Debugging Apache Virtual Host Config

This is just a quicktip I found while doing a quick search for the sintax for a virtual host in apache: You can run apachectl -t -D DUMP_VHOSTS to run config test for virtual hosts. This will report any error there may be with your config. I found this is a great way to debug virual host config files. You can read more about apachectl on

Sending e-mails: Fedora 29, Apache, & Php

In the past, I’ve touched on the subject of how to set up a localhost to send emails. At some point it was enough with just installing postfix and following a few prompts. Then port 25 was blocked by the ISP and it was necessary to set up a postfix to use an external SMTP server. Now, on Fedora 29 I wanted to enable e-mail sending using php’s mail function. It took me¬† a full day to do it, but finally got it working. It is worth mentioning that this time I didn’t want to set up postfix to use an external SMTP server, although I did try using postfix, but as the logs revealed, port 25 is blocked by my ISP.

One thing to note, that actually cost me a lot of time, is that you won’t find a mail log file in Fedora 29. Fedora uses journal from systemd to do logging now, so you will have to use journalctl to view the logs. Reviewing the logs is how I found out that postfix was timing out when trying to send emails.

In any case, my idea wasn’t really to use postfix. Fedora 29 ships with esmtp which is a “send-only sendmail emulator” according to the man page. The nice thing about it, is that you should only have to make a .esmtprc file on your home directory with the remote SMTP server information. This worked great. I could send emails using `mail` in the command line, and I could even fire up php -a and use the mail function to send out emails. Everything was great until I tried to send emails from one of my locally hosted dev sites (finally getting around to build lol). The email was never even accepted for deliver, as denoted by the false value returned by the mail function.

In order to investigate this matter, I decided to try to send emails as the apache user from the command line. This resulted in a error. The command complained about not being able to create a .esmtp_queue directory on /usr/share/httpd/. I decided to manually create it, and make apache the owner of it. I tested again, and it worked! You should know that at this time my esmtprc is now located at /etc/ so that apache can use it. I suppose I could create at .esmtprc file in the httpd directory, but I haven’t tried that.

I knew now that apache could send emails, so I decided to check again using the locally hosted site, and no luck. mail continued to return false, indicating that the email wasn’t even accepted for delivery. At this point, the only time the mail function returned true was when I used postfix, but I had decided not to use it since esmtp is made specifically for the purpose I intended.

One thing had changed though. Before I manually created the queue directory for the apache user, the mail function simply failed, but now, selinux was displaying an alert, but when I tried to open it, it was blank. I remembered that at some point I had seen an SELinux entry in the logs, so I decided to re-visit the logs and look for a similar entry. I found this:

***** Plugin catchall_labels (83.8 confidence) suggests *******************

If you want to allow mktemp to have write access on the .esmtp_queue directory
Then you need to change the label on .esmtp_queue
# semanage fcontext -a -t FILE_TYPE '.esmtp_queue'
where FILE_TYPE is one of the following: admin_home_t, courier_spool_t, etc_aliases_t, etc_t, exim_log_t, exim_spool_t, mail_home_rw_t, mail_home_t, mail_spool_t, mqueue_spool_t, munin_var_lib_t, postfix_etc_t, qmail_spool_t, sendmail_log_t, system_mail_tmp_t, tmp_t, user_home_dir_t, uucpd_spool_t, var_log_t.
Then execute:
restorecon -v '.esmtp_queue'

***** Plugin catchall (17.1 confidence) suggests **************************

If you believe that mktemp should be allowed write access on the .esmtp_queue directory by default.
Then you should report this as a bug.
You can generate a local policy module to allow this access.
allow this access for now by executing:
# ausearch -c 'mktemp' --raw | audit2allow -M my-mktemp
# semodule -X 300 -i my-mktemp.pp

I decided to change the context to mail_home_rw_t and tried again. It worked.

It is worth noting that at some point I also did setsebool httpd_can_sendmail=1. Without that, httpd can’t use sendmail,

Fixing PHP’s ‘Warning: simplexml_load_file(): I/O warning : failed to load external entity’

Today I had to re-visit a Drupal module I wrote in 2015. The module parses an external XML file which it loads using simplexml_load_file. When I opened the version of the site that lives in my local server, and visited the page that uses the module, I got the error in the title of this entry. I checked php.ini to make sure allow_url_fopen was On. It was.

