Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Microsoft open-sourced MSBuild

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

The Microsoft initiative to open source the .Net platform (which the MSBuild tool is a part of) has been talked about a lot in the past (though I have something to say about this as well, probably later in this post), but the fanfare has died down quite a bit since the last announcement. One might say that the reason they didn’t open source the entire thing at once was so Microsoft can space out the announcement and synthetically generate continued buzz about their platform, but knowing how these things usually work, its much more likely that because preparing a project for open-source is difficult and time consuming and a project as large as .Net doubly so (or a thousand times so), so it makes sense to do so in parts.

But to the question at hand – what does an open source MSBuild means to you? (more…)

Never let a Mac user design your website, here’s why:

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Well, at least until the entire world uses high DPI screens. Lets see an example:

Pulsing button (video)

This is a “call to action” effect on a button – it pulses slightly to get attention. This has proven to be really effective at improving “conversion” (web term to “getting you to do that thing I want you to do”). But even if you are not a designer at heart its easy to see that the text in the button is pulsing at different speeds and this creates a really jarring effect.

(more…)

Script day – Amazon AWS Signature Version 4 With Bash

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

As anyone who works with the Amazon Web Services API knows, when you submit requests to an AWS service you need to sign the request with your secret key – in order to authenticate your account. The AWS signing process has changed through the years – an earlier version (I think version 1) I implemented in a previous blog post: upload files to Amazon S3 using Bash, with new APIs and newer versions of existing APIs opt in to use the newer signing process.

The current most up to date version of the signing process is known as Signature Version 4 Signing Process and is quite complex, but recently I had the need to use an AWS API that requires requests to be signed using the version 4 process in a bash script(1), so it was time to dust off the old scripting skills and see if I can get this much much much more elaborate signing process to work in bash – and (maybe) surprisingly it is quite doable.

With no further ado, here is the code:

(more…)


  1. I’m trying to use SQS to send change notifications from a FreeBSD jail running on a FreeNAS server – a place were I’m uncomfortable installing the AWS CLI tool or the SDK. This also help explains all the FreeBSD compatibility written into the code []

Why Microsoft Will Not Extend Windows 7 End-Of-Life

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

[This is mostly a summary of a discussion on Google Plus, that you can find here]

Recap: The world (or at least clueless tech journalists) was surprised to learn (once they bothered to look it up) that Microsoft will not extends Windows 7 end of “mainstream support” – which is scheduled for January 2015 (about 6 months from now). This was all planned way in advance – Microsoft basically committed to end “mainstream support” in 2015 by not releasing any service pack for Windows 7 since the beginning of 2010, instead they want people to move to the next version of their software. In most normal software markets, this is a no-brainer – who have heard of a Macintosh user still clinging to Mac OS X 10.7? or an Adobe Photoshop user who refuses to upgrade past CS3? But instead you now hear calls for Microsoft to extends Windows 7 an artificial life line, like it did with XP.

And here’s why XP will never happen again:

(more…)

Script Day: Upload Files to Amazon S3 Using Bash

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Here is a very simple Bash script that uploads a file to Amazon’s S3. I’ve looked for a simple explanation on how to do that without perl scripts or C# code, and could find none. So after a bit of experimentation and some reverse engineering, here’s the simple sample code:

(more…)

Script Day: SSH to a host behind a NAT

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

I use SSH daily to work with different remote services, and its always a very straight-forward process… unless the remote server you want to work with is on LAN somewhere behind NAT(1). When you need to access such an internal server, the only option is to SSH into the firewall(2), and then SSH again to your server of choice.

But there’s a better way, and you don’t even have to fiddle with the firewall server!

(this is not actually a script, though minimal text editing is required)

The solution is actually quite simple: set up an alias in your .ssh/config file that you can use to call the remote server when you are outside the LAN (if you are inside the LAN its better to access it directly), and for that alias we will set up a ProxyCommand that will tell SSH to first access the firewall server and open a tunnel to the target LAN server.

It looks like this:

Host remote-alias
ProxyCommand ssh firewall-user@firewally-server nc lan-server 22

This set up works best if your access to the firewall-user account is without password or passphrase (using an SSH private key that is either without passphrase or already loaded in the agent), then the login is as streamlines as a direct access – but the worst is that you’d need to type in two passwords.

