Selectively disabling Windows UAC for individual applications

Today a client emailed me to report that since installing Quickbooks “Enterprise” (note the scare quotes there. they are used with malice), her users (who are, sensibly, not Administrators) were faced with a User Account Control prompt (“Do you want to allow the following program to make changes to your computer?”) every time they opened the new version of Quickbooks.  A little further investigation showed that “DBManagerExe.exe” was the actual file throwing the UAC dialog.  Absolutely no information from Intuit is available whatsoever about how or why this program wants Administrator privileges, ways to nerf it, etc – apparently this “Enterprise” product is just supposed to be run in “Enterprises” by users who are allowed full Administrator privileges.  Because, you know, that’s what “Enterprises” do.  Delightful.

I chased the issue around and around trying to figure out what DBManagerExe.exe actually wanted access to, so I could just grant that to the users… but eventually I was forced to give up and just disable UAC selectively for that one program.  Luckily, while the process is rather arcane, it’s not actually HARD.  So let’s document it here.

1. Download the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit.  I won’t link it here, to avoid creating stale links – just Google it, it should come right up.  Pick the latest version available (currently, 5.6).  Run the installer.

2. start –> all programs –> Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit –> Compatibility Administrator (32-bit) or Compatibility Administrator (64-bit), as appropriate. Note: just because your system is 64-bit does not necessarily mean that’s the Compatibility Administrator you want here – this needs to match the application you want to selectively allow UAC-less admin privileges for, not the system as a whole!  For DBManagerEXE.exe, I needed to select 32-bit.  Further note: if you are not logged in as the actual Administrator account, you should right-click and “Run As Administrator” to open the Compatibility Manager.  Otherwise, your “fix” won’t fix anything.

3. Click the “Fix” icon on the top toolbar.  Click “Browse” to find the executable you want to enable - for me, it was C:\Program Files (x86)\Intuit\QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 14.0\DBManagerExe.exe.  Now, enter the name of the program and vendor in the two text boxes above the location in the dialog – this will make it easier to manage later, if you ever need to figure out what you’ve done and to whom.  Click Next.

4. Under Compatibility Modes, click none.  You don’t want this.  (Unless you do, of course, but Compatibility Modes aren’t needed for nerfing UAC dialogs, they’re for something COMPLETELY different and certainly aren’t applicable to running Quickbooks Enterprise 2014, in this case.)  Click Next.

5. Find RunAs Invoker on the list of Compatibility Fixes.  Check it.  Don’t mess with anything else.  Click Next, then click Finish.

6. Save your database (from the button on the toolbar).  Give it a name that makes sense, and save it in C:\Windows\System32. 8. File –> Install from the top menu.  You’ll get a dialog box confirming that you’ve installed your fix.  You should be done now.

Log in as an unprivileged user and test – in my case, for enabling non-Administrators to open Quickbooks “Enterprise” 2014, it worked flawlessly – no more UAC prompt, now the user went straight to the new setup wizard as they should.

Disable_UAC_selectively

Fascinating insight into IT and non-profits

If you’ve ever wondered what the typical non-profit looks like in terms of IT budget – everything from salaries, to head count, to non-salary budget per staff, to non-salary budget per category (project management, outsourced services, hardware, software, more…) looks like, NTEN has got you covered.

http://www.nten.org/research/download_it_staffing_2012

This is a free download, though they do ask for your name and email address before you can click through to the PDF.  Fascinating, very deep dive, and totally worth it whether you’re a decision maker in a non profit yourself, a service provider with non-profit customers, or even just somebody curious about how organizations function.

OpenVPN on BeagleBone Black

beaglebone_black

This is my new Beaglebone Black. Enormous, isn’t it?

I needed an inexpensive embedded device for OpenVPN use, and my first thought (actually, my tech David’s first thought) was the obvious in this day and age: “Raspberry Pi.”

Unfortunately, the Pi didn’t really fit the bill.  Aside from the unfortunate fact that my particular Pi arrived with a broken ethernet port, doing some quick network-less testing of OpenSSL gave me very disappointing 5mbps-ish numbers – 5mbps or so, running flat out, encryption alone, let alone any actual routing.  This bore up with some reviews I found online, so I had to give up on the Pi as an embedded solution for OpenVPN use.

