Posts Tagged ‘linux server’

Speeding up Apache through apache2-mpm-worker and php5-cgi on Debian / How to improve Apache performance and decrease server memory consumption

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Reading Time: 5minutes

speeding up apache through apache2-mpm-worker and php5-cgi on Debian Linux / how to improve apache performance and decrease server responce time
By default most Apache running Linux servers on the Internet are configured to use with the mpm prefork apache module
Historically prefork apache module is the predecessor of the worker module therefore it's believed to be a way more tested and reliable, if you need a critical reliable webserver configuration.

However from my experience by so far with the Apache MPM Worker I can boldly say that many of the rumors concerning the unreliabity of apache2-mpm-worker are just myths.

The old way Apache handles connections e.g. the mod prefork is the well known way that high amount of the daemons on Linux and BSD are still realying on.
When prefork is a used by Apache, every new TCP/IP connection arriving at your Linux server on the Apache configured port let's say on port 80 is being served by Apache in a way that the Apache process (mother process) parent does fork a new Apache parent copy in order to serve the new request.
Thus by using the prefork Apache needs to fork new process (if it doesn't have already an empty forked one waiting for connections) and serve the HTTP request of the new client, after the request of the client is completed the newly forked Apache usually dies (even though it again depends on the way the Apache server is configured via the Apache configuration – apache2.conf / httpd.conf etc.).

Now you can imagine how slow and memory consuming it is that all the time the parent Apache process spawns new processes, kills old ones etc. in order to fulfill the client requests.

Now just to compare the Apace mpm prefork does not use the old forking way, but relies on a few Apache processes which handles all the requests without constantly being destroyed and recreated like with the prefork module.
This saves operations and system resources, threaded programming has already been proven to be more efficient way to handle tasks and is heavily adopted in GUI programming for instance in Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Gnome, KDE etc.

There is plenty of information and statistical data which compares Apache running with prefork and respectively worker modules online.
As the goal of this article is not to went in depths with this kind of information I would not say more on it but let you explore online a bit more about them in case if you're interested.

The purpose of this article is to explain in short how to substitute the Apache2-MPM-Prefork and how your server performance could benefit out of the use of Apache2-MPM-Worker.
On Debian the default Apache process serving module in Apache 1.3x,Apache 2.0x and 2.2x is prefork thus the installation of apache2-mpm-worker is not "a standard way" to install Apache

Deciding to swith from the default Debian apache-mpm-prefork to apache-mpm-worker is quite a serious and responsible decision and in some cases might cause troubles, if you have decided to follow my article be sure to consider all the possible negative consequences of switching to the apache worker !

Now after having said a bunch of info which might be not necessary with the experienced system admin I'll continue on with the steps to install the apache2-mpm-worker.

1. Install the apache2-mpm-worker

debian:~# apt-get install apache2-mpm-worker php5-cgi
Reading state information... Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
The following packages will be REMOVED apache2-mpm-prefork libapache2-mod-php5
The following NEW packages will be installed apache2-mpm-worker
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 2 to remove and 46 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/259kB of archives.After this operation, 6193kB disk space will be freed.

As you can notice in below's text confirmation which will appear you will have to remove the apache2-mpm-prefork and the apache2-mpm-worker modules before you can proceed to install the apache2-mpm-prefork.

You might ask yourself if I remove my installed libphp how would I be able to use my Apache with my PHP based websites? And why does the apt package manager requires the libapache2-mod-php5 to get removed.
The explanation is simple apache2-mpm-worker is not thread safe, in other words scripts which does use the php fork(); function would not work correctly with the Apache worker module and will probably be leading to PHP and Apache crashes.
Therefore in order to install the apache mod worker it's necessary that no libapache2-mod-php5 is existent on the system.
In order to have a PHP installed on the server again you will have to use the php5-cgi deb package, this is the reason in the above apt-get command I'm also requesting apt to install the php5-cgi package next to apache2-mpm-worker.

2. Enable the cgi and cgid apache modules

debian:~# a2enmod cgi
debian:~# a2enmod cgid

3. Activate the mod_actions apache modules

debian:~# cd /etc/apache2/mods-enabled
debian:~# ln -sf ../mods-available/actions.load
debian:~# ln -sf ../mods-available/actions.conf

4. Add configuration options in order to enable mod worker to use the newly installed php5-cgi

Edit /etc/apache2/mods-available/actions.conf vim, mcedit or nano (e.g. your editor of choice and add inside:

&ltIfModule mod_actions.c>
Action application/x-httpd-php /cgi-bin/php5
</IfModule>

After completing all the above instructions, you might also need to edit your /etc/apache2/apache2.conf to tune up, how your Apache mpm worker will serve client requests.
Configuring the <IfModule mpm_worker_module> in apache2.conf is necessary to optimize your newly installed mpm_worker module for performance.

5. Configure the mod_worker_module in apache2.conf One example configuration for the mod worker is:

<IfModule mpm_worker_module>
StartServers 2
MaxClients 150
MinSpareThreads 25
MaxSpareThreads 75
ThreadsPerChild 25
MaxRequestsPerChild 0
</IfModule>

Consider the fact that this configuration is just a sample and it's in no means configured for serving Apache requests for high load Apache servers and you need to further play with the values to have a good results on your server.

6. Check that all is fine with your Apache configurations and no syntax errors are encountered

debian:~# /usr/sbin/apache2ctl -t
Syntax OK

If you get something different from Syntax OK track the error and fix it before you're ready to restart the Apache server.

7. Now restart the Apache server

debian:~# /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

All should run fine and hopefully your PHP scripts should be interpreted just fine through the php5-cgi instead of the libapache2-mod-php5.
Using the /usr/bin/php5-cgi will increase with some percentage your server CPU load but on other hand will drasticly decrease the Webserver memory consumption.
That's quite logical because the libapache2-mod-hp5 is loaded once during apache server whether a new instance of /usr/bin/php5-cgi is invoked during each of Apache requests via the mod worker.

