Wednesday, August 12, 2009

.htaccess tips and tricks

.htaccess tips and tricks

 clever stuff here

Introduction to .htaccess..

This work in constant progress is some collected wisdom, stuff I've learned on the topic of .htaccess hacking, commands I've used successfully in the past, on a variety of server setups, and in most cases still do. You may have to tweak the examples some to get the desired result, though, and a reliable test server is a powerful ally, preferably one with a very similar setup to your "live" server. Okay, to begin..

..a win32 Apache mirror of     
peecee Explorer view with invisible files
.htaccess files are invisible

There's a good reason why you won't see .htaccess files on the web; almost every web server in the world is configured to ignore them, by default. Same goes for most operating systems. Mainly it's the dot "." at the start, you see?

If you don't  see, you'll need to disable your operating system's invisible file functions, or use a text editor that allows you to open hidden files, something like bbedit on the Mac platform. On windows, showing invisibles in explorer should allow any text editor to open them, and most decent editors to save them too**. Linux dudes know how to find them without any help from me.
Mac Finder view with invisible files
that same folder, as seen from Mac OS X

In both images, the operating system has been instructed to display invisible files. ugly, but necessary sometimes. You will also need to instruct your ftp client to do the same.

By the way; the windows screencap is more recent than the mac one, moved files are likely being handled by my clever 404 script.

** even notepad can save files beginning with a dot, if you put double-quotes around the name when you save it; i.e.. ".htaccess". You can also use your ftp client to rename files beginning with a dot, even on your local filesystem; works great in FileZilla.


What are .htaccess files anyway?

Simply put, they are invisible plain text files where one can store server directives. Server directives are anything you might put in an Apache config file (httpd.conf) or even a php.ini**, but unlike those "master" directive files, these .htaccess directives apply only to the folder in which the .htaccess file resides, and all the folders inside.

This ability to plant .htaccess files in any directory of our site allows us to set up a finely-grained tree of server directives, each subfolder inheriting properties from its parent, whilst at the same time adding to, or over-riding certain directives with its own .htaccess file. For instance, you could use .htacces to enable indexes all over your site, and then deny indexing in only certain subdirectories, or deny index listings site-wide, and allow indexing in certain subdirectories. One line in the .htaccess file in your root and your whole site is altered. From here on, I'll probably refer to the main .htaccess in the root of your website as "the master .htaccess file", or "main" .htaccess file.

There's a small performance penalty for all this .htaccess file checking, but not noticeable, and you'll find most of the time it's just on and there's nothing you can do about it anyway, so let's make the most of it..

** Your main php.ini, that is, unless you are running under phpsuexec, in which case the directives would go inside individual  php.ini files

Is .htaccess enabled?

It's unusual, but possible that .htaccess is not enabled on your site. If you are hosting it yourself, it's easy enough to fix; open your httpd.conf in a text editor, and locate this <Directory> section..
Your DocumentRoot may be different, of course..
# This should be changed to whatever you set DocumentRoot to.
<Directory "/var/www/htdocs">

..locate the line that reads..
AllowOverride None

..and change it to..
AllowOverride All

Restart Apache. Now .htaccess will work. You can also make this change inside a virtual host, which would normally be preferable.

If your site is hosted with someone else, check your control panel (Plesk. CPanel, etc.) to see if you can enable it there, and if not, contact your hosting admins. Perhaps they don't allow this. In which case, switch to a better web host.


What can I do with .htaccess files?

Almost any directive that you can put inside an httpd.conf file will also function perfectly inside an .htaccess file. Unsurprisingly, the most common use of .htaccess is to..

Control access..

.htaccess is most often used to restrict or deny access to individual files and folders. A typical example would be an "includes" folder. Your site's pages can call these included scripts all they like, but you don't want users accessing these files directly, over the web. In that case you would drop an .htaccess file in the includes folder with content something like this..

# no one gets in here!
deny from all

which would deny ALL direct access to ANY files in that folder. You can be more specific with your conditions, for instance limiting access to a particular IP range, here's a handy top-level rule for a local test server..

NO ENTRY outside of the LAN!
# no nasty crackers in here!
order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from
# this would do the same thing..
#allow from 192.168.0

Generally these sorts of requests would bounce off your firewall anyway, but on a live server (like my dev mirror sometimes is) they become useful for filtering out undesirable IP blocks, known risks, lots of things. By the way, in case you hadn't spotted; lines beginning with "#" are ignored by Apache; handy for comments.

Sometimes, you will only want to ban one IP, perhaps some persistent robot that doesn't play by the rules..

post user agent every fifth request only. hmmm. ban IP..
# someone else giving the ruskies a bad name..
order allow,deny
deny from
allow from all

The usual rules for IP addresses apply, so you can use partial matches, ranges, and so on. Whatever, the user gets a 403 "access denied" error page in their client software (browser, usually), which certainly gets the message across. This is probably fine for most situations, but in part two I'll demonstrate some cooler ways to deny access.

Custom error documents..

I guess I should briefly mention that .htaccess is where most folk configure their error documents. Usually with sommething like this..

the usual method. the "err" folder (with the custom pages) is in the root
# custom error documents
ErrorDocument 401 /err/401.php
ErrorDocument 403 /err/403.php
ErrorDocument 404 /err/404.php
ErrorDocument 500 /err/500.php

You can also specify external URLs, though this can be problematic, and is best avoided. One quick and simple method is to specify the text in the directive itself, you can even use HTML (though there is probably a limit to how much HTML you can squeeze onto one line). Remember, for Apache 1; begin with a ", but DO NOT end with one. For Apache 2, you can put a second quote at the end, as normal.

measure twice, quote once..
# quick custom error "document"..
ErrorDocument 404 "<html><head><title>NO!</title></head><body><h2><tt>There is nothing here.. go away quickly!</tt></h2></body></html>

Using a custom error document is a Very Good Idea, and will give you a second chance at your almost-lost visitors. I recommend you download mine. But then, I would.

Password protected directories..

The next most obvious use for our .htaccess files is to allow access to only specific users, or user groups, in other words; password protected folders. a simple authorisation mechanism might look something like this..

a simple sample .htaccess file for password protection:
AuthType Basic
AuthName "restricted area"
AuthUserFile /usr/local/var/www/html/.htpasses
require valid-user

You can use this same mechanism to limit only certain kinds of requests, too..

only valid users can POST in here, anyone can GET, PUT, etc:
AuthType Basic
AuthName "restricted area"
AuthUserFile /usr/local/var/www/html/.htpasses
<Limit POST>
 require valid-user

You can find loads of online examples of how to setup authorization using .htaccess, and so long as you have a real  user (or create one, in this case, 'jimmy') with a real  password (you will be prompted for this, twice) in a real  password file (the -c switch will create it)..

htpasswd -c /usr/local/var/www/html/.htpasses jimmy

..the above will work just fine. htpasswd is a tool that comes free with Apache, specifically for making and updating password files, check it out. The windows version is the same; only the file path needs to be changed; to wherever you want to put the password file.

