Stupid NFS (Debian Squeeze / Ubuntu Precise)

NFS really can be a major PITA. Our office network has been breaking all day.

This seemed to coincide with moving more of our computers to gigabit ethernet (removing the 100mbit CISCO 7960 phones which their network had been daisy-chained through – and seemed to cause intermittent packet loss)

Here are some tips for others unfortunate enough to use it with Debian Squeeze or Ubuntu Precise (12.04 LTS).

  1. On Ubuntu NFS clients, you’ll probably want to use proto=tcp and specify a clientaddr=in the mount options (see the below fstab example). This is especially true if you’ve not got entries for the clients within your local DNS server. If you see ‘clientaddr=’ and DNS resolution for your clients isn’t working, NFS will not work.
  2. Don’t try using the nfs-kernel-server from squeeze-backports – as for some reason this causes portmap to be uninstalled, which (in my case) stops NIS from working.
  3. Ensure you increase the number of NFS server processes – see /etc/default/nfs-kernel-server (on the server node).
orange:/home /home nfs4 defaults,noatime,proto=tcp,clientaddr= 0 0

SpamAssassin ruleset to try and catch India based web development spam

At work we keep receiving emails from sales-droids in India who are trying to persuade us to outsource PHP/Android/Java/whatever development to them.

Here’s my first attempt at a spamassassin rule to neutralise it – in my case, copy into a file in /etc/spamassassin/mail, and running over a suitably loaded email results in :

Content preview:  Dear Sir / Madam, I just wanted to check if you had received
   my last mails sent. Haven't heard back from you, just wondering are you interested
   in our services? Let me know if you are interested then we can discuss this
   further. [...] 

Content analysis details:   (6.9 points, 5.0 required)

 pts rule name              description
---- ---------------------- --------------------------------------------------
-1.0 ALL_TRUSTED            Passed through trusted hosts only via SMTP
 0.0 FREEMAIL_FROM          Sender email is commonly abused enduser mail provider
 0.0 DKIM_ADSP_CUSTOM_MED   No valid author signature, adsp_override is
 1.7 DEAR_SOMETHING         BODY: Contains 'Dear (something)'
 0.0 HTML_MESSAGE           BODY: HTML included in message
 5.0 LOCAL_INDIA_HITS       Web dev spam from India
 1.2 NML_ADSP_CUSTOM_MED    ADSP custom_med hit, and not from a mailing list

The spamassassin rule

(The intention is that the rule only fires if the email mentions India and at least 4 out of the other phrases (delhi, marketing, php etc)

# india based spam

body  __INDIA_01 /india/i
body  __INDIA_02 /delhi/i
body  __INDIA_03 /web services/i
body  __INDIA_04 /php/i
body  __INDIA_05 /java/i
body  __INDIA_06 /marketing/i
body  __INDIA_07 /website design/i
body  __INDIA_08 /dear sir/i

meta LOCAL_INDIA_HITS ( __INDIA_01  && ((  __INDIA_02 + __INDIA_03 + __INDIA_04 + __INDIA_05 + __INDIA_06 + __INDIA_07 + __INDIA_08 )) > 4)
describe LOCAL_INDIA_HITS Web dev spam from India

rsyslog selective logging with multiple postfix instances

Scenario – one Linux box runs multiple Postfix instances. By default they all log to /var/log/mail.log which makes it difficult to see what’s going on without using grep and so on. The server already uses rsyslog, and Postfix is configured to specify a syslog_name to each instance.

i.e /etc/postfix-blah/ contains “syslog_name = postfix-blah

rsyslog allows you to specify filters / expressions on what is logged where. This can be done on either the program name (:programname) which corresponds to postfix’s syslog_name, or the contents of the log message (:msg) itself.

So, the easy solution is :

  • Edit /etc/rsyslog.d/postfix-domains.conf and add in
  • :programname, contains, "postfix-blah" -/var/log/mail-blah.log
  • Restart rsyslog (/etc/init.d/rsyslogd restart).
  • Watch Ubuntu moan about not using the ‘service’ command.

The leading : is important in the rsyslog rule. 

And obviously the ‘-‘ before the file path is useful for performance – so a sync isn’t called after each write.

So, it’s just a case of populating your /etc/rsyslog.d/postfix-domains.conf file with multiple lines looking like the above, but obviously different for each domain.

SSL Commands

I keep forgetting these one line OpenSSL commands – perhaps if they are here, I’ll remember —

  1. Create private key file : openssl genrsa -out server.key 2048
  2. Create certificate signing request (to send to e.g. GoDaddy) – openssl req -new -key server.key -out server.csr 
  3. Verify a certificate – openssl verify
  4. To convert a .crt (base64 encoded) and .key file into a .pem file – just cat them together – cat something.crt something.key > something.pem


Linux console dimming / screen saver

Our work server seems to enjoy crashing (at the moment) about once a day – but when I go to look at the console I can’t see anything because the screen has dimmed to black – and as the computer has locked up, I can’t wake the screen up to see if there is a useful kernel panic message.

It turns out my answer lies with /etc/console-tools/config – as this is Debian Squeeze.


Next up, I just needed to stop it from dimming the console font – adding this to /etc/rc.local seems to help :

setterm -half-bright off

MySQL table defragmentation (python script)

I’ve written the below Python script to defragment MySQL database tables. This should work with both InnoDB and MyISAM table formats, and is just calling “OPTIMIZE TABLE”. It rummages through the information_schema for tables which may be defragmented.

You should be able to run it on any Debian based system without making any alterations.


#!/usr/bin/env python
import ConfigParser
import os
import time

# On Debian, /etc/mysql/debian.cnf contains 'root' a like login and password.
config = ConfigParser.ConfigParser()"/etc/mysql/debian.cnf")
username = config.get('client', 'user')
password = config.get('client', 'password')
hostname = config.get('client', 'host')

defragmented_tables_cmd="mysql -u %s -p%s -h %s --skip-column-names --batch  -e 'SELECT TABLE_SCHEMA, TABLE_NAME, Data_free FROM information_schema.TABLES WHERE Data_free > 1000'" % (username, password, hostname)

# This will explode if any databases or tables have spaces in their names.
for dbtable in os.popen(defragmented_tables_cmd).readlines():
    (database,table,space_free) = dbtable.split(None)
    print " Defragmenting database : %s, table: %s, space free: %s " % (database, table, space_free)
    os.popen("mysql --batch -u %s -p%s -h %s -e 'OPTIMIZE TABLE %s' " % (username, password, hostname, database + '.' + table))

Having written this, I don’t think it does any more than “mysqloptimize –all-databases”, althoug you could make the above run selectively (i.e. only on certain databases / table formats / disk free amounts ).

Chocolate headed pirates

My son woke up at 6am crying quite loudly this morning – he’d been having a nightmare involving a Chocolate Headed Pirate being mean and nasty to him.

Personally I think a chocolate headed pirate would be quite tasty – although perhaps it’d be a bit more than I could eat in one sitting (or one week),  however, just like I don’t really understand his fear of Mr Choco Pirate, I’m sure there are many things I’m afraid of which he’d find funny.

Oh, the joys of childhood!

Spring trip to Barcelona

Well, sort of random. As I don’t normally bother to upload any pictures and so on, I thought I might as well for once – and I said I’d send my father a postcard, but then failed to …. perhaps this will make up for it. I didn’t notice any postcard selling shops either – perhaps they’ve gone out of fashion?

Anyway, as I’m the boss, I left work at midday on Friday, drove up to Liverpool and flew to Barcelona with EasyJet. Thankfully I’m quite happy flying – but a minor bump triggered a load of men near me to exchange flying horror stories (“Once, over America, we hit some sort of air pocket and dropped 1000 feet!”). Anyway, I arrived in Barcelona at about 20:00 local time (I think flight time was about an hour and a half – apparently we had a 70mph tailwind, so were a bit early) and then fought through the cattle^h^h^hpassengers to get through security etc etc… train, tube, walk -> arrive at Anna’s flat. Fall asleep.

On Saturday we went shopping – so it was a boring day in that respect. But in the evening we went to my favourite Japanese restaurant to eat sushi stuff (nom-nom-nom) – but as I failed to take my camera/phone with me, there’s no photo(s).

On Sunday – we’d went to Sitges and walked into some sort of old-car rally – which was nice to see. Unfortunately this made the town quite busy, so we had to wait for ages for lunch (well, 3pm lunch).

Then we went back home, I did some DIY and the weekend was pretty much over.

Monday involved flying back (uneventful) and then a long drive home. Liverpool seemed very dull and dreary compared to Spain.

WTFs per minute

I’m currently refactoring some legacy third party PHP code, and as the old saying goes, the real metric is WTFs per minute.

So, just to entertain any readers, how about :

  1. Writing pagination links for a search form, but if there are more than 20 pages of results, add 20 onto whatever the maximum number of pages there are – so you get 20 invalid links at the end of the pagination list (clicking on them will show no results). I guess it looks like there are lots of results at least.
  2. if(isset($_GET[‘foo’]) == 0) … (wouldn’t if(!isset($_GET[‘foo’]) be easier to read?).
  3. Presumably not knowing what a while(…) { … } loop is, and always using something like: $row = mysql_fetch_assoc($x); do { … } while ($row = mysql_fetch_assoc($x)) ….
  4. Always including mysql_free_result($foo) after every query…. why bother?
  5. Always having an //END IF comment, even if the if(..) { } statement is only 3 lines long.
  6. The write_out_the_header() function which consists of a switch statement nearly 2900 lines long, which is just responsible for setting things like the <title> and some meta tags for every page in the site.
  7. When doing results pagination, for even numbered page links, write out the ‘jump’ URL differently (starting with a &, instead of a ?). Some numbers are more even/equal than others…. I guess.
  8. Executing a separate query each time within a loop rather than doing a simple join to start with….
And don’t get me started on the lack of error checking…..

