Monthly Archives: March 2008

Experiences compiling X11R7

Compiling and installing X11R7, 7.3, was a bit more rough than the X11 compiles I used to perform. I used the build script supplied with the source packages. When it finished, apparently successfully, there were two problems whose solutions were not obvious.

First of all, OpenGL worked on my NVidia box, but not my ATI laptop.

Second, my Chinese fonts for traditional characters in Emacs looked different, much worse. The simplified Chinese characters still looked fine.

OK, what were the problems, and how did I fix them. First of all, the OpenGL issue. I compiled X11 the same way on both computers, why did OpenGL not work on the ATI laptop? Well, both NVidia and ATI ship closed-source binary blobs with support libraries. The difference is that NVidia supplies its own, while ATI uses the one from So, somehow I was failing to compile and install the OpenGL stuff. This didn’t matter for the NVidia case, because it supplied all of the libraries required, but ATI doesn’t do that. I had compiled and installed libMesa, so OpenGL should have worked. The OpenGL component is compiled as part of the xorg-server-1.4 package, and its configure script is executed by the build script that came with Aha, but in order to compile OpenGL, you have to provide the configure script with the path of the libMesa source tree. The build script doesn’t do that, so OpenGL is not built. The solution is to interrupt the build at the point where the xorg-server-1.4 is about to be built (you can edit the script and put in an ‘exit 0’ there, for instance), then configure, build, and install the xorg-server-1.4 archive by hand, remembering to tell it where the mesa source tree is located. Once that completes, you can continue the build with the xorg script (I just commented out all entries above the server compile and resumed).

Now, the font problem. My TTF fonts are in /usr/share/fonts, and I verified that the files there were being read when I asked Emacs to display Chinese characters. So, it appeared as if the Chinese TTF fonts were the ones that were looking bad. A bit of research showed that Emacs does not, as of version 22.1.1, use scalable fonts. So I decided that it probably wasn’t supposed to be using those TTF fonts. Now, I had kept my old X11R6 tree around in case of issues like this, so a quick comparison of directories showed that there were some Chinese PCF fonts in the old install that I had forgotten to copy to the new location. So, I copied these files into their location in the X11R7 tree, and Emacs was restored to its former behaviour with respect to the displaying of Chinese fonts. The fonts, by the way, are taipei15.pcf, taipei16.pcf, taipei24.pcf, taipei24k.pcf, and taipeil24.pcf.

Selective sendmail relaying based on self-signed keys

Back in the early days of the Internet, people trusted one another not to abuse email. Sure, there were accidents. A badly configured mailing list could fill up with traffic as two vacation programs talked to one another, each informing the other that his latest message would not be read until some later date, because the recipient was out of the office.

In those days, you set up your sendmail to relay messages for others. Many people had email addresses that weren’t on a full-time connection to the network, they might be on a BBS that did a nightly download of email, or down some Bitnet rabbit hole. Email was relayed from one intermediate post to another, rather than being simply sent directly from the sender to the receiver. A sendmail daemon that relayed messages for others was helpful to the community, everybody pitched in to get everyone’s email where it was ultimately intended.

Then came new developments. Canter & Siegel, the September that never ended, and the presence of people who would buy things they saw in an unsolicited email message. Spam started to appear in mailboxes. Suddenly, being a helpful person and relaying messages was no longer beneficial to the community, as commercial email senders used relays to hide the origins of their messages. People started turning off open relays on their boxes as a defensive move.

So, now you’ve got a domain set up with a sendmail daemon at home, and you’re traveling with a laptop. To make this a bit more complicated, let’s say your laptop is a work computer, and you send email from its sendmail, but with a different domain than your home computer. Everything’s working fine, until you find that the coffee shop in Beijing where you’re using your laptop has made it onto a list of spamming IP numbers. Some recipients of your messages may not receive them because their sendmail is set up to refuse messages from computers on these bad IP numbers. You know that your home computer is not on a banned IP number, so it would be nice if you could forward your laptop-generated work-related messages through your home computer. It would be even nicer if people selling generic pharmaceuticals could not do the same thing, otherwise your home computer’s IP number will very quickly find itself on one of those banned lists. So, you want to allow relaying from your laptop, but only from your laptop, and do it easily even if you move to another coffee shop.

