Virtual Mail with Ubuntu, Postfix, Dovecot and ViMbAdmin

As part of pushing our new release of ViMbAdmin, I wrote up a mini how-to for setting up a virtual email system on Ubuntu where the components are:

  • Postfix as the SMTP engine;
  • Dovecot for IMAP. POP3, Sieve and LMTP;
  • ViMbAdmin as the domain / mailbox / alias management system via web interface.

It supports a number of features including mailbox archival and deletion, quota support and display of mailbox sizes (as well as per domain totals).

Find the how-to at:

Bird / Quagga with MD5 Support for IPv4/6 on FreeBSD & Linux

Over in INEX we run a route server cluster which alleviates the burden of setting up bilateral peering sessions for the more than 80% of the members that use them. The current hardware is now about six years old and we have a forklift upgrade in the works.

BGP allows for MD5 authentication between clients (using the TCP MD5 signature option, see RFC 2385) and – while recently obsoleted in RFC 5925 – it is still widely used in shared LAN mediums such as IXPs; primarily to prevent packet spoofing and session hijacking via recycled IP addresses.

Our current route server implementation runs on FreeBSD which does not support TCP MD5 in its stock kernel (you are required to compile a custom kernel – see below for details). Additionally, specifying the session MD5 is not done in the BGP daemon configuration but separately in the IPsec configuration. Lastly, our current FreeBSD version has no support for TCP MD5  over IPv6. These have all led to unnecessarily complex configurations and a degree of confusion.

Because of this, we decided to test up to date Linux and FreeBSD versions for native IPv4 and IPv6 TCP MD5 support with Bird and Quagga (our route server daemons of choice).

In each case, BGP sessions were tested for:

  • no MD5 on each end (expected to work);
  • same MD5 on each end (expected to work);
  • different MD5 on each end (expected not to work); and
  • MD5 on one end with no MD5 on the other end (expected not to work).

For Linux, the platform chosen was Ubuntu 12.04 LTS with the stock 3.2.0-40-generic kernel.

  • Sessions were tested for Quagga to Quagga and Quagga to Bird;
  • Sessions were tested over both IPv4 and IPv6;
  • The presence of valid MD5 signatures were confirmed using tcpdump -M xxx;
  • Stock Quagga and Bird from the 12.04 apt repositories were used.

The results – everything worked and worked as expected:

  • BGP sessions only established when expected (no MD5 configured, same MD5 configured);
  • This held for both IPv4 and IPv6.

Summary: Linux will support TCP MD5 nativily for IPv4 and IPv6 when using Quagga or Bird.

For FreeBSD, we used the latest production release of 9.1. TCP MD5 support is not compiled in by default so a custom kernel must be built with the additional options of:

In addition to this, the MD5 shared secrets need to be added to the IPsec SA/SD database via the setkey utility or, preferably, via the /etc/ipsec.conf file which, for example, would contain entries for IPv4 and IPv6 addresses such as:

where the addresses ending in .1/:1 are local and .2/:2 are the BGP neighbor addresses. This file can be processed by setting ipsec_enable="YES" in /etc/rc.conf and executing /etc/rc.d/ipsec reload.

  • Sessions were tested for Quagga/Linux to Quagga/FreeBSD and  from Quagga/Linux to Bird/FreeBSD;
  • Sessions were tested over both IPv4 and IPv6;
  • The presence of valid MD5 signatures were confirmed using tcpdump -M xxx;
  • Stock Quagga from the 12.04 apt repositories and stock Quagga and Bird from FreeBSD ports were used.

The results – almost everything worked and worked as expected:

  • BGP sessions only established when expected (no MD5 configured, same MD5 configured);
  • This held for both IPv4 and IPv6;
  • one odd but expected behavior – you only need to set the MD5 via setkey / ipsec.conf – setting it (or not) in the Quagga and Bird config has no effect so long as it is set via setkey (but is useful for documentation purposes). However, trying to set it in Quagga without having rebuilt the kernel will result in an error.

Summary: FreeBSD will support TCP MD5 via a custom kernel and setkey / ipsec.conf for IPv4 and IPv6. Note that there is an additional complexity when changing or removing MD5 passwords as these need to be amended / deleted via setkey which can put an extra burden on automatic route server configuration generators.

Enabling External Commands in Nagios / Ubuntu

I get caught by the following quite often (too many Nagios installations!):

Error: Could not stat() command file ‘/var/lib/nagios3/rw/nagios.cmd’!

The external command file may be missing, Nagios may not be running, and/or Nagios may not be checking external commands. An error occurred while attempting to commit your command for processing.

The correct way to fix this in Ubuntu is:

Nagios Plugin for Checking Backups via rsnapshot

We’ve just added a check_rsnapshot.php script to our nagios-plugins bundle on Github. This script will verify rsnapshot backups via Nagios using a number of checks / tests:

  • minfiles – checks the number of files in a snapshot against a minimum expected number;
  • minsize – checks the size of a snapshot against a minimum expected size;
  • log – parses the rsnapshot log to ensure the most recent runs for each retention period completed successfully;
  • timestamp – checks for files created server side containing a timestamp and thus ensuring snapshots are succeeding;
  • rotation – checks that retention directories are being rotated; and
  • dir-creation – checks that retention directories are being created.

Please see this Github wiki page for more information including instructions.

Analysing MySQL Slow Query Logs

MySQL has a really useful feature that allows it to log slow queries where slow is a minimum time defined by you in micro seconds. It helps a lot is diagnosing website outages or slow responsiveness issues after the fact.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any nice graphical tools for analysing these but there are a few command line tools:


MySQL’s own tool, mysqldumpslow, which aggregates queries and allows you to sort them by: query time or average query time; lock time or average lock time; rows sent or average rows sent; or the number of queries.

Percona’s MySQL Slow Query Log Analyser

Dating from 2006, Percona’s Peter Zaitsev wrote about their own version of a slow query log analyser (local copy) which has given me good results. Note that their micro time patch has since been incorporated into MySQL mainstream.

One of the main differences over MySQL’s own version is that as well as printing the aggregated query (with number and string literals wildcarded), it also prints a real example of the query allowing a copy and paste to MySQL for execution with EXPLAIN.

Example output with query details redacted: