Steven Levy, 2001, Viking

It’s subtitled “How the Code Rebels Beat the Government — Saving Privacy in the Digital Age”, and the common theme throughout the book is the “code rebels” (the individuals outside the NSA who were interested in cryptography) against the US government (whose interest and involvement in cryptography diametrically opposed those rebels’ privacy concerns). It is an interesting read, and provides a readable, (mostly) non-technical overview of cryptography. It starts with Whit Diffie’s realization that the privacy of his information on an multi-user timesharing system was in the hands of, and at the mercy of, the system administrator; the more he thought about that, the more he became convinced that there had to be a better way, and that as computers and networks became widespread, the privacy of his information and his communications was increasingly at stake. The story takes off from there.

Coincidentally, the day after I finished reading Crypto, the latest issue of Wired showed up in the mail. This issue’s (August 2005, 13.08) cover story is “10 Years that Changed the World” and is the story of the Web, the start of Netscape, and the explosion of the Web into almost every facet of life as we know it. I was struck by how much the work of those cryptographers enabled that explosion and changed the way we live and communicate. No e-commerce without that public key cryptography they worked so hard to invent and then, in spite of the government, make both available and reasonably secure would mean no overnight shipment of books on CSS and Python from Amazon.

Red Leaves

Thomas H. Cook, 2005, Harcourt

Written by one my favorite authors, this is a book that I could not put down (almost literally). Deb grabbed it from the library on a Wednesday evening, and I finished it Thursday evening. Cook’s writing is always dark — Deb says it is often too dark for her. Reading this book is watching a man — father, husband, son, brother — as his life comes apart after an 8-year old girl disappears, last seen by his 15-year old son. Gripping. Disturbing. Sad. Thought-provoking. Beautifully written. True Cook in his depiction of relationships and how shallow and false they can be, how little we may really know about the people in our lives.

Grab your kids. Hug them. Talk to them. Love them. Know them.

Dual-headed Goodness

I finally figured out how to get my desktop box at work, running Ubuntu (of course!), to deal with the Matrox Parhelia P650 dual-headed video card and the pair of Dell 2001FP digital flat-panel monitors connected. I grabbed the latest Linux version of the Matrox video drivers from the Matrox driver support page, followed the binary driver installation instructions from the Ubuntu Wiki (Thanks, Cory!), and (after much Googling around for example configurations and a couple of false starts) cobbled together the following xorg.conf file. As always, YMMV significantly.

# /etc/X11/xorg.conf (xorg X Window System server configuration file)

Section "Files"
       FontPath        "unix/:7100"                    # local font server
       # if the local font server has problems, we can fall back on these
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/misc"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/cyrillic"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi/:unscaled"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi/:unscaled"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/Type1"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/CID"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi"
       FontPath        "/usr/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi"
       # paths to defoma fonts
       FontPath        "/var/lib/defoma/x-ttcidfont-conf.d/dirs/TrueType"
       FontPath        "/var/lib/defoma/x-ttcidfont-conf.d/dirs/CID"

Section "Module"
       Load    "bitmap"
       Load    "dbe"
       Load    "ddc"
       Load    "dri"
       Load    "extmod"
       Load    "freetype"
       Load    "glx"
       Load    "int10"
       Load    "record"
       Load    "type1"
       Load    "vbe"

Section "InputDevice"
       Identifier      "Generic Keyboard"
       Driver          "keyboard"
       Option          "CoreKeyboard"
       Option          "XkbRules"      "xorg"
       Option          "XkbModel"      "pc104"
       Option          "XkbLayout"     "us"

Section "InputDevice"
       Identifier      "Configured Mouse"
       Driver          "mouse"
       Option          "CorePointer"
       Option          "Device"                "/dev/input/mice"
       Option          "Protocol"              "ImPS/2"
       Option          "Emulate3Buttons"       "true"
       Option          "ZAxisMapping"          "4 5"

