Brief MySQL scheduled maintenance May 4, 2016

Between 9:00 PM and 11:59 PM Pacific time on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, the MySQL database software on each of our servers will be upgraded from version 5.5.47 to 5.5.49. This will cause an approximately 60 second interruption of service on each MySQL-using customer Web site at some point during this period.

This upgrade is necessary for security reasons. We apologize for the inconvenience this causes.

Update 9:06 PM Pacific time: The maintenance was completed as planned and all services are running normally.

WordPress 4.5

WordPress 4.5 was recently released, and as always, we’ve updated our WordPress one-click installer to automatically install the latest version (actually now version 4.5.1) for new WordPress sites.

If you’ve previously installed an older version of WordPress, you should update it from within your WordPress Dashboard.

We’ve also modified our automatic installer to disable the built in theme and plugin file editor by default for new installations (existing installations are not affected).

This both improves security (many automated hacks and XSS attacks blindly try to use the editor) and avoids a problem we see happen often:

  • People think that the “Edit” link next to a plugin or theme will edit the settings of it, not the code of it, so they click it;
  • Then they see a weird screen of code and don’t know what to do, and they perhaps type something as an experiment;
  • That doesn’t help, so they click “save” to get out of the weird screen;
  • And WordPress completely stops working due to a PHP syntax error in what they typed.

We think the editor shouldn’t be enabled for most people. It should be enabled only by developers (and very brave developers who make good backups, at that). Developers can easily enable it by editing the wp-config.php file to remove the “DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT” line.

Mailman mailing list software upgraded to version 2.1.22

The authors of the Mailman mailing list software we provide for customers have recently released version 2.1.22 to fix several bugs.

We’ve upgraded the Mailman software on our servers as a result.

Users of Mailman lists shouldn’t notice any changes, but as always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or see any problems.

Networking issues April 22 2016 (resolved)

Between 10:09 and 10:25 AM Pacific time today (April 22, 2016), some customers reported trouble reaching their servers on our sites.

This was caused by a very large-scale network routing problem at a major Internet backbone company. It affected traffic to a significant percentage of the Internet, including Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and others.

Although it was not related to our servers, it affected anyone whose Internet traffic travels over that “backbone” to reach us. (Because traffic to various destinations travels over different Internet “backbones”, different people would have seen different outages.)

The problem was resolved by the other company at 10:25 AM. We apologize to our customers affected by this problem.

Mailman mailing list software upgraded to version 2.1.21

The authors of the Mailman mailing list software we provide for customers have recently released version 2.1.21 to fix several bugs.

We’ve upgraded the Mailman software on our servers as a result.

Users of Mailman lists shouldn’t notice any changes, but as always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or see any problems.

PHP 7.0.5, 5.6.20, and 5.5.34

The PHP developers recently released versions 7.0.5, 5.6.20 and 5.5.34 that fix several bugs. We’ve upgraded the PHP 7.0, 5.6 and 5.5 series on our servers as a result.

These changes should not be noticeable, but in the unlikely event you experience any trouble, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Some “.js” files in e-mail are now blocked

For a long time, our mail system has blocked many malicious filename extensions.

Recently, we’ve seen an increase in “.js” files that spread various forms of malware. These change their “patterns” often enough that they’re sometimes not detected by virus scanners.

Legitimate “.js” files are common in e-mail, so it’s impossible to block them outright. (They’re often sent as part of a package of website files — for example, a zipped copy of the WordPress files contains them.)

However, legitimate “.js” files almost always occur as part of an archive containing other files. They almost never occur alone, as they do in the malware versions.

Because of that, our e-mail system now blocks “.zip” files that contain only a single “.js” file, on the assumption that they’re almost certainly malicious.

We don’t expect this to cause any problems, but as always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or trouble.

Outlook 2016 bug for POP accounts

Recently, we’ve had quite a few customers write in to complain that their copy of Outlook 2016 is behaving incorrectly: it is either deleting messages from the server when it is not supposed to do so, or it is downloading duplicate copies of mail from the server. This happens for POP accounts, not for IMAP accounts (which is what we normally recommend customers to use).

These problems happen because of a bug in Outlook 2016. Microsoft has a Web page that explains the problem as well as the solution (upgrade Outlook).

PHP 7.0.4, 5.6.19, and 5.5.33

The PHP developers recently released versions 7.0.4, 5.6.19 and 5.5.33 that fix several bugs. We’ve upgraded the PHP 7.0, 5.6 and 5.5 series on our servers as a result.

These changes should not be noticeable, but in the unlikely event you experience any trouble, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Our mail servers now use stronger SSL/TLS settings

We’ve updated the SSL/TLS security settings on our mail servers to match current “best practices” for security.

Our customers shouldn’t notice any changes. We’re just mentioning this so that people know to contact us in the unlikely event they do have any trouble.

That said, if you do have any trouble, it’s probably because you’re using outdated, insecure mail software that you should update. If you can’t update it, but the changes prevent you from sending mail with the “SSL” option turned on in your program, you may need to turn off the “SSL” option for outgoing mail until you can update.

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