Help/FAQ

This page will be repository for help/instructions on various things you may need as a Xepher.net member. Right now, it's VERY basic. Email me or ask on the forums if you need help, and if you get it answered, mention that the info should be added here for others to use.

SSL/Certificate/Security Errors

When you try to access the secure poritions of the site (such as user services or webmail) you'll probably get a notice that the certificate for this site is not signed by a trusted authority. The reason is because this site uses a self-signed certificate, rather than paying several hundred dollars to a "trusted" certificate seller. If you're using Firefox (or some other decent browser) you should have the option to "Accept This Certificate Permanently" (in Firefox 3, this is now "add exception") which will fix the problem for the next couple years. If, however, you use a brain-dead browser like Internet Explorer it's a tad more difficult. You can either keep hitting the "Continue Anyway" links, or you can add the site certificate to your "trusted" sources. The certificate can be found at this link. You need to open that file in windows, and it should present you some information about the security certificate. There should be an "install" button somewhere there, and if you step through the wizard, it'll add the cert to your trusted sources, and your browser will trust that Xepher.net has the right to verify Xepher.net as being Xepher.net. (How recursive is that?) If IE loads a screen full of garbage/text, go back, right click on the link, and choose "save as..." Try to keep the filename intact (XepherNet.crt) or windows might not realize what kind of file it is. (If anyone has the instructions for doing this on Mac, let me know.)

For Chrome on linux, you need to have NSS utilities installed. Then download the .crt file (as per above) and run
certutil -d sql:$HOME/.pki/nssdb -A -t "C,," -n xepher.net -i XepherNet.crt
To install it for chrome in windows, go to Options, "Under the hood..." and click "Manage Certificates"
From here, it should be the same as for IE. That is, click import... next>browse... pick the XepherNet.crt file you downloaded... Next> and Next> then Yes. Finally click OK.

First Steps

If you're new here, the first thing you should do is log into User Services and set your account/site info. The fields should be pretty self-explanatory. Contact Email is an offsite (non-xepher.net) email that I can contact you at regarding hosting stuff. I am the only one who will ever see it, and I only use it to contact users if there's a problem or issue with their site, or a really important announcement. Thus, it could go unused for months. It's up to you to keep that address updated. If I can't contact people via email when I need to, I end up having to disable/lock their account to get their attention, and you don't want that.

I ask that you provide a decent description, at least a full sentence or two that actually describes the content of your site. Both the description and title will be used in various things like the site directory and the banner/newsbox system. The more useful they are, the more people can find your site. Likewise, please select one tag at the very least, but any that you feel apply to your site should be checked. Also, if you think of a new tag that we should have/use, let me know and I can add it.

EMail

Under your settings you have two email options. On or Off. This enables/disables email use for your entire account. Disabling it will also delete all email and spam settings if you decide to no longer use email on your account. Reenabling it will result in an empty Inbox and an untrained spam filter. If you have a domain linked with your account, you will have the option of setting up an email alias on that domain that will be delivered to your account. If you don't have a domain, you will not see the aliases settings.

Accessing Email

If you've chosen to use the email services here, you can access it via IMAP or Webmail
To configure your email client for IMAP, use the following settings. (More detailed instructions TBD. If you want to write instructions for your favorite email client, I'll be happy to add them here.)
Server: xepher.net (Use for incoming and outgoing.)
Use Secure Connection: TLS
Use Username and Password: yes (This is on the outgoing SMTP server)
If your ISP blocks port 25 (outgoing mail) you can set your client to use port 26 instead.

Spam Filtering

All accounts use spam filtering all the time. The spam filter is a pure-learning model (the actual program is called crm114) filter. That is, it has no preconcieved ideas about what is or isn't spam. You must train it for it to be of any use at all. Training is accomplished very simply. You have two "special" folders in your account, called "Junk" and "Unsure." Mail may be delievered into either of those, as well as your inbox. Initially, all mail will go to "Unsure" as the filter doesn't know anything yet. If you move a message to "Junk" the filter will learn it as Spam. If you move it to "Inbox" (or any other regular folder except, including ones you create yourself) it will learn it as Good (ham) email. It's that simple. If it ever makes a mistake, and you find an email you wanted in Junk, simply move it to your Inbox. If spam gets into your Inbox, move it to Junk, and the filter will learn from that. A message can be relearned again and again... so if you accidently drop a good message in Junk, just go pull it out and the filter will correctly relearn it.

A couple notes on the email. Items in Junk will be automatically deleted after 30 days, and items in Trash will be deleted after 15. Thus, it's important to check for a missing message sooner, rather than later, if you think the spam filter made a mistake. When you first start using email, you have to pay careful attention. If you get a lot of junk, and your first dozen messages are all learned as spam, the filter will tend to think everything should be considered spam, since it's never learned from a good email yet. Until you've gotten at least a few dozen messages of each type (spam and non-spam) you should keep checking the Junk folder for mistakes. After a few dozen messages, the filter is usually pretty good about putting "iffy" emails into the Unsure folder.

