Better Mario Kart 8 connectivity using pfSense

(Update 2015-09-20: Several readers have also reported that the instructions in this post to set the Static Port flag for the WiiU’s outbound NAT also seems to help with Splatoon connectivity issues. Following this logic, this change may work for any WiiU game that shows similar problems.)

One of the more entertaining games I’ve played recently has been Mario Kart 8. Even though I’m not very good, it’s great with friends, despite what seems like Nintendo’s complete aversion to online gaming.

Since I’m used to the better mechanism of party chat on Xbox Live, typically I run Skype on a laptop throughout the session to the group of friends I’m playing with. The MacBook Pro built-in mic/speaker combination does decent enough noise cancellation, which means that multiple players in the same physical room can both spew profanity and have profanity spewn right back.

However, the configuration needed to get online play functioning properly (and staying working) is not exactly straightforward or even correct on most places on the Internet. Most troubleshooting steps, including those from Nintendo for connection error 118-0516, eventually advise that you place the WiiU console in a DMZ. I find this to be unacceptable, because:

  • (Update July 24/14: pfSense does have an option similar to a traditional DMZ, called 1:1 NAT and found under the Firewall / NAT / 1:1 configuration page. I still wouldn’t recommend it though, given that you may want to keep route certain ports to different services. Original content follows in struck out text.) pfSense doesn’t have a DMZ in the traditionally easily-configurable “send all inbound packets on any port to this NAT’d device” sense. There are ways to configure a DMZ in the more traditional network admin sense (eg: a separate network for Web servers) but there’s not an “easy button” equivalent to the Linksys/Netgear/D-Link version.
  • It might be a bit neckbeardy, but I don’t like giving full inbound access from the Internet to a device behind my firewall, despite the fact that it’s running a more restrictive OS and network stack.
  • Just ‘forwarding all ports’ to the WiiU interferes with other servers that I like to run on the same network connection. Lists of ports online elsewhere advise forwarding all UDP and a whack of (incorrect) TCP ports, but if I want to run Skype I don’t want to blindly send everything to the console.

The real key to getting past connection error 118-0516 with pfSense is to enable static port NAT for the WiiU. This setting also applies to other devices that use the Nintendo Network, such as the 3DS for Animal Crossing. Ensure you have performed basic network troubleshooting before reading further: these steps WILL NOT help if you have WiFi with packet loss or poor Internet connectivity in general.

(Seriously, don’t assume your WiFi is great because it works well for Internet browsing. Get numbers with ping and traceroute over an extended period of time, and correct the problem if it’s related to air quality or a flakey router.)

(Scroll down further if you just want to know how to change this setting.)

Rationale behind Static Port = No

Static Port is described briefly in the pfSense documentation as a security feature to avoid someone determining the device or OS behind your firewall, and is turned on by default.

The entire process works like this: when a LAN device attempts to create an outbound connection, there is both a source and destination port associated with that request. So your computer might request a website on destination port 80, but that request is “coming from”, or “sourced” from a port above 1024 picked by your operating system – something like 57894. You can see these ports by running netstat -n from your computer’s command prompt or terminal, and noting how local addresses with high ports have established connections to foreign addresses with standard ports like 443 and 80.

pfSense, thinking it’s doing us a favour, sees that outbound request and picks a “more random” source port on the WAN side to avoid exposing the internal source port. It keeps track of the LAN source port to WAN source port mapping in a state table. An more detailed example of this transaction might be:

Computer at 192.168.1.100 wants to get a website at http://example.com/ (port 80).
The OS on 192.168.1.100 starts a request from port 57894:

192.168.1.100:57894 > example.com:80

pfSense has to keep track of this request and send it out of the WAN connection. 
It picks a new random port (eg: 32564) when it gets to the Internet connection.

192.168.1.100:57894 > modem.bigisp.com:32564 > example.com:80

pfSense now knows the state:
port 57894 internal == port 32564 external

Then when the request comes back from example.com, pfSense reverses the mapping: 
example.com has a source port of 80 and sends data back to port 32564:

example.com:80 > modem.bigisp.com:32564 > (pfSense state) > 192.168.1.100:57894

To avoid going much further into this, WiiU and other Nintendo Network devices don’t like how pfSense does the source port translation, and as a result you will see connection errors when trying to establish a session with other players.

Set a Static IP or Static DHCP Lease

Since we will be configuring firewall rules for a single, specific device and don’t want another device to accidentally take over this IP, the WiiU should have a static IP set, or a static DHCP lease assigned in pfSense. To set a static DHCP lease, access Status > DHCP Leases and locate the WiiU console in the list. Click the ( + ) button next to the device and provide an IP address outside of the usual range – for example, if I had a DHCP range of 192.168.1.100 to 192.168.1.254, I might make the WiiU IP address 192.168.1.50. It may be useful to note in the description that this static lease is for the WiiU console.

