Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

Over the users I’ve written a good bit about pushing a workload off to a virtual machine sitting in a data center somewhere. The Google CloudPlatform has matured a lot and I haven’t really gotten around to writing about it. So… It’s worth going into their SDK and what it looks like from a shell using some quick examples.

For starters, you’ll need an account with Google Cloud Platform, at and you’ll want to go ahead and login to the interface, which is pretty self-explanatory (although at first you might have to hunt a little for some of the more finely grained features, like zoning virtual instances.


The SDK will include the gcloud command, which you’ll use to perform most tasks in the Google CloudPlatform. To install the SDK, go to and download the appropriate version for your computer. If you’re on a mac, most likely the x86_64 version.

Next, move the downloaded folder to a permanent location and run the inside it, which will kindly offer to add gcloud to your path.


Welcome to the Google Cloud SDK!
To help improve the quality of this product, we collect anonymized usage data
and anonymized stacktraces when crashes are encountered; additional information
is available at <>. You may choose
to opt out of this collection now (by choosing ‘N’ at the below prompt), or at
any time in the future by running the following command:
gcloud config set disable_usage_reporting true
Do you want to help improve the Google Cloud SDK (Y/n)?  y
Modify profile to update your $PATH and enable shell command
Do you want to continue (Y/n)?  y
The Google Cloud SDK installer will now prompt you to update an rc
file to bring the Google Cloud CLIs into your environment.
Enter a path to an rc file to update, or leave blank to use
Backing up [/Users/charlesedge/.bash_profile] to [/Users/charlesedge/.bash_profile.backup].
[/Users/charlesedge/.bash_profile] has been updated.
==> Start a new shell for the changes to take effect.
For more information on how to get started, please visit:

Inside that bin folder, you’ll find the gcloud python script, which once installed, you can then run. Next, you’ll need to run the init, which links it to your CloudPlatform account via oauth. To do so, run gcloud with the init verb, which will step you through the process:

gcloud init

Welcome! This command will take you through the configuration of gcloud.
Your current configuration has been set to: [default]
You can skip diagnostics next time by using the following flag:
gcloud init –skip-diagnostics

Network diagnostic detects and fixes local network connection issues.
Checking network connection…done.
Reachability Check passed.
Network diagnostic (1/1 checks) passed.

You must log in to continue. Would you like to log in (Y/n)? y

If you say yes in the above screen, your browser will then prompt you with a standard Google oauth screen where you’ll need to click Allow.

Now go back to Terminal and pick a “Project” (when you set up billing the default was created for you):

Pick cloud project to use:
[1] seventh-capsule-138123
[2] Create a new project
Please enter numeric choice or text value (must exactly match list

The Command Line

Next, we’re gonna’ create a VM. There are several tables that lay out machine types. Let’s start by listing any instances we might have:

gcloud compute instances list

Listed 0 items.

Note: If you have a lot of these you can use  --regexp to filter them quickly.

Then let’s pick a machine type. A description of machine types can be found at And an image. Images can be seen using the compute command with images and then list, as follows:

gcloud compute images list

Now, let’s use that table from earlier and make a custom machine using an ubuntu uri, a –custom-cpu and a –custom-memory:

gcloud compute instances create krypted1 –image –custom-cpu 2 –custom-memory 5

You’ll then see that your VM is up, running, and… has an IP:

Created [].
krypted1 us-central1-a custom (2 vCPU, 5.00 GiB) RUNNING

Now let’s SSH in:

gcloud compute ssh krypted1

This creates ssh keys, adds you to the hosts and SSH’s you into a machine. So viola. You’re done. Oh wait, you don’t want to leave it running forever. After all, you’re paying by the minute… So let’s list your instances:

gcloud compute instances list

Then let’s stop the one we just created:

gcloud compute instances stop krypted1

And if you’d like, tear it down:

gcloud compute instances delete krypted1

Overall, super logical, very easy to use, and lovely command line environment. Fast, highly configurable VMs. Fun times!