Searching the web I came to a bug report in the php website. It was suggested to restart the apache server since the contents of resolv.conf may have changed after the server, and php got their DNS servers entry. This made sense to me, since I have switched networks since turning the computer on. I gave it a try, and it worked:

service httpd restart

Other info:

  • The location of php.ini in my case, running Fedora with php installed using dnf, is /var/php.ini
  • The location of resolv.conf is /etc/resolv.conf

The sources I visited:

So Long Online Localhost

As you may know from previous posts, I have a server at home that I use for development. I had this server online thanks to, but today I got an unpleasant notification from one of my clients. He reported that the server was not working. This was not good news. As it turns out, I don’t know why the server stopped working. All I know is that it is taking too long to respond, which is weird because I can access it from the internal network without a problem.

I have two thoughts:

1) My ISP blocked me.
2) My server was someone hacked, and is being blocked.

The second thought is a strong one, especially considering that the last incoming connection from outside the server, as reported by the apache logs is this: – – [04/Dec/2012:12:11:01 -0800] “\xce\x89\x8d\x85b\ro” 400 317 “-” “-“

Under other circumstances I would mask the IP with, but considering that this person was trying something malicious, why the heck would I care.

What I did after deciding to give up on trying to restore access to the server from outside the local network is this:

1) Clear the port forwarding table in the router.
2) Delete my hostname
3) Adjust my tools so they would FTP and SSH to the server’s local IP.
4) Clear my old web domain contents to make space to upload projects there so that clients can access them.
5) Add a new line to the host file: dev
This allows me to use dev/projectname/ in my machine rather than typing the ip of the server.

It will be a pain having to upload project updates at the end of every day, but for now that is what I will have to do. I’m considering a VPS on Hostgator, but I need to look a bit more into that option. The one thing that I regret for now is not having the “luxury” of going to the cafe and work from there, since my server is now unreachable from outside the local network.

I am also considering a full reinstall on the server to 1) Make sure that if anyone did hack and messed around the server it will go back to normal, and 2) To maybe change distro, Ubuntu doesn’t make me happy anymore. This time I might compile apache and php again, rather than installing some pre-compiled version.

Ideally, I would like to have a machine online again, even if I have to pay for that, but it must allow me to use it just as if it were right next to me. It must allow me full control over it, even if it is a VM. By that I mean, I should be able to install, and uninstall any software that I need. Access should be over SSH, at the least. Do you know any good service that provides this? Should I go with Hostgator VPS?

Setting Up mod_status on Apache

Via hacker news I found an interesting article that talked about popular sites that leave the server status page visible to everybody. If you would like to read the article, you can find it at This got me interested on setting up mod_status on my server. Now, I want to teach you how you can set up mod_status on your server and make sure only you can access it. The first thing you need to do is make sure mod_status is enabled. Open the terminal and type:

a2enmod status

If you need admin permissions, use sudo in front of everything else.

Once it is enabled, we need to set a handler for it. Open you apache2.conf file, or httpd.conf file depending on which you use. In my case, running ubuntu on my server, I use apache2.conf, located at /etc/apache2/apache2.conf. Since this file is most likely owned by the server, you need to use sudo:

sudo vim /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

Now you need to add this to that file:

<Location /server-status>
SetHandler server-status

Order Deny,Allow
Deny from all
Allow from

What this is doing is setting a Location handler for the /server-status path. The handler is the server-status module. Then we proceed to deny access to it for all, and allow access only from and any subdomine of it. You will need to change that part to allow access only for the desired domains. In my case, I access my server from the internal network, so I allowed access only from the ip of the machine that I use to access the server.

