Socksify Anything

April 15, 2010

As a follow-up to one of my posts awhile back, I figured I’d share a small tip with those who don’t use SOCKS proxies quite as often as I do. In my previous post, I showed how to set up an SOCKS proxy that tunnelled your (now encrypted) traffic through a remote SSH server, as well as how to configure Firefox to use that tunnel. But what if your application doesn’t support SOCKS proxies? And what if you want to tunnel through multiple hosts (I’m sure you could think of a situation :P)?

Well, you’re in luck: proxychains can handle all of that. When used to execute an application, proxychains acts a middleware layer, intercepting all TCP connections, wrapping them in the SOCKS protocol, and routing them through the proxies of your choice. If you’re on Ubuntu, it’s, as usual, brilliantly easy to install. One “sudo apt-get install proxychains” and you’re good to go. Now how do we go about using it?

The first thing you need to do to use proxychains is to set up a configuration file. On Ubuntu (and I’m assuming, any other install), there is a default file in /etc/proxychains.conf that you can look at for guidance, but I have included mine for reference just in case. Now, there are three places proxychains will look for a config file when it is executed: in the local directory, at ~/.proxychains/proxychains.conf , and in /etc/proxychains.conf (and they are prioritized in that order). Chose yours according to what works best for you. I’d assume that either your home folder or etc folder would be the best, as it will work without a fuss no matter what your $PWD is. Now, the proxychains config has a good number of options, so you’ll need to know what’s best for you. For most, the dynamic chain is best: it functions as long as one of the proxies in it’s configuration page is online. I’d also recommend enabling proxy_dns if it’s not on, to prevent DNS leakage. The rest of the default options should be fine. After that, all you need to do is add your proxy in the form of “proxy_type host port”, which, if you’re using an SSH proxy like in my previous post, will be something like “socks4 127.0.0.1 6789” .

Now save the file, and you’re ready to go. If you, say, want to update your system, all you need to do is “sudo proxychains apt-get update”, and away it goes. If you want to chain your traffic through multiple hosts, simply add more to your config file, and run “proxychains ./myapp”. Enjoy!

Update 04/16/2010: As mentioned in a previous post, tsocks is also a good application for socksifying connections, and worth trying if proxychains doesn’t work for you. However, you can’t (as far as I know) use it to chain multiple proxies together, so keep that in mind.

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As a follow-up to my previous post on using Handbrake to rip DVDs, I wanted to do a short write-up on how to use a program called DeVeDe to restore those MKV, AVI, and MP4 files that you ripped earlier back to a DVD that you can use on any DVD player.

Before finding DeVeDe, I had been looking for a good solution for DVD creation on Linux for awhile. However, nothing had really impressed me very much. They generally had clunky, bloated UIs and didn’t support a wide range of file formats. DeVeDe changes all that; it uses the same mencoder backend that Handbrake does, allowing it to support a wide range of files (pretty much anything mencoder supports). It also sports a very simple but powerful UI, allowing you to make pretty much any customization you want to the menu and to have very complex DVD title structures. This is while also not being overly complex for entry level users, and pretty enough that it doesn’t burn your retinas to look at it.

Sound good? Then let’s get started. First, you of course need to install it. To do this on Ubuntu (Hardy/Intrepid/Jaunty, probably others as well), simply open up a terminal and execute the following command:

sudo apt-get install devede

That’s it! Alternatively, you can install it through Synaptic by searching for devede and installing the package. But what fun is that? ūüėõ

Now that DeVeDe is installed, let’s open it up and take a look.

Select Disc Type - DeVeDe

Select Disc Type - DeVeDe

As you can see, you’ll first be prompted for what kind of CD/DVD you want to make. For this tutorial, we will assume you’re making a normal DVD, but there are a lot of other options you can follow if you wish.

Main Screen - DeVeDe

Main Screen - DeVeDe

Now we are presented with the home screen, the place where all the magic happens. You are started out with the most simple DVD possible: a single DVD title, generically named, and a simple default menu. From here, you can do pretty much anything you want to do. In the interest of keeping this simple, we will assume that you just want to burn a backup of a single movie.¬† First things first: let’s name the title. To do this, simply click on Properties.

