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JBoss Linux Authentication

Posted 2004 Dec 27

This HOWTO explains the steps necessary to implement authentication in JBoss using the underlying Linux OS. Using a custom JBoss LoginModule (provided), SysAuth and Linux/PAM, users on your website can use their Linux username and password to authenticate. I post snippets of code and config. files along the way and provide a single download with everything at the end. <!-more->

Initial Setup The first thing you will need is SysAuth. It is a Java interface to PAM, the underlying authenication subsystem that drives most, if not all, current Linux distributions. You will need the jar file when compiling your Java code and the shared library,, when running in JBoss.

The rest of this tutorial assumes that you have JBoss 3.2.* installed in a directory called jboss.

Configuring JBoss First, decide on a place to put the SysAuth shared library. For simplicity’s sake, I put it in jboss/bin. Next, we need to indicate where JBoss should look for the shared lib by modifying the java.library.path variable passed to the JVM. For JBoss, that is accomplished by modifying changing the JAVA_OPTS variable in jboss/bin/run.conf.

Add the following to the end of jboss/bin/run.conf:

JAVA_OPTS="-Djava.library.path=bin $JAVA_OPTS" 
Download: run.conf

Configuring PAM I have tested this setup on Gentoo and RedHat ES 3, though it should work for any Linux distribution that uses PAM. The only change needed is to add an entry to the /etc/pam.d/ directory. We’ll call the file called java_auth. Depending on your PAM configuration, you will need to use one of the following. In RedHat (and, most likely, all others), java_auth should look like so:

auth       required service=system-auth

This particular configuration “passes” authentication through to the system-level configuration. In Gentoo, I was able to get by with:

auth    required

Try the first. If it doesn’t work, try the second. If that doesn’t work: pester your Sys Admin—they love this stuff!

One more note: BEWARE OF TABS. I spent way too longing wrestling with a problem caused by a spurious tab.

Download: java_auth

Build a Custom JBoss Login Module The process of creating a custom JBoss Login Module is pretty advanced and there are many, many options. But, in the case of simple authenication against the underlying Linux operating system we can take a pretty direct approach. To implement a login module that will supply a username and password to PAM (via SysAuth) we need to subclass JBoss’s UsernamePasswordLoginModule class. The subclassing requires that we implement the following functions:

  • public boolean validatePassword(String inputPassword, String expectedPassword)
  • public String getUsersPassword()
  • public Group[] getRoleSets()

So, put this in a file called Compile it with SysAuth.jar in your classpath. The class should end up in the WEB-INF/lib directory of your Web Application. Our main concern is with getUsersPassword which is where we will use SysAuth.

    public boolean validatePassword(String inputPassword, String expectedPassword)
        boolean result = false;
        result = SysAuth.isAllowed(getUsername(),inputPassword);
        return result;

Pretty simple, huh? As you can see, it simply passes the username and password to SysAuth. Sysauth will return true or false for authenticated or denied, respectively. The other two functions are equally exciting:

    public String getUsersPassword() throws LoginException {
        return "";

and here we create an arbitrary group to which our user will belong (more on this later):

    public Group[] getRoleSets() throws LoginException {
         userRoles.addMember(new SimplePrincipal("AuthenticatedUsers"));
        Group[] roleSets = {userRoles};
        return roleSets;


While we are here, it is a good time to point out the main deficiency in this PAM-based implementation: Authorization. I have yet to find a good way to setup any advanced group- or role-based access controls. Basically, the user is either authenticated or not. This is a deficiency in PAM not JBoss or JAAS.

Configure your Web Application

Now, let’s bring it all together by configuring your web application to use the custom login module we wrote. All of these changes are standard JBoss configuration changes for using JAAS. Check jboss for more information.

First, we need to setup a JBoss security configuration. So, we will need to add the following to jboss/server/default/conf/login-config.xml. (Note: if you are using a custom server/configuration, just change “default” to the name of your server/configuration). Put the following at the bottom of login-config.xml, just before the closing < / policy >:

<application -policy name="my_security">
        <login -module code="" 
            flag="required" debug="true">

Download: login-config.xml

Set the class package to wherever you put your code.

