Computer Power Use

This table shows the power consumption of some of the computers I own. I use a domestic electricity meter that was certified for use in billing customers to measure this. Any inaccuracies in the measurement will
correspond to inaccuracies in electricity bills of people who use such computers.

Before anyone asks, I am not interested in contributions of data, I believe that doing tests with a different meter or in a different country with a different supply voltage will diminish the accuracy of the results. Also I will provide minimal analysis on this page (the numbers should allow you to perform your own analysis).

Before I started such tests I had significant problems cooling my house in summer. Based on the results of these tests I made changes such as replacing the Compaq 1GHz Athlon machine by an IBM 1GHz P3 machine for a small server I run, this saved 49W of power, 49W of power which mostly ends up as heat makes a significant difference in a small server room when running 24*7!

All the machines below apart from the SMP machine are workstation class machines, they don’t have ECC RAM and their PSUs are designed for small load. The SMP machine has a PSU designed for a desktop machine (I couldn’t easily obtain any other type). If it had a PSU designed for server use it would draw more power.

Unless otherwise noted all machines were idling while running Linux (idling while running DOS uses significantly more power).

The summary of this table is, P3 is a great CPU for power to computer power ratio, the P4 isn’t too good, and the Athlon sucks badly – don’t run an Athlon server if you have heat problems!

Thinkpad T20 500MHz P3 512M 30G IDE 10.7W
Cobalt Qube AMD K6-450MHz, 128M RAM, 10G IDE 20W
Thinkpad T41p 1.7GHz idle at 600MHz, screen on and battery charged 23W
Compaq SFF 800MHz P3 512M 10G IDE spun-down 28W
Compaq SFF 800MHz P3 512M 10G IDE 35W
Compaq 800MHz P3 128M 10G IDE 38W
IBM 1GHz P3 256M 30G IDE, idling 38W
HP Pavilion 513A Celeron 1.8GHz, 384M RAM, 40G IDE 45W
HP Pavilion 513A Celeron 1.8GHz, 768M RAM, 2*80G IDE + 46G IDE 58W
Compaq 1.1GHz Celeron 512M 40G IDE idling 46W
HP/Compaq Celeron 2.4GHz, 512M RAM, no hard disk 43W
HP/Compaq Celeron 2.4GHz, 512M RAM, 300G IDE 50W
NEC Pentium-E2160 1.8GHz, 1G RAM (1 DIMM), 160G S-ATA 52W
Packard-Bell (NEC) Celeron-D 2.93GHz, 512M RAM, 2*20G IDE 75W
Compaq 1.5GHz P4 256M 20G IDE, idling 78W
Compaq 1.5GHz P4 256M 20G IDE, installing 85W
SMP 2*P3 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 2*U160 SCSI 18G disks idle 81W
SMP 2*P3 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 2*U160 SCSI 18G disks disk busy 99W
SMP 2*P3 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 2*U160 SCSI 18G disks CPU busy 130W
SMP 2*P3 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 2*U160 SCSI 18G disks CPU and disk busy 136W
Compaq 1GHz Athlon 256M 20G IDE idling 87W
NEC Pentium-D (920) 2.8GHz, 1G RAM, 160G S-ATA 98W
White-box Athlon XP 1700+, 768M RAM, 2*80G IDE + 46G IDE 110W

Here is the Computer Related Power Use page [1] (for switches, filters, and other things).


This is a program I wrote to benchmark SMTP servers. I started work on this because I need to know which mail server will give the best performance with more than 1,000,000 users. I have decided to release it under the GPL because there is no benefit in keeping the source secret, and the world needs to know which mail servers perform well and which don’t!

At the OSDC conference in 2006 I presented a paper on mail relay performance based on the new BHM program that is now part of Postal.

I have a Postal category on my main blog that I use for a variety of news related to Postal. This post (which will be updated periodically) will be the main reference page for the software. Please use the comments section for bug reports and feature requests.

It works by taking a list of email addresses to use as FROM and TO addresses. I originally used a template to generate the list of users because if each email address takes 30 bytes of storage then 3,000,000 accounts would take 90M of RAM which would be more than the memory in the test machine I was using at the time. Since that time the RAM size in commodity machines has increased far faster than the size of ISP mail servers so I removed the template feature (which seemed to confuse many people).

When sending the mail the subject and body will be random data. A header field X-Postal will be used so that procmail can easily filter out such email just in case you accidentally put your own email address as one of the test addresses. ;)

I have now added two new programs to the suite, postal-list, and rabid. Postal-list will list all the possible expansions for an
account name (used for creating a list of accounts to create on your test server). Rabid is the mad Biff, it is a POP benchmark.

Postal now adds a MD5 checksum in the header X-PostalHash to all messages it sends (checksum is over the Subject, Date, Message-ID, From, and To headers and the message body including the “\r\n” that ends each line of text in the SMTP protocol). Rabid now checks the MD5 checksum and displays error messages when it doesn’t match.

I have added rate limiting support in Rabid and Postal. This means that you can specify that these programs send a specific number of messages and perform a specific number of POP connections per minute respectively. This should make it easy to determine the amount of system resources that are used by a particular volume of traffic. Also if you want to run performance analysis software to determine what the bottlenecks are on your mail server then you could set Postal and Rabid to only use half the maximum speed (so the CPU and disk usage of the analysis software won’t impact on the mail server).

I will not release a 1.0 version until the following features are implemented:

  • Matching email sent by Postal and mail received by BHM and Rabid to ensure that each message is delivered correctly (no repeats and no corruption)
  • IMAP support in Rabid that works
  • Support for simulating large numbers of source addresses in Postal. This needs to support at least 2^24 addresses so it is entirely impractical to have so many IP addresses permanently assigned to the test machine.
  • Support for simulating slow servers in Postal and BHM (probably reducing TCP window size and delaying read() calls)
  • Making BHM simulate the more common anti-spam measures that are in use to determine the impact that they have on list servers
  • Determining a solution to the problem of benchmarking DNS servers. This may mean just including documentation on how to simulate the use patterns of a mail server using someone else’s DNS benchmark, but may mean writing my own DNS benchmark.

