supernaut is now using Let’s Encrypt for HTTPS cer…


supernaut is now using Let’s Encrypt for HTTPS certificate authority. (I was waiting for purchased certificate to expire before swapping.)

DreamHost & Let’s Encrypt & WordPress

Mid-last year, Electronic Freedom Frontier announced Let’s Encrypt: free, automated, Open Source HTTPS Certificate Authority for everyone. That’s the padlock in the address bar. Supernaut and other sites of mine have either gone the parasitic paid route, or the “whole day lost and still not working” free route.

DreamHost, who has been my webhost for close to a decade (thanks Emile), announced in December they would be providing One-Click Let’s Encrypt setup for everyone, no matter what their hosting plan. Yesterday it arrived; It really is one-Click! Ok, two clicks, one checkbox, one select. Four things you have to do in DreamHost panel for what used to cost tens to hundreds of dollars/euros a year and hours of pain if you didn’t want to pay.

Awesome. Best thing that’s happened to the internet since ages.

Anyway, this isn’t about all that, it’s about “I have a WordPress site and how do I make the green padlock appear?” Cos that’s a couple more steps. Call it 15 minutes if you’re paying attention; an hour if you’re drinking.

So, you’ve already added the certificate in DreamHost Panel. No? To the DreamHost Wiki! Done that, wait for the confirmation email (might take a couple of hours), and on to your webserver.

I start with getting wp-admin all https-ified. Open your site in whatever FTP client you’re using, open wp-config.php and add:

define( 'FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', true );

Re-login to wp-admin, and check for the padlock in the address bar. Open Web Inspector (command-alt-i), select the Console tag and check for Mixed Content errors. Unless you’re doing weird things in wp-admin, that’s that side of things sorted.

In your site root directory, you’ll see a directory called “.well-known”. That’s added by Let’s Encrypt. Probably don’t want to delete that.

Open your root .htaccess and add two chunks of code:

# force redirect http to https
# ---------------------------------------------------------------

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
 RewriteEngine On
 RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
 RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

# https security headers
# http strict transport security (hsts)
# X-Xss-Protection
# X-Frame-Options
# X-Content-Type-Options
# ---------------------------------------------------------------

<IfModule mod_headers.c>
 Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=16070400; includeSubDomains"
 Header always set X-Xss-Protection "1; mode=block"
 Header always set X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN"
 Header always set X-Content-Type-Options "nosniff"
 #Header always set Content-Security-Policy "default-src https://website.tld:443;"

The first force redirects any requests for http to https. The second does some fairly obtuse header security stuff. You can read about that on (The Content Security Policy stuff takes a lot of back-and-forth to not cause chaos. Even wp-admin requires specific rules as it uses Google Fonts. Expect to lose at least an hour on that if you decide to set that up.)

Other ways of doing this are possible. It’s kinda unclear what’s canonical and what’s depricated, but WordPress Codex and elsewhere have variations on these (definite rabbithole, this stuff):

SSLOptions +StrictRequire
SSLRequire %{HTTP_HOST} eq "yourwebsite.tld"
ErrorDocument 403 https://yourwebsite.tld

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
 RewriteEngine On
 RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
 RewriteRule ^ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

 RewriteBase /
 RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
 RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
 RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

Then go through the remainder of your .htaccess and change any specific instances of your old http://yourwebsite.tld to https://yourwebsite.tld.

Open robots.txt and do the same, http changed to https.

Now’s a good time to empty your cache and check your live site to see how it’s going. Everytime I’ve done this so far it’s been all green padlock and magic S. But there’s still a couple of things to do.

Off to your Theme directory, open functions.php, and add these chunks of code:

/* content over ssl
------------------------------------------------------ */
function themename_ssl_content( $content ) {
 if ( is_ssl() )
 $content = str_ireplace( 'http://' . $_SERVER[ 'SERVER_NAME' ], 'https://' . $_SERVER[ 'SERVER_NAME' ], $content );
 return $content;

add_filter( 'the_content', 'themename_ssl_content' );

/* advanced custom fields over ssl
------------------------------------------------------ */

add_filter( 'wp_get_attachment_url', 'set_url_scheme' );

The first one makes sure your old http links in Posts and Pages are spat out as https. (Can probably extend that for excerpts and other things if you’re that way inclined.) The second was for me specifically dealing with Advanced Custom Fields plugin, and is part of a larger issue that’s been bashed around on Make WordPress Core. There’s a few other bits of code floating around for issues like this and the Media Library not behaving properly over https, but the next step I think deals with that, if you want to go that far.

Before that though, go through your theme for irksome hardcoded http strings. If you really can’t use proper WordPress functions (like get_template_directory_uri() or whatever), then change them to https.


