Posts Tagged vmware

Security blows

I was about to post about how pleased I was with Synergy in helping me tidy up my desktop clutter (by removing a keyboard and mouse from the surface). Ironically, I’m instead posting about a problem with the configuration that will cause me to throw it out and look for something else. Why the title? Because the default configuration of a Linux distribution nowadays has given me no way to fix this ridiculously simple problem without powering off the running PC, VMware guests and all.

The problem is that Synergy and the VMware console don’t play well together (I could have sworn that when I first started using Synergy I had no trouble with it, but there are a few hits around that describe problems like I’ve now hit). The problems people are reporting are that keys like Shift and Ctrl are not passed to the VM (some described here and here).

My problem is slightly different: the screen of my Synergy client (the one that’s running VMware) locked while a VMware guest had focus. Now, the Shift and Ctrl keys are not picked up by gnome-screensaver to unlock the screen. Even the real keyboard attached directly via USB doesn’t work. Big problem, for the following reasons:

* Thanks to password strength rules enforced on the Linux build I use, my password now has a Shift-obtained punctuation character.
* I can’t switch to a virtual console, since that requires Ctrl (e.g. Ctrl-Alt-F1).

Okay, so the keyboard doesn’t work. This client machine just happens to be a tablet PC, and I had hacked gnome-screensaver (to display the onscreen keyboard to allow the screen to be unlocked in tablet mode). I grabbed the pen and tapped out my password, but it *still* didn’t work: even the output of the virtual keyboard gets the Shift modifier dropped. Hmm… Starting to fume now.

Never mind, I’ll connect via the network…

* Fedora does not start SSH by default (okay, yes, and I didn’t make sure it gets started after I’d finished the install).
* There is no remote desktop (VNC server, XDMCP) configured.
* The shiny web-based management interface on VMware Server 2.0 only listens on 127.0.0.1 (or is being blocked by the Fedora firewall).

So with no way to get access to the machine to try and fix it, a power-off is the only solution. Some readers are probably thinking “boo-hoo, diddums had to kill-switch his widdle poota, how tewwible,” but I hate having to do that; not because the system doesn’t recover, but it’s “problem resolution, Windows-style”.

Even though the real problem was between Synergy and VMware, I’m blaming the (perceived) need for security since without that I wouldn’t have a cryptic password that I can’t enter without Shift and a system I can’t administer over the network. Red Hat and Fedora doing everything in their power to ensure I don’t fall prey to nasty Internet fiends (rich analogies to governmental nannying, but that’s probably over-thinking things).

So in summary: Synergy is great, just as long as you’re not using VMware console and have a password with punctuation or uppercase… Remember to have your SSH or other network access enabled before you play!

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Zeroshell redux

I wrote about Zeroshell, and how I thought it was pretty great. I still do, but it hasn’t taken centre-stage in my network configuration like I thought it would. I’ve had to tone down my raves about some of its integrated features as well.

The fact that it hasn’t taken centre-stage is possibly as much to do with VMware’s bogus clock-drift problems as anything, as I haven’t dedicated hardware to my Zeroshell instance yet (I could keep it running virtual, but some of the things I want to do with it will make more sense if it’s a separate machine). VMware Server takes another barb for its handling of VLAN tagging (but to be fair that might be the Linux 8021q module works). It seems that if you have any VLAN definitions on a network card, VMware won’t get to see any VLAN tags on that NIC. You can get a guest attached to a bridged interface to see the real VLAN tags, but only if Linux has not got any VLAN awareness over that NIC.

Alright, so enough ragging on VMware. I have Zeroshell attached to the networks it needs and all is fine. Except that I can’t actually change anything! The web interface that I spoke so highly of originally is actually very restricted in some areas. One of these is in the RADIUS server, and it bit me badly when I decided I’d use Zeroshell’s RADIUS server to authenticate access to the Web interface of my Linksys switch. Turns out that the Linksys firmware expects a particular attribute to appear in the response from the RADIUS server.

The fact that Linksys don’t document this anywhere is not Zeroshell’s fault, but that there is no interface allowing me to do updates to the records above what Zeroshell uses for its own applications is a bit of an issue. It means that instead of a Zeroshell box potentially becoming the hub of administration functions, it is in danger of becoming just another little vertical application server that doesn’t integrate.

Having said that, the backend for most (all?) authentication data is LDAP so a tool like PHPLDAPAdmin might be usable to extend the base records. But, arguably, I shouldn’t have to do that! It is still beta software though, so improvements and enhancements will be made.

The other area that it’s a bit lacking in is monitoring/graphing. Okay sure, I’d probably integrate Zeroshell into the rest of my Cacti setup, but it would be nice if Zeroshell did like other router distos and had a pre-built statistics/graphing page.

Zeroshell is still my pick (I revisited pfSense and fixed the problem updating, but to me it doesn’t have enough function to justify running its own hardware), but it’s just not quite the bees-knees it was when I first saw it.

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