• A new Freiburg Iron Blogger

    I just made a new entry to the member list of Iron Blogger Freiburg. And it's certainly a bit unusual, because Heather actually doesn't live in Freiburg. She's from Minneapolis, which is a teeeensy bit away from here...

    But she's asked so nicely that I didn't hesitate to add her to the list:

    I'm wondering whether you'd consider adding someone to your group who doesn't currently live in Freiburg — but who will be there in September to settle any fines she may incur. (Heck, even if I *don't* incur any fines, I'll gladly pick up a round or two of beers.)

    If you'd like to check out my blogging qualifications before answering, I'm at www.hmunro.wordpress.com.

    I'd say you're more than qualified. So, welcome to Iron Blogger Freiburg, Heather! I'm looking forward to meeting you in September!

    Man, this whole thing may only be a few days old, but it's already becoming incredibly fun and motivating!

  • Iron Blogger Freiburg

    A blog entry from Antischokke made me aware of a great idea to breathe new life into the blogs of local writers. It’s called Iron Blogger, a group effort that requires the participants to write at least one blog post per week. Otherwise, they’ll have to chip in a “fine”. Every so often, the fines will be converted to drinks collectively.

    I like this idea and invite all bloggers in Freiburg to join Iron Blogger Freiburg! We’ll use Mako’s rules. The fine will be 4€ per missed post (payable in person or via PayPal), and I’ll organize a meetup when the beer pool reaches 40€. The slacker limit is 20€ (reach it and you’re out unless you pay the balance).

    If you’d like to join the group, let me know. You’ll reach me via the comments below, via email or Twitter.

    I’m looking forward to get this thing off the ground. There’s some writing to do and I just ordered myself a new keyboard!

    UPDATE: Woohoo! It's taken only a few hours to get an enthusiastic group together! I've created a separate page on this website for us.

  • Make temporary files non-executable

    At DrupalCONCEPT operations, our intrusion detection system recently notified us that it found a rootkit in the directory /dev/shm on one of our servers. This directory is writeable by the Apache webserver, so attackers that find a vulnerability in the installed software are able put hostile content (aka rootkits) there.

    Of course, the vulnerability shouldn’t be there in the first place. We’re doing security updates all the time, but only on the OS and hosting infrastructure level. Since the actual web applications running on our infrastructure (in our case, Drupal) are maintained by our customers, we don’t have the same kind of tight control here as we have on the OS level.

    Okay, we may not be able to prevent attackers from deploying their scripts. But we can prevent those scripts from doing any harm. This is where the noexec filesystem option comes in handy. Files on filesystems that have this option enabled can’t be executed even if they have their execution permissions (“x” ) set.

    We use a Chef recipe to modify /etc/fstab accordingly. The first execute resource does a remount of the /dev/shm filesystem, but only if triggered by another resource. Namely, the following bash resource that modifies /etc/fstab if it’s not already hardened:

    [gist id=1550976]

    Since we include this recipe in our base Chef role, it’s applied to every server we set up.

  • A great tutorial for creating Chef cookbooks

    System administrators who are looking for a tool that helps them automating their maintenance tasks and have no or only little experience with Chef should really take a look at Joshua Timberman's great tutorial "Guide to Writing Chef Cookbooks".

    In his article, Joshua describes all steps he takes to create a new Chef cookbook that installs and maintains smartmontools (a set of tools to monitor hard disk health). It's a great example how straightforward it is to automate systems operations tasks with Chef.

    Even with two years experience in using Chef, I learned one or two bits from this tutorial. And it just so happened this week that I needed a smartmontools cookbook. So, thanks twice for writing this up, Joshua!

  • How not to distribute DNS servers

    For one of our customers that addresses the south american market, we've rented a server at HostDime in Brazil. Unfortunately, they often suffer network outages.

    Once again, we can't reach our server, so I try to access their Ticket system named "Core". It's unreachable, too. Let's see:

    $ host core.hostdime.com.br
    Host core.hostdime.com.br not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)

    Okay, looks like DNS is down. But there's more than one DNS server, isn't it?

    $ host -t ns hostdime.com.br
    hostdime.com.br name server ns1.hostdime.com.br.
    hostdime.com.br name server ns2.hostdime.com.br.

    There is. So how...

    $ host ns1.hostdime.com.br
    ns1.hostdime.com.br has address
    $ host ns2.hostdime.com.br
    ns2.hostdime.com.br has address

    m( Does anyone have a suggestion for a hosting provider in Brazil that's not run by idiots?