Luckily, that didn’t mean I was sunk yet – enter the Beaglebone Black.  Beaglebone doesn’t get as much press as the Pi does, but it’s an interesting device with an interesting history – it’s been around longer than the Pi (more than ten years!), it’s fully open source where the Pi is not (hardware plans are published online, and other vendors are not only allowed but encouraged to build bit-for-bit identical devices!), and although it doesn’t have the video chops of the Pi (no 1080p resolution supported), it has a much better CPU – a 1GHZ Cortex A8, vs the Pi’s 700MHz A7.  If all that isn’t enough, the Beaglebone also has built-in 2GB eMMC flash with a preloaded installation of Angstrom Linux, and – again unlike the Pi – directly supports being powered from plain old USB connected to a computer.  Pretty nifty.

The only real hitch I had with my Beaglebone was not realizing that if I had an SD card in, it would attempt to boot from the SD card, not from the onboard eMMC.  Once I disconnected my brand new Samsung MicroSD card and power cycled the Beaglebone, though, I was off to the races.  It boots into Angstrom pretty quickly, and thanks to the inclusion of the Avahi daemon in the default installation, you can discover the device (from linux at least – haven’t tested Windows) by just pinging beaglebone.local.  Once that resolves, ssh root@beaglebone.local with a default password, and you’re embedded-Linux-ing!

Angstrom doesn’t have any prebuilt packages for OpenVPN, so I downloaded the source from openvpn.net and did the usual ./configure ; make ; make install fandango.  I did have one minor hitch – the system clock wasn’t set, so ./configure bombed out complaining about files in the future.  Easily fixed – ntpdate us.pool.ntp.org updated my clock, and this time the package built without incident, needing somewhere south of 5 minutes to finish.  After that, it was time to test OpenVPN’s throughput – which, spoiler alert, was a total win!

root@beaglebone:~# openvpn --genkey --secret beagle.key ; scp beagle.key me@locutus:/tmp/
root@beaglebone:~# openvpn --secret beagle.key --port 666 --ifconfig 10.98.0.1 10.98.0.2 --dev tun
me@locutus:/tmp$ sudo openvpn --secret beagle.key --remote beaglebone.local --port 666 --ifconfig 10.98.0.2 10.98.0.1 --dev tun

Now I have a working tunnel between locutus and my beaglebone.  Opening a new terminal on each, I ran iperf to test throughput.  To run iperf (which was already available on Angstrom), you just run iperf -s on the server machine, and run iperf -c [ip address] on the client machine to connect to the server.  I tested connectivity both ways across my OpenVPN tunnel:

me@locutus:~$ iperf -c 10.98.0.1
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 10.98.0.1, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 21.9 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[ 3] local 10.98.0.2 port 55873 connected with 10.98.0.1 port 5001
[ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
[ 3] 0.0-10.1 sec 46.2 MBytes 38.5 Mbits/sec
me@locutus:~$ iperf -s
------------------------------------------------------------
Server listening on TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.3 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[ 4] local 10.98.0.2 port 5001 connected with 10.98.0.1 port 32902
[ ID] Interval Transfer Bandwidth
[ 4] 0.0-10.0 sec 47.0 MBytes 39.2 Mbits/sec

38+ mbps from an inexpensive embedded device?  I’ll take it!

Apache 2.4 / Ubuntu Trusty problems

Found out the hard way today that there’ve been SIGNIFICANT changes in configuration syntax and requirements since Apache 2.2, when I tried to set up a VERY simple couple of vhosts on Apache 2.4.7 on a brand new Ubuntu Trusty Tahr install.

First – the a2ensite/a2dissite scripts refuse to work unless your vhost config files end in .conf. BE WARNED. Example:

you@trusty:~$ ls /etc/apache2/sites-available
000-default.conf
default-ssl.conf
testsite.tld
you@trusty:~$ sudo a2ensite testsite.tld
ERROR: Site testsite.tld does not exist!

The solution is a little annoying; you MUST end the filename of your vhost configs in .conf – after that, a2ensite and a2dissite work as you’d expect.

you@trusty:~$ sudo mv /etc/apache2/sites-available/testsite.tld /etc/apache2/sites-available/testsite.tld.conf
you@trusty:~$ sudo a2ensite testsite.tld
Enabling site testsite.tld
To activate the new configuration, you need to run:
  service apache2 reload

After that, I had a more serious problem. The “site” I was trying to enable was nothing other than a simple exposure of a directory (a local ubuntu mirror I had set up) – no php, no cgi, nothing fancy at all. Here was my vhost config file:

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerName us.archive.ubuntu.com
        ServerAlias us.archive.ubuntu.local 
        Options Includes FollowSymLinks MultiViews Indexes
        DocumentRoot /data/apt-mirror/mirror/us.archive.ubuntu.com
	*lt;Directory /data/apt-mirror/mirror/us.archive.ubuntu.com/>
	        Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
	        AllowOverride None
	</Directory>
</VirtualHost>

Can’t get much simpler, right? This would have worked fine in any previous version of Apache, but not in Apache 2.4.7, the version supplied with Trusty Tahr 14.04 LTS.

