Using Scooter Software Beyond Compare

Beyond Compare is a graphical file comparison tool sold by Scooter Software. Its open-source competitors are mainly vimdiff, and kdiff3. Its advantage is ease-of-use. While comparing files they can be edited instantly. You can diff complete directory trees.

It is written in Delphi Object Pascal, the source code is not open-source. It runs on Windows, x86 Linux, and OS X. It does not run on ARM, like Raspberry Pi or Odroid, see support for arm processors – like the raspberry pi. The “Standard Edition” costs $30, the “Pro Edition” costs $60. The software is in AUR.

1. Root User Problem. When using it as root-user you must use:


When running

DIFFPROG=bcompare pacdiff

the screen looks like this:

2. Git Usage. To use Beyond Compare with git difftool you have to do two things: First you must create an alias bc3 for bcompare.

[root /bin]# ln -s bcompare bc3

Second add the following lines to your ~/.gitconfig file:

        tool = bc3
        prompt = false
        bc3 = trustExitCode
        tool = bc3
        bc3 = trustExitCode

Alternatively to above changes in the ~/.gitconfig file, use the following commands:

git config --global diff.tool bc3
git config --global difftool.bc3.trustExitCode true
git config --global merge.tool bc3
git config --global mergetool.bc3.trustExitCode true

Instant Messaging Client Pidgin and Skype / Lync

One can use the instant messaging client Pidgin and Skype. Skype for Business was previously called Lync.

Install Pidgin

pacman -S pidgin

and install the SIP/Simple protocol for Skype for Business/Office 365/Lync

pacman -S pidgin-sipe

Setting up the account: Use your company mail-address. Protocol is: Office communicator.

In Set up Pidgin messenger and Office 365 Lync one finds the crucial hint that one has to use a special user-agent information string

User Agent :  UCCAPI/15.0.4420.1017 OC/15.0.4420.1017

In Pidgin configuration this looks like this:

The post from Gary Woodfine from above states that you also have to specify server, port, and authentification scheme. But you don’t have to. You can simply leave these entries empty, or having their default values.

Remote Unlocking of Encrypted Disks

1. Problem statement. You have an encrypted disk and want to decrypt the disk during boot while not sitting in front of your computer.

Solution is sketched and indicated in dm-crypt/Specialties. Below is a little bit more explanation. For the following you must be root.

2. Required software packages. Install the following packages: dropbear from repo “Community”. Then install the following AUR-packages:

  1. mkinitcpio-netconf
  2. mkinitcpio-utils
  3. mkinitcpio-dropbear

3. Populate root_key. First mkdir /etc/dropbear and populate root_key file with public ssh keys which should be able to log into your machine, similar to authorized_keys for OpenSSH. I.e., you must know the private keys on the corresponding machines you intend to use for unlocking.

4. Set-up networking in Grub. Edit /etc/default/grub and set

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="cryptdevice=UUID=5a74247e-75e8-4c05-89a7-66454f96f974:cryptssd:allow-discards root=/dev/mapper/cryptssd ip="

Then issue

grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

to re-generate grub.cfg. The specification for “ip=” is given in Mounting the root filesystem via NFS (nfsroot). Its most important parts are:

  1. client-ip: IP address of the client
  2. server-ip: IP address of the NFS server
  3. gateway-ip: IP address of a gateway
  4. netmask: Netmask for local network interface
  5. hostname: Name of the client
  6. device: Name of network device to use
  7. autoconf: Method to use for autoconfiguration

5. Configure mkinitcpio. Finally, the main task. Edit /etc/mkinitcpio.conf and set

HOOKS="base udev block keymap keyboard autodetect modconf netconf dropbear encryptssh filesystems fsck"

Now call

mkinitcpio -p linux

See Arch Wiki mkinitcpio. Output of mkinitcpio looks something like this:

  -> Running build hook: [dropbear]
Key is a ssh-rsa key
Wrote key to '/etc/dropbear/dropbear_rsa_host_key'
Key is a ssh-dss key
Wrote key to '/etc/dropbear/dropbear_dss_host_key'
Key is a ecdsa-sha2-nistp256 key
Wrote key to '/etc/dropbear/dropbear_ecdsa_host_key'
dropbear_rsa_host_key : sha1!! e1:11:51:ce:0b:07:2b:c7:66:37:c0:b9:de:f3:80:56:64:69:cc:fd
dropbear_dss_host_key : sha1!! ca:75:42:85:f9:96:6d:db:fd:15:d1:7a:4a:ee:19:b1:ff:91:14:bb
dropbear_ecdsa_host_key : sha1!! b9:b3:c4:ee:c4:af:21:87:52:39:e8:b6:c2:a3:b7:53:0e:52:f1:85
   -P, --allpresets             Process all preset files in /etc/mkinitcpio.d
   -r, --moduleroot <dir>       Root directory for modules (default: /)
   -S, --skiphooks <hooks>      Skip specified hooks, comma-separated, during build
   -s, --save                   Save build directory. (default: no)
   -d, --generatedir <dir>      Write generated image into <dir>
   -t, --builddir <dir>         Use DIR as the temporary build directory
   -V, --version                Display version information and exit
   -v, --verbose                Verbose output (default: no)
   -z, --compress <program>     Use an alternate compressor on the image
  -> Running build hook: [encryptssh]
  -> Running build hook: [filesystems]
  -> Running build hook: [fsck]
==> Generating module dependencies
==> Creating gzip-compressed initcpio image: /boot/initramfs-linux.img
==> Image generation successful

