Bash Script Behaves Differently When Called From Cron

Unix users and administrators will be familiar with the cron, unix’s built in job scheduler. It is a good way of running regular jobs eg backups, system monitoring programs or housekeeping scripts. The configuration of cron is quite particular and care is needed when setting up a new job. Your well tested script can behave differently when it is called from cron. Sometimes the differences won’t matter. But sometimes they do, and finding the cause can be tricky.

This brief article describes how many such problems can be tracked down simply by capturing the standard error output properly. In short, make sure your troublesome cron job is not quietly discarding the very information you need to fix it. Continue reading

/tmp/sortXXXXXX files

A backup script that runs on several Linux systems recently produced the following error:

ls: cannot access '/tmp/sortrq9hq8': No such file or directory

It happens every time the backup runs. Other than the above message, there seems to be no ill effect on the backup, which completes successfully. The ls command did not find a file that it expected to be there.

This article explains how the missing file was created by the Linux sort command as a temporary storage area, how error messages about these files are likely to crop up from time to time, how to reproduce the error, and some background about the behaviour of the sort command on Linux and Solaris. Continue reading

Renaming a Bitbucket Repository

Bitbucket is a paid-for version of Github. Along with Jira and Confluence, it forms the Atlassian framework, a suite of devops tools in widespread use.

Using the Bitbucket web interface, a repository can easily be renamed. However, this causes a change in the URL, which breaks the link from existing clones of the repo. They can be deleted and re-cloned, or renamed. This post explains how to do the rename. Continue reading

Perl: Sort Hash Values by Key with a Hash Slice

In Perl, hash (associative array) sorting is a common and easy practice. Sorting values by key is easy. And so is sorting by value. But how do you sort the values of a hash by key? One answer is to use a hash slice. Continue reading

ESXi Embedded Host Client

*UPDATED* December 2017. The ESXi embedded host client is a web application served direct from an ESXi server that allows basic management of virtual infrastructure. It is somewhat similar in appearance to Vsphere. Vmware has released it as a “fling“, which can be easily added to an existing ESXi server as follows. NB it is recommended to try this in a lab environment rather than a production machine. Continue reading

Linux Capabilities and Ping

If you are running a recent version of Linux (time of writing May 2016), you might encountered this error with ping:

$ ping somehost
ping: icmp open socket: Operation not permitted

It happens because the ping binary is no longer installed with setuid root rights. It doesn’t have the required priveliges to open the socket, and fails. The quick fix is to type: Continue reading

Protect Your Web Server With Ipset

The Linux packet filter provides an easy way to protect against unwanted network intrusions. Often referred to simply as “iptables“, it is a basic firewall built into the Linux kernel. Iptables is most useful, perhaps, on those servers most susceptible to attack, such as LAMP systems, content management servers and blogging platforms, especially where they are Internet facing.

Ipset is a fairly recent addition to Linux, having been introduced into kernel version 2.6.32. This means it is supported in Debian 7 and 8, as well as Red Hat 6 onwards. In short, ipset allows a large number of IP addresses to be blocked in an efficient way, as demonstrated below. Continue reading

Linux Device Change Breaks Encrypted Swap

Linux disk partition names such as /dev/sda1, /dev/sda2 are not as fixed as they once were. From time to time they can change. Perhaps due to a hardware change or kernel upgrade, or sometimes for no apparent reason. If and when this happens on your system, things can break. In this case, an encrypted swap partition had been configured as “/dev/sda6”, and failed to activate following a change in the the /dev/sdXX partition names. This article describes the symptoms and a fix.

The article also discusses a bug affecting Ubuntu 14.04 based distributions, which can make it more difficult to recover an encrypted swap configuration broken by a device name change. Continue reading

Some Raspberry Pi 2 Benchmarks

This article presents a few informal benchmarks comparing the Raspberry Pi to the Raspberry Pi 2. The original Pi has a single core ARM v6 processor. The Pi 2 is quad core, ARM v7, and clocked faster than the Pi 1. But is it really six times as fast, as the makers claim ? Short answer: yes it is. And then some. Continue reading