WordPressDash – blog from your Dashboard

Not enough that I can blog with ecto, use Flock or login into WordPress directly to feed you with news… No!
Now I found a Dashboard widget (which I’m using right now) that allows me to kick off a few lines very quickly.

WordPressDash is an easy solution to post simple texts. For more complex layouts I would rather switch to ecto but WordPressDash lets you set the Category your entry is poted in and there is even a choice if you want to save it as draft or post it directly for everyones viewing pleasure :)

Easily access SSH connections on your Mac

After reading a tip (and the comments) at macosxhints.com about how to mount a server via the finders sidebar using automator I came up with a very easy way to access my server via SSH in the Terminal.

This method lets you open the Terminal, automatically ssh’ed into your server, via Spotlight, the Finders Sidebar, the Dock, your Desktop or anywhere else you can think of.
The following is a step by step tutorial on how to achieve this.

  1. First you make sure your server is accessible without a password (via ssh public key authentication) for your own convenience. This step can be left out as well but it is much better this way ;)
    Read about how to set this up here. The entry is in german but the steps you have to take are in english, so it should be easy to follow.
  2. Open up TextEdit with a new document and fill in the address to the server in the following form:
    ssh://user@yourserver.comDraganddrop
    Select the text, click and hold until the cursor turns into your normal mouse pointer. Now drag and drop the text to your desktop as shown in the picture to the right (click on it for a bigger view). This creates a shortcut file on your Desktop that you can rename to whatever you want. You can even change the icon on it!
    Now close TextEdit.
  3. Next choose a location for the file in your filesystem. I made a folder called “connections” in my home folder where I plan to keep all my server connection shortcuts. But we’re not stopping here. The shortcut is a normal file as any other in OS X, so you can drag it to your sidebar, keep it in your Dock, search for it with Spotlight or click on it in the Finder.

Findit-1

If you happen to use and love Launchbar like me, there is an even quicker way to open your server connection: Open the Launchbar Configuration ([CMD]+Y in Launchbar) and right click / [CRTL]+click in the left pane where all the different rules are listed. Click on New Rule -> Folder… and in the resulting dialog choose the folder where you keep your connection shortcuts.
Now you can open each of them by just typing the name of the shortcut in Launchbar and hitting enter.

digg story

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Growl additions to iCal & NetNewsWire

Picture 1-3
In an attempt to make Growl even more useful on my Mac I added two scripts today.

The first one is Growl Notifications for iCal. It lets you add reminders to events in your calendar via Growl in addition to eMails and the standard giant iCal reminder that always gets in the way.

Picture 2Thomas Aylott made a little hack for the Mail reminder Applescript for iCal, allowing it to remind you via sticky Growl notifications. This is how it ought to be, it’s perfect in my eyes!
If you want cool iCal notifications as well get his script here (including instructions how to install).

Picture 2-1
The second Growl addition to my Mac is NewsGrowl. This script is an addition to my favorite newsreader NetNewsWire. It shows you which feeds have new news items and how many there are. Simple, unobtrusive … Growl style!
The script binds into NetNewsWire as a “special subscription” at the bottom of your feed list.
Get NewsGrowl (including installation instructions).

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Mount your server home-directory securly via an OpenVPN connection

Tunnelblick

A few month ago I started to look at OpenVPN which has a very good GUI for the Mac called “Tunnelblick“. After I managed to set it up on my server I thought why not share my home directory via the VPN tunnel and mount it on my Desktop. It should be fairly usable, providet I’ve got sufficient net connection on my end, since my server has a 100MBit internet line. So I set up Samba and let it listen only on the VPN interface.
The following is a quick step-by-step how-to on setting up such a setup :)

Install OpenVPN on your server
Donwload the latest source from http://openvpn.net/download.html
Unpack it and run the usual commands:
./configure
make
make install

Then do some testing:
make check
If it all works fine, you’re good to go.
The other possibility is of course to install it from a package your distribution provides you, in my case this is handled by apt (aptitude install openvpn) which has the advantage of setting up init scripts so the VPN is startet at system boot and taking care that the whole environment on the server is suitable.

Configure OpenVPN on your server
We’re gonna work with a pre shared static key here because it is easier to set up and provides enough security for home use.
My config file on the server side looks as simple as following (/etc/openvpn/home.conf):
dev tun
ifconfig 10.8.0.1 10.8.0.2
secret static.key
comp-lzo
keepalive 10 60
ping-timer-rem
persist-tun
persist-key

This tells OpenVPN to start a new VPN on the “tun” device with the IP of 10.8.0.1 using the key named “static.key”. The rest are some tweaking commands which should be pretty self explanatory.

Now we only need the static key.
We can construct one by putting in the following command:
openvpn --genkey --secret static.key
The static key file is formated in ASCII and should be kept very private. Send one copy to the computer you would like to connect to your server and keep the other copy besides your config file on your server.

Install and set-up Samba
Next you need to install Samba. I again took the Debian way via “aptitude install samba”. Then I tweaked the standard setup to export the user’s home directories and listen only on the VPN interface and not the normal one.
interfaces = lo, 10.0.0.0/8
bind interfaces only = Yes

[homes]
comment = Home Directories
browseable = yes
writable = yes
create mask = 0775
directory mask = 0775

The rest of the smb.conf file can be pretty much left alone.

Start openvpn and samba
Provided you installed it via your packaging system or set up the init scripts yourself you can now start the two programs by typing in “/etc/init.d/openvpn start” and “/etc/init.d/samba start” (or wherever your distri keeps it’s init scripts).
If the two started up ok, you’re done on the server side.
Time to move on to the client.

Install Tunnelblick
Download it from www.tunnelblick.net, mount the Disk Image and double click on “Tunnelblick-Complete.mpkg” which installs all the necessary drivers and software packages. Now you should have a Tunnelblick icon in your Applications folder.
When starting the program for the first time, it will well you that there is no configuration file present and will offer you a sample configuration.
Simply replace the sample configuration with the following:
remote IP_OR_DOMAIN_OF_YOUR_SERVER
dev tun
ifconfig 10.8.0.2 10.8.0.1
secret static.key
comp-lzo
keepalive 10 60
ping-timer-rem
persist-tun
persist-key

As the last step you have to put the file “static.key” that you obtained from your server earlier in ~/Library/openvpn (this is where your config resides as well).
This should be it. Click on the Tunnel entrance symbol to the left of your Spotlight icon and choose your config, after a short moment the connection will be present.

The last thing to do is to mount your home directory.
Press CMD+K in the Finder (or go to “Go -> Connect to Server” in the Menu) and type in the following:
smb://user@10.8.0.1/user
substituting “user” with your username on the server. After that a new icon should appear on your desktop containing all the files you have in your home directory on your server :)

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