Linux Fu: Better Bash Scripting

It is easy to dismiss bash — the typical Linux shell program — as just a command prompt that allows scripting. Bash, however, is a full-blown programming language. I wouldn’t presume to tell you that it is as fast as a compiled C program, but that’s not why it exists. While a lot of people use shell scripts as an analog to a batch file in MSDOS, it can do so much more than that. Contrary to what you might think after a casual glance, it is entirely possible to write scripts that are reliable and robust enough to use in many embedded systems on a Raspberry Pi or similar computer.

I say that because sometimes bash gets a bad reputation. For one thing, it emphasizes ease-of-use. So while it has features that can promote making a robust script, you have to know to turn those features on. Another issue is that a lot of the functionality you’ll use in writing a bash script doesn’t come from bash, it comes from Linux commands (or whatever environment you are using; I’m going to assume some Linux distribution). If those programs do bad things, that isn’t a problem specific to bash.

One other limiting issue to bash is that many people (and I’m one of them) tend to write scripts using constructs that are compatible with older shells. Often times bash can do things better or neater, but we still use the older ways. For example:

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Stupid Git Tricks

My apologies if you speak the Queen’s English since that title probably has a whole different meaning to you than I intended. In fact, I’m talking about Git, the version control system. Last time I talked about how the program came to be and offered you a few tutorials. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool software developer, you probably don’t need to be convinced to use Git. But even if you aren’t, there are a lot of things you can do with Git that don’t fit the usual mold.

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Lint for Shell Scripters

It used to be one of the joys of writing embedded software was never having to deploy shell scripts. But now with platforms like the Raspberry Pi becoming very common, Linux shell scripts can be a big part of a system–even the whole system, in some cases. How do you know your shell script is error-free before you deploy it? Of course, nothing can catch all errors, but you might try ShellCheck.

When you compile a C program, the compiler usually catches most of your gross errors. The shell, though, doesn’t look at everything until it runs which means you might have an error just waiting for the right path of an if statement or the wrong file name to occur. ShellCheck can help you identify those issues before deployment.

If you don’t like pasting your script into a Web page, you can install the checker locally by visiting GitHub. The readme file there also explains what kind of things the tool can catch. It can even integrate with common editors (as seen in the video below).

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Linux-Fu: Keeping Things Running

If you’ve used Linux from the early days (or, like me, started with Unix), you didn’t have to learn as much right away and as things have become more complex, you can kind of pick things up as you go. If you are only starting with Linux because you are using a Raspberry Pi, became unhappy with XP being orphaned, or you are running a cloud server for your latest Skynet-like IoT project, it can be daunting to pick it all up in one place.

Recently my son asked me how do you make something run on a Linux box even after you log off. I thought that was a pretty good question and not necessarily a simple answer, depending on what you want to accomplish.

There’s really four different cases I could think of:

  1. You want to launch something you know will take a long time.
  2. You run something, realize it is going to take a long time, and want to log off without stopping it.
  3. You want to write a script or other kind of program that detaches itself and keeps running (known as a daemon).
  4. You want some program to run all the time, even if you didn’t log in after a reboot.

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Shell Game

A lot of us spend a lot of time switching between Windows and Linux. Now that platforms like the Raspberry Pi are popular, that number is probably increasing every day. While I run Linux on nearly everything I own (with the exception of a laptop), my work computers mostly run Windows. The laptop is on Windows, too, because I got tired of trying to get all the fancy rotation sensors and pen features working properly under Linux.

What I hate most about Windows is how hard is it to see what’s going on under the hood. My HP laptop works with a cheap Dell active stylus. Sort of. It is great except around the screen edges where it goes wild. Calibration never works. On Linux, I could drill down to the lowest levels of the OS if I were so inclined. With Windows, it is just tough.

