Using Gmail SMTP Servers to Send Email From WordPress on DigitalOcean

wpdo

Use Gmail SMTP Servers for Sending Emails from WordPress

After quite a bit of back and forth between sendmail, postfix, and exim, I’ve settled on using msmtp for sending emails from my servers/droplets at DigitalOcean (affiliate link).

MSMTP is very lightweight and has the ability to send emails via an existing SMTP server, like Gmail’s or Yahoo’s.

To get it working, there’s a few tricks. I’ve pieced this together from this post and this post. And when on DigitalOcean, there’s an IPv6 issue that causes major delays in sending the email, which there’s a fix for at the end of this post.

1. Install msmtp

2. Configure msmtp to use Gmail

Open up /etc/msmtprc as root: sudo nano /etc/msmtprc, and add the following, removing whatever else is there:

You’ll want to replace the user directive with a valid Gmail email address, a Gmail account or a Google Apps email address will work, too. Don’t forget to change enter-password-here! to the actual password for the Gmail account your using.

Save /etc/msmtprc.

3. Remove Sendmail

Run this:

4. Setup Some Aliases

Lots of software on Linux systems uses the sendmail command. Instead, we’re using msmtp, so we’re essentially invoking msmtp when the sendmail command is run.

5. Tell PHP About msmtp

First, locate your php.ini file that’s being used by Apache. It’s typically in /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini. If that’s not it, use PHP’s phpinfo() function to find the location of your php.ini file.

Find sendmail_path = in php.ini and replace it with this:

Now you should be able to send mail using PHP’s mail() function, which will use the Gmail SMTP server to send emails. Add this to a PHP file and access it through your browser to see if it works:

6. Disable IPv6 If You Experience Slowness

Open up /etc/gai.conf like so:

Now, look for a line that looks like this: #precedence ::ffff:0:0/96 100. Uncomment that line (remove the #) and save /etc/gai.conf. An explanation of why this helps can be found in this comment at the DigitalOcean article.

All Done

That should be it. If you run into any issues please do leave a comment, I’ll do my best to help you out. I may have missed a part, so no guarantees this will work for you. It does however work wonderfully on a DigitalOcean droplet that’s running Ubuntu 14.04 with a pretty standard LAMP stack.

You should now be able to send email from WordPress on DigitalOcean.

Simple Server Monitoring with Ping.gg

ping.gg

It really is the world’s most simple server monitoring service

Best of all, Ping.gg is currently free! Ping.gg will ping your server constantly, with an interval of 10 seconds.

Victor, the ping.gg creator, will be releasing all the Go code on GitHub eventually, but will keep the UI/PHP pieces to himself. It sounds like HTTP response checking is also in the works:

There is a ping daemon (Go app) that is listening for a couple of redis pub/sub channels for hosts to start and stop pinging. Each host is handled by a different goroutine. When something goes up or down, it publishes the host in another 2 redis pub/sub channels.

This is what I’ll release as open source, before I do I’d like to refactor it so it’s not tightly couple with redis, but rather have an interface there, so it’s easy to change the redis pub/sub interface with, for example, HTTP calls.

Monitor a Site with Ping.gg

To monitor a site (my.example.com), issue this command:

I’ll let Victor explain how it works:

After you provide a hostname or IP and your email address, you’ll be sent an email with 3 generated URLs that you can to click to start, stop and delete your tracking. Every time you server goes down or back online you will receive a notification, which will also include the control URLs. BTW, check your spam folder… you know the drill.

Every time my.example.com is unreachable, you’ll receive an email at [email protected]. An example email is below.
ping.gg-down-email

That’s It

Issuing that curl command is all you need to do. You’ll receive an email after adding a site to monitor asking you to active the monitoring. There’s also a link in that email so you can stop or pause monitoring of a site if you wish.

Ping.gg allows 10 sites to be monitored per email address. Ping.gg considers your server/site to be down when it fails to answer 6 pings in a row.

Hoping that Victor builds this into a full fledged service with account dashboards and all, just because it’s sooo simple. The Terms of Service possibly indicate that a professional service may be available at some point:

As previously stated, this is not a professional service (not now at least) so by using this service you agree to the following:

  1. You use this service at your own risk.
  2. There is no warranty that the service will work properly or at all.
  3. Your alerts might be terminated without notice.
  4. The service can stop operating anytime without notice.

Go ahead and give Ping.gg a try, it’s been very reliable for me and I’ve had no issues with it. Keep the Terms of Service in mind, however.