Note: if the Apache bin/ folder isn't in your PATH, you will need to cd into that directory before performing the command. Also note: You can use forward and back-slashes interchangeably with Apache/php on Windows, so this would work just fine..

htpasswd -c c:/unix/usr/local/Apache2/conf/.htpasses jimmy

Relative paths are fine too; assuming you were inside the bin/ directory of our fictional Apache install, the following would do exactly the same as the above..

htpasswd -c ../conf/.htpasses jimmy

Naming the password file .htpasses is a habit from when I had to keep that file inside the web site itself, and as web servers are configured to ignore files beginning with .ht, they too, remain hidden. If you keep your password file outside the web root (a better idea), then you can call it whatever you like, but the .ht_something habit is a good one to keep, even inside the web tree, it is secure enough for our basic  purpose..

Once they are logged in, you can access the remote_user environmental variable, and do stuff with it..
the remote_user variable is now available..
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{remote_user} !^$ [nc]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /users/%{remote_user}/$1

Which is a handy directive, utilizing mod_rewrite; a subject I delve into far more deeply, in part two.

Get better protection..

The authentication examples above assume that your web server supports "Basic" http authorisation, as far as I know they all do (it's in the Apache core). Trouble is, some browsers aren't sending password this way any more, personally I'm looking to php to cover my authorization needs. Basic auth works okay though, even if it isn't actually very secure - your password travels in plain text over the wire, not clever.

If you have php, and are looking for a more secure login facility, check out pajamas. It's free. If you are looking for a password-protected download facility (and much more, besides), check out my distro machine, also free.

500 error..

If you add something that the server doesn't understand or support, you will get a 500 error page, aka.. "the server did a boo-boo". Even directives that work perfectly on your test server at home may fail dramatically at your real site. In fact this is a great way to find out if .htaccess files are enabled on your site; create one, put some gibberish in it, and load a page in that folder, wait for the 500 error. if there isn't one, probably they are not enabled.

If they are, we need a way to safely do live-testing without bringing the whole site to a 500 standstill.

Fortunately, in much the same way as we used the <Limit> tag above, we can create conditional directives, things which will only come into effect if certain conditions are true. The most useful of these is the "ifModule" condition, which goes something like this..

only if PHP is loaded, will this directive have any effect (switch the 4 for a 5 if using php5)
<ifModule mod_php4.c>
 php_value default_charset utf-8

..which placed in your master .htaccess file, that would set the default character encoding of your entire site to utf-8 (a good idea!), at least, anything output by PHP. If the PHP4** module isn't running on the server, the above .htaccess directive will do exactly nothing; Apache just ignores it. As well as proofing us against knocking the server into 500 mode, this also makes our .htaccess directives that wee bit more portable. Of course, if your syntax is messed-up, no amount of if-module-ing is going to prevent a error of some kind, all the more reason to practice this stuff on a local test server.

** note: if you are using php5, you would obviously instead use <ifModule mod_php5.c>.


Groovy things to do with .htaccess..

So far we've only scratched the surface. Aside from authorisation, the humble .htaccess file can be put to all kinds of uses. If you've ever had a look in my public archives you will have noticed that that the directories are fully browsable, just like in the old days before adult web hosts realized how to turn that feature off! A line like this..

bring back the directories!
Options +Indexes +MultiViews +FollowSymlinks

..will almost certainly turn it back on again. And if you have mod_autoindex.c installed on your server (probably, yes), you can get nice fancy indexing, too..

show me those files!
<IfModule mod_autoindex.c>
 IndexOptions FancyIndexing

..which, as well as being neater, allows users to click the titles and, for instance, order the listing by date, or file size, or whatever. It's all for free too, built-in to the server, we're just switching it on. You can control certain parameters too..

let's go all the way!
<IfModule mod_autoindex.c>
 IndexOptions FancyIndexing IconHeight=16 IconWidth=16

Other parameters you could add include..

IconsAreLinks SuppressHTMLPreamble (handy!)

I'm not mentioning the "XHTML" parameter in Apache2, because it still isn't! Anyways, I've chucked one of my old fancy indexing .htaccess file onsite for you to have some fun with. Just add readme.html and away you go! note: these days I use a single header files for all  the indexes..

HeaderName /inc/header.html

.. and only drop in local "readme" files. Check out the example, and my public archives for more details.

custom directory index files

While I'm here, it's worth mentioning that .htaccess is where you can specify which files you want to use as your indexes, that is, if a user requests /foo/, Apache will serve up /foo/index.html, or whatever file you specify.

You can also specify multiple files, and Apache will look for each in order, and present the first one it finds. It's generally setup something like..
DirectoryIndex index.html index.php index.htm

It really is worth scouting around the Apache documentation, often you will find controls for things you imagined were uncontrollable, thereby creating new possibilities, better options for your website. My experience of the magic "LAMP" (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) has been.. "If you can imagine that it can be done, it can be done". Swap "Linux" for any decent operating system, the "AMP" part runs on most of them.

Okay, so now we have nice fancy directories, and some of them password protected, if you don't watch out, you're site will get popular, and that means bandwidth..

Save bandwidth with .htaccess!

If you pay for your bandwidth, this wee line could save you hard cash..

save me hard cash! and help the internet!
<ifModule mod_php4.c>
 php_value zlib.output_compression 16386

All it does is enables PHP's built-in transparent zlib compression. This will half your bandwidth usage in one stroke, more than that, in fact. Of course it only works with data being output by the PHP module, but if you design your pages with this in mind, you can use php echo statements, or better yet, php "includes" for your plain html output and just compress everything! Remember, if you run phpsuexec, you'll need to put php directives in a local php.ini file, not .htaccess. See here for more details.

Hide and deny files..

Do you remember I mentioned that any file beginning with .ht is invisible? .."almost every web server in the world is configured to ignore them, by default" and that is, of course, because .ht_anything files generally have server directives and passwords and stuff in them, most  servers will have something like this in their main configuration..

Standard setting..
<Files ~ "^\.ht">
 Order allow,deny
 Deny from all
 Satisfy All

which instructs the server to deny access to any file beginning with .ht, effectively protecting our .htaccess and other files. The "." at the start prevents them being displayed in an index, and the .ht prevents them being accessed. This version..

ignore what you want
<Files ~ "^.*\.([Ll][Oo][Gg])">
 Order allow,deny
 Deny from all
 Satisfy All

tells the server to deny access to *.log files. You can insert multiple file types into each rule, separating them with a pipe "|", and you can insert multiple blocks into your .htaccess file, too. I find it convenient to put all the files starting with a dot into one, and the files with denied extensions into another, something like this..

the whole lot
# deny all .htaccess, .DS_Store $hî†é and ._* (resource fork) files
<Files ~ "^\.([Hh][Tt]|[Dd][Ss]_[Ss]|[_])">
 Order allow,deny
 Deny from all
 Satisfy All

# deny access to all .log and .comment files
<Files ~ "^.*\.([Ll][Oo][Gg]|[cC][oO][mM][mM][eE][nN][tT])">
 Order allow,deny
 Deny from all
 Satisfy All

would cover all ._* resource fork files, .DS_Store files (which the Mac Finder creates all over the place) *.log files, *.comment files and of course, our .ht* files. You can add whatever file types you need to protect from direct access. I think it's clear now why the file is called ".htaccess".