There is one serious security flow coming with php5-cgi, DoS against a server processing scripts through php5-cgi is much easier to be achieved.
An example for a denial attack which could affect a website running with mod worker and php5-cgi, could be simulated from a simple user with a web browser which holds up the f5 or ctrl + r browser page refresh buttons.
In that case whenever php5-cgi is used the CPU load would rise drastic, one possible solution to this denial of service issues is by installing and using libapache2-mod-evasive like so:

8. Install libapache2-mod-evasive

debian:~# apt-get install libapache2-mod-evasive
The Apache mod evasive module is a nice apache module to minimize HTTP DoS and brute force attacks.
Now with mod worker through the php5-cgi, your apache should start serving requests more efficiently than before.
For some performance reasons some might even want to try out the fastcgi with the worker to boost the Apache performance but as I have never tried that I can't say how reliable a a mod worker with a fastcgi would be.

N.B. ! If you have some specific php configurations within /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini you will have to set them also in /etc/php5/cgi/php.ini before you proceed with the above instructions to install Apache otherwise your PHP scripts might not work as expected.

Mod worker is also capable to work with the standard mod php5 Apache module, but if you decide to go this route you will have to recompile your PHP lib manually from source as in Debian this option is not possible with the default php library.
This installation worked fine on Debian Lenny but suppose the same installation should work fine on Debian Squeeze as well as Debian testing/unstable.
Feedback on the afore-described mod worker installation is very welcome!

How to enable output compression (gzipfile content compression) in nginx webserver

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Reading Time: 2minutes
I have recently installed and configured a Debian Linux server with nginx
. Since then I’ve been testing around different ways to optimize the nginx performance.

In my nginx quest, one of the most crucial settings which dramatically improved the end client performance was enabling the so called output compression which in Apache based servers is also known as content gzip compression .
In Apache webservers the content gzip compression is provided by a server module called mod_deflate .

The output compression nginx settings saves a lot of bandwidth and though it adds up a bit more load to the server, the plain text files like html, xml, js and css’s download time reduces drasticly as they’re streamed to the browser in gzip compressed format.
This little improvement in download speed also does impact the overall end user browser experience and therefore improves the browsing speed experience with websites.

If you have already had experience nginx you already know it is a bit fastidious and you have to be very careful with it’s configuration, however thanksfully enabling the gzip compression was actually rather easier than I thought.

Here is what I added in my nginx config to enable output compression:

## Compression
gzip on;
gzip_buffers 16 8k;
gzip_comp_level 9;
gzip_http_version 1.1;
gzip_min_length 0;
gzip_vary on;

Important note here is that need to add this code in the nginx configuration block starting with:

http {
....
## Compression
gzip on;
gzip_buffers 16 8k;
gzip_comp_level 9;
gzip_http_version 1.1;
gzip_min_length 0;
gzip_vary on;

In order to load the gzip output compression as a next step you need to restart the nginx server, either by it’s init script if you use one or by killing the old nginx server instances and starting up the nginx server binary again:
I personally use an init script, so restarting nginx for me is done via the cmd:

debian:~# /etc/init.d/nginx restart
Restarting nginx: nginx.

Now to test if the output gzip compression is enabled for nginx, you can simply use telnet

hipo@linux:~$ telnet your-nginx-webserver-domain.com 80
Escape character is '^]'.

After the Escape character is set ‘^]’ appears on your screen type in the blank space:

HEAD / HTTP/1.0

and press enter twice.
The output which should follow should look like:


HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 13
Last-Modified: Tue, 22 Mar 2011 15:04:26 GMT
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Expires: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=604800
Accept-Ranges: bytes

The whole transaction with telnet command issued and the nginx webserver output should look like so:

hipo@linux:~$ telnet your-nginx-webserver-domain.com 80
Trying xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx...
Connected to your-nginx-webserver-domain.com
.Escape character is '^]'.
HEAD / HTTP/1.0

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 13
Last-Modified: Tue, 22 Mar 2011 15:04:26 GMT
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Expires: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=604800
Accept-Ranges: bytes

The important message in the returned output which confirms your nginx output compression is properly configured is:

Vary: Accept-Encoding

If this message is returned by your nginx server, this means your nginx now will distribute it’s content to it’s clients in compressed format and apart from the browsing boost a lot of server and client bandwitdth will be saved.

Howto install GeoTrust RapidSSL certificate on Debian Lenny / Squeeze / Wheezy Linux

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Reading Time: 5minutes
I faced the task of generating official Validated SSL Certificates by in mydaily duties as a System Administrator atcadiaholding.com . Though generating self-signedSSL certificate is comparatively easy task. It was a pain in the ass setting Apache version 2.2.9-10+lenny6to correctly serve pages through https:// protocol over openssl version 0.9.8g-15+lenny6.I’ll try to go through the whole process of Generating the certificate in order to help some other Debianusers out there to face less setbacks in such a simple task as installing a Trusted SSL Certificate issued(bought) by RapidSSL. Even though this article will mostly deal with SSL certificate issued by RapidSSL,it should be not a problem to apply this methodogy with Verisign or some of the other Geotrust issuedSecure Socket Layer certificates.

In generating the Validated certficate I used enom which is a domain name,ssl certificates, email and hosting company whole-saler.
Fron emon’s website after logging in and using the web interface, there are two major things required to fill inin order to issue your Trusted SSL certificate.

1. Fill in in a form a CSR file, this is usually generated on the Linux server using the openssl.
To issue the CSR file required by Enom use the following commands:

a. First we generate an DES3 RSA encrypted key which we will use next to generate the opeensl CSR file required by ENOM.
debian:~# /usr/bin/openssl genrsa -des3 -out www.domain.com.key 2048
Enter pass phrase for www.domain.com.key:

You’ll be required to fill in a pass-phrase that will be later be required to fill in before Apache servers starts or restarts,so make sure you fill something you either remember or you keep the password stored in a file.
You have to change also the www.domain.com.key in accordance with your domain name.
Now as we already have a proper generated DES3 RSA key afterwards it’s necessery to generate the CSR file with the openssl command line frontend.
So here is how:

debian:~# /usr/bin/openssl req -new -key /home/hipo/www.domain.com.key -out /home/hipo/www.domain.com.csr

Again in the above example change all the paths and file names as you wish.
It’s necessery that the end user fill in a number of questions related to the Certificate Signing Request.
Herein I’ll list what kind of prompts will emerge after executing the above command:

Enter pass phrase for /home/hipo/www.domain.com.key:
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
-----
Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:
Locality Name (eg, city) []:
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:
Common Name (eg, YOUR name) []:
Email Address []:
Please enter the following 'extra' attributes
to be sent with your certificate request
A challenge password []:
An optional company name []:

Note that you’ll hav eto fill in the pass phrase previously entered during the generation of the www.domain.com.key file.
In case if you’d like to read more thoroughly on the subject of howto create a Certificate Signing Request or (CSR) as we called it on multiple times, you canread About Certificate Signing Request (CSR) Generation Instructions – Apache SSL more in depth here

2. Hopefully following the above instructions you’ll now have a file named www.domain.csrJust open the www.domain.scr and copy paste it’s content to the ENOM website CSR * webform.

