Creating a super-pendrive


Its been really long since I blogged. Before going ahead, want to tell you that will be posting my endeavours on running virtual machines soon.

This, however, is my experience/guide for creating a super pen drive (a.k.a. a usb disk that if booted from presents a grub menu with options – GParted, Fedora, .. and any other linux distro hopefully, and has Fedora persistence, and has a spare partition too for you to use it as a normal pen drive).

It wasn’t as straight forward as I thought (like… all other things).


  1. Decide the partitioning layout and partition the pen drive.
  2. Install grub on one partition
  3. Install GParted on another
  4. Install Fedora on another
  5. Install grub again on the partition in step 2 :P, and setup grub.conf
  6. Sit back, and enjoy (may need to crouch forward in some cases.. )

A super neat trick:

To check at any time how you pen drive would behave if you boot from it, use the command : qemu -hda /dev/sdb -m 256 -vga std

This command reduced my research time to one third.

1) Decide the partitioning layout

I used GParted on my Fedora installation (on my harddisk) to set up the partition of the pen drive.

2) Install grub on one partition

Make sure you manually mount the grub partition. The /media/something folder in which it gets mounted automatically gave me some trouble. So unmounted it from there, and mounted /dev/sdb5 to /mnt/usbgrub

grub-install –no-floppy –root-directory=/mnt/usbgrub/ /dev/sdb

3) Install GParted on another

Use UNetbootin for GParted

4) Install Fedora on another

Need to make sure that usb disk is ext3 before doing this. When I did this on a vfat disk, I got an “error 22” when trying to boot from the usb disk.

Use liveusb-creator or live-iso-to-disk for Fedora.

Persistence is buggy according to http://forums.fedoraforum.org/archive/index.php/t-219250.html so instead, a better solution is to directly install fedora on the pen drive on a separate partition, like in http://linuxsoftwareblog.com/blog/?p=156

5) Install grub again on the partition in step 2 :P, and setup grub.conf

mount /dev/sdb5 /mnt/usbgrub/

grub-install –no-floppy –root-directory=usbgrub/ /dev/sdb

Now, to setup the grub menu:

cd /mnt/usbgrub/boot/grub/

cp /boot/grub/grub.conf .

cp /boot/grub/splash.xpm.gz .

gedit grub.conf

# grub.conf generated by anaconda
# Note that you do not have to rerun grub after making changes to this file
# NOTICE:  You have a /boot partition.  This means that
#          all kernel and initrd paths are relative to /boot/, eg.
#          root (hd0,1)
#          kernel /vmlinuz-version ro root=/dev/mapper/VGSahil-LVRoot
#          initrd /initrd-version.img
title Fedora (
root (hd1,1)
kernel /vmlinuz- ro root=/dev/mapper/VGSahil-LVRoot rhgb quiet
initrd /initrd-

title GParted Live
root (hd0,5)
kernel /live/vmlinuz1 boot=live union=aufs    noswap noprompt acpi=off irqpoll noapic noapm nodma nomce nolapic nosmp ip=frommedia vga=normal
initrd /live/initrd1.img

title Omega 11 Live
root (hd0,6)
kernel /syslinux/vmlinuz0 root=/dev/sdb7  rw liveimg quiet  rhgb
initrd /syslinux/initrd0.img

Making Fedora rpms/yum work – Offline

This is guide relevant to those who wish to spread fedora to friends and loved ones who don’t necessarily always have an internet connection (or a good one atleast). The problem faced in such situations, almost always (talking from my experience), is that there are a huge number of rpms that need to be downloaded to make fedora capable of playing media, and fill it with good stuff like k3b, amarok etc.

This isn’t always possible with the skimpy internet connections that our not-so-tech-savvy aunts have. (We’ll assume that it is our aunt on whose system we need to install fedora for the sake of this guide.)

So, I devised a way of spreading fedora to our aunt’s system, without getting embarrassed  by that fact that we weren’t able to run mp3 on their system.

The way to do this, is to install a fresh copy of fedora on our system, and then bring it to perfect shape by installing many more rpms, and while doing this, keeping a copy of the rpms required, and then copying this repository of rpms (which we are sure don’t require any more rpms as dependencies as we install them on our own system in offline mode) on a pen drive and taking it along with the fedora installation media to our aunt’s home. And after installing fedora on her system, we simply install all the rpms on her system.