These days, using <FilesMatch> is preferred over <Files>, mainly because you can use regular expression in the conditions (very handy), produce clean, more readable code. Here's an example. which I use for my php-generated style sheets..

parse file.css and with the php machine..
# handler for phpsuexec..
<FilesMatch "\.(css|style)$">
 SetHandler application/x-httpd-php

Any files with a *.css or *.style extension will now be handled by php, rather than simply served up by Apache. And because you can use regexp, you could do stuff like <FilesMatch "\.s?html$">, which is handy. Any <Files> statements you come across can be advantageously replaced by <FilesMatch> statements. Good to know.

More stuff..

At the end of my .htaccess files, there always seems to be a section of "stuff"; miscellaneous commands, mainly php flags and switches; so it seems logical to finish up the page with a wee selection of those..

php flags, switches and other stuff..
# let's enable php (non-cgi, aka. 'module') for EVERYTHING..'
AddType application/x-httpd-php5 .htm .html .php .blog .comment .inc

# better yet..
AddHandler php5-script .php

# legacy php4 version..'
AddType application/x-httpd-php .htm .html .php .blog .comment .inc

# don't even think about setting this to 'on'
php_value register_globals off

# no session id's in the URL PULEEZE!
php_value session.use_trans_sid 0
# should be the same as..
php_flag session.use_trans_sid off
# using both should also work fine!

# php error logs..
php_flag display_errors off
php_flag log_errors on
php_value track_errors on
php_value error_log /home/cor/errors/phperr.log

# if you like to collect interesting php system shell access and web hack scripts
# get yourself a SECURE upload facility, and just let the script-kiddies come …
# in no time you will have a huge selection of fascinating code. If you want folk to
# also upload zips and stuff, you might want to increase the upload capacities..
php_value upload_max_filesize 12M
php_value post_max_size 12M

# php 5 only, afaik. handy when your server isn't where YOU are.
php_value date.timezone Europe/Aberdeen
# actually, Europe/Aberdeen isn't a valid php timezone, so that won't work.
# I recommend you check the php manual for this function, because many crazy places ARE!

Note: For most of the flags I've tested, you can use on/off and true/false interchangeably, as well as 0/1, also php_value and php_flag can be switched around while things continue to work as expected! I guess, logically, booleans should always be php_flag, and values, php_value; but suffice to say, if some php erm, directive  isn't working, these would all be good things to fiddle with!

Of course, the php manual explains all. The bottom line is; both will work fine, but if you use the wrong type in .htaccess, say, set a php_flag using php_value, a php ini_get() command, for instance, would return true, even though you had set the value to off, because it reads off value as a string, which of course evaluates to not-zero, i.e. 1, or "true". If you don't rely on get_ini(), or similar, it's not a problem, though clearly it's better to get it right from the start. By the way; one of the values above is incorrectly set. Did you spot it?

Most php settings, you can override inside your actual scripts, but I do find it handy to be able to set defaults for a folder, or an entire site, using .htaccess.

over to you..

That should get you started with .htaccess, quite easy when you know how. If you really want to bend your brain out of shape, follow the link below for part two of the series, where I delve into the arcane mysteries of URL rewriting.

more .htaccess tips and tricks..

more clever stuff here

redirecting and rewriting

"The great thing about mod_rewrite is it gives you all the configurability and flexibility of Sendmail. The downside to mod_rewrite is that it gives you all the configurability and flexibility of Sendmail."

- Brian Behlendorf, Apache Group

One of the more powerful tricks of the .htaccess hacker is the ability to rewrite URLs. This enables us to do some mighty manipulations on our links; useful stuff like transforming very long URL's into short, cute URLs, transforming dynamic ?generated=page&URL's into /friendly/flat/links, redirect missing pages, preventing hot-linking, performing automatic language translation, and much, much more.

Make no mistake, mod_rewrite is complex. This isn't the subject for a quick bite-size tech-snack, probably not even a week-end crash-course, I've seen guys pull off some real cute stuff with mod_rewrite, but with kudos-hat tipped firmly towards that bastard operator from hell, Ralf S. Engelschall, author of the magic module itself, I have to admit that a great deal of it still seems so much voodoo to me.

The way that rules can work one minute and then seem not to the next, how browser and other in-between network caches interact with rules and testing rules is often baffling, maddening. When I feel the need to bend my mind completely out of shape, I mess around with mod_rewrite!

After all this, it does work, and while I'm not planning on taking that week-end crash-course any time soon, I have picked up a few wee tricks myself, messing around with webservers and web sites, this place..

The plan here is to just drop some neat stuff, examples, things that have proven useful, and work on a variety of server setups; there are apache's all over my LAN, I keep coming across old .htaccess files stuffed with past rewriting experiments that either worked; and I add them to my list, or failed dismally; and I'm surprised that more often these days, I can see exactly why!

Very little here is my own invention. Even the bits I figured out myself were already well documented, I just hadn't understood the documents, or couldn't find them. Sometimes, just looking at the same thing from a different angle can make all the difference, so perhaps this humble stab at URL Rewriting might be of some use. I'm writing it for me, of course. but I do get some credit for this..

# time to get dynamic, see..
RewriteRule (.*)\.htm $1.php

beginning rewriting..

Whenever you use mod_rewrite (the part of apache that does all this magic), you need to do..

..before any ReWrite rules. note: +FollowSymLinks must be enabled for any rules to work, this is a security requirement of the rewrite engine. Normally it's enabled in the root and you shouldn't have to add it, but it doesn't hurt to do so, and I'll insert it into all the examples on this page, just in case*.

The next line simply switches on the rewrite engine for that folder. if this directive is in you main .htaccess file, then the ReWrite engine is theoretically enabled for your entire site, but it's wise to always add that line before you write any redirections, anywhere.

* Although highly unlikely, your host may have +FollowSymLinks enabled at the root level, yet disallow its addition in .htaccess; in which case, adding +FollowSymLinks will break your setup (probably a 500 error), so just remove it, and your rules should work fine.

Important: While some of the directives on this page may appear split onto two lines, in your .htaccess file, they must exist completely on one line. If you drag-select and copy the directives on this page, they should paste just fine into any text editor.

simple rewriting

Simply put, Apache scans all incoming URL requests, checks for matches in our .htaccess file and rewrites those matching URLs to whatever we specify. something like this..

all requests to whatever.htm will be sent to whatever.php:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)\.htm$ $1.php [NC]

Handy for anyone updating a site from static htm (you could use .html, or .htm(.*), .htm?, etc) to dynamic php pages; requests to the old pages are automatically rewritten to our new urls. no one notices a thing, visitors and search engines can access your content either way. leave the rule in; as an added bonus, this enables us to easily split php code and its included html structures into two separate files, a nice idea; makes editing and updating a breeze. The [NC] part at the end means "No Case", or "case-insensitive"; more on the switches, later.

Folks can link to whatever.htm or whatever.php, but they always get whatever.php in their browser, and this works even if whatever.htm doesn't exist! But I'm straying..

As it stands, it's a bit tricky; folks will still have whatever.htm in their browser address bar, and will still keep bookmarking your old .htm URL's. Search engines, too, will keep on indexing your links as .htm, some have even argued that serving up the same content from two different places could have you penalized by the search engines. This may or not bother you, but if it does, mod_rewrite can do some more magic..

this will do a "real" external redirection:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.+)\.htm$$1.php [R,NC]

This time we instruct mod_rewrite to do a proper external rewrite, aka, "redirection". Now, instead of just background rewriting on-the-fly, the user's browser is physically redirected to a new URI, and whatever.php appears in their browser's address bar - search engines and other spidering entities will automatically update their links to the .php versions; everyone wins. You can take your time with the updating, too.

Note: if you use [R] alone, it defaults to sending an HTTP "MOVED TEMPORARILY" redirection, aka, "302". But you can send other codes, like so..

this performs the exact same as the previous example RewriteRule.
RewriteRule ^(.+)\.htm$$1.php [R=302,NC]

Okay, I sent the exact same code, but I didn't have to. For details of the many 30* response codes you can send, see here. Most people seem to want to send 301, aka, "MOVED PERMENENTLY".

Note: if you add an "L" flag to the mix; meaning "Last Rule", e.g. [R=302,NC,L]; Apache will stop processing rules for this request at that point, which may or may not be what you want. Either way, it's useful to know.

not-so-simple rewriting ... flat links and more

You may have noticed, the above examples use regular expression to match variables. What that simply means is.. match the part inside (.+) and use it to construct "$1" in the new URL. In other words, (.+) = $1 you could have multiple (.+) parts and for each, mod_rewrite automatically creates a matching $1, $2, $3, etc, in your target (aka. 'substitution') URL. This facility enables us to do all sorts of tricks, and the most common of those, is the creation of "flat links"..

Even a cute short link like http://mysite/grab? is too ugly for some people, and nothing less than a true old-school solid domain/path/flat/link will do. Fortunately, mod_rewrite makes it easy to convert URLs with query strings and multiple variables into exactly this, something like..

a more complex rewrite rule:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^files/([^/]+)/([^/]+).zip /download.php?section=$1&file=$2 [NC]

would allow you to present this link as..


and in the background have that transparently translated, server-side, to..


which some script could process. You see, many search engines simply don't follow our ?generated=links, so if you create generating pages, this is useful. However, it's only the dumb search engines that can't handle these kinds of links; we have to ask ourselves.. do we really want to be listed by the dumb search engines? Google will handle a good few parameters in your URL without any problems, and the (hungry hungry) msn-bot stops at nothing to get that page, sometimes again and again and again…

I personally feel it's the search engines that should strive to keep up with modern web technologies, in other words; we shouldn't have to dumb-down for them. But that's just my opinion. Many users will prefer /files/games/ to /download.php?section=games&file=hoopy but I don't mind either way. As someone pointed out to me recently, presenting links as standard/flat/paths means you're less likely to get folks doing typos in typed URL's, so something like..

an even more complex rewrite rule:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^blog/([0-9]+)-([a-z]+)$1-$2 [NC]

would be a neat trick, enabling anyone to access my blog archives by doing..

in their browser, and have it automagically transformed server-side into..

which corzblog would understand. It's easy to see that with a little imagination, and a basic understanding of posix regular expression, you can perform some highly cool URL manipulations.

Here's the very basics of regexp (expanded from the apache mod_rewrite documentation)..


<strong>\</strong>char escape that particular char

For instance to specify special characters.. <strong>[].()\</strong> etc.


<strong>.</strong> Any single character (on its own = the entire URI)
<strong>[</strong>chars<strong>]</strong> Character class: One of following chars
<strong>[^</strong>chars<strong>]</strong> Character class: None of following chars
text1<strong>|</strong>text2 Alternative: text1 or text2 (i.e. "or")

<strong>e.g.</strong> <strong>[^/]</strong> matches any character <em>except</em> <strong>/</strong>
<strong>(foo|bar)\.html</strong> matches <strong>foo.html</strong> <em>and</em> <strong>bar.html</strong>


<strong>?</strong> 0 or 1 of the preceding text
<strong>*</strong> 0 or N of the preceding text (hungry)
<strong>+</strong> 1 or N of the preceding text

<strong>e.g.</strong> <strong>(.+)\.html?</strong> matches <strong>foo.htm</strong> <em>and</em> <strong>foo.html</strong>
<strong>(foo)?bar\.html</strong> matches <strong>bar.html</strong> <em>and</em> <strong>foobar.html</strong>


<strong>(</strong>text<strong>)</strong> Grouping of text

Either to set the borders of an alternative or
for making backreferences where the <strong>n</strong>th group can
be used on the target of a RewriteRule with <strong>$n</strong>

<strong>e.g. </strong> ^<strong>(.*)</strong>\.html foo.php?bar=<strong>$1</strong>


<strong>^</strong> Start of line anchor
<strong>$</strong> End of line anchor

An anchor explicitly states that the character <em>right next to it</em> MUST
be either the very first character ("^"), or the very last character ("$")
of the URI string to match against the pattern, e.g..

<strong>^foo(.*)</strong> matches <strong>foo</strong> and <strong>foobar</strong> but <em>not</em> <strong>eggfoo</strong>
<strong>(.*)l$</strong> matches <strong>fool</strong> and <strong>cool</strong>, but <em>not</em> <strong>foo</strong>

shortening URLs

One common use of mod_rewrite is to shorten URL's. Shorter URL's are easier to remember and, of course, easier to type. An example..

beware the regular expression:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^grab /public/files/download/download.php

this rule would transform this user's URL..


server-side, into..


which is a wee trick I use for my distro machine, among other things. everyone likes short URL's, and so will you; using this technique, you can move /public/files/download/ to anywhere else in your site, and all the old links still work fine; simply alter your .htaccess file to reflect the new location. edit one line, done - nice - means even when stuff is way deep in your site you can have cool links like this.. /trueview/sample.php and this; links which are not only short, but flat..

capturing variables

Slapping (.*) onto the end of the request part of a ReWriteRule is just fine when using a simple $_GET variable, but sometimes you want to do trickier things, like capturing particular variables and converting them into other variables in the target URL. Or something else..

When capturing variables, the first thing you need to know about, is the [QSA] flag, which simply tags all the original variables back onto the end of the target url. This may be all you need, and will happen automatically for simple rewites. The second thing, is %{QUERY_STRING}, an Apache server string we can capture variables from, using simple RewriteCond (aka. conditional ) statements.

RewriteCond is very like doing in many programming languages. If a certain condition is true, then do the rewrite that follows..