3. Further on select your Webserver type on Enom’s website:In our case we have to select Apache + ApacheSSL

4. What follows next is filling in your company contact information This is also required for proper certificate generation, you have to think twice before you fill in this data, take a note this can’t be changed later on without issuing a brand SSL new certificate.

Apart from the 3 major above requirements to fill in Enom there are some few more radio buttons to use to make some selections according to your personal preferences, however I won’t take time to dig in that and I’ll leave this to you.
After all the above is fulfilled you’ll have to submit your certificate details and choose an email address to which you will receive in a minute a RapidSSL Certificate Request Confirmation

Following a link from the email, will show you some basic information about the certificate about to be generated. That’s your final chance to cancel the issued Trusted Certificated.
If you’re absolutely sure the information about to enter the certificate is correct then you’ll have to follow a link and approve the certificate.

You’ll be informed that you’ll receive your certificate either through Certifier website (e.g. Enom’s website) or via another email.
I thought it’s more probable I receive it via email but anyways I was wrong. More thank 4 hours has passed since the certificate was issued and is available via Enom’s interface but I haven’t received nothing on my mail.
Therefore my friendly advice is to check about your brand new shiny Trusted Certificate on Emom’s website. I had mine ready in about 10 minutes after the CSR was issued.

Assuming that you’ve succesfully obtained the SSL Trusted certificate from RapidSSL what follows is setting up the certificate.
Initially I tried using documentation from RapidSSL website called Installing your SSL Certificate / Web Server Certificate / Secure Server Certificate from RapidSSL.com
I tried to configure one of my Virtualhost as shown in their example inserting in my /etc/apache/sites-available/www.domain.com file, few directives within the VirtualHost something like the shown below

SSLEngine on
# domain.com.crt cointains the Trusted SSL certificate generated and obtained by you from RapidSSL
SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/www.domain.com.crt
# www.domain.com.key contains the file used to generate the CSR file as described earlier in this post
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/apache2/ssl/www.domain.com.key

It is also possible insetad of using the SSLCertificateFile and SSLCertificateKeyFile directvies directives in Apache config to use:

 

Another alternative is to use

SSLCertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/your-domain-name.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/certs/your-domain-name.key
SSLCACertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/gd_bundle.crt

The key file is the one generated earlier on the server and handed to the SSL regisrar, the files:

your-domain-name.crt and gd_bundle.crt files are provided by RapidSSL or from whatever SSL registrater the SSL was purchased.

After trying the above configuration and restarting apache with:

/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Apache failed to start, it might be helpful to somebody out there the error I had in my apache error.log:
The error.log red the following:

[warn] RSA server certificate is a CA certificate (BasicConstraints: CA == TRUE !?)

After some 30 minutes or an hour of Googling on the error I came to the conclusion that the error is caused, becauseApache is supposed to work with .PEM files instead of the classical .CRT and .KEY files asnormally approached in most of the other Unix operating systems.

It took me a bit more of reading on the internet to find out that actually the .pem files so widely adopted in Debian simply contain both the www.domain.com.key file and the www.domain.com.crt key simply pasted one after another, this I also observed from the default Apache self-signed certificate that I believe comes with debian /etc/apache2/ssl/apache.pem .
So I copied both the content of my www.domain.com.key and www.domain.com.crt and store it in one file:
/etc/apache2/ssl/www.domain.com.pem

Also the following configuration:
SSLEngine on
SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/www.domain.com.pem

had to go in your
/etc/apache2/sites-enabled/www.domain.com

Last thing that’s left is to restart your Apache;

/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Apache will prompt you for your certificate password entered by you during the www.domain.com.key generation. Type your password and with a bit of luck and hopefully with God’s help you’ll be having a Trusted Certificate on your webserver.

Last step is to check if the certificate is okay accessing your domain https://www.domain.com.

Well this is the end of the article, hope you enjoy.If you do please leave your comments, any corrections are also welcomed 🙂

How to harden Linux Security and imprpove network efficiency on Kernel sysctl Level to Stop SYN flood

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Reading Time: 4minutes
Power up Linux and protect against DDoS with sysctl var optimization

Some long time ago I’ve written an article Optimizing Linux tcp/ip networking

In the article I’ve examined a number of Linux kernel sysctl variables, which significantly improve the way TCP/IP networking is handled by a non router Linux based servers.

As the time progresses I’ve been continuing to read materials on blogs and internet sites on various tips and anti Denial of Service rules which one could apply on newly installed hosting (Apache/MySql/Qmail/Proxy) server to improve webserver responce times and tighten the overall security level.

In my quest for sysctl 😉 I found a few more handy sysctl variables apart from the old ones I incorporate on every Linux server I adminstrate.
The sysctl variables improves the overall network handling efficiency and protects about common SYN/ACK Denial of service attacks.

Here are the extra sysctl variables I started incorporating just recently:

############ IPv4 Sysctl Settings ################
#Enable ExecShield protection (randomize virtual assigned space to protect against many exploits)
kernel.randomize_va_space = 1
#Increase the number of PIDs processes could assign this is very needed especially on more powerful servers
kernel.pid_max = 65536
# Prevent against the common 'syn flood attack'
net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
# Controls the use of TCP syncookies two is generally a better idea, though you might experiment
#net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
net.ipv4.tcp_synack_retries = 2
##################################################
#
############## IPv6 Sysctl Settings ################
# Number of Router Solicitations to send until assuming no routers are present.
net.ipv6.conf.default.router_solicitations = 0
# Accept Router Preference in RA? Again not necessery if the server is not a router
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_ra_rtr_pref = 0
# Learn Prefix Information in Router Advertisement (Unnecessery) for non-routers
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_ra_pinfo = 0
# disable accept of hop limit settings from other routers (could be used for DoS)
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_ra_defrtr = 0
# disable ipv6 global unicasts server assignments
net.ipv6.conf.default.autoconf = 0
# neighbor solicitations to send out per address (better if disabled)
net.ipv6.conf.default.dad_transmits = 0
# disable assigning more than 1 address per network interface
net.ipv6.conf.default.max_addresses = 1
#####################################################

 

To use this settings paste the above sysctl variables in /etc/sysctl.conf and ask sysctl command to read and apply the newly added conf settings:

server:~# sysctl -p
...

