Linux LDAP authentication with Samba4

Given a fresh Samba4 domain setup and a bunch of Linux/Windows client machines, how do you configure them to allow logins from domain users–ideally with a shared userspace mounted from Samba4? In this post, I’m going to share my experience on how I setup Ubuntu clients to authenticate via Active Directory. The default behavior in Samba4 is to use winbind, which keeps a local flat file of uid/gid mappings. I prefer letting LDAP hold that data. It’s possible to edit user accounts in the Active Directory tree to include the posixAccount LDAP class with uidNumber/gidNumber/unixHomeDirectory/loginShell attributes, and setup each Linux client to talk to the Active Directory domain controller merely as a Kerberized LDAP server. As a result, we can have a single account and password for both Windows and Linux users across the domain. We don’t have to join the Linux machines to the domain, we just need to export the correct Kerberos credentials to each client. I learned about this technique primarily from this blog, although I also heavily referenced the Samba4 mailing list.

Note: If security is top priority for you, you may prefer the full domain join route for Linux machines. In fact, it’s probably best not to bother with Samba4 at all in that case…


You’ll need to make some minor changes to Samba4. Under /usr/local/samba/etc/smb.conf (or wherever this file is stored), add the following line:

idmap_ldb:use rfc2307 = Yes

This instructs Samba4 to rely on LDAP for uid/gid mapping for users. Otherwise, it will use the local winbind flat file database.

Admittedly, I haven’t found a lot of information on how this works, so I’m speaking mainly from what I’ve observed. Take it with a grain of salt. If you want to be able to resolve usernames/groups on your Samba4 server, you’ll need to perform the following steps on the server machine as well as any clients.


The key package you will need to make this work is nss-pam-ldap. You can find it here. As stated on the website, this package provides a PAM module and daemon (nslcd) for querying and authenticating to an LDAP server. Follow the instructions here on how to set it up. I don’t want to reiterate everything that’s stated in the documentation, so I’ll just add some things.

  • If you want to connect to a remote LDAP server, make sure you specify the address in the form ldap://IP_ADDRESS. I made the mistake of using the hostname and got strange errors…it took me a while to track that one down.
  • The /etc/nsswitch.conf portion tells your machine where to look for user/group/host name resolution. It’s an essential step, so don’t forget it.
  • When I installed the package, I’m pretty sure it edited the pam configuration files for me. Check to be sure. Also, be careful editing these files because you could easily lock yourself out of the machine.

Active Directory requires Kerberos authenticated queries. You might be able to specify a domain user and password, but a kerberos keytab is probably better. The keytab is a principle/encryption key pair that grants the right to request keys without a password. I’ll explain more about this in a bit. Before we make changes to /etc/nslcd.conf to integrate that component, we need to do some Kerberos related setup.


I recommend reading up on Kerberos; it’s a really neat technology that Active Directory utilizes heavily. Here are some terms you’ll find thrown around a lot:

Realm – The Kerberos Realm identifies a specific Kerberos database stored on a single machine (KDC). It’s usually the same as the domain name, but it doesn’t have to be.

Principle – *A Kerberos principal is a unique identity to which Kerberos can assign tickets. Principals can have an arbitrary number of components. Each component is separated by a component separator, generally `/’. The last component is the realm, separated from the rest of the principal by the realm separator, generally `@’. If there is no realm component in the principal, then it will be assumed that the principal is in the default realm for the context in which it is being used.

Keytab – *All Kerberos server machines need a keytab file, called /etc/krb5.keytab, to authenticate to the KDC. The keytab file is an encrypted, local, on-disk copy of the host’s key.

*Taken straight from the MIT documentation.

Before messing with these though, we need to create a domain user.

samba-tool user add ldap-service
samba-tool user setexpiry ldap-service --noexpiry

We then need to export a keytab for this user, which will allow us to request keys without a password:

samba-tool domain exportkeytab /etc/nslcd.keytab --principal=ldap-service

You’ll need to copy this key to any of your clients that use nslcd. Keep in mind that this key grants domain user privileges without using a password, so limit the permissions on this file heavily.

Before continuing, you should make sure you having these packages installed: kstart, libsasl2-modules-gssapi-mit. If you forget the latter, you’ll get a “no suitable SASL mechanism found” error.