In the following example, the RewriteCond statement checks that the query string has the foo variable set, and captures its value while it's there. In other words, only requests for /grab that have the variable foo set, will be rewritten, and while we're at it, we'll also switch foo, for bar, just because we can..

capturing a $_GET variable:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} foo=(.*)
RewriteRule ^grab(.*) /page.php?bar=%1

would translate a link/user's request for..

server-side, into..

Which is to say, the user's browser would be fed page.php (without an [R] flag in the RewriteRule, their address bar would still read /grab?foo=bar). The variable bar would be available to your script, with its value set to bar. This variable has been magically created, by simply using a regular ? in the target of the RewriteRule, and tagging on the first captured backreference, %1.. ?bar=%1

Note how we use the % character, to specify variables captured in RewriteCond statements, aka "Backreferences". This is exactly like using $1 to specify numbered backreferences captured in RewriteRule patterns, except for strings captured inside a RewriteCond statement, we use % instead of $. Simple.

You can use the [QSA] flag in addition to these query string manipulations, merge them. In the next example, the value of foo becomes the directory in the target URL, and the variable file is magically created. The original query string is then tagged back onto the end of the whole thing..
QSA Overkill!
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} foo=(.+)
RewriteRule ^grab/(.*) /%1/index.php?file=$1 [QSA]

So a request for..

is translated, server-side, into..

Depending on your needs, you could even use flat links and dynamic variables together, something like this could be useful..

By the way, you can easily do the opposite, strip a query string from a URL, by simply putting a ? right at the end of the taget part. This example does exactly that, whilst leaving the actual URI intact..

just a demo!
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} .
RewriteRule foo.php(.*) /foo.php? [L]
The RewriteCond statement only allows requests that have something in their query string, to be processed by the RewriteRule, or else we'd end up in that hellish place, dread to all mod_rewriters.. the endless loop. RewriteCond is often used like this; as a safety-net.

cooler access denied

In part one I demonstrated a drop-dead simple mechanism for denying access to particular files and folders. The trouble with this is the way our user gets a 403 "Access Denied" error, which is a bit like having a door slammed in your face. Fortunately, mod_rewrite comes to the rescue again and enables us to do less painful things. One method I often employ is to redirect the user to the parent folder..

they go "huh?.. ahhh!"
# send them up!
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ ../ [NC]

It works great, though it can be a wee bit tricky with the URLs, and you may prefer to use a harder location, which avoids potential issues in indexed directories, where folks can get in a loop..

they go damn! Oh!
# send them exactly there!
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /comms/hardware/router/ [NC]

Sometimes you'll only want to deny access to most of the files in the directory, but allow access to maybe one or two files, or file types, easy..
deny with style!
# users can load only "", and the css and js files.
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !^(.+)\.css$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !^(.+)\.js$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !$
RewriteRule ^(.+)$ /chat/ [NC]

Here we take the whole thing a stage further. Users can access .css (stylesheet) and javascript files without problem, and also the file called "", but requests for any other filetypes are immediately redirected back up to the main "/chat/" directory. You can add as many types as you need. You could also bundle the filetypes into one line using | (or) syntax, though individual lines are perhaps clearer.

Here's what's currently cooking inside my /inc/ directory..

all-in-one control..
RewriteEngine on
Options +FollowSymlinks
# allow access with no restrictions to local machine at
RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} !
# allow access to all .css and .js in sub-directories..
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !\.css$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !\.js$
# allow access to the files inside img/, but not a directory listing..
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !img/(.*)\.
# allow access to these particular files...
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !comments.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !corzmail.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !digitrack.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !gd-verify.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !post-dumper.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !print.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !source-dump.php$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !textview.php$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ / [R,NC,L]

Ban User Agents, referrers, script-kiddies and more..

There are many valid reasons to ban a particular request from sucking up your site's resources; resources that could be better served to valid, interested users. It might be some cross-site attack script, or inward link from a place you don't want to be associated with, or perhaps a web sucker or download manager, whatever; .htaccess + mod_rewrite provides ways to protect your content from unwanted "guests".

The basic formula is standard if-then logic: if the request meets a particular CONDITION, then REWRITE the request. The "conditions" can be many things; perhaps the referrer header sent by their browser (the site they came from), or the page they asked for, or a particular query parameter, or the type of client (browser, etc.) they are using, or any other piece of information Apache has attached to the request. Here's an example which will deny access to "Teleport Pro", a download manager which is known to suck, hard..

Who need's a local copy, when I'm right here?..
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^Teleport\ Pro [NC]
RewriteRule . abuse.txt [L]

It's your site, and just like your home, you have every right to exert some control over who gets in. You may have a huge list of user agents you'd rather not have eating your bandwidth; so use the [OR] flag, and line 'em up..

A little garlic for the net vampires..
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^BackWeb [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^Bandit [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^BatchFTP [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^BecomeBot [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^BlackWidow [NC,OR]
# etc..
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^Net\ Vampire [NC]
RewriteRule . abuse.txt [L]

This forms the basis of what often becomes a HUGE list of ban-lines. Remember, we aren't limited to user agent strings..

Suckers, h4x0rz, kiddies, cross-site scripters and more.. Bye now!
# why not come visit me directly?
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} \.opendirviewer\. [NC,OR]
# this prevents stoopid cross-site discovery attacks..
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} \?\ HTTP/ [NC,OR]
# please stop pretending to be the Googlebot..
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} users\.skynet\.be.* [NC,OR]
# really, we need a special page for these twats..
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} \=\|w\| [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} etc/passwd [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} owssvr\.dll [NC,OR]
# you can probably work these out..
RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} \=\|w\| [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} \/\*\ HTTP/ [NC,OR]
# etc..
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} Sucker [NC]
RewriteRule . abuse.txt [L]

Fortunately, mod_rewite can parse enormous lists of ban-lines in milliseconds, so feel free to be as specific and comprehensive as required.

As ever, thorough testing is strongly recommended. Simply send requests matching your conditions and see what happens. And importantly; normal requests, too. Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, and most other decent browsers, allow you to alter the user agent string; though you would quickly find the process tedious in a testing situation. Far better to use some tool better designed to send fake HTTP requests..

It's not too difficult to mock up a web request on the command-line with any-old user agent using a scripting language like php or Perl, if you have these things available (read: most Linux/UNIX/BSD/etc. as well as many other OS). Many examples exist online. In fact, you could quickly create a suite of tests, designed to interrogate all your rewrite rules, with results logging and much more, if required. cURL is always useful for jobs like this, so long as you don't add a cURL ban-line!

On a Windows desktop, Sam Spade can send a single spoofed request with a couple of clicks, along with a stack of similarly handy tricks, and regularly proves itself invaluable.


prevent hot-linking

Believe it or not, there are some webmasters who, rather than coming up with their own content will steal yours. Really! Even worse, they won't even bother to copy to their own server to serve it up, they'll just link to your content!  no, it's true, in fact, it used to be incredibly common. These days most people like to prevent this sort of thing, and .htaccess is one of the best ways to do it.

