Category Archives: Apache

Happy Hacker Halloween!

Last year I wanted to be a “Hacker” and code up a solution to show near by access points and nearby phones. I failed. However, I did a good job of brushing up on what I needed to do over the past year and so this year I was a hacker for reals. Here I am in the final get up:


Let’s break it down! Here’s the hardware list (affiliate links to Amazon):

My final build out looked like this:


A quick write up of the software is:

  1. install latest Rasbpian on your MicrSD card
  2. Install latest YANPIWS in /var/www/html/YANPIWS
  3. Install howmanypeoplearearound as the pi user. Ensure it’s path is /home/pi/.local/bin/howmanypeoplearearound
  4. Ensure you have all the libs for YANPIWS python scripts installed so you can talk to the BME280
  5. Hook up the BME280 to the right 4 pins on the Pi using the jumper cables
  6. Hook up the monitor to the Pi’s HDMI and the External WiFi adapter a USB port
  7. Have the Pi boot into kiosk mode with a browser that points to by following this awesome guide on Note that you’ll only use the one URL and have no while loop in the kiosk bash script.
  8. Install Apache and PHP with sudo apt install apache2 php
  9. In /var/www/html/ put all of the files I just published on this gist. Basically it’s a small web app to show the data we’re collecting as well as some bash scripts that get run in cron.
  10. Install a bunch of cron jobs that gather the data as the pi user. This will use wlan0 (built in) to look for nearby access points using the venerable iw command. It will use wlan1 (USB adapter) to look for phones and such in monitor mode using howmanypeoplearearound. Finally, it will get the temp and humidity using the python script from YANPIWS. You may need to make /var/www/html writable by pi user to make this work.

It’s not my finest code, but if everything worked correctly, the Pi will boot up every time and show something like this:


As you can see it got cold tonight on our walk – by the time we got home at 8pm it was 45. Happy Hacker Halloween!


NAT and Macvlan on production LXD (plus reverse proxy & SSH Config)

Intro and LXD install

At work recently I was charged with rebuilding a bare metal host. Beyond needing to follow our security best practices and be well documented, it was left up to me how to do it. I had my own needs for test VMs and there was a pending request for a VM* for semi-production instance. This meant some VMs* would be fine in a traditional NATed environment, where they had no publicly accessible interfaces, and others would need full fledged public IPs. (* – I’m using “VM” liberally in this post. These are technically LXD containers which use the host kernel.)

Given my penchant for LXD, I’m guessing you can see where this is going ;) If you don’t know my penchant, check out these posts, specifically, “From zero to LXD: Installing a private compute cloud on a Cisco C220 M4SFF“.

I won’t go as into nitty-gritty detail on the hardware setup (this time with an older c220 M3 LFF instead of the new M4 SFF), but I set up the system very similarly, but was forced to use a RAID10 set up on 4 drives – no fancy ZFS set up this time. I’ll see some performance and features lost as LXD was configured to just use filesystem (/var/lib/lxd), but given I have bare metal in a colo with as many VMs as I want, I’m happy ;)

After installing Ubuntu 18.04, giving it a static IP and running our Ansible hardening roles against it, I was ready to configure LXD. The nice thing about LXD is that you can have as many container profiles as you want. This means I can zip through the default lxd init process to have VMs which are behind NAT and then trivially add a new profile that allows hosts to have a public IP after that.

The initial config of LXD looks like this:

Would you like to use LXD clustering? (yes/no) [default=no]:
Do you want to configure a new storage pool? (yes/no) [default=yes]:
Name of the new storage pool [default=default]:
Name of the storage backend to use (btrfs, dir, lvm) [default=btrfs]:
Create a new BTRFS pool? (yes/no) [default=yes]:
Would you like to use an existing block device? (yes/no) [default=no]:
Size in GB of the new loop device (1GB minimum) [default=15GB]:
Would you like to connect to a MAAS server? (yes/no) [default=no]:
Would you like to create a new local network bridge? (yes/no) [default=yes]:
What should the new bridge be called? [default=lxdbr0]:
What IPv4 address should be used? (CIDR subnet notation, “auto” or “none”) [default=auto]:
What IPv6 address should be used? (CIDR subnet notation, “auto” or “none”) [default=auto]:
Would you like LXD to be available over the network? (yes/no) [default=no]:
Would you like stale cached images to be updated automatically? (yes/no) [default=yes]
Would you like a YAML "lxd init" preseed to be printed? (yes/no) [default=no]:

After that, and HUGE thanks to this concise post by Simos Xenitellis, we can now configure a new profile with Macvlan for VMs that need a public IP. Simos’ post really covers this nicely (I even use their same code snippets ;), but by copying the default profile (lxc profile copy default lanprofile) and then setting the the nictype (lxc profile device set lanprofile eth0 nictype macvlan) and the parent (lxc profile device set lanprofile eth0 parent enp5s12) on the new profile, we’re ready to go. Note that this assume your bare metal’s nic is enp5s12 and your LXD VMs use eth0 (the default).

