Jun 26, 2015

How to make WordPress custom permalinks work with SSL on Ubuntu 14.04

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...
English: The logo of the blogging software WordPress. Deutsch: WordPress Logo 中文: WordPress Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I manage a WordPress server, and the way this particular server works is weird. We have the domain name currently pointing at a Windows IIS site that uses rewrite rules to proxy everything over to Wordpress running on an Ubuntu Apache server. Right now the IIS server handles SSL, so there aren't any weird issues.

Well pretty soon we are going to remove the Windows IIS server from the equation, and we're going to point DNS directly to the WordPress server. The problem is that we still want SSL, and we currently use custom permalinks. The permalinks we use are /%category%/%postname%/.

Ok, well the problem comes down to how WordPress handles SSL, and apparently if you don't use permalinks it works fine with SSL, but if you have permalinks enabled with SSL, then your pages will come up with page not found errors.

To fix this, on Ubuntu 14.04 anyway, you need to edit your SSL Apache config file, and under the line that says:
DocumentRoot /var/www/yoursitedirectory
You need to paste the following:
<Directory /var/www/yoursitedirectory/>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
</Directory>
After you add that and save your config file, you need to restart Apache to see the changes take effect:
service apache2 restart
You may need to enable the Apache rewrite module for this to take effect, but it should generally be enabled anyway for WordPress. If it's you you can enable it by running:
a2enmod rewrite
Boom! Now SSL will work on your WordPress server without any weird page not found errors!

Jun 19, 2015

Free Open Source Secure Email Gateway

Sweet baby Jesus do I love Linux! Just about anything you need or want can be done in Linux. For instance, the other day my ex-wife sent me an email from her work email. I noticed that she was using a free Gmail account for business and so I offered to stand her up an iRedmail email server running on Linode.com which would cost her company as little as $20 per month hosting. I told them I would charge a flat rate consulting fee, and a nominal monthly fee to keep it backed up.

If you aren't familiar with iRedmail, here is a Tech Chop video I did talking about it:



Well my ex-wife came back and asked if I can make the emails encrypted. She works with a lot of Psychologists, so they need encryption for HIPPA compliance when communicating with clients. Makes sense right? Well, since they are Psychologists and not tech geeks like me that means they need an easy solution to encrypt messages, and that means an encryption gateway!

I found a solution that runs in, you guessed it, Linux! It's called Ciphermail!

From their page:
CipherMail email encryption gateway supports four encryption standards: S/MIME, OpenPGP, TLS and PDF encrypted email. S/MIME and OpenPGP provide authentication, message integrity and non-repudiation and protection against message interception. S/MIME and OpenPGP use public key encryption (PKI) for encryption and signing. PDF encryption can be used as a lightweight alternative to S/MIME and OpenPGP. PDF allows you to decrypt and read encrypted PDF documents. PDF documents can even contain attachments embedded within the encrypted PDF. The password for the PDF can be manually set per recipient or a password can be randomly generated. The generated password can then be automatically delivered to the recipient via an SMS Text message or, the password can be sent back to the sender of the message.
Setup is easy too, just watch this video:



If your company is looking for a low cost solution to email encryption, you should definitely check it out!

What do you use for message encryption? Let us know in the comments.

Jun 17, 2015

Harness Your Creativity: 7 Must-Have Digital Tools


In the popular AMC series "Mad Men," it took an entire agency on Madison Avenue to churn out the world's most creative advertising campaigns for companies like Kodak and Honda. Dozens of directors, copywriters, editors, and designers collaborated over long hours to create just one campaign for a big client.


Obviously, a lot has changed since the 1960s. And while there are still agencies filled with men and women in these positions, there are even more freelancers out there building entire campaigns all on their own. So how do they do it? With nothing more than a laptop and an Internet connection -- along with some powerful web tools that replace the need for an entire Madison Avenue agency. Before your next creative project, look to these tools to help you create a masterpiece from start to finish.

Organize

Trello -- Even a one-man/woman show needs help organizing tasks. Trello is a digital kanban, a system that tracks tasks in stages (also known as sprints) -- what needs to get done, what's currently being worked on, and what's completed. You can do this with a whiteboard and a stack of Post-It notes, but Trello shrinks the concept down to your laptop screen.

