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Jan 052016
 

A bit of a simple one this … if you are looking at converting an Intel hex format file that looks like the following :-

2016-01-05_2123

Then it is relatively trivial under Linux (Debian). The relevant tool is probably installed anyway; unless you are not compiling software which may be a marginal activity for weird people but so is converting ihex files. But just in case, you can install it with: sudo apt-get install binutils.

Once installed (or being already present) the conversion process is as simple as :-

» objcopy -I ihex -O binary somefile.hex somefile.bin

Be careful to specify the second file name or objcopy will overwrite the original hex file (don’t ask how I discovered this!).

Dec 102015
 

damascus-unix-prompt

You have a a column of numbers that you have produced in some manner such as :-

$ awk '/clean message/ {print $(NF-1)}' mail.info.log
...
100935
12197
3606
84653
4498
99110
4762
3001
10889
12611
12249
12245
136599
49097
6668

And you want a quick and dirty way of finding the largest number. Well there is a way but it is perhaps the least efficient way to do it, and that is to sort the numbers into numerical order and use “head” to display the first one :-

$ awk '/clean message/ {print $(NF-1)}' mail.info.log | sort -rn | head -1
5476168

But frankly there must be a better method. And yes there is if you happen to be using zsh (or possibly others, but this has been tested with zsh). Simply iterate over the values assigning the current value to the “max” variable if the current variable is larger :-

$ max=0; for x in $(awk '/clean message/ {print $(NF-1)}' mail.info.log); [[ $x -gt $max ]] && max=$x; echo $max
5476168

You may be wondering why I don’t simply use the ability of awk to perform calculations. Well that is certainly possible, but I may not always be using awk to produce the numbers in the first place, and this is supposed to be a generic recipe.

Nov 142015
 

I am obviously doing something wrong because computers are not supposed to behave like this, but my Linux containers (despite previous attempts) are booting with IPv6 privacy addresses randomly :-

✓ root@pica» lxc-ls --fancy | grep chagers
chagers   RUNNING  10.0.0.32  2001:8b0:ca2c:dead::5e11, 2001:8b0:ca2c:dead:f42b:6dff:fe16:2f2d  YES        
✓ root@pica» lxc-stop --name chagers; lxc-start --daemon --name chagers
✓ root@pica» lxc-ls --fancy | grep chagers
chagers   RUNNING  10.0.0.32  2001:8b0:ca2c:dead:206b:70ff:fe45:7242, 2001:8b0:ca2c:dead::5e11  YES        
✓ root@pica» lxc-stop --name chagers; lxc-start --daemon --name chagers
✓ root@pica» lxc-ls --fancy | grep chagers
chagers   RUNNING  10.0.0.32  2001:8b0:ca2c:dead::5e11                                         YES        

That is not how computers are supposed to behave!damascus-unix-prompt

Oct 032015
 

One thing that has always puzzled me about Linux Containers was why it is necessary to configure the network address in two places – the container configuration, and the operating system configuration. The short answer is that it isn't.

If you configure network addresses statically within the container configuration :-

» grep net /var/lib/lxc/mango/config 
# networking
lxc.network.type = veth
lxc.network.flags = up
lxc.network.link = br0
lxc.network.ipv4 = 10.0.0.35/16
lxc.network.ipv4.gateway = 10.0.0.1
lxc.network.ipv6 =         2001:0db8:ca2c:dead:0000:0000:0000:000a/64
lxc.network.ipv6.gateway = 2001:0db8:ca2c:dead:0000:0000:0000:0001

Then the configuration within the container's operating system can simply be :-

» cat /var/lib/lxc/mango/rootfs/etc/network/interfaces
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet manual
iface eth0 inet6 manual

And that works fine.

