Setting Up A New VPS on Vultr With Webmin

This is a collection of notes I’ve found around the web to help me set up subsequent VPS’s on Vultr (or anywhere that I will use Webmin instead of cPanel).

Install the VPS. Update to latest version of software with apt-get update / apt-get upgrade (or yum upgrade if on CentOS)

Set hostname to the fully qualified server name other virtual min will get upset. Update local /etc/hosts to add IP address, or update DNS accordingly

Fetch the Virtualmin install script ( instructions at https://www.virtualmin.com/download.html#gpl ) or the install script itself for Linux and FreeBSD.

Run ‘sh ./install.sh’

Get ConfigServer Firewall and the Webmin module installed. Instructions at http://download.configserver.com/csf/install.txt

Install XCache module if running PHP… apt-get install php5-xcache

Install MPM-ITK Apache2 module and add the following code via Virtualmin -> Servers -> Virtualmin Virtual Servers (GPL) -> Server Templates -> Apache Website

<IfModule mpm_itk_module>
AssignUserId ${USER} ${USER}
</IfModule>
<FilesMatch ".+.ph(p[345]?|t|tml)$">
    SetHandler application/x-httpd-php
</FilesMatch>
<FilesMatch ".+.phps$">
    SetHandler application/x-httpd-php-source
    # Deny access to raw php sources by default
    # To re-enable it's recommended to enable access to the files
    # only in specific virtual host or directory
    Order Deny,Allow
    Deny from all
</FilesMatch>
The above will help prevent one website from infecting another if one gets hacked (if all websites run as nobody they’ll all have write access to each other).

Run the W3TC compatibility check and install modules as necessary to best support W3TC for wordpress sites.

Easiest, Cheapest Way To Speed Up Your Mac

4623570_raw.jpgI’ve recently been playing around a LOT with various development tools for HTML5 on my aging MacBook Pro… The thing is 6 years old now which is ancient in computing terms. And it was beginning to show its age so I began searching around for ways to bring it back to it’s former life and speed it up a bit.

In doing so I updated our ReviewMacSoftware site with the information over a couple of articles. The first article about speeding up a mac can be found at http://www.reviewmacsoftware.com/how-to-make-your-mac-run-faster.html – this is the first article I wrote which gained some good comments and some of those comments had some great other tips for getting the speed back into your Mac. I’ve done all of the things I’ve listed on that article, including updating to SSD (BIG difference, but big cost too) as well as checking permissions and so on. Worth a quick read if you want to speed your mac up a bit.

One of the comments was about Detox Your Mac which I’ll be honest I haven’t even tried as yet, but lots of people seem to like it. It’s available as a digital download on ClickBank. Clean My Mac 3 gets some fairly good reviews around the Web too and I like most of what it does if you don’t want to get under the hood of your Mac yourself. A lot of people on the Apple Support forums don’t seem to like it, but they’re experienced Mac System Administrators so I suspect their dislike for it is simply based on the fact that their experience with OSX means they can do better manually.

SDCZ528GB_sandisk_sandisk_cruzer_switch_8gb_usb_flash_drive_blackBut in the end, the biggest speed up for my MacBook was actually to re-install Yosemite from USB, with a complete reformat of the hard drive and just a restoration of my documents from a Time Machine backup. After that the Mac felt like new – it’s quick, runs cooler (and therefore quieter since I have MacFans running which speeds up the fans a bit if it gets warm). The only things that seem to stress it now are web browsers – is there ANY decent web browser available for OSX that doesn’t have memory leaks and eventually bring the system to a crawl? Chrome, Firefox and Safari all suffer the same fate and get the fans spinning and the bottom of the computer cooking my legs….

I know it seems a bit self serving to link to a bunch of articles on a site that I own and run myself, but the readership of this blog is a bit different to the readership over there (indeed, ReviewMacSoftware doesn’t really (at this stage) have any regular readers – everyone just comes from Google for the particular article they need) so I thought I’d highlight some of the articles and hopefully, if you use a Mac too, you can save yourself some upgrade dollars and make your mac run faster by combining all the different advice there into one blog post here.