Network types: NAT, Bridge & Macvlan

But wait, what is Macvlan? And, just so we’re all clear, how does it differ from the default NAT set up or the fancy bridged set up in my earlier post? Let’s break it down:

  • Network Address Translation (NAT) – You’re very likely using this right now to read this post ;) NAT is what enables us to easily share a connection to the Internet with out everyone having a public IP. Have you seen IPs that start with 10.x.x.x, 172.x.x.x or 192.x.x.x? While not exclusive to NAT, they’re the most common IP ranges used in conjunction with it (See RFC 1918 for TMI). NAT allows a gateway to hand out these IPs which then can send traffic out to the Internet and, by modifying the ports used, send the responses back to the NATed host who originally made the requested.

    NAT is what LXD uses when you accept all the defaults in lxd init. This is super handy for testing and development! As well, we can use it to our advantage with a reverse HTTP proxy in production – more on this below.

  • BridgeBridges are a layer 2 connection that makes it appear as all devices are on the same network. This is convenient when you want all devices to work with the same IP range, either with public IPs or in your NATed network. This is how I set up LXD in the prior article. Any time a VM is created in LXD, it can see all hosts, but it does take a slightly more complex network set up on the bare metal.

  • Macvlan – I’ll quote this great write up on to describe Macvlan, “[it] allows you to configure multiple Layer 2 (i.e. Ethernet MAC) addresses on a single physical interface. Macvlan allows you to configure sub-interfaces (also termed slave devices) of a parent, physical Ethernet interface (also termed upper device), each with its own unique (randomly generated) MAC address, and consequently its own IP address.”. This achieves the same result as bridges with one major caveat: host and VMs can not talk to each other. That is, your VMs won’t be able to talk to you bare metal LXD host and vice versa – caveat emptor!

Now that you know what the three setups are, and how easy it was to set up NAT (just accept LXD defaults) and how easy it is to set up Macvlan (3 command line calls) – let’s see what we can do with them!

Again per Simos’ post, we can easily create a new NATed VM and then a Macvlan VM like so:

lxc launch ubuntu: natVM
lxc launch -p lanprofile ubuntu: lanVM

To set a static IP on either host, assuming your running Ubuntu 18.04 like me, you’d just edit /etc/netplan/50-cloud-init.yaml. So let’s say I wanted to give the natVM IP .10 in the 10.x.x.x range that LXD gave me and use Quad9 for DNS. I’d edit50-cloud-init.yaml to look like this:

   version: 2
   renderer: networkd
      dhcp4: no
      addresses: []
        addresses: []

This ends the part of the post where we talk about NAT and Macvlan both easily co-existing on LXD. Now on to what you might do with that set up! Specifically, how you might use Apache to forward on HTTP requests on a public IP to a NATed VM.

Apache reverse proxy

If you wanted to run lots of VMs, none of which needed a public IP, but a few needed to run a public service, you might wonder how to best do this? In my case, I had a small amount of public IPs, so burning one for every VM was a big waste. A better way is to just selectively forward some HTTP traffic from the bare-metal host’s public IP to a NATed VM’s IP. I’m an Apache kinda person, but this could be done with your web server of choice. It goes with out saying, but this trick will only work with HTTP traffic. I’ll speak to being able to SSH “directly” to any NATed hosts below!

Let’s get started by installing apache2 on the Ubuntu bare-metal host and enable some key modules:

apt install apache2
a2enmod ssl rewrite proxy proxy_http

Now edit /etc/apache2/ports.conf  so that it’s listening on any ports you need – in our example it’s 3000 (Grafana) and 8086 (InfluxDB) so we’ll add just two lines:

<IfModule ssl_module>
   Listen 443
   Listen 3000
   Listen 8086

Assuming you want to run a service on 8086 (InfluxDB) and a service on 3000 (Grafana) on the VM we configured above on .10, you’d create a vhost file called /etc/apache2/sites-available/influxdb-int.conf and it would look like this:

<VirtualHost *:3000>
         LogLevel warn
         SSLEngine on
         SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/ssl.crt/your.crt
         SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/httpd/ssl.key/your.key
         ProxyRequests Off
         <Proxy *>
             Require all granted
         ProxyPass /
         ProxyPassReverse /
 <VirtualHost *:8086>
         LogLevel warn
         SSLEngine on
         SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/ssl.crt/your.crt
         SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/httpd/ssl.key/your.key
         ProxyRequests Off
         <Proxy *>
             Require all granted
         ProxyPass /
         ProxyPassReverse /

Note that this assumes you’re running everything over TLS (you should!!). As well, it assumes that your cert (SSLCertificateFile) and key (SSLCertificateKeyFile) are in /etc/httpd/ssl.key . Change these according to your specifc set up.

