When someone wants to give you access to a Cisco VPN, they might give you a .mobileconfig file. This is apparently used by MacOS and iOS to encapsulate the configuration parameters needed to connect to a VPN. You should be able to connect to it with open source software (such as NetworkManager and vpnc) as long as you have the right configuration. Some helpful soul has tried to give you that configuration, but it’s wrapped up in an Apple-specific container. Here’s how you rip it open and get the goodies.
A .mobileconfig appears to contain:
- Some binary garbage which is safe to ignore
- An XML document containing the good bits, i.e.:
- The “local identifier” (i.e. IPsec group name)
- The “remote address” (i.e. IPsec gateway host)
- The shared secret (base64 encoded)
- Some more binary garbage which is safe to ignore
…and it looks like this:
<plist version="1.0"> <dict> <key>PayloadContent</key> <array> <dict> <key>IPSec</key> <dict> <key>AuthenticationMethod</key> <string>SharedSecret</string> <key>LocalIdentifier</key> <string>LOCAL_IDENTIFIER_HERE</string> <key>LocalIdentifierType</key> <string>KeyID</string> <key>RemoteAddress</key> <string>REMOTE_ADDRESS_HERE</string> <key>SharedSecret</key> <data> BASE64_ENCODED_SHARED_SECRET_HERE </data> </dict> <key>IPv4</key> <dict> <key>OverridePrimary</key> <integer>0</integer> </dict> <key>PayloadDescription</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadDisplayName</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadIdentifier</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadOrganization</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadType</key> <string>com.apple.vpn.managed</string> <key>PayloadUUID</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadVersion</key> <integer>1</integer> <key>Proxies</key> <dict> <key>HTTPEnable</key> <integer>0</integer> <key>HTTPSEnable</key> <integer>0</integer> <key>ProxyAutoConfigEnable</key> <integer>0</integer> <key>ProxyAutoDiscoveryEnable</key> <integer>0</integer> </dict> <key>UserDefinedName</key> <string>...</string> <key>VPNType</key> <string>IPSec</string> </dict> </array> <key>PayloadDescription</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadDisplayName</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadIdentifier</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadOrganization</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadRemovalDisallowed</key> <false/> <key>PayloadType</key> <string>Configuration</string> <key>PayloadUUID</key> <string>...</string> <key>PayloadVersion</key> <integer>1</integer> </dict> </plist>
The shared secret is base64-encoded, so you can decode it with:
$ echo -n 'BASE64_ENCODED_SECRET_HERE' | base64 -d
Network Manager configuration
- Make sure you have network-manager-vpnc installed
- Click the Network Manager icon, select “VPN Connections”, “Configure VPN…”
- Create a “Cisco-compatible (vpnc)” connection
- Configure the connection settings as follows:
- Enter the “remote address” in the “Gateway” field
- Enter the “local identifier” in the “Group name” field
- Enter the shared secret in the “Group password” field
- To connect, click the Network Manager icon, select “VPN Connections”, and select the connection you just configured
Good luck and enjoy!
For Ada Lovelace Day this year, I want to share my appreciation for Dr. Marian C. Diamond.
In years past, I’ve saluted women in the field of computing, which is my field as well. Dr. Diamond, however, is a biologist. Her research includes “neuroanatomy, environment, immune functions, and hormones. In particular, she is interested in studying the effects of the external environment, aging, and immune responses on the cerebral neocortex.” She has, in her words, had a love affair with the brain for about 70 years.
I know very little about biology. The content and methods of her research are, frankly, beyond me, though some of her results have garnered popular attention. She has inspired me by demonstrating that rare combination of gifts: a deep understanding of a technical subject, and the ability to explain it to other people in an accessible way.
In her interviews, articles and lectures, many of which are available online, Dr. Diamond displays these gifts in abundance. Her skill and enthusiasm for both learning and teaching is unmistakable. After applying her gifts in the classroom for many years, digital distribution has now enabled many more people to see and hear her, through millions of YouTube views.
In 1960, she became the first female graduate student in UC Berkeley’s anatomy department, and was apparently given the job of sewing a cover for a magnifying machine. I can only imagine the persistence required to continue from there to become a recognized leader in her field. She has gone on to help many other students along their way, and was named an “unsung, everyday hero” for the support she provided to students outside of the classroom or lab.
As if that weren’t enough, she has also traveled to Cambodia to apply her expertise in helping children injured by land mines. She still teaches today, just across the bay from where I write this, and will turn 85 next month.
If you were building a digital container to store your personal data, what would it look like?
Personal data being information associated with you: your contacts, your photos, the web pages you’ve visited, the places you’ve been, the messages you’ve sent and received, and so on. In short, your stuff.
Here’s my personal wish list of technical requirements:
- It has to be made of free software, of course
- It must keep my data secure, while allowing me to share it when and how I want to
- It needs to handle a range of different data types natively, and be extensible to new types, from photos to real-time sensor data
- It should be able to collect my data from many different places where it is being created and stored
- It should have a rich API, so that I can create applications which access my data
- If I want to, I should be able to host it myself, on my own hardware, without compromising my ability to access and share it
Of course, this isn’t merely an academic exercise, as my new day job at Singly is about building exactly this type of system. With a technical team including Jeremie Miller of Jabber and XMPP fame, our goal is to develop a personal data platform which meets these criteria and more.
There’s a lot of work to do, but today, you can check out the code and run a locker of your own, which can sync in data from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Foursquare, Github and dozens of other services. It’s a bit of a bear to set up, particularly if you don’t already have API keys for these services, but that’s fairly normal at this early stage of development.
If you try it, or have thoughts about what we’re doing, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks to the tremendous growth of “social” applications over the past five years, we have our pick of services for collecting, saving and sharing our experiences online. We each have collections of photos, contacts, messages and more, spread across multiple popular services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, as well as many less popular services which address particular needs or preferences. We’re also producing a wealth of “exhaust data” through our browsing history, mobile sensors, transactions and other activity streams that we rarely if ever examine directly.
This ecosystem is becoming so complex that it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve created, shared or seen. We need new tools to manage this complexity, to make the most of the wealth of information and connections available to us through various services. John Battelle calls these “metaservices”, and points to growth in the number of connections between the services we use.
I expect that this next age of information tools will center around data rather than services. Data is a common denominator for these online experiences, a bridge across disparate services, technologies, social graphs, and life cycles. Personal data, in particular, has this property: the only thing that links together your photos on Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and Twitpic is…you.
So where’s your “data center”? I don’t anticipate the emergence of a single service where you do everything. There will continue to be innovation in the form of new and specialized services which meet a particular need very well. There won’t be a single service which is everything to everybody.
Instead, I foresee us wanting to track, save, use and control all of our “stuff” across the web. That’s why my new colleagues and I are working to make that possible.
There’s open source code available on github, a vibrant IRC channel (#lockerproject on Freeenode), and lots more I’d like to write about it. But it’s time to get back to work for now…
Our first milestone
The goal of our first project, nicknamed ancient-patches, was to clear out an old batch of a few hundred Ubuntu patches whose status was unclear. We couldn’t tell which ones had been merged into Debian, which were waiting in the BTS, and which had yet to be submitted to Debian. All of them were several years old.
I’m pleased to announce that this project is now complete. Thanks to help from David Paleino, Colin Watson, Nathan Handler and Steve Langasek, we were able to clear over 95% of the patches in a matter of days. These were the easy ones: patches which were obsolete, or had already been applied. We discussed the remainder, and resolved all of the patches whose status was still unclear. This left the harder ones: patches stalled in the BTS, and patches where there was no consensus about what to do with them.
One of the stalled patches was merged into Debian via an NMU, eliminating the delta between Debian and Ubuntu. Another had been submitted to Debian by a third party, but was no longer shipping in Ubuntu, so we considered it obsolete for purposes of this project.
This has left only two patches out of the original list of 277. Both of them are filed in the BTS and have been discussed with the relevant maintainer team. One of them is expected to be obsoleted when a new upstream version is packaged, which implements similar functionality. The other is being discussed with the upstream developers, but there is no conclusion yet about whether it can be merged upstream or in Debian.
Although we weren’t quite able to clear the whole list, we still consider the project to be a success because:
- We ensured that all of the patches received due consideration for inclusion in Debian
- We proved the concept of DEX, with developers from Debian and derivatives cooperating on a common goal and sharing tools
- Most importantly, we learned from the experience
In the most recent DEX update on debian-derivatives, I highlighted a few important events for DEX:
- Our second major project, nicknamed “big-merges”, will begin soon. Our goal is to identify the few packages which are most diverged between Debian and Ubuntu, and work to get them as close to identical as possible. If you have suggestions for packages to focus on, let us know!
- Allison Randal is beginning a DEX project to implement the Python 2.7 transition across Debian and Ubuntu
- Nathan Handler is working on a Summer of Code project to develop specialized tools to help with this kind of cross-distribution teamwork
- Zack is organizing a derivatives BoF at DebConf 11
We’re looking forward to seeing DEX develop further. If you’d like to get involved, come and join us on the debian-derivatives mailing list or IRC (#debian-derivatives on
Matt Zimmerman and Stefano Zacchiroli
This June, soon after my seventh anniversary with Canonical, I will finish my job as Ubuntu CTO at Canonical. You can read my official announcement on the Canonical blog.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that it’s been that long since we first envisioned a Linux desktop “for human beings”. When I look at how far we’ve come, at the difference we’ve made to so many people, it’s easy to see how the time passed so quickly.
It’s been an incredible experience for me to play a part in building Ubuntu and Canonical. Whether building a decentralized company of hundreds of people, to a global community project of tens of thousands of members, I’m grateful for all of the learning opportunities along the way. It has been a privilege to work with so many brilliant, passionate and thoughtful people under such auspicious circumstances. There is much I will miss, and I have many memories to enjoy, from all-night global hacking sessions driving toward a ship date, to casual singing and playing music at our many face-to-face events
Nonetheless, it is time for me to seek out new challenges and stretch myself in new ways. I’ll be moving back to the US, closer to old friends and family, and starting a new job with a different type of company. I am leaving behind a capable and dedicated team at Canonical, who I am confident will achieve even greater things in the years to come.
I will remain active in the free software community as a volunteer. I intend to continue to participate in Ubuntu, and to serve on the Technical Board. I will also be continuing my work with Debian and the DEX project. This year, I’ve accepted advisory positions with the Ada Initiative and the Freedom Box Foundation, and will continue to support those organizations and their missions.
I’ll be in Budapest at the Ubuntu Developer Summit for the next week, and look forward to seeing my friends in Canonical and the Ubuntu community.
I’ll have more to say soon about what I’ll be doing next professionally. Watch this space for updates!