On our system:
Download all rpms required for the extra packages (the package rpms + dependencies)
yumdownloader --destdir=rpmsForAunt --resolve rpmName(s)


create a service pack of all pending updates or certain rpms using gpk-service-pack

yum install gnome-packagekit-extra


Edit /etc/yum.conf and change the value of keepcache to 1. After the update is done, the downloaded rpm files then can be found in (and copied from) subfolders named “packages” in /var/cache/yum. When you’re done with them you can get rid of them to save disk space with yum clean packages.
On our aunt’s system:

  1. Install fedora.
  2. Install the extra downloaded rpms:
    1. You need to disable all repositories before yum localinstall will work without net access. To do so,
      go to System > Administration > Add/Remove Software and go the System > Software Sources and uncheck all sources.
    2. Installing the rpms:(1 : see footnote)
      cd rpmsForAunt
      yumlocalinstall --nogpgcheck *

      The above command is to be run for every category of rpms below after copying the resultant directories on our Aunt’s system.

For getting all updates:
I wrote a script for downloading all updates (after a fresh install) to a directory:
for i in `yum list updates | grep fc11 | cut -d ' ' -f 1`
echo Now downloading rpms for package $i
yumdownloader --destdir=localUpdate --resolve $i

For getting all media rpms:
rpm -ivh http://rpm.livna.org/livna-release.rpm
rpm --import /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-livna
rpm -ivh http://linuxdownload.adobe.com/adobe-release/adobe-release-i386-1.0-1.noarch.rpm
rpm --import /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-adobe-linux

(the above is required only so that you (and not your aunt) can download the rpms)
yumdownloader --destdir=localRpmsForMedia --resolve libdvdcss vlc flash-plugin xine xine-lib-extras xine-lib-extras-freeworld mplayer mplayer-gui gecko-mediaplayer mencoder amarok rhythmbox gstreamer-plugins-ugly gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-ffmpeg audacious audacious-plugins-freeworld* k3b

A few more rpms that I use:
yumdownloader --destdir=localRpmsOther system-config-lvm gparted digikam m17n-db-*

(1)I faced an issue while bash was updated using this method. It said transaction failed.
To resolve this, I ran
yum-complete-transaction --clean
rpm -e bash

The above command listed two bash versions (I don’t remember the version numbers), on saying rpm -e bash.version1, it said there are many dependencies, then I tried rpm -e bash.version and it worked. Then, I went back to the yumlocalinstall step and then that worked.

Things done in college – technology

Here is a list of things I have done in the past three years. I have written for the sake of personal record.

As a member of Delta :
Created a “PC Based Oscilloscope” in IIT Bombay, as a summer project. Used java servlets on the server side and a java applet on the client side. Was responsible for the whole of the software side – 2006 Summers
Worked in Pragyan CMS V1, which finally got implemented in our college website – 2005-2007
Made Dalal Street, a stock market simulator using java servlets on the server side and using eclipse to make a java based ui compiled using gcj to eliminate the need of jvm to run the final executable – 2006 Dec – 2007 Jan
Used CVS for the development of Dalal Street, understood the importance of a code versioning system.

As being a part of Delta Core (Technology Changes) :
Implemented LDAP using openldap, in Delta, allowing everyone to have a central authentication server, with a common login everywhere, where everywhere includes :
system login in Sun Lab comps
Implemented NFS on Delta, which gets mounted on all Sun Lab comps, using the default nfs service provided by default on fedora, so everyone has the same home irrespective of the comp they login to, which they do through their ldap accounts.
Implemented pure-ftpd on Delta, configured it to work through ldap, allowing everyone to access their home drives even from “outside” (the user labs).
Setup, and advocated use of Doku for information keeping, made it work through LDAP.
Implemented and introduced SVN on Delta, setup three repositories : pragyan, delta and dalal, delta for the use of all delta projects.
Implemented and introduced trac on delta, setup three repositories : pragyan, delta and dalal. Customized all of these three. Learned how to customize through .egg files.
Made svn and trac work through httpd authentication, which used LDAP to get authentication details. (this was hell)
Revived delta as a student group – meaning, made sure many meetings were held, made sure everyone knew each other, everyone contributed something to delta and felt a part of the group, made sure many treats were held, and chucked a few inactive members out of delta.
Created Pragyan CMS V2, from scratch.

