StoWiki/ Blog'n'Roll

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I haven't blogged for a long time, but I've decided that I'm going to try to write again, at least about technical stuff.

My plan was to blog about the projects I've been working on lately, the main one being the setup of the latest version of Kolab with the systems we already have at work, but I'll do that on the next days.

Today I'm just going to make a list of the tools I use on a daily basis and my plans to start using additional ones in the near future.

Shells, Terminals and Text Editors

I do almost all my work on Z Shell sessions running inside tmux; for terminal emulation I use gnome-terminal on X, VX ConnectBot on Android systems and iTerm2 on Mac OS X.

For text editing I've been using Vim for a long time (even on Mobile devices) and while I'm aware I don't know half of the things it can do, what I know is good enough for my day to day needs.

In the past I also used Emacs as a programming editor and my main tool to write HTML, SGML and XML, but since I haven't really needed an IDE for a long time and I mainly use Lightweight Markup Languages I haven't used it for a long time (I briefly tried to use Org mode, but for some reason I ended up leaving it).

Documentation formats and tools

Since a long time ago I've been an advocate of Lightweight Markup Languages; I started to use LaTeX and Lout, then moved to SGML/XML formats (LinuxDoc and DocBook) and finally moved to plain text based formats.

I started using Wiki formats (parsewiki) and soon moved to reStructuredText; I also use other markup languages like Markdown (for this blog, aka ikiwiki) and tried MultiMarkdown to replace reStructuredText for general use, but as I never liked Markdown syntax I didn't liked an extended version of it.

While I've been using ReStructuredText for a long time, I recently found Asciidoctor and the Asciidoc format and I guess I'll be using it instead of rst whenever I can (I still need to try the slide backends and conversions to ODT, but if that works I guess I'll write all my new documents using Asciidoc).

Programming languages

I'm not a developer, but I read and patch a lot of free software code written on a lot of different programming languages (I wouldn't be able to write whole programs on most of them, but thanks to Stack Overflow I'm usually able to fix what I need).

Anyway, I'm able to program in some languages; I write a lot of shell scripts and I go for Python and C when I need something more complicated.

On the near future I plan to read about javascript programming and nodejs (I'll probably need it at work) and I already started looking at Haskell (I guess it was time to learn about functional programming and after reading about it, it looks like haskell is the way to go for me).

Version Control

For a long time I've been a Subversion user, at least for my own projects, but seems that everything has moved to git now and I finally started to use it (I even opened a github account) and plan to move all my personal subversion repositories at home and at work to git, including the move of all my debian packages from svn-buildpackage to git-buildpackage.

Further Reading

With the previous plans in mind, I've started reading a couple of interesting books:

Now I just need to get enough time to finish reading them ... ;)

Posted Sun 15 Feb 2015 10:24:41 CET
Static website generators

The last month I was supposed to work on a OpenStack related project, but for administrative reasons it has been delayed and I've tried to do small tasks to be able to finish them quickly and start the work on the main project when the issues get solved.

As the delay has been longer than expected last Wednesday I've realized than on the last weeks I did a lot of small system administration tasks:

With all the changes I did I noticed that I had to do something with our Intranet server; it is just a reverse proxy for a lot of different web services and its main page was one static HTML page with links to them, nothing else.

In the long term maybe we will replace it with something based on Drupal or Lifeay, but for now I just wanted something to be able to organize the links and provide some information about the services for the new users without having to write HTML (I really like Agile Documentation Tools that let me focus on the content and forget about the markup), and started to look at some of them.

My first idea was to use ikiwiki, as it has all the features I was looking for: I can use Markdown or reStructuredText to write the contents, the source pages are easily handled on a Version Control System, it supports the use of templates for the HTML, etc., but it seemed to me that using ikiwiki was like killing flies with a cannon (that's a Spanish say, I guess it's easy to understand it in English, ¿no?) and I decided to review other tools to build static web sites.

To make a long story short, I selected some tools that met my requirements and looked nice on their demo sites; after my first review I thought that Hyde was going to be my bet, as it uses technologies I'm already familiar with, but after trying it I saw that I was going to have a problem with documentation (the current Hyde version lacks it) and it was going to be more complicated that using ikiwiki.

Before giving up I decided to review simpler tools, just in case, and after looking some of them I ended up using poole, a simple python script (the source is just one file and it only requires python-markdown to work).