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  1. router that does Network Address Translation so the servers address is not accessible from outside the LAN []
  2. or some other server that has legs both inside and outside the LAN – I’m using a DNATed server, what most off-the-shelf routers incorrectly call “DMZ“ []

Open letter to Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn of “Free as in Freedom”

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

A public response to “FaiF oggcast 0x43“, or at least to the second section (after the FOSDEM talk recording starting at 0:54:31):

Sometimes you guys just drink your own cool-aid, while being completely out of contact with reality. This is a prime example – in FaiF 0x43, at 1:12:40 Bradley says “Proprietary Javascript … is the new form of [vendor] lock-in, and People are locked in to GitHub”, which is just the worst of a large tirade where Bradley just compares people who create useful services and want to finance them – while contributing to open source and free software – to the worst proprietary software vendors, for the crime of creating their website with unlicensed Javascript code. All the while Karen just says “yes”.

(more…)

Recovering InnoDB Tables In MySQL 5

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

The following procedure can be used to recover InnoDB database tables from a backup of a MySQL server that had the “innodb_file_per_table” setting but all the metadata (in the “ibdata*” files) was lost – for example due to a server crash.

The process involves two steps:

  1. Recover the table structure from the .frm files
  2. Recover the data from the .ibd files (InnoDB tablespace)

There is a lot of copying the backed up files over and over to the MySQL datadir, so its useful to have the backup available on the database server machine. In my setup the backup for the databases was copied to the directory “backup” under the database’s datadir, so – for example – for the table somedb.sometable there exist files somedb/backup/sometable.frm and somedb/backup/sometable.ibd.

Additionally the process for recovering the table structures creates a lot of superfluous metadata in the InnoDB data files, so after the first stage I’m going to destroy the InnoDB data files and let the InnoDB engine re-generate them – as a result any existing InnoDB tables will be destroyed. This is important so I’ll iterate: using the procedure detailed here will destroy any existing and working InnoDB databases! So this procedure is useful to recover a destroyed database server to a new server or as a temporary measure on a temporary server to be able to dump the data to SQL files that will later be loaded into an existing server.

There likely a way to do this which is less heavy handed – for example, check out this article from Percona’s MySQL blog, but for my purpose this is enough.

(more…)

How to fix “No bootable device” after Ubuntu installation

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

When installing Ubuntu on a disk partitioned with a GUID partition table (GPT), the Ubuntu installer doesn’t set the boot flag correctly on the partitions, and on computers with older bioses (like my Intel ICH9 board), the BIOS will not recognize the disk as bootable and will refuse to start the boot loader, claiming that “No bootable device found”.

The solution is to set the boot flag on the boot partition (the real one in the GPT) as well as on the “protective MBR partition”:

  1. Start your computer with the Ubuntu live CD again, and select “try Ubuntu before installing”
  2. When the Ubuntu desktop loads, open the dash and start “gparted”
  3. When gparted starts, select your boot drive and from that select your boot partition – usually the first Linux partition on the drive, and right click it and select “flags” in the menu. In the flags dialog check “boot”.
  4. Open the dash again and start “terminal”
  5. In the terminal type “sudo fdisk /dev/sda” (or whatever your boot drive is). You’d get a bunch of warning about the disk using a GPT scheme – ignore them. type “a” to set the bootable flag and choose partition “1”. Finally type “w” to write out your changes.

Now its safe to reboot and your old computer should have no problem starting the boot loader now.

Powershell still sucks

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Powershell is a great command line shell, if you all you know is cmd and batch. There are so many things it is missing when trying to compete with current Unix shells such as Bash, and while some of them have semi-working workarounds, many are sorely missing.

My pet peeves are:

  • A decent pager. “more” is basically at the same stage it was when I started working in MS-DOS 3.30, and it is nowhere near the functionality of “less”(1).
  • Persistent history. I’ve seen some workarounds but couldn’t get any of them to work properly.

Both of these features have been available to me since I started working with Linux in 1995, and it is really difficult living without them in MS-world. A decent terminal emulator will be nice too – the Powershell box has advantage over the cmd.exe box in that it is blue – other then that they are both in the same sorry state that the “dos box” of Windows 3 fame was at. I’m using “Console 2” to get some useful work done, but it too leaves much to be desired.

Also, startup is so.. fscking.. slow.. Starting Powershell on a brand new machine (with no per-session user scripts) can take as much as 3 seconds. Those are minutes of my life everyday that I would never get back.


  1. and I’m not talking about the built-in editor, just being able to “page up” would have been nice []

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