Linux Server Administration Tips

Accidental Ctrl+S Locks and Freezes Linux Terminal / SSH / Telnet

Ctrl+S happens to be a rather handy and popular combination as it’s used in Windows applications to save your current working data. I accidentally used it several times in Vim and it keeps locking the screen up and halting the interactivity – basically, after Ctrl+S I can’t do anything to the terminal (window). I use PuTTY in Windows to access my Linux hosting via SSH.

A few lookups in Linux manuals reveal the secrets, the Ctrl+S key combination temporarily freezes the screen but the input is recorded though not dealt with. Once you press Ctrl+Q, it is unlocked and all the flood of input you have provided to the terminal takes immediate effect.

So, don’t panic when you accidentally pressed Ctrl+S and seemingly freezes everything, just press Ctrl+Q to exit it.

Linux Server Administration Tips

How to change Vim syntax highlighting colors?

Unbuntu has auto-configured Vim to use syntax highlighting for text (mostly, programs and configuration files of course) editing, the problem however, is that some of the colors appear to be darker than wanted on SSH console and it’s a little hard to recognize comfortably.

So how can we change the default colors of the syntax highlighting?

  1. Locate Vim configuration file which is located at /etc/vim/vimrc, add a line after ‘syntax on’: colorscheme desert
  2. Now that we are prescribing Vim to use the syntax color scheme desert, we will want to find the scheme file to change the colors that we don’t feel comfortable with. The desert color scheme file is located at: /usr/share/vim/vimcurrent/colors/desert.vim
  3. Proceed to open it with vi and replace the color values with new ones. For example, the default comment color may be a little too dark on a black screen, let’s make it lighter by changing
    hi Comment      ctermfg=darkcyan


    hi Comment      ctermfg=blue
  4. Reload the vimrc configuration file by performing ‘source /etc/vim/vimrc’ at shell.
Hosting Tips & Deals

Just signed up with Mosso Cloud Servers

Unmanaged hosting provided by Rackspace acquisition Mosso, Cloud Servers can be really a bargain considering their dedicated support and ease of use from the control panel.

The pain lies in the server administration and stuff which I’m still learning my ropes with. But hey, for less than $15 a month, it’s fun!

I’ll throw in a preliminary review after a month or so with them. At the same time, for premium hosting needs, you may want to try mosso Cloud Sites.

Anti Spam Tips & Tricks Content / SEO Tips & Tutorials Google Hacks, Cheats & Tips Information Security

How to know if your site has been penalized by Google for malicious software or suspicious content?

Back when WordPress was pretty young there’s some loopholes that enable hackers to inject unauthorized and dangerous HTML code into your website pages, thus promoting the distribution of malware that damages the end users computer. I was once there and got penalized by Google for one of my sites. However, they are gentle enough to detect that this might not be my fault but still decided to bring down the overall ranking of all the pages on that site for a while to protect Internet users and notify me.

If you have spotted anything suspicious or sense that your overall site ranking is down, you may want to check it out for sure if your site has been infected with malware or anything else that’s a threat to your site and the visitors.

Just go here:

And Google will present you a detailed report of what they have found on your site for the last 90 days.

SQL / MySQL Tips and Tutorials

MySQL: Find Duplicate Entry / Rows / Records

A quick tip – I kind of have the feeling that I’ve covered this before, but whatever – well, just the simple SQL query below will do:

CREATE TABLE temp SELECT id, COUNT(id) FROM `book` GROUP BY isbn, subject HAVING COUNT(id) > 1

Wherein each combination of column isbn and column subject in each of the rows from table book should be unique and you want to find out those duplicate ones. You can simply select without creating a temporary table to store the duplicates, but this would come handy when the book table has like 1 million records.

To do more by not just finding duplicate records but also extracting the unique ones, read this.

Hilariously Funny or Creepy SQL / MySQL Tips and Tutorials

MySQL: Huge Table Not Responding after Adding Index

Today I’m optimizing some MySQL tables with large number of records – 1 million of them, yeah, I know – , it’s simply impossible to deal with such big chunks of data without proper indexing. So there I was, adding a variety of indexes to a few of the columns.

It’s expected it’d take a few hours to complete with such mega size tables, but what’s not expected is that after 2 days, the index adding seems to be still going on as all the tables are not responding to any queries. I can’t even select the first record. It takes *forever*, both from phpmyadmin and shell mysql.

What’s the catch? I’ve no idea. But let’s at least free those poor tables from choking first. So after dropping the index I was trying to add from mysql command line, all the tables returned normal.


DROP INDEX culprit ON bigtable

But the ultimate convict still eludes me. Any ideas? I still need to add those indexes.

