Using riot.im as a bridge to Freenode

Over the last few months, I’ve been using Riot.im (the client for Matrix.org) as my primary IRC client, and access to other end-to-end-encrypted chats.

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to use my “normal” IRC nickname on Freenode, so looked into how to do it. It’s surprisingly easy, but there are a few gotchas.

Making Matrix know your password

First of all you need to message the IRC bridge bot and tell it your nickserv password: !storepass chat.freenode.net MyComplexPassword

Next, you need to chat with NickServ directly and authenticate with it: identify MyNormalNick MyComplexPassword

Lastly, you go back to your chat with the bridge bot, and tell it your nickname: !nick chat.freenode.net MyNormalNick

If, in the process of doing this, you find you can’t log in as yourself, message NickServ and tell it to release your account from being protected: release MyNormalNick MyComplexPassword

Setting topics

While the bridge bot will let you set a topic (!cmd TOPIC #channel Something) this didn’t really work for me, so instead, I use ChanServ to do it for me: topic #channel My New Topic

Just remember that you must have ops granted to you for that channel through ChanServ to be able to make such changes.

You can also set modes for people, or the channel, ban people, voice or op them through ChanServ, just send the command help in the chat to ChanServ for more guidance!

And, if you’re stuck, feel free to come ask for help! I’m (predictably) JonTheNiceGuy!

Building a Dual boot machine running Ubuntu 17.04 and Windows 10 with full-disk encryption

This post has been revised since it was initially published on 31st March due to errors found in the resulting build. It was also missing details on the shared data drive between the two machines, so has been amended to include that.

** WARNING ** This works for me – it might not for you!

The outcome of this build will leave you with the following:

Boot up, go through the VeraCrypt bootloader, enter a password for Windows, or press escape to load the Grub bootloader where you will boot (K|L|X|)Ubuntu(| Mate| Gnome).

The Windows environment will be encrypted with VeraCrypt, an open source Full Disk Encryption technology, while the Linux environment will be encrypted using Luks. The shared volume (between Windows and Linux) will be encrypted with VeraCrypt.

PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ANY WINDOWS 10 UPGRADES WILL FAIL TO APPLY AS IT WILL NOT RECOGNISE THE VERACRYPT FILE SYSTEM! To resolve this, decrypt the Windows volume, perform the upgrade, re-encrypt it, then transfer the new recovery ISO image to the boot volume, following the method below. Yes, this will take some time. No, you don’t need to decrypt the data volume. Yes, you can use that data volume to shunt the ISO image around.

Step 1:Create your partition table

My partition table, for a 320GB Disk looks (roughly) like this:

Partition 1: 20GB – Linux /Boot (ext2, plus space for ISO files for random booting)
Partition 2: 60GB – Windows C:\ (NTFS VeraCrypt)
Partition 3: 72GB – Linux Physical Volume (LVM PV, Luks Encrypted)
– logical volume 1: 16Gb Swap (Linux Swap)
– logical volume 2: 60Gb Linux (ext4)
Partition 4: 156GB – Shared Volume (NTFS, VeraCrypt)

I performed this using GParted in the Gnome Live image using the GParted. Some rational here:

  1. The first partition also allows me to add other ISOs if I want to boot them.
  2. I have 4GB RAM, this gives me some extra space to allow me to hibernate, but also… 4Gb. Ugh.
  3. I then split my Linux and Windows partitions into two equal parts.

Step 2: Use Cryptsetup to format the disk

The following steps need to be run as root.

sudo -i

Step 2a: Format the partitions as LUKS

cryptsetup luksFormat -y -v /dev/sda3

Step 2b: Open the LUKS volume

cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda3 lvm-pv

Step 2c: Create the LVM Physical Volume over the LUKS volume

vgcreate vg00 /dev/mapper/lvm-pv

Step 2d: Define the LVM Logical Volumes over the LVM Physical Volume

lvcreate -n lv00_swap -L 16G vg00       # Define 16GB Swap Space
lvcreate -n lv01_root -l +100%FREE vg00 # Define the rest of vg00 as /

LEAVE YOUR TERMINAL OPEN

Step 3: Install your Linux distribution.

