Price drop on unique IP-addresses

March 1st, 2006

DreamHost just updated the Plan Comparison page with new prices on unique IP-addresses. The price of an unique IP-address has dropped from $4.95/month to $3.95/month.

An unique IP-address is only necessary if you want to have a SSL certificate or anonymous FTP, so I guess this will only be relevant for a few customers.

Added:
According to the newsletter the set up fee has also been waived (previously $15) and it will now be free to generate a new CSR (Certificate Signing Request, previously $10).

Backup MySQL Database to Email

February 27th, 2006

Oscar Merida from Record as I Am has written a short tutorial about How to: Backup your MySQL database and email results using BASH. He creates a simple shell script which dumps the content of a database to a text file, compresses the file and sends of an email with the file.

The script only depends on Mutt or any other command-line email client (DreamHost supports Mutt), so it’s fairly easy to get started.

DreamHost tests SPF (Sender Policy Framework)

February 22nd, 2006

DreamHost just started to test automatic SPF record generation.

Sender Policy Framework information

Sender Policy Framework is designed to help reduce mail forgery. It does so by confirming that a mail server sending e-mail from your domain is authorized to do so (those that aren’t are probably spammers or viruses spoofing your e-mail address).

Mail servers that receive SMTP e-mail verify the envelope sender address against the information in DNS, and thus can distinguish between authentic messages and forgeries before any message data is transmitted.

DreamHost’s tool lets you indicate if your domain never sends mail or you can choose the default settings, which adds a TXT entry to your DNS settings with all DreamHost’s SMTP servers’ IP-addresses. You also have the option to add additional custom SPF records, which is useful if you use your ISP’s SMTP server or you send email through your website.

Sender Policy Framework settings

SPF is not really an anti-spam solution. It does, however, help reduce bounces from spam runs with forget sender-addresses, and should make it more practical to, for example, whitelist/blacklist certain domains and filter mail for others more aggressively.

Anyone who has ever gotten the bouncebacks, hate mail, spam complaints, etc. from a spam run forged with their domain, will appreciate the work of SPF.

If SPF becomes widely adopted, it will become much harder for spammers to spoof other peoples’ domains. SPF is currently supported by AOL, Gmail, Hotmail/MSN and many more. 

More info in: SPF: A Sender Policy Framework to Prevent Email Forgery

3 Tips for Secure Communication

February 20th, 2006

I’ve been using a couple of wireless hotspots the last few days, and while very convenient, it made me think about security. The problem is that every time you check your mail, transfer files with FTP or connect to a server via telnet all the data, including your username and passwords, are transferred over the internet in plain text and therefore in danger of eavesdropping and password sniffing.

Luckily DreamHost provides SFTP, SSH and SSL encrypted POP3/SMTP so you can easily get all your communication encrypted.

Remote Access

Telnet is an internet protocol that allows you to open a shell on the server to interact with the command line. Telnet is a powerful tool that lets you run programs on the server, edit your documents/files directly on the server or configure settings like crontab and procmail. The secure alternative to Telnet is SSH (Secure Shell). The biggest difference between Telnet and SSH is that SSH clients encrypt all the traffic between the user’s machine and the server.

If you want shell access at DreamHost you need to enable it in the Users Area of the Control Panel. If you’re already using Telnet, you don’t need to change anything.

PuTTY seems to be the most popular SSH client (and its codebase is widely used in other software packages), but there exist plenty of alternative clients.

First time you use SSH to connect to a server, you will see a warning like this:

PuTTY warning

The server’s host key was not found in the cache. You have no guarantee that the server is the computer you think it is.

This host key check is an extra security feature of PuTTY. It checks the signature of the server every time you connect, and compares it to your last connection in order to verify you’re really connecting to the same server. First time you connect to a server, PuTTY has nothing to compare with, and therefore ask you what to do.

More info in the Knowledge Base: How do I use Telnet or SSH to access my site.

File Transfer

While FTP is the most widely used file transfer protocol, SFTP is the secure alternative. DreamHost supports both SFTP and SCP on all accounts, but it requires you to enable shell access in the Control Panel.

WinSCP and FileZilla are both free Open Source SFTP clients. Alternative clients can be found at freessh.org. WinSCP’s SSH and SCP code is based on PuTTY, so if you’re used to PuTTY, you will recognise similarities in the user interface.

WinSCP icons

The icons show that the connection is encrypted (using aes and SSL version 2) and that compression is enabled.

More info in the Knowledge Base: SCP / SFTP

Email

DreamHost supports both SSL IMAP and POP3, and a couple of weeks ago they started to offer secure SMTP. SSL provides endpoint authentication and communications privacy over the internet using cryptography. While SSL is most commonly used with HTTP to form HTTPS (secure webpages for applications such as e-commerce and banking), the same technique can be used to secure your communication with a mail server.

All you have to do is to tell your email program to use SSL. In Microsoft Outlook / Outlook Express you do this by selecting “This server requires a secure connection (SSL)” in the accounts dialog box for both POP (incoming mail) and SMTP (outgoing mail). In Mozilla Thunderbird the setting is called “Use secure connection (SSL)”. The port numbers should automatically be updated, otherwise use port 995 for POP (instead of 110) and 25 for SMTP (no change). If your ISP blocks port 25 you can sometimes use port 465 instead.

Outlook Express - Settings

Outlook Express settings…

Outlook Express - Securing...

Outlook Express securing the connection, before it logins to the email account…

The only caveat of using SSL email is an annoying warning since the SSL certificate is registered for mail.dreamhost.com and not for mail.yourdomain.com.

