Author Archives: Gen2ly

About Gen2ly

<3's linux

Restore settings of Firefox on trouble

Update: 09-29-11 – Using script to automate process, see end of post.

When people have a issue with Firefox I’ve seen many people will resort to deleting their old profile (or folder) and creating a new one. This works but doing this will get rid of any passwords, history, bookmarks… therein. Having used Firefox quite a bit creating a new profile from time to time is a good idea anyhow as cruft, bad extensions, … can slow down browsing.


Copying the Firefox configs can be done by:

cd ~/.mozilla/firefox/

Backup the old profile and profile list:

mv xxxxxxxx.default{,.bck}
mv profiles.ini{,.bck}

Create a new profile:

firefox -CreateProfile <profilename>

This command will return the name of the new folder. Copy the basic settings to the new profile:

cd *.default.bck
cp places.sqlite key3.db cookies.sqlite mimeTypes.rdf formhistory.sqlite signons.sqlite permissions.sqlite webappsstore.sqlite persdict.dat content-prefs.sqlite ../*.<profilename>

This will transfer the bookmarks, browsing history, form entries, passwords, personal dictonary changes, and page zooms. There might be a couple other things wanted to add (possibly your firefox preferences), take a look at Transferring data to a new profile for more information.


Personal LiveUSB

If you ever have an emergency and need a rescue disk to recover your Linux install, or maybe you just want to brag to your friends there’s some good LiveCD/USB’s out there and many distro’s now make LiveUSB install images, but it is also possible to create your own customizable LiveUSB. Hey, if you’re willing to put the time in, you can have a portable Linux in your pocket.

There’s alot of articles about creating your own custom CD/LiveUSB but many of them seemed dramatic involving messing with things like syslinux… Plus many of these create a fixed image, meaning that once it’s on your USB it can’t be changed. But having a customizable Linux on a USB flashdrive isn’t that difficult – just install Linux to the USB drive.

Partition the USB Drive

The first thing you’ll need is at least a 2GB flash drive. Anything less and you better plan a real basic install. First thing you might like to do is partition the flash drive. This isn’t necessary but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t need the 4GB for what I needed so I partitioned the flash drive to have a 1GB FAT32 partition first (so that Vista can see any files I put on it) then I partitioned the remaining 3GB as ext4 with parted.

Install via VirtualBox

No need to burn an ISO and reboot, use VirtualBox and do it from your desktop. You can follow my Testdrive a LiveCD with VirtualBox post to getting VirtualBox setup. I personally used Arch Linux for this install because it’s easy to configure.

Note: At the time VirtualBox does not have 64bit capabilities. If you want to install a 64bit Linux on your flash drive best to boot a LiveCD and follow these instruction from there.

Make sure your user is part of the VirtualBox group to enable usb recognition:

sudo gpasswd -a <username> vboxusers

Boot the LiveCD/USB iso/img in VirtualBox then in Devices > USB devices select your flash drive. Now the installer will recognize your flash drive. Proceed to install the distro on the flash drive. If you partitioned beforehand you can skip partitioning and go to setting Filesystem Mountpoints. When you reach GRUB setup be sure to install GRUB on the flash drive itself, for me it was /dev/sdb. Be sure NOT to install GRUB to a partition, it should be at the beginning of the drive.

Fix Grub

Because your BIOS is likely setup to recognize your hard drive before your USB drive you get drive denominations like /dev/sda for your hard disk and /dev/sdb for your flash drive on regular bootup. If booting from a flash drive, many BIOS’s have you enter a key (mine is F10) to get to a Boot Menu. So when you select your flash drive in your BIOS Boot Menu your flash drive now becomes /dev/sda, hard drive /dev/sdb. In grub terminology this is hd0 and hd1. Most BIOS’s are like this (though there a few exceptions). To know for sure you won’t be able to detect this until you try and boot your flash drive (more below).