Note that when you perform your install, when you get to the partitioning screen, select “Manual”, and then pick out the following volumes:

/dev/mapper/vg00-lv01_root = ext4 formatted, mount point: /
/dev/mapper/vg00-lv00_swap = swap
/dev/sda1 = ext2, format, mount point: /boot

Select the boot volume of /dev/sda. But wait, I hear you say, Windows has a well know history of nuking Grub partitions… Well, we’ll sort that in a bit…

DON’T EXIT THE LIVE SESSION ONCE THE INSTALL HAS FINISHED (select “Continue Testing”).

Step 4: Make your machine actually able to boot

Go back to your terminal session.  It should still be logged in as root. We need to re-mount all the partitions…

Step 4a: Mount your volumes

mount /dev/mapper/vg00-lv01_root /target
mount /dev/sda1 /target/boot
for i in /dev /dev/pts /proc /sys /run; do sudo mount -B $i /target$i; done

Step 4b: Swap to the “Target” filesystem

chroot /target

Step 4c: Setup your volumes to prompt for cryptographic keys

echo "LinuxRoot UUID=`blkid | grep sda3 | cut -d\\\" -f2` none luks" > /etc/crypttab

Step 4d: Update the boot volume to use these changes

update-initramfs -u

Step 4e: Ensure Grub is also installed to the MBR for testing

grub-install --force /dev/sda1
chattr +i /boot/grub/i386-pc/core.img
update-grub

The first part installs grub to the boot position, even though it doesn’t like it, and the second forces the core file to be unchangeable… I’m not exactly sure of the impact of this, but it’s the only way to do the next part of this process. The last bit makes sure that you’ve got the latest grub config files installed.

Step 5: Reboot and test

Just check to make sure the machine boots OK!

You should have a booting Ubuntu derivative with an encrypted file system. Awesome.

Now let’s install Windows!

Step 6: Install Windows and Veracrypt.

You should boot from your install media, when you get to the partition selector, there should only be a single NTFS partition for it to use. Use it.

Install the latest version of Veracrypt from https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/

Once it’s installed, go to System, Encrypt System Partition/Drive, “Normal” system encryption, Windows System Partition, Multi-Boot (accept the warning), Boot Drive “Yes”, Single Disk, “Non-Windows Boot Loader” – No, and then… let it go through all the rest of the steps. There will be one stage where it asks you to create a rescue disk. Just save it for later. Once the encryption settings are collected, it will do a test (which is basically just rebooting to the boot loader, having you put in your password and going back into Windows), and then let it start performing the encryption.

Once the encryption finishes, reboot the computer, enter the decryption password and test it boots to Windows OK. Then reboot it again and press escape instead of putting in the password. It will boot to your Ubuntu system.

So, there you have it. One Dual-Boot system with encrypted disks everywhere!

Step 7: Setting up the shared volume.

After you’ve got the Ubuntu and Windows volumes sorted out, next we need the shared data volume to be organised. You’ll need Veracrypt for Ubuntu. Use the following to install the Veracrypt package for Ubuntu:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:unit193/encryption
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install veracrypt

Once that’s installed, boot back into Windows and create a new volume – perhaps V: for Veracrypt, or E: for Encrypted – your choice, but make sure you create it using the same password that you used for the Windows partition.

Format this new volume with either NTFS or FAT32 so that you can mount it under either operating system. I chose NTFS.

Now, you need to go into Veracrypt’s Settings menu, and select “System Encryption Settings”. Tick “Cache pre-boot authentication password in driver memory” (be aware, this means that if your machine is compromised when powered up, the password could be recovered), then OK. This may prompt you to accept the UAC at this point.

Next, with the mounted volume selected, go to the “Favorites” menu, and choose “Add to System Favorites”. In the screen which comes up, select the box under “Global Settings” which says “Mount system favorite volumes when Windows starts (in the initial phase of the startup procedure)”. There will be a warning about passwords that appears. Click OK.