This is one of those directives where the mileage variables are at their limits, but something like this works fine for me..

how DARE they!
Options +FollowSymlinks
# no hot-linking
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?corz\.org/ [NC]
RewriteRule .*\.(gif|jpg|png)$ [NC]

You may see the last line broken into two, but it's all one line (all the directives on this page are). Let's have a wee look at what it does..

We begin by enabling the rewrite engine, as always.

The first RewriteCond line allows direct requests (not from other pages - an "empty referrer") to pass unmolested. The next line means; if the browser did send a referrer header, and the word "" is not in the domain part of it, then DO rewrite this request.

The all-important final RewriteRule line instructs mod_rewrite to rewrite all matched requests (anything without "" in its referrer) asking for gifs, jpegs, or pngs, to an alternative image.

There are loads of ways you can write this rule; Google for "hot-link protection" and get a whole heap. Simple is best. You could send a wee message instead, or direct them to some evil script, or something. Mine is a simple logo, which I  think is rather clever. Actually, these days, I do something even cleverer-er..

lose the "www"

I'm often asked how I prevent the "www" part showing up at my site, so I guess I should add something about that. Briefly, if someone types into their browser (or uses the www part for any link at it is redirected to the plain, rather neat, version. This is very  easy to achieve, like this..

beware the regular expression:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{http_host} ^www\.corz\.org [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,NC]

You don't need to be touched by genius to see what's going on here. There are other ways you could write this rule, but again, simple is best. Like most of the examples here, the above is pasted directly from my own main .htaccess file, so you can be sure it works perfectly. In fact, I recently updated it so that I could share rules between my dev mirror and live site without any .htaccess editing..

here's what I'm currently using:
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.*) [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,NC,L]

multiple domains in one root

If you are in the unfortunate position of having your sites living on a host that doesn't support multiple domains, you may be forced to roll your own with .htaccess and mod_rewrite. So long as your physical directory structure is well thought-out, this is fairly simple to achieve.

For example, let's say we have two domains, pointing at a single hosted root; and In our web server root, we simply create a folder for each domain, perhaps one/, and two/ then in our main (root) .htaccess, rewrite all incoming requests, like this..

All requests NOT already rewritten into these folders, transparently rewrite..
#two domains served from one root..
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/one
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ one/$1 [L]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^two
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ two/$1 [L]

All requests for the host are rewritten (not R=redirected) to the one/ directory, so long as they haven't already been rewritten there (the second RewriteCond). Same story for Note the inconsistency in the RewriteCond statement; !^/dir-name and !^dir-name should both work fine.

Also note, with such a simple domain & folder naming scheme, you could easily merge these two rule sets together. This would be unlikely in the real world though, which is why I left them separate; but still, worth noting.

Other general settings and php directives can also go in this root .htaccess file, though if you have any further rewrite you'd like to perform; short URL's, htm to php conversion and what-not; it's probably easier and clearer to do those inside the sub-directory's .htaccess files.

automatic translation

If you don't read English, or some of your guests don't, here's a neat way to have the wonderful Google translator provide automatic on-the-fly translation for your site's pages. Something like this..

they simply add their country code to the end of the link, or you  do..
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)-fr$$1 [R,NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)-de$$1 [R,NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)-es$$1 [R,NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)-it$$1 [R,NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)-pt$$1 [R,NC]

You can create your menu with its flags or whatever you like, and add the country code to end of the links.. <a href="page.html-fr" id="... Want to see this page in French?

Although it is very handy, and I've been using it here for a couple of years here at the org, for my international blog readers, all two of them, heh. Almost no one knows about it, mainly because I don't have any links . One day I'll probably do a wee toolbar with flags and what-not. Perhaps not. Trouble is, the Google translator stops translating after a certain amount of characters (which seems to be increasing, good), though these same rules could easily be applied to other translators, and if you find a good one, one that will translate a really huge  document on-the-fly, do let me know!

If you wanted to be really clever, you could even perform some some kind of IP block check and present the correct version automatically, but that is outside the scope of this document. note: this may be undesirable for pages where technical commands are given (like this page) because the commands will also be translated. "RewriteEngine dessus" will almost certainly get you a 500 error page!

Another thing you might like to try; rather than individual country flags; fr, de, etc., use the "u" flag, for "Universal". In theory, Google will check the client's location, and automatically translate to that language. One line in your .htaccess would cover all languages, and automatically cover new ones as Google adds them.

While I'm here, slightly related; if you are non-english speaking, note, you can do a similar thing browser-side, create a "bookmarklet" (a regular bookmark, except that it "does something"), using this code for the location..
the same sort of thing, except browser-side..



Remember, if you put these rules in the main server conf file (usually httpd.conf) rather than an .htaccess file, you'll need to use ^/... ... instead of ^... ... at the beginning of the RewriteRule line, in other words, add a slash.


If you are creating rules in sub-folders of your site, you need to read this.

You'll remember how rules in top folders apply to all the folders inside those folders too. we call this "inheritance". normally this just works. but if you start creating other rules inside subfolders you will, in effect, obliterate the rules already applying to that folder due to inheritance, or "decendancy", if you prefer. not all the rules, just the ones applying to that subfolder. a wee demonstration..

Let's say I have a rule in my main /.htaccess which redirected requests for files ending .htm to their .php equivalent, just like the example at the top of this very page. now, if for any reason I need to add some rewrite rules to my /osx/.htaccess file, the .htm >> .php redirection will no longer work for the /osx/ subfolder, I'll need to reinsert it, but with a crucial difference..

this works fine, site-wide, in my main .htaccess file
# main (top-level) .htaccess file..
# requests to file.htm goto file.php
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^(.*)\.htm$$1.php [R=301,NC]

Here's my updated /osx/.htaccess file, with the .htm >> .php redirection rule reinserted..

but I'll need to reinsert the rules for it to work in this sub-folder
# /osx/.htaccess file..
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule some rule that I need here
RewriteRule some other rule I need here
RewriteRule ^(.*)\.htm$$1.php [R=301,NC]

Spot the difference in the subfolder rule, highlighted in red. you must add the current path to the new rule. now it works again, and all the osx/ subfolders will be covered by the new rule. if you remember this, you can go replicating rewrite rules all over the place.

If it's possible to put your entire site's rewrite rules into the main .htaccess file, and it probably is; do that, instead, like this..

it's a good idea to put all your rules in your main .htaccess file..
# root /.htaccess file..
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
# .htm >> .php is now be covered by our main rule, there's no need to repeat it.
# But if we do need some /osx/-specific rule, we can do something like this..
RewriteRule ^osx/(.*)\.foo$ /osx/$ [R=301,NC]

Note, no full URL (with domain) in the second example. Don't let this throw you; with or without is functionally identical, on most servers. Essentially, try it without the full URL first, and if that doesn't work, sigh, and add it - maybe on your next host!

The latter, simpler form is preferable, if only for its tremendous portability it offers - my live site, and my development mirror share the exact same .htaccess files - a highly desirable thing.

