VPNAutoConnect 1.0 for Windows: automatically connect and reconnect to a VPN

I am releasing a handy little tool I have been working on called VPNAutoConnect. It does a couple of simple things Windows won't let you do (at least not easily):
- automatically reconnects to a VPN when the connection is lost
- connects to a VPN on computer start-up
- logs VPN connection events for debugging

I designed this tool because I have been using a VPN for a while but I randomly get disconnected. I wish Windows offered an option to automatically reconnect but strangely there isn't an easy, straightforward way to do that (as of today). With this tool, not only my VPN connection is started when I boot my computer, but it always reconnects automatically after I get those random disconnects.

This is a free open source program designed with Visual Studio Community 2015. It requires the .NET framework 4.5.2, and it makes uses of the DotRas library.
- Download program from here: vpnautoconnect-1.0.zip (SHA1)
- Download sources from here: vpnautoconnect-1.0.src.zip (SHA1)
NB: use at your own risks. Tested under Windows 8.1 only.

There are 3 command-line arguments that control the behavior of the program, allowing you to achieve automatic VPN connections on computer startup for example.
--quiet: enables the 'do not display ballon tips' option
--timer=N: sets the timer to N seconds
--connection=XXX: automatically connect/reconnects to XXX when the application starts. If your connection has spaces in its name, try using quotes (ie. --connection="My VPN")


Simple VPN autoconnect for Windows 8 and 10

Since Windows 7, for some reason VPN support in new Windows versions has annoyingly decreased in quality. You can't create shortcuts to VPNs on the desktop or in the start menu anymore; you can't set up a VPN connection to automatically connect on start up; and with Windows 10 there is even a bug (at the time of writing this article) that makes you click on another connection item in the list before the Connect button appears.

The simplest way to achieve automatic VPN connection on computer start-up is to create a batch/cmd file with the following command:
rasdial "VPN Connection" username password

- rasdial is the name of the command-line utility that will perform the connection
- replace "VPN Connection" by the actual name of the VPN connection
- replace username by your actual VPN user name
- replace password by your actual VPN password

If you want the VPN connection to be started when you log on, simply place this batch script into your startup folder: press Win+R to run 'shell:startup', this will open a folder in which you can place programs or shortcuts to be ran on startup.


Solution for "DOMException: Failed to load because no supported source was found" error in Chrome with HTML5 media API

After updating Chrome to release 53 this week, my web application was no longer able to use the media API to capture video with a webcam. This is the third time that I am forced to update my code due to changes in Chrome... this is getting a little annoying!

The error message I was getting in my javascript console is:
DOMException: Failed to load because no supported source was found

I'll keep it short. The problem was the way I set the source of my media element.
I was setting the source like this:

navigator.getUserMedia(videoObj, function(stream) {
   CaptureImageStream = stream;
   CaptureImageVideo.src = stream;
}, errBack);

It seems like this is no longer supported. I changed it to this and it now works again:

navigator.getUserMedia(videoObj, function(stream) {
   CaptureImageStream = stream;
   CaptureImageVideo.src = window.URL.createObjectURL(stream);
}, errBack); 

I hope this helps!


Nginx: set up a LetsEncrypt SSL certificate with auto-renewal in 3 easy steps

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you should know by now that you can get SSL certificates free of charge from LetsEncrypt, without registration, and with automatic renewal! This is one of the best thing that's happened to web admins and the web in general in the recent years. The certificates are authentic and work great in all browsers (you get the little green lock icon like everywhere else).

Let's get straight to the point. The three steps are summarized here:
1) Download LetsEncrypt (the application) for your Linux server
2) Run the application to generate a certificate for your domain and set up the monthly auto-renew cron job
3) Add the certificate to your Nginx configuration.

Step 1: download LetsEncrypt

Install git if you haven't done so yet:
# apt-get install git

Use git to get the application and store it somewhere (ie: /root/temp)
# git clone https://github.com/letsencrypt/letsencrypt /root/temp/letsencrypt

Step 2: generate your certificate

The first time you run the command below, you will be asked to provide an e-mail address to be associated to the domain or subdomain, in case you should ever need to recover the key or something. The next time you run the same command (to renew the certificate) it won't be asked.