From here, you would follow the set up your apps to ensure they’re working locally on .10 and they should work on the public ip of your bare metal. Of course these all need to be configured to use TLS over the default HTTP. Huh – sounds like a whole “How to harden your TIG deployment” might be in order! (Of course, store any passwords encrypted when automating your deployments.)

Secure SSH to NATed LXD hosts

A final note on this set up is how to securely SSH to LXD hosts. Of course you can just SSH to your bare metal host and then bash in (eg lxd exec natVM bash), but how do you run your Ansible roles against these NATed VMs or another automation tool? SSH config files to the rescue!

Let’s assume your public IP of your bare metal is and you want to ssh to the IP we just set up above. All you need to do is create a file in your .ssh folder called “config” with 3 lines like this:

Host natVM
   ProxyCommand ssh -W %h:%p

With this set up, you can run ssh natVM and your config will automatically see the configuration to securely proxy the command through the host through to your internal only .10 host. This works especially well when you have SSH Keys set up with SSH Agents.

Drop me a note if you have any questions!


Howto: Sympa 6.1 on Ubuntu 16.04

Recently I was tasked at work to get an instance of Sympa set up. Their docs are a bit scattered, but I found a promising post on which suggested I could get away with an apt-get install instead of needing to compile from source. Well, it turns out I did get it working, but only after a lot of trial and error. Given that some one else might be trying to do this, and because I had to document the exact steps for work, here’s a handy dandy blog post which I hope will help some one trying to do the same thing.

Good news for those looking to do this for Sympa 6.2 (latest at time of publishing), I have a post on how to do this exact thing on the soon to be released Ubuntu 17.04 with Sympa 6.2.  Stay tuned!


This post assumes you have root on your box.  It assumes you have Apache2 installed.  It assumes you’re running a stock Ubuntu 16.04 install.  It assumes you want to run Sympa on your server.  It also assumes you’ll be using Postfix as the lists MTA. It assumes you have a DNS entry (A record) for the server.  As well it assumes you also have an MX record pointing to the A record or no MX record so the MX defaults to the A record.  If this doesn’t apply to you, caveat emptor!

To recap, that’s:

  • Apache 2 installed and working
  • Postfix as MTA
  • Ubuntu 16.04 server
  • Existing DNS entry
  • Run all commands as root

I also was using this server solely to serve Sympa mail and web traffic so if you have a multi-tenant/multi-use server, it may be more complicated.


These steps assume you’re going to install Sympa on  There’s no reason you couldn’t use instead.

  1. Install sympa:
    apt-get install -y sympa
  2. When prompted during this install:
    1. Choose a good mysql root password and enter it when prompted
    2. Please select the mail server configuration type that best meets your needs: Internet Site
    3. System mail name:
    4. Which Web Server(s) are you running?: apache 2
    5. Database type to be used by sympa: mysql
    6. MySQL application password for sympa: <blank> (will assign random one)
  3. Sympa 6.1 has a present! It ships with a bug.  Fix the regex on line 126 of /usr/share/sympa/lib/ so it looks like this (note “{” is now “\{” ):
    if ($cookie and $cookie =~ /^\d\{,16}$/) {
  4. Edit /etc/sympa/wwsympa.conf to change line 81 to 1 instead of 0:
     use_fast_cgi 1

    If you don’t do this step, you’ll see full HTML pages show up in /var/logs/syslog and only 500 errors in the browser :( should show the sympa UI, w00t!

  5. Ensure Sympa starts at boot:
    update-rc.d sympa defaults
    update-rc.d sympa enable
  6. ensure postfix is updated in /etc/postfix/ edit these values to match:
    myhostname =
    alias_maps = hash:/etc/aliases,hash:/etc/mail/sympa/aliases
    alias_database = hash:/etc/aliases,hash:/etc/mail/sympa/aliases
    mydestination = $myhostname,, , localhost
    relay_domains = $mydestination,
  7. Update /etc/sympa/sympa.conf so that these values match:


  8. update /etc/sympa/wwsympa.conf so that these values match:
    default_home lists
    create_list intranet

    The “intranet” value will prevent some one from signing up and requesting a list with any approval.

  9. add default aliases for sympa at the top of /etc/mail/sympa/aliases:
    ## main sympa aliases
    sympa: "| /usr/lib/sympa/bin/queue"
    listmaster: "| /usr/lib/sympa/bin/queue"
    bounce+*: "| /usr/lib/sympa/bin/bouncequeue"
  10. reboot and rebuild aliases:

Sympa should now be up and running at!  All mail and and out should work so you can run your own list server. Please report any problems so I can keep this post updated and accurate – thanks!