Content in /etc/dropbear is then

$ ls -l /etc/dropbear
total 16
-rw------- 1 root root  458 Apr  1 13:24 dropbear_dss_host_key
-rw------- 1 root root  140 Apr  1 13:24 dropbear_ecdsa_host_key
-rw------- 1 root root  806 Apr  1 13:24 dropbear_rsa_host_key
-rw------- 1 root root 1572 Apr  1 12:25 root_key

6. Usage. Use ssh root@YourComputer to connect to your previously configured dropbear server and type in the password for the encrypted disk. The connection will then close, and dropbear disappears. By the way, dropbear does not look at your configuration for OpenSSH, so if you block root access via OpenSSH, this is of no concern for dropbear.

7. Limitations. Above set-up just works for unlocking the root-device. If there are other encrypted devices, for example devices given in /etc/crypttab, these cannot be unlocked by above procedure.

8. Further reading. See LUKS encrypted devices remote über Dropbear SSH öffnen (in German), Remote unlocking LUKS encrypted LVM using Dropbear SSH in Ubuntu Server 14.04.1 (with Static IP).

Set-Up “Let’s Encrypt” for Hiawatha Web-Server

Google announced that starting with Chrome version 68 they will gradually mark HTTP-connections as “not secure”. “Let’s Encrypt” is a free service for web-masters to obtain certificates in an easy manner. Work on “Let’s Encrypt” started in 2014.

Setting up “Let’s Encrypt” with Hiawatha web-server is quite easy, although there are some pitfalls. I used the ArchLinux package for Hiawatha. There is also a ArchWiki page for Hiawatha.

Another detailed description is: Let’s Encrypt with Hiawatha by Chris Wadge.

1. Unpacking and production-server setting. After installing the ArchLinux package I unpacked the file /usr/share/hiawatha/letsencrypt.tar.gz. You have to edit letsencrypt.conf at three places:

ACCOUNT_EMAIL_ADDRESS = your@mail.address
LE_CA_HOSTNAME =           # Production

I struggled with the last variable LE_CA_HOSTNAME. This has to be the productive “Let’s Encrypt” server. Although you might register with the testing-server, you apparently cannot do anything else with the testing-server. So delete the testing-server. The rest of the configuration file is obvious to change.

2. Configuration file. Now check your hiawatha.conf file:

Binding {
        Port = 443
        #TLScertFile = tls/hiawatha.pem
        TLScertFile = /etc/hiawatha/tls/
        Interface =
        MaxRequestSize = 2048
        TimeForRequest = 30
VirtualHost {
        Hostname =,,,,,,,, borussia

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Unix sort Issue

I wondered why Unix sort behaved strangely.

printf "A0 1\nA  1\n" | sort


A0 1
A  1

Of course, I expected A to come before A0. This was strange, as printf "A1 1\nA 1\n" | sort produced

A  1
A1 1

just as expected. Also, printf "A0\nA\n" | sort orders A before A0, as expected.

Solution: Use LC_ALL before sort. So

printf "A0 1\nA  1\n" | LC_ALL=C sort


A  1
A0 1

I realized this when I called sort with --debug flag,

printf "A0 1\nA  1\n" | sort --debug

which shows the empleyed locale:

sort: using ‘en_US.UTF-8’ sorting rules
A0 1
A  1

To check that my expected sort-order was indeed the “right” order, I wrote the following simple Perl-script to sort, which confirmed my understanding of ASCII sorting:

#!/bin/perl -W
use strict;
my @F = <>;     # slurp
for my $i (sort @F) { print $i; }

Using Odroid as IP Router

I purchased an Odroid-XU4 for ca. 80 EUR including power-supply and case from Pollin. The original manufacturer is hardkernel. I intended to use this small ARM computer as a router and firewall. In the past I had used routers from multiple vendors, e.g., Linksys/Cisco, TP-Link, AVM/FritzBox, Netgear, and so on. There is a rule of thumb with all these devices: Usually you have to reboot them once or twice a month, otherwise they misbehave somehow. At least three of these device went completely catatonic. Now I had enough of this, I also wanted a command line interface to the router, ideally a real Linux system with bash, cron, gcc, etc. Although I already own an Intel NUC and I am very happy with this computer, an Intel NUC is a little bit too expensive to be used as just a router.

I recommend to additionally purchase a RTC backup battery. The Odroid has a realtime clock, but loses all date and time information once powered off. This way the log of the computer is garbled.

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