c0d3 :: j0rg3

A collection of tips, tricks and snips. A proud Blosxom weblog. All code. No cruft.

Thu, 06 Jun 2013

Managing to use man pages through simple CLI tips

Recently, an author I admire and time-honored spinner of the Interwebs, Tony Lawrence emphasized the value of using man pagesmanual pagesDocumentation available from the command line.
> man ls
as a sanity check before getting carried away with powerful commands. I didn’t know about this one but he has written about a situation in which killall could produce some shocking, and potentially quite unpleasant, results.

Personally, I often quickly check man pages to be certain that I am using the correct flags or, as in the above case, anticipating results that bear some resemblance to what is actually likely to happen. Yet, it seems many people flock toward SERPSearch Engine Results Page A tasteful replacement for mentioning any particular search-engine by name.
Also useful as a verb:
I dunno. You’ll have to SERP it.
s for this information.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to head for the web is leaving the cursor amid the line you’re working on, without disturbing the command. SERPing the command however, could easily lead you to information about a variant that is more common than the one available to you. More importantly, the information retrieved from the search engine is almost certainly written by someone who did read the man page — and may even come with the admonishment that you RTFMRead The F#!$!*#’n Manual as a testament to the importance of developing this habit.

This can be made easier with just a few CLI shortcuts.

<CTRL+u> to cut what you have typed so far and <CTRL+y> to paste it back.

That is, you press <CTRL+u> and the line will be cleared, so you can then type man {command} and read the documentation. Don’t hesitate to jot quick notes of which flags you intend to use, if needed. Then exit the man page, press <CTRL+y> and finish typing right where you left off.

This is another good use for screen or tmux but let’s face it. There are times when you don’t want the overhead of opening another window for a quick look-up and even instances when these tools aren’t available.

A few other tips to make life easier when building complex commands:

Use the command fc to open up an editor in which you can build your complex command and, optionally, even save it as a shell script for future reuse.

Repeat the last word from the previous command (often a filename) with <ALT+.> or use an item from the last command by position, in reverse order:
> ls -lahtr *archive*
<ALT+1+.> : *archive*
<ALT+2+.> : -lahtr
<ALT+3+.> : ls

You can also use Word Designators to use items from history, such as adding sudo to the last command typed by:
sudo !!

This allows for tricks like replacing bits of a previous command:
!:s/misspelled/corrected/

Lastly, if you need a command that was typed earlier, you can search history by pressing <CTRL+r> and start typing an identifying portion of the command.

(Note: I have used these in Zsh and Bash, specifically. They can, however, be missing or overwritten — if a feature you want isn’t working, you can bind keys in a configuration file. Don’t just write it off, once you’ve solved the problem it will never again be an intimidating one.)

Happy hacking!


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Permalink: 20130606.managing.to.use.man.pages

Tue, 04 Jun 2013

Painless protection with Yubico’s Yubikey

Recently, I ordered a Yubikey and, in the comments section of the order, I promised to write about the product. At the time, I assumed that there was going to be something about which to write: (at least a few) steps of setting up and configuration or a registration process. They’ve made the task of writing about it difficult, by making the process of using it so easy.

Plug it in. The light turns solid green and you push the button when you need to enter the key. That’s the whole thing!

Physically, the device has a hole for a keychain or it can slip easily into your wallet. It draws power from the USB port on the computer, so there’s none stored in the device, meaning it should be completely unfazed if you accidentally get it wet.

Let’s take a look at the device.

> lsusb | grep Yubico

Bus 005 Device 004: ID 1050:0010 Yubico.com Yubikey

We see that it is on Bus 5, Device 4. How about a closer look?

> lsusb -v -s5:4

Bus 005 Device 004: ID 1050:0010 Yubico.com Yubikey
Couldn't open device, some information will be missing
Device Descriptor:
  bLength                18
  bDescriptorType         1
  bcdUSB               2.00
  bDeviceClass            0 (Defined at Interface level)
  bDeviceSubClass         0 
  bDeviceProtocol         0 
  bMaxPacketSize0         8
  idVendor           0x1050 Yubico.com
  idProduct          0x0010 Yubikey
  bcdDevice            2.41
  iManufacturer           1 
  iProduct                2 
  iSerial                 0 
  bNumConfigurations      1
  Configuration Descriptor:
    bLength                 9
    bDescriptorType         2
    wTotalLength           34
    bNumInterfaces          1
    bConfigurationValue     1
    iConfiguration          0 
    bmAttributes         0x80
      (Bus Powered)
    MaxPower               30mA
    Interface Descriptor:
      bLength                 9
      bDescriptorType         4
      bInterfaceNumber        0
      bAlternateSetting       0
      bNumEndpoints           1
      bInterfaceClass         3 Human Interface Device
      bInterfaceSubClass      1 Boot Interface Subclass
      bInterfaceProtocol      1 Keyboard
      iInterface              0 
        HID Device Descriptor:
          bLength                 9
          bDescriptorType        33
          bcdHID               1.11
          bCountryCode            0 Not supported
          bNumDescriptors         1
          bDescriptorType        34 Report
          wDescriptorLength      71
         Report Descriptors: 
           ** UNAVAILABLE **
      Endpoint Descriptor:
        bLength                 7
        bDescriptorType         5
        bEndpointAddress     0x81  EP 1 IN
        bmAttributes            3
          Transfer Type            Interrupt
          Synch Type               None
          Usage Type               Data
        wMaxPacketSize     0x0008  1x 8 bytes
        bInterval              10

