Testing Email Using The Ubuntu CLI

For a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or any other web or other server you should have alerts sent by email for various things. So for example if you automate security updates for an Ubuntu web server you want to be notified if there is some issue with the automatic update.

In order to check and be sure email is setup and working on the sever there is simple command line code to use:

mail -s Test

you then get a prompt to enter

To: [enter the email and press return]

Cc: [press return]

then a blank where you can type in any text you want in the body of the message.

Then you send the message with by pressing CTRL-d

CTRL-d

If you don’t receive the email then you can troubleshoot what is going wrong.

Keeping Your Hosted Ubuntu Web Server Software Up to Date

To setup automatic security updates follow the instructions from Ubuntu.

To run security update manually

sudo unattended-upgrade

A full update of all packages can be done using the follow, remember this may create some issues is one update makes something else you have no longer work properly. You should test to make sure things all work after the updates (for production systems obviously you should test things before [first updating the staging server to make sure the updates don’t cause any problems] and after the updates).

First update the local package index (to find what needs to be upgraded).

sudo apt-get update

Then upgrade the software.

sudo apt-get upgrade

WordPress: Multiple Blog Network on One Server – Overcoming Conflicts

I ran into a problem when I added a second WordPress blog network to my server. I had the Curious Cat Blog Network up and running for quite some time with sub-domains for each individual blog in the network. WordPress automatically dealt with routing the sub-domains and having urls work. It really is very nice how easy it is to create a new blog and have everything up and running – just add it in WordPress, no need to touch the server directly. Blog networks are a new feature in WordPress 3.0 (I think) which are very nice. I would imagine it builds on effort with Wordpres MU but it is just part of regular WordPress now.

When I added the second blog network however the new faux-sub-domain that should be used affordable-funeral.moneyite.com would instead be redirected to curiouscatnetwork.com and since no such domain existed on curiouscatnetwork.com it gave the standard error message WordPress generates for the case where a sub-domain url is not recognized.

The main domain for the new site was working: moneyite.com. I tried searching around for some solutions to this problem online but couldn’t find any. I am not sure if multiple wordpress blog networks should work on the same server without any special needs. But it wouldn’t for me. I found a solution that did work so I will share what worked for me.

I created new sites-available records for each of the sub-domains and once you reload Apache everything seems to work. I am not sure their isn’t some problem with doing things this way that I haven’t uncovered yet. But it is working for me so I wanted to share this in case it can help anyone else trying to use multiple wordpress blog networks on one server.

Related: Checklist for moving an existing WordPress site to a new web hostWordPress error: Image could not be processed. Please go back and try again

Cleaning the Screen of Your Mac Air or Mac Powerbook

My Mac Air screen can get dirty and I am a bit worried about cleaning it due to the warnings that using various cleaning products of methods can damage your screen. From what I have been able to determine the best strategy is just using water and a microfiber fabric. I use one microfiber which I get wet with water and clean the screen. Then I dry it off with another microfiber. Using chemicals can damage the screen. And using even paper towels can result in scratches on the screen.

I have had very good success with just water and the microfiber cloth. I imagine water and microfiber cloth is the best way to clean an iPad (when kids and cats play with it) but I haven’t tried it myself.

From Apple’s web site:

The materials used to make Apple products vary; in some cases each product may have specific cleaning requirements, which may vary by the part you are cleaning. Here are some tips that apply to all products to get you started:

  • Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels, and similar items may cause damage to the item.
  • Disconnect your Apple product from any external power sources.
  • Disconnect any external devices and other cabling from the product.
  • Keep liquids away from the product.
  • Don’t get moisture into any openings, and don’t use aerosol sprays, solvents, or abrasives.
  • Do not spray cleaners directly onto the item.

Disconnect the display from power, from its connection to a computer, and from any external devices. Next use the cloth that came with your display or another soft, dry cloth to wipe dust from the screen. If additional cleaning of the display panel or case is required use a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth. Avoid getting moisture in openings. Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean the display.

Warning: Don’t clean the screen with a cleaner containing alcohol or acetone. Use a cleaner intended for use with a screen or display. Never spray cleaner directly on the screen. It may drip inside the display and cause damage.

When cleaning the outside of your Mac mini, first shut down your Mac mini and unplug the power cord along with other connected devices. Then use a damp, soft, lint-free cloth to clean the computer’s exterior. Avoid getting moisture in any openings. Do not spray liquid directly on the computer. Do not use aerosol sprays, solvents, or abrasives that might damage the finish.

Related: Curious Cat Gadgets BlogAmazon Kindle DX (the big one)Amazon’s Android Tablet, Kindle Fire, is Very Attractively Priced

Checklist: Setting Up a New Domain on VPS

Two great hosts for Ruby on Rails are Slicehost and Linode. With these hosts you fully manager your virtual private server, installing the operating system, modifying apache (on Ning…), etc.. I use Ubuntu as the operating system and Apache as the web server.

