Apr 302017

Despite how long I have been running Windows in virtual machines (as far back as Vmware Workstation 1.0), I have never gotten around to looking at the virtio network interface – except for naïvely turning it on once, finding it didn’t work, and turning it off – so I decided to have a look at it. I was prompted to do this by a suggestion that emulating the NIC hardware as opposed to simply using a virtual communications channel to the host would hurt network performance. Good job I chose a long weekend because I ran into a few issues :-

  • Getting appropriate test tools took a while because most of the tools I know of are very old; I ended up using iperf2 on both the Linux main host and the Windows 10 guest (within the “Windows
  • The “stable” virtio drivers (also called “NetKVM”) drivers didn’t work. Specifically they could send packets but not receive them (judging from the DORA conversation that was more of a DODO). I installed the “latest” drivers from https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Windows_Virtio_Drivers. Note to late readers: this was as of 2017-04-30; different versions may offer different results.
  • Upgrading my ancient Debian Jessie kernel to 4.9 on the off-chance it was a kernel bug turned into a bit of an exercise what with ZFS disappearing after the upgrade, and sorting out the package dependencies to get it re-installed was “interesting” (for small values of course). No data loss though.

I ran two tests :-

  1. sudo nping –tcp -p 445 –count 200 –data-len 1280 ${ip of windows guest) – to judge how reliable the network connection was.
  2. On the Linux host: sudo iperf -p 50001 
  3. On the Windows guest (from within the Ubuntu-based environment): sudo iperf -p 50001 -c ${ip of Linux host}
Device nping result iperf result
Windows guest (virtual Intel Pro 1000 MT Desktop 1 lost 416 Mbits/sec
Windows guest (virtio) 0 lost 164 Mbits/sec
CuBox running ARM Linux n/a 425 Mbits/sec

Which is not the result I was expecting. And yes I did repeat the tests a number of times (I’ve cheated and chosen the best numbers for the above table), and no I did not confuse which NIC was configured at the time of the tests nor did I get the tests mixed up. And to those who claim that the use of the Ubuntu environment screwed things up, that appears not to be the case – I repeated the test with a Windows compiled version of iperf with much the same results.

So it seems despite common sense indicating that a NIC “hardware” custom designed for a virtual environment should perform better than an emulation of a hardware NIC, the actual result in this case was the other way around. Except for the nping result which shows the loss of a single packet with the emulated hardware NIC.

Oct 032015

More up to date information can be found here.

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 =
lxc.network.ipv4.gateway =
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.

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.

Dec 222014

This is a series of working notes on the Yubikey which is an interesting device used to supplement passwords to make two-factor authentication easier. It is essentially a hardware security token device that pretends to your computer to be a keyboard and enters a one-time only password that can be used to verify your identity – much like a password, but much more secure.

Well perhaps "easier" only if someone does all the configuration for you, although I am inclined to look a bit deeper into such things for my own amusement. My own key is a Yubikey NEO, but much of what follows also applies to the other Yubikey models.


This is the spot for observations on using the Yubikey over time.

  1. For some reason the Yubikey doesn't always "light up" on my workstation at work. It works fine at home – the green light always turns on ready for a key press – but at work it often seems to flicker and stay out. Not sure what causes this, but it always seems to be persistent when you really need to use it! 


… is to some extent unnecessary, but under Linux there are three bits of software that can be installed to configure additional features of the Yubikey :-

  1. The library: https://developers.yubico.com/libykneomgr/
  2. The command-line tool: https://developers.yubico.com/yubikey-personalization/
  3. The GUI: https://developers.yubico.com/yubikey-personalization-gui/

All three build easily from the instructions given. Just make sure to remember to copy the udev rules from yubikey-personalization to /etc/udev/rules.d/ and run udevadm trigger to enable them. This will make sure you can access your yubikey as a console user, so you don't have to become root.

Enabling Linux Authentication

This was all done with a Linux container (LXC), so it could be relatively easily thrown away and restarted. The first step was to install the relevant PAM module :-

# apt-get install libpam-yubico

This pulls in a ton of other required packages.

The next is to grab the unchanging part of your Yubikey token. This is the first 12 characters of what you get when you activate it. Whilst you have it to hand, now would be a good time to create the mapping file – /etc/yubikey-mappings :-

# Yubikey ID mappings
# Format:
#       user-id:yubikey-id:yubikey-id:...
# (But usually only one)

Next step is to add a little something to one of the pam files. For testing (assuming you have console) access, the relevant file might be /etc/pam.d/sshd but once you have things working, /etc/pam.d/common-auth might be a better choice. Right at the top of the file add :-

auth       sufficient   pam_yubico.so debug id=16 authfile=/etc/yubikey-mappings
#       Added for Yubikey authentication.

Because these things always have problems when you first try them, it makes sense to set up the debugging log :-

touch /var/run/pam-debug.log
chmod a+w /var/run/pam-debug.log

At this point, assuming everything works as expected :-

  1. You will be able to authenticate using ssh using either your Yubikey, or your password.
  2. This assumes your server is able to communicate with the Yubi Cloud.

There are further improvements to be made … and we'll get to those shortly.

But That's Not Two-Factor Authentication!

Indeed not, so we'll fix that right now.

Firstly remove the line we previously added to /etc/pam.d/sshd; because of the way that Debian configures pam, it is less disruptive (i.e. fewer changes) to make the change to /etc/pam.d/common-auth :-

auth       requisite     pam_yubico.so id=16 debug authfile=/etc/yubikey-mappings
#       Yubikey configuration added.
auth    [success=1 default=ignore]      pam_unix.so nullok_secure use_first_pass

But before restarting sshd (you have been doing that haven't you?), you will need to add a Yubikey ID to /etc/yubikey-mappings for the root user.

At this point, you will only be able to authenticate if you enter your username, followed by both your Unix password and activate your Yubikey at the password prompt. Entering both at the same prompt is a little weird especially when you consider that there is no indications anywhere that Yubikey authentication is required.

But we can fix that. First of all, one small change to common-auth – remove the use_first_pass phrase.

Next edit the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config and find the ChallengeResponseAuthentication phrase and set to "Yes" :-

ChallengeResponseAuthentication yes

And after a quick reboot, the log in process works in a sensible way :-

» ssh chagers
Yubikey for `mike': (Press YubiKey)
Password: (Enter Unix password)
Linux chagers 3.14-0.bpo.1-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 3.14.12-1~bpo70+1 (2014-07-13) x86_64

The programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
permitted by applicable law.
Last login: Wed Dec 31 15:37:05 2014