Here are links to download the source:

  • postal-0.72.tgz – made LMTP work and accept TAB as a field delimiter.
  • postal-0.71.tgz – rewrote the md5 checking code and fixed lots of little bugs.
  • postal-0.70.tgz – tidied up the man pages and made it build without SSL support.
  • postal-0.69.tgz – fixed some compile warnings, and really made it compile with GCC 4.3
  • postal-0.68.tgz – fixed some compile warnings, made it compile with GCC 4.3, and I think I made it compile correctly with OpenSolaris.
  • postal-0.67.tgz – changed the license to GPL 3
  • postal-0.66.tgz – made GNUTLS work in BHM and added MessageId to Postal.
  • postal-0.65.tgz – significant improvement, many new features and many bugs fixed!
  • postal-0.62.tgz – Slightly improved the installation documents and made it build with GCC 3.2.
  • postal-0.61.tgz – version 0.61. Fixed the bug with optind that stopped it working on BSD systems, and a few other minor bugs.
  • postal-0.60.tgz – version 0.60. Fixed the POP deletion bug, made it compile with GCC 3.0, and added logging of all network IO to disk.
  • postal-0.59.tgz – version 0.59.
  • postal-0.58.tgz – version 0.58. Added some new autoconf stuff, RPM build support, and the first steps to OS/2 and Win32 portability.
  • postal-0.57.tgz – version 0.57. Fixed lots of trivial bugs and some BSD portability issues.
  • postal-0.56.tgz – version 0.56. Added Solaris package manager support. Made it compile without SSL. Added heaps of autoconf stuff.
  • postal-0.55.tgz – version 0.55. Made Rabid work with POP servers that support the CAPA command. Fixed some compile problems on Solaris.
  • postal-0.54.tgz – version 0.54. Added a ./configure option to turn off name expansion (for systems with buggy regex). Fixed a locking bug that allowed Rabid to access the same account through two threads.
  • postal-0.53.tgz – version 0.53. Don’t use NIS domain name etc for SMTP protocol.
  • postal-0.52.tgz – version 0.52. Better portability with autoconf.
  • postal-0.51.tgz – version 0.51. Supports compiling without SSL and some hacky Solaris support.
  • postal-0.50.tgz – version 0.50. Adds SSL support to Postal (Rabid comes next).

How to Debug POP

POP (Post Office Protocol) is the most used protocol for receiving mail from a server to a MUA (Mail User Agent) for reading. It is specified in RFC1939.

But the way it works (in most cases) is quite simple and doesn’t require reading the RFC, connect to port 110 (the standard port for POP3) and a basic session transcript is as follows (data sent by the client is prefixed with C: and data sent by the server is prefixed with S:):
C:user ABC
S:+OK USER ABC set, mate
C:pass asecret
S:+OK Mailbox locked and ready
S:+OK scan listing follows
S:1 2989

When the server successfully completes an operation it will precede it’s response with “+OK“, when it fails it will precede it’s response with “-ERR“. The data after the OK or ERR statement is for humans not machines, so in most cases your MUA will discard it. Therefore connecting to the service manually is required to properly debug problems. The unfortunate thing is that often on big mail servers it takes time for the sys-admin to do such tests. If the user can do it for them and give a bug report saying “your POP server said -ERR user unknown” then things will get fixed a lot faster than if the report is “the POP server didn’t work”.

One thing that is quite important is the initial greeting string, on any system of moderate size you will have multiple back-end servers and the greeting will tell you which server you are connecting to. If POP sometimes works and sometimes fails then your ISP might have one server failing so making a note of this greeting string in a transcript of a failed session can really help in tracking down problems.

When the list of messages is displayed, the first column is message numbers (starting at one and going up sequentially) and the second column is message sizes. If you have a POP session timing out and you have an extremely large message then that might be the cause.

A commonly used program for testing POP (and other Internet services) is telnet. So start the above process you would type telnet 110.

There are methods of hashing POP passwords (which make things a little more complex), but they often aren’t used – and in any case don’t encrypt the data. So it’s common to run POP servers with SSL, and the standard port for this is 995. This makes testing a little more complicated (but actually no more difficult).

To make an SSL connection you can use the program stunnel, it is included in many (most?) distributions of Linux, and Windows binaries are apparently at this link (NB I’ve never tested the Windows binaries as I don’t use Windows).

The command stunnel -c -r will connect you to your mail server via SSL and you can then type in the POP commands as normal.

If your POP server supports the STLS command (which allows negotiation of TLS/SSL on port 110) then you can use the command stunnel -n pop3 -c -r

To use gnutls, you can use the command “gnutls-cli -p 995” or to work with STLS on port 110 you use the command “gnutls-cli -s -p 110” and press ^D after entering the STLS command.

How to Debug SMTP with TLS(SSL) and AUTH

The first thing to test is a TLS (aka SSL) connection. The stunnel program has special code for this, the command “stunnel -n smtp -c -r” will connect to the server via SMTP and negotiate SSL.

If you use gnutls then the command “gnutls-cli -s -p 25” will connect to the server, allow you to establish the session (by typing “ehlo hostname” and then “starttls“) after which you can press ^D to enter TLS mode. This is a little more inconvenient.

Once one of these is done and you will receive a 220 message acknowledging the connection (which is the same as if you had just connected without TLS). If you want to test the TLS certificate then use the “-v” option to stunnel. Note that if the certificate is not verified successfully then stunnel will exit and log via syslog the reason why. While stunnel seems more convenient for actually using a protocol, the openssl utility is a much better program for actually testing out the SSL functionality. The command “openssl s_client -CApath /etc/ssl/certs/ -starttls smtp -connect” will dump a lot of diagnostic information about the SSL protocol. Note that the location of the SSL certificates varies by distribution, /etc/ssl/certs is the location used on Debian.

When compared to openssl and stunnel, gnutls-cli is less convenient than stunnel, and somewhere between the other two in terms of utility for debugging. It’s good to have all three clients available for testing!

Then enter the command “ehlo” (the hostname is generally not checked for the case of mail relaying so any text that vaguely resembles a real host DNS name will do).