Once again, open up nslcd.conf and add the following lines:

# samAccountName holds the username in AD. It's a suitable substitute for uid. We can map it to avoid duplicating data.
map passwd uid samAccountName

# homeDirectory is already in use by AD for storing the Windows directory. We'll store ours in unixHomeDirectory
map passwd homeDirectory unixHomeDirectory

# Enable Kerberos authentication
sasl_mech GSSAPI
krb5_ccname /var/run/nslcd/nslcd.tkt

The last line points at a ticket file that we haven’t done anything with yet. The keytab file just gives you the right to request tickets. A ticket actually gives you access to resources, and has an expiration date associated with it. We need to tell nslcd to request a tickets at a certain interval using this keytab file. To do this (in Ubuntu), edit /etc/default/nslcd to look like the following:


The nslcd service will use a daemon called k5start to request a new ticket at specified certain interval.

As an important sidenote, there is a service called nscd (not to be confused with nslcd) that caches name lookups. It’s good to have running on all your clients because it takes the load off your LDAP server. However, during testing you should turn it off via `service nscd stop` so that you’re actually talking to the LDAP server and not a local cache.

User Accounts

At this point, you should be able to start nslcd and run getent passwd without things hanging. Make sure to check your system log to verify that things are working. Keep in mind that you can run nslcd -d (with multiple d’s for more output) directly on the command line to see error output. You’ll want to check that LDAP binds are working. However, you won’t actually see any domain user accounts listed in the getent output because we haven’t added posixAccount classes to them yet.

The easiest way to do this is through the ldb* set of commands provided by samba. If you run kinit administrator, you should be able to connect to your Samba4 LDAP server with Kerberos authentication by using the “-k yes” flag. As an example:

 ldbsearch -H ldap://SERVER_HOSTNAME -k yes

should print the entire tree. I noticed that when using these utilities, I have to specify the hostname of my LDAP server. Using the IP address fails with NT_STATUS_INVALID_PARAMETER. I’m not sure why that’s the case.

In our case, we want to modify a user entry to include the posixAccount data. If you haven’t already, make a domain user using the samba-tool user add interface.

Next, create a .ldif file and add the following lines:

changetype: modify
add: objectClass
objectClass: posixAccount
add: uidNumber
uidNumber: UIDNUMBER
add: gidNumber
gidNumber: GIDNUMBER
add: unixHomeDirectory
unixHomeDirectory: HOMEDIRECTORY
add: loginShell
loginShell: /bin/bash

Obviously, you’ll need to replace the upper case entries with your specific data. Once you have this file, you can write it to the LDAP tree with the following command:

ldbmodify -H ldap://SERVER_HOSTNAME -k yes /tmp/YOURFILE.ldif

Now your user has all the data it needs to authenticate and login to a Linux client! If everything works, you should now be able to type getent passwd YOURUSER and see their entry in the output. You should also be able to su – YOURUSER and authenticate. If you’re lucky and it works, congrats! You’ve just logged in to your Linux client through Active Directory! It you’re like me, things probably didn’t work the first time. Make sure to check the logs and utilize debug mode for the nslcd and samba services. Good luck!

Joining Samba4 to an Existing Windows Domain.

Note: See my first post for more context.

I am developing an small Active Directory infrastructure for the Computer Science Department Linux/Windows lab environment at Taylor University. Lab users have a central user space shared by both the Linux and Windows profiles, which authenticate from to Active Directory. Our Windows profile setup utilizes folder redirection to the network share for most profile folders (Desktop, Music, Pictures, Downloads, AppData/Roaming, etc), while our Linux space is NFS mounted by clients. Since we favor Linux administration, we prefer to keep our user files stored on a Linux file system. The Samba4 server grants CIFS access to Windows users, while Linux users can automount via NFS. LDAP authentication is handled through Kerberos on both the Windows and Linux clients. While Windows clients are joined to the Domain, Linux treats Active Directory merely as a Kerberized LDAP server. Finally, each user account is extended with a posixAccount class allowing us to give each user the uid, gid, unix home directory, and login shell attributes they need to properly interface with nslcd (the ldap client daemon) for Linux logins.