Good luck, I hope the article was at least semi useful and please feel free to get in touch by leaving a comment below

Setting up an Intel NUC DN2820FYKH as a HTPC

Intel_NUC_4th_GenI recently did exactly this with an Intel NUC DN2820FYKH. This was a bit of a gamble because I wasn’t entirely sure the spec of the NUC was up to scratch for a home theatre PC.

Turns out, it actually is – with a couple of caveats which I’ll go into in a moment. You’ll need to add RAM (I went with 8G on mine) and a laptop drive. SSD will perform better, but it performs well on a standard 5400 RPM. The Celeron DN2820FYKH performs quite admirably – I suspect the Core i3, i5 and i7 versions would do everything you need – albeit with a slightly bigger power footprint.

Firstly, I didn’t use Windows. I don’t even like Windows, so that was never an option. I used XBMCBuntu – a fairly lightweight version of Ubuntu with XBMC pre-packaged. I then add the ‘mythbuntu-control-center’ package to add MythTV backend and set up MythBuntu components for Live TV. You can do this the other way around too – install MythBuntu and then add XBMC packages. I just prefer the XBMCBuntu startup splash screens for my HTPC so I do it the other way around 🙂

Then, find yourself a Sony PlayTV USB Tuner (if you want Live Terrestrial TV). The NUC has no space for adding TV tuner cards so you’ll need a USB tuner. The PlayTV has worked flawlessly for me and I highly recommend them. I picked mine up from EB Games in Melbourne, but you can get them on eBay too. Sadly they don’t appear to be made any more, which is a shame as they’re the cheapest and most reliable way of getting Live TV on your MythTV setup on Linux.

xbmcbootingOnce you install XBMCBuntu and add the Myth components you’ll need to make a couple of tweaks to make it run a little more smoothly and use less power. If using less power was possible. The things runs at about 6W idle, which was why I went with this – I got sick of the power crazed standard HTPC. Firstly, go into the XBMC settings and switch off the RSS feed scroller – that alone drops the XBMC process usage from around 35% constantly to about 10%. Also, if you’re using the Hybrid skin, turn off the background raindrop effect – for another significant processor drop.

Switching between screens on Hybrid skin isn’t silky smooth, but it isn’t far off. Watching TV, movies, listening to music etc is all perfectly smooth. And with built in Infrared, in a 4 inch footprint that costs around 6 watts of energy, this is a highly recommended setup for a Home Theatre PC and requires no active cooling and can sit outside of a cabinet just alongside the TV without looking out of place. And as HTPC’s go, the price is pretty good too. It’ll cost you around $350 all up, less if you only need 4G of RAM.

More Information:

Get XBMC
Get MythBuntu
Intel NUCs on eBay
Sony PlayTV on eBay
EB Games pre-owned gear

Ever Wished WordPress Had a Live Preview Option For Everything?

If you’ve ever wished WordPress had a live preview for everything, not just when you’re trying to decide which theme to use, then you might find the Out Of Sight Editor at CodeCanyon useful.

Disclaimer: This plugin was written by me. This isn’t necessarily an objective review! Though I would love it if someone did do an objective review for me!

So, what’s the point of the plugin? Well, if you’ve ever developed a website on WordPress, particularly lately with all manner of fancy layout options that come with some of the more advanced themes, you might have worked out that sometimes you want to have a play with all manner of settings and get things looking just right before you let them loose on your unsuspecting public visitors.

Previously your only option was a Maintenance Mode plugin which stops your visitors from seeing anything on your site at all. That’s really not helpful if Google decides to trawl your site while you’re playing. Bye Bye SEO – months of hard work could be down the drain. Plus it’s inconvenient for your visitors who might just decide to visit a competitor instead.

Enter the Out Of Sight Editor. Or should that be Out of Site Editor?

This plugin provides preview mode for almost every setting within WordPress. Provided that the options you want to play with are stored within the standard WordPress database tables, then you can enable preview mode and play around to your hearts content and your visitors will see the page exactly as it was when you first switched on preview mode.

It no longer matters if it takes you days to get your site just right because your users are still being served your original content, just as it was when you switch on preview mode.

And if you make a monumental mess of the layout, or options on your site, you can discard the changes and start again. Your visitors will be none the wiser.

