Debian/Ubuntu Tips and Tricks


Debian/Ubuntu Tips and Tricks

Archive for the 'HowTo' Category

How-To: monitor network bandwidth usage with vnstat

Posted by chantra on 11th March 2013

There is many tools out there that help in monitoring network usage, collect statistics and generate graphs so we can view what happened at a given date/time. Anyhow, finding the bandwidth usage over an hour/day/week/month can be really tricky.

vnstat is a suite of daemon and client programs that monitor network bandwidth usage.

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How-To: Bash Parameter Expansion and String Manipulation

Posted by chantra on 19th February 2013

Last time we saw how bash can help us in handling default values out of the box using parameter expansion. This time we will see how basic string operations (nonetheless common and useful) can also be achieved using bash.

There is many ways to do string manipulation with bash, like finding a filename extension using expr, separating the directory part from a filename using dirname and basename.... or even more sophisticated ones based on regex, sed....

Why using a sledgehammer to crack a nut when you could use bash builtin functionalities!

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How-To: Bash Parameter Expansion and Default Values

Posted by chantra on 28th January 2013

Bash is a sh-compatible command language interpreter that executes commands read from the standard input or from a file.
There is much more to bash than running a sequence of commands, one of the features bundled with bash is parameter expansion.

Any shell user has most likely used shell variables, be it $1 or $myvar, to save values... but there is more to it. This tutorial will cover a subset of shell parameter expansion that can become really handy and save you a lot of time.

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Mastering Top

Posted by chantra on 22nd January 2013

top is most likely one of the most known Linux command and also one of the most used one, however most people do not take full advantage of its capabilities.

In this tutorial, we will see a few usages of top that will make allow you to get more out of it.

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Posted in Administration, HowTo, System | 4 Comments »

How-To: OpenVPN on Debian Squeeze with Username/Password authentication

Posted by chantra on 16th January 2013

Creating the configuration

Now that we have our certificates ready, we need to create a set of config for the server and the client.

Server side

On the server side, you will need to create the file /etc/openvpn/server.conf and edit it with:

dev tun
proto udp
port 1194
# since OpenVPN 2.1 we can use topology subnet
topology subnet
# if we want to change the temp directory location
; tmp-dir /dev/shm
# certs
ca keys/ca.crt
cert keys/server01.crt
key keys/server01.key
dh keys/dh1024.pem
tls-auth keys/ta.key 0
# Keepalive
# Ping every 10 seconds, assume that remote
# peer is down if no ping received during
# a 120 second time period.
keepalive 10 120
# Write operational status to this file
status openvpn-status.log
# Drop privileges
user nobody
group nogroup
# As we dropped privileges, make sure we dont
# close/reopen tun interface amd re-read key files
# accross SIGUSR1
# Our subnet
# Redirect all traffic to our OpenVPN server
push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"
# We want client to use our DNS server
push "dhcp-option DNS"
ifconfig-pool-persist ipp.txt
# If you want OpenVPN clients
# to be able to connect directly
# to each others
; client-to-client
# Use PAM authentication
plugin /usr/lib/openvpn/ login
# we dont want to use client certificate
# enable mgmt over telnet
management localhost 1194 mgmt-pw-file
verb 3

Then, we need to copy the certificates/keys in the keys directory of /etc/openvpn:

mkdir /etc/openvpn/keys
cp /etc/openvpn/easy-rsa/2.0/keys/{ca.crt,server01.crt,server01.key,dh1024.pem,ta.key} /etc/openvpn/keys/

And, in order to be able to manage openvpn from a telnet connection, we will create a file called /etc/openvpn/mgmt-pw-file with password "password":

echo password > /etc/openvpn/mgmt-pw-file
chmod 700 /etc/openvpn/mgmt-pw-file
chown root:root /etc/openvpn/mgmt-pw-file

Everything should be setup for the server side, now we need to edht /etc/default/openvpn to make sure that this configuration get started when using the init script. So, edit that file and make sure it contains:


O'rite, you can now restart openvpn service with:

# /etc/init.d/openvpn restart

Now, our server should be up and running. If anything went wrong, /var/log/daemon.log is the place to look into.

At this stage, you should also be able to connect to localhost on TCP port 1194 using telnet. You will be prompted for a password, this is the password you have set in /etc/openvpn/mgmt-pw-file.
Once you logged in, you will be able to access the management interface of openvn!

Enabling IP forwarding

As we will be routing packets, we need to enable IP forwarding. To do this create a file called /etc/sysctl.d/forwarding.conf which contains:


And apply the change with:

root@ovpnrouter:~# sysctl -p /etc/sysctl.d/forwarding.conf
net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1


At this stage, the openvpn server could handle clients, forward packets, but packets would be routed with their original private IP. To give proper network connectivity to our OpenVPN clients, we will need to NAT the traffic.
This can be done by using the following command:

root@ovpnrouter:~# iptables -t nat -I POSTROUTING -s -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

Configuring Iptable is not in the scope of this article. You might want to refer to IPtables: how to share your internet connection.

Anyhow, let's move forward and set up a client!

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How-To: Running Munin 2.0 on Debian Squeeze (6.0)

Posted by chantra on 7th January 2013

Munin 2.0 has been released and a .deb package has even been backported to Debian Squeeze!.

Version 2.0 comes with a bunch of new features and scalability improvements. This how-to will explain how to install and configure Munin 2.0 using Apache and mod-fcgid on Debian Squeeze.

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How-To: Change boot runlevel with Grub2

Posted by chantra on 14th December 2012

Linux start up behaviour is driven by the so-called runlevels. It will use the default value provided in /etc/inittab for some systems (Debian...), or /etc/init/rc-sysinit.conf or some others (Ubuntu...).

This tutorial will show how to change the runlevel used during boot by modifying Grub2 start up prompt.

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How-To: Tmux a Terminal Multiplexer

Posted by chantra on 7th December 2012

As a sysadmin, most of my time is spent working on remote machines and different task. tmux is a terminal multiplexer, meaning it allows you to run multiple terminals in the same windows.

This tutorial will explain the basics features of tmux that should help you be more productive with your every day task.

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Posted in Administration, HowTo, System | 2 Comments »

How-To: Log HAProxy messages only once

Posted by chantra on 27th January 2012

When enabling logs with HAProxy on a busy web site, hard disk space can quickly become a scarce resource.

The reason is that, most of the time, HAProxy is set to use local0 facility which tend to write logs to a bunch of files in /var/log such as messages...

Thanks to rsyslog, we will be able to canalize those logs to a more appropriate location and only once, saving a bunch of disk space.

This tutorial will go over the steps required to accomplish this set up.

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Posted in Administration, HowTo, System | 6 Comments »

How-To: WMware Workstation 7.1 on Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat 10.10

Posted by chantra on 13th July 2010

There were some changes in the latest kernel release (2.6.34) that prevent VMware's VMCI Socket module to compile on Ubuntu 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat).

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