Close VirtualBox and open your GRUB menu list and change to the first recognized drive:

sudo mount /dev/sdb2 /mnt/usb
sudo vim /mnt/usb/boot/grub/menu.lst

or however you edit your system files. Then change:

# (0) Arch Linux
title  Arch Linux
root   (hd1,1)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/disk/by-uuid/34393cdf-9f39-431e-88c8-ea89a2518c83 ro
initrd /boot/kernel26.img


# (0) Arch Linux
title  Arch Linux
root   (hd0,1)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/disk/by-uuid/34393cdf-9f39-431e-88c8-ea89a2518c83 ro
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

The (hd0,1) value denotes the partition number, again starting with 0. So this denotation tells GRUB the root filesystem is on the first drive, second partition.

Arch-specific Details (Mostly)

If you already did the configuration for your hard disk, you should be able to copy most the configuation files over to the flash drive (rc.conf, mirrorlist, modprobe.conf, local.conf…) and then install xorg, xfce4… by chrooting in. This is my chroot script:

# chrootmount - change root to current directory

cp /etc/resolv.conf etc/resolv.conf
mount -t proc none proc
mount -o bind /dev dev
mount -t sysfs none sys
chroot . /bin/bash
source /etc/profile
grep -v rootfs /proc/mounts > /etc/mtab
source ~/.bashrc

This will allow you to just cd to the mounted directory and enter command to chroot to the new environment. From there you can install a desktop environment (I choose XFCE because I wanted a lightweight environment and limited disk space):

pacman -Syu
pacman -S xorg xfce4 gdm <few-fonts> nvidia

And a couple other things following the Beginner’s Guide.

The kernel initramfs image will need to be rebuilt too to have usb driver support. In the chrooted environment edit /etc/mkinitcpio.conf and add usb to HOOKS:

HOOKS="base udev autodetect pata scsi sata filesystems usb"

Then find the the kernel version name and version:

uname -r

and build a new initramfs image:

mkinitcpio -g /boot/kernel26.img -k <your-kernel-name-version>

The -k option needs to be specified to use the chrooted kernel and not runtime kernel that is being used by chroot.

When done, exit chroot:

exit && umount proc sys dev

Reboot and Test

Now reboot and get to the BIOS Boot Menu. As I said, all BIOS’s are different so keep an eye for a key to get to it. Once in the Boot Menu select your USB drive.

Try and boot the flash drive. If you get a GRUB 17 error or boot into hard drive OS, you’ll have to edit your menu.lst. You can find the devices Grub sees by starting the flash drive again and in the Grub menu press e to edit. On the root line press e again and delete to:

root (hd

now press tab and it will show you the availble drive and partitions. Enter the correct one, hit escape and then b to boot. That’s it, you should now have your own customizable Linux USB drive.


If you get errors loading the kernel, it may be because USB device detection may need a delay before loading root. Try to add this to the end of your kernel line in your menu.lst:



I was a bit surprised. I didn’t think a USB drive would be much different that a CD/DVD but actually it was alot faster. And I just discovered that I’m using a USB 1.1 flash drive. :) Not quite as quick as my hard drive but definitely not bad. This is also the first time I ran without an xorg.conf and my desktop runs great. Definitely worth a try if you ever need a rescue os to fix problems with.

Installing OpenBSD 4.4

HeaderFollowing the ‘not enough time on my hands’ FreeBSD dive with a Power Mac, I decided to continue on BSD tourbus to OpenBSD. A good friend recommended it to me in the middle of my FreeBSD install and I’d of like to heard about it alot sooner. OpenBSD turned out to be a really great os, particularly for a router/firewall. I now have OpenBSD running successfully and it’s running good. The install does take a bit of work but the results are b-e-a-utiful.

OpenBSD is a shootoff of NetBSD (Berkly Software Distribution) that focuses on security – the code that is in OpenBSD is carefully audited. This guide will walk you through a basic install of OpenBSD (a few parts are macppc specific) and adds parts if you’d like to make OpenBSD a router.

