Stuff I'm Up To

Technical Ramblings

Spectre and VMWare — March 8, 2019

Spectre and VMWare

For some time we’ve suffered a problem with our Windows 7 VDI systems that has prevented us from applying Windows Updates.

If we applied any of the rollups from March 2018 onward the VDI session would reboot itself under one special condition. If a user/client used the Cisco AnyConnect VPN software within the VDI Guest then almost exactly 2 minutes and 10 seconds after connecting, the VDI machine would throw a fatal error and reboot. Instantly terminating the users session.

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PHPUnit Code Coverage — March 5, 2019

PHPUnit Code Coverage

The more development time we spend on the corporate Laravel app the more mature the code becomes and the more our development practices evolve.

One of the introductions was to ensure we carried out unit testing on our modules and classes to ensure we don’t break any existing functionality by introducing new features.

We started using PHPUnit to carry out the testing for our Laravel/PHP API’s. Now when we run our tests can we really be sure we haven’t broken anything? All we’re really doing is proving that we get consistent results to our tests. What we aren’t sure of is if the tests we have built are sufficient to cover all eventualities handled by our code eg. we know the test works when we pass in valid parameters, but did we write a test that passed in bad parameters, or test that we get a failure when we should?

This is where PHPUnit’s code coverage plugin comes into it.

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Sophos Mobile 9.0 — February 28, 2019

Sophos Mobile 9.0

Today saw me upgrading our Sophos Mobile Control v8 server.

Mandatory Upgrade Notice: Sophos Mobile 9.0

Dear Customer,

Please be advised that, effective April 2019, management of Android devices will cease to function with versions of Sophos Mobile older than 8.6. All instances of the Sophos Mobile management server should be upgraded to the latest version, 9.0, to ensure continuous management. Read how to easily upgrade to Sophos Mobile 9.0 and find out what’s new.

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Chocolatey Package Manager — February 27, 2019

Chocolatey Package Manager

Using package managers is second nature in Linux, but in Windows you get free reign to go download and install anything you like from anywhere. Not a bad thing, but when you have a host of packages installed, keeping them all up to date can be frustrating. That’s where “chocolatey” comes in.

Chocolatey is a windows package manager based on Powershell. You can use it in the same sort of way you’d use a Linux repository using choco install or choco uninstall to download and install packages.

But there is a GUI. Once you have installed chocolatey just use the installer (from the command line) to install the GUI:

C:\> choco install chocolateygui 

If you then use it to install all your required programs such as 7-Zip, Git, Java SE, Notepad++, VirtualBox, inkscape, etc. then each time you visit the GUI you can just click to upgrade everything and it will go fetch and install the latest version of all the software you used chocolatey to install.

Gitahead — February 1, 2019
Laravel 5.5 HMR and Windows — January 15, 2019

Laravel 5.5 HMR and Windows

Using HMR in Chrome on Linux is faultless, but on Windows HMR fails to start in the browser.

Looking at the entries in the bowsers script tags they seem a bit goofy. There’s leading slashes and spaces before the script filename.

It seems this is a popular issue. We hunted around for quite a few pointers to resolve this.

The only thing we changed was line 90 of Entry.js to add on the extra replace(/^\//, ''); A restart of yarn hot and a browser refresh and we were good to go. HMR and WDS show in the Chrome console as expected and changes to code are now dynamic.

DBeaver – SQL GUI — November 6, 2018

DBeaver – SQL GUI

I’ve used a few SQL GUI’s over the years, SQuirreL, DBVisualizer, HeidiSQL, MySQL Workbench, but the one that stands out recently is DBeaver.

It’s got a community and enterprise edition. The community does everything I need and connects to all the SQL servers we use, Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Postgres/PostGIS.

Being Java based it’s cross platform, so you can use it in Windows too.

Proxy Fun and Games — October 11, 2018

Proxy Fun and Games

I seem to spend most of may day trying to sort out issues regarding getting different applications through the corporate proxy server. I’m really hoping one day we can setup a transparent proxy if for no other reason than to make our development lives easier.

At present we need use a browser proxy script (http://wpad/wpad.dat) to determine which of the corporate proxy servers to use. We have an internet proxy and a Gov’t gateway proxy. Depending where the user is trying to go determines which proxy they must use.

