Resolving ‘curlftpfs’ – Error 530 …I/O Error.

One of the ideas which I recently saw another enthusiastic Linux user comment about was, that the program “Bluefish”, which can be installed from Linux package-managers, is almost an ideal program for Web-design, and one of the reasons given was the fact that additionally, under Linux, it’s possible to mount a remote FTP-server’s directory, to a local mount-point, and then, to edit the HTML, CSS and PHP Files directly within this mount-point. While I like enthusiasm for a good thing, I would prefer not to lead my readers into a situation where they could run into error messages, and then become frustrated, because they might not be able to resolve those. Instead, I’d prefer to have run into some error messages myself, found a solution, and then explain to the community, what worked for me.

For starters, even though I do some minimal Web-design, my way of doing it is, to maintain a set of folders within my home directory, which stays synced between my computers, but then, to use “FileZilla” to upload changes I made to those folders’ files, to an FTPS-server, with point-and-click methods. FileZilla can also be installed from most Linux package managers, has a GUI, and supports secure connections to the FTP-server. If the reader is paying attention, he or she will notice that by implication, I have an FTP-server running on the PC that acts as my Web-server, that I force the exchange of passwords to be encrypted, and that my FTP-server and -client reside side-by-side on computers in the same room, on my private LAN.

The reader may infer that I’m not the most trusting person.


 

 

In this context, Linux users differentiate between two methods of file-sharing:

  • File-Sharing over SSH, which is sometimes referred to as ‘sftp’. If this is set up, then the local mounting of the remote FS becomes dead-simple, Or
  • FTP File-Sharing over TLS, which is referred to differently as ‘ftps’. My assumption for this posting is, that ‘ftps’ is set up, but that ‘sftp’, or, ‘ssh’ is not, for the account in question…

 

 

But, just to verify whether the option can be forced to work, that the actual FTP-server’s directories can be mounted locally, and then, theoretically, also edited in-place, I next discovered that virtually the only solution available is a package called ‘curlftpfs‘, which performs a FUSE-mount. Lately, I’ve begun to like FUSE-mounts, especially without any of the mount options that would require root. But what I found next was, that ‘curlftpfs’ was particularly temperamental. Whatever the client-side mount doesn’t like about the server-side configuration, results in a short error message, and perhaps, a frustrated Web-author.

And so, I’m happy to share what it was, that made the error message go away in my situation. The first thing that the reader would need to visualize is, how the system directories are set up, using ‘vsftpd’, in this case for the user ‘www-data’, which owns all the Web-content, and, exposing Port 21 to the LAN, but not even to the WAN. This is the root of any static HTML I might want to host:

 


Directory               Owner
------------            --------
/var                    root
  +-www                 root
    +-html              www-data

 

While this detail may strike the reader as irrelevant, in fact it’s not, as I found out. That would be, because the Home Directory of the user ‘www-data‘ was set up, by me, several years ago, as being ‘/var/www‘, not, ‘/var/www/html‘. What this means is that, unless some directive was set up on the client-side, to navigate to sub-directory ‘html‘ directly when logging in, from wherever this FTP user’s home directory was, the simple diagram which I just wrote above, would cause the Error 530 Message.

Further, in my configuration file ‘/etc/vsftpd.conf‘, I have the following lines set:

 


userlist_enable=YES
userlist_file=/etc/vsftpd.userlist
userlist_deny=NO

 

What this means is that, in the additional file ‘/etc/vsftpd.userlist‘, I have the list of users, who are allowed to use FTP. And, ‘www-data‘ is the only user in the list.

I should also mention that the user-name ‘www-data‘ has its login shell set to ‘/bin/false‘, just to reduce the risk further, of any sort of hacking.

But there was a simultaneous problem causing the same error message: When the ‘curlftpfs’ command is given, with the ‘tlsv1′ option, at least on the Debian 9 / Stretch client, this just causes the authentication error, regardless of how sure the user has been, that his username and password were provided correctly. What’s peculiar about that is the fact that, on my FTP-server, the file ‘/etc/vsftpd.conf‘ does also have the following lines set:

 


ssl_enable=YES
ssl_tlsv1=YES

 

Further, setting ‘Explicit TLS handshake’ in FileZilla, never caused any sort of error messages. What I take this to mean is that either:

  • ‘curlftpfs’ tries to set a version of TLS which would be higher than 1.0, Or
  • Trying to set this option both on the client and server, causes the obscure error…
  • (See footnote :1 at the bottom of this posting, for the correct explanation.)

