Posted by & filed under Documentation, PHP.

Using PHP sessions can be a problem when your PHP applications are load-balanced on many web servers. You can store them on a NFS export or recode the session_set_save_handler using a SQL backend for example. But there is no solution more efficient, more scalable, more performant and easier to deploy than using memcached…

Memcached is a high-performance, distributed memory object caching system, generic in nature, but intended for use in speeding up dynamic web applications by alleviating database load…

Many well-known huge architecture (Facebook, Livejournal, Youtube…) are using it as memory caching to reduce the load on their servers. It can also be used to share PHP sessions among several servers. Let’s see how…


The first thing is to install the memcached server on your Debian server :

apt-get install memcached

Then, since the memcache PECL extension now provides its own session handler, it’s easy to plug PHP and memcached servers. Just install the appropriate extension (from Dotdeb) :

apt-get install php5-memcache

and change some of your PHP settings :

session.save_handler = files
; session.save_path = "N;/path"

to :

session.save_handler = memcache
; change server:port to fit your needs...

That’s all! After relaunching your Apache2 server, your PHP sessions will be stored on the memcached server.

Posted by & filed under Documentation, Mail.

Greylisting is very useful to avoid most of the incoming spam on your mail server. The Qmail packages shipped on Dotdeb have built-in MySQL-based greylisting. Here is how to enable it…


First of all, be sure to have Qmail installed from Dotdeb with a version number greater than 1.03-37.dotdeb.1.
Then, since we’ll use a MySQL backend to share the greylisting database between several servers, be sure to have MySQL installed somewhere on your boxes.

In our example, we’ll create the database (we’ll name it relaydelay) and grant access to user@host with the password “password“. You’re free to change these values to fit your needs…

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON `relaydelay`.* TO 'user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

Then, we create the needed tables :

CREATE TABLE relaytofrom
  id              bigint          NOT NULL        auto_increment,
  relay_ip        char(16),
  mail_from       varchar(255),
  rcpt_to         varchar(255),
  block_expires   datetime        NOT NULL,
  record_expires  datetime        NOT NULL,
  blocked_count   bigint          default 0 NOT NULL,
  passed_count    bigint          default 0 NOT NULL,
  aborted_count   bigint          default 0 NOT NULL,
  origin_type     enum("MANUAL","AUTO") NOT NULL,
  create_time     datetime        NOT NULL,
  last_update     timestamp       NOT NULL,
  primary key(id),
  relay_ip      varchar(18)       NOT NULL,
  relay_name    varchar(255)      NOT NULL,
  last_update   timestamp         NOT NULL,
  primary key(relay_ip),
  id              bigint          NOT NULL        auto_increment,
  relay_ip        varchar(16)     NOT NULL,
  relay_name      varchar(255),
  dns_mismatch    bool            NOT NULL,
  mail_from       varchar(255)    NOT NULL,
  rcpt_to         varchar(255)    NOT NULL,
  rcpt_host       varchar(80)     NOT NULL,
  create_time     datetime        NOT NULL,
  primary key(id),

We now have to put the appropriate settings in the /etc/init.d/qmail init script…

export MYSQLHOST="localhost"
export MYSQLUSER="user"
export MYSQLPASS="password"
export MYSQLDB="relaydelay"
export BLOCK_EXPIRE=5           # minutes until email is accepted
export RECORD_EXPIRE=600        # minutes until record expires

and in the /usr/sbin/greylisting-delete-expired :


We can now relaunch Qmail and enable or disable the greylisting with a simple symbolic link :

ln -s /usr/bin/qmail-envelope-scanner /usr/sbin/qmail-envelope-scanner


Example wildcard whitelists for subnets :

INSERT INTO relaytofrom VALUES (0,""   ,NULL,NULL,"0000-00-00 00:00:00","9999-12-31 23:59:59",0,0,0,"MANUAL",NOW(),NOW());
INSERT INTO relaytofrom VALUES (0,"192.168"     ,NULL,NULL,"0000-00-00 00:00:00","9999-12-31 23:59:59",0,0,0,"MANUAL",NOW(),NOW());

Example wildcard whitelist entry for a recieved domain or subdomain

INSERT INTO relaytofrom VALUES (0,NULL,NULL,"","0000-00-00 00:00:00","9999-12-31 23:59:59",0,0,0,"MANUAL",NOW(),NOW());

Posted by & filed under Documentation, PHP.