Inbox by Gmail Invites

3037483-poster-p-1-google-reimagines-email-with-their-new-inbox-app

A Christmas gift for you

I’ve got 10 invites for Inbox by Gmail. If you want one, just leave a comment below.

First come, first serve.

Final Update

I’ve exhausted all my invites. If you want one, leave a comment anyway, others have been sending invites to people here, too. Or, check the Designer News thread. A guy there is offering invites if you send him your email address.

Real Final Update

I’m out of invites, but post your email if you want one. A number of kind individuals have been sending invites to people leaving their emails in the comments.

Update Jan 22, 2015

I now have 9 more invites to send out for those of you that still want an invitation to Inbox by Gmail. Just leave a comment and I’ll get one sent to you.

Update Feb 20, 2015

Got 10 more invites, view this post to request one.

Protecting Yourself When Using BitTorrent, And The New Put.io

newputio

Stop receiving copyright infringement notices from your ISP

I like BitTorrent a LOT. I’ve used it since it’s release around 2001 or 2002. Recently, however, it’s become more risky to download torrents from your home internet connection.

Disclaimer: I am absolutely not condoning downloading copyrighted material, of any kind. This is aimed at giving casual BitTorrent users some things to consider and nothing more

A number of my friends have received copyright infringement notices from their ISP’s for downloading a movie, music album, or any copyrighted material, for that matter. Most ISP’s will terminate your service if you continue to infringe.

When you download a torrent to your computer, and you aren’t using a VPN, your IP address will be reported to the BitTorrent tracker (that’s just how BitTorrent works). Various groups (including anti-piracy groups) can gather IP addresses of people downloading any given torrent, so having your ISP provided IP show up there could result with you receiving a copyright infringement notice.

That’s where having a VPN comes into play. If you’re connected to a VPN while downloading a torrent on your computer, the IP address of the VPN server will be reported to the BitTorrent tracker, instead of your ISP provided IP.

Skip Protection Options and Go Straight to Reading About the New Put.io Interface

Protection Methods

You have a few options that offer various levels of protection, depending on how much money you want to spend, or how paranoid you are. :) Three pretty simple options are detailed below. These methods aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe, but should be sufficient for most “casual” pirates. You’re still at risk using these methods, please read the clarification on protection part at the end of this post.

Option 1. Use a VPS for a personal VPN (aka: Poor Mans VPN)

I’ve referred to this as a poor mans VPN in the past. Basically, get a VPS from a hosting company, like DigitalOcean (referral link). You can get a VPS from DigitalOcean for just $5/month.

Once you have the VPS, just follow the steps I outlined in my Poor Man’s VPN post and you’ll be all set.

Option 2. Get a Paid VPN

A good way to hide the IP provided by your ISP is to use a VPN. There are many paid VPN services available, like IPVanish and ExpressVPN. I know a few folks who use IPVanish and are very happy with the service.

Option 3. Use Put.io

I’ve been using Put.io for around a year now and will never go back to running a BitTorrent client on any of my machines. Put.io is a cloud-based BitTorrent client, plus much more.

Put.io was a no-brainer for me, as it’d free me of the need to download files directly to my computer. The unofficial Put.io Android app from Steven Schoen supports streaming to Chromecast, which sealed the deal for me.

That means I can stream videos straight from Put.io to my Chromecast, without the need to ever download them to my computer. I’ve often explained it to friends as a sort of personal Netflix.

Put.io also has a feature that will download your torrent immediately. If another Put.io user has already downloaded the torrent you’re downloading, the files will be copied to your account, so you never even connect to the BitTorrent tracker to download data. It’s pretty awesome.

Another benefit of Put.io is that it frees up your home internet connection bandwidth, all the downloading and seeding is done on the Put.io network. This means you’d no longer have to waste your bandwidth to seed the torrents you’ve downloaded. This is a major factor for some people, especially those who don’t have very fast upload speeds at home (like me).

There’s also a pretty active group of third-party developers who make various apps and extensions for Put.io. Steven Schoen is one such example. He’s been updating his Put.io Android client quite frequently, and recently implemented Google’s Material Design into the app. And it looks amazing.

I’m surprised that Put.io hasn’t tried to hire Steven Schoen to bring his app under the Put.io umbrella, making it an official Android client. Maybe the have, who knows.

A couple screenshots from the Put.io Android app are below.

So, which method should I use?