Section "Device"
       Identifier      "MatroxVideoCard0"
       Driver          "mtx"
       BusID           "PCI:1:0:0"
       Option          "HWcursor" "off"
       Screen 0
       Option          "DigitalScreen1" "on"

Section "Device"
       Identifier      "MatroxVideoCard1"
       Driver          "mtx"
       BusID           "PCI:1:0:0"
       Option          "HWcursor" "off"
       Screen 1
       Option          "DigitalScreen2" "on"

Section "Monitor"
       Identifier      "Monitor0"
       VendorName      "Dell"
       ModelName       "Dell 2001FP (Digital)"
       DisplaySize     410 310
       HorizSync       31.0 - 80.0
       VertRefresh     56.0 - 76.0
       Option          "dpms"

Section "Monitor"
       Identifier      "Monitor1"
       VendorName      "Dell"
       ModelName       "Dell 2001FP (Digital)"
       DisplaySize     410 310
       HorizSync       31.0 - 80.0
       VertRefresh     56.0 - 76.0
       Option          "dpms"

Section "Screen"
       Identifier      "Screen0"
       Device          "MatroxVideoCard0"
       Monitor         "Monitor0"
       DefaultDepth    24
       SubSection "Display"
               Depth 24
               Modes "1600x1200" "1280x1024" "1280x960" "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

Section "Screen"
       Identifier      "Screen1"
       Device          "MatroxVideoCard1"
       Monitor         "Monitor1"
       DefaultDepth    24
       SubSection "Display"
               Depth 24
               Modes "1600x1200" "1280x1024" "1280x960" "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

Section "ServerLayout"
       Identifier      "Dual-headed Configuration"
       Screen "Screen0" RightOf "Screen1"
       Screen "Screen1" 0 0
       InputDevice     "Generic Keyboard"
       InputDevice     "Configured Mouse"

Section "ServerFlags"
       Option          "Xinerama"

Section "DRI"
       Mode    0666

Installing BlueDragon on Ubuntu

Dave Epler presented a great session on LAMBDA boxes at CFUnited-05 in late June 2005. During the course of his presentation, the conversation turned to Ubuntu and his use of it. Dave graciously provided some pointers on getting New Atlanta’s free BlueDragon CFML server installed. With credit to him, here are the steps I had to go through to get BD up and running on my Ubuntu 5.04 boxes. In addition to Ubuntu 5.04, I am running Apache 2.0.53, and installing the free version of BD 6.2. YMMV, of course…

Updated 11.21.2005: These same steps also work verbatim with Ubuntu 5.10, which includes Apache 2.0.54 and MySQL 4.0.24 in its repositories.
Updated 07.03.2006: These same steps, at least down through the automation of the server startup/shutdown, also work verbatim with Ubuntu 6.06, which includes Apache 2.0.55. I have not yet tried for connectivity with my MySQL installation yet. Note also that the name of the file downloaded from the New Atlanta site will be different than shown in the steps below.

Configuring the Directory Structure

BD’s installation script makes some assumptions about where/how the Apache Web server is installed. The BD installation manual covers the gist of what has to happen to get the BD installation to see and recognize the installed Apache so that its connector can be configured; see section 3.7.7 of that document for details. I use the stock Apache2 installation via synaptic on my Ubuntu boxes, and that stock installation is very different from the standard Apache directory structure. As a result, several directories and links need to be established before you run the installation script:

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/apache/bin
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/apache/conf
sudo ln -s /etc/apache2/apache2.conf /usr/local/apache/conf/httpd.conf
sudo ln -s /var/www /usr/local/apache/htdocs
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/apache2/modules /usr/local/apache/modules
sudo ln -s /usr/sbin/apache2 /usr/local/apache/bin/httpd

Installing BlueDragon

With the above directories and symbolic links in place, you should be able to run the BD installation script. If you haven’t done so, download it from the the New Atlanta site. As of this writing, it will come down as a file named “”. This script, if invoked without any arguments, will run a GUI-based installer, but I used (and recommend) the console-mode version:

sudo -i console

I chose to install BD in /opt/bluedragon-6.2, and other than that, pretty much accepted the defaults offered by the installation as it went through. If, toward the end of the installation script, it does not recognize the presence of Apache on your box, Ctrl-C the script, and double-check the folders, links, etc., from above.