The script works just fine for 99% of our user base.

However, when it comes to the other 1% there’s need to tell not just the browser what proxy to use, but in the development world we need to inform the various development tools how to use a proxy too. This is where the pain is.

We need to setup a proxy in several places eg. for the operating system, for the browser, for Git, for NPM/Yarn, for Composer, for Java…

Operating System


Open a CMD/PowerShell window with Administrative permissions

C:> netsh winhttp set proxy http://username:password@ "<local>"

You may not need the username and password here as the OS will send your Windows credentials.

The <local> means bypass the proxy for any local address. You may add into that for other specific servers eg. "<local>,server.domain.tld"

Also set the Environment variables for the proxy

Windows Key + R

control sysdm.cpl,,3

Click the environment settings and add in the following settings to your user variables.



$ sudo vi /etc/envronment


Git proxy settings

$ git config --global http.proxy http://username:password@

You’ll probably need to ensure this is set for the sudo environment too if you ever have the need to install global requirements with npm.

$ sudo git config --global http.proxy http://username:password@

NPM proxy settings

$ npm config set proxy http://username:password@

Again you’ll probably need to ensure it’s replicated into sudo.

$ sudo npm config set proxy http://username:password@

This actually writes to a file in your home folder called .npmrc which you can edit if you need to put in some backslashes to escape and special characters in your password. eg. c:\Users\myuser\.npmrc or ~/.npmrc and the sudo version will write it into the root users home folder.

Yarn proxy settings

As Yarn is essentially npm on steroids it works the same way but writes to ~/.yarnrc

$ yarn config set proxy http://username:password@
$ sudo yarn config set proxy http://username:password@

Composer proxy settings

Thankfully this is capable of using the Operating System proxy environment variables. So if you set them as above for Windows and/or Linux you should be good to go.

Java proxy settings

This has it’s own rules just like all the others. But you may also run into Java applications having their own proxy settings too. Such as gradle which has it’s own properties file to setup the proxy. They all seem to be a similar pattern though, edit a properties file and add in:


Typically this is done in the JRE’s lib/ file so it applies to Java globally. eg. My file is located under c:\Program Files\Java\jdk1.80_151\lib and has plenty of helpful commented examples on how to set things.

Under Debian my is located under /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.8.0-openjdk-amd64/jre/lib

They can also be passed to the Java command line as -D parameters eg.

$ java -Dhttp.proxyHost= -Dhttp.proxyPort=8080 -Dhttp.nonProxyHosts="localhost|domain.local"
Local Git Repository — October 6, 2018

Local Git Repository

When working on a project at home I don’t necessarily want to host my Git repo online and don’t feel the need for installing a Gitlab server on my home network, but I do want to backup my projects to my cloud backup.

I also would like to not backup all the vendor resources with my project. So I’d like to exclude the node_module folder and other .gitignore content.

Whilst googling around I discovered I could just use a folder as a repo. Most people tend to do this onto a network file share, but my needs were simple. All I wanted to do was include my Git repo within the folders that are automatically backed up to the cloud.

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XSLT and SOAP — September 14, 2018


All of our SOAP interactions with the Lagan CRM send and return SOAP and by association, XML. The normal practice of handling the sent or returned XML is by using XSLT to transform the data to and from the required format.

The forms product will submit XML through an XSL translation taking data from the POST’ed form data and turning it into the XML format/type required. The returned XML data must also be processed via an XSLT to present the data to the form.

How do we go about testing translations and stylesheets without constantly publishing forms and requesting data from the CRM server?

For this I used postman to submit and retrieve sample SOAP envelopes with the required XML soapenv:Body. Then I can take the returned sample data and save it to an XML file. Now I have a local sample of the XML I can use an XSLT tool to process it via a locally created stylesheet. No more repetitive form submissions or having to work with only the form product to develop the XSLT.


XSLT Tools

There are a very few XSLT tools that seem to do the job for free. Certainly when it comes to a GUI environment all the tools are paid for products.

