Apache 2.4 Upgrade and the “Invalid Command ‘Order'” Error

The new Apache 2.4 has been released a few weeks ago and I decided to use this version while installing a new server (I compiled it from scratch rather that using an rpm or deb).

After using one of my tried and true Apache configuration files, I received this error on start:

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Starting httpd: AH00526: Syntax error on line 104 of /usr/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf:
Invalid command 'Order', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

Common wisdom would imply that I should make sure the authz_host module is installed (LoadModule authz_host_module modules/mod_authz_host.so), however this just was not working.

Finally, I discovered that the Order command has been removed from Apache 2.4! According to the upgrade notes for Apache 2.4:

In 2.2, access control based on client hostname, IP address, and other characteristics of client requests was done using the directives Order, Allow, Deny, and Satisfy.

In 2.4, such access control is done in the same way as other authorization checks, using the new module mod_authz_host. The old access control idioms should be replaced by the new authentication mechanisms, although for compatibility with old configurations, the new module mod_access_compat is provided.

Basically, the Order command is depreciated.

In my case, I replaced the lines:

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Order deny,allow
Deny from all

with:

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Require all denied

Also make sure both of these modules are loaded:

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LoadModule authz_core_module modules/mod_authz_core.so
LoadModule authz_host_module modules/mod_authz_host.so

Easy enough, but just be aware that there are several configuration changes between 2.2 and 2.4 which render your old Apache configuration files unusable.

Big Cable Wants to Encrypt Your Basic Channels – How To Fight For Your Rights

For those not familiar with the current state of digital television, cable providers send signals to your house in a format called QAM. This comes in two flavors, Encrypted and Unencrypted formats. Encryption is used to protect channel content from general viewership so that cable operators can sell these packages and/or individual channels based on a decryption device at the home.

The FCC currently has a ban in place on the encryption of the “Basic” level of cable service. This includes such channels as ABC, NBC, Fox, PBS, etc. It is a good way for low-income or budget conscious consumer to buy the basic level of service if they can not receive these channels over the air, possibly because of interference or distance to broadcasting towers. You do not currently need to rent a cable box (aka decryption device) to see these channels, ensuring broad access to these channels which often perform public service functions such as notification in case of emergency, carrying signals from the emergency broadcast system, or also community television stations.

This is a good thing. It allows citizens to purchase a very cheap (I paid $12.99/mo) cable plan to receive these essential stations without the purchase of any decryption boxes from the cable company (which they force you to rent from them, I might add).

The Cable Companies Want Your Money

Photo credit zeusandhera

The cable companies are, and have been, lobbying the FCC to remove this encryption ban. The FCC has a proposed plan of rule making for removing this ban on encryption. The big cable providers are lobbying for this ban removal on a couple of major points:

  • Encrypting all channels will allow them to remain “hot” at the consumer end,
  • It will reduce service technician calls because of the above,
  • It will reduce or eliminate cable theft.

What they do not mention is that:

  • You will need to buy a cable adapter (either box-top or Cablecard) for each TV in your home.

The cable companies are profit driven (this is OK) and, while I admit this may reduce service calls to your home, they also have other methods of being able to deliver this service “hot” including IP-based television distribution. This is simply a cheaper way for them to use their existing technologies to maximize their profits, while maintaining a facade that they are doing this for consumers’ benefit.

Based on my own television bill and the number of televisions that an average consumer has in their home (3), I estimate that an existing basic television consumer would receive a 92% increase to their cable bill for the same exact content. (Source)

Fighting The Good Fight

Several “new” television technology companies, such as Boxee and Hauppauge Computer Works (makers of Unencrypted QAM tuner cards) are fighting this rule change, along with the EFF, to allow consumers to continue to receive these basic television channels in the unencrypted format. While Boxee and Hauppage have their own profit motives, they are actively working to promote new technologies to bring a variety of TV content into your home.

Boxee and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association have been going tête à tête over the issue. Boxee is obviously making a play where its Boxee Box uses Unencrypted QAM to receive television stations while the NCTA represents the cable companies who want you to continue to pay your cable providers.