The installation script modifies file /usr/local/apache/conf/httpd.conf, but to be consistent with Apache2’s installation methodology on Ubuntu, I took the following steps to make the connection between the Web server:

  1. Delete the updated httpd.conf file (and the renamed version of the symlink) created by the installation script, and re-symlink them as above:
    sudo rm -f /usr/local/apache/conf/httpd.conf
    sudo rm -f /usr/local/apache/conf/httpd.conf.bak
    sudo ln -s /etc/apache2/apache2.conf /usr/local/apache/conf/httpd.conf
  2. Using sudo, create file /etc/apache2/mods-available/servletexec.load with the following content:
    LoadModule servletexec_module /usr/lib/apache2/modules/
  3. Using sudo, create file /etc/apache2/mods-available/servletexec.conf with the following content:
    ServletExecInstances default
    ServletExecAliases default /servlet .cfc .cfm .cfml
    <location /servlet>
    SetHandler servlet-exec
    AddHandler servlet-exec cfc
    AddHandler servlet-exec cfm
    AddHandler servlet-exec cfml
  4. Symlink those two new files into Apache’s configuration:
    sudo ln -s /etc/apache2/mods-available/servletexec.load /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/servletexec.load
    sudo ln -s /etc/apache2/mods-available/servletexec.conf /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/servletexec.conf
  5. Restart Apache, and then manually start the BD server using the following command:
    sudo /opt/bluedragon-6.2/bin/

At this point, the next step is to make sure it actually works. The BD installation script places an index.cfm file in the root of the Web folder (i.e., /var/www/index.cfm). Point your Web browser at http://localhost/index.cfm, and you should see the results rendered as processed CFML (not as CFML source). I also tested my installation by copying /var/www/index.cfm into my user account’s local Web folder:

cp /var/www/index.cfm ~/public_html/index.cfm

and pointing my browser at that folder to make sure that the server would appropriately process CFML files there.

Configuring BD to Run as a Non-root User

For obvious security reasons, we don’t want the BD server to be running as root, so we need to create a group and user for the BD server, and then change the ownership of the BD server files appropriately:

sudo groupadd bdragon
sudo useradd -d '/opt/bluedragon-6.2' -c 'BlueDragon CFML Server' -s /bin/sh -g bdragon bdragon
sudo passwd -l bdragon
sudo chown -R bdragon.bdragon /opt/bluedragon-6.2

Automating Startup/Shutdown

The BD installation script creates an “init” script for the BD server, placing it in /etc/rc.d/init.d/BlueDragon_Server. There are a couple of things that I had to do to that script to get it to work:

  1. That script references a file /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions which does not exist on (at least my) Ubuntu boxes. Comment out that line.
  2. Add a line setting a variable that specifies the user under whose identity the server is to run.
  3. Tweak the lines that start and stop the BD server, to specify that you want the process run as the user ‘bdragon’ that you created above. My startup script looks like this. (Note: ‘daemon’ was not installed by default on my system, but is available for installation via synaptic.):
    # Startup script for the BlueDragon Server
    #. /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions
    bdstart=" /opt/bluedragon-6.2/bin/ "
    prog="BlueDragon Server"
    start() { echo -n "Starting $prog: "; daemon -u $bduser $bdstart ; echo ; RETVAL=$? ; return $RETVAL ; }
    stop() { echo -n "Stopping $prog: "; daemon -u $bduser $bdstop  ; echo ; RETVAL=$? ; return $RETVAL ; }
    case "$1" in
    start) start& ;;
    stop) stop  ;;
    restart) stop; start ;;
    *) echo $"Usage: $prog {start|stop|restart}"
    exit 1
  4. For consistency with the rest of the system startup/shutdown stuff on my system, I copied the modified script to the directory with the rest of the system files:
    sudo cp /etc/rc.d/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/init.d
  5. The last piece then is to establish the symbolic links from the various run-level folders to the startup/shutdown script I placed in /etc/init.d — this is discussed within the BD installation manual (see section 4.2.3, “Startup and Shutdown Automation on Linux”, p. 15). I chose to mimic the configuration of the Apache installation for these links for the various run-levels:
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc0.d/K95bluedragon
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc1.d/K95bluedragon
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc2.d/S95bluedragon
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc3.d/S95bluedragon
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc4.d/S95bluedragon
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc5.d/S95bluedragon
    sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/BlueDragon_Server /etc/rc6.d/K95bluedragon

