16 Jun.

Hacking your way to root on FreeBSD in Azure

UPDATE 19/06/2016: Apparently the root user is disabled on Linux virtual machines in Azure, so the guidance is to use sudo to run commands with elevated privileges. So the below post is somewhat irrelevant, but if you still want to log in as the root  user then it’s still valid. Or you can obtain a root shell using “sudo -s”. Fore more information about the documented way to do this I have been directed to a couple of articles by Microsoft support: Introduction to Linux on Azure, and Using root privileges on Linux virtual machines in Azure. I wouldn’t have found them anyway because FreeBSD isn’t Linux. 🙂


Back in the early to mid 90’s before I discovered Windows NT and changed the focus of my career, I spent a lot of time playing around with FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Redhat, and even Solaris. Let’s just say that CLI was and still is my friend (I still run a Cisco 867 router at home).

As much as I love spinning up Windows servers and desktops in Azure for labs and tests, I’d never really had a reason to fire up a Linux or Unix server. That changed when my old favourite FreeBSD was launched on the Azure Marketplace.

So I spun up a FreeBSD instance using the low-cost A0 instance as I still didn’t know what I was going to do with the server (and it’s been about 15 years since I’ve used it – so my skills are a little rusty).

When provisioning the server, you’re asked to specify a username, but upon logging in to the server I found that I was just a mere mortal – incapable of switching to the root user:

Unfortunately, the documentation on working with FreeBSD in Azure is lacking. Looking at an old blog from 2014 about running FreeBSD in Azure it indicated that you could log into root with no password – which seemed highly unlikely for a terminal session across the Internet. I gave it a try anyway and got this:

What I did find was that apparently I could create a new user with sudo privileges from within the Azure portal:

Looking at the article about how to reset access in Linux virtual machines on Azure under the section Create a new sudo user account I wasn’t much more enlightened.

I thought I’d give it a crack anyway and created an account called sudouser with a new password. Lo and behold it worked!

My next step was to then make my original account a member of the “wheel” group:

Great, that’s done. Now let’s try to su to root again:

Oh that’s right, I don’t know the password for the root account.

Back to our sudo user to reset the password:

Ok, password is set, let’s try again:

Time to strap on my rollerblades and HACK THE PLANET!!!



P.S. It’s quite possible that my original account could have executed the sudo commands as necessary, but I didn’t test it while figuring this out – so I welcome anyone to test it themselves and give me some feedback.

 16 Jun.

Skype for Business presence in the real world

The colours that Skype for Business (formerly Lync) uses to denote presence are fairly common amongst most instant messaging platforms and applications.

This particular blog post covers what those presence colours mean in the real world, not what they actually represent. J

What users see next to your presence depends on whether they are internal or external. For example in Skype for Business when a user is busy, other internal users will see one of 4 options:

Status Description
Busy Based on the Outlook calendar status – if it has an appointment then the Skype presence automatically changes to match.
In a call When the user is in a Skype for Business call, either to another Skype for Business user or via PSTN.
In a meeting When the user is scheduled to be in a Skype for Business meeting (but actually isn’t), or if scheduled for a meeting with multiple people (that isn’t using Skype for Business).
In a conference call When actually participating in a Skype for Business meeting.

These are relatively straight forward. External users however will see just your status as Busy.

Here’s my breakdown of the general Skype for Business presence status, and what it means to people seeing that status:

Status External user interpretation
Available “Clearly you’re not doing anything, so let’s talk.”
Busy “I can see you’re busy, but I’m going to contact you anyway.”

Usually this is broached by the person asking the person with the busy presence “Hey, can you IM?”

Do not disturb This is like standing at a window waving for attention, the equivalent of “hey, hey, hey, do you see me? Can you talk?”

Or alternatively “I’ll just call their mobile phone.”

Away “How are they not in front of their computer right now? It’s business hours”?

Or “Geez that’s a long lunch break!”

Offline This one comes down to how important you think you are. When a user is offline you have the choice to:

  • Send them an email and they will respond when they get to it
  • Tag them for status change so you can get right up in their face the moment they come online
  • Call them now, this cannot wait!