LL       III  NNN  NN KK KK  EE      RR   RR RR   RR OO   OO RR   RR
LL       III  NN  NNN KK KK  EE      RR  RR  RR  RR  OO   OO RR  RR 

Looks like the good folks at fluxbox accepted my little patch:

There was also a bug with the arrange windows code on multihead systems that was fixed:

Many thanks to Mathias Gumz (ak|ra) for taking the time to test and merge the patch with the fluxbox code!


Worked on a little patch for fluxbox this weekend that allows for ‘stacked’ tiling.
With stacked tiling, I mean:

  • Divide the screen in half, and fill half the screen with the focused window.
  • Use the remainder of the space for tiling the rest of the windows

So you can place the main (big) window on the top, bottom, left, or right half of the screen.
This patch introduces 4 new Tiling mechanisms in fluxbox to accomplish this: ArrangeWindowsStackLeft, ArrangeWindowsStackRight, ArrangeWindowsStackTop, ArrangeWindowsStackBottom

It is a tiny bit different than traditional ‘stacked’ tiling, since traditionally only one column is used tiling the remainder of the windows, but I think I like dividing things up in multiple columns, for now. Maybe the next version will add an option for that. (it should be trivial as the existing fluxbox tiling mechanism allows for manipulation of the number of columns and rows)

Here is an example for what you can put in ~/.fluxbox/keys to assign keybindings to this new functionality:

Ctrl Alt Left  :ArrangeWindowsStackRight
Ctrl Alt Right :ArrangeWindowsStackLeft
Ctrl Alt Up    :ArrangeWindowsStackBottom
Ctrl Alt Down  :ArrangeWindowsStackTop

This will cause the ‘main’/big window to appear on top if you press ctrl-alt-uparrow, on the bottom if you press ctrl-alt-downarrow, etc,…
Works quite well.

The patch is against the (at the time of writing) latest git.


I stumbled upon an article that talks about how over-zealous syntax-highlighting can be counter-productive. It argues for only coloring comments and the difference between a comparison operator (==) and assignment (=).

The concept of such minimalistic coloring seems intriguing, so I wrote a little vim syntax highlighting theme that only colors comments.

It uses 256 colors, so you need a terminal setup to support 256 colors, however you can easily edit the colors in the .vim file.
If you do have a terminal that supports 256 colors, and you want to change the colors, you can use this chart to convert the numbers to colors.

To use the color scheme, just save the file below under ~/.vim/colors and type :color justcomments once you have started vim – or put colorscheme justcomments in your ~/.vimrc

Download the vim colorscheme here


Being a sysadmin you end up running ssh to multiple servers at the same time, all the time. Being a paranoid sysadmin you also have different (long) passwords for every one of these servers.

Unless you want to spend more time entering passwords than doing actual work, you probably have some kind of master-password system setup.

Most people will use an ssh key uploaded to the servers in order to accomplish this. – (hopefully one that is password protected.)

However there are some situations where this is not preferred, for example, when an account is shared by multiple people, or when you simply cannot leave ssh public keys lingering around. Or when you simply don’t want to have to re-upload the key every time the home directory gets wiped…

It sure would be nice to have a password manager, protected with a master password, remember passwords you enter for ssh, in those cases.

This is possible with kdewallet and a small expect script wrapper around ssh.

I don’t personally use kde, but I do use some of the utilities it ships with from time to time, kdewalet being one of them. Kdewallet uses dbus for ipc. The qdbus utility lets you interact with dbus applications from the command line (and from shell scripts), so that’s what this script makes use of. The KDE Wallet password management system consists of system daemon (kwalletd) and a front-end gui application to view the password database, create folders, etc, called kwalletmanager. You don’t have to have kwalletmanager running for this to work. The script will automatically start kwalletd if it’s not running.

You can use kwalletmanager to create a separate folder to store your ssh passwords “eg, a folder called “ssh”) and specify the folder in which to store the passwords at the top of the script, where some other constants can be adjusted such as the location of the needed binaries…

If a password was not found in kwallet, it will prompt for the password and store it. (If you entered the wrong password you’ll have to remove it using kwalletmanager.)

The script is implemented using ‘expect’ which can be obtained here : http://expect.nist.gov/ – Which uses TCL syntax.

#!/usr/bin/expect -f

# Entry point -----------------------------------------------------------------

# Constants
set kwalletd "/usr/bin/kwalletd"
set qdbus "/usr/bin/qdbus"
set kdialog "/usr/bin/kdialog"
set appid "ssh"
set passwdfolder "ssh"

# Get commandline args.

set user [lindex $argv 0]
set host [lindex $argv 1]
set port [lindex $argv 2]

# Check arg sanity
if { $user == "" || $host == "" } {
  puts "Usage: user host \[port\] \n"
  exit 1

# Use a sane default port if not specified by the user.
if { $port == "" } {
  set port "22"

# Run kde wallet daemon if it's not already running.
set kwalletrunning [ 
  exec "$qdbus" "org.kde.kwalletd" "/modules/kwalletd" "org.kde.KWallet.isEnabled" 
if { $kwalletrunning == "false" } {
  puts "kwalletd is not running, starting it...\n"
  exec "$kwalletd&"
  sleep 2
} else {
  puts "Found kwalletd running.\n"

# Get wallet id 
set walletid [
  exec "$qdbus" "org.kde.kwalletd" "/modules/kwalletd" "org.kde.KWallet.open" "kdewallet" "0" "$appid"

