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 

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.


This post is kind of a sequel to that post….

One big problem with suexec and suphp on Apache imho is that files run as their owner, thus an accidental chown might break things. A more logical thing would be to assign a user/group to each VirtualHost, which is exactly what the ITK MPM does.

On top of that it has some additional handy features, such as limiting the maximum number of concurrent requests per VirtualHost and setting a niceness value so you can define a cpu affinity per virtual host.

Now the dc member server finally has users properly isolated from one another.

Setting up mpm-itk was a lot easier than suphp,suexec,or peruser-mpm. (I tried peruser-mpm first, and apache just segfaulted :S).
With only a few lines of additional configuration, I was easily able to automate the migration of our 100+ accounts with a quick and dirty perl script.

mpm-itk is included in the default apache install on FreeBSD. There is no separate port for it (like there is for peruser). To use it, compile apache like this:

cd /usr/ports/www/apache22
make WITH_MPM=itk
make install

And that’s it. Apache will now use the itk mpm, and you can add the
AssignUserID line to your VirtualHost. Anything running on it will run as the specified user/group, whether it’s plain html, php, or cgi. That’s another advantage, since with suexec you end up configuring each web-scripting language individually, and then risk still not covering everything.


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.


It was suggested I should share the wordpress theme for this…

Here it is: linkerror-0.1.tar.bz2 (13 KiB).

It’s xhtml strict compliant, text-browser friendly (you can view it relatively comfortabely, and post comments using lynx, links, links2, et all…).

If you disable avatars and emoticons in your wordpress settings, it is 100% image-free. No javascript, no flash, no images… ah bliss. ;)

Insert your own ascii art in header.php to replace the LINKERROR banner on top.

Licensed under the GNU GPL (v3).


“Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a web designer.”
( s/doctor/software developer\/server admin/g )