Turns out WordPress’ responsive images support using src-set needs its own attention:

/* responsive images src-set
------------------------------------------------------ */

function ssl_srcset( $sources ) {
 foreach ( $sources as &$source ) {
 $source['url'] = set_url_scheme( $source['url'], 'https' );

 return $sources;

add_filter( 'wp_calculate_image_srcset', 'ssl_srcset' );

If you fully commit to the next step though, these functions aren’t required.

(End of addendum.)

Database funtime! Backup your database, it’s time to search and replace. I’ve been using interconnect/it’s brilliant Search Replace DB for ages when I need to shift localhost websites to remote. Dump it in your WordPress folder, open it in a browser, and search-replace http://yourwebsite.tld to https://yourwebsite.tld. I do a dry run first, just to get an idea of what’s going to be changed. This step isn’t really necessary, and if you end up going back to http (dunno why), you’d need to reverse this process; it’s probably just that I like everything to be all orderly.

Another browser to make sure crap hasn’t fallen everywhere, and it’s cleanup time.

In wp-admin, check all the settings are showing https where they should (can even resave Permalinks if clicking buttons feels good). If you’re using a plugin like Yoast SEO, then checking the sitemaps are correct is good.

Caching plugins also need to be checked, and caches emptied. If you’re using W3 Total Cache and are manually minifying, check the file urls are all https, for some reason this was’t changed even with the database search replace. Also under Page Cache check “Cache SSL (https) requests”.

Then it’s checking in a couple of browsers with and without caching, particularly any pages that use plugins which embed or iframe content, or otherwise interact with stuff outside your website. Most sites like Vimeo, Twitter, YouTube etc that WordPress provides embeds for are already over https, but that doesn’t mean code in a plugin is up to date.

If you’re using Google Analytics or Webmasters or similar, you’ll need to set things up there for the new https version of your site as well.

Buncha caveats: Do some of this wrong and you will break things. At least backup your database before doing this. Some/all of this might be depreciated/incorrect/incomplete/not the best way to do it. Finding definitive, single ways to do things isn’t really how code works, so try and understand what the code does so you can ask if it’s doing what you want. For me to be able to do this in 15 minutes is because I’ve spent years scruffing around in stuff and breaking things horribly, and the best I can say is, this seems to work and cover the most common issues.

DreamHost. Let’s Encrypt. Excellent!

(I swear this is much quicker than it took to read.)



Person of Interest started Season 4 last night. Alongside Orphan Black it’s exceptional short-form drama, science-fiction or otherwise. (Who actually has television anymore?) After a “welcome back!” hour of the delightful Root, Shaw, Mr Reese, Harold, and Fusco (and Bear!), we arrive almost where we started in the first episode of the first season: Carter’s desk. The moment of Reese pausing, looking at the desk, then Fusco was not lost: Carter was loved and her murder mid-season 3 was traumatic. It’s rare for short- or long-form drama—especially science-fiction or action—to build and maintain characters and emotions, let alone to remember them once a character’s ‘story arc’ is ‘complete’, yet here we are fifteen episodes and one season later with a scene running a full minute with minimal dialogue that reminds us of their absence.

Person of Interest: Season 4 Episode 1: Panopticon
Person of Interest: Season 4 Episode 1: Panopticon

https:// + supernaut (& WordPress)

Every month, I get a newsletter from my webhost, DreamHost. And I read it! That’s how I found out that supernaut could be SSL, have https:// in its URL and have that fancy lock in the address bar. Up there, ^.

Why would I want to do something like that? Well, because I can. Because it’s useful for a lot of reasons, especially now. Since the Snowdon NSA whistleblowing, which gets worse and more damning with each document release, it became obvious to me I should take the implementation of privacy and security as seriously as I do reading about it. Recently this has meant beginning the move off Google, which I use for so much; installing PiWik instead of using Google’s Analytics, installing GPGTools for email encryption (and badgering my friends to do the same); and obviously, if easy website encryption was possible, I’d give it a spin.

The first things I tried it out on have been my private server (running Pydio, formerly AjaXplorer) – my self-running DropBox, and for PiWik, then on a couple of small, low-traffic sites, to test how SSL would play with my standard-ish WordPress setup, which led to some rewriting of htaccess rules, and quick/easy code cleanup. So then I thought to try it on supernaut, which gets enough traffic and is complex enough to really show the horror.

