Pragmatism in code

Waxing lyrical about life the universe and everything software related since lunchtime 2006.

Configuring Joomla to use Zoho mail with MSMTP on Ubuntu.

Configuring Joomla to use Zoho mail with MSMTP on Ubuntu.

A while ago I switched to using zohomail for the email handling on a number of sites that I run. Zohomail is a nice alternative to hotmail or gmail and is also free for a limited number of users which makes it perfect when you just need to add a contact method to a website or just need something to process user messages.

I had previously been running zohomail under the SMTP service on my Joomla installs as I do not have sendmail installed. I find that it's simply too much to maintain and that SMTP is much simpler. Unfortunately for some reason whilst updating one of my sites the SMTP function simply stopped working and no amount of googling could give me an answer. So unperturbed I decided to engineer an alternative to the native Joomla SMTP functionality. After a bit of research and stumbling across Emanuel Tessores excellent article I decided to give MSMTP a shot

MSMTP is a very simple and easy to use smtp client with excellent sendmail compatibility. It can be used to in place of sendmail to allow you to send emails via a third party SMTP server such as zoho, gmail or hotmail. Installation and setup is relatively straightforward being installable via apt-get via the following command

sudo apt-get install msmtp

Once installed you need to create two files; a configuration file for the email server details that you wish to connect to and a log file to record each mail transaction. You can do this by using the commands below

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Fix your painfully slow PHP mail() function.

Fix your painfully slow PHP mail() function.

Having moved all of my sites to the Excellent Digital Ocean hosting I noticed that on some sites the php mail function seemed to be painfully slow and in some cases threw up some error messages telling me that it had failed. Googling didn't turn up too much in the way of solutions, most information seemed to suggest that the sendmail or postfix packages be installed instead.

Whilst sendmail and postfix are both great solutions, I did not really want to install a fully fledged mail server on my box as all email handling for my domains is handled on a separate server. It seemed like too much of a waste of resources so I decided to simply fix the issue with the php mail() function. 

After doing a bit of digging I discovered that the issue lay with the hosts file. The host info was incorrect.

Editing the hosts file is pretty easy to do, but first you will need to know what the current hostname is set to. To do this simply type in the following command at the command prompt

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Ubuntu Forums Hacked

Looks like the Ubuntu forums have been hacked as they are currently offline.

The forum is currently displaying the maintenance page with the following information:

Ubuntu Forums is down for maintenance

There has been a security breach on the Ubuntu Forums. The Canonical IS team is working hard as we speak to restore normal operations. This page will be updated with progress reports.

What we know

Unfortunately the attackers have gotten every user's local username, password, and email address from the Ubuntu Forums database.
The passwords are not stored in plain text, they are stored as salted hashes. However, if you were using the same password as your Ubuntu Forums one on another service (such as email), you are strongly encouraged to change the password on the other service ASAP.
Ubuntu One, Launchpad and other Ubuntu/Canonical services are NOT affected by the breach.
Progress report

2013-07-20 2011UTC: Reports of defacement
2013-07-20 2015UTC: Site taken down, this splash page put in place while investigation continues.
2013-07-21: we believe the root cause of the breach has been identified. We are currently reinstalling the forums software from scratch. No data (posts, private messages etc.) will be lost as part of this process.
2013-07-22 -> 2013-07-25: work on reinstalling the forums continues.
2013-07-26: the forums are up running again and being tested privately by Forum administrators.

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Exchange Mail And Linux Hosting + EMMA

Some of you may be aware that I've been setting up a new business - Indau Industrial Automation. Before setting up the new website and email servers I decided that I was going to look for exchange based email hosting packaged with a Linux web server. This would allow me to retain the Windows Mobile smart phone that I currently use and utilise it for push email and OWA Calendar and task synchronising. Having used Push based email for the past year it was high on the list of things to have - even though it meant retaining a tie to Micro$oft.

Unfortunately there are no comparible solutions available from the open source community yet, There are a few solutions that offer push email from the Linux platform but none that I wanted to risk trying, and none that are as feature rich as the Exchange + Windows mobile solution.

For the hosting package I looked no further than ComWebHosting my current service providers - although not advertised they were able to sort out a package that included Linux based web hosting with PHP and SQL along with exchange based Email. ComWebHosting come highly reccomended - I've used them for the past 8 or 9 years and have never had a problem - even now I'm based in Australia, using a UK based hosting company is not a problem - even for push email from my smart phone.