Second, we need to tell our web application to use the built-in JBoss authentication scheme. Gee, thanks, JBoss! We get this by having a form that calls j_security_check. Again, standard stuff. I put mine in index.html

    <form id="login" action="j_security_check" method="post">
        <h1>Login</h1><br />
        <p>Username</p><input type="text" size="10" name="j_username"/>
        <p>Password</p><input type="password" size="10" name="j_password"/>
        <input type="submit" value="Login"/>

Download: index.html

Note: the names of the form controls does matter. Next you need to configure your web.xml:

    <welcome -file-list>tml</welcome>

    <error -page>
        <error -code>400</error>
    <!-- Default: Access to everything requires login -->
    <security -constraint>
        <web -resource-collection>
            <web -resource-name>My Web Application</web>
            <description>Require users to authenticate</description>
            <url -pattern>*.jsp</url>
            <http -method>POST</http>
            <http -method>GET</http>
        <auth -constraint>
            <description>Only allow AuthenticatedUsers role</description>
            <role -name>*</role>
        <user -data-constraint>
            <description>Encryption is not required for the application in general. </description>
            <transport -guarantee>NONE</transport>
    <login -config>
        <auth -method>FORM</auth>
        <form -login-config>
            <form -login-page>/index.html</form>
            <form -error-page>/LoginError.html</form>
    <security -role>
        <role -name>AuthenticatedUsers</role>

Download: web.xml

As you can see, this is pretty standard stuff. The only things to note are that I set role-name to * which basically means: any user who has been authenticated. You could change this to be “AuthenticatedUsers” or whatever you pass back from getRoleSets in the Login Module. But, again, PAM won’t give you different groups… The other thing to note is that I set the error page for 400 (Bad Request) errors to the login page, index.html. This gets around a -bug- feature in JBoss.

Next, we need to modify jboss-web.xml. This one is pretty easy. It ties together your app and the security configuration we setup above.

< ?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
<jboss -web>
    <context -root>/</context>
    <security -domain>java:/jaas/my_security</security>

That’s all there is to it!

Download: jboss-web.xml


  1. Download SysAuth
  2. Put in jboss/bin
  3. Modify jboss/run.conf: set JAVA_OPTS=”-Djava.library.path=bin $JAVA_OPTS”
  4. Create java_auth file in /etc/pam.d/
  5. Create MyLoginModule class, in the WEB-INF/lib directory of your application
  6. Add custom application-policy to login-config.xml to use our custom Login Module
  7. Modify web.xml
  8. Add entry in jboss-web.xml for our security configuration (application-policy)


This HOWTO certainly assume that you have some JBoss “know-how”. But as a supplment to all the great info on the JBoss site, it should be enough to get you going. Please feel free to post comments. Suggestions are welcome too!

Download all the files you need to change to make this work: jboss_linux_authentication.tar.gz

Version 1.0

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Firefox and Growl

Posted 2004 Dec 27

I was able to hack minimal Growl support onto Firefox. I can’t stand the default Firefox download manager and I thought Growl is the perfect way to inform me that a downloaded has completed. So, I cobbled together a little plugin.

Unfortunately, I had to write a little shell script to take the message (in this case, the name of the file being downloaded) as an argument, since growlnotify reads from STDIN. Even more unfortunately, there seems to be a bug in nsIProcess - the way Firefox launches external applications - which causes it to throw an Exception when you send arguments to a process… So, I had to write the message to a file that is then cat’d to growlnotify via a shell script:
cat ~/Documents/growl.txt | /usr/bin/growlnotify "Download Complete" 
See? Told you it was a hack. To make this actually work, needs to be fixed and I need a better way to actually interface with growl (besides a shell-script to growlnotify…) Perhaps a javascript binding?

Growl Firefox plugin

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ISS Sighting

Posted 2004 Dec 27

I just watched the International Space Station soar across the pre-dawn sky. Very cool. Check the sighting listings for your city.

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Do I Need A Jacket?

Posted 2004 Dec 22

Do I Need A Jacket? is probably the best (or, at least, the most clever) use of the NOAA’s weather data ever.