The response to that command will be something like the following: Hello [], pleased to meet you
250 HELP

The important thing to note is the 250-AUTH message which indicates that you may authenticate, it tells us that you can use the LOGIN and PLAIN methods of authentication. All the further communication for the login will be base64 encoded, the best utilities that I know of in Debian/Etch for encoding and decoding base64 are /usr/share/fml/bin/ and /usr/share/fml/bin/ which are in the fml package. Debian/Lenny and newer have base64 as part of the coreutils package.

The command auth login will typically give the response “334 VXNlcm5hbWU6“, the command “echo VXNlcm5hbWU6|/usr/share/fml/bin/” shows that it is requesting the “Username:“.

To generate a response to the Username prompt run the command “echo -n | /usr/share/fml/bin/” (or whatever your user-name is) and you will receive an encoded message such as “dXNlckBleGFtcGxlLmNvbQ==“. Enter that to the mail server and you will get a response with another 334 code similar to “334 UGFzc3dvcmQ6“, again if you decode the part after the space you will br prompted for the “Password:“. The command “echo -n mypass | /usr/share/fml/bin/” will give a response that you can give to that prompt. If all goes well that will give a 235 message to tell you that you are authenticated. Then you can relay mail!

When relaying mail after authenticating using SASL, if the mail is authenticated then you can use the auth parameter. This means that instead of using the SMTP command “mail from: <>” you use the command “mail from: <> auth=<>“.

Normally this will all be done by your MUA, but if something goes wrong and you don’t know why then manually running through the steps can reveal the source of the problem.

Software vs Hardware RAID

It’s a commonly held myth that hardware RAID is unconditionally better than software RAID. That claim is not true in all cases and is particularly wrong at the low end.

Really Cheap Hardware RAID

The cheapest so-called hardware RAID uses RAID in the BIOS and relies on an OS driver for support when running in protected mode. This is essentially a different sort of software RAID but with BIOS support to boot from it. Using a different disk format to the standard software RAID for your OS can make it more difficult to recover when things go wrong and there’s no benefit to this. If you use software RAID-1 from your OS and set things up correctly then you can boot from either disk. Using software RAID-1 for booting and RAID-5 or RAID-6 for the OS and data is a viable option.

Cheap Hardware RAID

Cheap hardware RAID doesn’t have write-back caching and therefore can’t give any significant performance benefit over software RAID. Note that there are different options for how RAID stripes are laid out which can affect performance, so if a cheap hardware RAID device gives any significant performance benefit over software RAID then it’s probably due to where the blocks happen to be stored working well with your filesystem. Which is of course a benefit you could get from tuning software RAID.

The Mythical CPU Benefits of Hardware RAID

It’s widely regarded that hardware RAID is faster due to taking the processing away from the CPU. But the truth is that for at least the last 10 years CPUs have been fast enough and in fact it’s often been the case that RAID controllers have been the bottleneck.

When I loaded the Linux RAID-5/RAID-6 driver on my Thinkpad T61 it’s 2.2GHz T7500 CPU (which isn’t a particularly new or powerful laptop CPU) was tested and shown to be capable of 3227MB/s for RAID-6 calculations. The fastest SATA disk I’ve benchmarked was capable of sustaining almost 120MB/s on it’s outer tracks. If we assume that newer disks are capable of 150MB/s then my Thinkpad could handle the RAID calculations for an array of 20 such disks.

An old P3-1GHz desktop system I use for a low-end server can do 591MB/s of RAID-6 calculations in software, if I was able to connect SATA disks to that old system then it could drive four of them in a RAID array at full speed!

It’s often regarded that a benefit of hardware RAID is to avoid CPU use. Contiguous IO can use a moderate amount of CPU power, I could potentially use 20% of one core of a T7500 if I had four disks running at once. But usually contiguous IO isn’t that common. If you are using a Gigabit Ethernet port to transfer data then you are limited to something slightly more than 100MB/s. But most applications don’t involve large contiguous data transfers and thus the amount of data transferred goes down.

One way that hardware RAID can save CPU time is if the interface to the hard drives was inefficient. The IDE interface didn’t seem particularly efficient and large transfers to IDE disks used to often require more CPU time than was expected. For such disks having them on a RAID controller that emulated a giant SCSI disk could save some CPU time.

Back in 2000 I did some tests on a Mylex DAC 960 hardware RAID controller that was only capable of sustaining 10MB/s. This wasn’t a problem as the applications were seek intensive and the Mylex performed well for that task. But for contiguous IO software RAID would have given much better performance.

The Real Benefits of Hardware RAID

A good hardware RAID system will have NVRAM for a write-back cache. This can dramatically improve write performance which is very important on RAID-5 and RAID-6 systems that perform really badly for small writes.

Good hardware RAID controllers will often support many more disks than a non-RAID controller. If you want to have more than 4 disks then hardware RAID has some serious benefits. But it has to have NVRAM write-back cache, otherwise you get no useful benefits and you might as well use software RAID.


If you can’t afford a high-end RAID system like a HP CCISS then use software RAID. Software RAID will be faster and more reliable than cheap hardware RAID.

If you need more than four disks then you can probably benefit a lot from hardware RAID with write-back caching.

SE Linux Terminology

Security Context is the SE Linux label for a process, file, or other resource. Each process or object that a process may access has exactly one security context. It has four main parts separated by colons: User:Role:Domain/Type:Sensitivity Label. Note that the Sensitivity Label is a compile-time option that all distributions enable nowadays.

User in terms of SE Linux is also known as the Identity. The program semanage can be used to add new identities and to change the roles and sensitivities assigned to them. System users often end in “_u” (EG user_u, unconfined_u, and system_u) but this is just a convention used to distinguish system users from users that associate directly with Unix accounts – which are typically the same as the name of the account. So the user with Unix account john might have a SE Linux user/identity of john. Note that as the local sysadmin can change the user names with semanage you can’t make any strong assumptions about a naming convention. When a process creates a resource (such as a file on disk) then by default the resource will have the same user as the process.

Role for a process determines the set of domains that may be used for running a child process. Through semanage you can configure which roles may be entered by each user. The default policy has the roles user_r, staff_r, sysadm_r, and system_r. Adding new roles requires recompiling the policy which is something that most sysadmins don’t do. So you can expect that all role names end in “_r“.