Let me explain a bit more that part. I have a server running, which can be accessed via its url. However, in my hosts file I’ve set up a rule to point the server’s url to the server’s internal ip. This is important because then my computer accesses the server from its internal ip, which is The server’s internal ip is Now, what I need to do is allow access to the /server-status page only to connections coming from, which is my computer’s ip. So the part I added to the apache2.conf file looks like this:

<Location /server-status>
SetHandler server-status

Order Deny,Allow
Deny from all
Allow from

Now I can access the /server-status information only from my computer. Not even the server itself has access to it.

You can change the Location part to something else like Location /status or Location /pirates, and then you would access the server info via that path, but I found that doing that allows the server to access the information via /server-status even if we specify access only for connections coming from a different ip than the server’s. My suggestion would be to leave the Location part as is.

To learn more about the mod_status module, check out the apache docs page:

Fixing 500 OOPS: vsftpd: refusing to run with writable root inside chroot() on vsftpd

I was informed last night by one of my clients that he could not log into the server via ftp. I was surprised, and immediately blamed the new update (Ubuntu 12.04 LTS). This new update, updates vsftpd to 2.3.5, which tries now to be more secure by not allowing login with writable root directory. This does not affect my user, but if you remember from when we set up the new user, we added a list of users who would chroot() to their home directories. This directories are writable, so vsftpd is not allowing them to login.

The solution, as simple as it sounds, is to revoke writable permissions to this directories. Depending on how you have your system set up, this might not be the best solution for you. In my case it made no much difference. I have the user’s home directory set as wp-content, a directory inside any wordpress installation. My client only needs to be able to upload plugins, so giving him access to only that part of the server seemed like a good idea. The only thing I had to make sure of, is that he were not able to write to that file, so vsftpd would not complain. I did this:

chmod a-w /path/to/wp-content/
chmod u+w /path/to/wp-content/

First we remove write permissions for everybody, then add them only to the owner of the file, which in this case is not my client, but me. If the user you are trying to fix is the owner of the directory, don’t do the second line.

This fixes the problem, and you don’t even have to restart vsftpd.

Some references:

I am a curious person, and this time I got curious about chroot, if you are curious too, read:

Set Up Postfix to Solve Blocked Port 25 Issue, and Send Emails from Localhost.

Or Stop Complaining, and Solve the Problem

Jump right to the answer without reading my badly narrated experience

I wrote a few hours ago about AT&T blocking port 25, and why that matters. For a moment, I decided to just write that post and wait until morning to call AT&T, but then I asked about the issue on Super User, and the answer I got made me curious about this issue, so I went back to it. It paid off. I was finally able to fix the problem. It took me already about 7 hours going on and off on this issue, but I’ve learned some new stuff, which is great. Now I just need to hurry up and start working on the project that required localhost to be able to send emails.

It is actually not that difficult to solve this problem, but it can be if you don’t know how to. I hope I can save you many hours with this post.

Based on the idea I got from the answer on Super User, I decided to try to use a different port. I had tried before using an smtp server to relay the emails. I tried with my ISP’s SMTP server ( according to their website). But it would not work. All I got was a connection timeout. This is because I was attempting to connect on port 25, which is blocked.

So, I started playing with the port number. First I followed the steps outlined on this website: but that didn’t help. And to be honest I’m not quite sure what it is they are doing in that post, so I just decided to put everything back. I will copy and paste the post, just to be sure to keep the content in case that site goes offline. We never know:

By default, Postfix listens on the SMTP port number 25. Some ISPs block this port number so you may wish to provide an alternate port number to listen to or change it altogether.


1. Edit the file /etc/postfix/ and find the line below. You can comment the line below by adding # in front of the line to disable SMTP port 25.

smtp inet n – n – – smtpd

Next, add this line

25000 inet n – n – – smtpd

Replace 25000 with your preferred alternate port number.

Restart the Postfix service or the MailScanner service if you have integrated MailScanner into Postfix.

If you have enabled the firewall, you need to configure the firewall to allow traffic on the new port number.

Test Postfix by connecting on the new port number. Use the terminal command telnet localhost [port] instead of telnet localhost smtp to test your new port number.

Since this did not help, I was back to square 1. Next I did some stupid things like trying to set the relay on the file (/etc/postfix/ to localdomain, and localhost. This of course were just plain stupid ideas, but I didn’t know what else to do. I got the idea from reading the section “What delivery method: direct or indirect” on the postfix configuration manual, which by the way is very interesting.

