My name is Philipp C. Heckel and I write about nerdy things.
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Posts Categorized / Linux


  • Mar 24 / 2015
  • 2
Code Snippets, Linux, Scripting

Snippet 0x0B: Bash completion with sub-commands and dynamic options

Every system administrator, most programmers and countless of command line surfing Linux/Mac users use it every day without thinking twice. Hitting the tab key twice, [TAB][TAB], has become the most common thing in the world. Bash completion is the magic behind the tab key. It’s easy to use, but it’s a pain to write. This tiny post demonstrates how to write scripts for bash completion, with sub-commands and dynamic parameters. A working script is embedded in my open source file sync software Syncany.

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  • Mar 22 / 2015
  • 2
Linux, Scripting, Security

Circumvent Internet blockages/filters/censorship with socksproxy and netcat

These days, ISPs are often forced to block the access to certain sites, because their government considers these sites dangerous and/or illegal. While one could certainly discuss the usefulness of such measures in great detail, this tiny post focuses on the more interesting subject of how to circumvent these blockages. It’s not a lenghty post, and it doesn’t show all the ways there are, but I’ll show two simple ways to circumvent Internet non-DNS-based filters.

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  • Jul 18 / 2013
  • 14
Administration, Linux, Security

How To: DNS spoofing with a simple DNS server using Dnsmasq

The Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the fundamental services of the Internet. By resolving domain names to IP addresses, it makes routing of IP packets possible and thereby lets browsers and other clients connect to remote servers using all kinds of protocols. By blindly connecting to the IP address returned by the DNS server, however, users put a lot of trust into DNS, because by default, DNS responses are not validated or verified.

In this blog post, I’d like to demonstrate how to easily set up a DNS server that allows you to easily forge certain entries manually — thereby allowing you to either block certain domains from your network or to pretend that you are a certain website. This scenario is commonly referred to as DNS forgery or DNS spoofing.

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  • Jul 01 / 2013
  • 66
Android, Linux, Security

How To: Use mitmproxy to read and modify HTTPS traffic

Capturing HTTP and HTTPS traffic on your own machine is quite simple: Using tools like Wireshark or Firebug, sniffing the local connections is only a matter of seconds. Capturing and/or altering the HTTP/HTTPS traffic of other machines in your network (such as your smartphone or other laptops) on the other hand is not so easy. Especially sniffing into SSL-secured HTTPS-connections seems impossible at first. Using mitmproxy, however, makes this possible in a very easy and straight forward way.

This small tutorial shows how to use mitmproxy to transparently sniff into and alter (!) HTTPS connections of your phone or other devices in your network.

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  • Jun 28 / 2013
  • 14
Linux, Scripting, Synchronization

Script: Run rsnapshot backups only once and rollback failed backups using rsnapshot-once

I use rsnapshot to backup all of my data to my HTPC and home server (the home partition, office documents and the root file system). While rsnapshot is not as shiny as other backup tools, it is very flexible and effective: rsnapshot is based on rsync and makes hardlink-based backups (like cp -al), i.e. backups that point to the same inode on the disk if a file in consecutive backups is identical (much like SIS in deduplication).

However, rsnapshot is meant to be triggered by cronjobs and is built for always-on server machines rather than for lid-open-lid-close-type machines like laptops: That means that rsnapshot must be scheduled to run at a certain time (no retries!) and is not prone sudden system shutdowns. Furthermore, it does not detect failures and simply leaves unfinished backups as if they were complete. That in turn leads to more disk space being used for the backups, because the last complete backup is not really complete.

I wrote a little helper script to fix exactly this behavior: rsnapshot-once makes sure that (1) rsnapshot is only called if a backup is necessary (once every 24h for ‘daily’, once ever 7 days for ‘weekly’, …) even if rsnapshot-once is called multiple times, and (2) that crashed/interrupted backup runs are rolled-back before starting a new backup run.

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  • Jun 15 / 2012
  • 9
Cloud Computing, Linux, Scripting

Script: Your US proxy server in one minute using Amazon EC2

Many of the well known websites determine your location based on your IP address and restrict their content or functionalities based on the country you’re in. Some examples are Gmail (Germans get only @googlemail.com-addresses, legal reasons), YouTube (content is restricted by the GEMA), and Pandora (limited to US citizens) to name only a few. To circumvent these restrictions, being able to quickly get an IP address outside of your own country is most helpful.

To do exactly that I wrote a little script that will start your very own US proxy server in one minute using Amazon EC2. In combination with browser plug-ins such as FoxyProxy, the script enables you to route all your web traffic through a proxy on an Amazon-owned machine — with an IP address in the US, Ireland, Singapore, Tokyo or Sao Paulo (location of Amazon data centers).

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  • Feb 01 / 2011
  • 3
Administration, Linux, Programming, Security

Altering old SVN revisions: removing confidental data from a Subversion repository

Version control systems like CVS or Subversion are designed for keeping track of the changes of a project and for having the possibility to revert to old revisions if something goes wrong. In contrast to regular relational databases, these systems are made only for adding new content to a repository, and not for removing data from it. In fact, deleting old content is not a built-in functionality in SVN, and mostly requires removing entire revisions from the repository or even creating a new one.

But what happens if you accidentally commit a password or other sensitive information to a repository? This post explains how to remove this confidential data permanently from the repository by simply overwriting it in old revisions, i.e. without having to remove revisions or create a new repository.

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  • Jan 12 / 2011
  • 3
Linux, Multimedia, Scripting

Picasa for Linux: Export albums in sort order

As one of the best picture organizers out there, Picasa is (in my opinion) almost complete in terms of features and has a nice look and feel at the same time. Even though Google stopped developing the Linux version after 3.0, it still works perfectly using Wine and a couple of cp-statements.

However, as stated many times by Picasa users and bloggers [1,2,3,4,…], Picasa’s export function misses a tiny little feature that maintains the sort order of the album when exporting it to a folder. Instead of renaming the pictures to keep them sorted in normal file managers (by name), Picasa just copies the files of an album to one folder and thereby destroys the order. As if that wasn’t enough, Picasa also overwrites duplicates filenames from different source folders.

This missing feature has even led to small standalone projects that fix this issue, e.g. Picasa Independent Album Exporter (PIAE) and Picasa Order Preserver. While both applications do their job, both are a bit heavyweight, and PIAE only works for Windows (and not on Wine).

This post presents a tiny little Perl script that renames pictures of an exported album according to their Picasa sort order.

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