Object Class refers to the object that is to be accessed, there are 82 object classes in the latest policy, many of which are related to things such as the X server. Some object classes are file, dir, chr_file, are blk_file. The reason for having an object class is so that access can be granted to one object with a given type label but not be granted to another object of a different object class.

Type is the primary label for the Domain/Type or Type-Enforcement model of access control, by tradition a type name ends in “_t“. There is no strong difference between a domain and a type, a domain is the type of a process. In the DT model there are a set of rules which specify what happens when a domain tries to access an object of a certain object class for a particular access (read, write, etc).

MLS stands for Multi Level Security, it’s a hierarchical system for restricting access to sensitive data. It’s core principle is that of no write-down and no read-up. In a MLS system you can only write data to a resource with an equal or higher sensitivity label.

MCS stands for Multi Category Security.

Sensitivity Level is for a hierarchical level of sensitivity in the MLS policy. In the default policy there are 16 levels from s0 to s15. The MCS policy uses some of the mechanisms of MLS but not the level, so in MCS the level is always set to s0. The policy can be recompiled to have different numbers of levels.

Category is a primitive for the MCS and MLS policies. The default policy has 1024 categories from c0 to c1023, the policy can be recompiled to have different numbers of categories.

Sensitivity Label is for implementing MLS and MCS access controls. It may be ranged, in which case it has a form “LOW-HIGH” where both LOW and HIGH are comprised of a Sensitivity Level and a set of categories separated by a colon – EG “s0:c1-s1:c1.c10” means the range from level s0 with category c1 to the level s1 with the set of categories from c1 to c10 inclusive. If it isn’t ranged then it just has a level and a set of categories separated by a colon. In a set of categories a dot is used to indicate a range of categories (all categories between the low one and the high one are included) while a comma indicates a discontinuity in the range. So “c1.c10,c13” means the set of all categories between c1 and c10 inclusive plus the category c13. The kernel will canonicalise category sets, so if it is passed “c1,c2,c3” then it will return “c1.c3“. These raw labels may be translated into a more human readable form by mcstransd.

Constraint is a rule that restricts access. SE Linux is based on the concept of deny by default and the domain-type model uses rules to allow certain actions. Constraints are used for special cases where access needs to be restricted outside of the domain-type model. MCS and MLS are implemented using constraints.

MySQL Cheat Sheet

This document is designed to be a cheat-sheet for MySQL. I don’t plan to cover everything, just most things that a novice MySQL DBA is likely to need often or in a hurry.

Configuring mysqld

If you are going to provide a database service to other machines edit /etc/mysql/my.cnf and set the bind-address parameter to a suitable value. A value of will cause it to accept connections on any of the server’s addresses. I recommend using a private address range (,, or for such database connections and ideally a
back-end VLAN or Ethernet switch that doesn’t carry any public data.

For the purpose of this post let’s consider the MySQL server to have a private IP address of So you want the my.cnf file to have bind-address =

To start mysql administration use the command mysql -u root. In Debian the root account has no password by default, on CentOS 5.x starting mysql for the first time gives a message:
To do so, start the server, then issue the following commands:
/usr/bin/mysqladmin -u root password ‘new-password’
/usr/bin/mysqladmin -u root -h server password ‘new-password’

That is wrong, for the second mysqladmin command you need a “-p” option (or you can reverse the order of the commands).

There is also the /usr/bin/mysql_secure_installation script that has an interactive dialog for locking down the MySQL database.

Administrative Password Recovery

If you lose the administration password the recovery process is as follows:

  1. Stop the mysqld, this may require killing the daemon if the password for the system account used for shutdown access is also lost.
  2. Start mysqld with the --skip-grant-tables option.
  3. Use SQL commands such as “UPDATE mysql.user SET Password=PASSWORD('password') WHERE User='root';” to recover the passwords you need.
  4. Use the SQL command “FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
  5. Restart mysqld in the normal manner.

User Configuration

For an account to automatically login to mysql you need to create a file named ~/.my.cnf with the following contents:

Replace USERNAME. PASSWORD, and DBNAME with the appropriate values. They are all optional parameters. This saves using mysql client parameters -u parameter for the username, “-p for the password, and specifying the database name on the command line. Note that using the “-pPASSWORD” command-line option to the mysql client is insecure on multi-user systems as (in the absence of any security system such as SE Linux) any user can briefly see the password via ps.

Note that the presence of the database= option in the config file breaks mysqlshow and mysqldump for MySQL 5.1.51 (and presumably earlier versions too). So it’s often a bad idea to use it.


To grant all access to a new database:
USE foo_db;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON foo_db.* to 'user'@'' IDENTIFIED BY 'pass';

Where is the client address and pass is the password. Replace with % if you want to allow access from any client address.

Note that if you use “foo_db” instead of “foo_db.*” then you will end up granting access to foo_db.foo_db (a table named foo_db in the foo_db database) which generally is not what you want.

To grant read-only access replace “ALL PRIVILEGES” with “SELECT“.

To show what is granted to the current user run “SHOW GRANTS;” .

To show the privs for a particular user run “SHOW GRANTS FOR ‘user’@’’;

To show all entries in the user table (user-name, password, and hostname):
USE mysql;
SELECT Host,User,Password FROM user;

To do the same thing at the command-line:
echo “SELECT Host,User,Password FROM user;” | mysql mysql

To revoke access:

To test a user’s access connect as the user with a command such as the following:
mysql -u user -h -p foo_db

Then test that the user can create tables with the following mysql commands:

Listing the Databases

To list all databases that are active on the selected server run “mysqlshow“, it uses the same methods of determining the username and password as the mysql client program.

To list all tables in a database run “SHOW TABLES;” . For more detail select from INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES or run “SHOW TABLE STATUS;

For example to see the engine that is used for each table you can use the command echo “SELECT table_schema, table_name, engine FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES;” |mysql.

But INFORMATION_SCHEMA.TABLES is only in Mysql 5 and above, for prior versions you can use mysqldump -d to get the schema, or “SHOW CREATE TABLE table_name;” at the command-line.

Also the mysqldump program can be used to display the tables in a database via “mysqlshow database” or the columns in a table via “mysqlshow database table“.