Evernote -- If you truly want to keep all your tools digital, that includes your notes as well. Evernote is a great platform for your PC, tablet, and smartphone that organizes everything from the brief note, to pictures, sketches, and even files. It's all synced between your devices and it's easy to search and organize. You'll never go back to pen and paper again.

Copy

Hemingway -- Great copy is the lifeblood of a campaign. It's the spirit of the project and can make or break your work. Hemingway is a fantastic distraction-free platform for writing and editing. The writing portion blanks out everything on the screen so you can focus, and the editing section points out unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and other fluff that Ernest Hemingway himself would have despised.

Kopywriting Kourse -- Apps can't teach you how to write, but people can. Neville Medhora of KopywritingKourse.com is an expert in creative copy and he goes in depth on the topic in his blog, while also covering efficiency, the business of writing, and improving technical skills. Brush up on his tips to hone your own skills.

Design

Shutterstock -- There are dozens of places to buy images online, but they either carry a puny library or charge individually for images. Shutterstock's inventory has vectors, editorial, and stock images and their library is enormous. Plus you can sign up for monthly subscriptions that let you download up to 750 images per month.

Canva -- Comprehensive campaigns involve graphics for all mediums -- print, web, television, and social media. Canva is an easy to use platform with thousands of fonts, vectors, and custom images (like your own from Shutterstock) that you can arrange into stunning designs for all your collateral. While professional designers will always use Photoshop and InDesign, Canva is perfect for beginners who aren't familiar with the pro tools.

Theme Forest -- Websites need design too, and unless you know how to code in several languages, it helps to lean on wireframes for Wordpress to build on. Theme Forest is the digital marketplace for thousands of themes for any industry. Each theme is customizable, so you can shape it to your client's brand and needs.

Jun 12, 2015

Protect Your BitTorrent Privacy With Tribler

English: Official logo from the non-profit Tri...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I wrote a few weeks back about how after years of torrenting I finally received a nasty graham from my ISP about downloading torrents. For the last year or so I've been using TorrentPrivacy's VPN service, and recently switched to EarthVPN. Both are around the same price at $40 per year.

$40 per year isn't a lot if you do a decent amount of torrenting. It's certainly cheaper than a subscription to Hulu or Netflix. What if you don't want to spend any money though and still protect your anonymity?

A client is available with a built in custom version of the TOR network that is designed to do just that. It's called Tribler! From their page:
Tribler offers anonymous downloading. Bittorrent is fast, but has no privacy. We do NOT use the normal Tor network, but created a dedicated Tor-like onion routing network exclusively for torrent downloading. Tribler follows the Tor wire protocol specification and hidden services spec quite closely, but is enhanced to need no central (directory) server.
You can read more about how their anonymity system works here: (Tribler Anonymity)

To avoid liability, Tribler is saying that their anonymity system is still experimental. In fact, when you install it you get this warning before you begin:


Tribler is available for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

To me Tribler sounds like a good idea, and if you don't want to spend money on a private VPN solution, then you should give it a shot. It's got to be better than downloading completely unprotected right? Still though, I think I'm going to stick with my current solution. I also don't like how Tribler handles RSS feeds.

What do you think about this? Will you use Tribler? Do you use it already? Should it be avoided? Let us know in the comments!

Jun 5, 2015

Buffalo TeraStation TS-RIXL LUNs Missing

A couple of weekends ago my company who shall not be named received a notice from building management that they were going to be shutting power down to the office building for electrical maintenance. Because of that, I had my Systems Administrator go in the night before to cleanly power down all of our networking gear, and servers.

The next day when maintenance was over, my Systems Administrator came in and powered everything back up. Everything came up fine, but that is when we noticed a very serious problem. Our Buffalo TeraStation TS-RIXL unit was no longer serving LUNs to our Xen Servers!

When we tried to connect the LUNs, Xen could find the IQN fine, but it couldn't detect any of the LUNs. I wanted to rule out that this was a Xen server issue, so I tried it from a Windows host as well and I had the same thing. The IQN was found, but no LUN! WTF!

My Systems Administrator called Buffalo Tech Support and those idiots actually said that because the connection to the LUNs wasn't correctly disconnected that the LUNs got wiped out. First of all, who would design a storage product that did that? Second of all, that is a load of horse shit, and completely not true.