Dual Boot MacOS?

The OpenBSD installer only has support for fdisk and not mac-fdisk so if you plan to dual-boot MacOS you should partition either with mac-fdisk (see the FreeBSD install link above), or with a Mac OS util like Disk Setup. Create one partition for Mac OS and another for OpenBSD. However, this install focuses on a whole disk install of OpenBSD.

Beginning with the installer

You might want to use OpenBSD’s Installation Guide as a companion guide along with this.

Put in the CD on a mac – you’ll have to start the cd from the Open Firmware prompt. Hold (Apple + option + O + F). at boot and at the OF prompt, type:

boot cd:,ofwboot 4.4/macppc/bsd.rd

The release cd will allow you to install, upgrade or use the shell:

Proceed? [y]

You will now initialize the disk(s) that OpenBSD will use. To enable all available security features you should configure the disk(s) to allow the creation of separate filesystems for /, /tmp, /var, /usr, and /home.

Available disks are: wd0 sd0.

wd0 must be partitioned using an HFS or an MBR partition table. If you plan to dual-boot MacOS use HFS, otherwise choose MBR.

Which one is the root disk (or ‘done’) [done] [wd0]
Do you want to use *all* of wd0 for OpenBSD? [no] y
Creating Master Boot Record (MBR)…done

If you say no, you will be taken to fdisk where all you’ll be able to do is to type and label partitions. OpenBSD uses a two layer disk partitioning system: ‘fdisk’ and ‘disklabel’. If you are using the whole disk fdisk will be automatically configured.

‘disklabel’ is a tool to create partitions.

Initial label editor (enter ‘?’ for help at any prompt)

> p g

# size offset fstype [fsize bsize cpg]
c: 9.6G 0.0G unused 0 0
i: 0.0G 0.0G MSDOS

> a a # add ‘a’ partition
offset: [3024] <enter>
size: [20062224] 3.5g
FS type: [4.2BSD] <enter>
mount point: [none] /

> a b
offset: [17829504] <enter>
size: [2235744] 1.1g
FS type: [swap] <enter>

> a d

> a e

> a f
<enter> # to end of drive

> p g
OpenBSD area: 0.0G-9.6G; size 9.6G; free: 0.0G
# size offset fstype [fsize bsize cpg]
a: 3.5G 0.0G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /
b: 1.1G 3.5G swap
c: 9.6G 0.0G unused 0 0
d: 3.0G 4.6G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /usr
e: 1.0G 7.6G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /tmp
f: 1.0G 8.6G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /var
i: 0.0G 0.0G MSDOS

> w # write
> q # quit

Mount point for wd0d (size=3072Mbytes)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/usr] <enter>
Mount point for wd0e (size=4097144k)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/tmp] <enter>
Mount point for wd0f (size=6291432k)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/var] <enter>
Mount point for wd0d (size=3072Mbytes)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/usr] done

No label changes.
Available disks are: sd0.
Which one do you wish to initialize? (or ‘done’) [done] done

The next step *DESTROYS* all existing data on the partition!
Are you really sure that you’re ready to proceed? [no] y

System hostname (short form, e.g. ‘foo’): dirk-pmac

Configure the network? [yes] <enter>

You’ll be shown available Network Interface Cards (NIC)s. If you’re building a router, you’ll have two. The first one will get it’s address via the ISP DHCP server. On the second one assign a LAN address like

If you choose dhcp, OpenBSD install will try to get a lease from the DHCP server. I didn’t bother connecting the cables because InstallerCD’s are notably insecure and the installer doesn’t need it anyway.

Enter your Domain Name Servers (separated by a space) and password for root account. Choose your install sets, the defaults will give you a basic system.

Location of sets? (cd disk ftp http or ‘done’) [done] <enter>

sshd yes
ntpd yes
ntp server

Change the default console to com0? [no] <enter>

Enter timezone, and then your done with the basics.