I should also note, that ‘the correct way’ to get this mount to work would be, that the user set up the file ‘~/.netrc’, that being, a file in his home directory, on the client computer, that stores his username and password in plain-text form. It’s important to give the command:

 


$ chmod go-r ~/.netrc

 

I.e., access to this file should be limited to reading, and perhaps writing, by the user in question.

If the user enters his password on the command-line, then it will also go into the command-history of his shell interpreter, and additionally, be visible in the processes list. This is one possible, correct ‘.netrc’ File, for use with ‘curlftpfs':

 


machine dirkmittler.homeip.net
login www-data
password <my-password>

 

What I eventually found out was, that ‘curlftpfs’ does in fact read and use this file correctly. But, once I got my FTPS-mount to succeed, I also deleted this file, and continued my experiment with the following command-line:

 


$ curlftpfs -o ssl,no_verify_peer,user=www-data ftp://dirkmittler.homeip.net/html ~/mnt

 

What the ‘user=www-data‘ option does is, to cause the command to ignore the ‘.netrc’ File, and to prompt the user to type in his password (invisibly) by hand. I found that using this feature eventually also works. And, at the end of the (remote computer’s) host-name, in my case, the characters ‘/htmlare important, for the reason I gave above.

The following command also works:

 


$ curlftpfs -o ssl,cacert=/home/dirk/vsftpd.pem,user=www-data ftp://dirkmittler.homeip.net/html ~/mnt

 

The last command assumes that the file ‘~/vsftpd.pem‘ contains the public certificate that my self-signed FTP-server uses, and causes the mount command to check the actual server’s public key for equality.

 

Conclusion:

Although this mode of operation can be forced to work, I wouldn’t prefer it as my main way of uploading files, because it’s just too rickety. (:2) I’ll just go back to using FileZilla.

 

(Updated 9/28/2020, 22h45… )

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IRISNotes Digital Pen

There exist so-called Digital Pens, which will record what they are writing electronically, while writing on paper. These pens belong to two categories:

  1. The kind that require special paper.
  2. The kind that require a receiver be attached to the top of the sheet, which senses the positions of the pen during writing, but which do not require special paper.

The IRISNotes is a digital pen of the second kind, of which I happen to own one.

In general, I do not find this type of pen very useful, because the need does not arise often, to be writing on paper, yet to be digitizing what is written anyway. However, I have this pen, and have in the past installed Windows software to download its writings onto my PC.

I felt that it would be a challenge to get this relic to work again, while using Linux software to download its data. For that purpose, it was helpful to note, that the hardware is of the ‘Pegasus’ variety, regardless of how it was branded. And then it was easy to find a special, Linux, software-project, the aim of which was to do exactly that.

This software only comes in binary form, packaged for Ubuntu. Using Debian, we do not have a mechanism for PPAs. And so the only way for me to get it running, was to custom-compile it, which I easily did.

Aside from custom-compiling, I needed to create the following file:

 


/etc/udev/rules.d/50-hidraw.rules :

ACTION=="add", KERNEL=="hidraw*", MODE="0666"


 

(Update 04/23/2018 :

Actually, by now I’ve discovered that the project source tree actually has a sub-directory named ‘udev’, which contains the recommended Rules File.

The Rule I created above will certainly work, but by giving user-access to any and every HIDRAW device-file, may not provide the highest level of security. And so I would recommend that readers do what I’ve done myself by now – To use the Rules File supplied with the project. )

I should note that my version of IRISNotes pen is first-generation. I cannot guarantee that any of this will work with an IRIS 2 or an IRIS Executive 2 -type pen. I just happened to own a pen which was collecting dust, with the idle thought of wanting to reactivate it.

The version of this pen which I have, has two modes of operation: USB-mode and Bluetooth-mode. The BT-mode has always been rather pointless, because it would need an active wireless connection while I was writing. It was originally meant to work with Android and iOS devices, but lacked in performance.

The ability to download pages of writing that are saved in the receiver-module, has always been limited to working in USB-mode.

And so I am happy to announce, that my project was a success, and that I am able to use the command-line tool to convert captured data to SVG (image) files.

The ability to do OCR on the writing has always required Windows or OS/X, and under Linux, whatever ability we want, to convert the SVG drawings to text, must be supplied by the user or not at all. I am not that far along with it yet.

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