As being Pragyan’08 Systems head :
Implemented mail system through postfix, made its authentication work through ldap. Implemented mailman like features using contact attribute in ldap and aliases in postfix.
Made dovecot work through ldap too.
Learned what SSL certificates are, how they work, created a self signed ssl certificate for pragyan.org, using tinyCA2 provided in Fedora, and made it use it. (basically, allowed the use of https://pragyan.org/…)
Implemented FDS (Fedora Directory Server) as a much better alternative to LDAP on Pragyan Server.

LDAP authentication through Apache for svn, trac or anything else for that matter :P

Apache can be used as an access method for things like svn, trac, and even a whole file system through webdav. And apache also supports authentication through LDAP. Hence Apache can be used to authenticate the services that it provides through LDAP.

Here is how it is done :

For SVN :

<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerName                          repos.nitt.edu
DocumentRoot                        "/var/www/svn/DocumentRoot/"
ErrorLog logs/repos.nitt.edu-error_log
CustomLog logs/repos.nitt.edu-access_log combined

<Location /pragyan>
DAV svn
SVNPath /var/www/svn/pragyan
AuthType Basic
AuthBasicProvider ldap
AuthzLDAPAuthoritative off
AuthName “Pragyan SVN LDAP Authentication”
AuthLDAPURL ldap://localhost:389/ou=Pragyan,dc=www,dc=nitt,dc=edu?cn?sub?(objectClass=*)
AuthLDAPGroupAttribute contact
require valid-user
require ldap-group listName=coding,ou=Groups,ou=Pragyan,dc=www,dc=nitt,dc=edu

For trac :
<Location "/trac/delta/login">
AuthType Basic
AuthName "Delta Trac LDAP Authentication"
AuthBasicProvider ldap
AuthzLDAPAuthoritative off
AuthLDAPURL ldap://delta.nitt.edu:389/ou=Webteam,dc=delta,dc=nitt.edu?uid?sub?(objectClass=*)
AuthLDAPGroupAttribute memberUid
require valid-user
require ldap-group cn=webteam,ou=Groups,ou=Webteam,dc=delta,dc=nitt.edu

Creating your own schemas in FDS Ldap for use in postfix (or anything else for that matter) :P

What I needed for mailman like functioning while making postfix work with ldap was an attribute that stores content of type DN (Distinguished Name) i.e. a node address, or holding a data type that stores nothing but data of type that can hold address of the data type itself.

In openldap, I used a schemas called evolutionPerson and evolutionPersonList (available with my fedora openldap distribution by moving evolutionperson.schema in /usr/share/evolution-data-server-1.12/ to /etc/opanldap/schemas/). evolutionPerson is very similar to inetOrgPerson class, which stores basically everything that could ever be used to describe a person. The reason I chose evolutionPerson over inetOrgPerson was the availablity of the evolutionPersonList class. Its attributes are : mail, contact and listnName, where both mail and contact can contain more than one values. mail and listName attribute type is text, and contact attribute type is DN. contact’s were used to create groups, and mail’s were used to forward the email to a third party server. Here is a screenshot of the same in action :

The contact attribute worked like charm. If any contact attribute turns out to be another evolutionPersonList, it repeats the whole process again for it, collecting new mails from it, and if it turns out to be evolutionPerson, it takes its mail attribute. The whole process repeats itself, taking care that infinite loops do not get created. In the end, what we get a list of mail ids to which the mail has to be sent.

Now, I haven’t yet figured out how to add evolutionperson.schema to schema. So, what did I do for delta?? I simply created my own schema. For a user, I already had whatever I needed in inetOrgPerson. All I need was some sort of an inetOrgPersonList. So, here are the steps :

  • I am assuming you have already setup fedora directory server through the wonderful install scripts provided. (/usr/sbin/setup-ds-admin.pl and then /usr/sbin/setup-ds.pl)
  • Open Fedora Directory Server admin console : /usr/bin/fedora-idm-console

    Me, showing off my workspace

  • Under the server groups entry in the default view tree, select your directory server and open it, using the DN and password you provided earlier during the directory server setup.
  • Under the to configuration tab, select schema. Select Attributes in the right hand pane.
  • Create a new attribute by clicking on the new attribute button at the bottom of the right pane.

