Monday, December 28, 2020

Quick NetBSD serial console install on libvirt

I wanted to set up a small VM with NetBSD to test a couple of virt-install option. It turns out it you can get to the installer prompt quite fast.

get the NetBSD installer for serial console:


start the install  

$ virt-install \
--connect qemu:///session \
--name netbsd \
--ram 64 \
--vcpus 2 \
--disk path=$HOME/netbsd.qcow2,size=4,bus=scsi,format=qcow2 \
--controller type=scsi,model=virtio-scsi \
--cdrom=boot-com.iso \
--virt-type kvm \
--os-variant netbsd8.0 \
--graphics none \
--arch i686 \
--console pty,target_type=serial 

This will start a VM in usermode networking, so no need to be root, but the VM won’t be reachable from the outside world, except if you add qemu usermode port forwarding.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Using Debian and RHEL troubleshootings containers on Kubernetes & OpenShift

You can connect to a running pod with oc/kubectl rsh pod_name, or start a copy of a running pod with oc debug pod_name, but as best practises recommend unprivileged, slim container images, where do you get sosreport, kdump, dig and nmap for troubleshooting ? 

Fortunately you can start either a transient Debian troubleshooting container with:

oc run troubleshooting-pod --stdin --tty --rm

or a Red Hat Entreprise Linux:

oc run troubleshooting-pod --stdin --tty --rm

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Learning openshift: a good moment to revisit awk too

I can’t believe I spent all these years using only grep.

Most of us know how to use awk to print the nth column of a file:

$ awk '{print $1}' /etc/hosts

will print all IP addresses from /etc/hosts

But you can also do filtering before printing the chosen column:

$ awk '$5 >= 2 {print $2}' /path/to/file

will print the second column of all lines, where the 5th column is greater than 2. That would have been hard with grep.

Now I can use that to find out all deployments on my openshift cluster, where the number of current replicas is greater than 2.

$ oc get deployments --all-namespaces | awk '$5 >= 2 {print $2}'

I know that openshift/kubernetes both have a powerful query selector syntax, but for the moment awk will do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Test a webcam from the command line on Linux with VLC

Since this info was too well hidden on the internet, here is the information:
cvlc v4l2:///dev/video0
and there you go.
If you have multiple cameras connected, you can try /dev/video0 up to /dev/video5

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Recommended keyboard settings for Productivity and Usability, for European Programmers

TLDR: setxkbmap -layout us -variant altgr-intl and become a happier programmer.

The case for QWERTY for European Programmers

If you’re working on Unix / Linux, or C based programming languages, it can make sense to switch to the qwerty(us) keyboard layout. Why ?
Unix, C, Perl, Java, and most of programming languages have been conceived on QWERTY keyboards.
So when the designers choose  special characters to use for the language synthax, they simply choose what was easy to access on their own keyboard. This has been historically documented for the vi editor.

To give an example, using an Unix shell you have to type the dot . and slash / symbols quite often to navigate the filesystem. The two keys producing these symbols, are nicely aligned on a QWERTY layout and do not require a key combination to be entered. So you can quickly enter something like ‘../..’ using a single hand.
Now using a QWERTZ layout, like in Germany / Austria, you have the ‘.’ symbol easily accessible, but you need to combine two keys ( Shift + 7 ) to get a ‘/’.
And if you are a poor soul using an AZERTY layout, to get the ‘.’ and ‘/’ symbol you need each time a key combo.
The need of key combos is bad not only for speed (multiple keys to lookup) but also for usability,  as you have to stretch your fingers to reach the key if using a single hand, provoking repetitive strain injury. You might be smiling but this is commonly known amongst Emacs Users, due to the prominent use of commands using Ctrl and Alt combos, and led to the creation of an Emacs Ergonomic wiki.

This goes as well for many symbol commonly used in programming languages, think for instance about the  semicolon ‘;’ for terminating a statement, the ‘[’, and ‘]’ symbols for defining an array, and the backslash ‘\’ for escaping.
All these keys are accessible via a single keypress on qwerty and require key combos on qwertz and azerty. No wonder Linux, Minix and BSD were invented on non-azerty layouts: in France we were still busy typing the path to the source code, when in other parts of the world people already had the file open in their editor.
You don’t need to throw away your existing keyboards when learning the qwerty (us) layout: for a couple of euros, you can find on ebay alternate keys stickers to put on your laptop.

Accessing keys with diacritics with the AltGr International variant

Now if you want to switch to a qwerty keyboard layout, and you’re French or German, you might wonder how to access the characters with diacritics, the é and è of French and ü and ö of German.
Fortunately there is a very clever keyboard variant for the us layout who uses the AltGr key, to make all these keys accessible, just hiding them behind the AltGr key.
Need é ? that’s just AltGr + e away. Needs ç ? That’s just AltGr + , Needs ö ? AltGr +p
See the coolness of that ? You can type all international diacritics in an easy way, and there are even keyboard stickers for that too.

Now how to access to this layout of wonder ?
You can configure the layout and variant in Xorg, in debian/ubuntu that would be entering in /etc/default/keyboard
After restarting the X server, you can check that the settings have been applied with
setxkbmap -print -verbose 10
If using Gnome, you can also set the keyboard layout and variant by changing the schema org.gnome.desktop-inputsources, which will override the desktop-agnostic settings of /etc/default/keyboard.
For this you can either call
dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/input-sources/sources "[('xkb', 'us+altgr-intl')]"
or navigate with the gui tool dconf-settings to org.gnome.desktop-inputsources and set the value there.

