colourful words and phrases

techy tangents and general life chatter from a tired sysadmin.

Google Drive, or why people need to stop causing unnecessary drama

So there's been some ruckus lately because, following the launch of Google Drive, people took to the internet to compare the Terms & Conditions of Google Drive, to that of Dropbox and SkyDrive. The main point seems to be that people see Google Drive's T&Cs as being too unrestrictive. Case in point:!/jmacdonald/s...

What I have a big problem with, is that people don't seem to have properly read the relevant portion of Google's terms and conditions. The full text of this portion is as follows:

Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

What this essentially states is "You retain full rights to all content you submit to a google service. When you do this, you grant us and our partners the right to store, copy, modify (This is for things like converting document formats), create derivative works (This is things like thumbnails, scaled/rotated/edits that you perform to photos in Picasa's photo editor), communicate (Transmit over the internet), publish (Display on a blog post, for instance), publicly display (Displaying things on the internet is a public display) and distribute the content (Transmitting your data through various google services). This license you grant us, only allows us to use the agreed rights when operating our services, promoting our services (Remember, this is not a google drive specific Terms & Conditions, this is for all of google's services, so this can include things like reviews on Google Maps), improving our services, and creating new services."

The main issue that people seem to have is they don't read the line that states Google can only use the agreed rights when operating/improving/promoting their services, or when creating new services. It also states that there are "terms or settings" which further narrow down what Google is actually allowed to do with your data, and chances are there is, or soon will be, a supplimentary Terms & Conditions page specific to Google Drive.

The jist of this is, you retain full rights to all content you put on google drive. Google is only allowed to do things like convert your files between data formats (Word Document to RTF, for instance, or JPG to PNG), or transfer your data between their servers. The license includes stuff like that because you clicking "Convert my document to Word please" does not constitute you giving google the right to actually perform that action, they have to have the rights in the license to avoid any legal issues. Google does not, contrary to what everyone seems to believe, reserve the right to take your holiday photos from Google Drive and use it as the background on the main google home page.

Calm down, people. It's not nearly as bad as you claim.

The journey of a thousand frustrations begins with a single step

There are times when linux frustrates me. Not with issues specific to one distro, but software packages in general which are written for linux.

My prime example here is Watch. In Gentoo, it's included in the procps package. I recently was confused to find that my ident daemon, which I keep running because I'm an avid IRC user, was being flooded with traffic near constantly. Netstat told me it was because of two IRC servers I ran. So I logged in, checked netstat there, and sure enough, it was them. But I had no idea what process on the servers was actually creating the connections.

I assumed it would be the ircd itself, but I wanted proof before investigating further. No problem, I thought, I'll just run watch --differences=cumulative -n 0.1 'lsof +M -i4|grep auth', which according to watch's manpage, would show what's changed in a command's output, rather than clearing the screen and displaying the output every .1 seconds. It did do this, in a way, however, because the program creating the connection to my ident server only kept that connection for a fraction of a second, the output vanished, and thanks to the unhelpful way that watch handles output which only shows up once, all I got was some white blocks showing that there had at one point been text there.

My solution? Throw together a bash one-liner which looped infinitely until the offending program was identified: while true; do UNR=$(lsof -M -i4|grep auth); if [ -n "$UNR" ]; then echo "$UNR"; break; fi; done

This did eventually work, and it turned out to be a runaway process on my personal box constantly creating connections to both IRC servers.


A while ago I installed this script which was inspired by this xkcd comic. I keep forgetting it's installed, but that itself makes for some hilarious double-take moments when bowsing.

The case for not using Arch

I run a number of different servers from a number of different providers. I also run servers for friends. In this post, I'll be discussing one server in particular, a friend's server that's primarily used for IRC, web hosting and minecraft. This server runs Arch.

Now I'm going to start by saying I don't always make fantastic decisions and I'm not always known for making sure everything's perfect before rebooting a server. I have, in the past, screwed servers up. But this case was a little different.