I started by setting up two Windows Server 2008 R2 machines. I created a new domain, installed the Active Directory Domain Services and DNS roles via the dcpromo.exe utility, configured both machines as domain controllers. This process is very well documented by Microsoft so I won’t describe it here. It’s important to ensure that directory and DNS replication is happening between these machines. I chose two Windows domain controllers for a few reasons:

  1. Demoting any DC appears to fail when a Samba4 DC exists in the domain. I’m not sure if this is specific to my setup, but it’s just one of the many bugs I’ve found so far (I hope they fix it soon). As such, I don’t really trust S4 to keep my production directory data intact, and if I have to demote (read: manually delete) my Windows DC for any reason, I want the directory data housed within Windows DC.
  2. Related to the above comment, I’m not comfortable yet entrusting S4 with master roles, thus I need two Windows boxes in case I need to bring one down.
  3. Active Directory is highly reliant on DNS. As such, I strongly prefer the Windows DNS to a hacked up BIND solution or S4’s brand new internal system. Having a two replicating Windows DNS servers is even better.
  4. Apparently, the Samba4 DNS doesn’t play well with Windows DNS yet. Once again, if I have to choose…

Anyway, after configuring the Windows machines, the next step was to create an Ubuntu Linux server (I chose Ubuntu because it’s heavily favored by the Samba4 team) and join it as a DC to the existing Windows domain. You first need to prepare your server for Samba4. Then, you need to setup Samba to join an existing domain.

Rather than regurgitate what is already stated on that Wiki, I’ll just note some things.


When you setup the Kerberos configuration file as stated in the Wiki, it’s important to test it out via kinit administrator@YOURREALM. By authenticating, you’ve requested a ticket from the Kerberos server, which is then placed in the default ticket cache, located at /tmp/krb5cc_0. If this isn’t working properly, the provision step will fail–probably with an LDAP authentication error.

Domain Name Service

If you’ve followed the Wiki instructions correctly up to this point, the provision step should work. After doing lots of test provisions, I’ve noticed that the DNS replication doesn’t always work (this is actually a known documented issue I guess). You can run the test commands they give you in the Wiki, or use the Windows DNS GUI to check that entries exist–my preferred approach. The Active Directory DNS tree heavily utilizes SRV records for services. The main ones we care about are Kerberos, LDAP, and GC (Global Catalog). Browse the DNS tree and make sure that you can see your Samba4 server listed along with the other Windows DC’s. In my configuration I noticed that under DomainDNSZones and ForestDNSZones, my Samba4 server is not listed. I think this is intended behavior because the Windows DNS and Samba4 DNS don’t work together quite yet.
If you notice that those entries don’t exist, there’s a handy script called samba_dnsupdate, located in INSTALL_DIR/samba/sbin/. That should replicate the DNS entries you need to the Windows DC’s. In the cases where the provision step failed to do this for me, running that script fixed the problem. Your mileage may vary.

Directory Replication Service

You can view the replication status by running the following command: samba-tool drs showrepl. If things don’t look like they’re working, first make sure you’ve started Samba! It may take it a few minutes to “warm up.” You can force replication by running:

samba-tool drs replicate <destinationDC> <sourceDC> <NC>

The NC term is your LDAP naming context; to replicate the whole tree, use your base Distinguished Name, e.g. DC=SOMETHING,DC=TEST,DC=COM. Under the Active Directory Sites and Services subtree in the Windows Server Manager GUI, you can view the connections between servers (Sites -> Default-First-Site-Name -> Servers -> YourS4Server). I’ve done several test configurations, and every one of them throws an error when I try and replicate to the Samba4 server from a Windows DC. This is the error I get:

The following error occurred during the attempt to synchronize naming context DomainDNSZones.<DOMAINNAME> from Domain Controller <Samba DC> to Domain Controller <Windows DC>: The naming context is in the process of being removed or is not replicated from the specific server. The operation will not continue.

Interestingly enough, if I replicate via samba-tool using the same source and destination servers, everything works. I’m assuming there’s some incompatibility there that hasn’t been addressed yet by the Samba team. If anyone has a solution for this please let me know. So far it hasn’t caused any problems.
Another good test of replication is to create a user account and see if it transfers across domain controllers. You can do this via samba-tool user add.

Distributed File System Replication

Samba4 does not yet support DFS replication. For our purposes, the main issue this causes is group policy synchronization issues; namely, the SYSVOL folder–which houses group policy objects–is not replicated from the Windows domain controllers to the Samba server. As a result, you’ll need to manually mount the SYSVOL share, copy the data over, and then run samba-tool ntacl sysvolreset to fix the permissions. Ideally, you should write a script to do it. This only needs to be updated when you’ve changed a group policy object. This is a bit annoying, but it’s not a show stopper. If you don’t do this, then your clients will apply different group policy settings based on which controller they happen to talk to, which is bad.

Coming Up

At this point in the setup process, I had my two Windows and Samba4 domain controllers communicating pretty happily. In my next post I’ll talk about how I setup my Linux and Windows clients to authenticate, login, and access user data from the Samba server. Stay tuned!