You may, at this point, want to move certain aspects of your Windows desktop (e.g. the “My Documents” location) to the new mounted drive.

On the Linux OS, become root, with sudo, and then add the following lines to your crontab:

@reboot mkdir -p /shared_storage 
@reboot veracrypt --text --non-interactive --fs-options=uid=1000,gid=1000,umask=0077 --password="YOURSUPERSECUREPASSWORD" /dev/sda4 /shared_storage

These assume that your login user’s ID is 1000 (you can check that by running the command “id” as your logged in user), that you want to use “/shared_storage” as the mount point (it stops Ubuntu treating it as a “Mountable Volume” if it’s not in your home directory and not in /mnt or /media). These options also mean that only that user (and root) can access any of the files in that partition (although, it is only you on this laptop… right?), which means you can safely use it for any files which check user permissions before allowing you to access them (e.g. SSH keys). I then set up a symbolic link to /home/MYUSERACCOUNT/Documents into the /shared_storage/Documents directory, and /home/MYUSERACCOUNT/.ssh into the /shared_storage/SSH_Keys directory.

Citataions

The following list of resources helped me out when I was struggling with what to do next! They may not be canonical sources, but they helped.

  1. http://thesimplecomputer.info/full-disk-encryption-with-ubuntu – This is what got me started on this little journey!
  2. http://askubuntu.com/questions/161689/how-do-i-get-grub2-to-boot-a-truecrypt-encrypted-mbr – How to add the Veracrypt recovery disk to your Grub boot partition. Note, I do it slightly differently to this now.
  3. http://askubuntu.com/questions/711801/i-deleted-files-in-boot-now-cant-boot-linux – I may have done this. It tells you how to put all your important files back for booting purposes :)
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1yWbBIqh1o – Walk through of installing Veracrypt to Windows 10. I used this to see some of the terms after I’d already installed Veracrypt. I don’t quite follow the same route as him though.
  5. https://www.linux.com/blog/how-full-encrypt-your-linux-system-lvm-luks – Using LVM inside Luks for the full-Linux disk (this was why I’ve re-written this post)
  6. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Dm-crypt/Encrypting_an_entire_system – Some details around how the Luks stuff all works

I may or may not have reinstalled Windows and Kubuntu about 20 times during this process, cursing myself for starting the whole damn process off in the first place!!!

Working with complicated template data UserData in Ansible

My new job means I’m currently building a lot of test boxes with Ansible, particularly OpenStack guests. This means I’m trying to script as much as possible without actually … getting my hands dirty with the actual “logging into it and running things” perspective.

This week, I hit a problem standing up a popular firewall vendor’s machine with Ansible, because I was trying to bypass the first-time-wizard… anyway, it wasn’t working, and I couldn’t figure out why. I talked to my colleague [mohclips] and he eventually told me that I needed to use a template, because what I was trying to do was too complicated.

But, damn him, I knew that wasn’t the answer :)

Anyway, I found this comment on a ticket, which lead me to the following… if you’re finding that your userdata: variable in the os_server module of Ansible isn’t working, you might need to wrap it up like this:

userdata: |
  {%- raw -%}#!/bin/bash
  # Kill script if the pipe fails
  set -euf -o pipefail
  # Write everything from this point on to Syslog
  echo " == Set admin credentials == "
  clish -c 'set user admin password-hash {% endraw -%}{{ default_password|password_hash('sha512') }}{%- raw -%}' -s
  {% endraw %}

Note that, if you have a space before your variable, use {% endraw -%} and if you’ve a space after it, use {%- raw %} as the hyphen means “ditch all the spaces before/after this command”.

One to read or watch: “Programming is Forgetting: Toward a New Hacker Ethic”

Here is a transcript of a talk by Allison Parrish at the Open Hardware Summit in Portland, OR. The talk “Programming is Forgetting: Toward a New Hacker Ethic” is a discussion about the failings of the book “Hackers” by Steven Levy. Essentially, that book proposed (in the 80’s) a set of ethics for Hackers (which is to say, creative programmers or engineers, not malicious operators). Allison suggests that many of the parables in the book do not truly reflect the “Hacker Ethic”, and revises them for today’s world.