Yesterday I log into the server to update a firewall rule, and discover that, because I've never used the nat table in iptables before on that box, the module was never loaded. Of course, the box has fantastic uptime and hasn't been rebooted in over 160 days. Now I'll stop for a second to mention how Arch handles kernel upgrades. When the kernel's upgraded, the previous kernel is left on the system, and all kernels older than that are removed completely. This includes the currently running kernel, and all modules. And this box hadn't been rebooted since kernel 3 was released. I have the box set up to be as zero-maintenance as possible. Emails whenever anything happens, cronjobs taking care of updates and removal of old packages from the cache, scripts to reboot any services that have crashed, gone down or have stopped responding. But as I discovered during a routine check a week prior, the Arch box hadn't been upgrading any of its packages due to a recent change to the filesystem package. I manually started the update process, it informed me that it couldn't upgrade the system because of a file conflict (as the news article mentioned). No problem, I force-installed the update to filesystem and then upgraded the rest of the system as usual.

Now fast-forward back to yesterday, I'm telling my friend I need to reboot his server to apply the firewall rule. He gives the okay, and I reboot the server. Emails flood in saying that various services are down and that the server's offline, as always. But then a few minutes pass, there's no email that everything's back online again. I ping the server, nothing. Log into the server host's control panel, it's listed as online, so I VNC into it to see what the issue is. It can't find the harddrive and has thrown itself into a recovery terminal. What.

I figure a kernel change has messed with the partitions, so I boot the server into my usual recovery system - the gentoo live CD. Nothing seems out of place with grub or the fstab, so I look at the next culprit - the config file for mkinitcpio. It's blank.

Somehow, pacman disregarded the usual rules about protecting config files against being overwritten and messed with the config file, so the initramfs Arch needs in order to boot up properly was completely broken. No problem, I'll just chroot in -- OH WAIT. The Gentoo LiveCD runs kernel 2.6.31, and arch refuses to do /absolutely anything/ unless the kernel is new enough (In this case it had to be 2.6.32 or newer). The server host isn't exactly good, and doesn't provide any recent install media. Cue ten minutes of me googling for the kernel versions of everything in the media list, eventually settling for a Fedora 13 disk that had a recent-enough kernel. I get chrooted in, fix the mkinitcpio config and start generating the images. It complains that /dev isn't mounted. Okay. I look at the source for mkinitcpio, discover it's trying to access /dev/fd, which somehow doesn't exist. I symlink it over from /proc/self/fd and start it again. Everything seems to work, so I reboot.

This time, it recognises the hard drive, but the partition device names have changed. It's now seeing the disk as /dev/xvda. Bizarre, but has happened before. I boot the gentoo livecd again, edit grub's menu.lst and fstab, reboot back into Arch. It boots! But doesn't have a network connection. By this point, I'm close to pulling out my hair. I google around and find that because I included a bunch of xen drivers that mkinitcpio forgot before, everything's working a little differently. Specifically, it now works closer with Xen, and is trying to unplug everything at boot. No problem, I'll put xen-emul-unplug=none in the kernel boot line. Reboot the server and the harddrive device name has changed again. I boot into gentoo, change menu.lst and fstab to use /dev/sda again, and reboot.

Finally, the server's booted and has a network connection. And this is why I no longer install arch on any of my boxen. I can't trust it to reboot without throwing a hissy fit and killing itself.

TL;DR Arch package issue sends me on an hour-long crusade to make a box boot again.

Start as you mean to go on

So for the millionth time, I'm starting a blog. Hopefully, this time I'll actually have stuff to write about. As a bit of an introduction, I'm Maff. I'm a computer science student, sysadmin and server support drone from Scotland. I'm also a bit of a designer, a developer and a security dork. I also love videogames, music and a whole host of other things.

I'm starting this blog in part because I want somewhere to document my pursuits (software or otherwise), but also as a place to post about the funny things that happen in real life, and as a place to rant. I may also post about the software I write, from time to time - I'm a semi-active developer over at github, and I'm the gentoo package maintainer for Monitorix.