One new thing to sort out with the web hosting was the SQL database administration. Normally most web hosts provide phpMyAdmin to administer the database, some use other clients but there is normally a way in which you can upload a database backup or run an SQL query. As the sql database server was not the same as the webserver phpMyAdmin was not available so I needed to find a DB client that could be run remotely from the server - allowing me to install it on my local machine but access and administrate the database located on a different server.

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Ubuntu 8.04

Well not being able to resist the advert shown above, I decided to take the plunge and update my Ubuntu install. Generally I have been very happy with 'Gutsy' What could go wrong?

The update is very straightforward and is easily done via synaptics update manager - first you make sure that the current install is up to date and then it allows you to install the update. The whole process takes about 20 minutes whilst it downloads and installs the relevent files and then reboots.

There's  a load of updated apps which is great as some of the apps in the Gutsy repository were a little out of date, Unfortunately there is still no VMware and more unfortunately it is likely that your curent VMware will stop working as mine did - however - fear not - it is fixable - After the mandatory google - I simply reinstalled it following some instructions for 8.04 and all was good (don't forget to back up your Virtual machine files first just in case).

One dissapointment for me was the new version of Firefox - well not firefox exactly (it's even better than it usually is) but the fact that most of the extension developers have not updated thier code to work with the new version. This is a bit of a pain for me as I regularly use quite a few additional tools for web development. The biggest pain is google sync as I use it to sync my bookmarks between my machines. Firebug and FireFTP need to come to the party too.

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A Good Time To Try Linux

With the New release of Ubuntu just around the corner and the bloated and expensive Vista requiring a hardware upgrade for most current 2000 / XP users to even be able to install it on thier machines it has never been a better time to try Linux. With the ability to be able to boot off of the disc and try Ubuntu without even having to install anything on your hard drive there is really no excuse - especially as it is free!

5 months and still smiling

It has now been about 5 months that I've been solely using Ubuntu Linux as both my work and 'play' operating systems which means it's being used about 10-12 hours a day. So far I have only had to revert to using Windoze on one or two occasions - and that was only to use an excel file that I had written a bunch of VB code for as open office does not seem to support it. Eventually I will get around to re-writing the file in Javascript as a standalone software package - then my ties with Windoze will be completely gone.

For emergency use I had set up Windows XP as a virtual machine (as well as leaving the Vista installation as dual boot when I initially installed Linux) The vitual machine allowed me to use the Excel file for a client demo, and as the virtual machine integrates quite nicely within the Linux window handling I'll leave it installed (see THIS video I recorded whilst writing this article). The dual boot Vista on the other had has not been booted into since I installed Linux on the machine - when I get some spare time I'll look into removing it.

Another item of note is that I have managed to function using Linux in a solely windows envoironment - everyone else (with the exception of one Mac user) uses Windows at work, the main server is running Windows SBS, most of our clients use Windows. Even considering that I am probably the only person using Linux file sharing and editing of shared files has not caused any problems - Email from the SBS 2003 server has not been a problem - even acessing and creating public exchange folders is possible.

Despite all the success, there are a few things to look out for - occasionally Evolution (the mail client I use) goofs out, Incorrect formatting within office documents seems to get very exaggerated within open office and you will probably need to manually set up some things that you take for granted on windows (such as being able to connect to the internet via bluetooth on my WM6 Smartphone) - Mind you, one point of note is that Ubuntu is a LOT more stable - as well as simply working with my Asus laptop from day 1, it has never suffered one lock up - I cannot say the same for my experience with any windows operating system.


So,why not replace your MCE machine with Linux too?

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A recent hard drive crash ended up in me treating myself to a new laptop. Somehow the hard drive on my old Dell decided to just... well... stop working. A bit strange to say the least - the hard drive was less than a year old and hadn't really seen any rough use. But anyhows - I used the whole fiasco to talk myself into replacing the whole laptop with a new one (but of course bought a replacement H/D to revive the Dell)

With my new machine pretty much installed and up and running, with the exception of a webserver to my taste (I've been playing with Ulimate Server - a slim php/sql distro that runs from a USB stick but it doesn't work with my syntax checker) I decided to get the Dell up and running with linux.

After looking into the current range of Linux distro's I decided to give Ubuntu a go as it seemed like the least painfull route to getting it up and running. I have previously used Fedora but had a lot of trouble with wireless drivers.

So far I must say that I am very impressed with ubuntu and the ease of installation. (I'm typing this from Firefox in ubuntu right now ;) ). everything has worked pretty much right out of the box. I've enabled Beryl (the expose style task switcher) and am currently setting up the avant window manager (a mac icon dock clone).

Other software will get installed in time - I'm already happy using open office and gimp the only program I need to sort out is a decent text editor...

I'll keep you posted of the progress.

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