Since my last post, I started working on a new game project with a friend, Steven Barnett. It’s called MetaVoxel, and it’s a puzzle game involving a deeply recursive world.  What does that mean? Well, that’s a very good question. While initially tossing around ideas for the game, we decided it would be cool if the player could shrink to fit into a part of the world. In doing so, they would discover a deeper world within. The player can move in and out of these worlds to solve puzzles and discover new sub-worlds. Sure, it doesn’t make much sense, but who cares? We think it’s a cool idea. Here’s a concept painting by the illustrious and talented Steven:

At any rate, we’ve been hard at work on our new project, and we’re making a ton of progress. We’ve built a game editor for creating levels and crafting puzzles. We’re excited to show more, so in short order we’ll have a development blog online to show off our progress!

Simulating an Inverse Kinematics Chain

Inverse kinematics is a fun application of linear algebra and calculus that is extremely relevant in computer animation. Given a rigged skeleton, inverse kinematics can solve the joint angles (or similar parameters for other types of joints) necessary to minimize the distance between the end effector (i.e. joint at the end of the chain) and target. Solving this system essentially boils down to the following system of equations:


where \vec{e} is called the “error vector,” and describes the velocity of the end effector necessary to converge on the target; \Delta\vec{\theta} is the vector of joint angle velocities that will result in the correct end effector velocity (this is the unknown part), and the Jacobian matrix J, that encodes the change of basis from joint angle space to Cartesian coordinate space for the partial derivatives. Alternatively, you can view this as a transformation matrix that takes the rate of change of the joint angles and relates it to the rate of change of the Cartesian coordinates of the end effector joint.

It is common to have more columns than rows in a system like this (especially in a chain), because the there will be few end effectors and many joints. Because the matrix is not invertible, our next best thing is the Moore-Penrose psuedoinverse which gives a least-squares solution to the problem. This is desirable because there are many cases where the chain cannot converge on the target, so we want the best possible attempt. The results in the following equation:


This form of the psuedoinverse assumes that you have full row rank in your matrix J, otherwise JJ^T will be singular an non-invertible. This presents a problem because there do exist singularities in certain joint configurations. A common solution to this problem is to damp this matrix by a small factor to ensure invertibility. This method is called the Damped Least Squares method, and the requires only a simple change to the previous equation:

\Delta\vec{\theta}=J^T(JJ^T + \lambda I)^{-1}\vec{e}

Here, \lambda is just an arbitrarily chosen constant that keeps the matrix from every going singular. The bigger the constant, the less realistic the motion near singular configurations. On the other hand, a higher constant results in more numerical stability in the equations. The demo I wrote allows you to set an arbitrary \lambda value.

I also implemented two other solvers, a Jacobian Transpose solver and a Cyclic-Coordinate Decent solver. The former cheats by using the transpose of the Jacobian to solve the system rather than the psuedoinverse. It’s a simple solution but results in a lot of jittery motion and isn’t very realistic. CCD essentially loops through each joint multiple times and orients the child chain in the direction of the target. With enough iterations, this converges on a solution, but it only works in situations where joints are 1DOF. It is quite simple to understand and there are several articles online that explain it well.

Finally, the demo is written in Python using the pyglet library. User interactions is almost exclusively through a console interface (activated with ~). Included in the zip is a text file with the syntax for these commands.

Source Archive

For a more in-depth introduction to this topic, I found this paper extremely helpful.

Project Sandbox

This project is a 3D game engine built from scratch using C++, DirectX 11, and Bullet Physics. I had some pretty specific goals with this project, although I wasn’t sure how far I wanted to take it after that. I really wanted to learn DirectX 11 and implement an advanced deferred renderer. I also wanted to design a flexible entity/component system that would support an articulate object. To test this, I built a tank out of constrained rigid bodies. The tank is fully simulated except for the treads, which are just rendered. The wheels were given a high friction coefficient so as to better approximate the treads, but the overall handling of the tank is fast and arcade-like (which is what I wanted). Below are some of the features that are included in the implementation.


The engine supports tag-based resource loading from an XML file. On initiation, the user specifies the main resource XML file, which catalogs all of the resources used by the application, along with appropriate metadata. The loader creates stubs for all of these files. The resources can also be grouped, allowing a single load/unload call for a specific resource group. Then, the resource can be requested directly from the resource manager via the tag and accessed (if it is loaded).