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Open Source ERP

Posted 2004 Dec 22

This article at O’Reilly mentions open source ERP solution, Compiere. I didn’t even know there was such a thing! I am certainly skeptical, though, because the decision about which ERP system to use is - in my experience - a very political one. Plus, the decision is generally made by the less-than-savvy management types. And, as a rule, the deciding factors tend to be integration and support—rather than price and features. So, if your company uses Oracle… guess which ERP system you’re going to use.

From the Compiere website:

Compiere provides a comprehensive solution for small-to-medium sized enterprises…

Of course, that makes more sense. This isn’t targeted at Fortune 500 companies. I feel very strongly that Open Source has great potential in small-to-medium enterprise. But, it seems to be a little bit harder to make in-roads there because of the perceived risk. Often, small businesses don’t have a dedicated IT department (or person for that matter). Therefore, small business often look for a pre-packaged, all-in-one technological solution, rather than a services solution (e.g. don’t buy the software, buy the development, training and support). I certainly wish Compiere well.

While I’m on the subject, I’ve seen ERP projects become huge quagmires. Why is that some companies will spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on software then turn around and spend even more money paying people to make it work? And this approach is picked over “in-house development”! This is mind-boggling to me. Would you buy a new car if you knew you would have to pay your mechanic $60/hr to make it work? If so, let me know, I know a great Oil Change Consultant.

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Pitchfork Top 50 Singles

Posted 2004 Dec 22

It’s hard to know: were all these singles the “Top Songs” on iTunes before Pitchfork’s Top 50 Singles came out? If not, they are now. Oh, and congratulations, Britney: you’re #3. We are so proud of you.

Update: I second the vote for #44: Mclusky’s “She Will Only Bring You Happiness”. If you like Fugazi or Minor Threat, treat yourself to Mclusky.

Note to invading aliens: avoid this town…

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nextimage Firefox Extension - Updated

Posted 2004 Dec 21

I have once again updated nextimage, this time adding keyboard shortcuts. Shift-RightArrow and Shift-LeftArrow increment and decrement, respectively. Enjoy.

Download: [nextimage.xpi]

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Music Notes

Posted 2004 Dec 21

Just a couple random music notes:

  • My favorite, The Decemberists, have just added a forum to their site. Very nice! They already had a blog—so savvy! The forums are great: already found some good live photos.
  • The Morning News just posted their Top 10 Albums of 2004. It’s always worth a look; I’m still enjoying many of their entries on the 2003 list.
  • I know I mentioned it in passing before, but the Sonoma Aero EP is really worth checking out.
  • Looks like Pitchfork is kicking off a week of Top Everythings starting with Top 50 Best Reissues, followed by Top 50 Singles and Top 50 Albums. Definitely worth checking out! On a side note, when will Pitchfork give us RSS feeds? I know there are “unofficial” ones, but how about the real deal? My guess is that their issue is advertisements… but, hey, I’d tolerate ads in an RSS feed for you, Pitchfork. Please? For Christmas? Think about the Children.

p.s. I am so sorry about the pun.

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nextimage Firefox Extension

Posted 2004 Dec 19

I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner… I’ve updated my nextimage Firefox extension for Firefox 1.0. Here’s the blurb:

A handy little extension for automatically incrementing (numerical) image URLs, allowing you to make your own “ad hoc” image gallery.

As many have noted, this functionality in fact works for any numeric URL. I have sent multiple emails to the Extension Room regarding this and my other extension, but have yet to receive a reply. So, in the meantime, here it is:

Download: [nextimage.xpi]

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Posted 2004 Dec 19

I have added my TODO list to the front page. I added it to help keep track of the things on which I’m working. But… I mostly added it for fun. I hacked the Todo part out of phpicalendar. I only had to extract and modify a handful of phpicalendar files to do this. And, with one very small exception, it required no changes to the phpicalendar install. They peacefully coexist. I’ll be the first to admit, though: I am a total PHP novice. There may be a better way to do this, of course. I was already using phpicalendar to upload my personal iCal calendars—this just seemed like it might be fun.

So, anytime I update my TODO list in iCal, it will be automatically uploaded and displayed on the front page! If anyone is interested, I can post instructions on how to hack add this to your site.

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