After all of that, I could restart my system, sign in, and successfully invoke one of my test CFM pages.

Configuring BD to see MySQL

Out of the box, BD is not configured to be able to connect to MySQL datasources. The BD installation manual touches on this (see Section 3.4, p. 7), and points you to an entry within the New Atlanta BD FAQ with instructions on how to configure BD to provide support for MySQL.Those installations instructions, in summary, are as follows:

  1. Download the version 3.0.x version of the MySQL Connector/J package from the MySQL site. As of this writing, that file is mysql-connector-java-3.0.17-ga.tar.gz. (Note: MySQL does have a 3.1-series of the Connector/J product available, but the BD FAQ entry points the reader to the 3.0-series, and Dave Epler has indicated that he was unable to get the 3.1-series to work when he tried it.)
  2. Open the downloaded .tar.gz file, and extract just the mysql-connector-java-3.0.17.jar file.
  3. Copy that file to the appropriate location, per the above entry from the BD FAQ:
    sudo cp mysql-connector-java-3.0.17-ga.jar /opt/bluedragon-6.2/lib/mysql.jar
    sudo chown bdragon.bdragon /opt/bluedragon-6.2/lib/mysql.jar
  4. Restart BD. The BD administrator should now have an entry in the list of available datasource types for MySQL.

Applying the BD Server Hotfix

The hotfixes that NewAtlanta makes available are cumulative, so all you need to do is grab the most recent (August 2005, as of this writing) and apply it. The hotfixes themselves come with readme files and instructions; take the time to read through them. Having said that, here are the steps I took to apply the August 2005 hotfix (after unpacking the downloaded file in a folder named /home/ron/Downloads/BlueDragon/tmp):

sudo daemon -u bdragon /opt/bluedragon-6.2/bin/
cd /opt/bluedragon-6.2/lib
sudo cp BlueDragon.jar BlueDragon.jar.20051122
sudo cp /home/ron/Downloads/BlueDragon/tmp/BlueDragon.jar ./
sudo chown bdragon.bdragon *
cd ../bin/apache
sudo mv
sudo cp /home/ron/Downloads/BlueDragon/tmp/ ./
sudo chown bdragon.bdragon *
sudo daemon -u bdragon.bdragon /opt/bluedragon-6.2/bin/

More to come…

  • Issues and Questions…


I can take credit for very little of this — all I have done is take my notes and turn them into this post. Much of the credit has to go back to Dave Epler, and I am grateful for his help and guidance. Credit also has to go to the folks at New Atlanta for the quality of their documentation for their BlueDragon server product and their willingness to make a free version of it available to developers.

What Did They Expect?

I first came across this article “Speed of Apple Intel dev systems impress developers” yesterday on the CNET site, talking about how impressed some software developers were with the speed of Mac OS on Intel platforms that Apple is making available to help with their transition to the new hardware platform. Two thoughts came to mind, almost immediately (given that I was still on my first cup of coffee when I saw it):

  1. Given the reported specs for the box (quoted as 3.6 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with 2 MB L2 Cache, 800MHz front-side bus, 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 Dual Channel SDRAM, and an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900), wouldn’t almost anything be fast?
  2. 10 seconds from Apple logo to desktop? OK, maybe that is fast…