Anyway, after a few days of freaking out and actually getting ready to wipe the LUNs ourselves and restore from backup my Systems Administrator got it to work. Here is what he did:
  • Make sure the iSCSI service is enabled
  • Check each LUN and select Inactivate

  • One by one, activate each LUN and reconnect your storage. Wait a few minutes before each successful connection.
That's it, when we did it that way the LUNs were reconnected and our LUNs showed up again.

Hopefully Buffalo Tech Support can use Google now and find this post to tell customers how to actually fix the problem instead of telling them that their data is lost.

Jun 3, 2015

The Newest Trend: Movies Filmed With a Smartphone

It isn't shocking to learn that a Hollywood movie budget can easily hit $200 million. There are some filmmakers who are trying an alternative route; they are filming movies entirely on a smartphone. Surprised by this development? It is the newest trend that allows filmmakers to capture a film from the convenience of a phone and decrease the exorbitant budgets in the industry. Here are some films that were shot with various smartphones.

Paranmanjang (2011)

South Korean director Park Chang-Wook filmed "Paranmanjang" (Night Fishing), his 30-minute horror film, exclusively on an iPhone 4. The technology in the iPhone 4 allows filmmakers to capture high quality images that rival shots taken by a traditional camera. The large aperture allows the capacity to capture more light, allowing the filmmaker to concentrate on the scene without worrying whether the shot is illuminated enough to be seen by audiences. In addition, there is a feature that makes colors more pronounced and allows for the background noise to be muted enough so that it won't interfere in the movie-making process. The expense of the iPhone 4 might persuade others to try out smartphones that are a cheaper alternative and can obtain the same quality.

The Rabbit Trail (2013)

"The Rabbit Trail" shot by director Jane Hamer and her production team at Mepic Productions opted to use an HTC One with a macro lens to chronicle the trials of two men who undergo a traumatic experience. Her film was recently featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The specs of the HTC One make it an optimal tool for capturing their vision on film.

The video stabilization is optimal in trying to capture a shot without minimal movement. The phone is equipped with lighting that can be adjusted making it an optimal phone for a filmmaker because it can quickly adjust to various environments. Rounding out the advantages of this phone is the dual stereo that provides maximum sound and a crisp visual quality that is equipped with 1080p resolution, as well as the ability to attach a lens to capture close-up shots.

Olive (2011)

The Oscar-contender movie "Olive" was shot with a Nokia 808 Pure View which offers an advantage that other smartphones cannot provide. When the image is enlarged with the Nokia 808, it doesn't pixelate or break apart allowing for quality high-resolution footage. In previous versions of this phone sound appeared problematic, but Nokia says that the digital quality is improved in the current version of the phone. The sound can rise to decibels of 140.

Summertown (2012)

The short film "Summertown" was filmed exclusively on a Sony Xperia S. Since Sony is a trailblazer in cameras and electronics, its smartphones are known for great optics and large internal storage. It allows full HD capture as well as optimal high-definition resolution to offer the filmmaker the ability to get the same shot as a standard camera might offer.

Smartphones make movie making affordable and convenient for amateurs and professionals. If a pocket-size phone offers comparable quality with minimal equipment for filming, what director will be able to resist the allure of this trend?

May 29, 2015

Create scheduled tasks to protect your Windows 8 computer from viruses using Windows Defender

For the last few years I have been a big proponent of Microsoft Security Essentials for use as an antivirus solution for Windows. To me, it is the best virus protection I have ever used. As some of you know you can't install Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 because the built in Windows Defender uses the exact same engine.

From their page:
Windows Defender for Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT 8.1 provides built-in protection against malware. You can't use Microsoft Security Essentials with Windows 8.1, but you don't need to—Windows Defender is already included and ready to go. But if you’re looking to protect a PC with an older version of Windows, you can use Microsoft Security Essentials to help guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It provides free* real-time protection for your home or small business PCs.

Note: Windows Defender is also available in earlier versions of Windows. However, in earlier versions Windows Defender only provides protection against spyware. In Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, Windows Defender provides full malware protection for your PC. Malware consists of viruses, spyware, and other potentially unwanted software.

Here's a screen shot of Windows Defender in Windows 8.1:


Looks familiar right? The only thing it is missing that Microsoft Security Essentials has is option within Windows Defender to do scheduled updates and scheduled scans. That's because Microsoft in their infinite wisdom wants that done through task scheduler for some reason.