By the way, it perhaps doesn't go without saying that if you want to disable rewriting inside a particular subfolder, where it is enabled further up the tree, simply do:

handy for avatar folders, to allow hot-linking, etc..
RewriteEngine off


Lastly, a quick word about cookies. While it's easy enough to set cookies in .htaccess without any mod_rewrite..

create a cookie called "example-cookie", and set its value to "true"..
Header set Set-Cookie "example-cookie=true" will need it to read the cookie information back again, and "do stuff" with it. It's easy. For example, to check if the above cookie exists and has the correct value set, we could simply do..

check for that same cookie + value..
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !corz-tools=true
RewriteRule .* /err/401.php

..which could easily form the basis of a simple authentication system. As with any RewriteCond, you can get pretty complex, checking multiple cookies, utilizing regexp and more, but that's enough to get you started.


In short, mod_rewrite allows you to send browsers from anywhere to anywhere. You can create rules based not simply on the requested URL, but also on such things as IP address, browser agent (send old browsers to different pages, for instance), and even the time of day; the possibilities are practically limitless.

The ins-and outs of mod_rewrite syntax are topic for a much longer document than this, and if you fancy experimenting with more advanced rewriting rules, I urge you to check out the apache documentation.

If you have apache installed on your system, there will likely be a copy of the apache manual, right here, and the excellent mod_rewriting guide, lives right here. do check out the URL Rewriting Engine notes for the juicy syntax bits. That's where I got the cute quote for the top of the page, too.

troubleshooting tips..

rewrite logging..

When things aren't working, you may want to enable rewrite logging. I'll assume you are testing these mod_rewrite directives on your development mirror, or similar setup, and can access the main httpd.conf file. If not, why not?  Testing mod_rewrite rules on your live domain isn't exactly ideal, is it? Anyway, put this somewhere at the foot of your http.conf..

Expect large log files..
RewriteLog "/tmp/rewrite.log"
#RewriteLogLevel 9
RewriteLogLevel 5

Set the file location and logging level to suit your own requirements. If your rule is causing your Apache to loop, load the page, immediately hit your browser's "STOP" button, and then restart Apache. All within a couple of seconds. Your rewrite log will be full of all your diagnostic information, and your server will carry on as before.

Setting a value of 1 gets you almost no information, setting the log level to 9 gets you GIGABYTES! So you must remember to comment out these rules and restart Apache when you are finished because, not only will rewrite logging create space-eating files, it will seriously impact your web server's performance.

RewriteLogLevel 5  is very useful, but 2 is probably enough information for most issues.

Fatal Redirection

If you start messing around with 301 redirects [R=301], aka. "Permanently Redirected", and your rule isn't working, you could give yourself some serious headaches..

Once the browser has been redirected permanently  to the wrong address, if you then go on to alter the wonky rule, your browser will still  be redirected to the old address (because it's a browser thing), and you may even go on to fix, and then break  the rule all over again without ever knowing it. Changes to 301 redirects can take a long time to show up in your browser.

Solution: restart your browser, or use a different one.

Better Solution: Use [R] instead of [R=301] while you are testing . When you are 100% certain the rule does exactly as it's expected to, then  switch it to [R=301] for your live site.

A php script to make your mod_rewrite life easier!

When things aren't working as you would expect, you probably won't have to enable rewrite logging to get the information you need. What's usually required is no more than a quick readout of all the current variables, $_GET array, and so on; so you can see exactly what happened to the request.

For another purpose, I long ago created debug.php, and later, finding all this information useful in chasing down wonky rewrites, created a "report" version, which rather than output to a file, spits the information straight back into your browser, as well as $_POST, $_SESSION, and $_SERVER arrays, special variables, like __FILE__, and much more.

Usage is simple; you make it your target page, so in a rule like this..

RewriteRule ^(.*)\.html$ /catch-all.php?var=$1

You would have a copy of debug-report.php temporarily renamed to catch-all.php in the root of your server, and type into your address bar and, with yer mojo working, debug-report.php leaps into your browser with a shit-load of exactly the sort of information you need to figure out all this stuff. When I'm messing with mod_rewrite, debug-report.php saves me time, a lot. Also, it's free..

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saving changes is not permitted

Saving changes is not permitted. The changes you have made require the following tables to be dropped and re-created. You have either made changes to a table that can't be re-created or enabled the option Prevent saving changes that require the table to be re-created.

By default SSMS 2008 does not allow you to save changes that result in a drop/create. To change this setting, go to Tools->Options->Desginers menu and uncheck the option 'Prevent saving changes that require table re-creation'.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Solving the "Operation must use an updateable query" error

This unbelievably cryptic error is the bane of developers who are just starting out with Access and ASP.NET. You've done your code, plopped your database file in the App_Data folder, and try to run a page that INSERTs or UPDATEs records, and it all stops dead. This brief article explains the cause of the error, and the steps required to stop it recurring.

When a Jet 4.0 database (the actual type of database represented by your "Access" mdb file) is deployed in a multi-user environment, an .ldb file is created whenever the database is opened. The .ldb file contains details which include who has opened the file, and primarily serves to prevent opened records being written to by another user.

In the context of an ASP.NET application, who the "user" is will depend on the platform: for XP Pro machines, the user is the ASPNET account. On Windows Server 2003 and Vista, it is the NETWORK SERVICE account. However, if you have ASP.NET Impersonation enabled, the user account will be IUSR_machinename. To be able to create, write to and delete the required .ldb file, the relevant user needs MODIFY permissions on the folder that the .mdb file is in.

To set this permission, right click on the App_Data folder and select Properties. Look for the Security tab. If you can't see it, you need to go to My Computer, then click Tools and choose Folder Options.... then click the View tab. Scroll to the bottom and uncheck "Use simple file sharing (recommended)". Back to the Security tab, you need to add the relevant account to the Group or User Names box. Click Add.... then click Advanced, then Find Now. The appropriate account should be listed. Double click it to add it to the Group or User Names box, then check the Modify option in the permissions. That's it. You are done.

Note: this fix will also solve "The Microsoft Jet database engine cannot open the file '(unknown)'. It is already opened exclusively by another user, or you need permission to view its data" errors.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Improving the Firefox experience

There are a few things you can do to improve your browsing experience.
First of all the most important one, press F11 to maximize the viewing
area! In Firefox 3 everything will disappear, even the navigation bar
at the top. Moving the cursor towards the few remaining pixels brings
it back, beautiful. If you prefer to have it visible all the time enter
about:config in the address bar and change browser.fullscreen.autohide
to false.

The only thing that's been bothering me with the full
screen mode is the lack of the status bar, especially when hovering
over links to check the destination. The status bar can be brought
back. Open a terminal and launch the profile manager.

/opt/firefox/firefox -profilemanager -no-remote

will see the name of the profile you are currently using. Close the
profile manager and type the following in the terminal, substituting myprofile with the name of your profile.

cd /home/user/.mozilla/firefox/*myprofile/chrome
mousepad userChrome-example.css

Enter the following line at the end of the file you just opened and save it.
#status-bar {visibility: visible !important;}

mv userChrome-example.css userChrome.css

another thing that makes browsing difficult, if you don't have a mouse,
is the touchpad. Especially right clicking, changing tabs and so forth.
Fortunately Firefox has quite a few touchpad friendly shortcuts.

