This is why we love you, Gmail: Priority Inbox

Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the “spam” folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn’t outright junk but isn’t very important–bologna, or “bacn.” So we’ve evolved Gmail’s filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this “bologna” from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules.”

The Priority Inbox segregates Gmail into three different categories: “Important and Unread”, “Starred”, and “Everything Else”. Gmail automatically filters incoming e-mail into either “Important and Unread” or “Everything Else”, while the middle category is populated by those messages that have been flagged for future reference.



OpenMediaVault is looking quite promising. Development is still underway, and author has provided no taste to his loyal fans. This is another project from the same developers that brought you FreeNAS, an OS designed to store all of your files safely and secure, and make them accessible via a wide array of different networking protocols. It was based on FreeBSD. However, OpenMediaVault will be based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Review of openSUSE 11.3 – Totally impressive

openSUSE was released on July 15th. I downloaded the 32-bit DVD today, because I wanted to try the new LXDE Desktop that is included with the disk (thanks to Andreas for making that effort!). It is currently being test driven on VirtualBox on openSUSE 11.2, and MAN is it ever FAST! It’s probably the 1.5GB RAM upgrade Continue reading

Court Ruled that Novell is the copyright holder for UNIX

Today, the jury in the District Court of Utah trial between SCO Group and Novell issued a verdict.

Novell is very pleased with the jury’s decision confirming Novell’s ownership of the Unix copyrights, which SCO had asserted to own in its attack on Linux. Novell remains committed to promoting Linux, including by defending Linux on the intellectual property front.

This decision is good news for Novell, for Linux, and for the open source community.

Password-less Logins with OpenSSH, scp, and rsync

UPDATE: I changed ‘>’ (erase file, then write to file) to ‘>>’ (append to file). This avoids you overwriting your, or other peoples’, public keys.

Setting up password-less logins is both dangerous, and mighty. It allows one to authenticate to an OpenSSH server without typing in a password. Authentication is gained via knowledge of a private key.

Generate a Public/Private Key Pair

$> ssh-keygen -t rsa
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/felipe/.ssh/id_rsa):
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): <ENTER>
Enter same passphrase again: <ENTER>
Your identification has been saved in /home/felipe/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/felipe/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
d7:79:c3:01:ce:90:71:a2:a2:3d:83:26:fb:9a:1f:5b felipe@linux.local

You will then find two files inside your directory. Keep them safe, secure, and secret. The public key (the one with .pub at the end) can be widely disemmindated. It represents the antonym of secrecy and privacy. The private key, however, must remain private and secret at all times.

Copy the PUBLIC key to a remote OpenSSH server

You must copy your public key to a remote host. The host will verify that you own the private key by encrypting a “challenge” and forcing your ssh client to decrypt it. If successful, you are authenticated, and admitted entrance. A password isn’t required.

$> cat /home/felipe/.ssh/ | ssh \
"cat - >> .ssh/authorized_keys"'s password: <PASSWORD>

This copies your public key the authorized_keys file (NB: authorized_keys2 is deprecated and no longer recommended for use. OpenSSH checks both).

Testing Phase

‘logout’ or ‘exit’ and try:

$> ssh

It should not ask you for a password. You should automatically be logged into the remote system.

Works with scp and rsync too!

‘scp’ and ‘rsync’ both use a ssh client at the backend, and so will also authenticate automatically utilising your public and private key pair. Try:

$> scp file_a

This should transfer without pausing to ask for your password. Likewise try:

$> rsync -r /backups/2010/Jan

This should backup your entire directory to without pausing to ask for a password. You can put a line similar to this one in a shell script, and run it with cron once a week or so. It will automatically backup your system, using OpenSSH, and proven secure and safe method for authentication of human and machines across an untrusted public network, away from curious eyes.

Software RAID-5 on GNU/Linux Using mdadm In 6 Easy Steps

For this setup, I used 4 320GB sata 300 hard drives. This array is not configured for booting, just for redundant storage. My four drives are:

  • sdb
  • sdc
  • sdd
  • sde

1.  Ensure all partitions on the drives are erased

There are a few ways to do this. I just overwrite the first million bytes with zeroes.

$> dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sdb bs=1M count=1

Another way to do it, is using fdisk, like this

$> fdisk /dev/sdc
d (deletes a partition by its number)
1 (partition number)
w (writes changes to the disk)
q (quit without saving)

For best results, one should remove all partitions from all the RAID members.

2.  After all partitions have been erased from all members, we must create RAID partitions.

We can use fdisk again, like this:

$> fdisk /dev/sdd
n (this makes new partition)
p (primary (not extended))
1 (number 1)
start: <press enter>
end: <press enter>
t (selects partition type)
fd (0xFD is the symbol for Linux RAID partition)
w (writes changes to disk)
q (quits without saving changes)

Repeat this process for all your RAID members. Do not format these disks. We will first build the array, then format the array.

3.  Tell mdadm to create an array with 4 members

$> mdadm --create --level=5 --metadata=1.2 --raid-devices=4 \
 /dev/md0 /dev/sdb1 /dev/sdc1 /dev/sdd1 /dev/sde1
  • creates the array from available members
  • select the raid level (we want RAID5, but 0, 1, 10, 5, 6 are available)
  • metadata ensures we have the most robust and up-to-date RAID system
  • raid-devices select 4 devices for our array. We could have done 3 devices, and one spare. A spare will automatically rebuild if any live members fail or die.
  • /dev/md0 is the array
  • sdb, sdc, sdd, sde are the partitions that will be a part of this array

Now that you’ve created it,  you don’t need to assemble it. In case you need to, however, this is how you can do it.

$> mdadm --assemble <ARRAY> <DEVICES> ...
$> mdadm --assemble /dev/md0 /dev/sdb1 /dev/sdc1 /dev/sdd1 /dev/sde1

4.  mdadm is now creating and initialising the drives.

You can check progress with

$> cat /proc/mdstat

It is a good practice to check your array every now and again. See a detailed report with:

$> mdadm -vD /dev/md0

Which does a –verbose –detail ‘ed check of your array /dev/md0.

5.  Partition and Format the Array

You can partition the array with your favourite program. Don’t partition the drives! Partition the array /dev/md0! I use fdisk:

$> fdisk /dev/md0
n (new partition)
1 (number)
start: <press enter>
end: <press enter>
w (write changes to disk)
q (quit without saving changes)

Next you format the partition with your favourite filesystem. I like ext3. My distribution ships with a shortcut program called mkfs.ext3. You may require mke2fs, which by default create an ext2 filesystem. Add option -j to create a journaling ext3 filesystem. Type man mke2fs for more information.

$> mkfs.ext3 -v -L ADD-A-LABEL /dev/md0p1

Where ‘p1’ is the first partition on the array. The array may still show ‘rebuilding’ bur it is usable. It will not be fully redundant, however, until rebuilding status shows 100%.

6.  Create or Edit /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf and /etc/fstab

It should read something like this:

DEVICE /dev/sdb1 /dev/sdc1 /dev/sdd1 /dev/sde1
CREATE owner=root group=disk mode=0660 auto=yes
ARRAY /dev/md0 metadata=1.2 num-devices=4 devices=/dev/sdb1,/dev/sdc1,/dev/sdd1,/dev/sde1

Your /etc/fstab should include a line similar to:

# automount /dev/md0 raid partition
/dev/md0p1  /mnt/mountpoint  ext3  rw,user  0 0

My /etc/fstab reads:

/dev/md0p1 /media/leopard ext3 rw,user,noacl,noatime,nodiratime,noauto 0 2

noacl,nodiratime,noatime should improve performance of ext3. noauto prevents filesystem from being mounted automatically, just in case (I’m paranoid). The ‘2’ at the end makes fsck scan the drive after 31 or so mounts. See man mount for more options.

Update: There is another terrific guide explaining how to modify and grow a RAID1 array with 2 (or more) disks to a RAID5 array.

No More Promises

I will never again buy a RAID Controller card from Promise again! They claimed to support GNU/Linux, and they don’t. They said they didn’t have drivers for Windows 7, and then suddenly they magically appear on their Downloads page. We weren’t even notified.

I’m going to go with mdadm and try my luck with software RAID on Mint. If I must buy another card, for whatever reason (namely software RAID is much too slow, and hardware RAID will offload the work to the card itself) I’ll go with Adaptec.