Hopefully you should not get errors while applying the sysctl settings, if you get some errors, it’s possible some of the variable is differently named (depending on the Linux kernel version) or the Linux distribution on which sysctl’s are implemented.

For some convenience I’ve created unified sysctl variables /etc/sysct.conf containing the newly variables I started implementing to servers with the ones I already exlpained in my previous post Optimizing Linux TCP/IP Networking

Here is the optimized / hardened sysctl.conf file for download

I use this exact sysctl.conf these days on both Linux hosting / VPS / Mail servers etc. as well as on my personal notebook 😉

Here is also the the complete content of above’s sysctl.conf file, just in case if somebody wants to directly copy/paste it in his /etc/sysctl.conf

# Sysctl kernel variables to improve network performance and protect against common Denial of Service attacks
# It's possible that not all of the variables are working on all Linux distributions, test to make sure
# Some of the variables might need a slight modification to match server hardware, however in most cases it should be fine
# variables list compiled by hip0
### http://pc-freak.net
#### date 08.07.2011
############ IPv4 Sysctl Kernel Settings ################
net.ipv4.ip_forward = 0
# ( Turn off IP Forwarding )
net.ipv4.conf.default.rp_filter = 1
# ( Control Source route verification )
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_redirects = 0
# ( Disable ICMP redirects )
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_redirects = 0
# ( same as above )
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_source_route = 0
# ( Disable IP source routing )
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_source_route = 0
# ( - || - )net.ipv4.tcp_fin_timeout = 40
# ( Decrease FIN timeout ) - Useful on busy/high load server
net.ipv4.tcp_keepalive_time = 4000
# ( keepalive tcp timeout )
net.core.rmem_default = 786426
# Receive memory stack size ( a good idea to increase it if your server receives big files )
##net.ipv4.tcp_rmem = "4096 87380 4194304"
net.core.wmem_default = 8388608
#( Reserved Memory per connection )
net.core.wmem_max = 8388608
net.core.optmem_max = 40960
# ( maximum amount of option memory buffers )
# tcp reordering, increase max buckets, increase the amount of backlost
net.ipv4.tcp_max_tw_buckets = 360000
net.ipv4.tcp_reordering = 5
##net.core.hot_list_length = 256
net.core.netdev_max_backlog = 1024
#Enable ExecShield protection (randomize virtual assigned space to protect against many exploits)
kernel.randomize_va_space = 1
#Increase the number of PIDs processes could assign this is very needed especially on more powerful servers
kernel.pid_max = 65536
# Prevent against the common 'syn flood attack'net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
# Controls the use of TCP syncookies two is generally a better idea, though you might experiment
#net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
net.ipv4.tcp_synack_retries = 2
###################################################
############## IPv6 Sysctl Settings ################
# Number of Router Solicitations to send until assuming no routers are present.
net.ipv6.conf.default.router_solicitations = 0
# Accept Router Preference in RA? Again not necessery if the server is not a router
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_ra_rtr_pref = 0
# Learn Prefix Information in Router Advertisement (Unnecessery) for non-routersnet.
ipv6.conf.default.accept_ra_pinfo = 0
# disable accept of hop limit settings from other routers (could be used for DoS)
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_ra_defrtr = 0
# disable ipv6 global unicasts server assignmentsnet.
ipv6.conf.default.autoconf = 0
# neighbor solicitations to send out per address (better if disabled)
net.ipv6.conf.default.dad_transmits = 0
# disable assigning more than 1 address per network interfacenet.
ipv6.conf.default.max_addresses = 1
#####################################################
# Reboot if kernel panic
kernel.panic = 20

These sysctl settings will tweaken the Linux kernel default network settings performance and you will notice the improvements in website responsiveness immediately in some cases implementing this kernel level goodies will make the server perform better and the system load might decrease even 😉

This optimizations on a kernel level are not only handy for servers, their implementation on Linux Desktop should also have a positive influence on the way the network behaves and could improve significantly the responce times of opening pages in Firefox/Opera/Epiphany Torrent downloads etc.

Hope this kernel tweakenings are helpful to someone.
Cheers 😉

How to make GRE tunnel iptables port redirect on Linux

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Reading Time: 2minutes
I’ve recently had to build a Linux server with some other servers behind the router with NAT.
One of the hosts behind the Linux router was running a Window GRE encrypted tunnel service. Which had to be accessed with the Internet ip address of the server.
In order < б>to make the GRE tunnel accessible, a bit more than just adding a normal POSTROUTING DNAT rule and iptables FORWARD is necessery.

As far as I’ve read online, there is quite of a confusion on the topic of how to properly configure the GRE tunnel accessibility on Linux , thus in this very quick tiny tutorial I’ll explain how I did it.

1. Load the ip_nat_pptp and ip_conntrack_pptp kernel module

linux-router:~# modprobe ip_nat_pptp
linux-router:~# modprobe ip_conntrack_pptp

These two modules are an absolutely necessery to be loaded before the remote GRE tunnel is able to be properly accessed, I’ve seen many people complaining online that they can’t make the GRE tunnel to work and I suppose in many of the cases the reason not to be succeed is omitting to load this two kernel modules.

2. Make the ip_nat_pptp and ip_nat_pptp modules to load on system boot time

linux-router:~# echo 'ip_nat_pptp' >> /etc/modules
linux-router:~# echo 'ip_conntrack_pptp' >> /etc/modules

3. Insert necessery iptables PREROUTING rules to make the GRE tunnel traffic flow

linux-router:~# /sbin/iptables -A PREROUTING -d 111.222.223.224/32 -p tcp -m tcp --dport 1723 -j DNAT --to-destination 192.168.1.3:1723
linux-router:~# /sbin/iptables -A PREROUTING -p gre -j DNAT --to-destination 192.168.1.3

In the above example rules its necessery to substitute the 111.222.223.224 ip address withe the external internet (real IP) address of the router.

Also the IP address of 192.168.1.3 is the internal IP address of the host where the GRE host tunnel is located.