Every attempt to browse the directory gave me a 403 Forbidden error, which confused me to no end, since the directories were chmod 755 and chgrp www-data. Checking Apache’s error log gave me pages on pages of lines like this:

[Mon Jun 02 10:45:19.948537 2014] [authz_core:error] [pid 27287:tid 140152894646016] [client 127.0.0.1:40921] AH01630: client denied by server configuration: /data/apt-mirror/mirror/us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/

What I eventually discovered was that since 2.4, Apache not only requires explicit authentication setup and permission for every directory to be browsed, the syntax has changed as well. The old “Order Deny, Allow” and “Allow from all” won’t cut it – you now need “Require all granted”. Here is my final working vhost .conf file:

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerName us.archive.ubuntu.com
        ServerAlias us.archive.ubuntu.local 
        Options Includes FollowSymLinks MultiViews Indexes
        DocumentRoot /data/apt-mirror/mirror/us.archive.ubuntu.com
	<Directory /data/apt-mirror/mirror/us.archive.ubuntu.com/>
	        Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
	        AllowOverride None
                Require all granted
	</Directory>
</VirtualHost>

Hope this helps someone else – this was a frustrating start to the morning for me.

SELF, Jun 20-22 2014

Want to come see me present on the Linux Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM)? Now’s your chance – I’m confirmed to speak at the SouthEast Linux Fest in Charlotte, NC. Register now! =)

Using LogMeIn remote control with Linux

In 2013, LogMeIn decided to start forcing the download of a Windows-only executable file for remote control of computers. This, of course, leaves Linux users in the lurch.

The previous Flash interface is still THERE, and in fact it’s SUPPOSED to be available with a click – if you don’t have the plugin, you’re supposed to be presented with a page offering to let you download the plugin OR click another link to go to the Flash interface. Unfortunately, on Linux (Ubuntu at least), said page just instantly flashes away and takes you back to the splash page for the computer you’re connected to.

The workaround here is to log into your LogMeIn account, click the computer you want to control and connect to it (using your login credentials), and then INSTEAD OF CLICKING REMOTE CONTROL go to your address bar and replace “/main.html” at the end of the current URL with “/remctrl.html?type=flash” instead. Hit enter, and your remote control session will start as normal.

BOO to LogMeIn for making this so freaking difficult. >=[

Heartbleed SSL vulnerability

Last night (2014 Apr 7) a massive security vulnerability was publicly disclosed in OpenSSL, the library that encrypts most of the world’s sensitive traffic. The bug in question is approximately two years old – systems older than 2012 are not vulnerable – and affects the TLS “heartbeat” function, which is why the vulnerability has been nicknamed HeartBleed.

The bug allows a malicious remote user to scan arbitrary 64K chunks of the affected server’s memory. This can disclose any and ALL information in that affected server’s memory, including SSL private keys, usernames and passwords of ANY running service accepting logins, and more. Nobody knows if the vulnerability was known or exploited in the wild prior to its public disclosure last night.

If you are an end user:

You will need to change any passwords you use online unless you are absolutely sure that the servers you used them on were not vulnerable. If you are not a HIGHLY experienced admin or developer, you absolutely should NOT assume that sites and servers you use were not vulnerable. They almost certainly were. If you are a highly experienced ops or dev person… you still absolutely should not assume that, but hey, it’s your rope, do what you want with it.

Note that most sites and servers are not yet patched, meaning that changing your password right now will only expose that password as well. If you have not received any notification directly from the site or server in question, you may try a scanner like the one at http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/ to see if your site/server has been patched. Note that this script is not bulletproof, and in fact it’s less than 24 hours old as of the time of this writing, up on a free site, and under massive load.

The most important thing for end users to understand: You must not, must not, MUST NOT reuse passwords between sites. If you have been using one or two passwords for every site and service you access – your email, forums you post on, Facebook, Twitter, chat, YouTube, whatever – you are now compromised everywhere and will continue to be compromised everywhere until ALL sites are patched. Further, this will by no means be the last time a site is compromised. Criminals can and absolutely DO test compromised credentials from one site on other sites and reuse them elsewhere when they work! You absolutely MUST use different passwords – and I don’t just mean tacking a “2″ on the end instead of a “1″, or similar cheats – on different sites if you care at all about your online presence, the money and accounts attached to your online presence, etc.