Before moving to the content I tried to adapt a couple of free themes to be used by the tool, but I didn't liked the result, so I went back to the plain style provided by the tool and added a logo and a background.

With that simple look and feel I started to work with the content, splitting it into eight markdown files and a python macro to include a file that has all the links used on the site.

While trying to make the main page look good I noticed how little I know about CSS, but using search engines I was able to build a two column block into the main page and publish the contents and with the help of some CSS enabled co-workers I changed the look and feel of the site in about 30 minutes.

In summary, if you want a really simple website, you know a little bit of python and don't want to spend much time learning how to use a website generator then Poole is a good option. If you want something more complex I still think that ikiwiki is a good option, but YMMV.

Posted Sat 01 Oct 2011 23:49:39 CEST
The FreakyWall (Part 3: Packages)

In this post I'll describe the changes made to the kernel and some of the Squeeze packages for the Freaky Wall.

The plan is to submit whishlist bugs to the BTS on the hope of having all what is needed for this project available on Debian after the Squeeze release, as my feeling is that a freeze is not the right time to push this changes... ;)

I'm giving access here to all the changes made to the source packages, but if anyone wants the binary packages (amd64 only) send me an email and I'll give you the URL of an apt repository that contains all the modified packages (it's the one at work, that contains other modified packages) or, if there is interest, I can put them on


To be able to build the firewall we need a kFreeBSD kernel with some options not compiled on the version distributed with Debian.

To compile the kernel I've followed the procedure described on the following debian-bsd mailing list post:

Basically I've done the following:

    apt-get build-dep kfreebsd-8
    apt-get source kfreebsd-8
    cd kfreebsd-8-8.1
    cat >> debian/arch/amd64/amd64.config << EOF

    # Add pflog, pfsync, ALTQ and CARP support
    # ----------------------------------------

    device      pf
    device      pflog
    device      pfsync

    options         ALTQ
    options         ALTQ_CBQ        # Class Bases Queuing (CBQ)
    options         ALTQ_RED        # Random Early Detection (RED)
    options         ALTQ_RIO        # RED In/Out
    options         ALTQ_HFSC       # Hierarchical Packet Scheduler (HFSC)
    options         ALTQ_PRIQ       # Priority Queuing (PRIQ)
    options         ALTQ_NOPCC      # Required for SMP build

    device      carp
    vi debian/changelog 
    dpkg-buildpackage -B -uc

Once the package was built I installed the new kernel package and rebooted the machine.


To be able to use some utilities related to pf I have built patched versions of three packages:

On the next post I'll describe how I've configured the system, the network interfaces and the different utilities patched and compiled on this post.

Posted Tue 30 Nov 2010 22:48:47 CET
libpcap-1.1.1-2 to 2.1.patch Posted Tue 30 Nov 2010 22:33:45 CET
tcpdump 4.1.1-1 to 1.1.patch Posted Tue 30 Nov 2010 22:33:45 CET
freebsd-utils-8.1-2 to 2.4.patch Posted Tue 30 Nov 2010 22:33:45 CET
The Freaky Wall (Part 2: Initial Installation)

For the Freaky Wall I have installed a Debian GNU/kFreeBSD system using the installer with ZFS support announced on:

I used the mini.iso found on:

the 12th of October of 2010; as I had some problems and reported them to Robert is possible that the current image solves part of them.

Installation plan

I did a standard installation on a machine with two hard disks, but only used the first one from the installer.

The plan was to use ZFS with RAID-1, but current versions of grub do not support booting from a ZFS + RAID file system, so I had to use the same technique used for Linux for a long time; three partitions: a swap partition, a small /boot partition and a big partition for /; / and /boot were formated to use ZFS.

