Category Archives: Linux

Headphones not muting the speakers with a Gigabyte motherboard

It had been months since I had an weired issue with the embedded audio controller of my Gigabyte motherboard.

Plugin the headphones on the front panel of my box didn’t mute the output to the speakers, which nullified the purpose of having headphones.

I long thought that it was some hardware issue that I would have to sort some day by opening the box and checking the connections.

Yesterday, I decided to solve it for good and I started to google… and found out that it was a pure software issue!

The culprit sounded to be some unproper settings of the ALSA module and this Ubuntu guide just saved me.

I carefully followed the steps and it appeared that for my Gigabyte GA-790FXTA-UD5, it was necessary to this line:

add options snd-hda-intel model=3stack-hp



Ok, it did not go so smoothly as I picked out randomly models from the list until I find the right one (I had no idea of what was embbeded on my board). I hope this may help, as I have quite a lot of people with similar issues with all kinds of vendors.

How do you manage your passwords?

We all know that passwords sucks, that they are the nightmare of all administrators and security guys. So many hacks have been eased because the victims reused the same password everywhere : email account, forum, bank, critical systems…

Sadly, so far, there is even not the beginning of a replacement solution. Passwords will be there for long, so we would better use them accordingly.

Yes, I am aware of many on-line services like FisrtPass, KeePass, 1stPassword, etc. However, I don’t feel comfortable with having all my password somewhere on-line, even if they claim – and I believe they are sincere, that they use strong encryption and can’t access to it.

Instead, I use a combination of the Firefox password manager and the Pwgen add-on. I use this add-on to quickly and conveniently generate a random password when I subscribe to a web service. When Firefox prompts for it, I just choose to remember the password automatically. SSO quick and dirty.

For the other passwords that I can’t and don’t need to memorize, I store them in a local encrypted file.

To edit the file, I simply use Vim with this nice GPG plugin:

  • copy gpg.vim to /home/$user/.vim/plugin
  • if not done yet, generate you GPG key :
     $ gpg --gen-key
  • Encrypt your password file and erase it:
    $ gpg --encrypt --recipient 'your name' passwords
    $ rm passwords
  • Now, it’s done. Just edit password.gpg to decrypt and access to your passwords (you will be prompted for your passphrase):
    $ vim passwords.gpg

If you don’t like the overhead of GPG, a more straightforward solution is to use the OpenSSL extension :

  • Copy the openssl.vim file to /home/$user/.vim/plugin as well.
  • Now, to encrypt to file to, say, AES (note the .aes file extension which makes sense for the plugin):
    $ openssl aes-256-cbc -in passwords -out passwords.aes
  • Decryption will occur as soon as you edit the file with Vim:
    $ vim passwords.aes

I believe that, if not perfect, it is pretty secure. I mean not more, not less than your system is. Anyway I don’t have any need for an on-line manager. And you, how do you manage your passwords? Let us know about your tips.

Disk wiping : Myth broken

There are many urban legends in the industry. I did believe in one of them : “wiping a disk to properly prevent data restore requires random writes and several passes”.

At least until I found this very instructive article, “Disk Wiping – One pass is enough“. Don’t miss the second part which clarifies some points and gives more details.

In short, after one pass, every bit of the disk is filled with zero and there is simply no way to find out what the previous value was. Even the best tools out there have no clue to do it.

Then, there is a theory of physically restoring each bit using a magnetic force microscope. It has always came with a high error rate, and with modern high density disks it is even less reliable. Now, considering any real world data length, errors occurring on the restored bits would make it impossible to rebuild any usable data. There is obviously no chance for such a technique to recover a file.

So, in the future, I will not only save time doing one pass, but I will replace :

$ dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sda


$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda

Note that formating just reset the partition table. In no way it clears out every bit of the disk.

Corrupted virtual disk with VMware

Wow, this article and especially one of its comments saved my day.

My computer crashed and one of the VMware machine hosted on it could not start anymore :

“Cannot open the disk ‘path of vmdk’ or one of the snapshot disks it depends on.
Reason: the specific virtual disk needs repair.

Checking on the VMware forums, I quickly found the command that was supposed to help :

$ vmware-vdiskmanager -R /path/to/disk.vmdk
The virtual disk, '/path/to/disk.vmdk', is corrupted but the repair process has failed.

Damned ! I almost resigned restoring the last backup and loosing a week of work when, by chance, I found the article mentioned above.

As recommended, I downloaded the Virtual Disk Development Kit 1.2 from VMware, untared it and still doubtfully launched :

$ ./bin64/vmware-vdiskmanager -R /path/to/disk.vmdk
The virtual disk, '/path/to/disk.vmdk', was corrupted and has been  successfully repaired.

Saved! Thanks so much to the guys. I would have never thought about trying it, I wonder how they could find it.

But how is it possible that the utility coming with vmware workstation 7.1 suck so much and is not on par with other versions ?