Afterboot Tasks

Reboot and start the Open Firmware prompt and boot OpenBSD by:

boot hd:,owfboot /bsd

There are a few tasks that need to be done to finish the install following the afterboot manpage.

errata check.

If a reliability or security issue effects you, you will have to patch your system – a detailed proposition which I will detail in another post.

check ‘date’, ‘hostname’, networking will be done in a bit.

Add new user

Enter your default shell: csh ksh nologin sh [ksh]: <enter>
# Default login class defines allocation of system-resources, and
# environment setup.
Default login class: authpf daemon default staff [default]: <enter>
Enter your default HOME partition: [/home]: <enter>
Copy dotfiles from: /etc/skel no [/etc/skel]: <enter>
Send message from file: /etc/adduser.message no [no]: <enter>
Prompt for passwords by default (y/n) [y]: <enter>
Default encryption method for passwords: auto blowfish des md5 old [auto]: <enter>
Don’t worry about mistakes. There will be a chance later to correct any input.
Enter username []: Dirkgen2ly
Enter full name []: Dirk Gently
Enter bash csh ksh nologin sh [ksh]: <enter>
Uid [1000]: 1222
Login group Dirkgen2ly [Dirkgen2ly]: <enter>
# Add to wheel group to allow ‘su’ to root.
Login group is “Dirkgen2ly”. Invite into other groups: guest no
[no]: wheel
Login class authpf daemon default staff [default]: <enter>
Enter password []:
Enter password again []:

Configuring sendmail

Set-mailserver aliases in /etc/mail/aliases:

vi /etc/mail/aliases
# Well-known aliases — these should be filled in!
root: root
manager: root
dumper: root

Run ‘newaliases’ to update sendmail aliases.

A sendmail-configuration file will need to be built, from papamike:

Sendmail configuration files are built with a macro-processor. A macro-processor is basically a program that scans text looking for defined symbols, which it replaces by other text — or other symbols. The one used with Sendmail is called m4… So m4 inputs a macro configuration file, with extension .mc, and outputs a sendmail configuration file to standard output. Typically we redirect this output to a file, with extension .cf

Luckily there are some examples. If not planning to use sendmail externally (i.e. to the internet) use

cp /usr/share/sendmail/cf/ /usr/share/sendmail/cf/
m4 /usr/share/sendmail/m4/cf.m4 /usr/share/sendmail/cf/ > /etc/mail/

Then test it:

sendmail -v -t -C /etc/mail/

A valid config will give no output. Now tell the the sendmail daemon to load the configuration file at boot in /etc/rc.conf.local:

sendmail_flags=”-L sm-mta -C/etc/mail/ -bd -q30m”

The -C/ is necessary, it’s not a typo.

Daily, weekly, monthly scripts

Run the daily and weekly scripts to make sure they run alright.

sh /etc/daily
sh /etc/weekly

Warning: When running the weekly script if you get:

Rebuilding locate database:
Not installing locate database; zero size

Try “vi /var/db/locate.database“, put a space in, save it “:x”, and run the weekly script again.

Tighten up security

Covered below.

File Systems

OpenBSD doesn’t have a journaled file-system, meaning that you could lose critical disk data in event of a crash. Rather OpenBSD has incorporated soft updates a userland program that performs a likewise task that also improves disk performance by utilizing a cache. Adding the softdep option to each ffs partition in /etc/fstab will enable soft updates at next boot.

# perl -pi -e ‘s/ffs rw/ffs rw,softdep/’ /etc/fstab
# cat /etc/fstab
/dev/wd0a / ffs rw,softdep 1 1
/dev/wd0e /tmp ffs rw,softdep,nodev,noexec,nosuid 1 2
/dev/wd0d /usr ffs rw,softdep,nodev 1 2
/dev/wd0f /var ffs rw,softdep,nodev,nosuid 1 2
/dev/cd0c /cdrom cd9660 ro,noauto 0 0