Next it’s necessery to;

4. Add iptables rule to forward tcp/ip traffic to the GRE tunnel

linux-router:~# /sbin/iptables -A FORWARD -p gre -j ACCEPT

Finally it’s necessery to make the above iptable rules to be permanent by saving the current firewall with iptables-save or add them inside the script which loads the iptables firewall host rules.
Another possible way is to add them from /etc/rc.local , though this kind of way is not recommended as rules would add only after succesful bootup after all the rest of init scripts and stuff in /etc/rc.local is loaded without errors.

Afterwards access to the GRE tunnel to the local IP 192.168.1.3 using the port 1723 and host IP 111.222.223.224 is possible.
Hope this is helpful. Cheers 😉

Monitoring MySQL server queries and debunning performance (slow query) issues with native MySQL commands and with mtop, mytop

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Reading Time: 7minutes

If you're a Linux server administrator running MySQL server, you need to troubleshoot performance and bottleneck issues with the SQL database every now and then. In this article, I will pinpoint few methods to debug basic issues with MySQL database servers.

1. Troubleshooting MySQL database queries with native SQL commands

a)One way to debug errors and get general statistics is by logging in with mysql cli and check the mysql server status:

# mysql -u root -p
mysql> SHOW STATUS;
+-----------------------------------+------------+
| Variable_name | Value |
+-----------------------------------+------------+
| Aborted_clients | 1132 |
| Aborted_connects | 58 |
| Binlog_cache_disk_use | 185 |
| Binlog_cache_use | 2542 |
| Bytes_received | 115 |
.....
.....
| Com_xa_start | 0 |
| Compression | OFF |
| Connections | 150000 |
| Created_tmp_disk_tables | 0 |
| Created_tmp_files | 221 |
| Created_tmp_tables | 1 |
| Delayed_errors | 0 |
| Delayed_insert_threads | 0 |
| Delayed_writes | 0 |
| Flush_commands | 1 |
.....
.....
| Handler_write | 132 |
| Innodb_page_size | 16384 |
| Innodb_pages_created | 6204 |
| Innodb_pages_read | 8859 |
| Innodb_pages_written | 21931 |
.....
.....
| Slave_running | OFF |
| Slow_launch_threads | 0 |
| Slow_queries | 0 |
| Sort_merge_passes | 0 |
| Sort_range | 0 |
| Sort_rows | 0 |
| Sort_scan | 0 |
| Table_locks_immediate | 4065218 |
| Table_locks_waited | 196 |
| Tc_log_max_pages_used | 0 |
| Tc_log_page_size | 0 |
| Tc_log_page_waits | 0 |
| Threads_cached | 51 |
| Threads_connected | 1 |
| Threads_created | 52 |
| Threads_running | 1 |
| Uptime | 334856 |
+-----------------------------------+------------+
225 rows in set (0.00 sec)

SHOW STATUS; command gives plenty of useful info, however it is not showing the exact list of queries currently processed by the SQL server. Therefore sometimes it is exactly a stucked (slow queries) execution, you need to debug in order to fix a lagging SQL. One way to track this slow queries is via enabling mysql slow-query.log. Anyways enabling the slow-query requires a MySQL server restart and some critical productive database servers are not so easy to restart and the SQL slow queries have to be tracked "on the fly" so to say.
Therefore, to check the exact (slow) queries processed by the SQL server (without restarting it), do
 

mysql> SHOW processlist;
+——+——+—————+——+———+——+————–+——————————————————————————————————+
| Id | User | Host | db | Command | Time | State | Info |
+——+——+—————+——+———+——+————–+——————————————————————————————————+
| 609 | root | localhost | blog | Sleep | 5 | | NULL |
| 1258 | root | localhost | NULL | Sleep | 85 | | NULL |
| 1308 | root | localhost | NULL | Query | 0 | NULL | show processlist |
| 1310 | blog | pcfreak:64033 | blog | Query | 0 | Sending data | SELECT comment_author, comment_author_url, comment_content, comment_post_ID, comment_ID, comment_aut |
+——+——+—————+——+———+——+————–+——————————————————————————————————+
4 rows in set (0.00 sec)
mysql>

SHOW processlist gives a good view on what is happening inside the SQL.

To get more complete information on SQL query threads use the full extra option:

mysql> SHOW full processlist;

This gives pretty full info on running threads, but unfortunately it is annoying to re-run the command again and again – constantly to press UP Arrow + Enter keys.

Hence it is useful to get the same command output, refresh periodically every few seconds. This is possible by running it through the watch command:

debian:~# watch "'show processlist' | mysql -u root -p'secret_password'"

watch will run SHOW processlist every 2 secs (this is default watch refresh time, for other timing use watch -n 1, watch -n 10 etc. etc.

The produced output will be similar to:

Every 2.0s: echo 'show processlist' | mysql -u root -p'secret_password' Thu May 10 17:24:19 2012

Id User Host db Command Time State Info
609 root localhost blog Sleep 3 NULL1258 root localhost NULL Sleep 649 NULL1542 blog pcfreak:64981 blog Query 0 Copying to tmp table \
SELECT p.ID, p.post_title, p.post_content,p.post_excerpt, p.pos
t_date, p.comment_count, count(t_r.o
1543 root localhost NULL Query 0 NULL show processlist

Though this "hack" is one of the possible ways to get some interactivity on what is happening inside SQL server databases and tables table. for administering hundred or thousand SQL servers running dozens of queries per second – monitor their behaviour few times aday using mytop or mtop is times easier.

Though, the names of the two tools are quite similar and I used to think both tools are one and the same, actually they're not but both are suitable for monitoring sql database execution in real time.

As a sys admin, I've used mytop and mtop, on almost each Linux server with MySQL server installed.
Both tools has helped me many times in debugging oddities with sql servers. Therefore my personal view is mytop and mtop should be along with the Linux sysadmin most useful command tools outfit, still I'm sure many administrators still haven't heard about this nice goodies.

1. Installing mytop on Debian, Ubuntu and other deb based GNU / Linux-es

mytop is available for easy install on Debian and across all debian / ubuntu and deb derivative distributions via apt.

Here is info obtained with apt-cache show

debian:~# apt-cache show mytop|grep -i description -A 3
Description: top like query monitor for MySQL
Mytop is a console-based tool for monitoring queries and the performance
of MySQL. It supports version 3.22.x, 3.23.x, 4.x and 5.x servers.
It's written in Perl and support connections using TCP/IP and UNIX sockets.