Title Properties - DeVeDe

Title Properties - DeVeDe

Here, simply enter whatever you want the title to be named, and select the action you want taken after its finished (I would suggest just going to the menu afterwards). After you’re done, click OK.

We now need to add a video file to the title. To do this, simply click the Add button under the Files box on the right.

File Properties - DeVeDe

File Properties - DeVeDe

Click the file dialog button and select your video file. I would also suggest changing the format from PAL to NTSC if you are living in the U.S., most DVD players expect NTSC content here. If you know differently for yours though, or it can handle both, then don’t worry about it. If you do need to change to NTSC and you’re adding a lot of video files, you can make this the default on the home screen. From the add file dialog screen, you can also chose what audio track you want to use (if there are multiple), and you can add your own custom subtitle files simply by clicking the add button next to the subtitle box and selecting the sub file. There are also a number of very useful advanced settings that you can mess around with if you feel so inclined¬† (default settings have worked for me though). Before you finish, I would advise clicking the Preview button as well. It will encode a sample of the video with your settings and play it back so that you can preview what the DVD will look like when finished, and to make sure everything is in sync (very handy feature!).¬† Once you are satisfied with your settings, simply click OK.

Now, you need to configure your menu. For me, I really don’t care what the menu looks like, so I just leave the default in. However, I’m sure there are many out there who don’t share my thoughts, and would like to customize away. If so, simply click the Menu Options button at the bottom of the home screen.

Menu Options - DeVeDe

Menu Options - DeVeDe

From here, you can make pretty much any change you want to. Add music, add a custom background, title the Menu, change the font, everything. I won’t go through this in depth, but you can play around with it and see what happens! You can also preview the menu from here, so you can see what it looks like as you’re making it.

You’re almost done now! The last thing you need to check is under the Advanced Options tab at the bottom. If you have a multicore CPU, I would advise selecting the Use Optimizations For Multicore CPUs option. This will greatly speed up your disc creation time. Once you’ve checked this, go ahead and click Forward.

Final Disc Structure - DeVeDe

Final Disc Structure - DeVeDe

You will now be prompted with where to save the ISO image of the DVD. An ISO image, for those who don’t know, is basically a bit for bit copy of a DVD, and we will use it to actually burn our DVD.

Save ISO - DeVeDe

Save ISO - DeVeDe

Once done, just click OK and go get a cup of coffee. It will be a little while, as DeVeDe needs to encode your video into the proper format.

After it finishes, get a DVD and insert it into your DVD burner. Open up the folder where you saved the ISO, double click the file (right click->Disk Burner on Jaunty), and click Burn. Wait for it to finish, and then you’re done! Go plug it into any DVD player, and it should work like any other disc.

Image Burning

Image Burning

And that’s it! I hope this was helpful to some of you out there wondering how to create DVDs in Ubuntu, feel free to ask if you need help or clarification.

Wow, you know you haven’t posted in awhile when your intro paragraph to your next post talks about how Christmas went. In case anyone still cares now that it’s almost Easter, it went well. Very well. I still want to take this time to thank Santa for his enormous generosity this past year, as he was kind enough to get me that netbook that had been dancing around in my dreams for awhile: the Eee PC 1000.

I’ve spent the past few months playing around with my shiny new Eee PC, and I am duly impressed. Wireless N,¬† 8GB SSD + 32GB built in flash, 7 (yes, count them, 7) hours of battery life, Bluetooth, webcam + mic, the list goes on and on. All of this technological goodness kept within a sleek, 12 inch wide frame that even Steve Jobs might not deem “junk”. Oh, and did I mention that all of this wonderful hardware has native Linux driver support? Can you say “portable hackstation”?

Yes, it was a good Christmas for this Linux user, and judging from the experience I had with the Eee PC 1000, it’s been a good year for Linux users in general. With netbooks being the fastest growing segments in the computing arena,¬† Linux’s superior memory and power management, combined with it’s endless configurability and ever-improving usability,¬† is starting to make Microsoft fear the penguin more than usual. This is not without reason: Ubuntu 8.10 has completed my netbook.