PHP Tips & Tutorials

PHP: Compress Files into Tar or Zip – Make A Zip File or Tar File with PHP

PHP can execute shell commands, which means it can compress selected files into a archive or zipped package:

exec('tar zcf files.tar.gz file1 file2 file3');

Or make a zip file:

exec('zip file1 file2 file3');

You can then use PHP to render and supply download of the zip file to your visitor.

PHP Tips & Tutorials

PHP: Hide the Real File URL and Provide Download via a PHP Script

There are times when you need to store a file (such as one that you sell for profit) outside of the document root of your domain and let the buyers download it via a PHP script so as to hide the real path, web address or URL to that file. Use of this approach enables you to:

  1. Check for permissions first before rendering the file download thus protecting it from being downloaded by unprivileged visitors.
  2. Store the file outside of the web document directory of that domain – a good practice in web security in protecting sensitive and important data.
  3. Count the number of downloads and collect other useful download statistics.
  4. …

Now the actual tip. Given that you have put the file to be downloaded via the PHP script in place at /home/someuser/products/data.tar.gz, write a PHP file with the following content in it and put it in the web document directory where your site visitors can access:

$path = '/home/someuser/products/data.tar.gz'; // the file made available for download via this PHP file
$mm_type="application/octet-stream"; // modify accordingly to the file type of $path, but in most cases no need to do so

header("Pragma: public");
header("Expires: 0");
header("Cache-Control: must-revalidate, post-check=0, pre-check=0");
header("Cache-Control: public");
header("Content-Description: File Transfer");
header("Content-Type: " . $mm_type);
header("Content-Length: " .(string)(filesize($path)) );
header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'.basename($path).'"');
header("Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary\n");

readfile($path); // outputs the content of the file


Now your site visitors can and can only download the protected file via the PHP script.

SQL / MySQL Tips and Tutorials

MySQL: Counting Number of Records or Rows by a Foreign Column (from Another Table)

Well, MySQL doesn’t actually have anything called Foreign Key, it’s just my way of saying a alien column from another table.

Let’s say 2 tables are related, 1 is books and the other is subjects. Any book in book table falls into one of the subjects, thus having a subject column referencing the ID of one of the subjects in subject table.

You need to know the number of books from each of the subjects, namely, 243 books in subject Education, 77 books in Science, etc.

Now how do we do this? Simple. Just perform the following SQL query:

SELECT, COUNT( FROM subject, book GROUP BY book.subject HAVING book.subject =
SQL / MySQL Tips and Tutorials

MySQL: Update Multiple Rows or Records with One Single Query

As MySQL doesn’t have inherent support for updating more than one rows or records with a single update query as it does for insert query, in a situation which needs us to perform updating to tens of thousands or even millions of records, one update query for each row seems to be too much.

Reducing the number of SQL database queries is the top tip for optimizing SQL applications.

So, is there any other way around with just a few MySQL queries that  equals to millions of single row update queries?

Yes, but you need a temporary table.

Step 1: Create a temporary table

This table should have 2 columns: 1) an ID column that references the original record’s primary key in the original table, 2) the column containing the new value to be updated with.

Creating this table, you can use insert queries as it conveniently inserts more than one rows at a time (with a single query) – actually, as many rows as you need, like 1000 a time.

Step 2: Transfer the new values from the temporary table to the intended table

Use the query below:

UPDATE original_table, temp_table SET original_table.update_column = temp_table.update_column WHERE = temp_table.original_id

To transfer all the new values you have in the temporary table to the original table. After this, you have successfully updated the original table with much much less than a million queries, probably just a hundred or so.

UPDATE =============================================

So here’s perhaps a better idea in most of the cases, use the CASE WHEN ELSE END syntax of MySQL to update multiple rows in the options table of your web application:

UPDATE `options` SET `value` = CASE `name`
WHEN 'site_name' THEN 'My Blog'
WHEN 'site_url' THEN ''
WHEN 'site_email' THEN '[email protected]'
ELSE `value`

Make sure you include the ELSE `value` because if you don’t, the other rows not mentioned here will be updated to have empty values.

Update multiple records in a table by `ID` =============================================

Below is an example of updating more than one rows in a table by the id field. The field_name field is updated to the corresponding value: value_1, value_2, or value_3 if the id equals to 1, 2, or 3:

UPDATE `table_name` SET `field_name` = CASE `id`
WHEN '1' THEN 'value_1'
WHEN '2' THEN 'value_2'
WHEN '3' THEN 'value_3'
ELSE `field_name`

Yet another way =============================================

There’s also another way of doing this: