Rotating videos with ffmpeg

Often, a video taken with a mobile phone will be rotated in a different way than you expect. It may be taken vertically or upside-down. So you may want to correct that and get yourself a properly rotated video for viewing on computer.

All right, on Linux we use ffmpeg and there is no problem with it. The ffmpeg will happily rotate the video. What you do not expect is that the rotation information will remain in the media and then the player will try to rotate it again. What you get is a mess and you will be cursing away trying to understand why your video ends up upside down all the time although you enter the parameters to rotate it correctly.

So, the first thing you want to do is to remove the meta-information about rotation from the video. Like this:

ffmpeg -i 20160225_211430.mp4 -metadata:s:v rotate="0" -codec copy 20160225_211430_2.mp4

Once the meta-information is gone, we can check the actual rotation of the video stream and finally correct it with the ffmpeg:

ffmpeg -i 20160225_211430_2.mp4 -vf "transpose=1" 20160225_211430_3.mp4

Interestingly, the meta-information is used by some players and not used by others, so the results are unpredictable if you leave the video rotated. I prefer it to be “physically” rotated to the right direction and remove the original rotation angle – then you get reliable view on all devices. More or less :)… -->

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Containers gone wrong: lxc vs. xen

I run a few websites myself and I was always keen on making my life easier looking after them. So virtual servers and services are not something that I ignore if you catch my drift. I have been running xen for quite a long while and I have to say it is bothersome to upgrade all of those linux machines running this and that, isn’t it?

So I did try some other virtualization approaches before and I quite liked the idea of the OS level virtualization, that is similar to the regular BSD jails, but on linux and it worked nicely.The virtual machine was not that well isolated, I was a bit cautious to use it in production but the idea stuck – mainly because of the ease of maintaining the server, where you upgrade the OS only once and all VMs get the updates automatically, since they simply run from the root FS of the main machine, basically.

So when people started to come across with the lxc and docker, calling them “mature” and “OS level virtual machines”, I was rather excited to try them on. I thought they would provide the same idea – secure virtualization of the running processes environment while keeping the FS in sync with the main host, allowing for an easy maintenance.

Oh, boy, was I into a major disappointment! First, the whole thing of lxc is based on downloading virtual machines over the Internet from an insecure repository. Okay, we do that with Debian, but Debian has been around for many a decade, so we kinda trust them, all right? Why should I want to run my production services on a VM that has been installed by someone else and offered for me as a download? What a silly idea indeed.

But, secondly, it is no better than hardware-emulating hypervisor-based virtualization in terms of maintenance. Once you get this VM downloaded and installed, it behaves completely separately. You have to go to each VM and update it manually! Except that you share the kernel and you may have a compatibility problem there, oops. What sort of nonsense is that? Why would anyone want to move from xen to lxc if the maintenance is the same but security and quality is down the drain, eh? For some mythical changes in performance or what else?

So, to summarize: I say lxc and everything based on top of it sucks. It serves no real purpose, it is an over-complicated exercise in engineering that solves a non-existing problem (if any at all).

What we really need is something similar… -->

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Getting email off your Linux server with ssmtp and yandex

A quick note to self about configuration of servers with ssmtp and yandex mail service (any other would work too, of course). I keep forgetting how it is done and keep spending time looking about so here goes the summary.

Install ssmtp package, if missing, install also bsd-mailx.

Configuration for ssmtp goes into /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf # Provider SMTP server hostname and port
UseStartTLS=YES # Secure connection (SSL/TLS)
FromLineOverride=YES # Force the From: line # The name of this host # The host the mail appears to be coming from # Redirect mail for root@ to # Provider mail account
AuthPass=password # The password for the mail account

Note that it is not UseTLS anymore but UseStartTLS, otherwise you’ll get

May 25 18:47:18 example sSMTP[315]: Creating SSL connection to host
May 25 18:47:18 example sSMTP[315]: SSL connection using (null)
May 25 18:47:18 example sSMTP[315]: Cannot open

Now all of the accounts that send email must be mentioned in the /etc/ssmtp/revaliases file and be mapped to this existing account at the provider:

Now we have a working configuration but the password for the service is exposed in a world-readable config file. To fix that, we create a new group:

groupadd ssmtp

Change the ownership of both the config file and the sSMTP binary to this group:

chown :ssmtp /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf

chown :ssmtp /usr/sbin/ssmtp

Set the SGID bit for the binary so that others invoking it get the proper permissions:

chmod g+s /usr/sbin/ssmtp

And restrict the permissions of the config file:

chmod 640 /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf

Now everything should work like a charm… unless I forgot something again :)… -->

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Moving email from one IMAP server to another

Ah, the power of tools! What do you do when you want to move lots and lots of email between two IMAP servers? Sure, you could open them both in Thunderbird and drag-and-drop messages. It would simply take forever and you would be transmitting messages first to your computer and then back to another server. And Thunderbird has a bad habit of timing out. There is a better way.

Login to the server (or you can do it actually from client if transferring back and force is okay). Get mutt. Then open the source mailbox like this:

mutt -f imaps://

and wait for mutt to load the headers of the email. Once it is ready, select all messages by pressing T and entering ~A. Save the messages to your target server by pressing ;s (if you want to move the mail) or ;C (if you want a copy) and giving the destination IMAP server:


And watch the magic of UNIX tools unfold :)… -->

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Ubuntu on X201i

Finally, I got the Ubuntu graphics properly work on my Lenovo X201i. It took quite a while and the problem was the graphics card. It would give me blank screen at start-up during the installation, so I gave the kernel the “i915.modeset=0” option according to the advice found after some searching high and low. It worked.

The problem is that it doe snot really quite work… First, the graphics mode is weird, it does not use the accelerator, it seems, so you can’t have the bells and whistles of the interface. That I could live with. The other problem was more serious, the screen would not come back from blank when going to the sleep mode (close the lid).

That second problem was sort of fixed with the option “SAVE_VIDEO_PCI_STATE=true” given to the ACPI (/etc/default/acpi-support). Unfortunately, this never worked reliably and sometimes the computer would freeze on suspend or on resume. Finally, that got me fed up.… -->

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