Now, before you all cry out in unison that I can get netbooks with Linux preinstalled, I know. In fact, mine came that way. However, the distribution that shipped with my Eee PC made it feel less like a computer and more like a toy, and a very useless one at that. I really hope that Asus wises up, and starts shipping something that isn’t intentionally crippled for some miguided notion of¬† usability. I am thoroughly convinced that an install of Ubuntu would have been easier to use for anyone than that worthless POS that came preinstalled.

However, as great of a fit that the Ubuntu/Eee PC union is, it was not without some small hurdles to first overcome. The following is a short documentation of how to take your nifty new Eee PC and install the latest release of Ubuntu, Intrepid Ibex.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out, installing from CD isn’t going to work so well without a CD drive, so we first need to find another way to get Ubuntu onto the netbook. The easiest way to do this is with a flash drive. These are many ways to get Ubuntu on a flash drive, as documented here, but I will only be covering how I did it, using the installation tool built into Ubuntu. If you don’t have a flash drive, well, buy one. Seriously, it’s like 5 bucks.

Once you’ve gotten a hold of a flash drive, make sure you’ve backed up any important files, because we’re going to wipe it and put Ubuntu onto it.¬† You are also going to need to get an ISO of the latest version of Ubuntu 8.10 (32 bit) from here. While that’s downloading, you might run off and get an ethernet cable if you don’t have it, you’ll need it later.

It should be mentioned at this point that there are lots of ready-made distros out there specifically for the Eee PC, including a number based off of Ubuntu. In addition, a default installation of Ubuntu does not have driver support enabled for all of the Eee PC components. However, these ready-made distributions strip out a lot of kernel features that you may need at some point, so for most users it’s a better idea to just install the standard edition and install a custom kernel. After all, it would be rather annoying if, for all the Eee PCs portable goodness, you plugged in some device that normally works under a standard Ubuntu 8.10 install only to find out that support for it has been removed. It’s better to at least have a backup of the original kernel, with all of its driver support, and then run a slimmed down version with the Eee PC drivers compiled in for day to day use. Now, I know what you’re thinking to yourself right now: “I have to replace my kernel just to get this working? What is this, Gentoo?” Do not fear, the Ubuntu community has your back, and has made this process a piece of cake.

Now that you have the ISO downloaded, we can move on to the fun part – installing it on a USB drive. If you already have Ubuntu installed on your desktop/laptop, then you’re all set to start. If not, you need to burn the ISO to a CD, and then boot into it before you can start. Once you have Ubuntu up and running, go to System -> Administration -> Create A USB Startup Disk. This will look slightly different on the Live CD, as you don’t have to select an ISO (it uses itself), but the concept is the same:

Now, simply select the ISO file that you downloaded, the USB drive that you want to install, and click “Make Startup Disk”. Go get yourself something to eat, as this can take awhile, depending on the speed of the disk.

You should now have a bootable USB drive with Ubuntu 8.10 installed, congratualtions! You’re well on our way to having it up and running. Now, go ahead plug it into your Eee PC and power it up. You may need to set the USB drive as the default boot device in the BIOS, so it’s best to check. F2 at the bootup screen does the trick. For some reason, my Eee PC reports USB drives as hard drives, so I would check to make sure that USB is first in the Hard Disk boot priority list.

Once you’ve booted up into Ubuntu using the USB drive, simply install Ubuntu as you normally would, by clicking the Install icon on the desktop and following the prompts. Make sure that your 8GB partition is the one that your root¬† partition is installed to, not doing so will result in slow performance and possibly data loss later on.

Restart, and you’re almost done! Hook up your Eee PC to a wired connection (your wireless most likely won’t work), and follow these instructions to install the custom Eee kernel.

That’s it! I hope you all have found this informative, and I know you will all enjoy Ubuntu on your Eee PC as much as I have.

If you want some tips on configuring your Ubuntu install to deal with the small screen, please see the Ubuntu wiki. Its tips really helped me, and I’m sure they will be of use to all of you as well.