To list active connections: “SHOW PROCESSLIST;”

Database backup

The program mysqldump is used to make a SQL dump of the database. EG: “mysqldump mysql” to dump the system tables. The data compresses well (being plain text of a regular format) so piping it through “gzip -9” is a good idea. To backup the system database you could run “mysqldump mysql | gzip -9 > mysql.sql.gz“. To restore simply run “mysql -u user database < file“, in the case of the previous example “zcat mysql.sql.gz | mysql -u root database“.

To dump only selected tables you can run “mysqldump database table1 [table2]“.

The option --skip-extended-insert means that a single INSERT statement will be used for each row. This gives a bigger dump file but allows running diff on multiple dump files.

The option --all-databases or -A dumps all databases.

The option --add-locks causes the tables to be locked on insert and improves performance.

Note that mysqldump blocks other database write operations so don’t pipe it through less or any other process that won’t read all the data in a small amount of time.

mysqldump -d DB_NAME dumps the schema.

The option --single-transaction causes mysqldump to use a transaction for the dump (so that the database can be used in the mean time). This only works with INNODB. To convert a table to INNODB the following command can be used:

To create a slave run mysqldump with the --master-data=1.

When a master has it’s binary logs get too big a command such as “PURGE MASTER LOGS BEFORE ‘2008-12-02 22:46:26’;” will purge the old logs. An alternate version is of the form “PURGE MASTER LOGS TO ‘mysql-bin.010’;“. The MySQL documentation describes how to view the slave status to make sure that this doesn’t break replication.

thanks.txt on my Play Machine

On my SE Linux Play Machine I have a file in the root home directory named thanks.txt_append_only_dont_edit_with_vi which users can append random comments to. It kept slowly growing from the time of Fedora Core 2 to today, here is the text. Any text within brackets is my response to a question.

you can send messages to the owner through this file
should I be able to see dmesg output?
Lon was here
Is this a virtual machine? [at that time it wasn’t, it is now]

nice toy here :)
cool stuff – will you be posting instructions on how to lock down a machine like this? [yes]

Had fun poking around
Impressive stuff, though I’m not exactly a security expert ;)

I guess it’s a bit better than LIDS. I’ll give it a try
Does there even have to be a root user? could it have been a ‘John’ instead with no impact on the fedora system? [the user name was never an issue, changing a Unix system to have “John” map to UID 0 is no big deal]
nice toy…
This is my first look at SElinux, very secure but seems broken from a desktop usability standpoint. Is FC2’s policy to be more liberal than this? [SE Linux has been continually improving]
Out of curiosity are you running exec-shield as well [sometimes yes, sometimes no, depends on the distro]

This machine is a little bit more permissive than the Gentoo machine,
I can actually read the security policy files! [by design, you can look and learn]
Thanx and have a nice day
I was able to coredump bash and read some history enries. see ./coredumptest Is this expected behaviour? kenny @ [you could have just read ~/.bash_history or run the “history” command]
exec-shield what is that? When I ran this command It gives a error: -bash: exec-shield: command not found [exec-shield is a kernel patch to prevent some application exploits which rely on writable and executable memory]
Where are the security policy files? Excelent job here! Thank you for the public root account ;-p

Very interesting.
Russel ! Thank You for work, Thank You for this box. SELinux Rulz ! [s/Russel/Russell/ :-)]
I was able to fill up the filesystem to 100% (/tmp) and I was able to terminate the shells of other root users
[Filling the root fs is a DOS attack, read the MOTD.]
[Killing the shells of other users is expected behavior, they are all using the same account as you!]

The tar program sure gets upset. I untar something that was originally tarred up as UID 1000, and it gets changed to that. Then I try to untar a second portion of the data, and I get all sorts of errors. Had the UID change been blocked, the errors wouldn’t happen when the second tar tries to write to the directories again. Errors look like this:

tar: procps-3.2.1/test/ps/thread-nosort-L/header: Cannot open: No such file or directory
tar: procps-3.2.1/test/ps/thread-nosort-default: Cannot mkdir: No such file or directory
tar: procps-3.2.1/test/ps/thread-nosort-default/setup: Cannot open: No such file or direc

You’re seriously short on RAM. Only about 9 MB are free. Nothing I can view is eating it. Programs are crashing due to lack of memory. [you don’t have permission to see most processes]

can’t wait for fedora core 2. this is one sweet security setup. hopefully a howto will come out, plus maybe a gui for the windows folks.

thanks. you’ve inspired me to install fedora. cool stuff.

Thanks very much for setting this box up. It is a great learning tool

I note that I can’t ping, traceroute or telnet off the box. Is this intentional? Is this part of the lockdown to show me that I can’t do things I expect to be able to do with uid 0? My initial impression is that without those functions it is not very useful to have a system. [in the early days I allowed such things, but they were abused too often]

Have you updated the kernel with the information in this
post? Have you tried whether that might be a real exploitable vulnerability?
Sorry about the formatting of the url. [there are kernel vulnerabilities all the time, I keep updating it to the latest kernel]
Its very interesting. Thank you.
bagus juga pengamanan boxnya. salam dari indonesia
##\n thanks from me too\n##
##/nD’oh’/n thanks from a Windows Luser too/n##
hello althepcman was here
Thanks very much for setting this box up. I’ll try the SELinux on Fedora Core 2.
thank your for your great job, Fedora is great
thanks, from argentina, i really dont like fedora…in fact im a debian or gentoo user…but i think that fedora its kind a cool thing
nice small server with fine security patch. thx for the try-out. greetings from hannover/germany

Thanks from Brazil. I’m studying selinux and ids integration and probably I’m gonna come back here. marciorg at
is it correctly that root can sudo ?