Installing the tool is done with the trivial:

debian:~# apt-get --yes install mytop
....

mtop used to be available for apt-get-ting in Debian Lenny and prior Debian releases but in Squeeze onwards, only mytop is included (probably due to some licensing incompitabilities with mtop??).

For those curious on how mtop / mytop works – both are perl scripts written to periodically connects to the SQL server and run commands similar to SHOW FULL PROCESSLIST;. Then, the output is parsed and displayed to the user.

Here how mytop running, looks like:

MyTOP showing queries running on Ubuntu 8.04 Linux - Debugging interactively top like MySQL

2. Installing mytop on RHEL and CentOS

By default in RHEL and CentOS and probably other RedHat based Linux-es, there is neither mtop nor mytop available in package repositories. Hence installing the tools on those is only available from 3rd parties. As of time of writting an rpm builds for RHEL and CentOS, as well as (universal rpm distros) src.rpm package is available on http://pkgs.repoforge.org/mytop/. For the sake of preservation – if in future those RPMs disappear, I made a mirror of mytop rpm's here

Mytop rpm builds depend on a package perl(Term::ReadKey), my attempt to install it on CentOS 5.6, returned following err:

[root@cenots ~]# rpm -ivh mytop-1.4-2.el5.rf.noarch.rpm
warning: mytop-1.4-2.el5.rf.noarch.rpm: Header V3 DSA signature: NOKEY, key ID 6b8d79e6
error: Failed dependencies:
perl(Term::ReadKey) is needed by mytop-1.4-2.el5.rf.noarch

The perl(Term::ReadKey package is not available in CentOS 5.6 and (probably other centos releases default repositories so I had to google perl(Term::ReadKey) I found it on http://rpm.pbone.net/ package repository, the exact url to the rpm dependency as of time of writting this post is:

ftp://ftp.pbone.net/mirror/yum.trixbox.org/centos/5/old/perl-Term-ReadKey-2.30-2.rf.i386.rpm

Quickest, way to install it is:

[root@centos ~]# rpm -ivh ftp://ftp.pbone.net/mirror/yum.trixbox.org/centos/5/old/perl-Term-ReadKey-2.30-2.rf.i386.rpmRetrieving ftp://ftp.pbone.net/mirror/yum.trixbox.org/centos/5/old/perl-Term-ReadKey-2.30-2.rf.i386.rpmPreparing... ########################################### [100%]
1:perl-Term-ReadKey ########################################### [100%]

This time mytop, install went fine:

[root@centos ~]# rpm -ivh mytop-1.4-2.el5.rf.noarch.rpm
warning: mytop-1.4-2.el5.rf.noarch.rpm: Header V3 DSA signature: NOKEY, key ID 6b8d79e6
Preparing... ########################################### [100%]
1:mytop ########################################### [100%]

To use it further, it is the usual syntax:

mytop -u username -p 'secret_password' -d database

CentOS Linux MyTOP MySQL query benchmark screenshot - vpopmail query

3. Installing mytop and mtop on FreeBSD and other BSDs

To debug the running SQL queries in a MySQL server running on FreeBSD, one could use both mytop and mtop – both are installable via ports:

a) To install mtop exec:

freebsd# cd /usr/ports/sysutils/mtop
freebsd# make install clean
....

b) To install mytop exec:

freebsd# cd /usr/ports/databases/mytop
freebsd# make install clean
....

I personally prefer to use mtop on FreeBSD, because once run it runs prompts the user to interactively type in the user/pass

freebsd# mtop

Then mtop prompts the user with "interactive" dialog screen to type in user and pass:

Mtop interactive type in username and password screenshot on FreeBSD 7.2

It is pretty annoying, same mtop like syntax don't show user/pass prompt:

freebsd# mytop
Cannot connect to MySQL server. Please check the:

* database you specified "test" (default is "test")
* username you specified "root" (default is "root")
* password you specified "" (default is "")
* hostname you specified "localhost" (default is "localhost")
* port you specified "3306" (default is 3306)
* socket you specified "" (default is "")
The options my be specified on the command-line or in a ~/.mytop
config file. See the manual (perldoc mytop) for details.
Here's the exact error from DBI. It might help you debug:
Unknown database 'test'

The correct syntax to run mytop instead is:

freebsd# mytop -u root -p 'secret_password' -d 'blog'

Or the longer more descriptive:

freebsd# mytop --user root --pass 'secret_password' --database 'blog'

By the way if you take a look at mytop's manual you will notice a tiny error in documentation, where the three options –user, –pass and –database are wrongly said to be used as -user, -pass, -database:

freebsd# mytop -user root -pass 'secret_password' -database 'blog'
Cannot connect to MySQL server. Please check the:

* database you specified "atabase" (default is "test")
* username you specified "ser" (default is "root")
* password you specified "ass" (default is "")
* hostname you specified "localhost" (default is "localhost")
* port you specified "3306" (default is 3306)
* socket you specified "" (default is "")a
...
Access denied for user 'ser'@'localhost' (using password: YES)

Actually it is interesting mytop, precededed historically mtop.
mtop was later written (probably based on mytop), to run on FreeBSD OS by a famous MySQL (IT) spec — Jeremy Zawodny .
Anyone who has to do frequent MySQL administration tasks, should already heard Zawodny's name.
For those who haven't, Jeremy used to be a head database administrators and developer in Yahoo! Inc. some few years ago.
His website contains plenty of interesting thoughts and writtings on MySQL server and database management
 

How to check if your Linux WebServer is under a DoS attack

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Reading Time: 4minutes
There are few commands I usually use to track if my server is possibly under a Denial of Service attack or under Distributed Denial of Service

Sys Admins who still have not experienced the terrible times of being under a DoS attack are happy people for sure …

1. How to Detect a TCP/IP Denial of Service Attack This are the commands I use to find out if a loaded Linux server is under a heavy DoS attack, one of the most essential one is of course netstat.
To check if a server is under a DoS attack with netstat, it’s common to use:

linux:~# netstat -ntu | awk '{print $5}' | cut -d: -f1 | sort | uniq -c | sort -n|wc -l

If the output of below command returns a result like 2000 or 3000 connections!, then obviously it’s very likely the server is under a DoS attack.