At the command line there are some free options, but each have challenges. But I figured that just because it’s command line, doesn’t mean I can’t use it in a GUI. Atom has a very useful plugin that can be used to interface with the command line XSLT programs – atom-xsltransform. The settings for the plugin just point to the XSLT processor of your choice.

Once installed you press ctrl-shift-p whilst in your XML source file, it prompts you for the path of the XSLT transformation file to use and then returns the output into an edit tab in Atom.


For Windows I came across a very simple command line product from Microsoft MSXSL. It doesn’t look like there’s a recent version as this dates back to 2004. But as XML has been around for 20 years or so this may not be a problem. I did however find it seemed to produce broken output that looked to be to do with unicode. So maybe it’s not capable of handling the UTF-8 files I’m using.


This is from the world of Linux, but there is a port to Windows that works.

For Linux just install it from the repository:

$ sudo apt-get install xsltproc

For Windows, it’s harder work. Not significantly, but frustrating. You need to download a series of files, extract them all into the same place, to let their individual bin folders merge their contents. Then you can run the included xsltproc.exe and it should find all of the dll’s.

I chose the 64bit 7z files and extracted these files:

  • iconv-1.14-win32-x86_64.7z
  • libtool-2.4.6-win32-x86_64.7z
  • libxml2-2.9.3-win32-x86_64.7z
  • libxslt-1.1.28-win32-x86_64.7z
  • mingwrt-5.2.0-win32-x86_64.7z
  • openssl-1.0.2e-win32-x86_64.7z
  • xmlsec1-1.2.20-win32-x86_64.7z
  • zlib-1.2.8-win32-x86_64.7z


This is a Java product and comes in a number of versions from home edition to professional that requires payment.

It’s hosted here on Sourceforge:

I downloaded the HE (home edition) and just placed the jar files somewhere I could use them.

From the Linux command line I used it like this:

$ java -jar saxon9he.jar -s:/home/user/lagan/xslt/FWTCaseFullDetails.xml -xsl:/home/user/lagan/xslt/FWTCaseFullDetails.xslt

Atom plugin settings

It’s a simple case of putting in the path of the executable you want to run. Pay attention to the order of the parameters for the tools. MSXML and xsltproc have the XML and XSL options in a different order.

For the Linux xsltproc settings I used:

/usr/bin/xsltproc %XML %XSL

For Saxon I had to be specific about where the jar file was as I haven’t installed it into the java class path.

java -jar /home/home/saxon/saxon9he.jar -s:%XML -xsl:%XSL


The XSLT stylesheet acts as the instruction set to take the XML input and apply the XSLT logic to transform the XML content into another format such as text or HTML.

W3Schools has some useful guidance here:

Another useful intro:


Exchange 2013 – Certificate Revocation — May 30, 2018

Exchange 2013 – Certificate Revocation

Using the Exchange Control Panel showed that the certificate being used whilst not expired and valid could not pass a revocation check.

I figured this would be because the server couldn’t get out on the internet to read the necessary CRL. But it wasn’t even trying to get online according to our corporate proxy logs.

The netsh proxy settings were correct, but obviously something wasn’t proxy aware.

The resolution goes back to a 2010 hack that calls Internet Explorer as the Local System account. Only thing is, this didn’t work on Windows 2012. It did however give me the necessary light bulb moment to resolve it.

By using the Sysinternals PsExec to launch a command prompt as the local system I could then run Iexplorer.exe and set the proxy for the Local System account.

C:\> psexec -s -i cmd.exe

and up pops a new cmd window that runs as Local System. Now call Iexplorer.exe in that new cmd window.

C:\> "C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\iexplorer.exe"

and up pops IE for you to set the proxy as necessary. Give it 15 minutes or so and go back to check the Certificate status and now it shows as “Valid” – Job done!


Proftpd and LDAP / Active Directory — May 10, 2018

Proftpd and LDAP / Active Directory

We’ve had a vsftpd server for a while and it’s performed very well for us. But it would appear that it’s not actively maintained. This may not be a problem as it still currently works just fine and we don’t have any obvious vulnerabilities with it, but as the OS it’s running on is Wheezy we need to move on at least up to Stretch. So I figured I’d try deploying a new server but configured with proftpd.

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