Solr and WordPress (instructions/howto)

This is for Tomcat5.5 (on Debian Lenny), WordPress 3.1 and Solr 3.4. The intention is to use the solr-for-wordpress plugin (see github ).

Lenny does include a Solr package (v1.2) which is somewhat outdated (and not supported by the upstream solr-for-wordpress wordpress plugin, hence we can’t use it).

Install Tomcat (and Java)

apt-get install sun-java6-jre

Edit /etc/profile and set a JAVA_HOME – so add in something like :

# Setup Jave environment 6
export PATH=$PATH:/usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun/bin
export JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun
export JRE_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun/jre

And then do :

. /etc/profile
So those settings are set / present within your environment (or logout and back in).

Next, install Tomcat :

apt-get install tomcat5.5
and then
apt-get install tomcat5.5-admin

Configure Tomcat

Edit /etc/tomcat5.5/tomcat-users.xml and define your own user; for the -admin apps you’ll need to give the user a role of admin and manager.


<?xml version='1.0' encoding='utf-8'?>
  <role rolename="manager"/>
  <role rolename="tomcat"/>
  <role rolename="admin"/>
  <role rolename="role1"/>
  <user username="palepurple" password="letmein" roles="admin,manager,tomcat"/>

And then restart Tomcat. You should now be able to visit http://yourserver:8180/admin and see a login screen.

In my case, I also edited /etc/tomcat5.5/server.xml to disable the AJP connector on port 8009 and also to tell the remaining connector (port 8180) to listen only on To connect to the admin interface, I just use SSH port forwarding from my desktop – this is just to improve security.

Finally, it seems necessary to grant permission for Java to log to /var/log/tomcat5.5… .a dirty way of achieving this is to edit :


and add in (near the top)

grant {

(Yes, I know this is a bit like doing chmod -R 777 on a filesystem or something; but in my case Solr is running only on localhost, so I think it’s an acceptable fix; I’m sure Google can provide more eloquent fixes.).


Installing Solr

Download; unpack and install .war file :

cd /root
tar -zxf apache-solr-3.4.0.tgz
cp apache-solr-3.4.0/dist/apache-solr-3.4.0.war /var/lib/tomcat5.5/webapps

If you now restart Solr, you’ll find some log files and stuff of use in /var/log/tomcat5.5 – looking in the catalina log file there you’ll see it moaning about not finding solrconfig.xml and so on. To fix this –

cp -a apache-solr-3.4.0/example/solr /var/lib/tomcat5.5/

And edit /etc/default/tomcat55 to contain :

export JAVA_OPTS="$JAVA_OPTS -Dsolr.solr.home=/var/lib/tomcat5.5/solr"

This tells Solr where to find it’s configuration and so on.

Then edit :

/var/lib/tomcat5.5/solr/conf/solrconfig.xml and fix the file paths to the various .jar files included – so in my case (you might want to copy them out of the apache-solr-3.4.0 dir and into /var/lib/tomcat5.5/solr/lib perhaps) – part of the solrconfig.xml is below :

  <lib dir="/var/lib/tomcat5.5/apache-solr-3.4.0/contrib/extraction/lib" />
  <!-- When a regex is specified in addition to a directory, only the
       files in that directory which completely match the regex
       (anchored on both ends) will be included.
  <lib dir="/var/lib/tomcat5.5/apache-solr-3.4.0/dist/" regex="apache-solr-cell-\d.*\.jar" />
  <lib dir="/var/lib/tomcat5.5/apache-solr-3.4.0/dist/" regex="apache-solr-clustering-\d.*\.jar" />
  <lib dir="/var/lib/tomcat5.5/apache-solr-3.4.0/dist/" regex="apache-solr-dataimporthandler-\d.*\.jar" />

  <!-- If a dir option (with or without a regex) is used and nothing
       is found that matches, it will be ignored
  <lib dir="/var/lib/tomcat5.5/apache-solr-3.4.0/contrib/clustering/lib/" />

Next create the data directory for solr to use :

mkdir /var/lib/tomcat5.5/solr/data
chown tomcat55 /var/lib/tomcat5.5/solr/data

And restart tomcat.

At this point you should be able to visit :


If it fails, check out /var/log/tomcat5.5/*catalina.log* or /var/log/daemon.log

WordPress stuff

cd /path/to/wordpress/wp-content/plugins

git clone

cp solr-for-wordpress/schema.xml /var/lib/tomcat5.5/solr/conf/

<<restart tomcat again; /etc/init.d/tomcat5.5. restart >>

Now you just need to enable the plugin from within wordpress and tell wordpress to index your posts and you’re off.

  1.  Enable plugin
  2. Goto settings -> solr options -> select single server; tell it to use localhost, port 8180 and under the path ‘/apache-solr-3.4.0’
  3.  Perform the ‘server ping’ check; and then tell WordPress you want to index your pages/posts etc as you see fit.