To check all the IPS currently connected to the Apache Webserver and get a very brief statistics on the number of times each of the IPs connected to my server, I use the cmd:

linux:~# netstat -ntu | awk '{print $5}' | cut -d: -f1 | sort | uniq -c | sort -n
221 80.143.207.107 233 145.53.103.70 540 82.176.164.36

As you could see from the above command output the IP 80.143.207.107 is either connected 221 times to the server or is in state of connecting or disconnecting to the node.

Another possible way to check, if a Linux or BSD server is under a Distributed DoS is with the list open files command lsof
Here is how lsof can be used to list the approximate number of ESTABLISHED connections to port 80.

linux:~# lsof -i TCP:80
litespeed 241931 nobody 17u IPv4 18372655 TCP server.pc-freak.net:http (LISTEN)
litespeed 241931 nobody 25u IPv4 18372659 TCP 85.17.159.89:http (LISTEN)
litespeed 241931 nobody 30u IPv4 29149647 TCP server.pc-freak.net:http->83.101.6.41:54565 (ESTABLISHED)
litespeed 241931 nobody 33u IPv4 18372647 TCP 85.17.159.93:http (LISTEN)
litespeed 241931 nobody 34u IPv4 29137514 TCP server.pc-freak.net:http->83.101.6.41:50885 (ESTABLISHED)
litespeed 241931 nobody 35u IPv4 29137831 TCP server.pc-freak.net:http->83.101.6.41:52312 (ESTABLISHED)
litespeed 241931 nobody 37w IPv4 29132085 TCP server.pc-freak.net:http->83.101.6.41:50000 (ESTABLISHED)

Another way to get an approximate number of established connections to let’s say Apache or LiteSpeed webserver with lsof can be achieved like so:

linux:~# lsof -i TCP:80 |wc -l
2100

I find it handy to keep track of above lsof command output every few secs with gnu watch , like so:

linux:~# watch "lsof -i TCP:80"

2. How to Detect if a Linux server is under an ICMP SMURF attack

ICMP attack is still heavily used, even though it’s already old fashioned and there are plenty of other Denial of Service attack types, one of the quickest way to find out if a server is under an ICMP attack is through the command:

server:~# while :; do netstat -s| grep -i icmp | egrep 'received|sent' ; sleep 1; done
120026 ICMP messages received
1769507 ICMP messages sent
120026 ICMP messages received
1769507 ICMP messages sent

As you can see the above one liner in a loop would check for sent and recieved ICMP packets every few seconds, if there are big difference between in the output returned every few secs by above command, then obviously the server is under an ICMP attack and needs to hardened.

3. How to detect a SYN flood with netstat

linux:~# netstat -nap | grep SYN | wc -l
1032

1032 SYNs per second is quite a high number and except if the server is not serving let’s say 5000 user requests per second, therefore as the above output reveals it’s very likely the server is under attack, if however I get results like 100/200 SYNs, then obviously there is no SYN flood targetting the machine 😉

Another two netstat command application, which helps determining if a server is under a Denial of Service attacks are:

server:~# netstat -tuna |wc -l
10012

and

server:~# netstat -tun |wc -l
9606

Of course there also some other ways to check the count the IPs who sent SYN to the webserver, for example:

server:~# netstat -n | grep :80 | grep SYN |wc -l

In many cases of course the top or htop can be useful to find, if many processes of a certain type are hanging around.

4. Checking if UDP Denial of Service is targetting the server

server:~# netstat -nap | grep 'udp' | awk '{print $5}' | cut -d: -f1 | sort |uniq -c |sort -n

The above command will list information concerning possible UDP DoS.

The command can easily be accustomed also to check for both possible TCP and UDP denial of service, like so:

server:~# netstat -nap | grep 'tcp|udp' | awk '{print $5}' | cut -d: -f1 | sort |uniq -c |sort -n
104 109.161.198.86
115 112.197.147.216
129 212.10.160.148
227 201.13.27.137
3148 91.121.85.220

If after getting an IP that has too many connections to the server and is almost certainly a DoS host you would like to filter this IP.

You can use the /sbin/route command to filter it out, using route will probably be a better choice instead of iptables, as iptables would load up the CPU more than simply cutting the route to the server.

Here is how I remove hosts to not be able to route packets to my server:

route add 110.92.0.55 reject

The above command would null route the access of IP 110.92.0.55 to my server.

Later on to look up for a null routed IP to my host, I use:

route -n |grep -i 110.92.0.55

Well hopefully this should be enough to give a brief overview on how, one can dig in his server and find if he is under a Distributed Denial of Service, hope it’s helpful to somebody out there.
Cheers 😉

Fix Apache [error] [client xx.xxx.xxx.xx] PHP Warning: Unknown: Input variables exceeded 1000. To increase the limit change max_input_vars in php.ini. in Unknown on line 0

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Reading Time: < 1minute

I have a busy Linux server with 24 cores each running on ..4 Ghz. Server is configured to server  Apache and MySQL queries and a dozen of high traffic websites are hosted on it. Until just recently server worked fine and since about few days I started getting SMS notifications that server is inaccessible few times a day. To check what's wrong I checked in /var/log/apache2/error.log  and there I found  following error:

[error] [client 95.107.233.2] PHP Warning:  Unknown: Input variables exceeded 1000.

To increase the limit change max_input_vars in php.ini. in Unknown on line 0 referer: http://www.site-domain-name.com/predict/2013-08-10
 

Before I check Apache error.log, I had a guess that ServerLimit of 256 (spawned servers max) is reached so solution would be raise of ServerLimit to more than MaxClients setting defined in /etc/apache2/apache2.conf. After checking /var/log/apache2/error.log I've realized problem is because the many websites hosted on server exceed maximum defined variables possible to assign by libphp in php.ini. maximum possible defined variables before PHP stops servering is set through max_input_vars variable

As I'm running a Debian Squeeze Linux server, here is what is set as default for max_input_vars in /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini:

; How many GET/POST/COOKIE input variables may be accepted
; max_input_vars = 1000

So to fix it in php.ini just raised a bit setting to 1500, i.e.:

max_input_vars = 1500

Though I hit the error on Debian I assume same error occurs on Redhat RPM based (Fedora, CentOS, RHEL Linux) servers.
Hence I assume

max_input_vars = 1500

or higher should fix on those servers too. Looking forward to hear if same error is hit on RedHats.