If you have a Chromecast and an Android device, I’d suggest using Put.io. It’s a nice all-in-one solution, and plans start at only $9.99 a month, which gets you 50GB of storage. I have yet to find a Put.io iOS client that has Chromecast support, however there are Put.io clients for iOS, just not with Chromecast support.

Even if you don’t have a Chromecast, or don’t have the ability to stream from a Put.io client to a Chromecast, you can still benefit from Put.io. After a torrent is finished downloading in Put.io, you can download the files from Put.io to your computer. Just like downloading a file from your Dropbox account using the Dropbox website.

If you want to download torrents to your computer using a more conventional BitTorrent client, like Transmission, I’d advise using a VPN. A paid VPN or the Poor Mans VPN setup will work.

Most paid VPN services have multiple VPN servers that you can connect to, so the IP being reported to the BitTorrent tracker can be changed pretty easily, just by connecting to a different VPN server. IPVanish has plans starting at $10/month and have hundreds of servers located around the world.

If you went the Poor Mans VPN route, changing your IP would be slightly more difficult because your VPS would likely have a static IP. But it’s still not your IP from your ISP. The BitTorrent tracker would see the IP address of your VPS instead of the IP provided by your ISP, giving you some level of protection. There’s still the possibility that a copyright holder could send a copyright infringement notice to your VPS host. Worst case there is you’d lose your VPS, which is far better than having your ISP terminate your internet service.

Just some things to take into consideration before you decide what the best solution is for you.

My Recommendation

Use Put.io.

Especially if you have an Android device and a Chromecast. Even if you don’t have a Chromecast or Android device to stream to the Chromecast, you can still download the files from Put.io to your computer.

Put.io is a bit more expensive than the other options, but is well worth it in my opinion. Put.io offers 4 plans:

  • 50GB of storage for $9.99 a month
  • 200GB of storage for $19.99 a month
  • 500GB for $29.99 a month
  • 1000GB for $49.99 a month

A Quick Poll

Do you use any method to obscure your IP from BitTorrent trakers?

View Results

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Now, On To The New Put.io

A couple months ago, Put.io released a new interface to their website, which also implements aspects of Google Material Design. The new interface is still being built and tested, but can be previewed at http://soon.put.io/.

Here’s a screenshot of the new Put.io interface (it’s the featured image for this post, too).
newputio

And here’s a screenshot of the old Put.io interface, which is still the default.
oldputio

The new interface is much easier to use than the old. It makes extensive use of AJAX, which makes for a much nicer user experience as far as not having to wait for a new page to load. It’s also much more visually appealing.

The new interface and the Put.io Android client from Steven Schoen look very similar to each other, providing a consistent look across the put.io website and the Android client. Not really important for functionality, but it’s nice to have a consistent look across the board for a specific service.

End

This post covered a lot of material and was written without much revising. If I’ve gotten something wrong, I’d really appreciate you letting me know.

If anyone knows of a Put.io client for iOS that supports Chromecast, please let me know! I’m an Android guy but my daughter has an iPad mini, and I’d love if she could cast from a Put.io client on her iPad to the Chromecast.

Comments are open if you have any questions or anything else to add.

Clarification on Protection

The protection methods listed aren’t full proof, something I thought was quite obvious. All methods listed can lead to your IP address being discovered, but they all add an additional step that law enforcement must do to find your IP. Some scenarios that would result in your IP address being discovered are covered below.

Scenario 1. A law enforcement agency could demand user information from a VPN provider, which would reveal your identity if the VPN provider complied. Same deal with the Poor Man’s VPN solution. Law enforcement could request information from your VPS host, and if your VPS host complied, your identity would be revealed.

Scenario 2. A Law Enforcement agency could demand user info from Put.io, which would also reveal your identity, provided Put.io complies with the request. Put.io says they respect the privacy of their users, but there’s still absolutely no way to prove that they wouldn’t hand over user information if it was requested. However, I tend to trust Put.io more than most companies, simply because they’re not based in the United States and the owner is a genuinely good guy.

In both scenarios listed above, your home IP would be revealed. But why not make law enforcement jump through some hoops to get your IP? Instead of just handing it to them like you do when downloading a torrent from a public tracker without using a VPN.

If you’re uploading new movies to public trackers or are downloading massive amounts (think terabytes a month) of copyrighted material, none of the protection options I’ve outlined will offer you enough protection. Those of you who would draw the attention of anti-piracy groups who would get law enforcement involved should be able to figure out better ways to protect your identity. And that’s not something I care to cover.