Her new questions (not statements) are as follows:

  • Who gets to use what I make? Who am I leaving out? How does what I make facilitate or hinder access?
  • What data am I using? Whose labor produced it and what biases and assumptions are built into it? Why choose this particular phenomenon for digitization or transcription? And what do the data leave out?
  • What systems of authority am I enacting through what I make? What systems of support do I rely on? How does what I make support other people?
  • What kind of community am I assuming? What community do I invite through what I make? How are my own personal values reflected in what I make?

This is a significant re-work of the original “Hacker Ethic“, and you should really either watch or read the talk to see how she got to these from the original, especially as it’s not as punchy as the original.

I’d like to think I was thinking of things like these questions when I wrote CampFireManager and CCHits.

Use your Debian System with as an iBeacon for Home Automation

I have been using the Home-Assistant application at home to experiment with Home Automation.

One thing I’ve found is that the Raspberry Pi is perfect for a few of the monitoring things that I wanted it to do (see also https://github.com/JonTheNiceGuy/home-assistant-configs for more details of what I’m doing there!).

I’m using the OwnTracks application to talk to an MQTT server, but I could also do with it knowing where I am in the house, so I looked around for some details on iBeacons.

iBeacon is an Apple standard, but it’s very easy to configure on Linux systems. I took some pointers from this article and wrote up a script to turn on the iBeacon on my Raspbian Raspberry Pi 3.

Configuring the Script

When you first run it as root, it will pre-populate a config file in /etc/iBeacon.conf. Edit it and run the script again.

Running the script

This script needs to be run as root, so to test it, or to reconfigure the beacon, run sudo /root/iBeacon.sh (or wherever you put it!)

Making it persistent

To be honest, at this point, I’d probably just stick this into my root Crontab file by adding this line:

@reboot /root/iBeacon.sh | logger

Again, replace /root/iBeacon.sh with wherever you put it!

Please visit this link to see the script and make suggestions on improvements.

One to read: “Don’t build private clouds”

I’m catching up on the fabulous Devops Weekly mailing list, so some of these blog posts might be relatively old. The first post I’m picking out as interesting is Don’t build private clouds.

This post is interesting, because the role I’ve *literally* just accepted relates to building Private Cloud infrastructure, so… yehr. That was a great indicator :)

That said, the firm I work for falls solidly in the realms of “Actually, might be useful for you to build your own private cloud” so, not that bad really :D

And if you’re not in the range of people who the article claims should be building your own private cloud, give me a shout, and I’ll point you at some pre-sales people for building with *our* private cloud platform!

One to listen to: “CodeNewbie Podcast Episode 116 – Diversity in Tech – Part I (Ashe Dryden)”

Today’s recommended podcast listening is from the CodeNewbie podcast, and this episode is about trying to level the playing field for any minority group looking to get into technology. It also discusses how focusing on the “next generation” of [Required Group Of People] is the wrong way to do it, and just pushes back the problem by 10+ years (until *they* get out of school and find there are no jobs for them either!)

The subject of the interview is Ashe Dryden, a woman who, among other things is a diversity consultant and organiser of AlterConf, a conference about Diversity.

As a conference organiser in tech, I’m keen to keep a close eye on how to do things better, and this interview really opened my eyes into how you *can* do better at organising conferences, and I’ll be taking as much of what I can from this interview to do my next conference better.

One to listen to: “Software Engineering Radio Episode 275: Josh Doody on Salary Negotiation for Software Engineers”

Today we have a podcast about negotiating salary from the IEEE Software Engineering Magazine. The episode is “Software Engineering Radio Episode 275: Josh Doody on Salary Negotiation for Software Engineers” and mentions that you don’t need to offer your current salary to prospective employers, nor do you need to tell them what salary you want – let them offer you a figure, which gives you the power to negotiate.

Clearly, these are some things I should have learned from when I was applying for my earlier jobs! If you’re looking for a new job, or just looking to maximise your next pay rise, take a listen to this show!