Oct 032015
 

One of the things that has been mildly irritating me about my little collection of Linux containers has been that in addition to the statically defined IPv6 addresses, there is also an automatically defined IPv6 address :-

» lxc-ls --fancy
NAME      STATE    IPV4       IPV6                                                              AUTOSTART  
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
apricot   RUNNING  10.0.0.34  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:6a, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3eb      YES        
chagers   RUNNING  10.0.0.32  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:804a:bfff:fe83:f98d, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::5e11  YES        
glanders  RUNNING  10.0.0.31  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:66, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::ba11     YES        
lyme      RUNNING  10.0.0.30  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:65, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::cafe     YES        
mango     RUNNING  10.0.0.35  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:6c42:24ff:fe7d:4e9, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::a      YES        
peach     RUNNING  10.0.0.33  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:68, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3a11     YES        
rhubarb   RUNNING  10.0.0.40  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:69, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::dead     YES  

Now this is hardly the end of the world, but it is not tidy and it is the sort of thing that may lead to problems down the road if servers are communicating on an address that is not reverse DNS registered. Or indeed when someone contacts a server on an address such as 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3eb and the reply comes from 2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:6a.

After any number of false starts, the answer is quite simple – use sysctl to turn off autoconfigured address from within the container; which doesn't make much sense logically – containers don't have a kernel of their own, so the global kernel should be the one that is tuned. However :-

for container in $(lxc-ls)
do
  echo net.ipv6.conf.eth0.autoconf = 0 >> /var/lib/lxc/$container/rootfs/etc/sysctl.conf
done

Does the trick (after a reboot)  :-

» lxc-ls --fancy
NAME      STATE    IPV4       IPV6                                                              AUTOSTART  
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
apricot   RUNNING  10.0.0.34  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:6a, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3eb      YES        
chagers   RUNNING  10.0.0.32  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:18d9:99ff:fe28:3591, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::5e11  YES        
glanders  RUNNING  10.0.0.31  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:21e:a0ff:feb6:66, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::ba11     YES        
lyme      RUNNING  10.0.0.30  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::cafe                                          YES        
mango     RUNNING  10.0.0.35  2001:db8:ca2c:dead:2411:80ff:feb9:6600, 2001:db8:ca2c:dead::a     YES        
peach     RUNNING  10.0.0.33  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3a11                                          YES        
rhubarb   RUNNING  10.0.0.40  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::dead                                          YES        

Except for the older containers 🙁 

I've obviously missed something, but fixing nearly half of the containers is a good start.

After attending to pending upgrades (some of my old containers were still running wheezy), and setting the network configuration to manual, one of the recalictrant containers (glanders) lost it's autoconfigured address. 

Two more containers lost their unwanted extra addresses after "fixing" their configuration. I'm not sure what was wrong with the old configuration, but after copying and modifying a recently created container configuration, they rebooted with just one IPv6 address. The last one was mango, but after an extra reboot, it also was fixed :-

» lxc-ls --fancy
NAME      STATE    IPV4       IPV6                      AUTOSTART  
-----------------------------------------------------------------
apricot   RUNNING  10.0.0.34  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3eb   YES        
chagers   RUNNING  10.0.0.32  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::5e11  YES        
glanders  RUNNING  10.0.0.31  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::ba11  YES        
lyme      RUNNING  10.0.0.30  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::cafe  YES        
mango     RUNNING  10.0.0.35  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::a     YES        
peach     RUNNING  10.0.0.33  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::3a11  YES        
rhubarb   RUNNING  10.0.0.40  2001:db8:ca2c:dead::dead  YES        
May 222015
 

So on my upgrade from Wheezy to Jessie, I found myself (amongst other issues) looking at a graphical interface where the mouse worked fine, but no mouse pointer was visible. After trying a few other things, it turned out that :-

gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.cursor active false

Did the trick.

Of course that tip came from somewhere else, but as it worked for me, it’s worth making a note of.

May 022015
 

I have recently been upgrading my Linux containers from Debian wheezy to jessie, and each time have encountered a problem preventing the container from booting. Or rather as it turns out, preventing the equivalent of init from starting any daemons. Which is systemd of course.

Now this is not some addition to the Great Systemd Debate (although my contribution to that debate may well arrive someday), but a simple fix, or at this stage a workaround (to use the dreaded ITIL phrase).