Well, none of that helped. So I decided to try with my online server’s smtp server. I got this value because at some point I set an account on Thunderbird to see if it had any problem sending emails. Thunderbird automatically detected my server’s smtp server, and that is the value I used, but I’m sure that if you have a hosting provider, and they offer email service with your own domain name, you should have your server’s smtp server address. In my case it is

Once again, it would not work because I was using the wrong port number. So I searched for information on how to change the port number. However, I was confused, and ignorant, so I searched for how to change the port number on sendmail, since the last instructions on post number changing hadn’t helped at all. I found results like these:

The problem is that sendmail is a different program, so none of them were of help. If I mention them it is just because I like to read this kind of posts later when I have a better understanding of the subject, and laugh at my own ignorance ūüėČ

At the moment, I did not know that I was seeing documentation, and answers for another program, so I was looking for on my computer. This turned out to be a good thing, because it took me to the place where I found the answer to the problem.

Trying to find, I got to this forum post:
Which not only has good information, but also links to:
Where I found the answer to the problem. I must admit that before trying this out, I continued wasting time trying some other stupid things, like the aforementioned about localdomain as relyhost. Why? Pure lazines. I didn’t want to follow through the steps outlined on that post. Shame on me!

Also, at some point I considered using some kind of public SMTP server, or getting one from Searching for public SMTP servers, I got to this websites, that have information that I considered to be useful: <- A list of outgoing SMTP servers <- Info about why we need public SMTP servers.
I considered using some other SMTP server quite early in this process, but it was just an idea I had, and not an appealing one.

Anyway, if you didn't read the post about how to solve the problem, this is basically what you need to do:

Firs you need an SMTP server, could be your ISP’s SMTP server. You will use it to relay your email. IF it requires authentication, you will need your user name and password.

First you need to create a file on /etc/postfix/. Call this file relay_passwd. I assume you could call it anything you want, but relay_passwd is a good name. On this file put the login information: USER:PASSWORD

you need to change for your smtp server, USER for your username, and PASSWORD for your password.

Once you’ve created this file, you need to run

postmap /etc/postfix/relay_passwd

on the command line.
This will create a new file, with .db extension. If you forget this step, like I did, you will get an error.

bad command startup -- throttling postfix

As this page explains: The real error is a couple of lines before, and it will say that the file relay_passwd.db is missing. IF you get this error, chances are you forgot to run the postmap command.

Once you have the .db file, you need to set the following on your /etc/postfix/ file:

relayhost = []  # this is the important line!
smtp_sasl_auth_enable = yes
smtp_sasl_password_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/relay_passwd
smtp_sasl_security_options = 

Don’t overlook that last option. When I first made this changes, I decided not to add that line because it has no value. As it turns out, that line is overwriting the default value. If your smtp server expect plain text for authentication, you need that line, as explained on If you don’t add that line, but you need it, you will get an error saying “SASL authentication failed; cannot authenticate to server[serverip]: no mechanism available”. If you get this error, then you need that line.

Finally, restart your postfix:

sudo /etc/init.d/postfix restart

And that’s it. Now your server should be able to send email.

It took me a long time, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of reading on the mail log file (/var/log/mail.log) to fix this issue, and although I’m tired, and sleepy, I feel quite stisfied that I was able to solve it. But I hope I can avoid you going through the same process by writing this entry on my blog. Good luck, and happy coding!

Mr. AT&T, Could You Stop Blocking Port 25?

Well, I just lost more than 4 hours trying to get my localhost to work. Amazing how much time we can waste on simple tasks. Especially, when we are stubborn.

A while back I showed you how to set your local server to send out email. That is really a simple task, but it can become an impossible task if your ISP decides to block port 25, which AT&T does. To some extent, I’m contempt with the internet service I get for aforementioned ISP, but today I just want to kill them.