So run the following command to generate the certificate:
# /root/temp/letsencrypt/letsencrypt-auto certonly -a webroot --agree-tos --renew-by-default --webroot-path=XXX -d YYY
Where: XXX is the full path to your website's root folder. For example /home/www/website.com
And YYY is the domain name or subdomain name (ie: website.com, or something.website.com)

At the time of running the command, your domain must be available to visitors already, because LetsEncrypt's servers will make a verification to ascertain that you are actually the owner of the domain. It will place a hidden /.well-known/ folder with some files in it at the root of your web directory (specified above with --webroot-path).

Certificates generated by LetsEncrypt are valid 3 months at the moment. Also, wildcards are not supported; you can get certificates for domain names and subdomains one by one. Since we don't want to manually renew the certificate every month for every domain and subdomain, we can set up a simple cron job to be ran monthly (it should be run every 3 months ideally but LetsEncrypt are talking about reducing the validity of their certificates so I'd rather not be caught off guard).

Open /etc/cron.monthly and create a new file, make sure to chmod +x to give executable permissions. The first line of the file should be:
And then put the exact same command you ran before to generate the certificate. You can also add  >>/root/temp/certificate-update.log at the end of the command if you want to keep a log of the updates (although I imagine LetsEncrypt generates its own log somewhere too).

Step 3: configuring Nginx

After running the command that generates the certificates, you should have several files in /etc/letsencrypt/live/website.com/ (replace website.com by your own domain). We are going to need just two of them for Nginx: fullchain.pem and privkey.pem.

The beginning of your server block should look like this:
server {
server_name www.website.com website.com;
listen 443 ssl;
ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/website.com/fullchain.pem;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/website.com/privkey.pem;
ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:20m;

Don't forget that last line, otherwise Safari and iOS devices won't be able to visit your website (see my recent blog post about it). Save configuration, reload, visit your site and voila, you're done. To make sure the automatic renewal script works, try running it now with the new configuration.


Nginx and LetsEncrypt SSL certificate problem with iOS and Safari (fixed)

I have recently started using LetsEncrypt as my main SSL certificate supplier, it's amazing! With the auto-renew cron task, I have literally 0 work to do to keep certificates up to date, and of course, it's free.

I recently noticed an issue though: when I visit my websites over HTTPS on my iPhone (and reportedly the problem exists with Safari on Mac OS X as well), the sites simply will not load. This is the error I get:

The error reads: "Safari cannot open the page because the network connection was reset. The server may be busy". After trying to sort out the problem for hours and Googling up the error everywhere, I finally stumbled upon this forum thread. Well thank you Mr. Duckson because that really did fix the problem!

The solution: in your server {  ... } block, insert the ssl_session_cache directive with whatever value you deem fit. Example from Nginx documentation: ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;

Save your configuration, reload Nginx, try it again - voila, it's fixed. Kudos to koren on IRC for finding the solution, you have amazing Google skills, my friend. If anyone has an explanation as to why this directive is required for Safari/iOS browsers specifically with LetsEncrypt certificate, I'm all ears!


HTML5 video capture from browser: error with "stop() not a function"

A quick blog post about recent changes in the MediaStream API support in modern browsers. I had previously developed a function allowing users to capture images from their webcam, based on tutorials found on the web.

Here was my code to initialize the capture canvas:

function CaptureImageBeginCapture() {
   CaptureImageCanvas = $("#ImageCaptureCanvas")[0];
   var videoObj = { "video": true },
      errBack = function(error) {
         console.log("Video capture error: ", error.code);

   CaptureImageVideo = $("#ImageCapturePreviewFrame")[0];
   CaptureImageContext = CaptureImageCanvas.getContext("2d");