The fix is to re-install the traditional SystemV init package replacing the new systemd package. This can be done during the upgrade by running the following at the end of the usual process :-

apt-get install sysvinit-core

Of course you will probably be reading this after you have encountered the problem. There are probably many ways of dealing with the situation after you have tried rebooting and encountered this issue, but my choice is to run the following commands from what I tend to call the "global container" :-

chroot ${container root filesystem}
apt-get install sysvinit-core

As mentioned before, this is not a fix. And indeed the problem may be my own fault – perhaps it doesn't help having the "global container" still running wheezy. Perhaps there are some instructions in the Debian upgrade manual that details some extra step you should run. And of course by switching back to System V init, we are missing out on all of the systemd fun.

Apr 252015
 

So for ages I've been having these mysterious slow downs in connecting to some of my internal servers. A few seconds, but once connected things are working normally.

And of course I kept putting off having a look into the problem, because firstly I'm lazy, secondly there are other more interesting things to look at, and thirdly I'd already discounted the obvious (actually I'd "fixed" it but made certain assumptions). But it's finally time to have a look.

Now I said I'd earlier discounted the obvious but decided to have a look any way. The thing to remember is that when you connect to a server it almost always performs a DNS lookup on your network address, so a mysterious slow down could well indicate that DNS resolution is to blame. You could perform diagnostics to determine what the problem is, but in all the decades I've been solving issues with computers whenever a mysterious slow down has occurred when connecting over the network, then the problem has almost always been the DNS resolver.

Taking a look at /etc/resolv.conf on the relevant server (a Linux container), and I find the file has a nameserver within it that was retired several weeks ago! Fixing that solved the issue.

Lessons learnt :-

  1. Just because you have a centrally distributed /etc/resolv.conf that is automatically installed on all your home network doesn't mean to say that it is always automatically installed. My Linux containers don't get that centrally distributed file (which had been corrected!).
  2. Don't assume that it's not the obvious even if you have reasons for thinking it couldn't possibly be the obvious (see #1).

 

Mar 072015
 

So there I was, wandering down the street thinking about :-

  1. Sometimes being unable to remember custom key sequences that I've configured.
  2. That my "Help" button on my keyboard was unused.

And I thought that it would be fun to knock up a little application that would pop up a window and show a file. Then I got real, and realised that the application was already written and allowed fancy formatting of the help file(s) – it's called a browser.

Now for a whole bunch of reasons, you probably don't want to use a full blown browser, but something a little simpler and without any fancy controls, and I plumped for dilloTurns out that the "-f" flag turns off the fancy menu and toolbar, so what I needed was to persuade my window manager (Awesome) to run it when I pressed "Help" :-

	awful.key({ }, "Help", function () awful.util.spawn("dillo -f /home/mike/lib/help-files/index.html") end))

If you need help adding that to your Awesome configuration file, you're in the wrong place!

And of course it works :-

2015-03-07_1457

(And now of course I need to spend some time writing some help files!)

Feb 022015
 

Undocumented command options … grrr!

Every so often I find that I have a need to put a volume label onto a FAT filesystem – usually so a digital camera SD (or CF) card can be "automatically" mounted (actually they don't mount automatically on my workstation and I like it like that) in the right place. And of course every time I do, I remember that the command to do so is mlabel but I cannot remember exactly how to do it.

Because mlabel (together with the other mtools) has some sort of weird configuration file to turn Unix/Linux paths into drive letters‽ And yes that was an interribang although it could just as well be some other form of punctuation to express disgust instead. As it happens mlabel has an undocumented option to specify a device path … at least it doesn't appear in the usage hints :-

» mlabel -h
Mtools version 4.0.17, dated June 29th, 2011
Usage: mlabel [-vscVn] [-N serial] drive:

It turns out that there is a "-i" option which takes a device path, but you still have to specify the drive as "::" just so things are less likely to go right :-

» mlabel -i /dev/sdi1 ::
 Volume has no label
Enter the new volume label : LEICA1

And there it is!

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