If you are moving a domain from elsewhere it can be wise to reduce the TTL time to say 5 minutes a few days before you make the switch. This is make the change propagate across the internet more quickly.

  1. And DNS entry on your profile (login to your, for example, Linode account)
  2. Add a new file for /etc/apache2/sites-available/your_site_name.com
  3. sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/example.com

    The file would look something like this: with your ip in place of 8.8.8.8

    ServerAdmin is the address Apache will use to send error messages to. Using gmail and the + option lets you use one gmail account and just use rules to filter all your sites.

  4. create the directories needed on your server
  5. enable the site (for apache)
    sudo a2ensite example.com
  6. You should see the file you created /etc/apache2/sites-available/example.com now also at /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/example.com

  7. Test the site out to make sure the setup is working properly. Create a index.html page and just verify the page is displayed. Change your local hosts file to point to your server IP address for the new domain you created. If not, take steps to get this to work, before continuing with the rest of the checklist.
  8. copy over the site – if you are moving the site from elsewhere
  9. remember to move the database over, if the site relies on a database
  10. restart apache
    sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart
  11. You can test the site out, before updating the DNS, by changing your local hosts file to point to your server IP address for the new domain you created.

    Resources: Install the Apache 2 Web Server on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid)

Using Git and Github

To download a repository hosted on github

git clone git@github.com:account_name/repo_name.git

The git@github.com:account_name/repo_name.git will be shown on the home page for the repository on github.com

To update your code from the master branch of the repo:

git pull origin master

To commit the changes you have made locally:

git commit -m "the message explaining what these code changes did"

To send your changes to the repo at github:

git push origin master

Replacing a Host Key

Host keys are used to security log into remote servers (such as Virtual Private Servers – VPS). With Ubuntu if you are using host keys to sign into servers securely and have asked for strict checking, if you make a change (such as rebuilding your VPS) the host key will change and you cannot login and will get a message like:

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
@ WARNING: REMOTE HOST IDENTIFICATION HAS CHANGED! @
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING NASTY!
Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!
It is also possible that the RSA host key has just been changed.
The fingerprint for the RSA key sent by the remote host is

Please contact your system administrator.

RSA host key for 128.0.0.128 has changed and you have requested strict checking.
Host key verification failed.

if that happens you need to remove your local host key. Then you can sign back in and you will be able to save a new copy of the host key. If you don’t know why the key has changed you should figure that out first as it maybe be an indication of an important security problem. To remove you local key, you can use ssh-keygen -R [ip address of server with the bad key] for example: ssh-keygen -R 128.0.0.128

Then when you try to sign in you will get

The authenticity of host '128.0.0.128 (128.0.0.128)' can't be established.

RSA key fingerprint is ed:...:ea.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

And if you know why (such as you made changes to the server) you can say yes and connect and save the new known host key.

Managing Users in Ubuntu

add a user: sudo adduser [newuser]

sudo adduser john

then give password, and setup home folder,when prompted

edit the list of super users

visudo

list users

cat /etc/passwd

change password of a user – sudo passwd [username]

sudo passwd john

to change your password you can just use sudo passwd.

delete user

sudo deluser username

This will not delete the home folder (and subfolder) those must be dealt with separately. A new user created with the old user name would have access to those files.

temporarily lock a user account – Simply locking a user account will not prevent a user from logging into your server remotely if they have previously set up RSA public key authentication.

sudo passwd -l username

To unlock the account

sudo passwd -u username

Groups

Groups are used in to control permissions (see file permissions)
add user to a group
usermod -G [group-name] [username]

usermod -G basketball john

using the -G switch ads the group as a supplemental group. Using -g would make the group that users primary group.

see what groups a user is in

id john

add a new group: groupadd [new_group_name]

groupadd ruby_developers

System Monitoring Tools for VPS

Tools for monitoring performance and troubleshooting Ubuntu VPS web servers

  • Munin – graphs of system resources over time. Very nice. Can be a bit difficult to setup.
  • top – system stats
  • iotop – like top, but for io stats. Install
    sudo apt-get install iotop

    Useful setup

    iotop -b -o -d 30 -t

    -b (batch – so you can keep a running tally of results) -o (only those processes with io) -d (delay and seconds – how often to print out stats) -t (include time in printout)

  • vmstat – stats on memory, io, swap, cpu and system. Example:
    vmstat 10

    (prints out stats every ten seconds.

  • iostat

Error logs

  • sudo nano /var/log/apache2/error.log

Apache web server access log statistics

  • Webalizer –
    sudo apt-get install webalizer

    GeoIP is required for webalizer

    sudo apt-get install geoip-bin

    detailed instructions