-bash-3.00# ps auxw
root 20860 0.0 0.5 5576 1432 pts/42 Ss+ 07:44 0:00 -bash
root 20910 0.0 0.5 4852 1296 pts/43 Ss+ 08:02 0:00 bash -i
root 21033 0.0 0.5 5092 1436 pts/45 Ss+ 08:29 0:00 -bash
root 21105 0.0 0.5 4860 1460 pts/46 Ss 08:39 0:00 -bash
root 21219 0.0 0.2 2708 756 pts/46 R+ 08:55 0:00 ps auxw
-bash-3.00# sudo -u mysql ps auxw
root 20860 0.0 0.5 5576 1432 pts/42 Ss+ 07:44 0:00 -bash
root 20910 0.0 0.5 4852 1296 pts/43 Ss+ 08:02 0:00 bash -i
root 21033 0.0 0.5 5092 1436 pts/45 Ss+ 08:29 0:00 -bash
root 21105 0.0 0.5 4860 1460 pts/46 Ss 08:39 0:00 -bash
mysql 21220 0.0 0.0 2476 252 pts/46 R+ 08:56 0:00 sesh /bin/ps auxw
mysql 21221 0.0 0.2 3844 752 pts/46 R+ 08:56 0:00 /bin/ps auxw

and is it realy sudo? AFAIK mysqld was started on this system, but sudo -u mysql ps auxw doesn’t show me other mysql processes…
[sudo doesn’t change to the mysqld_t domain…]


i’ve written script: i tried to kill hidden pids from /proc using sudo -u rjc kill -9 $pid.
does rjc has 2 roles ? why i couldn’t kill his shell ?
[rjc has 2 roles, neither of which is user_r, so neither of them has the domain user_t that you can kill]


thx in advance :)

rjc, check this out: /root/ls_rjc_home_:)
[fixed – thanks for that, it was due to a bug in locate]
and don’t forget about sudo plz :)
Thanks for the effort to let us experiment with SELinux/Fedora
Thanks alot for this publicly accessible machine! I recenly snagged a RH-specific file for my Debian GNU/Linux-based server :)
thanks for this nice playbox :)

That’s great! I’ve just typed rm -rf / under root and nothing happened! Fantastic! Still can’t believe it!
Thanks for the opportunity to let Linux enthusiasts learn SELINux hands-on!
Very cool! Good work!
Now Thats Cool stuff man. (masud.sp at
COOL! thanks for your work :)
Great service, thanks
Nice :)

Excelent\!I will try this at home.

Nice demo, I’ll pass this on to the secuity team to show the concepts
I have been pushing for more SE Linux deployments but policy managment is a big cost

Nice works\!
SELinux is interesting.
Dear Russell Coker,

Thanks to providing Play machine, this concept is mind blowing.

This will help community to grow.

Thanks again with regards,

Deepak Mahajan
Head – Internet
Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.
Jalgaon – India
thanks – very interesting – perfect to get a first look at the selinux features
Thanks for the demo system, very cool!
This is just cool….Great wok Russell ………. anspuli

very good!
thanks. my work have a new possibilit now!

thanks for the access – rgds rhp
killroy was here
this really is amazing. thanks for the demo. – db
how do you do normal root admin stuff on a selinux system with strict policies in force? [you do it as sysadm_r:sysadm_t]
Thanks for the access.
thank you — a brave man indead !
Nice box.
Thanks for sharing it with us!
—-[ The OOM Killer ]—-
root can still eat up all memory and the next process that requests memory will be killed by the kernel. that could be something important like apache on a server, or the “top” of the admin trying to figure out what’s going on, etc
memory usage should be limited
[Limiting the number of processes root can use is impossible, therefore trying to limit memory use is not going to be very productive. So I just make the conditions of use include that DOS attacks are not acceptable. For real servers don’t give the root account to hostile users and use SE Linux to help prevent hostile users getting root.]
mcgrof: how about limiting number of open binds maybe?
mcgrof: anyway, thanks , this is cool
mcgrof: I logged out and the listening ports are still here
mcgrof: I killed them for you
[Again, SE Linux isn’t about resource limitation. Note that you can’t bind to a port that’s reserved for some other purpose.]

this server sucks, cant even do a simple rm -rf / :)

mcgrof: re: binds — yeah, makes sense, thanks anyway, this is great


Nice to have a hands-on SE Linux demo available! What has been bugging me for a long time: How does SE Linux compare to RSBAC? I read the mailing list discussions^H^H^Hflamewars, but didn’t get any useful information out of it.

HOW-TO make demo SeLinux machine? Tambov ,Russia
Hallo Welt
Nice Try
Thanks for this test system. I just copied the thanks.txt_append_only_dont_edit_with_vi file to a different name, which it allowed me to do. It appeared to have the same permissions as the original file. [“ls -lZ” shows the SE Linux contexts of files, the file you copied had a different “type”] I couldn’t delete the original file, but it allowed me to delete the copy. I also tried to shutdown the system and was denied. Good demonstration of SELinux.

thanks, very cool

sweet! with the help of your configuration I managed to set up my Debian box; didn’t try to break it though, looks pretty hopeless concerning my security background. i’ll be back to learn more; thanks

I’m Sorry.I’ve executed it programming continuousness fork.But It’s not being malicious.Sorry really [don’t worry, that happens all the time]
Very impressive, thanks for the demonstration
Thanks Russell, xor007 from South Africa
thanks for showing off your excellent work ~Alicia
Kool. a very intrestig demo
iCanMakeAFile in my home directory.
good that root can still do this.
pretty wacky, see what else is around here for me to try to muck up.
Ooh, root can make files in its homedir.

thx! linio


Thanks for setting up a machine like this! Are there any newer packages installed than what comes with Debian Etch? Or can I build myself a machine like this using nothing but the etch packages? [during Etch I had my own repository for updated packages, now I’m doing the same for Lenny]

neat. – folken from CH
eat meat
Thanks… — Philipp Kern ()(DD)

Nice one Russ.

mlh 2007 11 05 13:48

Very cool. Thanks a lot
From Russia with Fun! Thx u. skynerve
16 nov 2007
Funny to allow strangers root access to your computer, but still be safe. :-)
Still I think a little more documentation for SELinux-newbies could be very useful…


great. just fucking great. russel FTW\!\!\!11one

That’s pretty cool.

cool do you have an apparmor play machine too? [it would be possible to run an apparmor Play Machine, but no-one bothered]
Thanks for this nice setup, i’m not a security expert but the few things I tried where not allowed ;), way to go
The fact that you feel secure even after giving out the root password has motivated me to finally dive into SELinux – thanks!
Nice to meet you! I am from a university of China.
It’s strange playing on a machine in the future; I’m on the other side of
the international dateline.
amazing do i can do it on my debian too?:)
i will try second time with selinux maybe is not too diffcult for me.
Kelaz was herels

cool! gonna install this on my laptop. ^.^

Hello Mon Jan 21 15:32:59 EST 2008
nice… having an open box like this is a ballsy move i really respect that.
if you don’t see the fnords they can’t eat you
nice, you can’t even ls /etc/shadow ;)
Nice one