How to Weigh In

I urge all consumers of Cable TV to weigh in on the issue, but especially if you utilize Unencrypted QAM format to watch broadcast TV. The Cable Industry says that the number of consumers who use unencrypted QAM is negligible, so we need to show the FCC that we are in fact, not a negligible party to deal with.

The FCC is accepting comments on this proposed change to the rules.

Here is a listing of all comments on this proposed elimination of the ban on the encryption of the basic tier of service from the FCC.

The best way is to write a short letter to the FCC. Here is the letter that I wrote.

Then proceed to the FCC’s page for submitting a filing. For the proceeding number, use 11-169. Type in your information and attach the letter you wrote (I recommend sending as a PDF). After submitting, the FCC reviews the submission and places it on their website.

Together, we can fight the cable companies

The only way they know that we are not happy with this proposed rule change is by commenting on this to the organization who makes the rules, the FCC.

Please send them your thoughts! It should only take about 15 minutes of your time and you will feel great about participating in the rule making process.

The Easy CIDR Cheatsheet

Classless Inter-Domain Routing (henceforth known as CIDR) for years now, I always need a bit up a help remember how many addresses are in each block and how many sub-blocks fit into larger blocks. I have the following printed out for easy reference, and here it is for your geeky enjoyment:
CIDR        Total number    Network             Description:
Notation:   of addresses:   Mask:
--------------------------------------------------------------
/0          4,294,967,296   0.0.0.0             Every Address
/1          2,147,483,648   128.0.0.0           128 /8 nets
/2          1,073,741,824   192.0.0.0           64 /8 nets
/3          536,870,912     224.0.0.0           32 /8 nets
/4          268,435,456     240.0.0.0           16 /8 nets
/5          134,217,728     248.0.0.0           8 /8 nets
/6          67,108,864      252.0.0.0           4 /8 nets
/7          33,554,432      254.0.0.0           2 /8 nets
/8          16,777,214      255.0.0.0           1 /8 net (Class A)
--------------------------------------------------------------
/9          8,388,608       255.128.0.0         128 /16 nets
/10         4,194,304       255.192.0.0         64 /16 nets
/11         2,097,152       255.224.0.0         32 /16 nets
/12         1,048,576       255.240.0.0         16 /16 nets
/13         524,288         255.248.0.0         8 /16 nets
/14         262,144         255.252.0.0         4 /16 nets
/15         131.072         255.254.0.0         2 /16 nets
/16         65,536          255.255.0.0         1 /16 (Class B)
--------------------------------------------------------------
/17         32,768          255.255.128.0       128 /24 nets
/19         16,384          255.255.192.0       64 /24 nets
/19         8,192           255.255.224.0       32 /24 nets
/20         4,096           255.255.240.0       16 /24 nets
/21         2,048           255.255.248.0       8 /24 nets
/22         1,024           255.255.252.0       4 /24 nets
/23         512             255.255.254.0       2 /24 nets
/24         256             255.255.255.0       1 /24 (Class C)
--------------------------------------------------------------
/25         128             255.255.255.128     Half of a /24
/26         64              255.255.255.192     Fourth of a /24
/27         32              255.255.255.224     Eighth of a /24
/28         16              255.255.255.240     1/16th of a /24
/29         8               255.255.255.248     5 Usable addresses
/30         4               255.255.255.252     1 Usable address
/31         2               255.255.255.254     Unusable
/32         1               255.255.255.255     Single host
--------------------------------------------------------------
Reserved Space:
	0.0.0.0/8	
	127.0.0.0/8
	192.0.2.0/24
	10.0.0.0/8
	172.16.0.0/12
	192.168.0.0/16
	169.254.0.0/16
'>

Even though I’ve been working with Classless Inter-Domain Routing (henceforth known as CIDR) for years now, I always need a bit up a help remember how many addresses are in each block and how many sub-blocks fit into larger blocks. I have the following printed out for easy reference, and here it is for your geeky enjoyment:

