How the Internet Works

One of my favorite questions to ask (or be asked) during an interview is the classic “how does the Internet work?” question. It usually goes something like this:

You open your favorite web browser, type in “”, and hit return. Almost like magic, a fully-rendered web page shows up on your screen ready for you to view. Tell me, with as much detail as you can muster, what just happened.

The reason I like this question so much is that it isn’t just academic; it is a peek behind the curtains at what this person knows. It reveals what they’ve dug into in the past, learned in school, or dealt with while troubleshooting. The details show how much time they’ve spent demystifying the world (at least related to our working environment). Thinking about this made me realize how really fleshing out a solid answer to this would make a great blog post, so here we are.

Continue reading How the Internet Works

LDAP in Containers

Most of the time, connecting to LDAP is pretty straightforward and is just a matter of applying the right configuration to your application. Or maybe it isn’t even something you need to think about; it could be abstracted away behind an API call. This wasn’t always the case though. In several of my previous jobs, authentication wasn’t just a matter of submitting a username and password; I needed to setup and maintain the system that made that work, both for the server and its clients. Thankfully there was a ton of documentation and guides for making Linux work with LDAP. But what about LDAP in containers?

Times have changed and now we’re building containers, not really needing to worry about a lot of the details of Linux configuration. For the most part, we don’t need much from PAM (and even less from sssd) in containers. That said, sometimes you encounter software that just has to rely on your OS for authentication where LDAP sure comes in handy. Here I describe how to configure your Docker container to leverage LDAP via sssd for users and groups.

Continue reading LDAP in Containers

Changing Your Public IP on Home Internet

Sometimes, when you’re using a Linux server as your home router/Internet gateway, you need to change your public IP. I won’t go into the reason(s) why, because they don’t really matter. Maybe you accidentally exposed the proxy port (mostly just for your kids to protect their Internet access) directly to the Internet and ended up blacklisted by most things on the Internet, who knows? Best not to dwell on the hypothetical.

At first, it seems obvious: just release and renew with your DHCP client. A quick dhclient -r enp4s0 (or whatever your interface name is) seems like the solution. But ISPs are too smart for that. Maybe try turning off your cable modem and leaving it off for a few minutes? Nope. None of this works because of how ISPs (and really, most any DHCP server) handle DHCP leases: they’re tied to the MAC address of your network interface. This means that when your network interface’s MAC address is seen by their DHCP server, it’ll offer it the same IP. This makes sense for ISPs to do; they can tie an IP to a customer based on their physical device.

Continue reading Changing Your Public IP on Home Internet

Read-only Docker Containers

There are lots of good reasons for and articles recommending running Docker containers read-only, but what I have a difficult time finding are descriptions of how to do this for many popular images. Some software needs to write to a few important and predictable locations. It surprises me how often image providers neglect to offer instructions or details required to run their image this way.

Even setting aside read-only containers, counting on writing to the writable layer just feels wrong. Per the documentation, for the writable layer, both read and write speeds are lower because of the copy-on-write/overlay process through the storage driver. In my experience, docker diff output means I haven’t taken the time to configure my volume declarations, either through tmpfs mounts, volumes, or bind mounts.

Continue reading Read-only Docker Containers