All HTTPS all the time, With HSTS to boot

I’ve been brushing up on my web security best practices recently.  OWASP is a great resource for this!  One of their recommended best practices is to use HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS).  This involves redirecting traffic from unencrypted HTTP to HTTPS.  However to ensure that no future Man in the Middle attacks happen with the redirect, it’s best to tell the browser to always go directly to HTTPS regardless of the protocol.  This, in a nutshell is the HSTS solution.

I’ve updated and to be served over exclusively over HTTPS.  This is thanks to a * wildcard certificate from Global Sign. After setting up Apache to use the certs on the SSL vhosts, I then needed to redirect all traffic away from HTTP.  For, this was a simple Apache rule in the HTTP vhost:

# send everything to HTTPS
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI}

And then for the, iThemes had this codex entry about a simple plugin to rewrite HTTP to HTTPS, following the second option on their page.  They do caution that this plugin might have performance drawbacks as you’re parsing every post on the fly.  You can fix this if you’re running a caching system, like W3 Total Cache, which I am! W3TC recommends you fix slow HTTPS calls by enabling caching of HTTPS: Go to Performance -> Page Cache and check “Cache SSL (https) requests.” Easy peasy!

Now to add the HSTS to the HTTP header.  For this is easy as I have a single PHP header file for the entire site. I just added this line:

header('Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=31536000');

For the blog, I extended the simple iThemes plugin by adding these lines:

add_action( 'send_headers', 'add_header_hsts');
function add_header_hsts(){
        header('Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=31536000');

Special thanks to the WordPress Codex on how to set headers as well as a random post over at Hakre on WordPress on how to format the HTTP header in PHP for HSTS. has absolutely zero affect on the big players, and the EFF would never care about giving me a report, but I’m scoring 4 out of 5 on EFFs encrypt the web report:

  1. Plip doesn’t have a data center, but all connections for administration are encrypted.
  2. Plip now, of course, supports HTTPS
  3. Plip now supports HSTS
  4. Plip does not support Forward Secrecy
  5. As Plip uses Google Apps, it supports STARTTLS

Looking at what it takes to set up my ciphers, I’m still gonna shoot for getting a perfect 5 of 5!


Wayback machine, privacy and old

This post is a short parable told in three lessons:

Lesson 1: The web is not as temporal as you might think!

Recently a co-worker was travelling and was unable to access her work based email. Instead, she directed folks to email her at her personal email. Being a curious fellow, I clicked over to her personal site to see what she had to say. All I found was “Site in progress, check back later” and link to a very outdated resume. Well, that’s just no fun! Enter the wayback machine! Using this fine site, I was able to see all the text, photos and links she had long since redacted. The wayback machine never forgets, so don’t you forget that.

Lesson 2: Robots.txt can pull Jedi mind tricks.

A natural response to seeing the archive of other sites, is to see what dirt folks might find out about me via the same method. Sure enough, there’s some good stuff! However, the more interesting fact I learned is that my robots.txt of today redacted the copy of yesterday! This is cool! A while ago I took down my resume and some older, more personal content and as well took a sec to make some broad strokes of search engines shouldn’t index. It was these actions that took note of. With a wave of my robots.txt hand, indeed these are not the pages you’re looking for.

Lesson 3: The wayback machine is way cool.

Ok, this parable kinda peters out right about here, but still, the wayback machine is way cool. Check out the rad looks has had over the years! Hrm, maybe that should be “rad”. You decide.


The very, very poor man’s Google Analytics: tail, cut, sort, uniq & wc

I still have what most would call an unfounded fear of privacy when it comes to Google. They may receive a copy of every email I send to my friends who use gmail, they may place every call to me via Google Voice, they may server every ad from Double Click (which I then block) and I sure as heck never stray from their bad-ass search on, but I don’t host anything with them directly.

I’ve run my share of web analizer tools, but some times I wanna know, right now, “how many people subscribe to my blog feed?”. Now, I probably should be using FeedBurner (No shit – I did not know, ’til just this second, that they too are now owned by Google. Oh, the irony!), but my site, despite its claims, is still a bit of the cobbler’s child when it comes to analytics. Heck, I still don’t have mod_usertrack on!

Enter tail, cut, sort, uniq and wc!

tail -10000 access_log|grep /blog|cut -d" " -f 1|sort|uniq|wc

In layman’s term’s that’s “get the last 10000 lines of my access log, cut each line into fields separated by the space character, grab the first field (the IP address in this case), sort the resulting lines of now just an IP address per line, remove the duplicates and count the number resuling lines (or IP addresses)”. Presto! 388 of you out there, including all the bots, spiders, crawlers, trolls and goblins. Thanks for the interest!