Save the configuration and restart the DHCP server when pfSense prompts, then power cycle the WiiU.

Changing the Static Port Setting

From the top menu, access the Firewall > NAT option, then select the Outbound tab. The first two options are:

  • Automatic outbound NAT rule generation (IPsec passthrough included) – the default
  • Manual Outbound NAT rule generation (AON – Advanced Outbound NAT)

You will need to change this mode to “Manual Outbound NAT rule generation”, if not already present, and save. Once saved, some rules should be automatically generated for LAN to WAN traffic as well as ‘localhost to WAN’.

Leave these rules alone and add a new rule by using the ( + ) button at the top of the list. Set the following properties:

Do not NAT: unchecked
Interface: WAN
Protocol: any
Source:

  • Type: Network
  • Address: The address of the WiiU (eg: 192.168.1.50), with a “/32” in the dropdown box
  • Source port: (leave blank)

Destination:

  • Type: any
  • Address: (leave blank, should be disabled)
  • Destination port: (leave blank)

Translation:

  • Address: interface address
  • Port: (leave blank)
  • Static port: check this box

No XMLRPC Sync: Unchecked, only useful in a multiple pfSense environment
Description: I provided “WiiU AON, static port

Advanced Outbound NAT for WiiU

When complete, ensure the rule is at the top of the list, then click Apply Changes. Your screen should look like the following image (although not necessarily including the OpenVPN rule):

pfSense AON List

After this, exit and re-enter Mario Kart 8 or your other Nintendo Network software. You should be able to join games and participate in online multiplayer sessions.

Wait, it’s still not working!

Still having troubles getting into games, or having other people join yours? You may need to perform some port forwarding operations. While there are suggestions to forward a number of TCP and UDP ports, I’ve run a packet capture during several multiplayer sessions with the following notes:

  • No TCP traffic was initiated or received by the WiiU across >30 minutes of successful Mario Kart 8 game sessions. This means that any port forwarding techniques involving TCP are placebos at best.
  • The WiiU does not attempt to establish a UPnP or NAT-PMP session on the router.
  • UDP ports are selected somewhat randomly from the list of non-privileged ports (>1024). In the sample session, the lowest port I saw was 9103 and the highest port was 61320.

Given these details, you could forward UDP ports 1025-65535 to the WiiU IP address in Firewall > NAT > Port Forward, but I would suggest limiting this range even further to UDP 49152-65535 (the dynamic ports as specified by IANA). An example screenshot with this configuration is provided for your convenience.

WiiU Port Forwarding

What’s next?

I intend to continue to run packet captures during Mario Kart 8 sessions with this configuration to collect more data, as well as review the pfSense firewall logs during any disconnections to see if any traffic is being explicitly blocked. I didn’t capture entire content, but to replicate the packet capture:

  • Enable SSH on the pfSense box
  • SSH in as root, and select option 8 (Shell) from the menu
  • tcpdump -i em1 -w /tmp/wiiu.pcap ‘src 192.168.1.50 or dst 192.168.1.50’  – where em1 is your LAN interface, and 192.168.1.50 is the IP address of the WiiU
  • Start game session, Ctrl+C once complete and SCP the .pcap to a different machine for analysis with Wireshark or other tools

Fix forwarding to Gmail with a Linode Postfix/Dovecot mail server

Recently I decided to rebuild our main Debian Squeeze host as a 64-bit Debian Wheezy (7.0; I believe the template is 7.3 as of the time of this writing) VPS. This box runs web hosting, email, internal IRC, shell access and basically any other services that one of our beloved sudoers would like to try. Both of these hosts live in Linode’s Newark datacenter.

Linode will pro-rate your account if you cancel a server in the middle of a month, so both instances (old and new) are currently running for a minimal net cost. You can also assign private IPs to each host and SCP data or mount NFS between servers without cutting into your bandwidth quota, as well as attain a slight transfer speed improvement. This gives us plenty of time to move finicky services and make sure that the new configuration is working as intended. We’ve been cutting over individual user websites and mail services one by one to lessen the impact.

One of the problems I ran into that did not exist on the old host was email forwarding. We use the Linode Library: Email with Postfix, Dovecot, and MySQL article as a basis for a mail server that supports multiple domains, IMAP mailboxes and aliases that forward to multiple accounts. Most of our traffic is forwarding operations, typically to multiple users at once as sort of a poor-man’s distribution list. The main forwarder is an internal alias for Slightly Sauced group discussions, which sends messages out to everyone’s preferred mail provider.