If you are a sysadmin, ops person, dev, etc:

Any systems, sites, services, or code that you are responsible for needs to be checked for links against OpenSSL versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f. Note, that’s the OpenSSL vendor versioning system – your individual distribution, if you are using repo versions like a sane person, may have different numbering schemes. (For example, Ubuntu is vulnerable from 1.0.1-0 through 1.0.1-4ubuntu5.11.)

Examples of affected services: HTTPS, IMAPS, POP3S, SMTPS, OpenVPN. Fabulously enough, for once OpenSSH is not affected, even in versions linking to the affected OpenSSL library, since OpenSSH did not use the Heartbeat function. If you are a developer and are concerned about code that you wrote, the key here is whether your code exposed access to the Heartbeat function of OpenSSL. If it was possible for an attacker to access the TLS heartbeat functionality, your code was vulnerable. If it was absolutely not possible to check an SSL heartbeat through your application, then your application was not vulnerable even if it linked to the vulnerable OpenSSL library.

In contrast, please realize that just because your service passed an automated scanner like the one linked above doesn’t mean it was safe. Most of those scanners do not test services that use STARTTLS instead of being TLS-encrypted from the get-go, but services using STARTTLS are absolutely still affected. Similarly, none of the scanners I’ve seen will test UDP services – but UDP services are affected. In short, if you as a developer don’t absolutely know that you weren’t exposing access to the TLS heartbeat function, then you should assume that your OpenSSL-using application or service was/is exploitable until your libraries are brought up to date.

You need to update all copies of the OpenSSL library to 1.0.1g or later (or your distribution’s equivalent), both dynamically AND statically linked (PS: stop using static links, for exactly things like this!), and restart any affected services. You should also, unfortunately, consider any and all credentials, passwords, certificates, keys, etc. that were used on any vulnerable servers, whether directly related to SSL or not, as compromised and regenerate them. The Heartbleed bug allowed scanning ALL memory on any affected server and thus could be used by a sufficiently skilled user to extract ANY sensitive data held in server RAM. As a trivial example, as of today (2014-Apr-08) users at the Ars Technica forums are logging on as other users using password credentials held in server RAM, as exposed by standard exploit test scripts publicly disclosed.

Completely eradicating all potential vulnerability is a STAGGERING amount of work and will involve a lot of user disruption. When estimating your paranoia level, please do remember that the bug itself has been in the wild since 2012 – the public disclosure was not until 2014-Apr-07, but we have no way of knowing how long private, possibly criminal entities have been aware of and/or exploiting the bug in the wild.

Restoring Legacy Boot (Linux Boot) on a Chromebook

I let the battery die completely on my Acer C720 Chromebook, and discovered that unfortunately if you do that, your Chromebook will no longer Legacy boot when you press Ctrl-L – it just beeps at you despondently, with no error message to indicate what’s going wrong.

Sadly, I found message after message on forums indicating that people encountering this issue just reinstalled ChrUbuntu from scratch. THIS IS NOT NECESSARY!

If you just get several beeps when you press Ctrl-L to boot into Linux on your Chromebook, don’t fret – press Ctrl-D to boot into ChromeOS, but DON’T LOG IN. Instead, press Ctrl-Alt-Esc (aka Ctrl-Alt-F1) to get a shell. Log in as chronos (no password, unless you’d previously set one). Now, one command will get you right:

sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1

That’s it. You’re now ready to reboot and SUCCESSFULLY Ctrl-L into your existing Linux install.

btrfs RAID awesomeness

I am INDECENTLY excited about some plans for further btrfs development that I just got confirmed on the mailing list.

Btrfs can already support a redundant array on an arbitrary collection of “mutt” hard drives via btrfs-raid1 – as an example, say you’ve got five hard drives lying around; a 4TB drive, two 2TB drives, a 1TB drive, and an old 750GB drive. You can dump all of those mutts into one btrfs-raid1 array for a total of 9.75TB of raw capacity, and roughly half that (4.5TB-ish) of usable capacity. The btrfs-raid1 will just store two copies of each data block it writes on two separate drives, doing its best to keep each drive in the array about the same percentage of its overall capacity “full”.