What you want, then, is a way for your home computer to recognize your laptop, and permit only that computer to relay messages through the home sendmail. This will be done with sendmail’s TLS facility. You will create a private certificate authority, one you don’t have to pay to sign your keys. You’ll then use a signed certificate to verify the identity of the laptop. The following procedure will be performed on the home computer, only at the end of this process will the laptop be involved.

We’ll start by creating two directories on your home computer, one for the certificate authority, and the other for the signed certificates. I’ll use the directory locations that are found in the default OpenSSL configuration file, so that you don’t have to edit too many files.

mkdir /etc/mail/CA /etc/mail/certs /etc/mail/CA/demoCA /etc/mail/CA/demoCA/private

Copy the OpenSSL openssl.cnf file into /etc/mail/CA.

Next, we will create the signing certificate.

$ cd /etc/mail/CA
$ openssl req -new -x509 -keyout demoCA/private/cakey.pem -out demoCA/cacert.pem -days 1000 -config openssl.cnf

You will be prompted for several fields, such as country code, location, name. Here’s a sample dialogue:

$ openssl req -new -x509 -keyout demoCA/private/cakey.pem -out demoCA/cacert.pem -days 1000 -config openssl.cnf
Generating a 1024 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to 'demoCA/private/cakey.pem'
Enter PEM pass phrase:
Verifying - Enter PEM pass phrase:
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:CA
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:Ontario
Locality Name (eg, city) []:Toronto
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:Example
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:
Common Name (eg, YOUR name) []:Bert Ificate
Email Address []

When prompted, you will have to enter a pass phrase twice. Remember this phrase, you will need it if you ever want to sign certificates with this signing certificate.

This command creates new files: /etc/mail/CA/demoCA/cacert.pem and /etc/mail/CA/demoCA/private/cakey.pem. The file contains encoded information related to a certificate signing authority that will be valid for 1000 days.

Next, you must create the certificate that you will use to validate your laptop. You enter the commands:

$ cd /etc/mail/CA
$ openssl req -nodes -new -x509 -keyout laptopcert.pem -out laptopcert.pem -days 365 -config openssl.cnf

Again, you will have to answer some questions. Here is a sample dialogue:

$ openssl req -nodes -new -x509 -keyout laptopcert.pem -out laptopcert.pem -days 365 -config openssl.cnf
Generating a 1024 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to 'laptopcert.pem'
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:CA
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:Alberta
Locality Name (eg, city) []:Calgary
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:Example
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:
Common Name (eg, YOUR name) []:Rhoda Warrior
Email Address []

Now, you have a certificate for your laptop, but it hasn’t yet been signed. You use the signing certificate to vouch for the laptop certificate. First, we have to set up a bit more information for the signing process:

$ mkdir /etc/mail/CA/demoCA/newcerts
$ touch /etc/mail/CA/demoCA/index.txt
$ echo 01 > /etc/mail/CA/demoCA/serial

You’ll only have to do this the first time you set up a signing authority.

Now, we issue two commands to sign the laptop certificate:

$ openssl x509 -x509toreq -in laptopcert.pem -signkey laptopcert.pem -out tmp.pem
$ /usr/local/ssl/bin/openssl ca -config openssl.cnf -policy policy_anything -out signed-laptopcert.pem -infiles tmp.pem

Once again, there will be a brief dialogue when the second command is run, something like this:

