, they tend to make other distributions feel like second-class citizens even when compared to Windows. One such example is the Ubuntu One service which had a Windows client released recently and will soon see a Mac client while it is yet to be unsupported on any other distro besides Ubuntu. Another such, albeit smaller, example is the Fedora liveusb-creator tool.

The Fedora liveusb-creator tool is used when one wants to install Fedora while using a USB stick rather then a CD-ROM. While Ubuntu does include a comparable tool called “Startup Disk Creator”, that tool only supports creation of bootable USB sticks for Debian-derivative distributions.

Installation of the  liveusb-creator tool is of course extremely easy on Fedora where it is accessible directly from the distribution’s repositories, the tool’s website also provides a Windows installer, but when it comes to other distributions the site resorts to providing a source archive without even including instructions as to what packages might be needed to run it.

Fortunately for users of other distributions, the Fedora liveusb-creator tool is written in Python, therefore running it on other distributions is a rather simple task, following are 3 simple steps required to use the liveusb-creator on Ubuntu, similar steps may apply to other Debian-derived distributions as well.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Configuring Aviem PRO2100 UPS on Debian 6.0 (Stable/Squeeze)

Filed under: Debian, Free Software, Hardware, Linux — ifireball @ 16:18

The Aviem PRO2100 is a SOHO Line-Interactive Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) unit that sells at a very compelling price/performance point. The PRO2100 is a 1000VA unit that sells at a price which is only slightly above that of other manufacturers` 650VA units, whereas comparable strength units typically sell for twice as much. What this means is that you can use if to power two computers for the price typically paid to power one.

That being said, the Aviem`s weak point is it`s Linux support (I cannot vouch for Windows support since I did not attempt to connect it to a Windows machine). While The UPS does ship with a CD that includes Linux software, it suffers from several shortcomings that are unfortunately all too common even for enterprise-level Linux supporting hardware:

  1. The CD only contains precompiled 32bit X86 binaries without any source code or any pointers to where the source code may be found.
  2. No pointers are given as to where updated software versions be be found, what seems to be the product name, “PowerD”, also doesn’t yield anything useful in a Google search.
  3. The software relies on an installation shell-script rather being packaged for use with the system`s package manager (E.g. RPM or DPKG) or at least something like Autopackage. The installation script also seems to assume all Linux systems are roughly built and behave like RedHat and would generally make a mess of your system regardless of the distribution (For example, the script tries to place binaries in “/etc” and set insecure file permissions such as “777″).

This particular software CD has another strange problem to it as the included “Readme.txt” file seems to be completely unreadable gibberish as well as resist being converted to anything readable with “iconv”.

All in all the software on the CD has a very strong abandon-ware feel to it and it is nothing I would be willing to install on my systems.

(more…)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cobbler “Advanced Networking” not quite up to task

Filed under: Free Software, Linux, RHEL, Sysadmin — ifireball @ 13:45

System administrators that deploy tools such as RHEL’s Kickstart are typically concerned with rapidly deploying large numbers or servers, therefore it is quite unfortunate that Kickstart has only very basic network configuration support. What it means is that sysadmins have had to resort to manually configuring IP addresses and NIC Bonding for each and every installed server.

Cobbelr’s Advanced Networking feature seems to suggest a solution for this problem. It seem to me, however, that the approach taken is impractical for large organizations. Cobbler’s approach is to have the sysadmin use the Cobbler command line tool feed in the configuration for each and every NIC on the new server, prior to server installation and based on NIC MAC addresses.

This approach is impractical because the last thing a sysadmin faced with installing dozens of servers wants to to is to boot each and every server with one tool or another in order to check what the MAC addresses are, might as well manually configure the servers once they are already installed with a operating system…

The approach we’ve taken in my organization was to develop our own internal tool that automatically performs network configuration based on detecting where the various NICs are connected to by pinging well-known IP addresses. This approach has an additional benefit in that it can be used to quickly reconfigure the server when faulty NICs or motherboards are replaced (E.g. when the MAC addresses change).

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