CD/DVD define mount point

mkdir /mnt/cdrom
echo “/dev/cd0c /cdrom cd9660 ro,noauto 0 0” >> /etc/fstab


Following the Network FAQ. The installer will have created /etc/hostname.<NIC> for each device you have. Make sure they are correct:

cat /etc/hostname.*

For a router, ip-forwarding will need to be enabled in /etc/sysctl.conf:


Enter your DNS servers in /etc/dhclient.conf:

request subnet-mask, broadcast-address, routers, domain-name,
domain-name-servers, host-name;
supersede domain-name-servers <domain-name-server1>, <domain-name-server2>;

If you are planning to be testing a firewall and disconnecting your internet-connection from time to time, its good to up dhclients timeout. ‘dhclient’ rechecks it’s connection to the DHCP server on an exponential scale if it is unable to locate it it will take down the WAN NIC. Add to dhclient.conf and get larger timeouts as time goes by:

timeout 216000;
retry 216000;
link-timeout 216000;

To be able to connect the LAN PC to the network this guide uses dnsmasq (a good solution for small networks) but first it is a good idea to setup firewall and close unused ports.

Enabling a Firewall

Building a firewall is a necessary evil, even on the most secure of systems networking will be the greatest security-hole. Here are a few tips for working with PF:

Enable PF at Boot:

echo “pf=YES # PF Firewall” >> /etc/rc.conf.local

‘ftp-proxy’ will need to be enabled to ftp past a firewall, first enable it at boot:

echo “ftpproxy_flags=”” # ftp-proxy daemon” >> /etc/rc.conf.local

Enable ftp-proxy in the NAT section of your pf.conf:

nat-anchor “ftp-proxy/*”
rdr-anchor “ftp-proxy/*”
rdr on $LAN_NIC proto tcp from any to any port 21 -> port $FTPPORT

And in the filter section, anchor ftp and allow pass out:

anchor “ftp-proxy/*”
pass out quick on $WAN_NIC proto tcp from $WAN_NIC to any port {20,21} flags S/AUPRFS modulate state

Another good idea is when writing block-rules to log them to be able to test the firewall and to see if there are any attempts to attack the firewall:

block in log on $WAN_NIC all

To check your PF configuration for errors, run:

pfctl -nf /etc/pf.conf

A couple other commands:

pfctl -e # Enable PF – Enable but will not load ruleset.
pfctl -d # Disable PF
pfctl -f /etc/pf.conf # load the rules
pfctl -sn # Show the current NAT rules
pfctl -sr # Show the current filter rules
pfctl -ss # Show the current state table
pfctl -si # Show filter stats and counters
pfctl -sa # Show EVERYTHING it can show
pfctl -F all # Flush all rules, nat, states, options, tables

To test the firewall in real time, run ‘pflogd’ then:

tcpdump -n -e -ttt -i pflog0

To have pflog load at boot:

echo “pflogd_flags=”” # pflog device” >> /etc/rc.conf.local

You may have to reboot to have pflog0 show up in ifconfig. Now that the firewall is up you can start (or restart) the network:

sh /etc/netstart

Adding a Package

OpenBSD has two ways to add software: package and ports. Packages are pre-built binaries that can be downloaded and quickly installed onto your system and are the recommended way to add software to your system. OpenBSD also has a port system that contains information necessary to build packages and their dependencies from source.

OpenBSD has many prebuilt packages for a number of different architectures. Find a nearby mirror and add it to ~/.profile:

export PKG_PATH=ftp://<your.ftp.mirror>/pub/OpenBSD/`uname -r`/packages/`machine -a`/

Those are back ticks BTW. `uname -r` adds your release version of OpenBSD you are using and `machine -a` will be your architecture. To source (reload) your .profile so the variable is known to the korn shell:

. ~/.profile

Then add a package:

pkg_add -v <packagename>

A couple other package commands:

pkg_info # Show installed packages
pkg_delete -n # Delete applications and their dependencies.