CIDR        Total number    Network             Description:
Notation:   of addresses:   Mask:
--------------------------------------------------------------
/0          4,294,967,296   0.0.0.0             Every Address
/1          2,147,483,648   128.0.0.0           128 /8 nets
/2          1,073,741,824   192.0.0.0           64 /8 nets
/3          536,870,912     224.0.0.0           32 /8 nets
/4          268,435,456     240.0.0.0           16 /8 nets
/5          134,217,728     248.0.0.0           8 /8 nets
/6          67,108,864      252.0.0.0           4 /8 nets
/7          33,554,432      254.0.0.0           2 /8 nets
/8          16,777,214      255.0.0.0           1 /8 net (Class A)
--------------------------------------------------------------
/9          8,388,608       255.128.0.0         128 /16 nets
/10         4,194,304       255.192.0.0         64 /16 nets
/11         2,097,152       255.224.0.0         32 /16 nets
/12         1,048,576       255.240.0.0         16 /16 nets
/13         524,288         255.248.0.0         8 /16 nets
/14         262,144         255.252.0.0         4 /16 nets
/15         131.072         255.254.0.0         2 /16 nets
/16         65,536          255.255.0.0         1 /16 (Class B)
--------------------------------------------------------------
/17         32,768          255.255.128.0       128 /24 nets
/19         16,384          255.255.192.0       64 /24 nets
/19         8,192           255.255.224.0       32 /24 nets
/20         4,096           255.255.240.0       16 /24 nets
/21         2,048           255.255.248.0       8 /24 nets
/22         1,024           255.255.252.0       4 /24 nets
/23         512             255.255.254.0       2 /24 nets
/24         256             255.255.255.0       1 /24 (Class C)
--------------------------------------------------------------
/25         128             255.255.255.128     Half of a /24
/26         64              255.255.255.192     Fourth of a /24
/27         32              255.255.255.224     Eighth of a /24
/28         16              255.255.255.240     1/16th of a /24
/29         8               255.255.255.248     5 Usable addresses
/30         4               255.255.255.252     1 Usable address
/31         2               255.255.255.254     Unusable
/32         1               255.255.255.255     Single host
--------------------------------------------------------------
Reserved Space:
	0.0.0.0/8	
	127.0.0.0/8
	192.0.2.0/24
	10.0.0.0/8
	172.16.0.0/12
	192.168.0.0/16
	169.254.0.0/16

Of course I’m not the first one to come up with this. Modified based on the cheat sheet from Samat Jain.

Let me know if you have any improvements or suggestions.

Xbox 360 Windows Media Center Extender Demo

After I ditched cable TV, I used both Snapstream’s BeyondTV and SageTV (now owned by Google) to sate my and my family’s television needs. After almost 2 years we ended up turning cable back on. Win one for the cable company!

But that did not end my search for the perfect home television system. Our cable box, well, works; but the hard drive is limited, you have to pay $15.99/mo for it, and the recordings are only on one device.

Luckily I found the DCR-2650 (currently $122 at amazon) which allows you to rent a CableCARD from the cable company (I’m paying $3.99/mo from Verizon) and get all of the premium cable channels on your PC – the drawback is that you must use Windows Media Center due to the DRM (there is a hack for SageTV – more on that later).

We recently got an Xbox 360 for Christmas, and I’ve been wanting to try the Media Center Extender functionality on it. I’m happy to report it works really well! Here is a video with a quick walkthrough of the Media Center Extender experience on the Xbox 360.

Some notes on the setup:

  • My Media Center PC & Xbox are both connected via gigabit wired network
  • Live TV, Guide and DVR functionality work perfectly
  • Have had issues with Movie playback. This is because the Xbox is limited in what codecs it can decode. Apparently the Windows Media Center Extender app does not use the same codecs as the Xbox media player app.
  • You could use as many Xboxes as you want, so essentially you have a free number of DVRs in your home
  • The DCR-2650 uses a single cable card but has 2 tuners. This means you are limited to 2 channels at a time of live TV or recording shows. You could easily continue to add tuners if you would like more.
  • The Windows Media Center app is available directly on the main Xbox menu that pops up when you hit the Xbox button on your controller/remote

The quality of the video coming from the Media Center Extender is significantly better compared to the “LiveTV” streamed over the internet – also from Verizon.