Since PHP4 is officially dead, it is now urgent to migrate your applications to PHP5, but it’s not that easy and you’ll have to test them before replacing PHP4 by PHP5 on your server. This article will help you to install both PHP4 and PHP5 on your box and swicth easily between them…

The problem

It is not possible to enable both PHP4 and PHP5 Apache2 modules on the same webserver, it causes shared objects collision. Then, the idea is to enable PHP5 as Apache2 module on one side and PHP4 as CGI on the other side.

Please note that this solution is not a good idea anywhere else but on developpement servers and should be temporary because of the performance and security issues of PHP as CGI.


First, we have to install the appropriate PHP packages and their dependencies (from Dotdeb, of course) :

apt-get install libapache2-mod-php5 php4-cgi

Apache2 is now configured by default to parse .php files with the mod_php5 module.

But, using mod_actions, we can tell Apache2 to parse .php files with the php4 CGI. First, enable mod_actions :

a2enmod actions
/etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload

Now, by adding the following two lines in a Virtualhost or Directory (…) context or directly in the main Apache2 configuration file, we’ll switch from PHP5 to PHP4 :

AddHandler php-script .php
Action php-script /cgi-bin/php4

(It could be necessary to reload your apache configuration :

/etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload


The result
To check that all works fine, create a file, called phpinfo.php, containing the following code :

Depending on the presence (or not) of the two above magical lines, a HTTP request on the script will show a PHP4 (or PHP5)-typical output.

Posted by & filed under MySQL.

Norbert Tretkowski recently worked on packaging MySQL 5.0.67, the latest Community Edition release of MySQL Server. But, since the next Debian version – Lenny – is already frozen, the packages were not uploaded to the official archive.

Instead of that, I rebuilt them and made them available on Dotdeb for Etch amd64/i386.

Please take a look at the official Changelog before upgrading and thank Norbert for his good work.

Posted by & filed under Documentation, Mail.

The Qmail package from Dotdeb has been built with SMTP-auth features (but disabled by default). Here is the way to use them…


First of all, we suppose that :

  • you installed the last Qmail and Vpopmail packages from Dotdeb
  • you’re launching them using the bundled init scripts (with tcpserver)


To enable SMTP-auth, you just have to edit the /etc/init.d/qmail init script and replace these lines :

sh -c "start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --user qmaild
  --pidfile /var/run/ --make-pidfile
  --exec /usr/bin/tcpserver -- -R
  -u `id -u qmaild` -g `id -g nobody` -x /etc/tcp.smtp.cdb 0 smtp
  $rblsmtpd /usr/sbin/qmail-smtpd 2>&1
  | $logger &"

by these ones :

sh -c "start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --user qmaild
    --pidfile /var/run/ --make-pidfile
    --exec /usr/bin/tcpserver -- -R
    -u `id -u qmaild` -g `id -g nobody` -x /etc/tcp.smtp.cdb 0 smtp
    $rblsmtpd /usr/sbin/qmail-smtpd /usr/sbin/vchkpw /bin/true 2>&1
    | $logger &"

Then, we have to setuid /usr/sbin/vchkpw :

chmod u+s /usr/sbin/vchkpw

and restart Qmail :

/etc/init.d/qmail stop
/etc/init.d/qmail start

The result

You will now be able to use the SMTP PLAINTEXT authentification. You just have to configure your favorite mail transport agent…

Posted by & filed under PHP.

On August 7th, the PHP Group has published the last version of PHP4, numbered 4.4.9 :

It continues to improve the security and the stability of the 4.4 branch and all users are strongly encouraged to upgrade to it as soon as possible. This release wraps up all the outstanding patches for the PHP 4.4 series, and is therefore the last PHP 4.4 release.

On August 22nd, Stefan Esser released the appropriate Suhosin patch, allowing me to package PHP 4.4.9 for Debian Etch amd64/i386 (Sarge support is now discontinued).

Take a look at the PHP4 Changelog before upgrading.