Configure the LAN

Now that you can add a package you can add dnsmasq and get your router going. It is possible to define a static-route and not to have to use a DHCP server to define an address and route, but using a DHCP server makes the job tons easier. dnsmasq is a great lightweight application that will provide a route to and from the LAN machine. dnsmasq is also provides a DNS cacher to make resolving of domain names very very fast.

If planning on creating a LAN of > 50 machines you should use the pre-installed dhcpd.

pkg_add -v dnsmasq

Edit /etc/dnsmasq.conf:

# Only listen to WAN box LAN NIC and use local loopback for DNS caching.

# dnsmasq will open TCP port 53 and UDP port 67 to world
# tohelp with dynamic interfaces. dnsmasq will discard
#requests to them, but I like better not to have these
#ports open and let the kernel handle it.

# Dynamic range of IPs to make available

# If you’d like to have a static ip, bind the LAN computers
# NIC MAC address

dhclient.conf will need to be edited again to know that dnsmasq is handing dns requests. Redirect dhclient to localhost and dnsmasq will take it from there.

request subnet-mask, broadcast-address, routers, domain-name,
domain-name-servers, host-name;
supersede domain-name-servers, <dns1>, <dns2>;

dhclient by default appends to /etc/resolv.conf details to use the pre-installed BIND name server assuming people are going to use it. BIND isn’t enabled by default and since dnsmasq is handling this, comment out “lookup file bind” in /etc/resolv.conf.tail and restart the network:

sh /etc/netstart

cat /etc/resolv.conf
#lookup file bind

Now you can start dnsmasq:


To load at boot put in rc.local:

# Start Dnsmasq
if [ -x /usr/local/sbin/dnsmasq ]; then
echo -n ‘ dnsmasq’; /usr/local/sbin/dnsmasq

To have your LAN computer connect to your router set it to dhcp and connect.

Test DNS caching:

dig | grep “Query time”

Do it again and you’ll notice a faster lookup.


Many NTP configurations default to which is great for a whole list to choose from from the entire world, but it’s better to use something local ;). Add to /etc/ntpd.conf:


Because ntpd slowly adjusts the clock if it’s off you can add to crontab entry to get it fixed daily:

crontab -e
# Update date and time daily
32 1 * * * ntpd -s

Securing the Network

A good firewall will close ports but some applications may try to open them again. Best to close any ports you don’t need. Run netstat and get a good idea of what’s open:

netstat -ant | egrep ‘udp | LISTEN’

Shows open ports:

TCP – 13 37 22 113
UDP – 514

To find out what these ports do:

grep <port> /etc/services

daytime, time, ssh, auth, and syslog (udp). You can find more infomation about the port (like the program that opened it) with:

lsof -i | grep 22

Most people don’t use daytime, time, auth anymore and can be safely disabled in /etc/rc.conf.local:


The Syslog port can not be turned off in inetd. It is invoked in rc.conf with no “-u” flag meaning that it is listening on UDP port 514 but that incoming packets are ignored, it is only used to send. You’ll will also see a couple ports open for tcp6 (ipv6) like ::1.587 or ::1.25 these are loopbacks (local) for ipv6 and will be secure from the outside world.

Using nmap is an ever more reliable way to test for open ports. Now that the firewall is up, you might want to add nmap and test it.

nmap -p1-65535 -T4 -sS <WAN-IP>

SSH Daemon

SSH opens port 22 to world by default, If you don’t plan on accessing from outside you can bind it to your LAN computer in /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

ListenAddress <Router LAN_NIC Address>

Also root login is a bad idea, since the regular user is able to su this is a good idea to define:

PermitRootLogin no

Add a key so trusted computers can connect:

ssh-keygen -t dsa

Use a password that is not your login password. Name the output something useful like powermac-dsa-key. These keys by default are generated into the local ~/.ssh/ directory but belong in the accessee’s ~/.ssh directory. Move them to the LAN computer ~/.ssh to be a trusted computer.