9.75TB btrfs-raid1 empty       9.75TB btrfs-raid1 half full

This is actually a huge win for midmarket and enterprise as well as for small business and prosumers – if you assume a more business-y environment with matched drives, the performance characteristics of an array like this are very interesting; you aren’t tied to stripes, you don’t have to do a read-write-rewrite dance when data is modified, and you don’t have to have an extremely performance-penalized restriping event if a drive fails and is replaced – the array can just quickly write new redundant copies of any orphaned blocks out to the new replacement drives, without needing to disturb (or, worse, read / write / rewrite) blocks that weren’t orphaned.

For small business and especially prosumer, of course, the benefits are even more obvious – the world is littered with people who want to throw an arbitrary number of arbitrarily sized “mutt” drives they have lying around into one big array, and finally, they can do so – quickly, easily, effectively. The only drawback is that you’re locked into n/2 storage efficiency – since this is still a system that relies on a redundant copy of each data block to be written to a different disk than the first copy is written to, the 9.75TB array up there will only be able to store about 4.5TB of data, which is just not efficient enough for a lot of people, especially the small business and prosumer types.

OK, now we’ve wrapped our brain around the idea of a “raid1″ that just distributes data blocks evenly around an arbitrary array while making sure that redundant blocks are on separate physical disks – and can handle weird numbers and sizes of disks with aplomb. (I’ve personally tested a btrfs-RAID1 with three equal sized drives, and yes, it can store half the raw capacity of all three drives just fine.) What’s next?

For those folks who aren’t satisfied with n/2 storage efficiency… there are plans on the roadmap for striped/parity storage that ALSO isn’t tied to the number of physical drives present. Let’s say you have five disks and you’re satisfied with single-disk fault tolerance – you might choose to create a striped array with four data blocks and one parity block per stripe. This is pretty obvious and easy to picture (if it were actually tied directly to disks, and the disks had to be identically sized, we’d have just described a RAID3 array). Now, what happens if you add two more disks to your array without changing your stripe size and parity level? No problem – (future versions of) btrfs will just distribute blocks from each stripe equally around the array of physical disks, so that “half full” on the array roughly corresponds to “half full” on each individual disk as well, just like we demo’ed above on the btrfs-raid1 array.

I am VERY excited about being able to decide, for example, “I want 80% storage efficiency and single-failure fault tolerance”, and therefore being able to select a stripe length of 4 data blocks and one parity block… or “I want 75% storage efficiency and two-failure fault tolerance” and selecting a stripe length of 6 data blocks and 2 parity blocks… and in either case, to then be able to say “OK, now I want to expand my array with these six new drives I just bought” and be able to do so just as simply as adding the new drives, without worrying about how that will affect my storage efficency, fault tolerance level, or having to do a severely expensive and somewhat dangerous “restriping” of the array.

We are living in very interesting times, when it comes to data storage, and I have a feeling the majority of the storage industry – even the relatively well-informed bits that keep up with ZFS, Ceph, OrangeFS, etc – are going to be utterly gobsmacked and scrambling for footing when btrfs hits mainstream.

Slow performance with dovecot – mysql – roundcube

This drove me crazy forever, and Google wasn’t too helpful.  If you’re running dovecot with mysql authentication, your logins will be exceedingly slow.  This isn’t much of a problem with traditional mail clients – just an annoying bit of a hiccup you probably won’t even notice except for SASL authentication when sending mail – but it makes Roundcube webmail PAINFULLY painfully slow in a VERY obvious way.

The issue is due to PAM authentication being enabled by default in Dovecot, and on Ubuntu at least, it’s done in a really hidden little out-of-the-way file with no easy way to forcibly override it elsewhere that I’m aware of.

Again on Ubuntu, you’ll find the file in question at /etc/dovecot/conf.d/auth-system.conf.ext, and the relevant block should be commented out COMPLETELY, like this:

# PAM authentication. Preferred nowadays by most systems.
# PAM is typically used with either userdb passwd or userdb static.
# REMEMBER: You'll need /etc/pam.d/dovecot file created for PAM
# authentication to actually work. <doc/wiki/PasswordDatabase.PAM.txt>
#passdb {
  # driver = pam
  # [session=yes] [setcred=yes] [failure_show_msg=yes] [max_requests=]
  # [cache_key=] []
  #args = dovecot
#}

Once you’ve done this (and remember, we’re assuming you’re using SQL auth here, and NOT actually USING the PAM!) you’ll auth immediately instead of having to fail PAM and then fall back to SQL auth on every auth request, and things will speed up IMMENSELY. This turns Roundcube from “painfully slow” to “blazing fast”.