If Microsoft and Verizon is serious about making their streaming live TV app commonplace in consumer’s homes, they will need to both up the quality of the video and also add DVR functionality to the system.

Between how well it works and the fact that you can get a remote for the Xbox, it really makes an ideal replacement for your cable box.

The Fight To Lower Your Cable Bill: Online Live Streaming Television In Jeopardy

First, a bit of history.

Cable TV started in the 1970s when TV consumers just outside the range of commercial Over The Air (OTA) broadcasts banded together to create community “Cable” TV systems. An antenna was posted at a high spot on a mountain and pulled in signals that were out of range for households, then retransmitted those signals to subscribers. At the time, there was a fight by the commercial television stations to protect their content, but eventually the cable systems won out, and eventually evolved to be the mega-cable companies you see today. In fact, today cable companies and content companies are one-in-the-same.

Fast forward to today. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an internet television station that would take OTA broadcast signals and retransmit them over the internet to households that couldn’t receive that signal? Well, there is and its name is ivi.tv.

The ivi.tv interface. Includes channel guide, DVR, and more.

The user experience was great. The stations came in at high quality and live, something that today’s streaming world is sorely missing. It was only about $10 per month, and you received the major broadcast stations. There was only one problem – the current content owners and cable systems (rightly) see this as a threat to their existing cable based systems, as the same exact TV content can be transmitted through their own internet lines and therefore cannibalism their TV revenue stream. ivi.tv was sued by over 40 major broadcasts and stations, and was forced to take their live streams of CBS, ABC, NBC offline. The very life of ivi.tv and other internet live TV streaming companies is threatened. They want to squash innovation in live streaming TV.

ivi’s CEO Todd Weaver has said this:

“Broadcasters fought against cable companies, then joined them. Broadcasters then fought against satellite companies, then joined them. Now it is our turn. History has a habit of repeating itself — and it is unfortunate they cannot learn from that and realize we strongly support broadcasters and their program suppliers helping them monetize, increase their eyeballs, and ultimately get paid.” (Source)

He’s right. This is the future of live television, and the existing hegemony of cable systems and content creators is fighting it tooth and nail. They have enough money to throw into lawsuits to delay it forever.

So what can you do about this?

The case against ivi.tv is currently working its way through the court system. Whatever is the decision on this court case is going to be used as prior ruling on future cases. I can’t even begin to describe how important it is that ivi wins their case. The odds are stacked up against them. With limited funds, there is no way they can fight the courts forever. Donate money to their cause here, and tell your friends about this innovative service that is being crushed by the big cable companies.

Everyone complains about the high price of cable television. You want alternatives? Support, share and talk about this court case and the future of online television.

Additional Reading:

Arnova 10 G2 (AKA Phillytablet) Hands On Review

Recently picked up a “Phillytablet” from the local newspaper publishing group, Philly Media Network (PMN), publishers of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and a few other smaller news publications.

The pricing is structured with two options. The first is to buy the tablet for $99 and pay $9.99 a month for the e-editions of the newspapers for 2-years. The second is to pay $129 for the tablet and agree to a 1-year subscription at $12.99/mo.

If you decided to buy this tablet without the deal, it is currently retailing for about $221, but it is not quite available yet from general retailers. A lot of misinformation has been going around saying that it is available for $170, however this is for an older model and isn’t accurate if you are making that comparison.

The newspaper wants you to believe you are receiving a savings over a regular newspaper subscription. If you work it out over the term of the contract and discard the value of the newspaper, it costs $338.76 for the 2 year and $284 for the 1 year deal. Obviously if you aren’t going to use the newspaper portion, it isn’t worth it to agree to this deal.

I am going to review the PMN portion of the device separately from the hardware, because they are really two separate things. Also of note, this is my first Android device. I’ve used Windows Mobile in the past and I’ve been an iOS fan for the past few years but have been wanting to dip my feet into the Android world for a while now and thought this would be a good chance to do so.

Click here to skip to the Philly Media Network apps review.

The Arnova 10 G2 Tablet

The Arnova 10 G2 Tablet

The tablet itself has a solid feel to it. It is mainly plastic but is sturdy enough to not seem flimsy. There is a camera on the front and none on the back – and the front-camera is of low enough quality that it isn’t going to be good for much more than video-chatting.

It came with Android 2.3 installed on it, as well as a few apps and shortcuts. Specific to the Phillytablet are a few apps I will describe in further detail below.

The 10″ screen itself is bright and of decent quality. It has a more rectangular shape than the iPad, which does lend itself to reading a newspaper or a lot of text.

Battery life, from what I can tell so far, is also good on this tablet.

I did notice that it does not charge via the included USB plug, you need to use the proprietary power adapter to do any charging, so I was a bit put off by that. USB is so prevalent, all devices/gadgets should charge via this method.

The lack of a dual-core processor was definitely visible at times. Angry Birds took a few seconds to get running smoothly, but after that it seemed to run OK. Any website that included Flash was visibly slow and movement was jerky. Reading a book via the Amazon Kindle app was OK, there was a little delay while paging but it was tolerable. If I had to guess I would say that this device suffers a bit both from not enough CPU power and also latency while reading/writing to memory.

All said, it is a decent device for the money. I would not describe this as a “top tier” tablet as some PMN executive will tell you, but it isn’t bad for the price.

The App Store

Since I’m new to the Android world, I’m also new to this market fragmentation I’ve heard so much about. And it is ugly. So for non-Android people, I will give you the short and quick version as I know it, please feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Apparently Google only allows access to Android Market on some devices, and this tablet is not one of them. To try to correct this, Archos (the parent of the Arnova brand) created an App store called AppsLib. They also included the Amazon App Store on the tablet. Each store does have tons of applications, however I found some major gaps. You want Netflix? Nope. Skype? Nope. BeeJive? Just the Facebook version (?) for some reason.

It appears that some application developers choose to only release to certain stores, and access to those stores is restricted. I’ve heard that you can root your device and add some custom ROMs which then give you access to other stores, but haven’t gotten that far yet.

Yet for some reason, AppsLib offered Angry Birds for free (add supported). I can’t really figure it out, but I can tell you the separation of apps stores is definitely a cause of confusion for consumers.

Notably missing was Google Apps and other cool toys you often see on other Android phones and tablets. It does include a browser and some apps are available via the Amazon store, including Seesmic, Kik and more.

The Philly Media Network Apps

The E-Edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer

So now that we’ve determined that you should only buy this device if you want to receive the subscription to Philly Media Network, what do you get with your subscription?

When you receive your device there are several pre-installed apps from PMN. One is a link to the online tablet version of The Inquirer. The second are two ‘e-readers’ for the digital versions of the print layout of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News. The rest just seem to be bloatware to me – advertisements (links to websites, basically) to Main Line Health, PMN, Dealy-o and Philly.com. So the real thing you are paying for are the subscription to the 2 e-reader apps for the Inq and Daily News.

What I like About The Inquirer and Daily News Apps

There are a few things that I do like about the apps. It’s nice that it will automatically download the papers while you are at home, and you don’t need the network to read them as you travel on your way to work. I take the train and the reception from AT&T is, let’s just say, unreliable. Using the paper app you can read through the paper just like the print version.

When I was a print newspaper subscriber, I liked reading the paper, but disliked all of the trash it generated. This is also a great way to reduce paper consumption and reduce distribution costs for the paper.

And Of Course, the Drawbacks

Specific to this device, there is a delay while reading the paper and moving around. With the processing power of a tablet, I assume you are going to see some of this latency. I’m curious how this e-version of the paper would look on something like the EeePad Transformer (@subewl, care to help me out with that?)

Non-specific to the device, the UI of the app seemed to be a bit confusing to me. You supposedly have the ability to click on headlines and be taken to a text-version of the article formatted to read on your screen. It only worked about half the time for me, I think it has to do with where the main text section was located. Hopefully this is just a bug they can iron out.