The latest version allows you to work on your current theme template files, either via FTP (using a special -preview folder) or directly within WordPress transparently. And again, any changes you make to your template files will not be seen by your normal visitors. If you’ve ever edited WordPress template files and broken one, rendering your whole site inactive due to a PHP error, this plugin could be a Godsend. Because your visitors aren’t being served the template files that you’re playing with, your site remains live even if you break your preview version.

For further details check out the Out Of Sight Editor at CodeCanyon.net. If your website is based on WordPress and you update or change it on occasion, it’s well worth a look. It’s very reasonably priced too.

Slow Safari in OSX Lion

I’ve just recently updated my MacBook Pro to OSX Lion. In general I’m pretty happy with it but there were a few issues, relating to speed that really significantly annoyed me. This blog post is to remind me what I did to solve those issues and perhaps if someone else reads them and is helped too then that’s a bonus!

Safari. This issue isn’t specifically related to Lion because I dropped using Safari months ago because it was just too slow. But Safari is the only browser that plays really nicely with Lions finger sweep gestures and so I was determined to get it back to proper functionality. With that in mind I went searching and discovered a useful tidbit. The 64bit version of Safari is, in general it seems, a bag of nails. So to fix it, open up your Applications folder, right click over Safari and select Get Info. In the info box that pops up you should see a tick box that says ‘Open in 32bit mode’. Put a tick in there and restart Safari… Since doing this my Safari has returned to its zippy self.

Wi-Fi. The performance of my network seemed to be really slow after the Lion upgrade. I can’t quantify it and have no hard firm data to back up my claims. But it just seemed really slow. I changed a couple of things which seem to have brought it back into line. Not sure which one did the trick but here they are;

First, open System Preferences and choose Network. At the top, where it says Location, choose Edit Locations from the drop down. Create a new location – in my case I called it Home. Then, select Home from the drop down. I’ve no idea why this might’ve helped – perhaps someone can comment on why.

Secondly, I also changed the MTU setting to 1492 as per a recommendation from the net. This is the standard setting for a device using PPPoE – and it’s the same setting as the router which connects to the internet. This sort of makes sense that having the same MTU as the internet device would speed things up since packets are getting fragmented the same for each device.

Once I did those three things, the net seems to be back to being happy and Safari is much happier. I’m now happy with Lion – love the new trackpad gestures and Mission Control is a welcome addition!

Installing Bugzilla on a CentOS cPanel VPS

This article is designed to hopefully assist someone not have to go over the same troubles as I experienced installing the latest stable Bugzilla onto my cPanel server. To say it gave me a headache is an understatement.

To begin with everything went smoothly. It was all good. I followed the instructions for the Bugzilla installation, and ran the various perl scripts, which said I needed to install some additional modules to make Bugzilla work. That was no problem, so I thought, because I had CPAN installed and set up.

Most of the modules went on OK, and everything looked good. But then I started receiving e-mails from users of another site written in perl that resides on the server. They were getting Internal Server Errors galore. Premature end of script headers. Oh joy.

So I went on the hunt for what could be going on. I ran the perl script manually for the site that was complaining. It borked with some file or other that couldn’t be found in the @INC path. That’s odd, because it was working before I tried installing the JSON::RPC module from CPAN. I ran the Bugzilla ‘checksetup.pl’ script again and now that borked with files missing from @INC.

What the?

I tried using CPAN to install the missing modules that the checksetup.pl script was now complaining about. One went on, then CPAN itself stopped working! Now I was really confused.

I did some googling around, discovered some fairly useful information to put things back and got CPAN up and running again. I can’t give specifics of this because it really depends on what you did prior to getting here as to what you’ll need to look for. Hopefully though you read this BEFORE you bork your CPAN install 🙂

Long story short, I have two Perl binaries on my system, compiled with different @INC paths.

That
Is
A
Nightmare 

I discovered it quite by accident. One was in /usr/bin/perl – the other was /usr/local/bin/perl. Running from the command line was using /usr/local/bin/perl, but web scripts (and the checkconfig.pl script) were coded to use /usr/bin/perl.

At this point in time I have renamed the /usr/bin/perl version to /usr/bin/perl.sav and softlinked to /usr/local/bin/perl since all my CPANing and tweaking was done with the /usr/local/bin/perl variant (which used a /usr/local/ prefix to its @INC path).