WordPress make it reasonably simple – provided you have STFP/shell access – to make the switch. First the admin and login side of things can be SSL’d simply by adding:

define('FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', true);

to wp-config. Then in the Admin General Settings changing WordPress Address and Site Address to https. Then in the root .htaccess, editing the WordPress with two additional lines:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} !^443$
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R,L]
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

This did the majority of the change; the remainder turned out to be annoying. Images in the content seemed very reluctant to make the jump. This is partly because they are effectively hardcoded via the process of inserting the using the Media Library. I tried several methods with varying degrees of success, and finally adding this to functions.php seemed to do the job, updated a bit to use WordPress’ inbuilt is_ssl() function, which is a wrapper for both isset($_SERVER[“HTTPS”]) and a check for server port 443, and uses str_ireplace() instead of the depreciated ereg_replace:

function supernaut_ssl_content($content) {
if ( is_ssl() )
$content = str_ireplace('http://' . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'], 'https://' . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'], $content);
return $content;
add_filter('the_content', 'supernaut_ssl_content');

Which just left data in custom fields, which I use primarily for video. These look like they are best edited by hand in supernaut, though it’s possible I could use the WordPress HTTPS (SSL) plugin … I’d rather bash around in the code so I understand what’s going on. (edit) well obviously I can just wrap any code in the template with the above function, and just replace $content with $variable that pulls the post meta, no? (edit 2) And also for situations where I’m using Advanced Custom Fields (sadly not here), adding this to functions.php takes care of the rest:

add_filter( 'wp_get_attachment_url', 'set_url_scheme' );

This just leaves changing the WordPress Address and Site URLs in General Settings to https://, and that’s it (I think).

The last thing then is my own certificate. While Chrome is reasonably calm about the fact my SSL is an unsigned certificate (i.e. I haven’t spent up to $1500 on one from a trusted vendor), and Safari drops down a fairly innocuous warning – which admittedly is enough to make most people anxious, FireFox turns on all the alarms and does a mad freakout that’s impossible to simply bypass. Horrible, no? I figured that $15 a year for a secure certificate was probably worth it, for the experiment alone.

supernaut on SSL then! Most Excellent!

And for those reading for whom this was all WTFBBQ?, here’s what DreamHost said:

SNI – SSL Without a Unique IP!

“Server Name Indication,” or SNI, is a biiiig deal in the world of web hosting.

Every site on the web is tied to a specific IP (v4) address, but a single address can be shared across several different domains. In fact that’s one feature that’s helped to keep the Internet from bursting apart at the seems up ’till now.

IPv4 addresses are the Brettcoins of the shared hosting world in that they are both EXTREMELY valuable and that there are only a finite number of them gifted to humanity by the Gods.

While IPs can be shared among websites, they cannot be shared among SSL-enabled (secure) websites. If you want to handle secure web transactions on your own without the use of a specialized third party payment platform you’ll need to lease (and pay for,) a unique IP address for your own personal use.

Or at least…that’s how things USED to work.

SNI extends the protocols used to process secure web transactions to allow for the usage of a single IP address across several different SECURE websites. And, as of not too long ago, we support it!

You can still obtain a unique IP address and tie your secure hosting to it if you’d prefer – but it’ll cost ya ($3.95/month.)

To add or modify the secure hosting settings on any of your domains, visit the “Domains/Secure Hosting” section of your control panel, and click to “Add” or “Edit” services on your domains.

For a little background on setting up secure hosting in general, including some caveats of SNI, check out our wiki!

misc. supernaut-ing


Yesterday, I updated to WordPress 3.6 then realised all the Post Formats stuff had been pulled from Core, and mediaelements.js was now in Core, so all my video was borked. Fixed that; discovered supernaut had been hacked back in April. Fixed that; made new favicons. Got annoyed by wp-admin slowness so spent an hour going through database cleaning out the options table (a curse on old plugins which don’t clean up after themselves when deleted). Realised some plugins weren’t working properly, deleted them, unexpectedly seeming to solve months of horribly slow/timing out wp-admin. Wrote a quick function to filter by Post Format in wp-admin. Felt rather pleased with self and taking that as a sign I’ve done something horrible which I’ll only notice in three months when supernaut farts itself and all backups out of existence.

pretty good privacy

I thoroughly recommend reading this article on PGP, the introduction to PGP & GPG: Email for the Practical Paranoid, then download whatever flavour of PGP you prefer and start using it.

This lawsuit turned Zimmermann into something of a hero in the computer community. Many people downloaded PGP just to see what all the fuss was about, and quite a few of them wound up using it. Zimmermann’s legal defense fund spread news of the PGP lawsuit even further. In congressional hearings about encryption, Zimmermann read letters he had received from people in oppressive regimes and war-torn areas whose lives had been saved by PGP, contributing greatly to the public awareness of how valuable his work had been. Also, PGP was available on the internet before the book was published — the code was available from anywhere in the world. (Admittedly, you needed internet access to get a copy, which was slightly difficult in the early 1990s.) The book was simply a legal device to make it possible for people outside the United States to use PGP without breaking US law.

— The Story of PGP

PGP pretty good privacy
PGP pretty good privacy

Continue reading