Statically served wordpress content

I’m currently still evaluating hugo and jekyll, themes and plugins, as an alternative to the current WordPress site. Until I decide what route to eventually go with, I had a look at WordPress plugins to generate static versions of a site.

Simply Static looked fine and I gave it a spin, it can easily crawl through the site and you can provide additional file/urls/directories to add to the static version (as well as exemptions).

The static version of the website is created regularly and stored locally, so I added a few ansible tasks to set up a periodic rsync of the files to my webserver that serves static content.

I have a HAProxy load balancer in front of my webservers that I have configured to serve the static version of the website first, and fall back to the wordpress server as a backup (that also gives me a nice redundancy, so I can update and reboot servers without causing a downtime).
HAProxy is also configured to always send certain requests (admin interface, search) to the WordPress server since they require PHP. This all happens transparently for the user.

I’m not going to bore with the details since it was all pretty standard stuff. It’s nothing fancy, but it looks reliable and does what it should.

I have this blog entry scheduled to go live in a few days, so we’ll see if all the automatisms work and the static version of the page generated and synced to the webserver.

Privacy Policy

Soon new laws will go into effect in the EU regarding data privacy. I assume anyone reading this has already noticed everyone updating their privacy policies. The German version of the laws exempt private websites, but the exact definition of what “private” means is a bit unclear.

To err on the side of caution we also updated our privacy policy, our impressum, and took the necessary steps behind the scenes to be complaint with the laws. The following links/forms are also in the policy itself, but for easier access:


Submit a request to rectify data:


Blog cleanup

Today I cleaned the blog up a little. I removed the (hard to read) main menu at the top and moved the relevant topics over to the sidebar into the “More information” box. Makes information easier to find and the top of the page is a bit slimmer.

I also added a new page with an overview of a few of the more interesting public and private (web) services I’m running. This makes it easier for me to update the page when I add or remove a service, and easier for you all to see what I’m running, how to reach it, and what kind of uptime can be expected.

And last but not least I switched out the font to something that is slightly better readable with this layout and color scheme and tweaked the CSS a little bit.

Renewing “Let’s Encrypt” SSL certificates

Let’s Encrypt provides free DV SSL certificates for everyone and is now in the open beta phase. I’m not going to go into the details of which of the clients are best, since that depends entirely on your use case (I use acme-tiny and a rule in varnish to intercept all calls to /.well-known/acme-challenge/).

Since the certificates are only valid for 90 days, I often see people suggesting to just renew them via cronjob every 2 months. I find this to be really awful advice, if that renewal fails for any reasons (network problems, local problems, problems with let’s encrypt) the next renewal is a month after the certificate expired. It is also pretty inflexible (what if you would rather prefer to renew them after 80 days).

I use openssl to check daily how long the certificate is still valid, and if a threshold has been reached it tries to renew the certificate (I believe the official client has this functionality too). And if the certificate isn’t renewed by a 2nd threshold, it sends an email altering the admin of the problem (for manually intervening and fixing whatever went wrong).

At the end of this posting I’ll add the complete script, but the quickest way to check how long a certificate is still valid is to use openssl x509 -in -checkend. It will return 0 if the file is still valid in x seconds, and 1 if the certificate doesn’t exist or if the certificate will be expired by then. Just multiply the number of days by 86400 and check if the certificate is still valid:

The openssl binary has a few nice options for looking at certificates (both local files and remotely connecting to a server and looking at the provided certificate)
Show information about a local certificate file: openssl x509 -text -noout -in
Connect to a remote server and display the certificate provided: openssl s_client -showcerts -servername -connect IP:PORT | openssl x509 -text -noout  (servername is only required if you are connecting to a server and need to use SNI to request a cert for a specific domain, i.e. a webserver providing multiple domains on port 443 via SNI. It can of course be omitted if you don’t need it.)

This is the full script I use for checking and renewing certs. It basically just loops through a list of domains, checks if any of the date thresholds are met and then renews certificates/send emails.