First reboot

After the installation the system failed to boot because of a bug when building the /boot/grub/grub.cfg (some paths were missing a //@ prefix); to be able to boot Iwe edited the config on the grub prompt and later fixed the file:

    --- grub.cfg.orig       2010-10-13 16:40:39.000000000 +0200
    +++ grub.cfg    2010-10-13 18:38:47.535436766 +0200
    @@ -64,7 +64,7 @@
            set root='(hd0,1)'
            search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set a371979bb836d1fe
            echo                    'Loading kernel of FreeBSD 8.1-1-amd64 ...'
    -       kfreebsd                /kfreebsd-8.1-1-amd64.gz
    +       kfreebsd                //@/kfreebsd-8.1-1-amd64.gz
            insmod part_msdos
            insmod zfs
            set root='(hd0,3)'
    @@ -75,7 +75,7 @@
            insmod zfs
            set root='(hd0,1)'
            search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set a371979bb836d1fe
    -       kfreebsd_module         /zfs/zpool.cache type=/boot/zfs/zpool.cache
    +       kfreebsd_module         //@/zfs/zpool.cache type=/boot/zfs/zpool.cache
            set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom=zfs:dkfbf1-ad4s3
            set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom.options=rw

I haven't tested the installer since that day, but I believe that the current ZFS installer was fixed by Robert to deal with that problem.

Once the system was booted I had to fix a couple of things:

Adjusting ZFS to do RAID-1

On the second disk I created the same partitions as the ones on the first disk using parted; the final result was:

    # parted -l     
    Model: ST3250620NS/3BKS (ide)
    Disk /dev/ad6: 250GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: msdos

    Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system  Flags
     1      1049kB  256MB   255MB   primary
     2      256MB   4256MB  4000MB  primary
     3      4256MB  250GB   246GB   primary

    Model: ST3250620NS/3BKS (ide)
    Disk /dev/ad4: 250GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: msdos

    Number  Start   End     Size    Type     File system     Flags
      1      1049kB  256MB   255MB   primary
      2      256MB   4256MB  4000MB  primary  linux-swap(v1)
      3      4256MB  250GB   246GB   primary

To use the second partition of both disks as swap I added the following to /etc/fstab:

    /dev/ad4s2      none            swap    sw              0       0
    /dev/ad6s2      none            swap    sw              0       0

To configure the mirroring for the root file system I did the following:

    zpool attach dkfbf1-ad4s3 ad4s3 ad6s3

As the /boot can't work as a replica I adjusted it to make two copies of every file:

    zfs   set copies=2     dkfbf1-ad4s1

Leaving the second disk copy alone, although my plan is to configure it to hold a copy of the /boot partition synchronized with rsync each night.

After all those changes the system didn't boot, as the grub-pc generates a buggy /boot/grub/grub.cfg; the problem is on the /etc/grub.d/10_kfreebsd section:

    ### BEGIN /etc/grub.d/10_kfreebsd ###
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, with kFreeBSD 8.1-1-amd64' --class debian \
      --class gnu-kfreebsd --class gnu --class os {
          insmod part_msdos
          insmod zfs
          set root='(hd0,1)'
          search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set a371979bb836d1fe
          echo 'Loading kernel of FreeBSD 8.1-1-amd64 ...'
          kfreebsd /kfreebsd-8.1-1-amd64.gz
          set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom=unknown:/dev/ad4s3
          set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom.options=rw
    ### END /etc/grub.d/10_kfreebsd ###

To fix it there has to be a copy of the modules for ZFS on the boot partition (in my case I moved the /lib/modules directory to /boot and created a link on the root partition to the new directory):

    cd /boot
    mkdir lib
    mv /lib/modules lib
    cd /lib
    ln -s ../boot/lib/modules

And instead of fixing the /etc/grub.d/10_kfreebsd code I wrote a new script (/etc/grub.d/09_zfs_kfreebsd) that creates the right config for my current configuration on the grub.cfg file:

    . ${libdir}/grub/grub-mkconfig_lib

    prepare_boot_cache="$(prepare_grub_to_access_device ${GRUB_DEVICE_BOOT} | sed -e "s/^/\t/")"
    kfreebsd_versions="$(ls /lib/modules/)"
    zfs_root_device="$(zfs list | awk '/\/$/ { print $1 }' | head -1)"

    for kversion in $kfreebsd_versions; do
      cat << EOF
    # Entry when using ZFS (we have issues with /etc/grub.d/10_kfreebsd)
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, with kFreeBSD $kversion and ZFS' --class debian --class gnu-kfreebsd --class gnu --class os {
          echo                    'Loading kernel of FreeBSD $kversion ...'
          kfreebsd                //@/kfreebsd-$kversion.gz
          kfreebsd_module_elf     //@/lib/modules/$kversion/opensolaris.ko
          kfreebsd_module_elf     //@/lib/modules/$kversion/zfs.ko
          kfreebsd_module         //@/zfs/zpool.cache type=/boot/zfs/zpool.cache
          set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom=zfs:$zfs_root_device
          set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom.options=rw

I solved the problem this way to have a working solution that does not break with squeeze upgrades, assuming that a future grub-pc package will deal well with my config and I'll be able to remove this script, but I guess I'll have to install it from backports.