Enjoy 🙂
 

How to test if imap and pop mail server service is working with Telnet cmd

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Reading Time: 3minutes
test-if-imap-pop3-is-working-with-telnet-command-logo-imap
I’ve recently built new mail qmail server with vpopmail to serve pop3 connectins and courierimap and courierimaps to take care for IMAP IMAPS.

I further used telnet to test if the Linux server pop3 service on (110) and imap on (143) worked fine, straight after the completed qmail install.
Here is how to test mail server with vpopmail listening for connections on pop3 port :

debian:~# telnet mail.mymailserver.com 110
Trying 111.222.333.444...
Connected to mail.mymailserver.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
+OK <2813.1312745988@mymailserver.com>
USER hipo@mymailserver.com
+OK
PASS here_goes_my_secret_pass
+OK
LIST
1 309783
2 64053
3 2119
4 64357
5 317893
RETR 1
My first mail content retrieved with RETR commandgoes here ....
quit
+OK
Connection closed by foreign host.

You see I have 5 messages in my mailbox, as you can see I used RETR command to check the content of my mail, this is handy as I can read my mails straight with telnet (if the mail is in plain text), of course it’s a bit more complicated if I have to read encrypted or html mail, though still its easy to write a tiny parser and pipe the content produced by telnet command to lynx or some other text based browser.

Now another sys admin handy tip is the use of telnet to check my mail servers IMAP servers is correctly operating.
Here is how:

debian:~# telnet mail.mymailserver.com 143
Trying 111.222.333.444...
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is '^]'.
* OK [CAPABILITY IMAP4rev1 UIDPLUS CHILDREN NAMESPACE THREAD=ORDEREDSUBJECT THREAD=REFERENCES SORT QUOTA IDLE ACL ACL2=UNION STARTTLS] Courier-IMAP ready. Copyright 1998-2010 Double Precision, Inc. See COPYING for distribution information.
01 LOGIN hipo@mymailserver.com here_goes_my_secret_pass
A OK LOGIN Ok.
02 LIST "" *
* LIST (Unmarked HasNoChildren) "." "INBOX"
02 OK LIST completed
03 SELECT INBOX
* FLAGS (Draft Answered Flagged Deleted Seen Recent)
* OK [PERMANENTFLAGS (* Draft Answered Flagged Deleted Seen)] Limited
* 5 EXISTS
* 5 RECENT
* OK [UIDVALIDITY 1312746907] Ok
* OK [MYRIGHTS "acdilrsw"] ACL
03 OK [READ-WRITE] Ok
04 STATUS INBOX (MESSAGES)
* STATUS "INBOX" (MESSAGES 5)
04 OK STATUS Completed.
05 FETCH 1 ALL
...
06 FETCH 1 BODY
...
07 FETCH 1 ENVELOPE
...
As you can see according to standard to send commands to IMAP server from console after a telnet connection you will have to always include a command line number like 01, 02, 03 .. etc.

Using such a line numbering is not obligitory and also letters like A, B, C could be use still line numbering with numbers is generally a good idea since it’s easier for reading on the screen.

Now line 02 shows you available mailboxes, line 03 SELECT INBOX selects the imap Inbox to be further operated with, 04 STATUS INBOX cmd displays status about current mailboxes in folder.
FETCH 1 ALL instructs the imap server to get list of all IMAP message headers. Next command in line 05 FETCH 1 BODY will display the message body of the first message in list.
The 07 FETCH 1 ENVELOPE will display the mail headers for the 1 message.

Few other IMAP commands which might be helpfun on connection are:

08 FETCH 1 FULL
09 FETCH * FULL

First one would fetch complete content of a message numbered one from the imap server and the second one 09 FETCH * FULL will get all the mail content for all messages located on the remote IMAP server.

The STATUS command aforementioned earlier could take the following list of arguments:

MESSAGES, UNSEEN, RECENT UIDNEXT UIDVALIDITY

These commands are a gold mine for me as a sysadmin as it helps quickly solve problems, hope they would help to somebody out there as well 😉
This way is a way shorter than bothering each time to check, if some customer e-mail account is improperly configured by creating setting up a new account in Thunderbird.
 

How to quickly check unread Gmail emails on GNU / Linux – one liner script

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Reading Time: 3minutes

I've hit an interesting article explaining how to check unread gmail email messages in Linux terminal. The original article is here

Being able to read your latest gmail emails in terminal/console is great thing, especially for console geeks like me.
Here is the one liner script:

curl -u GMAIL-USERNAME@gmail.com:SECRET-PASSWORD \
--silent "https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom" | tr -d '\n' \
| awk -F '' '{for (i=2; i<=NF; i++) {print $i}}' \
| sed -n "s/

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As you see this one liner uses curl to fetch the information from mail.google.com's atom feed and then uses awk and sed to parse the returned content and make it suitable for display.

If you want to use the script every now and then on a Linux server or your Linux desktop you can download the above code in a script file -quick_gmail_new_mail_check.sh here

Here is a screenshot of script's returned output:

Quick Gmail New Mail Check bash script screenshot

A good use of a modified version of the script is in conjunction with a 15 minutes cron job to launch for new gmail mails and launch your favourite desktop mail client.
This method is useful if you don't want a constant hanging Thunderbird or Evolution, pop3 / imap client on your system to just take up memory or dangle down the window list.
I've done a little modification to the script to simply, launch a predefined email reader program, if gmail atom feed returns new unread mails are available, check or download my check_gmail_unread_mail.sh here
Bear in mind, on occasions of errors with incorrect username or password, the script will not return any errors. The script is missing a properer error handling.Therefore, before you use the script make sure:

gmail_username='YOUR-USERNAME';
gmail_password='YOUR-PASSWORD';

are 100% correct.

To launch the script on 15 minutes cronjob, put it somewhere and place a cron in (non-root) user:

# crontab -u root -e
...
*/15 * * * * /path/to/check_gmail_unread_mail.sh

Once you read your new emails in lets say Thunderbird, close it and on the next delivered unread gmail mails, your mail client will pop up by itself again. Once the mail client is closed the script execution will be terminated.
Consised that if you get too frequently gmail emails, using the script might be annoying as every 15 minutes your mail client will be re-opened.

If you use any of the shell scripts, make sure there are well secured (make it owned only by you). The gmail username and pass are in plain text, so someone can steal your password, very easily. For a one user Linux desktops systems as my case, security is not such a big concern, putting my user only readable script permissions (e.g. chmod 0700)is enough.