Note: SSH attempts to resolve an address even if it’s local through /etc/resolv.conf. When Domain Name Server isn’t setup yet or a DNS hangs, ssh will hang at “debug1: SSH2_MSG_SERVICE_ACCEPT received” you will have to wait about a minute until ssh decides no DNS can be reached.


That should get you a good start.

PCI, PCI-X, PCI Express – Oh boy!

Lately I bought an old pc to use as a server and needed a network card for it. I didn’t think it be such a hassle but because of multiple PCI specs finding a card wasn’t easy. Theres been alot of confusion about pci cards and what card to get for your computer – PCI cards come in alot of different types and versions. I’ve done a good amount of research on this (if there are any discrepancies, please let me know) and hopefully this post will help clear things up.


Standard PCI cards (sometimes called pci 1.0) have a 32 bit width slot, and operate at 33 MHz. Originally they started as 5 volt cards but 3.3 volt cards began to be made that use a different slot.

PCI 2.1 came a few years later that added the Universal PCI card spec that allowed cards to be used in both 3.3 and 5v slots, and upped the bus to 66 MHz. Also they created a pci 64 bit width slot for high end cards (gigabit networking,…). This meant that there could be one of 4 different slots in your computer: 5v 32bit, 3.3v 32bit, 3.3v 64bit, 5v 64bit (see graphic below). This meant you either had to buy an exact card for the slot or a universal card (which most manufactures began to build).

The PCI bus 2.3 spec came along and nix’d 5v adapters (cards). PCI 2.3 was adaptable though and supported 3.3v cards and universal pci cards.


PCI-X or PCI eXtended was built mainly for high end use. It has a bus speed of 66 or 133 MHz and only used the 64 bit 3.3v slot. It is fully backward compatible though with the existing PCI architecture: 33/66 MHz PCI adapters (cards) can be used in PCI-X slots and PCI-X adapters can be used in PCI slots. PCI-X 2.0 came along and really upped the bus speed to either 266 MHz or 533 MHz, but was still fully backwards compatible.

Which Card to Get?

Well really you can get any universal card and have it work. Carnildo helped me see things the easy way:

The rule of thumb for PCI and PCI-X cards is that if it fits in the slot, it’ll work. The bus and cards will negotiate the fastest, widest connection that all of them can use, so a 133MHz 64-bit card in a standard PCI slot will transfer data as if it were a 33MHz 32-bit PCI card.

Also keep in mind that, “The slowest board dictates the maximum speed on a particular bus!”

PCI Express?

PCI Express uses an entirely different architecture, different slot sizes, and is incompatible with with PCI or PCI-X. It’s expected to coexist with PCI-X and not replace it.

Updating BIOS with Linux

If you don’t have Windows installed and you need to upgrade your BIOS, Linux does have the tools to be able to create a BIOS flash CD. Not many companies make Linux flash utilities and alot of these utilites are DOS utilities so a bootable DOS disk is needed. This is a simple, easy way to create a BIOS flash CD.

First, get a BIOS image. You’ll need to download a BIOS image for your board. For information on what Flash utility to use, a good place to look is your computer manufacturers homepage. Award BIOS and American Megatrends BIOS are the most popular BIOS’s used on motherboards.

Editing FreeDOS Minimal Boot Image

Note: This didn’t work for me but plenty of people have had success with it, fdboot.img is a bit old and may not work on newer hardware. Look at flashrom below for another alternative.