   // Put video listeners into place   if(navigator.getUserMedia) { // Standard      navigator.getUserMedia(videoObj, function(stream) {
         CaptureImageStream = stream;
         CaptureImageVideo.src = stream;
      }, errBack);
   } else if(navigator.webkitGetUserMedia) { // WebKit-prefixed      navigator.webkitGetUserMedia(videoObj, function(stream){
         CaptureImageStream = stream;
         CaptureImageVideo.src = window.webkitURL.createObjectURL(stream);
      }, errBack);
   else if(navigator.mozGetUserMedia) { // Firefox-prefixed      navigator.mozGetUserMedia(videoObj, function(stream){
         CaptureImageStream = stream;
         CaptureImageVideo.src = window.URL.createObjectURL(stream);
      }, errBack);
And this code was used to react to the pressing of a "Capture" button which froze the image and then saved it.
// Snapping up the picture$("#ImageCaptureSnap").click(function() {
   CaptureImageContext.drawImage(CaptureImageVideo, 0, 0, 640, 480, -95,0,448,330);
Unfortunately, the MediaStream.stop() function recently became depreciated. After a quick search, I found only one article explaining what I need to do to fix it. The fix is to get a "track" instance from your MediaStream and stop the track instead of stopping the MediaStream itself.
// Snapping up the picture$("#ImageCaptureSnap").click(function() {
   CaptureImageContext.drawImage(CaptureImageVideo, 0, 0, 640, 480, -95,0,448,330);
   try { CaptureImageStream.stop(); } catch(e) { }
   try {
       var track = CaptureImageStream.getTracks()[0];
} catch(e) { }
$("#ImageCaptureStep1").hide(); $("#ImageCaptureStep2").show(); });
Hopefully it won't change further, but as we know HTML5 APIs are evolving all the time.


3 PHP quizzes for testing your knowledge: beginner, medium, and advanced levels

Hello everyone,

I have created three short quizzes for testing your PHP knowledge. They were meant to be used before job interviews as a way to provide a quick evaluation of the skill level of the applicant. They have served their purpose so I am releasing them to the public. If you really want to know your level, don't google up the answers while playing.

Beginner : http://goo.gl/H9seNQ

What was your score? Also, did you notice any errors in the questions? I know some of the answers can be up to debate (the regexp one in particular) but obviously if you know the answer you will pick the one that best matches what you think is the truth. 

Also, keep in mind that while I consider these to be "beginner", "medium", and "advanced" levels, depending on your own skills you could laugh and consider me a newbie. It's just that from my perspective, if an interviewee is able to get a 10/10 at the advanced quiz, they are welcome to join my development team. That's all these quizzes really mean. 

Finally, I would be curious to see if anyone could create a "hardcore" quiz. I don't consider myself quite up to the task and would probably fail miserably at the test. So be my guest!


Get Nginx HTTP Server 3rd Edition and any other book from Packt Publishing for just $5

Dear readers, bloggers, fellow administrators, I have been informed by my excellent publisher Packt Publishing that they are currently running an amazing offer: you can get any of their books for just $5. This includes my recent publication - Nginx HTTP server 3rd edition. The promotion started yesterday and will last until New Year. Hurry up and get as many books as you can before the promotion ends!


Outlook 2010 stuck in safe mode - just uninstall KB3114409

Yesterday (December 9th, 2015) Microsoft rolled out a faulty update for Microsoft Office 2010 (KB3114409) which accidentally causes Outlook 2010 to start in safe mode systematically, ignoring registry and computer settings.

To solve the problem, simply go to the "Programs and features" control panel applet, click on "View installed updates", search for KB3114409, and uninstall it. After you reboot your computer, Outlook will start normally again.

This solution has been tested successfully at work for dozens of users.

Microsoft stated: “After you install this update, Outlook 2010 may start only in safe mode. If this issue occurs, uninstall the update. This update is no longer available now."

Source: Microsoft message boards


Nginx HTTP Server - Third Edition now available!

I am glad to announce that the third edition of "Nginx HTTP Server" (the book) is now available! You can already buy the ebook over at Amazon.com or directly from Packt Publishing. Paperback version will follow on December 1st.

Aside from the numerous corrections, chapter overhauls, and section rewrites, this new edition comes with two entirely new chapters:
  • an introduction to load balancing and optimization
  • real life case studies, starting from scratch
It is much more practice-oriented, focusing on examples rather than endless directive bullet lists. We learned a lot from reader reviews and I can safely say that this edition is the best by far! Congratulations to everyone who's been working hard on the project over the past months - especially Siddhesh, Kirti, and Indrajit! If you are interested in getting a free copy of this book (ebook version), please feel free to post a comment here. I will get back to you quickly!

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