pf required: pass proto ipv6-frag all

FreeBSD’s pf has serious problems with ipv6 fragment handling. The problems cascade into other issues like named axfr time outs.  Add this, “pass proto ipv6-frag all”, to your ruleset somewhere near your antispoof rules to fix this.

Much of the issue is that the FreeBSD team has diverged their version of the pf firewall so far from the OpenBSD version that they cannot incorporate upstream fixes. I’m not making my situation any better by sticking with FreeBSD 9. Some of this is probably addressed in FreeBSD 10.

While this persists the best course of action is probably to make sure it works on OpenBSD first, then figure out how to deal with any FreeBSD issues.

The encryption battle goes on…

Senator Cotton on Apple and encryption

The person lying here is Sen. Cotton. He want’s you to believe that Apple just invented some uber secret tech and they are selling it wily nilly to any terrorist that walks into the Apple Store. Apple hasn’t done that. They’ve followed the same process as every other tech company. They have driven the defects, (bugs), out of their software to improve the user experience for their customers. At some point in time, following this process will invariably fix defects that could be used to operationally compromise the security of your devices.

The basic security algorithm that Apple is using is called RSA. It’s not perfectly secure. An attacker with enough computer time can compromise RSA without the key very simply using only division. The problem for the attacker is that the user of the cryptography gets to choose how many division operations the attacker has to perform.

The horse has been out of the barn on encryption since sometime between 1977 and whenever personal computers became ubiquitous in the first world. This is not an opinion, it’s a fact. It’s based on the mechanics of RSA encryption and it should be understandable to anyone with a grasp of middle school arithmetic.

RSA works because I can hide anything within the digital domain by picking two very large prime numbers and using them as the basis of my personal secret key. I can multiply those numbers together and I don’t need to keep the multiplicand secret. In fact, some else can use the multiplicand to send digital information that only I can read. An attacker has to factor that doubly large number and the only way to do that on today’s computers is to try different division operations until they find the only one set of factors that works. Since multiplication takes much much less time on computers than division, I get to choose how much work my attacker has to do by tuning the size of the original prime numbers. There’s more to it than that but the Wikipedia article on RSA encryption is a great place to start.

D’oh!

It’s not a good sign that no one in the audience noticed that the site’s been down for about two or three months. I’m not really sure because I missed the fact that the database for the site was on my old, about-to-be-retired database server. Thankfully it was an easy probable to solve.

More WiFi isn’t always better WiFi

I generally like my Cable TV company. This is mostly because they have realized that they won’t be a Cable TV company in ten years and they are running their business according to that mantra. In English, this means that they are putting their effort in being a very very good consumer grade ISP. One of the side benefits that Cable Internet has been offering is access to public hotspots. As a consortium these companies have nearly every urban area that I’ve been to covered in WiFi. On the surface this seems to be a good thing but it has some downsides. Most WiFi uses the 2.4GHz frequency band. WiFi routers ship with a range in open air of about 450m. There are only three non-overlapping channels in the 2.4GHz band. If you’ve debugged WiFi in an urban setting, you are probably painfully aware of these three characteristics of 2.4GHz WiFi. When they Cable TV company starts deploying open hotspots in your neighborhood, they aren’t pushing the system to a solution for this problem.

I have to qualify this as a rant though since there isn’t much that anyone can do to fix the problem. Especially since the Cable TV companies have started enhancing their WiFi offering by giving away high powered WiFi routers which that offer dual SSID to their customers. It won’t be long before anyone who want’s to do anything will be in 5GHz.

Apple’s Captive Network Assistant

In an attempt to make life easier Apple added the Captive Network Assistant App to OS X. I think this addition was made sometime around Lion. Captive Network Assistant is an App that can display a little the very simple web page you get when you connect to a wifi network that has Captive Portal. These are the pages you get when you first log onto your coffee shop WiFi. They usually ask you to agree to some terms and conditions before you can use the network. In the case of hotels, resorts, and cruise ships they will also tie to the site billing system so you can be charged if that’s appropriate. Lately I’ve started to get these sites on both my MiFi hotspot and most lately, my home WiFi. This article explains three major drawbacks to Apple’s approach here. The authors of these web pages will frequently embed logout information into the page when the captive portal mechanism is being used to track usage for billing. In this use case, the app is a hinderance because when it disappears, it takes the logout link with it. Also, Apple triggers the app by attempting to fetch a known page over the web when your WiFi first connects. If it doesn’t get what it expects, it knows it’s behind a Captive Portal. In my case, the Captive Portal App is displaying Apple’s static page which indicates that you aren’t behind a portal.

When I started seeing captive portal on my home network, I decided the turn the thing off. To turn captive portal off do this command:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.captive.control Active -boolean false

To restore the old behavior, do this, again in a terminal window:

sudo defaults delete /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/com.apple.captive.control Active

Other people including the article linked above recommend renaming the App. I’m not in love with that solution, mostly because two months from now I don’t expect to remember that I did this in the first place. My solution isn’t much better. One could argue it’s worse because it requires terminal and sudo. It’s the one I went with though.

FreeBSD cross compiling or “Thanks Captain Obvious…”

It would be nice to manage my fleet of FreeBSD machines from one place. But I’ve diversified from i386 only to i386 and amd64 as I start doing more and more stuff with virtual machines; single purpose servers and less power usage for-the-win. The question comes up, do I need build-i386.vindaloo.com and build-amd64.vindaloo.com — Nope:

# env TARGET=i386 MAKEOBJDIRPREFIX=/usr/obj/i386 make buildworld...

NFS – Old habits die hard

Old habits and myths die hard. Conventional wisdom asserts that UDP is better because it has lower overhead; then conventional wisdom suggests that you tune the buffer sizes to improve performance. On the face of things that would seem to work but once the the write size exceeds the max packet size, NFS delivers the packet by using multiple packets. Sending multiple packets triggers the issue because dropping just one UDP packet means the whole buffer must be resent. Contrast with TCP: yes the packet header is larger so less data can be sent and yes the receiving side has to ack each packet. But: with TCP if a packet gets dropped, only that packet needs to be resent; with a modern TCP stack the kernel will constantly adjust the window size to make the best use the available bandwidth. In other words NFS over tcp will automatically tune the buffer sizes for the current conditions.

MySQL lovefest

Great, just discovered how easy it is to break things with mysql views and stored functions. It turns out that to create a view after a dump, mysql must create table temporarily for each view, then one by one drop the tables and create views in their place.  This presents two potential problems. 1. It’s possible to have a view with more columns than you have in a table. 2. Views can use stored functions to modify results but stored functions aren’t a part of the mysql dump process until after the view have been defined.

The solution to the problem may be: Create the database, Create all the stored procedures and functions, create the tables and views from mysqldump –no-data. Reload all the data. It’s not. It looks like the only way to do this is to use information schema to make a list of tables to dump. Follow this up with routines, and then follow this up with views.

Yet another open source journal