This seems to have fixed Bugzilla, and kept the other site happy too. I’ve yet to test whether it’s broken cPanel now though!

Appalling Quality of Journalism Today

If you’ve been living in the western world this week you’ve probably heard of the woes with News Corporation and News International regarding the phone tapping ‘scandal’ at the News of the World newspaper. To me, the scandal itself is bad enough, but realistically it only highlights what I’ve been thinking myself for many years about journalism today.

I can only speak from my perspective lately as an Australian (previously a Briton). Not much has changed in the media over the 5 years that I’ve been here in Australia, and maybe what I’m seeing is really only because I’ve shifted continents in my midlife. But when I was growing up, journalism was a career that required an excellent grasp of English, with at least an A level pass. It required one to be objective, unbiased and report the facts. Opinion was only relevant in a column dedicated to opinion pieces. Perhaps there’s some rose coloured spectacles casting a different hue over the past, I’m not sure. I’d like to know what others think about that.

But today, I find it more and more frustrating to read anything in the traditional media. This traditional media that claims ‘new media’ will kill it off because information is available for free whereas printed news must be paid for, appears to be completely unaware that, at least for me, what is killing it off is not the new media being free, but the new media at least generally providing facts, not the opinion of the editor or owner of the media. I don’t want to read how bad government policy is, I want to read what government policy is and then form my own opinion on it.

It seems these days that media’s job is not to tell people the news, it’s to tell them how to think. The carbon tax in Australia is one giant example of this. So many newspapers (and I suspect most are owned by News Corp) are against the carbon tax, so they’ve omitted much of the detail and included much opinion. The problem is (and media moguls are well aware of this) that the phenomenon of crowd thinking is very much a real one. If you’re told lots of people think something is bad, you’re quite likely to think it’s bad too, regardless of whether you know anything about it.

I have spoken with a number of people who when asked about the carbon tax think it is bad. I ask them about details of the tax and they have no idea. They have no idea that their tax free threshold will go up to compensate them. They have no idea that the carbon tax can actually reduce emissions of larger producers through market forces because the commercial media isn’t telling them. Do you have any of the details about the tax while you’re reading this and forming opinions? Most of my friends don’t yet they’re against it.

The only person I’ve spoken to who had the facts (and was actually in favour of the new carbon tax too) watches ABC News 24 and SBS. These two channels are government owned and to a large extent better regulated than the commercial TV stations. They’re better regulated because they HAVE to provide the facts otherwise people will cry that taxpayers money is being used to fund bias. No-one seems to care that their advertising dollar is funding bias. The price you pay for everything in the shop is being used to tell you how to think by the commercial media.

I’d like to see the return of the ‘Party Political Broadcast’ – where the major political parties spend 5 or 10 minutes every so often explaining their policies, on TV – not in an advertising format but in a programmatic format. It should be a condition of a broadcasting license that these major political parties (and I’m not sure on who should qualify as major, but definitely the government of the day and the opposition) be afforded at least 30 minutes of prime time viewing per month to tell people about their policies. This is particularly true in Australia where voting is compulsory but having a clue is not.

If you force people to vote, you must force them to at least be aware of what it is they’re voting on. Most people have not got the true facts. They’ve got the facts as the commercial media wants you to have them. They’re making their vote based on some rich person’s opinion, not their own. This is true because in general most people are too lazy, too busy, or simply don’t know how to find the facts themselves. They rely on the media to tell them – and they believe what they’re seeing is unbiased. That’s the worst part, the people I’ve spoken to genuinely believe that they’re being fed the facts, not the bias.

Are you aware you can write to your politician and ask them questions? Are you aware that democracy doesn’t just happen once every 3 (or 4, depending on where you are) years?

This is a bit of a rant I know. But it scares me that the decisions that affect my future, the future of my kids and their kids are being made by an elite few who happen to own media outlets. No, I’m not singling out Rupert Murdoch, although his influence is significant he’s not the only one. But there aren’t many of the elite few, and I suspect, because of their position, their views are pretty similar. Whilst they don’t control the politicians directly, they do so by controlling the opinions of a significant proportion of the voting population.