Scheduled Tasks will automatically be created for you under Task Scheduler Library > Microsoft > Windows > Windows Defender once you manually conduct your first update and scan in Windows Defender. They will not however have a scheduled time associated with them. Therefore you need to go into each of the four tasks available and configure what times you want them to run. The available tasks are:
  • Windows Defender Cache Maintenance
  • Windows Defender Cleanup
  • Windows Defender Scheduled Scan
  • Windows Defender Verification
One thing to note is that there is no scheduled update for Windows Defender in that task list. That's because Microsoft wants you to get your updates from Microsoft Update, however if you want real virus protection you need this updated at least daily. To have Windows Defender update daily do the following:
  • Create a new scheduled task called Daily Update and set it to start a program. 
  • In the Program/Script box enter: "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MpCmdRun.exe"
  • In the Add arguments box enter:  -SignatureUpdate -MMPC
  • Make sure the task is configured to be run by "System"
Obviously you will want the above task scheduled to run daily. Another task you might want to schedule is a monthly full system scan. The scheduled scan that is built in is really only a quick scan. You might want to schedule the built in scan to run on a daily or weekly basis. A full system scan will take a long time and use up a lot of resources which is why you might want to limit that for once a month.

To schedule a full system scan do the following:
  • Create a new scheduled task called Full Scan and set it to start a program. 
  • In the Program/Script box enter: "%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\MpCmdRun.exe"
  • In the Add arguments box enter:  Scan -ScheduleJob -ScanType 2
  • Make sure the task is configured to be run by "System"
If you have never created a scheduled task before I found a pretty good tutorial here.

That's it, once you have this setup and configured you probably don't need any other antivirus program on your computer slowing you down. Besides the scheduled tasks above, Windows Defender does offer on-access real time protection from viruses and malware.

Are you using Windows Defender in Windows 8.1? Why or why not? If not, what are you using for virus protection? Let us know in the comments!

May 25, 2015

Creating a Website: The Importance of Mobile Optimization


The Internet now runs on mobile, and it's not going back. More than 60 percent of the Internet is accessed through mobile devices, according to ad network InMobi, and that number is expected to continue rising.


So why do we still write code for the desktop? Keeping a clean, functional site for the big screen will always be important, but based on the data above, it's clear that it should no longer be the first priority. But here we are, lagging way behind current trends, with some sources citing that less than 10 percent of small business websites are optimized for mobile.

There's no excuse not to have a fully responsive website in 2015. The benefits far outweigh the headaches, making it a worthy investment to create a new site or update your current system so mobile users can navigate with ease.

Google's Reward

SEO is a huge market for websites competing for prominent placement in search results and sites that don't go mobile miss a huge piece of that pie. Google now rewards mobile-friendly sites with better search results.

The "why" is never spelled out by the search engine giant, but this could be its way of trying to move a majority of the websites on the Internet into the 21st century. With such an enormous incentive on the table, expect to see a huge increase in mobile sites in the near future.

Anyone Can Do It

You don't need to know code to go mobile. Website builders are current with both smartphones and tablets, and have all the tools needed to build a good website, even if all you want is a landing page.
Many tools no longer even give you the option and assume mobile is just part of the deal.

ThemeForest.net, a popular marketplace for WordPress themes, bundles smartphone and tablet layouts right alongside desktop layouts in nearly all of their templates. In fact, when using many of the building tools out there, it's nearly impossible not to make a mobile-friendly site even without trying.

Users are Fickle and Impatient

The average web user will leave a page within three seconds if it doesn't load correctly or the interface is frustrating to use. That means you've lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of viewers who don't want to deal with a non-mobile friendly site before they even see any content on your page.
If your site relies on ad revenue, this is even more devastating as advertisers certainly don't want to invest on a site with a viewer retention rate that's lower than a few seconds, let alone when there are little to no clicks on ads.

Build a Site to Complement

A final note of importance is to build a mobile site that complements your full-size site, not one that stands apart from it. People think of logos and tag lines when they think of the phrase brand equity, but it applies to your web design too.

Take a company like Apple, that is renowned for excellent marketing and branding. Even though Apple.com is fully responsive on mobile, it carries the same feel on both mobile and desktop versions, which is exactly what you need for your own site. The functionality should change depending on the format, but the look and feel should be consistent throughout.



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