As most of my friends can attest, I am very big on making backups of my DVDs, so much so that I rarely pull them out of their case except to make rips of them. I tend to break/scratch discs like none other, so I make it a point to have backups. I am very hard to please when it comes to ripping programs, as I both want to be able to tweak advanced settings to my liking, but also to just be able to throw something in and go. Needless to say, I want the rips to be high quality. I generally use x264 video and AC3 audio muxed into an MKV container, and I’ve found this to be a very good combination. I have tried pretty much every tool that I can find out there to do this for me: dvd::rip, OGMRip, and acidrip to name a few, but have still always fallen back to using a collection of custom CLI scripts that I put together to rip and encode them automatically. I’ve even toyed around with the idea of creating my own GUI, to attempt to fill a rather gaping void of decent ripping programs, but unfortunately not had the time.

Thankfully, this will no longer be necessary. I have just tested the latest Handbrake release for Linux, and I have to say, these guys have outdone themselves. When I last tried Handbrake, it was simply a CLI version on Linux, and a rather bad one at that. My direct mencoder invocations consistently performed better than their command line program’s calls, a reason alone to move on. Beyond that, it was just hard to use, and if I was doing command line, I might as well just use mencoder. Not so anymore with the release of their latest GUI. It’s a GTK frontend, which really does make encoding as simple as point and click. Now Handbrake has long been a favorite on Windows, so this may not come as a surprise to some, but I really was not expecting this kind of release for Linux from them. Kudos.

The following is a short tutorial on how to set up and use the new Handbrake GUI on Ubuntu:

Some people in Ubuntu forums have thankfully set up a PPA repository of Handbrake to make it easier to install. To install Handbrake on Ubuntu do the following:

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Now, you need to copy the lines below into it. If you are on Intrepid, change “hardy” to “intrepid”.

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/handbrake-ubuntu/ubuntu hardy main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/handbrake-ubuntu/ubuntu hardy main

Once you’re done, save and close. Now, reload your repositories and install handbrake:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install handbrake-gtk

Now Handbrake should be installed. If you’re going to be ripping DVD’s, this tutorial assumes that you have libdvdcss installed. You can grab it off of Medibuntu (help.ubuntu.com) if you don’t. Go to the Sound and Video tab in your menu, and select Handbrake. Alternately, you can just type “ghb” into the command line to start up the GUI. If you are having problems that you need to debug, this may be useful as well. Now you should see the following screen:

Main Menu

Handbrake - Main Menu

As you can see, the GUI is laid out pretty simply. A number of pre-made profiles are there for your convenience on the right side, with profiles for everything from iPods to movies to Xbox 360s. To begin your rip, insert a DVD. Click the Source button and just select the DVD drive that you’ve put the disc into.

Handbrake - Select Source

Handbrake - Select Source

Check to make sure that the correct title that you want was selected, there should be a preview at the bottom. It seems to just select the longest title available. If it is not the one you want, simply select what title/chapters you wish to rip to your file. If you want to rip something such as a TV show season (meaning you want seperate files for each episode), you will need to add each title to the queue individually AFAIK.

Handbrake Title Selection

Handbrake - Title Selection

Choose where you want to save this file. Then, select the file container you want. I personally would recommend the MKV format, as an open source and completely free container, but depending on what you are using your rip for you may not be able to do this. Regardless, there are plenty of options for your container.

screenshot-handbrake-2

Handbrake - Container Selection

All that’s left now is to change the video/audio encoding settings to your liking. You can essentially configure this as much or as little as you’d like to. If you want subtitles included, make sure that the proper ones are selected in the Audio/Subtitles tab. For me, making rips of DVDs is perfectly managed by the High Profile -> Film profile, with a few small tweaks. One thing I would recommend doing is setting your bitrate/final file size in the video tab. I usually go for a 1.4GB file when using h.264 + AC3 5.1 , but again, I go for high quality, you would be perfectly fine going with something lower.

Handbrake Bitrate Selection

Handbrake - Bitrate Selection

Once you’ve configured everything to your liking, just click Start. If you want to add other movies, click Add To Queue, but do remember that you can only have one DVD in your drive at a time.

Handbrake - Start Encoding

Handbrake - Start Encoding

I hope this was helpful to someone out there struggling with encoding DVDs on Linux.¬† If there are any errors in the above post, or anything you would like my to expand upon, feel free to let me know, I would be glad to help out anyone who’s having trouble. If you are having problems, this forum discussion (ubuntuforums.org) might be of help as well.

UPDATE: I have now also posted a guide on how to restore these rips to DVDs. Hope it’s useful.