The fast way to install debs on Debian

March 17, 2018 Sysadmin No comments

I personally prefer the packages for nginx over the ones that comes with Debian. They are usually newer and have a more sane amount of dependencies. I also prefer the conf.d system over the sites-available and sites-enabled system.

The main challenge in installing these packages on Debian is the trouble you have to go through to get the PGP keys and sources.list set up. does not present a good setup script. This has become a repetitive and annoying experience, so I present a series of commands to set it up quickly.

For stable:

curl | sudo apt-key add -
(codename="$(dpkg --status tzdata | grep Provides | cut -f2 -d'-')"; echo; for deb in deb deb-src; do echo $deb "$codename" nginx; done) | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install nginx

For mainline:

curl | sudo apt-key add -
(codename="$(dpkg --status tzdata | grep Provides | cut -f2 -d'-')"; echo; for deb in deb deb-src; do echo $deb "$codename" nginx; done) | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install nginx

On the migration to Python 3

November 18, 2017 Uncategorized No comments

Recently, the DMOJ judge codebase has been migrated to Python 3, thanks to the combined efforts of me, Xyene, and kiritofeng. Many issues, such as unicode handling were exposed in the process.

Since Python 2 is still in heavy use, at least in the deployment of the DMOJ judge, compatibility with it must be maintained. This necessitated writing code in such a fashion as to be compatible with both Python 2 and Python 3. The six library has proved tremendously helpful in abstracting away the differences, some of which highly non-trivial.

For example, six.with_metaclass hides away the difference in metaclass use. In Python 2, the __metaclass__ class member defines the metaclass used for the class, while in Python 3, one would specify it as class Class(metaclass=MetaClass). The latter would be a syntax error in Python 2, and the former has no effect in Python 3. six provides a solution that is highly non-obvious and yet works perfectly.

The most frustrating part is unicode-handling. The DMOJ judge was written somewhat sloppily in regards to unicode handling, dealing mostly with bytestrings and raw bytes. With the separation of bytes and str in Python 3, strings in the judge must be turned into either bytes or str on a case-by-case basis. It is decided that source code and program output will be treated as raw bytes, and textual data that are derived from these will be handled as UTF-8.


Installing Debian ARM64 on Raspberry Pi 3 with WiFi

October 27, 2017 Sysadmin No comments

Most users are probably using Raspbian on their Raspberry Pi 3. However, Raspbian is designed for all Raspberry Pi devices, back to the original Raspberry Pi, which is ARMv6 with an FPU. This does not take advantage of the 64-bit support on the ARMv8 CPU on the Raspberry Pi 3.

Debian has offered ARM64 support for a while, and being the base distribution for Raspbian, is quite similar. Conveniently, there is a pre-built Debian image for Raspberry Pi 3. You can download it and copy it to a SD card, and it should work out of the box.

On Linux, the simple dd command showed on the Debian Wiki works. On other platforms, notably Windows, Etcher is reputed to work well and has an easy interface.

The one flaw with this image is that the WiFi does not work.

Update: The 20180108 image now works with WiFi out of the box. The following instructions are no longer necessary.


ARM Assembly: ∞ Ways to Return

October 19, 2017 Assembly No comments

ARM is unusual among the processors by having the program counter available as a “general purpose” register. Most other processors have the program counter hidden, and its value will only be disclosed as the return address when calling a function. If you want to modify it, a jumping instruction is used.

For example, on the x86, the program counter is called the instruction pointer, and is stored in eip, which is not an accessible register. After a function call, eip is pushed onto the stack, at which point it could be examined. Return is done through the ret instruction which pops the return address off the stack, and jumps there.

Another example: on the MIPS, the program counter is stored into register 31 after executing a JALR instruction, which is used for function calling. The value in there can be examined, and a return is a register jump JR to that register.

ARM’s unusual design allows many, many ways of returning from functions. But first, we must understand how function calls work on the ARM.


private and final fields: Can you actually hide data in Java?

October 12, 2017 Java No comments

Sometimes, after many attempts, you realized that to complete your mission, you must access private fields, or perhaps change final fields.

There are many reasons imaginable: the accessors copy the entire object before returning, and that takes a very long time, the authors forgot to provide an accessor, the library function is highly inefficient and you need to do better, …

Are you out of luck? Fortunately, no.


Online Judging Sandbox: From Linux to FreeBSD

October 7, 2017 Code, Security No comments

As most probably know, DMOJ uses a sandbox to protect itself from potentially malicious user submissions. An overview of the Linux sandbox has been published by my friend Tudor. However, it doesn’t go deep into the implementation details, many of which differ between Linux and FreeBSD.

At its core, the sandbox, cptbox, uses the ptrace(2) API to intercept system calls before and after they are executed, denying access and manipulating results. The core is written in C, hence the name cptbox.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between Linux and FreeBSD is that on Linux, ptrace(2) subfunctions are invoked as ptrace(PTRACE_*), while on FreeBSD, it is ptrace(PT_*). But this difference is rather superficial compared to the significant internal differences.


Effective Assembly: Bitwise Shifts

Most people, when first starting assembly, still carry over a lot of high level constructs in their assembly programs. A common pattern is to multiply and divide when a bit shift would suffice.

For example, a lot of people would write a program to write out the binary representation of an integer using the divide and modulo operations. This is rather inefficient compared to using shifts. For example, the divide by 2 can be replaced with a right shift by 1, and modulo 2 can be replaced by a bitwise AND with 1.

Aside: interestingly, taking any number modulo a power of two m is equivalent to doing a bitwise AND with m-1. The proof of this is left as an exercise for the reader.

This post will address the basics you need to know about shifts to get up to speed on writing good assembly.


A new “Hello, World!” for C

August 27, 2017 Code No comments

Most of us have a good idea how to write a simple “Hello, World!” program in C, but sometimes it feels a little too easy. Luckily, we can always make it more of a challenge!

Consider a hypothetical situation where many symbols are banned, such as ", ', \, #, {, and }, and we aren’t allowed the string Hello, World! as a subsequence in the code. How would we write a “Hello, World!” program then?

Is it impossible, because we can no longer use {} to write a block of code for a function? Is it impossible, because we can’t actually embed the string?


Using the Visual C++ compiler on Linux

August 11, 2017 Code No comments

It is a fairly common practice to compile Windows application on Linux build servers. However, this is usually done through an approach called cross-compiling. The essence of this approach is using a compiler for Windows applications, but the compiler itself is a Linux application. Usually, the compiler used for this is MinGW (or MinGW-w64 these days), a GCC implementation for Windows.

This works great when porting traditional Unix applications to Windows, since it meshes nicely with the traditional build system on Unix-like systems. But it is rather poor for standalone single .exe applications, which are more common in the Windows world. MinGW has a few DLLs that are needed to run the applications it compiles, and that ruins the single executable experience.

The traditional way to build these simple applications in the Windows world is with the Microsoft compilers, usually in the form of Visual C++. These compilers are fairly nice, but they have one problem: they do not exist as cross compilers. (Well, they can cross compile between different processors, but the compilers themselves will only run on Windows.) What do we do then? Do we resign ourselves into not having single executable applications, or do give up and buy a Windows build machine?