  • I needed two new attributes for my purpose :
    1. contact : of type DN, multi valued.
    2. listName : of type String, single valued.
    3. The third multivalued attribute I needed, mail, already exists.
  • Now, under the Object Classes pane, create any number of Objects you nees, using the attributes you just now created, or the preexisting ones.

  • The one created was inetorgpersonlist having Required Attributes listName and objectClass, and Allowed Attributes contact and mail.

That’s it!!

Mail with postfix and ldap

Yes, it’s possible. I did it for the pragyan.org server.

The setup we used was :

/var/mail/virtual/%u : the inboxes of different users,

/var/mail/virtual/PragyanMail/%u/%f : the different folders in mailboxes of different users.

It’s much easily setup than one thinks initially.

HOW??  Here’s how :

But, as with anything else, basics first

  • SMTP server : Simple Mail Transfer Protocol : The server which sends and receives mails. Postfix (or smtp).
  • IMAP server : Internet Message Access Protocol : The service which interacts with the SMTP server to access mail and send mail. Dovecot
  • These come preinstalled in most linux distributions.

Apart from these, other tricks that can be used by people to confuse simple minded, bread earning people like us are :

Now that thats out of the way, lets get our hands dirty.

But again, not so fast. As with anything in linux, when you set off to configure something, you end up knowing much more than you bargained for. 😉


Aliases are mappings between one source name and one or many destination name (in mail).
Aliases can be found out from flat files in the form of mapping, from sql queries or from ldap (man ldap_table). The source itself can be in the destination.
Link to alias files is given in /etc/postfix/main.cf at line

alias_maps = hash:/etc/aliases, ldap:/etc/postfix/ldap-aliases.cf

Type /usr/sbin/postmap -q core@pragyan.org ldap:/etc/postfix/ldap-aliases.cf to see its effects.


The local_transport parameter corresponds to the mail delivery agent used.

  1. The default with postfix is local. The problem with local is that is requires local users and hence, a posixAccount schema to be an objectClass of every mail account. Rejected. Btw local also has to ability of mail forwarding to a user. i.e. if mailbox of user user1 is user1@gmail.com (user forwarding), then local will also forward to user1@gmail.com. By default, it assumes the uid of the user it is delivering mail to while delvering mail.
  2. Next is virtual. This is the one used. Virtual accepts users who are system users. But virtual (for security purposes) does not forward to hosts other than the localhost. So how do we forward to external hosts? virtual forwards in case the mails are aliases. So we simply put the gmail address as the entry of one of the aliases of the mail. If virtual MDA is used then whose uid does it use? (because the uid of the user himself doesn’t exist on the system). Another parameter value has to be used :

      virtual_minimum_uid = 100 (security feature)
      virtual_uid_maps = static:700
      virtual_gid_maps = static:700
  3. Other mail delivery agents : procmail doesn’t understand LDAP, and maildrop has too much overhead.

Group expansion

Excellent notes are available in /usr/share/doc/postfix-2.4.3/README_FILES/LDAP_README.

Any “map” parameter value, like alias_maps, can be either given a flat mapping file name, or a .cf file, with tells it what to do to get the mapping, in this format : protocol:filename. Eg.

virtual_mailbox_maps = ldap:/etc/postfix/accountsmap.cf

Mail boxes

mbox is a format for storing mails. It is the default format used in postfix and dovecot. This is a line from dovecot conf :

mail_location = mbox:/var/spool/mail/virtual/PragyanMail/%u:INBOX=/var/spool/mail/virtual/%u

The first part (mbox:/var/spool/mail/virtual/PragyanMail/%u:INBOX=/var/spool/mail/virtual/%u) refers to the user’s mail folder, which contains all his mail folders (Trash, drafts, sent mail.. ) (the user’s mail folders are files in mbox format)

The second part (mbox:/var/spool/mail/virtual/PragyanMail/%u:INBOX=/var/spool/mail/virtual/%u) refers to the one specific user folder (i.e. server file) which postfix writes to, that is his INBOX. (All other folders are written to and handled by the IMAP client – dovecot.) Other variables which could have been used for specifying this are : %u – username, %n – user part in user@domain, same as %u if there’s no domain, %d – domain part in user@domain, %h – home directory etc.
A virtual user can specify his mail folder to be anywhere. So, the following is a security config for postfix INBOX files :

virtual_mailbox_base = /var/spool/mail/virtual


chmod g+s /usr/bin/procmail

for it to be able to create mail directories

Maps specified in postfix

Maps are specified in /etc/postfix/main.cf. Important maps to be specified are :