If you want to further improve your keyboard layout, you can also have a look at swapping Ctrl and Alt, as described here (French language article) Happy hacking !

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Putting a Red Hat on

I am switching jobs, and after a two year stint as a full stack developer at BPMasters, I am joining Red Hat as a Technical Account Manager (Platform and Openshift). A good friend of a good friend already worked at Red Hat, and advised me to apply, which I did, and I am starting in May in Vienna, the place where I live.
I have heard that there is already a number of Debian Developers working for Red Hat, so if you happen to be one of them, I hope we’ll get in touch !

Monday, March 23, 2020

Two Factor Authentification on gitlab with Yubikey

I wanted to have a working Two Factor Authentification (2FA) setup to login on, Debians’s gitlab instance.
You might already know Two Factor Authentification via a One Time Password (OTP) generating app on your smartphone, like FreeOTP or Google Authenticator. But it is possible to use a physical device, and a keypress on the device is enough to authenticate (speed up things !). Here I am using a Yubikey 4, a popular USB device for Two Factor Authentification which is officially supported by gitlab, and whose tooling is well packaged in Debian.

Get to know the device

Install the needed packages to work with the yubikey
# apt install yubikey-manager libu2f-host0
List connected devices on your usb bus:
$ lsusb
Bus 002 Device 109: ID 1050:0407 Yubikey 4 OTP+U2F+CCID
Get info about the device capability
$ ykman info
Device type: YubiKey 4
Serial number: 1234567
Firmware version: 4.3.7
Enabled USB interfaces: OTP+FIDO+CCID
OTP         Enabled             
FIDO U2F    Enabled             
OpenPGP     Enabled             
PIV         Enabled             
OATH            Enabled             
FIDO2       Not available
The capability which interests us here is FIDO U2F. The Yubikey 4 supports Two Factor Authentification via the U2F standard, and this standard is maintained by the FIDO Industry Association, hence the name. As I plan to only use the FIDO U2F capability of the key, I set ‘FIDO’ to be the single mode of the key.
ykman mode FIDO

Testing web browser interaction with Yubico demo system

Now we need to have to have a browser with support for the U2F standard. Firefox has builtin support since Version 67. Debian 10 “Buster” has firefox-esr Version 68, so that will work. For testing yubikeys, the manufacturer has a demo website, where you can test U2F. Go to and follow the “Explore the Yubikey” link.
Once there you will be asked to register an account on yubicom’s demo systems, to which you will add the Yubikey as an Authenticating Device. After that you can add your security key. First step will be to register the device, which will require a light touch on the Yubikey button, and acceptance of this Firefox warning Window, as the demo website wants to know the model of the device.

Firefox message on the yubikey demo site. A normal site with U2F would not require the extended information, and have a simpler popup message.
As soon as the device is registered, you can login and logout and you will be prompted again to lightly touch the Yubikey button to authenticate, in addition to the classical login / password.

Using U2F on gitlab

When you want to register your yubikey for logging on salsa, you need first to register a One Time Password device in Settings -> Account -> Manage two-factor authentication, and Register Universal Two-Factor (U2F) Device. After the usual Firefox Popup, and the light touch on the key button, that'it you have a fast, and reliable Two Factor Authentification !


Each time I have to look on anything close to cryptography / authentification, it is a terminology avalanche. Here we had already 2FA, OTP, U2F, FIDO. And now there is FIDO2 too. It is the next version of the U2F standard, but this time it was named after the standardizing organization, FIDO. The web browser part of FIDO2 is called Webauthn. Also sometimes the whole FIDO2 is called Webauthn too. Easy to get, isn’t it ?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Big Iron UNIX emulated on ARM

I have somewhere in the basement a DEC Vax workstation, but in the end it was a bigger fun to run an emulated Vax 11/780 (size of two refrigerators) in Beagle Bone Black (size of a big matchbox). For this I used the Dockerfiles available in this git repo using the simh emulator, and tweaked a bit for ARM.
I recorded the boot sequence with the very nice asciinema, also available in the Debian archive, so here is 4.3 BSD, in all its 1986 glory.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Mark a Screenshot on Linux

More that than often to explain things quickly, I like to take a screenshot of the (web) application I am talking about, and then circle the corresponding area so that everything is clear. Possibly with a rounded rectangle, as I find it the cutest variant.

This is how I do it on Linux:
Install necessary tools:
apt install gimp scrot                                                                   
Take the screenshot:
# Interactively select a window or rectangle with the mouse                              
scrot --selection screenshot.png                                                                    
Open the screenshot and annotate it with gimp:
gimp screenshot.png                                                                      
Then in gimp:
  • Tools -> Selection Tools -> Rectangle Select, and mark the area
  • Select -> Rounded Rectangle, and keep the default
  • Change the color to a nice blue shade in the toolbox
  • Edit -> Stroke selection
Maybe gimp is a bit overkill for that. But instead of learning a limited tool, I prefer to learn an advanced one like gimp step by step.