The entity system in Project Sandbox is inspired by the Artemis Framework. Entities are essentially just ids; the data is held  in individual components that the id maps to. An entity is allowed multiple components of a given type, and each component is given direct smart pointer references to other components that it needs. For instance, a rigid body component needs a transform to orient it in space. That transform could also be the root transform of another component. In fact, there could be multiple transforms within a given entity. For instance, the tank entity in the screenshots above has multiple rigid body components, each connected by Joint components. Those rigid body components each have a transform that they are given write access to. The model transforms for each rigid body are given read only access to their respective transforms, allowing the physics engine to edit the transform that is then used by the graphics subsystem to render the mesh.

This architecture allows the engine to elegantly handle breakable objects. For instance, if the tank were to explode, the joints could be removed from the system, and the respective parts would be allowed to bounce around. When it’s time to cleanup the object, you have only one entity to destroy. Furthermore, if you wanted to break off a chunk of an object and create a second entity, you could remove those components and add them to a new id.

To handle game logic, the user creates entity systems that match entities with certain component requirements. An event system allows message-passing communication between these entity systems.


Project Sandbox utilizes a DirectX 11 deferred renderer with flexible material support. It currently supports cascade shadow mapping for directional lights, and a modular post processing system with high dynamic range lighting and filmic tonemapping. The demo utilizes the shading framework to implement Cook Torrance shading with normal, specular, and roughness maps.

One of the more interesting problems I overcame was rendering the treads of the tank. The treads are handled as a single instanced mesh. A parametric curve traces out the path around and between the wheels. The joint rotation delta is computed from the driver wheel and applied to the evaluation of that curve. Once a point on the curve is evaluated, the normal and tangent vectors are computed and formed into a basis for the instance. I was concerned that the compression of the joint springs would result in popping (since the lines between wheels are linear), but that hasn’t been a big problem so far. I was originally going to try and fashion splines between the wheels, but the linear version ended up looking great as is.


The engine integrates with Bullet Physics and provides a layer of abstraction over the framework. Components were crafted for joints and rigid bodies, allowing the user to easily pieces together articulate objects. The engine also handles replicating updates from the physics to component transform, and sends events for collisions, etc. The tank above is fully simulated via constraint motors. I spent a great of time tinkering with the handling of the tank, specifically looking for a fast, arcade-like feel.

I ran into an interesting problem with lockstepping the tank wheels (to approximate tread motion). Bullet Physics doesn’t have any sort of gear joint constraint. As an alternative, I connected each pair of wheels into a chain of distance constraints. There are two distance constraints per pair of wheels, one oriented 90 degrees from the other (sort of like a train). This choice of orientation was intentional. The magnitude of the force vector varies with the sine of the angle of the two wheels (i.e. if they are both oriented at 0 or 180 degrees with the constraint rooted on the boundary of each wheel, floating point inaccuracies could result in the two wheel reversing direction). Having them 90 degrees apart allows the two constraints to work together to power the rotation at a constant rate. See the image below:

Also, below is a video of the engine in early development when I was focused heavily on the physics and handling of the tank. This was before much of the rendering features were available.

And finally, here is a video of the engine in action. I threw together a test level with some models I found online, so it’s not particularly glorious looking. Most of the cool stuff is under the hood, although I personally think the tank is pretty cool. 🙂

Multithreaded Software Rasterizer

As a part of two semesters research of undergraduate research at Taylor University, I development a multithreaded, tile-based software rasterizer. The pipeline rasterizes and shades four fragments in parallel using SSE instructions, and utilizes and extensive custom written SIMD optimized math library for all vertex transformations. Features supported include custom vertex and fragment shaders written purely in C++ (thanks to some operator overloading tricks), perspective correct texture mapping, clipping and backface culling, the flexibility to select different render targets, and early Z rejection. In addition, rendering order is preserved. On a Hyper-Threaded Quad-Core Intel I7 mobile processor, the rasterizer performs a full four times faster with eight threads than with one. It utilizes SDL for frame buffer, thread, and bitmap management. In the following link, you can find the code repository and research paper.

Arena – iOS

As part of a mobile computing class at Taylor University, Jesse Denardo (a fellow student) and I built a 3D first-person multiplayer space shooter. It renders with OpenGL ES 1.1 and uses the built-in bluetooth socket API to handle networking. I’m particularly proud of the space background. You can’t see it in the screenshots, but the stars pulse in and out using a randomized sinusoidal function. I rendered them using point sprites. The game allows two players to connect and battle it out in the asteroid field. Also, the game uses quaternions to avoid gimbol lock for ship rotation.