  1. User aliases virtual_alias_maps– mapping between group@domain.org and user1@pragyan.org, user2@pragyan.org, …
  2. User mailboxes virtual_mailbox_maps – mapping between mailaddress (user1@pragyan.org) and mailbox location (/var/spool/mail/virtual/user1). A confirmation that the mail address corresponds to a real virtual user. For mail to be delivered, this entry needs to be there, which contains the mailbox address. This is but only a one to one mapping. (Ignores all following values)
local_recipient_maps = $virtual_mailbox_maps

This line is required whenever the local_transport is changed to something else. (in this case to virtual)

Schemas (The Real Working):

  • Ldap Entry evolutionPersonList

    contact (multiple) : links to others ldap entries : uid=sahil,ou=P... , uid=cyber, ou=.. , ...
    mail (multiple) : mails : sahilahuja@gmail.com, core@pragyan.org, ...
    listName (single) : list name : coding
  • main.cf entry : virtual_alias_maps = ldap:/etc/postfix/ldap-aliases.cf . Contents of ldap-aliases.cf :

    server_host =
    search_base = ou=Groups,ou=Pragyan,dc=delta,dc=nitt.edu
    query_filter = (&(objectClass=*)(listName=%u))
    result_attribute = mail
    special_result_attribute = contact
    bind = yes
    bind_dn = cn=dovecot,ou=Pragyan,dc=delta,dc=nitt.edu
    bind_pw = ******
    • The field matched is listName.
    • The query runs recursively runs on field “contact”.
    • All mails of form alias@pragyan.org again go through the same process
  • Ldap entry evolutionPerson . Important thing in it is the mapping between uid and mail. It’s a proof to postfix the user is a real virtual user.
  • main.cf entry virtual_mailbox_maps = ldap:/etc/postfix/accountsmap.cf . Contents of accountsmap.cf :

    server_host =
    search_base = ou=People,ou=Pragyan,dc=delta,dc=nitt.edu
    query_filter = (&(objectClass=*)(mail=%s))
    result_attribute = uid
    bind = yes
    bind_dn = cn=dovecot,ou=Pragyan,dc=delta,dc=nitt.edu
    bind_pw = ******
  • The final main.cf entry that fits it all : virtual_mailbox_base = /var/spool/mail/virtual . A file with the name that is a result of the previous query (uid), gets created in this directory as the inbox of the user.

Workflow is mailid → getaliases → Use alias result to get mail ids → deliver. That is, first alaises get processed, then accountsmap.

Here are the files I used finally :
Here is the link of the guide I used as my own reference.

Fedora Directory Server Rocks!!!

Having gone through the hell of installing an LDAP server once, I thought I could I could install the openldap server on the old server that we had to shift to.

Anshu had already broken his head on it and was at the verge of losing his sanity. And so i stepped in.

First I checked /etc/openldap/slapd.conf, line by line. Everything was fine.
ldapadd -W -x -D "cn=Manager,dc=pragyan,dc=org" -f base.ldif
invalid credentials (49)

Enter password:
I put the password in slapd.conf

tried again.
invalid credentials (49)

Changed the rootdn in slapd.conf
invalid credentials (49)

Removed evolutionperson.schema
invalid credentials (49)

Uninstalled openldap-server, openldap-client, db4utils
rpm -e --nodeps openldap-server openldap-client db4utils etc...
Reinstalled all of these from yum
yum install openldap-server openldap-client db4utils etc...
Reconfigured slapd.conf
invalid credentials (49)

I started making strange sounds, started laughing without reason.

Opened a website listing down installation steps, followed them line by line
invalid credentials (49)

Thats when I remembered Fedora Directory Server. (It wasn’t fully developed when I was implementing LDAP in Fedora 7, so didn’t use it then).

To my pleasant surprise they have the concept of “install scripts”. I felt like a king when the script asked me, “What would you like your domain root to be? Usually, you should keep it the same as your fully qualified domain name”. A smile appeared on my face. I knew the meaning of true happiness then.