Random Perl Hacking

My day job mostly involves Perl, so I've been using it more for my random tasks at home. I've now put a few of them up on CPAN:

  • Unix::Uptime - Determine the current uptime, in seconds, and load averages, across different *NIX architectures.
  • Remind::Client - class for working with remind's daemon mode

I also have a few other scripts I've been messing around with, for doing some reporting and such:

Migrating from Typo to Movable Type

I migrated my blog from Typo to Movable Type a while ago. I wrote a little script to do it, but I've only just now gotten around to cleaning it up enough so that it's suitable for general use.

It's available now from my git repo, and on CPAN

As always, "patches welcome".

My random old scripts moved to git

So, I had a few random old scripts lying around in SVN. I've migrated them to git now. Along with my other repos, they're browseable at http://git.pioto.org/

Things of interest might be:

  • rbtpb - A replacement for tpb which is hopefully more robust.
  • rubeak - A tool for handling multimedia keyboard keys, and some IR remotes.

Update: fixed links.

Previously I described how to partition your drive using LVM2 and dm-crypt. This time, I'm going to go over how to boot this system.

First off, you're going to want to have your livecd handy, because it's likely something won't quite be right the first time around. Also, you'll want to make sure your kernel is built with support for initramfs. This requires the BLK_DEV_INITRD configure option, named "Initial RAM filesystem and RAM disk (initramfs/initrd) support" in the "General setup" menu. You'll then need to specify the location of a source file for the initramfs.

Probably the easiest thing to do is to grab my current initramfs package and tweak it to suit your needs. You'll at the least need to change some paths in the config.txt and init files. But, it should serve as a good starting point. When you're done, put the path to the config.txt file in the "Initramfs source file(s)" (CONFIG_INITRAMFS_SOURCE) setting in the kernel.

Now, rebuild and reinstall your kernel, reboot, and pray.

I hope this will help people improve their laptop's security. Feel free to post any questions you have in the comments. Good luck!

Last time I kinda cheated and gave pretty much a redux of an earlier post. This one will hopefully have some more substance to it.

The partitioning scheme I'm currently using is like this:

/dev/sda1 - /boot (ext2)
/dev/sda2 - LUKS encrypted lvm2 physical volume

The /boot partition is created like any normal ext2 partition.

The sda2 partition is created like so:

cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sda2

This usually is sufficient to provide decent encryption, but it is worth checking the documentation for cryptsetup to look for further options -- in particular, the option to use a keyfile.

Once we formatted this partition, we'll need to open it, so that we can then add our lvm pv to it:

cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda2 sda2_crypt

We'll now have a new device available as /dev/mapper/sda2_crypt. This can be treated just like any other block device -- we could just format it as a regular ext3 partition, but then we can't really ever resize it. So, we're going to make a LVM2 partition:

pvcreate /dev/mapper/sda2_crypt

Now, we create a volume group. I choose 'Exherbo' as the name, but you can really just use whatever (often people just use 'vg').

vgcreate Exherbo /dev/mapper/sda2_crypt

Now, we just need to make our partitions:

lvcreate -L 1G -n swap Exherbo
lvcreate -n root Exherbo
vgchange -a y

This creates a 1G swap partition, and uses the rest of the space for our root (/) partition. Again, see the documentation for lvm2 for more options.

Finally, we need to format those partitions:

mkswap /dev/mapper/Exherbo-swap
mke2fs -T ext3 /dev/mapper/Exherbo-root

Next time, I'll go over how to boot this system.

Six months ago I posted an outline for encrypting your system with LUKS. Well, I figure it's about time for me to write up how to actually go about it. In this post, I'll outline the necessary kernel configuration.

The basic kernel configuration that I mentioned a long time ago still holds. Basically, you need to have the following options built into your kernel: CONFIG_DM_CRYPT, CONFIG_CRYPTO_CBC, CONFIG_CRYPTO_SHA256, and CONFIG_CRYPTO_AES. Most of those will be turned on when you enable:

Device Drivers ->
  Multiple devices driver support (RAID and LVM) ->
    Device mapper support ->
      Crypt target support

However, the SHA256 support will not be. It can be found at:

Cryptographic API ->
  SHA224 and SHA256 digest algorithm

On the note of kernel configuation: for this process, you will need to do a fair amount of work from within another linux environment (most likely a LiveCD). For Gentoo, the most recent CD image I've found that has all the necessary configuration is the 2006.1 version... As I recall, some of the intermediate minimal CDs, at least, didn't possess cryptsetup at all. And the most recent weekly build I tried, while it did have lvm and cryptsetup installed, didn't have CONFIG_CRYPTO_SHA256 either built in, or as a module.

Probably the best bet is an Ubuntu 8.10 Alternative CD. You'll have to either boot in recovery mode, or go through a bit of the installation procedure, as it doesn't initially have cryptsetup available. But, once it's detected the CD and loaded the modules from it, you can just switch to another virtual console and do things from there.