Bring back the quality to journalism. Stop selling opinion pieces as fact.

Started At University – Some Tips For New Students

I’m now into week 7 of my new university course after I decided to fully embark on the career change I alluded to some time ago. I’m now officially a student paramedic at Victoria University and I’m going to try to use this blog to chronicle some of the more important aspects of my Uni experience in the vague hope that it might help someone else going through it to.

I’m pretty lucky. I’ve had a fair bit of life experience before this point – given that I’m soon to be 40, that’s 20 odd years out of school. So I tend to view Uni quite differently from some of the youngsters who are there because their parents want them to be rather than themselves wanting to be. I think it really helps to want to be there – mostly because at University you’re left to find out a lot of the education for yourself. And unlike High School, lectures are not compulsory at Uni (some things like Practical Sessions and Tutorials are, but lectures are not) so it takes self discipline to turn up and listen. Self discipline is really quite easy if you’re there because you want to be rather than because you’re forced.

If I had to give one tip for this article, it would be this. Attend Orientation Day – no really. If your University puts one on for you, go to it. You’ll discover a vast wealth of information that you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise know. It’ll give you a chance to meet and speak to your new lecturers, and meet up with some new mates who will probably end up going through the next three years with you. And you’ll need mates for this new experience too – don’t be an island, mates can help remind you about things you might forget and they’ll have strengths in areas that you don’t and vice versa. You can help each other with study areas and a bit of a social life helps your motivation too.

Remember that tertiary education is not secondary education. You won’t be spoon fed everything. Indeed, sometimes your lecturers won’t even help you if you ask them (though most of the time they will, it rather depends what they’re trying to teach you). You will need to use the library. You will need to buy at least some of the books they recommend because you’ll need to put in some extra studies around things you don’t quite understand fully. These things can add up costs wise so make sure you do have a bit of an up front slush fund if you can. If you’re lucky enough to live in Australia you may well qualify for the Austudy up front payment.

Speaking of Austudy, if you are able to claim it, make sure you do so well in advance because Centrelink are appallingly slow. They’ll cite all manner of excuses for why your Austudy claim has been delayed. They’ll range from bushfire to flood, to your case is not normal and had to be sent to a special claims officer for processing. Get it in way in advance so you don’t spend weeks without income, or with reduced income.

Also, if your course has any special requirements like police checks or working with children checks you must ensure you leave plenty of time for these processes to be done in time. The police or other relevant authorities will be swamped with applications for these things by other students and the response times will blow out. Your University probably won’t care if your dog ate your application, or for any other excuse you might come up with so do yourself a favour and make sure you start this process way way way in advance so you don’t miss any deadlines.

And finally, on the note of deadlines, don’t leave your assignments / homework until the last minute. Ever. If you want good grades you’ll absolutely need to make sure you put in the work. This isn’t High School and your lecturers will  not accept excuses (unless they’re really really good ones!) for late submissions and things like ‘my internet went out while I was doing the referencing’ will not cut it. They’ll look at you and wonder why you left until the deadline to do the referencing. Or they’ll say ‘shouldve used the library then’. Which of course, if you leave it until the night before it’s due, you can’t. Get assignments underway as early as possible. Get them finished as early as possible but DON’T hand them in too early. You never know when that golden nugget of information will arrive into your brain at a lecture and if you’ve already handed in your assignment you can’t go back and tweak it. The catchwords for this section :- Start Early, Finish On Time, Hand In On Time.

I hope these tips have provided some insight into the beginnings of new University life. If there’s any questions you’d like answered please do feel free to leave comments and I’ll discuss them in the next update. I intend to give some more Student Paramedic specific information so watch this space!

Why Julian Assange (and WikiLeaks) is not a terrorist.

And why assigning him that label is extremely dangerous for everyone

Assange may have done things that have annoyed the American government. And probably the British and Australian governments too. In fact, possibly a whole slew of other governments throughout the world.

But doing something with which the government disagrees does not a terrorist make.

Terrorists, by definition, engage in activities which terrorise. Traditionally with some political motive or goal that they require which cannot be obtained through peaceful means. Usually such organisations have tried the peaceful approach and failed and have thus resorted to terrorism. Now, to engage in terrorism the organisation concerned must use unreasonable force to try to bend the will of the people into surrendering, with the hope that political change will therefore follow through the process of the people voting for a government that will change the policy to the terrorists demands.