Hi there,

Thanks for the server, the best I can do so far is to have the box connect to itself continuously through ssh port so no one can log in.


ohls -lsa! i can change passwordls -lsals -lsa [I stuffed up there]
This is pretty cool. Unfortunately, this is only the second time I’m logging into a remote shell so I’m just basking in the novelty and not really contributing anything of worth -George
PRRV-Test from Austria
well, thanx ;) .. i’ll read and learn about selinux i come back ;) .. bodik civ zcu cz
I not able to delete /root/.ssh/authorized_keys, but was able to overwrite it. Should this have been allowed? [no]
sorry for the forkbombs!!!!
Thanks for the peek inside!
I noticed some crashes in the last logins, what caused the crash?
I am internet famousls – Murray.
Would be internet famous if I could spell
[crashes are usually caused by DOS attacks]
i was here
Pretty neat! Thanks Russel
root:user_r:user_t:-s0:c0.c100@play:~# hostname test
hostname: you must be root to change the host name
Nice :)
Mon Jul 7 05:48:55 EST 2008
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to test this machine
SELINUX student from INDIA
Hi there!

Nice security. This convinces me to have a beter look at SELinux


JL Lacroix from Belgium
Wed Jul 23 16:15:35 EST 2008

SELINUX is really enormous!
pretty cool setup / Henrik
Thx, nice demo!
format:c dont work, maybe a bug
Thanks for the really amusing demo! -e

thanks for this stuff. it is a good starting point for SELINUX.
thanks a lot for the opportunity to try this. a big THX from MDQ, Argentina ;) ….zer0
Thanks for a great demo\nMichel van Deventer, Netherlands\

Interesting. I’ve always had reservations about SE Linux, because it introduces another security layer on top of the standard posix model – even with the “normal” model you can sometimes accidentally miss things. I’d be interested to hear how SE Linux has an impact on the daily life of an administrator.

Anyways, thanks.

— Random person from Belgium

Someone wrote “very impressive” in banner art.


Thanks for the demostration\!\!
I really need to learn more about SELinux
Great job\!

My name is Alexandre Stefani
What you do is really cool. I_m learning SELinux and will install it on my Debian
Thanks a lot. I_ll purchase a T-Shirt soon.

Thanks for the demo.
please install iptraf and mc. it would be real fun. thanks!
Hello. Leave your handle here:
Malformation – 27/10/08
I don’t remember writing that! -Malformation

Hello from SELinux course from Austria
SO, root is no more the boss now, \n but you do have a boss i.e SE admin \n root is a normal handicap user on this machine

Ahoy from around the world! This is an amazing demonstration! Are the files in /selinux supposed to be world readable (even though the parent directory restricts access)? Seems to me that a tiny privacy issue exists with concurrent play users and their /proc/${SESSIONPROCNUM}/environ file. Then again, I am a newb…. Thanks & feel free to reply to my comments at! [When two users login with the same UID and context then they can mess with each other, the privacy issue of the environ file is just the tip of the iceberg.]

…. what I meant to say was world-writable… lol.. later -peritus

Cool.Best regards!
best regards from Poland:) Nice work here. When will be the demo how to create this kind of machine? ^_^
Greetings from Chicago, i’m very much interested inlearning SELinux. Thanks for kindly providing this resource
Thanks from pl.
thank you for providing this. I really want to learn selinux.

Thanks Russell.