Outlook Express - Internet Security Warning

The server you are connected to is using a security certificate that could not be verified.

I will provide a workaround for this annoyance in my next blog post.

eAccelerator on DreamHost

February 16th, 2006

Chinese DreamHost customer Robin has written a series of posts about installing the php accelerator and encoder eAccelerator.

eAccelerator is a further development from mmcache PHP Accelerator & Encoder. It increases performance of PHP scripts by caching them in compiled state, so that the overhead of compiling is almost completely eliminated.

First Robin investigates the differences between caching the HTML output and caching the compiled PHP script in his test of WP-Cache vs eAccelerator. He continues to ask should we use Zend Optimizer and eAccelarator together? And finally he shows how to install eAccelerator on DreamHost.

MySQL upgraded to 5.0

February 2nd, 2006

DreamHost today announced support for MySQL 5.0. All new MySQL databases being created will be version 5, and they will soon offer the possibility to upgrade current databases from version 4 to version 5.

For the ones who haven’t followed MySQL progress the latest years, I will recap the development roadmap here.

MySQL 4.0
Released: 25 March, 2003
Supported by DreamHost: September 2003

New features:

  • Query cashing (increased performance for many applications with repetitive queries)
  • Full-text indexing (searching on packed indexes, bulk inserts and other new optimizations for faster query execution)

MySQL 4.1
Released: 27 October, 2004
Supported by DreamHost: May 2005

New features:

  • Sub-queries and derived tables (search complex data sets with greater ease and efficiency)
  • Full Unicode support

MySQL InnoDB
Released: 23 September, 2002
Supported by DreamHost: September 2005

New features:

  • ACID-compliant transaction support

MySQL 5.0
Released: 24 October, 2005
Supported by DreamHost: January 2006

New features:

  • Stored Procedures (to embed business logic in the database and improve performance)
  • Triggers (to enforce complex business rules at the database level)
  • Cursors (to allow easier database development and reference of large datasets)
  • Views (to ensure protection of sensitive information)

MySQL has over the last few years evolved from being a populaire hobby database to be a full enterprise level database. David Axmark, co-founder of MySQL, summarized this when he at the release of MySQL 5.0 said: “People have been criticising MySQL since we started [in 1995] for not having stored procedures, triggers and views”, and “We’re fixing 10 years of criticism in one release”.

More info in the DreamHost Community Wiki:

DreamHost Newsletter – February 2006

February 1st, 2006

This month’s newsletter fresh from the press:

  1. One-Click Installs Upgrader!
    The one-click installer of WordPress, phpBB, Joomla, etc. now also do one-click upgrades.
    See also The Big 2-oh!.
  2. Subversion!
    New! DreamHost now officially have support for Subversion.
  3. MySQL 5!
    Covered in MySQL upgraded to 5.0.
  4. Jabber Talks with Google!
    Covered in Jabber and Google Talk.
  5. wiki.dreamhost.com!
    Covered in DreamHost Knowledge Base and Mirror of DreamHost’s Knowledge Base.
  6. DHSOTM
    DreamHost Site of the Month: MoronLife.com.

PHP4 upgraded to 4.4.1

January 28th, 2006

PHP4 has been updated from version 4.3.10 to 4.4.1 according to php.dreamhosters.com.

The changes from 4.3.10 to 4.4.1 are only maintenance releases addressing numerous non-critical bux fixes, a number of security fixes related to the overwriting of the GLOBALS array and a memory corruption problem. No new features has been added.

Mirror of DreamHost’s Knowledge Base

January 26th, 2006

Since DreamHost integrated the DreamHost Knowledge Base into the DreamHost Community Wiki, I’ve heard a number of complaints about the move.

The main problems with the new Wiki-based Knowledge Base are:

  • old links are broken (there is no way to tell what kbase article https://panel.dreamhost.com/kbase/index.cgi?area=138 was about)
  • user comments have not been moved (the comments were sometimes the most valuable part of the articles)
  • people used to the old system will have to spend time getting used to new Knowledge Base
  • lack of categorization of articles in the Wiki

Parts of the old Knowledge Base really needed a rewrite and I guess the Wiki-based Knowledge Base will be easier to maintain, so it’s not all bad, but right now I really miss the old KBase. In my opinion they should have kept the old Knowledge Base until the content and comments were better integrated in the Wiki and the old links were properly redirected.

I’ve therefore collected Google’s cached snapshot of most of the original content. Out of more than 1000 entries only 5 pages were missing. I will still try to get a copy of the last 5 pages (area 673, 681, 856, 996 and 2201).

Added:
Done!: I now got a copy of all the entries.

I’ve chosen to make my mirror of the Knowledge Base public for everybody to use. Since all the content in the Wiki is available under the GNU Free Documentation License, I guess DreamHost will have no problem with this. Otherwise they can always contact me.

To convert an old link to a mirror link replace
https://panel.dreamhost.com/kbase/index.cgi?area=138 with
http://blog.dreamhosters.com/kbase/index.cgi?area=138.

Please notice that this Knowledge Base Mirror will not be updated, it’s no longer possible to comment the articles and it’s currently not possible to search the archive.

Added:
It’s now possible to search the mirror of DreamHost Knowledge Base…

Open The Champagne DreamHost

January 24th, 2006

ChampagneDreamHost is now hosting more than 200.000 domains.

Two months ago I predicted that DreamHost would reach this magic number just after New Year. Since then they have continued their exponential growth, and is now number 39 on WebHosting.Info’s Worldwide Top 50 Web Hosts based on their total domains count.

So, what’s next? 250.000 domains before 1th of June 2006?