Since they have decided to block port 25, I cannot send email from my locally installed wordpress instances. Is this important? Not most of the time, but when my project requires emails to be sent, then it becomes a problem. Sometimes you can just do little tricks like printing out the content of the email, and that is OK. After all, you are on development phase, and you know to disable the line that prints out the text when your project goes live. But when the whole project depends on emails being sent, and those emails have attachments, then that is a different story.

Fortunately, there is an open network that I can connect to. This seems not to block port 25, so I was able to determine that the settings on my configuration file for postfix are OK, and that it works. I was able to send emails to a gmail account. Not to hotmail account since, according to the mail logs, they don’t seem to accept incoming email from dynamic IPs.

For now, I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow and call my ISP help desk, and see what I can do about that.

If you wish to read more on the subject, I suggest the following: (spanish)

There is also this nice website to find out if a port is open on your network. Although, that is for incoming connections, rather than outgoing:

Adding New FTP Users on Localhost (vsftpd)

A while back I wrote about how to install an FTP server for your localhost. It is a very simple thing to do, and it is really useful. You can, for example, share files with other people via FTP, or access your files from any computer that has internet connection. Even with your phone. SSH is always better, of course, because it is a remote shell, but FTP is sometimes enough.

The FTP server we are using is vsftpd, and basically, any user that is registered on the machine can log in via FTP. This could be a problems. For example, I was required to give one of my clients access to my local server via FTP. I wanted to restrict the directories he has access to, but if you don’t set vsftpd properly, you can end up giving somebody full access to your machine. This is a real problem.

So, how do you add new users to vsftp properly? You need to change the configuration file for vsftpd.

First you need to create a new user, if you don’t have it yet. In my case I didn’t. Just create a user as you would normally do. On Ubuntu 11.10, just go to the User button on the top right corner, and choose the Online Accounts… option. This will open up a window, and there you can choose to create a new user.

Once your new user has been created, a home folder for that user is created too. In my case, I wanted to give this new user access to another part of the computer, so I just changed the user’s default home folder to the path of the directory I wanted to give the user access to:

usermod -d /path/to/new/homedir/ username

Just input that on the command line, and press enter. Remember to change the path, and the username to the correct values.

Once we have the user set, it is time to modify the vsftpd configuration file.
Just open the file, which should be located at /etc/vsftpd.conf

Look for:


and set them as shown above. You might need to open the config file with root privileges. In that case sudo will be your friend, or gksudo if you are using a graphical text editor.

This two settings pretty much let vsftpd know that you will be using a list to specify which users will chroot() to their home directory. This means that for those users the root or topmost directory will be their home directory, thus preventing them from having access to any other part of your computer.

Since you are already editing the config file, you might want to set the local_umask directive to 022


By default vsftpd has a default umask of 077, which means that when a user uploads a file to the server, the file gets set with permission 700, and this makes it pretty much inaccessible, depending on your server configuration.

Save your changes, and create a new file on /etc/ and call it vsftpd.chroot_list

sudo touch /etc/vsftpd.chroot_list

Open this file and add the name of the users you want to chroot() to their home directory.

Restart vsftpd

sudo restart vsftdp

And you are all set. Before giving your user their username and password, you might want to check that in fact everything went well, and they cannot access anything beyond their home directory.

Something I learned is that you should not put a comment after any of the directives on the config file. It will cause and error and you might have to reconfigure vsftpd.

Some articles that were useful are listed here for future reference:—usermod

Installing an FTP Server on Ubuntu

I had been postponing this task for some time now thinking that it would be time consuming. However, it is actually pretty simple.

Since I did not know of any FTP server, I did a quick search:

aptitude search ftp

I got a bunch of results but I decided to try vsftp after seeing somewhere that it was the default daemon for linux. So I just ran

sudo apt-get install vsftpd

And that is it. I’m done.

I tested using fireftp on my other machine and it connects via ftp to the server. Now, this setup is just for an in-house server. If you plan on opening your ftp server to the outside world, you should read more about the matter, and read the man pages for vsftpd.

Also take a look at the configuration file located on /etc/vsftpd.conf

Some links that might be useful:
This last link is just a search results list. One one of those result previews is where I read that vsftpd is the default ftp daemon on linux, but the link, which points to is unreadable.