$ openssl ca -config openssl.cnf -policy policy_anything -out signed-laptopcert.pem -infiles tmp.pem
Using configuration from openssl.cnf
Enter pass phrase for ./demoCA/private/cakey.pem:
Check that the request matches the signature
Signature ok
Certificate Details:
Serial Number: 1 (0x1)
Not Before: Mar 12 00:46:43 2008 GMT
Not After : Mar 12 00:46:43 2009 GMT
countryName = CA
stateOrProvinceName = Alberta
localityName = Calgary
organizationName = Example
commonName = Rhoda Warrior
emailAddress =
X509v3 extensions:
X509v3 Basic Constraints:
Netscape Comment:
OpenSSL Generated Certificate
X509v3 Subject Key Identifier:
X509v3 Authority Key Identifier:

Certificate is to be certified until Mar 12 00:46:43 2009 GMT (365 days)
Sign the certificate? [y/n]:y

1 out of 1 certificate requests certified, commit? [y/n]y
Write out database with 1 new entries
Data Base Updated

Now, it’s time to tell the home machine’s sendmail that it should relay messages received from this key. Add a line to the /etc/mail/access.src file that looks like this:

CertIssuer:/C=CA/ST=Ontario/L=Toronto/O=Example/CN=Bert+20Ificate/emailAd RELAY

You’ll have to make that file readable by sendmail:

makemap hash access.db < access.src

And now we have to make sure that the home machine’s sendmail knows where to find its certificates and access file. Build a new using a something like this:

VERSIONID(` for version 01')
FEATURE(`nouucp', `reject')
FEATURE(`virtusertable', `hash /etc/sendmail/virtusertable')dnl
FEATURE(`genericstable', `hash /etc/sendmail/genericstable')dnl
FEATURE(`local_procmail', `/usr/local/bin/procmail')
FEATURE(`access_db', `hash -T /etc/mail/access')
define(`CERT_DIR', `MAIL_SETTINGS_DIR`'certs')dnl
define(`confCACERT_PATH', `CERT_DIR')dnl
define(`confCACERT', `CERT_DIR/CAcert.pem')dnl
define(`confSERVER_CERT', `CERT_DIR/MYcert.pem')dnl
define(`confSERVER_KEY', `CERT_DIR/MYkey.pem')dnl
define(`confCLIENT_CERT', `CERT_DIR/MYcert.pem')dnl
define(`confCLIENT_KEY', `CERT_DIR/MYkey.pem')dnl

Now, we move some things around a bit. We copy the signing certificate and laptop signed certificate like this:

$ cd /etc/mail/CA
$ /bin/cp signed-laptopcert.pem /etc/mail/certs
$ /bin/cp demoCA/cacert.pem /etc/mail/certs/CAcert.pem
$ cd /etc/mail/certs
$ ln -s signed-laptopcert.pem `openssl x509 -noout -hash < signed-laptopcert.pem`.0

The three files, demoCA/cacert.pem, laptopcert.pem and signed-laptopcert.pem get copied onto the laptop, in its /etc/mail/certs directory. Now, you must tell the laptop’s sendmail that these are its certificates. This is done by building (on the laptop) the file from a file that looks roughly like this:

VERSIONID(`$Id:,v 8.1 1999/09/24 22:48:05 gshapiro Exp $')
define(`confCACERT_PATH', `/etc/mail/certs/')
define(`confCACERT', `/etc/mail/certs/cacert.pem')
define(`confCLIENT_CERT', `/etc/mail/certs/laptopcert.pem')
define(`confCLIENT_KEY', `/etc/mail/certs/signed-laptopcert.pem')
define(`confSERVER_CERT', `/etc/mail/certs/laptopcert.pem')
define(`confSERVER_KEY', `/etc/mail/certs/signed-laptopcert.pem')
FEATURE(`local_procmail', `/usr/local/bin/procmail')

Finally, you’ll have to decide when you want to relay through the home computer. You really have two choices. You could set it up so that all messages are always relayed through the home computer, by setting a smart relay in your, or you could relay them explicitly. There are other places that identify the technique for setting up a smart relay, so I’ll just describe the second, on-demand version.

If you are trying to send email from your laptop to the user, but want to relay it through your home computer at, you would send the message to this email address:

And there you go, on-demand secure relaying of messages through your home computer.