Why I Like Reading The Whole Paper

Sorry of this gets a bit philosophical for you, but I think there is a place for old-school journalism. It’s not about local news, if I want tidbits of local information I’ll check Twitter or Facebook. I like old-school journalism because it gets me in-depth coverage of local-ish news items.

Blogs have their place too, but I attribute their success to a different area of the brain. It’s the same area that OK or People scratches – breaking news, gossip, and ‘eye catching’ headlines. Having written for some major blogs – Lifehacker and MakeUseOf, it is amazing to see how much of the success of a blogger is attributed to the eye-catching quality of the title of the post. It takes one read through comments and you can tell that many do not even read the actual content, they read the headlines and form an opinion.

Newspapers are good, on the other hand, at really getting into the issues. They interview local people and analyze the issue much more than any blog that I’ve known.

The problem with newspapers is that they are trying to emulate the success of blogs. Instead, they need to focus on what they are good at – in depth coverage of local/national news, and bringing that to its audience in as user-friendly of a way as possible.

An e-Newspaper does not do this. I think The Daily is probably the best example I’ve seen of a newspaper making this transition the right way. Focus on the app. Creating version of the newspaper that is exactly like the paper version is not going to win you any subscribers.

Want to reach us in the digital age? We might have a shorter attention span but we still value good content.

Will the Phillytablet be a success?

This is certainly a tough call to make. I want it to work. Journalism as a whole has been under fire and the whole reason I gave this deal a shot – besides having the tablet itch for a while now – is that I want it to succeed. I’m probably the ideal customer for this tablet – my train commute giving me ample reading time – and I’m a news junkie to boot.

I just don’t see this being a long-term viable winning strategy for them. I think they are concerned that not enough people have access to tablets in order to get the e-edition of the paper. As we’ve seen tablet prices drop, I think if someone wants a tablet, they are going to buy one and this isn’t going to be a barrier to adoption of an e-newspaper. The barrier to adoption is that reading a full-version newspaper on a tiny device is never going to be as a fulfilling experience as holding out crisp newsprint.

To illustrate my point, I paged sadly by the crossword and sudoku puzzles. We used to get the physical paper just so that my wife could do those every week. With the e-edition, you can’t play them at all.

What can the Philly Media Network do to turn things around?

First of all, I think they need to drop the Phillytablet initiative and focus on content and delivery across all platforms – iOS, Android and Web. If they want to offer a tablet, give it as a gift if someone subscribes to the paper for a year or 2. They should be giving online access to everyone with an interest in the content, not just subscribers to a physical or electronic paper.

Also, they need to get with the times on the ordering process. You had to call a phone number to order the Philly tablet. You couldn’t order it online or pick it up in their store. This goes the same with their newspaper subscription, and in this day and age is a major drawback to adoption.

Let me know your thoughts

So, I’ve certainly been wrong before but I am curious about your thoughts. Do you think the Phillytablet has a shot? What is the future of print newspapers?

Exporting Announcements from WHMCS

Doing some integration work with WHMCS, I found the need to export some of the announcements into WordPress. Since there isn’t any native implementation of this, I found the best way is to export it directly from the database. The PHP code to do this is fairly easy:

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include("/path/to/whmcs/configuration.php");
$link = mysql_connect($db_host,$db_username,$db_password);
mysql_select_db($db_name);
$query = "SELECT * FROM tblannouncements WHERE published='on' ORDER BY date DESC LIMIT 0,3";
$result=mysql_query($query);
while($data = mysql_fetch_array($result)) {
  $id = $data["id"];
  $date = $data["date"];
  $title = $data["title"];
  $announcement = $data["announcement"];
  echo("<a href=\"/support/announcements.php?id=$id\">$title</a>");
}

If you wanted to make it more than 3 posts, just change the limit to 5 or 10 or whatever you wish. You can also change the ordering and add additional filters via more SQL statements. If you wanted to do a list, encapulate the code with <ul> and just make them <li> entries.

I’m using this code in a WordPress template but it would work equally as well in any other PHP based application.