Banners/Newsbox

Xepher.net offers a site-wide banner/newsbox system. This is very much like a link-exchange sort of program you may have seen elsewhere. People upload images, and then insert a snippit of code into their own site. The code will create the appropriate banner or box and display a rotation of other member images. You can view an example of the banner format one at the upper-right of nearly every main page on xepher.net, including this one. Participation is optional (unless you use a virtual domain) but highly encouraged.

To use this system takes two steps. 1st, under user services there's an option to "Upload Banners" which will let you upload two images. Ideally, you should create these images to be the proper size and format to begin with, but the upload script will handle resizing and conversion (though it often looks ugly.) The two image formats are a banner (500 pixels wide by 100 pixels high) and a box (200 wide by 300 high) and both should be JPG files. Also, each file is limited to 2MB in size. (You shouldn't even come close to that.) Please keep all images/text to a PG rating or lower, even if your site is not. (That means no cusswords, no nudity/sex, and nothing more than "cartoon" violence.) Once you've uploaded your images, they'll be displayed there, inside demo newsboxes, so you can see how they appear with the control overlays and such. If they look good, the next step is to insert the newsbox script in your page.

You have to simply insert the following bit of code into your page, at the location you would like the newsbox to appear.
<script type='text/javascript' src='http://xepher.net/newsbox.js.php?username=myusername&shape=box'></script>
You should change "myusername" to your username (which should be lowercase) and you can switch "banner" in for "box" if you want to display the wider format. Save your page, and make sure the box/banner displays properly. If it does, the scripts here will record that you've got an active newsbox display, and add your image(s) to the rotation. This "has_newsbox" check has a timeout of a week, so as long as someone has seen/loaded the newsbox from your page within the past week your images stay in rotation. Note that you only need either a banner or box to be counted as having a newsbox displayed. Your images will still be displayed in both formats, even if you only have one format on your site. Note that you can put both a box and a banner on the same page, but please do not put more than one of each type on the same page or it will cause errors. You can have as many of either type as you want spread out across your site, so long as they're on seperate pages.

If you have conflicts with the newsbox javascript and other elements on your page that use the scriptaculous/prototype libraries, you can append "&skip_scriptaculous=1" to the newsbox URL above, which usually fixes the problem. Just make sure the newsbox is still working afterwards with a full refresh (hit shift+refresh in most browsers).

File Uploads

In order to upload files, you'll need to use SCP/SFTP. For windows, you should download WinSCP (You want the "Installation Package") Once you've installed that, fire it up and set the server to be "xepher.net" then hit connect. You should get a nice graphical file manager that is (hopefully) pretty self explanatory. You can drag/drop files back and forth between the server and your local computer, as well as perform operations (like delete or move) directly on server files. When you first connect, you should see just a single folder called "public_html" Inside that folder is where your website should go. There's already one file in there, called "index.php" which you can feel free to delete. Everything in that folder will be the basis of your website, which is found at http://username.xepher.net

Database

Database is MySQL 5.x and each user has a database with the same name as their username, and it's accessed only via "localhost" as the server. However, your database username will be truncated to 16 characters. Thus, if you had a really long username like "superhappy-funtimes" and were trying to setup a forum, the database settings would be:
Database type: MySQL 5.x
Database server: localhost
Database name: superhappy-funtimes
Database username: superhappy-funti
Database password: mypassword (same as regular password)


Virtual Domains

If you have purchased a domain name (e.g. "mysite.com") it can be linked to your account there, providing both web and email functionality for your domain. The required DNS functionality is included as well, so you only need to purchase a "raw" domain... no extra services like forwarding or DNS are required. On the web side of things, the domain will function identically to your already assigned subdomain (e.g. http://username.xepher.net = http://mysite.com) and on the email side, you'll have the option to create up to three email addresses on that domain (something@mysite.com) which will be delievered to your xepher.net email account. To have a domain linked to your account, you need to set the authoritative name servers to ns1.xepher.net and ns2.xepher.net at your registrar, and then contact me with the full domain name, as well as your xepher.net username. I'll verify that you've assigned the name servers correctly and then link it to your account. Note that I've now made it a requirement that you participate in the banner/newsbox program if you're going to use a virtual domain, so go ahead and get that setup as well before requesting that I link one to your account.

Lost Password

Please email me (admin@...) from the address you have listed as your contact email for your account and I will send you your password. Requests from other email addresses may not be honored, as this is the only real method I have of verifying your identity.

Common PHP Problems/Errors

If you're having trouble installing a script (such as forums, or comic automation) that you didn't write yourself, there's a couple things to keep in mind.


Other Help

If you need other help, or have questions on any of this, check out the forum or email me at the address at the bottom left of the page.