The entry generated by the script when called from update-grub will be similar to:

    ### BEGIN /etc/grub.d/09_zfs-kfreebsd ###
    # Entry when using ZFS (we have issues with /etc/grub.d/10_kfreebsd)
    menuentry 'Debian GNU/kFreeBSD, with kFreeBSD 8.1-1-amd64 @ ITI' --class debian --class gnu-kfreebsd --class gnu --class os {
          insmod part_msdos
          insmod zfs
          set root='(hd0,1)'
          search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set a371979bb836d1fe
          echo                    'Loading kernel of FreeBSD 8.1-1-amd64 ...'
          kfreebsd                //@/kfreebsd-8.1-1-amd64.gz
          kfreebsd_module_elf     //@/lib/modules/8.1-1-amd64/opensolaris.ko
          kfreebsd_module_elf     //@/lib/modules/8.1-1-amd64/zfs.ko
          kfreebsd_module         //@/zfs/zpool.cache type=/boot/zfs/zpool.cache
          set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom=zfs:dkfbf1-ad4s3
          set kFreeBSD.vfs.root.mountfrom.options=rw
    ### END /etc/grub.d/10_iti-kfreebsd ###

And after rebooting the machine with this new configuration the system boots OK.

On my next post I'll continue explaining how to compile a kernel that supports the use of the OpenBSD Packet Filter and related technologies (CARP, pflog, etc.).

Posted Wed 24 Nov 2010 21:47:39 CET
The Freaky Wall (Part 1: Why?)

This post and the next to come are about a project I'm doing at work that I've called The Freaky Wall.

The project has its origins on the idea that using multiples technologies is better for security; almost all the servers I use are running Debian GNU/Linux and use iptables locally, so when I decided that we had to build new firewalls at work I thought it was a good idea to look at different technologies, that is, a different kernel and firewalling tools.

As I wanted to avoid iptables and the Linux kernel my first idea was to go after the free BSD systems (FreeBSD, OpenBSD or NetBSD), and soon realized that pf (the OpenBSD Packet Filter) was the way to go; it has a clean syntax and includes advanced features like CARP and pfsync that allow me to build redundant firewalls.

Before going after the standard systems I looked at pfSense a firewall appliance built on top of FreeBSD that uses a PHP interface to do everything.

At first it seemed that it was going to be a good option, but soon I felt that I wasn't in control of what the system was doing and I had to change the PHP code to do trivial things (I wanted to configure IP aliases on a CARP interface and it was not possible with the web interface, while it is trivial to do using the standard system configuration files), so I left the idea of using it.

The second option was to use OpenBSD directly, as it is the system were pf has been developed. Soon I saw that I was going to be able to do what I wanted with the system, but I missed the Debian's way of installing and upgrading the system and the list of packages available.

For different reasons the firewall project was left in a limbo for a little while and when I went back to it I already had to upgrade my test systems to a new OpenBSD release; after reading a little bit about how to upgrade and not liking the idea of doing it I remembered that jordi suggested that if we only want the kernel and the firewall tools the Debian GNU/kFreeBSD port could be an option instead of OpenBSD or FreeBSD.

Before trying to install the Debian GNU/kFreeBSD system I saw Robert's post about a Debian installer with ZFS support and I decided to start with it, as the use of ZFS will allow us to use software RAID-1 and snapshots, something we have on almost all our Linux servers (we use software RAID for redundancy and LVM snapshots to be able to do our backups at any time of the day with consistent data, but that is for another post).

On my next post I'll explain how I did the initial installation with ZFS, and after that I'll explain the changes I did to the kernel and some of the packages to be able to build a firewall as described on the Firewalling with PF document (that is, I needed pfctl, pflogd, a tcpdump with pflog support, the pf's ftp-proxy, etc.) and on the last document I'll explain how I've configured the firewalls The Debian Way™.