There’s not a great deal to be seen here. As it tells you right on Yubico’s site, the device presents as a keyboard and it “types” out its key when you press the button, adding another long and complex password to combine with the long and complex password that you’re already using.

Keep in mind that this device is unable to protect you from keyloggers, some of which are hardware-based. It’s critically important that you are very, very careful about where you’re sticking your Yubikey. Even Yubico cannot protect us from ourselves.


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Permalink: 20130604.yay.yubico.yubikey

Thu, 23 May 2013

GNU Screen: Roll your own system monitor

Working on remote servers, some tools are practically ubiquitous — while others are harder to come by. Even if you’ve the authority to install your preferred tools on every server you visit, it’s not always something you want to do. If you’ve hopped on to a friend’s server just to troubleshoot a problem, there is little reason to install tools that your friend is not in the habit of using. Some servers, for security reasons, are very tightly locked down to include only a core set of tools, to complicate the job of any prying intruders. Or perhaps it is a machine that you normally use through a graphical interface but on this occasion you need to work from the CLI.

These are very compelling reasons to get comfortable, at the very least, with tools like Vim, mail, grep and sed. Eventually, you’re likely to encounter a situation where only the classic tools are available. If you aren’t competent with those tools, you’ll end up facing the obstacle of how to get files from the server to your local environment where you can work and, subsequently, how to get the files back when you’re done. In a secured environment, this may not be possible without violating protocols.

Let’s take a look at how we can build a makeshift system monitor using some common tools. This particular configuration is for a server running PHP, MySQL and has the tools Htop and mytop installed. These can easily be replaced with top and a small script to SHOW FULL PROCESSLIST, if needed. The point here is illustrative, to provide a template to be modified according to each specific environment.

(Note: I generally prefer tmux to Gnu Screen but screen is the tool more likely to be already installed, so we’ll use it for this example.)

We’re going to make a set of windows, by a configuration file, to help us keep tabs on what is happening in this system. In so doing, we’ll be using the well-known tools less and watch. More specifically, less +F which tells less to “scroll forward”. Other words, less will continue to read the file making sure any new lines are added to the display. You can exit this mode with CTRL+c, search the file (/), quit(q) or get back into scroll-forward mode with another uppercase F.

Using watch, we’ll include the “-d” flag which tells watch we want to highlight any changes (differences).

We will create a configuration file for screen by typing:

> vim monitor.screenrc

In the file, paste the following:

# Screen setup for system monitoring
# screen -c monitor.screenrc
hardstatus alwayslastline
hardstatus string '%{= kG}[ %{G}%H %{g}][%= %{=kw}%?%-Lw%?%{r}(%{W}%n*%f%t%?(%u)%?%{r})%{w}%?%+Lw%?%?%= %{g}][%{B}%Y-%m-%d %{W}%c %{g}]'

screen -t htop 0 htop
screen -t mem 1 watch -d "free -t -m"
screen -t mpstat 2 watch -d "mpstat -A"
screen -t iostat 3 watch -d "iostat"
screen -t w 4 watch -d "w"
screen -t messages 5 less +F /var/log/messages
screen -t warn 6 less +F /var/log/warn
screen -t database 7 less +F /srv/www/log/db_error
screen -t mytop 8 mytop
screen -t php 9 less +F /srv/www/log/php_error

(Note: -t sets the title, then the window number, followed by the command running in that window)

Save the file (:wq) or, if you’d prefer, you can grab a copy by right-clicking and saving this file.

Then we will execute screen using this configuration, as noted in the comment:

> screen -c monitor.screenrc

Then you can switch between windows using CTRL+a, n (next) or CTRL+a, p (previous).

I use this technique on my own computers, running in a TTY different from the one used by X. If the graphical interface should get flaky, I can simply switch to that TTY (e.g., CTRL+ALT+F5) to see what things are going on — and take corrective actions, if needed.


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Permalink: 20130523.gnu.screen.system.monitor