CTRL + LEFT CLICK » open link in a new tab

CTRL + T » open new tab
CTRL + W » close tab

CTRL + N » open new window
CTRL + SHIFT + W » close window

CTRL + TAB » switch to next tab
CTRL + SHIFT + TAB » switch to previous tab

ALT + LEFT » back
ALT + RIGHT » forward

CTRL + L » select address bar
CTRL + K » select search bar

all those shortcuts makes for a smooth and fast browsing experience. If
you really want to go hardcore press F7 to bring up a small cursor. Now
you'll barely need the touchpad at all. Makes browsing a bit tedious, i
wouldn't recommend it.

Very useful on the small screen is the
zoom feature. Firefox 3 zooms the whole page, keeping the layout 1:1,
which can lead to garbled images. Most of the time it's better to just
zoom the text, you can toggle this behaviour with browser.zoom.full in
about:config. Everything is saved for each domain individually, making
it really nice to customize your preferred font size.

CTRL + + » Zoom In
CTRL + - » Zoom Out
CTRL + 0 » Default

One last thing, enter about:robots in the address bar.

Reclaiming disk space on the A110L

The A110L ships with an 8GB SSD, which in fact is only 7.51GB small.
And another GB is lost to the swap partition. When you boot your A110L
for the first time you will only have 3.6GB of free space. However up
to 2.2GB can be reclaimed by removing various unnecessary things or
simply replacing software with smaller versions. It doesn't sound like
much, especially in the days of TB disks, and might not seem like it's
worth the hassle, but with only 7.51GB it certainly is.

Press Alt+F2 to show the Run program window, check Run in terminal and click Run to open a terminal. Lets take a look at the installed packages sorted by size first.
You may see a connection refused error whenever you use sudo, ignore it.

rpm -qa --qf "%{SIZE}\t%{NAME}\n" | sort -k1,1n

notice ten OpenOffice language packs and a few spellchecking libraries
with a combined size of 367MB. Unless you're in the translation
business you will probably not need any of them, english is built in
and cannot be removed.

sudo yum remove \ \ \ hunspell-it hunspell-ru \
hunspell-de hunspell-es hunspell-fr hunspell-pt hunspell-nl

There are also korean, chinese and japanese fonts installed, 168MB.

sudo yum remove acs-firefox-fonts cjkunifonts\* taipeifonts scim-tables-chinese \
baekmuk\* libhangul fonts-japanese sazanami-fonts-mincho anthy

By removing all unused locales additional 172MB can be gained. Find out your locale using locale. It will show sth. like en_US.UTF8.
First all unused locales are removed. Then the cache is deleted and
rebuild only using the remaining locales. It's all automatically done
using the few commands below. Just replace en behind the name flag in the first line, and en_US and en_US.UTF8 in the last line corresponding to your locale. You will be asked to confirm the deletion of every locale to avoid mistakes.

sudo find /usr/share/locale/* -maxdepth 0 -type d -not -name en\* -ok rm -rf {} \;
sudo rm /usr/lib/locale/locale-archive
sudo localedef -f UTF-8 -i en_US en_US.UTF8

might even get rid of OpenOffice, 240MB, completely and install
Abiword, only 17 MB, instead. It supports OpenDocument and can also
export to PDF. For your spreadsheet needs Gnumeric, 30MB, is available.

sudo yum remove\*
sudo yum install abiword gnumeric

There are also alternatives to Adobe Reader, 115MB, available. Try evince and epdfview, both only a few MB small.

sudo yum remove AdobeReader_enu
sudo yum install evince epdfview

Next in line are the Acer games, or should i say demos, with a total size of 47MB.

sudo rm -rf /usr/share/games/*

you want to remove the other games as well, for 46MB, try this. They
are listed in the order of appearance in the game menu in case you
still want to keep some.

sudo yum remove ltris frozen-bubble tuxpuck supertux llk_linux

You can also remove the Acer branded mail and messenger clients and install thunderbird and pidgin instead.

sudo yum remove evolution-data-server libpurple
sudo yum install thunderbird pidgin

I've also removed the Acer media master, photo master and mplayer. Instead i installed VLC, capable of playing all formats, using the Fedora 8 installation method.

sudo yum remove pdvdlinux pcmlinux mplayer\*

The Online Updater will try to re-install a few things whenever a patch is available, you can find a way to prevent it here.

you use yum to download and install something it will keep the
downloaded package in a cache, the following command sets keepcache in
the config file to 0 to prevent this.

sudo sed -i.1 3s:1:0: /etc/yum.conf

some package automatically installs a few dependent packages but
doesn't automatically uninstall them when the original package is
removed you can show the last packages installed and remove them

rpm -qa --last | head -n 20

You can find unused libraries or packages using package-cleanup, provided by yum-utils. It is not always safe to trust package-cleanup.

worth noting is that whenever you think you delete something using the
file browser it is moved to /home/user/.local/share/Trash instead.
However you can permanently delete a file using Shift+Del.

If you're using Firefox 3 you might have heard that safe browsing
has been implemented and is used by default. It does check every URL
you visit against a local database, which is quite big, 50MB, and will
grow. If you're not easily fooled by phishing websites or don't want to
use this feature for privacy reasons enter about:config in the address
bar and set both browser.safebrowsing.enabled and
browser.safebrowsing.malware.enabled to false. You can use the
following line to automatically delete the database, it will be
recreated with a size of 32KB. If you ever decide to re-enable both
options the database will be automatically rebuild.

find /home/user -name urlclassifier3.sqlite -delete

you're on a slow connection you can also disable the disk cache in
Firefox. Set browser.cache.disk.enable to false. Disabling both this
and safe browsing also reduces the frequent accessing of the SSD,
potentially speeding things up.

One more thing. If you ever get
the feeling that's there not enough disk space available because deep
down in the filesystem hierarchy some files got lost use find to track them down. Replace 100M with any size you like.

sudo find / -size +100M -printf "%s %p\n" | sort -n

to the interesting part. The 1GB swap partition. If you got 1GB of RAM
installed you can easily disable it, even with 512MB if you're only
using the default applications. A booted system uses only 135MB. You
can check your memory usage by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del.

To get that extra GB, you'll need to boot gparted from an USB stick. You can download it here, instructions here, syslinux here. You can also use partedmagic, no difference. Remove any SD cards when booting.

Next prevent swap from mounting, the following command does all the work you.

sudo sed -i.1 "s:/dev/sda2:#/dev/sda2:" /etc/fstab

gparted, delete the linux-swap partition and resize the remaining one.
I've made some screenshots showing the progress, from left to right, of
the whole operation. Be warned that you might lose all your data if you
make some terrible mistake! The recovery tool will still work and
recreate both partitions and everything as it once was.