In modern history it’s never worked. I don’t know if it used to, perhaps it did.

But the key point is that terrorists frighten the general population. They try to ensure the general population are constantly living in fear, or terror, of something bad happening to them. They might also try to cause considerable disruption to the economy of the country by destroying infrastructure or slowing systems down to the point where they become so congested that business cannot continue as usual. But they always have a political goal they wish to achieve and will state that objective publicly.

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to my knowledge have caused no public fear. They’re not trying to change the will of governments through terrorising the population. They have no ‘end goal’ to which the governments must acquiese in order for the leaking to desist. I’m not sure they’re trying to change the policy of any government, except to honest them up.

The problem we now face is that many in the US Senate seem intent on using anti-terror legislation to silence WikiLeaks. This is a gross misuse of the legislation and proves what I thought about the legislation in the first place. After Sep 11 2001, many sweeping powers were introduced into the various western nations, UK, US and Australia to combat terrorism. Powers that if used correctly didn’t really have too much of an impact on the everyday person. PROVIDED THAT THE PROPER DEFINITION OF TERRORIST IS ADHERED TO.

Now it seems we’re only just a whisker away from anyone who disagrees with a government being called a terrorist. To its logical extension it means that if you’re a Republican when there’s a Democrat Government you could conceivably be labelled a terrorist – and all that legislation bears down on your head in an instant. You’ve suddenly no rights to criticise the government, you’ve no rights to a fair trial, you’ve no rights to innocence until proven guilty. You’ve definitely no rights to a peaceful demonstration any more, because you’re disagreeing with your government.

There are places in the world that are like this. Most of those places are starting to learn that it really doesn’t work when you try to suppress the will of the people for so long. Some are moving towards liberalisation. In the meantime, it seems possible that the US might just be heading in the wrong direction. Which all means that everything Osama Bin-Laden wanted is coming to pass. US citizens will very soon find the very freedoms and ideals they hold so dear will be stripped away from them one by one and no-one will quite notice it’s happening until it’s too late. (TSA anyone?)

Declaring Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as a terrorist organisation is a step too far, irrespective of whether they’ve done something criminal or not (and I’m not declaring either way on that, I don’t have the full story to make that decision. I don’t need it to know it’s not terrorism though).

Bending the definition of terrorist to fit Julian Assange begins the very slippery slope of bending the definition to fit anyone who publicly disagrees with the government. Is that where we really want to end up?

Is Google Chrome for OSX any good?

The short answer to this is yes – definitely!

I suppose I better fill this article out a bit and explain why I arrived at that answer? Ok, here goes.

Some years ago Google released their Chrome browser for Windows. It was OK, but there was already Firefox as an alternative to Internet Exploder, and if you really wanted to step out onto a limb, there was Safari for Windows. But then one day I purchased a nice shiny Macbook Pro and didn’t care about Windows any more. Unfortunately Google Chrome wasn’t available for Mac back then. And then it was – but boy was it buggy. And slow, and nasty.

Gradually I’ve gone off Firefox. It isn’t as quick as it once was, Safari certainly felt significantly quicker. But then something strange happened and for some reason Safari started crashing alarmingly regularly. Probably its time I re-installed my Macbook, preferably with Snow Leopard straight out of the box rather than the Leopard – SL upgrade. But that’s another issue – I don’t expect Mac software to start showing cracks like this, but Safari is. So I checked out Google Chrome.

It’s a LOT faster than Safari, and definitely faster than Firefox. And it doesn’t crash. And they’ve combined the search bar into the address bar, so you don’t have to tab into a new box to search Google. That’s an innovation right there – why have an extra box taking up screen real estate.

And that’s probably the biggest thing with Chrome – more space for your web pages, less taken up with clutter.

And now Chrome supports extensions, so the Web Developer extensions I used to know and love on Firefox are now available for Chrome – but they don’t seem to bog down the browsing speed.

All in all, if you’re after speed, stability and screen real estate on your mac browsing experience, then I’d highly recommend giving Chrome a go now.