Using perror to explain mysql error codes

A customer came to us with a problem copying one database to another, and requested we do it for him.  Once we logged in we saw the error fairly quickly

~# mysqldump -uadmin -p`cat /root/.mysqlpass` database >dbdump.sql
mysqldump: Got error: 29: File './database/tablename.MYD' not found (Errcode: 24) when using LOCK TABLES

It can be fairly easy to work out what the error message means using something called perror

~# perror 24
OS error code 24: Too many open files

Once you know the error, you can add the work around that fixes it. In this case make it do a single transaction to dump the large database.

~# mysqldump --single-transaction -uadmin -p`cat /root/.mysqlpass` database >dbdump.sql

If you ever have a problem similar, and need a hand with that, just let us know.

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DNS amplification DoS attacks

loudspeakersIf you are running a DNS server, then you need to check it is not being co-opted into 'DNS amplification attacks'.

Random nasty servers (typically part of virus created bot-nets) send your DNS server a short request but use a fake source IP address.  Your DNS server then sends a (typically) long reply back to that fake source IP address.

The fake source IP address gets a lot of traffic from your DNS server.  You get abuse complaints.  Your server uses a ton of bandwidth.

Why do the 'nasty servers' do this?

First, their involvement is hidden.  The target IP is getting traffic from your server responding to the fake source IP.  And you cannot easily tell where the traffic is really coming from.  Typically the requests are fire-and-forget UDP requests.

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Happy holidays 2012

UntitledThank you to all our wonderful customers for your business in 2012.

A number of our staff are taking a break over Christmas and the New Year to be with friends and family. And to take advantage of this beautiful kiwi summer. Sometimes downtime really is a good thing.

So we will be operating with a reduced support crew for a while.

If you have non-URGENT requests, questions and comments then just forget about them for a bit and instead just enjoy the holidays.

We are still 'all go' for any emergencies or urgent issues.

We will be back up to regular staffing levels from about 3 January.  And our rested staff will back to their keen, prompt and helpful selves.

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Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal install images

We are proud to announce the release of the new installer images for Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal Server Edition. It is available as an reinstall option for existing servers, or in the new servers orders page

The version is intended for those looking at getting newer versions of the packages for the 12.04 LTS (long term support) image. The trade off is that it is not LTS, having only 18 months of package updates from Ubuntu.

On the server-side there is not too much new or remarkable in the 12.10 image.  Most packages get minor updates.  We have provided a new kernel 3.6.4 for these images.  The install comes with a refreshed Python 3.2.

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Custom VPS Image via API

The RimuHosting server management API can be used to create new servers (and shut them down and reinstall them and more).

The API lets you pass in scripts that run during setup.  And to provide links to external files.

This lets you do some interesting things.  Like using the API to setup a custom image.  Maybe a snapshot of a server you have.  Or migrating a dedicated server image to a VPS image.  Or installing a TurnKey ISO.  Or grabbing an image of a distro type we do not offer as standard.  Or deploying a custom image you have created for your distributed web service.

The below script accepts a filesystem image from a URL with a zip, tar.bz2, tag.gz or iso which will be used to populate the VPS filesystem. This needs to be a live system image (not an installer).

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New Relic Shirts and Goodies Arrived

Today a box arrived apon my doorstep, i was super excited when i saw the New Relic stickers on the outside! I took it to work, and opened it to find a slew of goodies including shirts, bottle openers, can coolers, stickers galore!

I carefully went around every ones desk in the office sharing out the goodies so when they came in they had a nice surprise when they arrived at work.

Everybody was super happy with their new shirts, and other bits and pieces, huge thanks go out to the guys at New Relic!

Back Row: Eugene, Peter, Erwin, Glenn
Front Row: Juan, Paul

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Finding Exploits and Trojan php hacks on a website

Its always unfortunate when you are exploited, and the best method to fix a site is to wipe and restore from a known backup as well as track down the entry point they gained access and fix it.

Sometimes you need to 'clean' a site of these files before migrating things over however , or to keep the site going for a short time until you are able to do this. This is what this HOWTO is for, keeping things going for a short time until you can track down the entry point, or migrate/upgrade the site and get it back online.

I use multiple methods to identify scripts, and even doing so there will probably be things that are missed. Here are the ones i usually use
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Servers for Hurricane Sandy refugees

Has your hosting been affected by Hurricane Sandy?  We would like to offer you free hosting.

Order a server from

In the order comments say "My server is affected by Hurricane Sandy.  May I please have the $50 credit."

We will verify that server has been 'Sandy-ized', apply the credit and setup your server.

You will not be required to make any payment until after the credit runs out (typically in 1-2 months depending on what server you order).  You can cancel and shutdown the server at any time.

If you have any questions, just let us know here (in the comments) or in live chat at

Posted in Rimuhosting | 2 Comments

Blocking malicious crawlers or scrapers in Apache

Occasionally we see a customer who has a popular website that often gets people trying to crawl it and copy the lot, This has the unfortunate side effect that its hammering the site.

Made worse only by dynamic pages and loops this can literally take down a server in some occasions. Often you can slow them down by putting something in a robot.txt in the DocumentRoot like this

User-agent: *
Crawl-delay: 5

You can even use various geoip blocking techniques and firewalls, though these are harder and more complex.

If you are unlucky then you need to take another form of action. You can manually block these when you see them in the logs, but if you are getting hit by them a lot it may pay automate blocking them.
In one such case a user had taken every option he could to block them, including firewalling entire countries from his server. This is what we ended up resorting to
I put the following code into a script called and ran it on a crontab every 5 minutes.

# This is the threshold they get blocked at
# logfile to parse
apachelogfiles="/var/www/vhosts/ /var/www/vhosts/"
if [ ! -f /tmp/cb.txt ];
touch /tmp/cb.txt
for logfile in $apachelogfiles ; do
        /bin/cat ${logfile} | /usr/bin/awk '{print $1}' | /usr/bin/sort | /usr/bin/uniq -c | /usr/bin/sort -n | /usr/bin/tail | while read line
        do num=$(echo ${line} | /usr/bin/awk '{print $1}')
        ip=$(echo ${line} | /usr/bin/awk '{print $2}')
        # echo Num ${num} and IP ${ip}
        if [ $num -gt $threshold ];then
                if ! /bin/grep -Fxq ${ip} /tmp/cb.txt
                        echo ${timestamp} detected bot from ${ip} - blocking >>/var/log/messages
                        /sbin/iptables -I INPUT -s ${ip} -j REJECT
                        echo ${ip} >>/tmp/cb.txt

This script basically searches for anyone who has hit the server over 2500 times in your current log. That number is changeable if you want more or less leeway, and it would be easy to adapt that to ignore local ips or similar (just add in a grep -v in the line under timestamp).

If you used this regularly it would probably help to remove the ip cache from /tmp/cb.txt and save the iptables every now and again.

Let us know if you need this setup at all on your VPS by dropping in an email to support.

Note: this script was made to work on debian based system, may need paths tweaked for other distros

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Finding spam sending PHP scripts on your server

PHP LogoEveryone has the occasional user who may leave something on their server that may send spam, or not update things as fast as they should. Tracking down the spammer can be a real problem though.
Sometimes you can track down the domain, but not the script, other times they may have so many files that its nearly impossible.

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