May 18th, 2017

Posted In: cloud, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Unix

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The xxd is a bash command in Linux and macOS that is used to take a hexdump (convert a string to hex), or convert hex back to a string. To use xxd, just call it with a couple of options. Below, we’ll use the -p option to export into plain hexdump, and we’ll quote it and the <<< is to take input rather than a file name to convert (the default behavior), as follows:

xxd -p <<< "hey it's a string"

The output would be a hex string, as follows:


Then use the -r option to revert your hex back to text. Since xxd doesn’t allow for a positional parameter to revert, we’ll simply echo the hex string and pipe it back into xxd, as follows:

echo 6865792069742773206120737472696e670a | xxd -r -p

And the output would be (is):

hey it's a string

Other useful options:

  • -b: Perform a binary dump instead of a hex dump
  • -e: what it looks like when a little endian takes a hex dump
  • -h: get help with the command
  • -len: stop after the defined number of characters
  • -u: use uppercase in the hex, instead of the default lower-case (doesn’t seem to actually work on macOS)
  • -v: grab the version of xxd

April 2nd, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Ubuntu, Unix

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According to @johnkitzmiller, you can’t spell function without fun. So let’s have some fun! What’s a function? Think of it as a script inside a script. Define functions at the beginning of the script instead of making repeated calls to the same task within a script. The other nice thing about functions is that the act of compartmentalization makes them simple to insert into a number of different scripts. For example, if you do a lot of curl commands to pull down something in a lot of different scripts, having the grabbing of the data as a function, then the parsing of it into an array as a function and ultimately the writing of it or dealing with an stderr as another might make it simpler to then port it into the next script and the next.

Functions are simple to define. Just use (yes, you guessed it) the function command. So let’s look at the most basic function. Here, we’ll wrap a simple echo line inside curly brackets. So the syntax is function followed by the name of the function, followed by a curly bracket to introduce it. Then, I like to put a curly bracket on a line at the end of the function. Then I have a line where I just call the function. Note, there’s no special indicator, like a $ in front of the name of it or anything like that (unless you maybe variabalized it):

function hellokitzy {
echo "Hello Kitzy"

OK, so when you call it, it says hellokitzy. Obviously it could have nested if/thens, whiles, cases, etc. Now, let’s have two functions. In this example, we’ll basically just split the single echo statement into two; then call them in separate lines:

function hello {
echo "Hello"
function kitzy {
echo "Kitzy"

As with shell scripts, you can also push a positional parameter into the function. Here, we pass a positional parameter into the script and it echos a hello to that parameter. You know, making our scripts a bit more personal and all… Then we call the function twice. In the first instance, we just pass the same parameter, but in the second, we actually replace it. We do this to show that the function overwrites the $1 inside that function, but if we did another call to the function we’d just get the original $1 as it doesn’t persist outside of the function:

function term {
function hello {
echo "Hello" $1
hello $1
hello all
echo "bye"

When run with a parameter of Kitzy, the above would simply output:

Hello Kitzy
Hello all

That’s just for positional parameters that you’re feeding into a script though. If you have a variable (let’s call it a) and you update it in a function, then it will be the updated variable after the function. So in the following example, a echos out as two in the end:

function quit {
echo $a

Overall, functions are easy to use and make your code more modular. The only things that get a little complicated is that unless you know functions, you aren’t sure what’s going on in the beginning and when you are editing variables throughout the script you wanna’ make sure you know what changed things and when.

OK, now you – have fun with functions, and feel free to use the comments to post some you wrote!