Posted Mon 22 Nov 2010 22:21:34 CET
Debian Squeeze, PowerPC and the Linux Containers

Two kids, their really busy mother and my paid job leave me without much time to blog or do Debian related work lately (well, at least on my free time, I do Debian related things at work, but mostly as a user, not as a developer).

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to upgrade my home servers to Squeeze and I did it, but it was harder than expected.

At home I'm using two old laptops as servers, an old Aluminium PowerBook and an Asus EeePC; the Asus was installed to replace an older PowerBook (a really old one, BTW) that I was using as home server since my father gave it to me.

The plan was to use OpenVZ on the Asus to move all the PowerPC services to a couple of Virtual Environments, but as I wanted to migrate and change almost all the services I never got enough free time to finish the job and when the old PowerBook hardware failed I replaced it with another PowerBook that I wasn't using anymore, but instead of reinstalling the machine I did a clean Lenny install using a kernel with support for linux-vserver (OpenVZ does not work on PowerPC) and transformed the old machine installation (it was an Etch installation at the time) into a Virtual Private Server that run on the new hardware.

Having both systems running I upgraded the VPS to Lenny and, as usually happens, left the things as they were without consolidating the services into only one machine, as I initially planned.

With this state of affairs I upgraded the Asus to Squeeze without much trouble (in fact I installed a kernel without OpenVZ support, as the services I use from this laptop were running on the host and not on a VE) and did the same with the PowerPC host, but to my surprise the linux-vserver VPS failed to start with a message that seemed to imply that the VServer support was not enabled.

I should have filled a bug on the BTS then, but as I looked into how to solve the issue I found bugs saying that the meaning of the message was that I had no support for linux-vserver and I needed to start the VPS ASAP, as it was the machine that runs my SMTP server.

Before doing a restore of my last backup I did some digging and found a lot of messages recommending to move OpenVZ and Linux-VServer virtual machines to LXC and decided to give it a try.

First I built a container on the Asus and it worked OK, after that I did the same on the PowerPC, but the script failed; luckily the patch was trivial, the problem was on the /usr/lib/lxc/templates/lxc-debian script; it uses arch to get the Debian architecture, but for powerpc it gives ppc instead of powerpc, so it needs to be fixed on the script (Note to self: I have to submit bug + patch to the lxc package to fix it).

After creating this container and trying it I tried to boot my old VPS with a LXC configuration:

After a couple of tries I noticed that the system was not booting because it was missing the devices files needed; to fix it I copied the /dev directory of my first LXC test and using a chroot I also removed the udev packages from the container.

After that last changes the machine booted as expected and all services were running OK.

To summarize, I decided to do the move to LXC and fixed the configuration to boot the virtual machines on each restart:

I know that LXC is still missing some functionality (I hate the way the container stop function kills everything instead of doing a run-level change, I guess I'll be using hacks until I move to a newer kernel with the proper support enters into Debian), but having the code on the mainline kernel is a great bonus and the user level utilities are good enough for my home needs... and I hope they'll arrive to a point where we'll be able to migrate the OpenVZ containers at work (we are using Proxmox and the support of the OpenVZ patchset is starting to worry us).

On my next post:

The Freak Firewall or The Story of a HA Firewall based on OpenBSD's pf running on Debian GNU/kFreeBSD hosts.

Posted Tue 26 Oct 2010 13:17:59 CEST
Debian Signs @ DebConf 9

I have not blogged about until now, but I'm in Cáceres since last Thursday, where jordi and I came by car from Valencia to attend the DebConf 9.

I'm not doing any Debian work here, but I'm having a good time socializing meeting and talking with a lot of people and attending some of the talks and BOFs.

Yesterday we went to the Valle del Jerte for the Day Trip, where we did a short walk and got to Los Pilones, where we saw a lot of natural pools between the mountains where we swimmed (I loved a small cascade that was like a natural hydro massage system) and stayed there for a couple of hours until we had to go back to the bus to visit another natural pool on the village of Jerte, that time a big one built inside the river that was also very nice.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that yesterday's Day Trip was another good example of how the Debian Project helps its users and developers; when we were walking back from the mountains to pick the bus we found Debian people on a cross road telling us what was the right way and after a little while we found a Debian Sign on the floor:

Day Trip Go

We followed the advice and we confirmed that it was a shortcut in our way down, obviously installed there by someone from the Debian Project.

Posted Tue 28 Jul 2009 11:44:29 CEST

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