War is Shell

One place where Linux always used to have an advantage over DOS and Windows was the shell. There are lots of variations available under Linux, but bash seems to be the current pick for most people. If you want more power, you can move to some alternatives, but even bash is pretty powerful if you learn how to use it and have the right external programs (if you don’t believe it, check out this web server).

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Hackaday Links: March 22, 2015

[Liam Kennedy] built a wearable space station notifier it’s on Kickstarter, and now the campaign is in its final hours. It’s very cool; doubly so if you don’t have to talk to a crazy lady who doubts the existence of NASA.

[countkillalot] lost a Raspberry Pi. It was in his apartment, and responded to ping, but he couldn’t find it. Turning the Pi into an FM transmitter revealed its location. Relevant

If you don’t listen to the Amp Hour podcast, oh man are you in for a treat. This time it’s [Chuck Peddle], father of the 6502, designer of the KIM-1, and someone with at least three hours’ worth of interesting stories.

MakeIt Labs, the Nashua, New Hampshire hackerspace, has done everything right – they have their 501(c)(3), and they’ve been talking to the city about getting a new space. They have the option of moving into a space three times the size as their current one, and it’s cheaper than the current space. They have an indiegogo to raise the renovation funds for the new space. Oh, supports pages for hackerspaces. Just pointing that out.

Speaking of hackerspaces, yours needs this sign.

A 3-DAY DESERT CAMPING AND TECH-FEST WITH BEER. That’s all you need to know about Arduino Day, an event being held next weekend in the Mojave.

Want to hide from the NSA, or whatever governments or corporate interests are listening in on your phone? Stick it in a microwave. [WhiskeyTangoHotel] tested out a Tek RSA306 spectrum analyzer in a microwave, once with the door open, once with the door closed. If you’re exceptionally clever or have access to Wikipedia, you can figure out what frequencies will leak out of a microwave given the size of the holes in the metal mesh.

Here’s a Flintstones toilet paper holder. It would have been a phonograph, but no one could find a cooperative turtle and bird.

It has been brought to our attention that everyone should be aware still exists. If you want something that does everything with MIDI and SID chips, there you go.

Fight the Google Glass Cyborgs with

Glasshole script

We live in a connected world where social media is ubiquitous and many people feel compelled to share every waking moment with anyone who will listen. In this type of world, wearable computers like Google Glass allow us to share experiences like never before. A Glass user can take photos, record video and audio, or potentially even stream video live on the Internet with the greatest of ease. That might be great for the Glass user, but what about the rest of us? As wearable computing becomes more and more mainstream, people are naturally going to become divided on the issue of privacy. Is it a good thing to have “cyborgs” with wearable computers and cameras constantly at the ready, or is it a privacy nightmare? The cyborg war is coming, and [Julian] has already chosen his side.

It would seem that [Julian] lands on the side of the privacy advocates, based on his “glasshole” script. Glasshole is a relatively simple bash script that relies on some other common network security tools to take care of the heavy lifting. The basic premise relies on the fact that every manufacturer of network interface devices is assigned their own MAC prefix. This is a piece of the MAC address that is unique to that manufacturer.

[Julian’s] script uses a utility called arp-scan to obtain a list of all MAC addresses on a given wireless network. It then loops through each address and compares it to the known Google Glass MAC prefix. If it finds a match, it will make an audible beeping noise to alert the script user. The script then launches aireplay-ng in de-authentication mode. This will send spoofed disassociate packets to the client (in this case the Google Glass device), hopefully forcing them to disconnect from the access point. The script runs continuously, ensuring that once the device reconnects to the network it will get booted off once again. The script is designed to be run on a small Linux computer such as a Raspberry Pi or a BeagleBone black. This way, the user can carry it around with them as a sort of portable defense mechanism.

How do you fit into the cyborg war? Will you stand proudly with your computer on your face for all to see? If so, what kind of countermeasures would you deploy to prevent this type of attack from working on you? If not, what other types of interesting attacks can you think of to keep the cyborgs at bay?

[Thanks Syed]