February 28th, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Unix

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Recently someone asked me about accepting bash inputs. So I decided to take a stab at writing a little about it up. For the initial one we’ll look at accepting text input. Here, we’ll just sandwich a read statement between two echo commands. In the first echo we’ll ask for a name of a variable. Then we’ll read it in with the read command. And in the second echo we’ll write it out. Using the variable involves using the string of the variable (myvariable in this case) with a dollar sign in front of it, as in $myvariable below:

echo "Please choose a number: "
read myvariable
echo "You picked $myvariable"

Read also has a number of flags available to it:

  • -a assigns sequential indexes of the array variable
  • -d sets a delimiter to terminate the input
  • -e accepts the line.
  • -n returns after reading a specified number of characters
  • -p prompts without a trailing newline, before attempting to read any input
  • -r doesn’t use a backslash as an escape character
  • -s runs silent, which doesn’t echo text
  • -t: causes read to time out (number of seconds is right after the -t)
  • -u reads input from a file descriptor

Next, we’ll build on that read statement (note the addition of -p) and use a while to force a user to input a y or n and then parse their selection with a basic case statement:

while true;
read -p "Do you wish to continue?" yn
case $yn in
[Yy]* ) echo "Add your action here"; break;;
[Nn]* ) exit;;
* ) echo "Please answer yes or no.";;

Finally, let’s look at positional parameters. Here, you can feed them at the tail end of the script, as words that are separated by spaces after the name of the script. Here, we simply just echo $0, which is the first position (aka – the name of the script you just ran) and $1 and $2 as the next two.

echo "You Used These"
echo '$0 = ' $0
echo '$1 = ' $1
echo '$2 = ' $2

You could also take $3, $4, etc. This is different than writing flags, which requires a bit more scripting. So if you called the script with:

/path/to/script/ test1

You would see:

You Used These
$0 = ./
$1 = test1

What tips/additions do you have?

February 14th, 2017

Posted In: bash, Unix

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So I comment a lot of lines out in my /etc/hosts file. This usually means that I end up with a lot of cruft at the top of my file. And while I write comments into files and scripts here and there, I don’t always want to see them. So I can grep them out by piping the output of the file to grep as follows:

cat /etc/hosts | grep -v "^#"

You could also do the same, eliminating all lines that start with a “v” instead:

cat !$ | grep -v "^v"

February 13th, 2017

Posted In: Mac OS X, Unix

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When running a DNS/BIND server on Linux or macOS, you can check the version number by running a simple named command with the -v option.

named -v

The output is as follows:

BIND 9.9.7-P3 (Extended Support Version)

September 11th, 2016

Posted In: Mac OS X, Unix

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There are a lot of scripts stored on github. And you can run them directly by curling them into bash. To do so, you’ll need a link to the raw script (using the github page with the URL of the script brings in all the cruft, so you’ll need to find the raw text). To grab that, click on the page with the script and then right-click  on Raw, as seen here:

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 11.21.48 PM

Then, throw out a bash command followed by < and then the URL you just copied into your clipboard in parenthesis:

bash <(curl -Ls

April 20th, 2016

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Ubuntu, Unix

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When I’m working on a little bash script, I’ll often make a backup, each time I save and test. Then I can revert back, if I need to. The syntax I’ll use is to cp and then curly-bracket the output into .bak files (that’s a 90s era file extension I use for such nonsense):


So if I’m writing a script called


The resultant backup of the script is

March 22nd, 2016

Posted In: Mac OS X, Unix

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Pretty much every script I’m working on these days must be run as root. Checking what user is running something is pretty straight forward, as there’s a built-in shell variable for $USER that contains the user running a script. To see this real quick, simply run the following:

echo $USER

You can then put this into your scripts. I’ve been using the same block of code for decades, which can be run in a script by itself if you’d like to paste this into one.

if [[ $USER != "root" ]]; then
echo "This script must be run as root"
echo "You are root"
exit 1

Note: Keep in mind that the built-in $USER variable is case sensitive.

Obviously, most people won’t keep the lines that contain the else and you are root echo statements. You can just remove these or replace them with the meat of your script that requires elevated privileges to run. Enjoy.

December 21st, 2015

Posted In: Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Mac Security, Mass Deployment, Unix

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August 29th, 2015

Posted In: Mac OS X, Ubuntu, Unix

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