# Get password from kde wallet.
set passw [
  exec "$qdbus" "org.kde.kwalletd" "/modules/kwalletd" "org.kde.KWallet.readPassword" "$walletid" "$passwdfolder" "$user@$host" "$appid"

# If no password was found, ask for one.
if { $passw == "" } {
  set passw [
    exec "$kdialog" "--title" "ssh" "--password" "Please enter the ssh password for $user@$host"
  if { $passw == "" } {
    puts "You need to enter a password.\n"
    exit 1
  # Now save the newly entered password into kde wallet
  exec "$qdbus" "org.kde.kwalletd" "/modules/kwalletd" "org.kde.KWallet.writePassword" "$walletid" "$passwdfolder" "$user@$host" "$passw" "$appid"

# Run ssh.
if [
  catch {
    spawn ssh -p $port $user@$host 
  } reason
] {
  puts " Failed to spawn SSH: $reason\n"
  exit 1

# Wait for password prompt and send the password.
# Add key to known hosts if asked.
# Resume after successful login.
expect {
  -re ".*assword:" {
    exp_send "$passw\r"
  -re ".* (yes/no?)" {
    send -- "yes\r" {
    -re ".*Warning: Permanently .*known hosts.\r\r\n" exp_continue
  -re ".*Last login" exp_continue;

# Send a blank line
send -- "\r"

# Now finally let the user interact with ssh.


When you’re running any type of shared hosting server, with hundreds of clients that have the ability to run php scripts, send emails, etc,… How do you make sure you’re not setting yourself up to be one big spam haven? (the true answer is: you don’t, since shared hosting is one big mess.- You’re screwed.) – A compromised script of a client could be sending out spam mail without using your MTA, so it would not show up in your logs or mailqueue.

For this reason I wrote a little perl script which sniffs all outgoing SMTP traffic and dumps it to a file. You could then set up a cron job which scans the file for known keywords used by spammers (viagra/v1agra/Vi4Gr4/etc…….) and alerts you when something is found; or you could make it extract the emails and run them through spamassassin.

This way, even if the outgoing traffic is sent by some script using sockets to connect to port25 of some external mail server, bypassing your mta, you will still know about it.

Just change the settings on top of the script to reflect the ip address(es) you’re using and the network interface open to the internet.

Download/View it here


I figured I would share with you, a setup I am using on all my BSD servers to monitor changes to the filesystem.

The idea is to be notified by email at a certain interval (eg: once a day) with a list of all files that have changed since last time the check ran.

This, allows you to be notified when files change without your knowledge, for example, in the event of a cracker breaking into the server or if you accidentally, recursively chowned /, and you managed to interrupt the command; mtree allows you to see how many of the files were affected, and fix them.
As mtree also reports HOW the files were changed. For example, in the chown scenario it would mention the expected uid/gid and what it changed to. This would allow for an automated recovery of such a disaster.

In addition to the e-mail notifications it will also keep a log file (by default in /var/log/mtree.log)

The utility we’ll use for this on FreeBSD is mtree (On GNU/Linux you’d have to use tripwire or auditd).
I wrote a perl script which uses mtree to accomplish what I described above: download it.

So basically, to set it up, you can do the following:

mkdir /usr/mtree
cd /usr/mtree
touch fs.mtree fs.exclude
wget http://linkerror.com/programs/automtree
chmod +x automtree

Now, if you run ./automtree -h you’ll see a list of valid options with some documentation:

  Usage: ./automtree [OPTION] ...
  Show or E-mail out a list of changes to the file system.

  mtree operation options:

    -u,  --update        Updates the file checksum database after 
                         showing/mailing changes.
    -uo, --update-only   Only update the file checksum database.
    -p,  --path          Top level folder to monitor (default: /)
    -q,  --quiet         Do not output scan results to stdout or any
                         other output.

  Path configuration options:

    -l,  --log           Logfile location 
                         (default: /var/log/mtree.log)
         --mtree         Set the location of the mtree executable. 
                         (default is /usr/sbin/mtree)
         --checksum-file Set the location of the file containing the 
                         mtree file checksums. 
                         (defaul: /usr/mtree/fs.mtree)
         --exclude-file  Set the location of the file containing the 
                         list of files and folders to exclude from the 
                         mtree scan. (default is /usr/mtree/fs.exclude)

  E-mail options:

    -e,  --email         Adds specified e-mail address as destination.
         --sendmail      Set the location of the sendmail executable. 
                         (default: /usr/sbin/sendmail)
         --reply-to      Set the e-mail reply-to address.
         --subject       Sets The e-mail subject. 

  Misc options:

    -h,  --help          Display this help text.

  Example usage:

    ./automtree -uo
    ./automtree -u -q -e foo@example.com -e bar@example.com
    ./automtree /var/www --mtree /usr/local/sbin/mtree

As you can see, by default, the script will just index the entire filesystem, as the default for the -p option is / … In order to do this you’ll want to ignore some folders, so edit the fs.exclude file, and stick at least this into it:


Note that you have to prefix folders with ./
So now, in order to automatically scan and receive notifications, the command which will go into crontab is:

./automtree -u -q -e foo@example.com

(It is possible to add multiple -e options for multiple e-mail destinations.)

The command above will not output to stdout (-q), email filesystem changes to foo@example.com (-e foo@example.com), and automatically update the checksum file with the newly discovered changes (-u).

An example crontab line, to check every 3 hours (type crontab -e to edit your crontab):

0 */3 * * * /usr/mtree/automtree -u -q -e youremail@example.com &> /dev/null

The script won’t send an e-mail if there are no changes to report.