[update Oct 2009]
It would be nice if you explained how to setup such a play machine.
[that’s on my todo list]
when i grow up ill build such mashines for educational puropses. Necessary docs, tutorials, and an ability to tune the system during one paticular session. And of course – tests: are you sucsessfull. Such a system could be a wonderful alternative to e.g. LPI exams: show me. Communications inside one particular computer system. When i grow up – i’ll know English better =)
seLinux is fun.
Hi, All.
the point is to break the machine?
[the point is to discover security flaws]
Interesting, going to read up on this and maybe set up a VM… sounds like fun! Thanks :)
Hola. Archivo de pruebas.
nice setup
hi all
oru kundhoom nadakkunnilla
Thanks for making this available – I’m just starting to look into SELinux in the hopes that it offers a usably simple security model…
I am fascinated by the fact that I can append to this file, but not remo
ve or truncate it. I like the fine-grained opermissions!
bla bla bla
selinux looks very cool. thank you for providing this.
Hello <3 selinux
win, or WIN.
all your base are belong to us
[Section 2 of the MOTD clearly says that DOS attacks are out of scope]
Hello Kind Sir,
I am Dr. Adamu Salaam, the the bank manager of bank of africa (BOA) Burkina Faso West
I am sending you this message about the $3.14159 million dollars in bank
account number 2718281828450945. I will give you this money in exchange
for the password to the ‘bofh’ account.
[Thanks for the amusing offer. I’ve been offered stolen credit cards and other
junk for the password, Pi million dollars in the account numbered “e” is a
refreshing change.]
Can you recommend any textbooks that teach selinux? Presumably targeted at a Linux SA.
weird stuff this. doesn’t feel like being root :)
Why no /proc/mtrr ? I want to run exploit!
[/proc/mtrr doesn’t exist in a Xen DomU, there wouldn’t be much point in it]
SQL injection doesn’t work on flat files
Hello, boys! :)
Really good
pretty cool…gonna be learning this reall soon. — Glitch
good job! Is this a custom build of selinux policy?
[Custom configuration, but the main policy package is the same one that everyone else should be using]
Great setup, Mr Coker. :)
Cool. Thanks for the opportunity to play with this.
good job SELINUX is really great :)
congratulations Sir it’s really good fun to play with Your server.. SELINUX rules cat thanks.txt_append_only_dont_edit_with_vi ! ~kawooem
seems untouchable… please post your SELinux recepies
Also thanks for this Testmachine, i could test my ISP if he was allowing ssh over cable network.
Greets JacksOn
thanks… interesting
thanks.. interesting CANARIS
@ CANARIS: Yes, just what I was going to say :) ~gmatht
mmm4m5m: Nice. Thanks. I was here.
Managed to get the server to reboot with your tight selinux … ;)
18:56:43 up 1 min, 1 user, load average: 0.08, 0.06, 0.02
[That was the watchdog responding to your DOS attack. NB DOS attacks are out of scope.]
David Jacobson
From South Africa – Down under! []
09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
I’m curious about malicious commands, i.e. do you consider malicious commands such as:
rm -rf / or using mkfs on / or using a fork bomb liek :(){:|:&};: is considered a security flaw or a type of DOS, didn’t want to try them just incase.
[A fork bomb is a DOS attack, rm -rf and mkfs are legitimate tests of the
security of the system. I encourage you to use rm and mkfs to test the system.]
I’m also curious, if you log on to the console, not ssh, but physical, as root, are the SEL restrestrictions lifted?
[No, the restrictions are based on the context not the terminal. It is
possible to have pam restrict which accounts can login via various methods, so
accounts that allow higher levels of access could be denied ssh logins.
Also there is a boolean to determine whether the administrator can login via
ssh, I have that turned on but for best security you would turn it off.]
Thanks for letting us play on this box. It is a good demo. Perhaps I should not discount SELinux as just a pain in the butt like I traditionally have.
impressive indeed. -reablettoz
This is really cool stuff, thanks for the demo! Gotta say, the real
“wow” moment for me was when I ran top and couldn’t see any procs but my own.
BTW ssh is a bit laggy for me when logged into this box, moreso that most
machines I ssh into. Would selinux have anything to do with this, or have I
just ended up with a slow/laggy link?
— Daniel Gnoutcheff <>
Sun Jul 19 23:24:51 UTC 2009
[I was in the middle of doing a big file transfer when you logged in. But even if I wasn’t the link is a SOHO grade connection so you don’t expect the same quality as a proper data-center.]
Nice, I’ll have to look into this. Thanks for the demo\!
Herro people :3
nice one
Sorry bout the fork-bomb yesterday :3
you know it works when your instinct is to rerun with sudo before realizeing youralready root lol
test test
Wow, this is cool! SELinux rules! I got to try this on my own machine
Hello from Russia
Hello from San Juan, Puerto Rico!
I just found out about this server by reading the SELinux book from O’Reilly. The book is pretty old (2004) and I’m glad to know the URL provided on the book still works!
All the best,
22:09:47 up 21:34, 1 user, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
Great job with this one, i’ve tried a number of things –
attemtping to get cron to run the files as bofh (no luck, cron transitions to the context im in)
attempting to put hard links in /root so that it relabels key files (no luck, /root is on a different partition)
attempting to mknod a block device (no luck, nodev is set in the mount options and there isnt many places I can write to anyway)
attempting to signal a coredump of “chage” (which doesnt complain when i run it by the way!) so I can read shadow.
attempting to perform sigstop on chage so i can ouput the file descriptor (no luck, chage transitions, i cant read its proc entry nor can i signal it anyway)
attempting to chroot a new environment (no luck, no chroot process privilege)
I think the closest i got was trying to manipulate chage, but i was far far off then. That or being able to write to bofh crontab.
The most effective way to get around the selinux restrictuions would probably be to get read access to /dev/hdc then run debugfs on it to dump the shadow file. But I spent too long on this now anyway!
Great work!

Installing SE Linux on Debian/Lenny

Currently Debian/Lenny contains all packages needed to run SE Linux. Development continues so there are periodic updates which sit in Unstable for a while before migrating to Lenny (testing).

I have set up my own APT repository for SE Linux packages. This has packages that need newer versions than in Lenny but which will be in Lenny eventually (which includes the latest policy packages) as well as my own modified packages to fix bugs that won’t be fixed in Lenny. After Lenny is released I will maintain the repository for i386 and AMD64 for bug fixes and new features above what is in Lenny.

gpg --keyserver hkp:// --recv-key F5C75256
gpg -a --export F5C75256 | apt-key add –

To enable the use of my repository you must first run the above two commands to retrieve and install my GPG key (take appropriate measures to verify that you have the correct key).

deb lenny selinux

Then add the above line to /etc/apt/sources.list and run “apt-get update” to download the list of packages.

Next run the command “apt-get install selinux-policy-default selinux-basics” to install all the necessary packages. After that is done you need the file /.autorelabel to exist for the next boot to cause the filesystems to be labeled. The file /boot/grub/menu.lst needs to have “selinux=1” on the end of the line which starts with “# kopt=” (and the kernel command-lines for each kernel). You can do this manually but the recommended thing to do is to run the command selinux-activate, if given no parameters it will apply all the necessary tweaks to enable SE Linux (it changes PAM configuration files, GRUB configuration, and creates /.autorelabel.

Note that if you use gdm then the file /etc/pam.d/gdm needs to have the line moved to before the GNOME key lines. I need to update the selinux-basics package for this.

Then reboot and the filesystems will be relabeled. The relabel process will cause a second automatic reboot of the machine (it needs to be rebooted so that init gets the correct context). After that is finished the machine will be running in “permissive mode“, this means that SE Linux will log the actions that it would deny, but they will still be performed.

To put the machine in “enforcing mode” you can run the command “setenforce 1“, this means that SE Linux actually controls access to the machine. When you are confident that the machine is working correctly you can edit the file /etc/selinux/config and change the SELINUX= line to specify that it is in “enforcing” mode. The script selinux-config-enforcing will do this for you (with no parameters if configures SE Linux to be in enforcing mode at the next boot). If you need to override this (for example if critical files get the wrong labels and prevent booting) then the kernel command-line option enforcing=0 will override it. I will add a new command selinux-config-enforcing to the selinux-basics package to manage this (it will hopefully be there for Lenny).

If you use Postfix then you need to run it without chroot, the command postfix-nochroot will configure Postfix to not use chroot and will restart it. This script is included in the selinux-basics package but will hopefully be in Postfix for Lenny+1 (I think that many people who don’t use SE Linux will be able to use it).

In summary here are the commands you need:
apt-get install selinux-policy-default selinux-basics