Next time, I'll outline creating the disk partitions.

Pioto.org is Moving

All of pioto.org is moving to a new server. To start things off, I’m locking my blog read-only. If you want to keep track of all this, Paludis ticket #582 has the details.


About five months ago, I wrote about how to convert an existing Linux install from using regular partitioning to encrypted volumes (in particular, an encrypted /home with an unencrypted /). That sort of setup is relatively simple, once you have all the partitioning done. There is no need for any special early userland stuff (an initramfs image). However, that approach only provides a relatively minimal level of security for your data -- someone could still root your system.

For those who are a little more paranoid (especially in light of some recent news), the next level of security for your data is to encrypt everything except your /boot partition.

Going to this level, you're going to be repartitioning pretty much your entire hard disk, so you might be best off just backing up everything (you should do this in any case), and reinstalling your system.

Some recent Linux installers make this sort of setup relatively pain-free. For example, Ubuntu 8.04's Alternative install disk gives the option of setting up an encrypted LVM volume to install the system on during its guided partitioning wizard. This is a rather easy way have your laptop's data securely encrypted quickly. However, with this setup, I wasn't able to get suspend-to-disk support to function properly (though I'm sure it could be done with a little extra effort, I don't know if most Ubuntu users would be willing to do so).

However, this guide is focused on the crowd of people who use distros that do not make this easy. For myself, I'm installing Exherbo during this guide, but the instructions should be almost exactly the same for Gentoo, or most any other distro.

Partitioning Overview

For this first step, you will need to create two standard disk partitions. The first should be only 32M or so in size -- this will be our /boot partition, and should probably be ext2. The second will be the rest of the space you wish to devote to this Linux install (in my case, 10G).

The final layout of everything is going to be like this:

/dev/hda1 - /boot
/dev/hda2 - dm-crypt encrypted volume, containing one lvm2
  physical volume

/dev/mapper/hda2_crypt - what we get when we run cryptsetup luksOpen
  on hda2, contains one lvm physical volume, containing the volume
  group "vg"

/dev/mapper/vg-swap - our swap partition
/dev/mapper/vg-root - our root partition

With this layout, all our data that can be encrypted / lvm-ized is. And we only need to enter our disk decryption key once to get to all of it.

Next Time...

In my next few posts, I'll go into more details about how to set this partition scheme up, how to configure your kernel, and how to create the necessary initramfs image to boot from an encrypted / partition.

I'm starting to learn perl, and I've found the perldoc intro/tutorial stuff to be pretty useful, but I'd like to get a good printed book or two to read through and use as a reference.

Similarly, while I'd say I'm pretty *NIX savvy, I'm not too familiar with some BSD-isms, particularly where they differ from Linux. Are there any good books out there to help with the transition from Linux to FreeBSD? (No, I'm not abandoning Linux... it's just that my current employer used FreeBSD for many things.)

Any suggestions?

Exherbo: Myths and Facts

So, some people seem to have gotten all in a tizzy about Exherbo. While I don't personally think the wording on the front page is necessarily the best, here's the deal:

  • We don't hate you. We just know we don't quite have something ready for general use. Rather than deal with many users wanting to try out something that most likely will not work for them, we have attempted to dissuade people from trying Exherbo until we think it's ready for them to.
    • "Then why announce it?" Because Bryan is going to discuss it at an upcoming conference, so we decided we should have some sort of web page up. We didn't put it up on Slashdot, though.
  • This isn't Ciaran's brainchild. It's Bryan Østergaard's (aka kloeri). Yes, Ciaran is involved in the project, along with a number of other former Gentoo developers, but he isn't the "lead" (though I don't think we really formal roles at this point).
  • "Why don't you use...?" We've already looked at many existing projects to fill some of the spots we've decided to fill ourselves instead. For example, we took a look at upstart, Gentoo's baselayout 1.x, openrc, etc. However, none of them seemed to do quite what we wanted. That's why we're working on projects like genesis, why we're writing our package tree from scratch, and using our own package format.

So, I hope this helps to clarify things for some people who still seem to be confused as to what Exherbo is all about.

Update: fix links.

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Recent Comments

  • gregf: Thanks for the great guide. Helped my setup as I read more
  • Matt: Man, don't leave us hanging. :) I'm ready to get read more
  • Johnny Dopefish: Good guide, but for those of us on Debian platforms read more
  • Dirk Heinrichs: The best bet for a LiveCD is GRML. It's made read more
  • semdornus: I don't know much about the new (proposed?) airport security read more
  • Robert Kosten: In my case that usb stick is likely in my read more
  • Mike Kelly: Yes, it is possible to place /boot on some removable read more
  • Robert Kosten: I'm really looking forward to these posts (and exherbo, for read more
  • Michael Croes: Great guide indeed. I didn't compile dm-crypt into the kernel, read more
  • clearchris: I concur with gregf, you can't go wrong with O'Reilly. read more

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