FreeDOS provides a bootable DOS image. Download the DOS image to the Desktop:


and mount it:

sudo mount -t vfat -o loop /home/user/Desktop/fdboot.img /media/ISO

The BIOS flash utility and BIOS image will need to be added to the FreeDOS image. I prefer to use /media/ISO but any empty directory will do. The bootable image has a fixed size (1,440 Kb, the size of a floppy disk) and hence /media/ISO will also have that limited memory. The size needs to remain fixed in order to create a bootable floppy of it. You can see the space used in the image by:

du -b /media/ISO

Add the flash utility DOS executable and the BIOS image (there should be just enough room for it). I prefer to put these in a new directory but it’s up to you.

cd /media/ISO
mkdir bios
cp /home/user/Desktop/flashprog.exe /home/user/Desktop/bios-image /media/ISO/bios

The data added to the FreeDOS image will be saved when the ISO is unmounted:

sudo umount /media/ISO

Now return to the Desktop and convert the appended FreeDOS image to a bootable ISO:

mkisofs -r -b fdboot.img -c -o fdboot-bios.iso fdboot.img

The -b option defines the floppy image used for booting; the -c option will create a file that directs to fdboot.img and is necessary for booting; the -o option defines the output file, in this case a bootable iso; and finally the image file needs to be added.

Now burn the iso to the CD/DVD however you like. For example, from the command line:

cdrecord fdboot-bios.iso

Flash BIOS in Linux with Flashrom

Flashrom is a utility to directly flash the bios directly in Linux. It’s design to be a comprehensive utility and supports a good number of hardware devices. Above that, flashrom is easy to use. Check their page for compatibility, or install flashrom and see if it recognizes your chipset. I’d tell more but the flashrom website does a good job of telling about the utility.


Because BIOS sizes are getting larger, we may need to learn how to create larger bootable images. mkisofs mentions that is can create an El Torito (bootable) iso with either 1200 Kb, 1440 Kb, or 2880 Kb images. I know how to create an empty vfat image can be created with:

mkfs.msdos -C newimage.img 2880

And, of course, it can be mounted and the FreeDOS files can be copied there, but how could we make it bootable?


Encrypting/Decrypting a File Easily With a Couple Bash Scripts

Once in a while a person might like to encrypt a file for security purposes. In Linux it is real easy to create good encryption using openssl with the Triple-DES Cipher.:

openssl des3 -salt -in unencrypted-data.file \
-out encrypted-data.file.des3

After entering this command, openssl will ask for you to enter the password twice. And decryption is likewise:

openssl des3 -d -salt -in encrypted-data.file.des3 \
-out unencrypted-data.file
Warning: Make sure you don’t accidentaly reverse the file names in the decryption process or you’ll lose all your data!

Remembering this command though is the tricky bit so I decided to create a couple bash scripts that made the process thoughtless. I named the bash scripts “crypten” and “cryptde“.

# crypten - a script to encrypt files using openssl


if [[ -z "$FNAME" ]]; then
    echo "crypten <name of file>"
    echo "  - crypten is a script to encrypt files using des3"

openssl des3 -salt -in "$FNAME" -out "$FNAME.des3"

The filename ends with .des3 to be easy to recognize.

# cryptde - a script to decrypt files using openssl


if [[ -z "$FNAME" ]]; then
    echo "cryptde <name of file>"
    echo "  - cryptde is a script to decrypt des3 encrypted files"

openssl des3 -d -salt -in "$FNAME" -out "${FNAME%.[^.]*}"

I like to put my bash scripts in a ~/.bin folder. Don’t forget to make both files executable:

chmod +x crypten cryptde

This shouldhelp make encrypting/decrypting files easier.

Grub Password-protection

Password-protecting Grub may be necessary if the BIOS doesn’t have password support and you could be in a better environment.

Decide what the password is going to be and don’t forget it ;). To encrypt a password to put in your grub configuration file, use:

$ grub-md5-crypt
Retype password:

Type in the password twice and copy the md5 encrypted password to /boot/grub/menu.lst:

# /boot/grub/menu.lst
password –md5 $1$ZOGor$GABXUQ/hnzns/d5JYqqjw

The password line must be on one of the first few lines of the menu.lst file. If there are a lot of comments at the beginning of the grub.conf file don’t try to put it after them or it won’t work either. Also, take out the timeout value if you have one as it can sometimes cause problems.

Now each boot entry much be told to be locked if you want it to be:

title Linux 2.6.27
root (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/kernel-2.6.27 root=/dev/sda5