Creating a self-signed certificate for Apache and connecting to it from Java

Andy Balaam from Andy Balaam's Blog

Our mission: to create a self-signed certificate for an Apache web server that allows us to connect to it over HTTPS (SSL/TLS) from a Java program.

The tricky bit for me was generating a certificate that contains Subject Alternative Names for my server, which is needed to connect to it from Java.

We will use the openssl command.

Creating a self-signed certificate for Apache HTTPD

First create a config file cert.conf:

[ req ]
distinguished_name  = subject
x509_extensions     = x509_ext
prompt = no

[ subject ]
commonName = Example Company

[ x509_ext ]
subjectAltName = @alternate_names

[ alternate_names ]
DNS.1 =

In the above, replace “” with the name you will use for the host when you connect from Java. This is important, because Java requires the name in the certificate to match the name it is using to connect to the server. If you’re connecting to it as localhost, just put “localhost”. Note: do not include “https://” or any port or path after the hostname, so “” is wrong – it should be just “”.

The alternate_names section above gives the “Subject Alternative Names” for this certificate. You can add more as “DNS.2”, “DNS.3”, etc.

Next, generate the server key and self-signed certificate:

openssl genrsa 2048 > server.key
chmod 400 server.key
openssl req -new -x509 -config cert.conf -nodes -sha256 -days 365 -key server.key -out server.crt

Now you have two new files: server.key and server.crt. These are the files that will be used by Apache HTTPD, so put them somewhere useful (e.g. inside /usr/local/apache2/conf/) and refer to them in the Apache config file using keys “SSLCertificateKeyFile” and “SSLCertificateFile” respectively. For more info see the SSL/TLS How-To.

Checking the certificate is being used

Start up your Apache and ensure you can connect to it over HTTPS using curl:

curl -v --insecure

Replace “” above with the full URL (this time, include “https://” and the port and path.

To examine the certificate that is being returned, run:

openssl s_client -showcerts -connect

Replace “” above with hostname and port (no “https:// this time!).

Connecting from Java

To be able to connect from Java, we need a Trust Store. We can create one in PKCS#12 format with:

openssl pkcs12 -export -passout pass:000000 -out trust.pkcs12 -inkey server.key -in server.crt

Note: Java 8 onwards is able to use .pkcs12 (PKCS#12) files for its trust store. The old .jks (Java Key Store) format is deprecated.

Now you have a file we can use as a trust store, follow my other article to connect from Java over HTTPS with a self-signed certificate.

Convert a video to a GIF with reasonable colours

Andy Balaam from Andy Balaam's Blog

Here’s a little script I wrote to avoid copy-pasting the ffmpeg command from superuser every time I needed it.

It converts a video to a GIF file by pre-calculating a good palette, then using that palette.


./to_gif input.mp4 output.gif

The file to_gif (which should be executable):


set -e
set -u

# Credit:


PALETTE=$(tempfile --suffix=.png)

ffmpeg -y -i "${INPUT}" -vf palettegen "${PALETTE}"
ffmpeg -y -i "${INPUT}" -i "${PALETTE}" \
    -filter_complex "fps=15,paletteuse" "${OUTPUT}"

rm -f "${PALETTE}"

Note: you might want to modify the number after fps= to adjust how fast the video plays.

London Python Meetup January 2019 – Async Python and GeoPandas

Andy Balaam from Andy Balaam's Blog

It was a pleasure to go to the London Python Meetup organised by @python_london. There were plenty of friendly people and interesting conversations.

I gave a talk “Making 100 million requests with Python aiohttp” (slides) explaining the basics of writing async code in Python 3 and how I used that to make a very large number of HTTP requests.

Andy giving the presentation

(Photo by CB Bailey.)

Hopefully it was helpful – there were several good questions, so I am optimistic that people were engaged with it.

After that, there was an excellent talk by Gareth Lloyd called “GeoPandas, the geospatial extension for Pandas” in which he explained how to use the very well-developed geo-spatial data tools available in the Python ecosphere to transform, combine, plot and analyse data which includes location information. I was really impressed with how easy the libraries looked to use, and also with the cool Jupyter notebook Gareth used to explain the ideas using live demos.

London Python Meetups seem like a cool place to meet Pythonistas of all levels of experience in a nice, low-pressure environment!

Meetup link: aiohttp / GeoPandas

Run bash inside any version of Linux using Docker

Andy Balaam from Andy Balaam's Blog

Docker is useful for some things, and not as useful as you think for others.

Here’s something massively useful: get a throwaway bash prompt inside any version of any Linux distribution in one command:

docker run -i -t --mount "type=bind,src=$HOME/Desktop,dst=/Desktop" ubuntu:18.10 bash

This command downloads a recent Ubuntu 18.10 image, mounts my desktop as /Desktop in the container, and gives me a bash prompt. From here I can install any packages I want and then use them.

For example, today I used it to decrypt a file that was encrypted with a cipher my main OS did not have a package for.

When I exit bash, the container stops and I can find it with docker ps -a then remove it with docker rm. To really clean up I can find the downloaded images with docker image ls and remove them with docker image rm.