Initially there didn’t seem to be any problems with the mail setup. I use Exchange Online for my personal email and messages were coming and going properly to me. When I went to reply to an existing thread, I soon got a bounceback message from for only a few email recipients the list. Checking /var/log/mail.log, I found the following lines (truncated for brevity and sanitized to not mention any specific email addresses):


Feb 26 21:58:24 services02 postfix/qmgr[28676]: 2F6FA6AB68: from=<me@example.com>, size=31176, nrcpt=9 (queue active)
Feb 26 21:58:24 services02 postfix/smtp[10250]: 2F6FA6AB68: to=<recipient1@googleapps.example.com>, orig_to=<distribution@example.com>, relay=ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.com[2607:f8b0:400d:c04::1b]:25, delay=8.6, delays=8/0.01/0.13/0.46, dsn=2.0.0, status=sent (250 2.0.0 OK 1393451904 g88si838453qgf.126 - gsmtp)
Feb 26 21:58:24 services02 postfix/smtp[10253]: 2F6FA6AB68: to=<recipient2@dreamhost.example.com>, orig_to=<distribution@example.com>, relay=mx1.sub4.homie.mail.dreamhost.com[208.97.132.226]:25, delay=8.7, delays=8/0.02/0.24/0.39, dsn=2.0.0, status=sent (250 2.0.0 Ok: queued as 84D4B76807B)
Feb 26 21:58:24 services02 postfix/smtp[10251]: 2F6FA6AB68: to=<recipient3@gmail.example.com>, orig_to=<distribution@example.com>, relay=gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com[2607:f8b0:400d:c00::1a]:25, delay=8.7, delays=8/0.01/0.06/0.58, dsn=5.7.1, status=bounced (host gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com[2607:f8b0:400d:c00::1a] said: 550-5.7.1 [2600:3c03::f03c:91ff:fe6e:423f 12] Our system has detected that 550-5.7.1 this message is likely unsolicited mail. To reduce the amount of spam 550-5.7.1 sent to Gmail, this message has been blocked. Please visit 550-5.7.1 http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=188131 for 550 5.7.1 more information. r6si610718qcl.69 - gsmtp (in reply to end of DATA command))
Feb 26 21:58:26 services02 postfix/smtp[10252]: 2F6FA6AB68: to=<recipient4@exchange.example.com>, orig_to=<distribution@example.com>, relay=example-com.mail.protection.outlook.com[207.46.163.215]:25, delay=11, delays=8/0.02/0.34/2.3, dsn=2.6.0, status=sent (250 2.6.0 <72c119e2692a422cbc733234ced8599a@SN2PR03MB046.namprd03.prod.outlook.com> [InternalId=49989124371267, Hostname=BY2PR03MB041.namprd03.prod.outlook.com] Queued mail for delivery)
Feb 26 21:58:26 services02 postfix/bounce[10256]: 2F6FA6AB68: sender non-delivery notification: D6C4C6AB90

The first thing I noticed is that the users on Dreamhost IMAP, Exchange Online, and Google Apps / Google Hosted accounts did not have the forwarded message rejected. Forwards going to straight @gmail.com addresses were immediately rejected. I reviewed the Google Support document without much luck, and then stumbled across some documentation from Tanguy Ortolo about Google’s IPv6-related email restrictions. While Tanguy’s workaround was a good one (force IPv4 connections to Google mail servers), I tried to solve the problem while maintaining IPv6 connectivity. Linode does let you set reverse DNS (PTR) records for both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, as long as they forward-resolve correctly.

  • In the Linode control panel or your own DNS management system, establish A and AAAA records for the server that is transmitting email. (eg: mailserver01.example.com.) Wait for the records to be resolvable and check with the dig a $hostname; dig aaaa $hostname commands on an IPv6 enabled system.
  • In the Linode control panel, find the individual VPS and access Remote Access. In the Public IPs section, click Reverse DNS.
  • On the Reverse DNS page, look up the domain name (mailserver01.example.com) with the provided tool. If your A and AAAA records are present and functional, Linode will ask whether you would like to use mailserver01.example.com as the reverse DNS entry for both your IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Click Yes to both options.

Within 24 hours, forwarded mail flow to Gmail accounts should begin working properly.

I also took this opportunity to update my SPF records as Exchange Online was fairly restrictive about certain types of messages that I sent through this server. I had to update my SPF record to: v=spf1 a mx include:spf.protection.outlook.com include:example.com ~all, where example.com was the domain of our Debian mail server that had its own SPF record.

Update, June 29/14: You also want to ensure that your SPF record doesn’t have more than ten total DNS lookups, recursively including all ‘include:’ directives. Exchange Online adds quite a few. Use http://www.kitterman.com/spf/validate.html to confirm that the SPF entry passes with the pyspf checker.

Fixing stuttery or frozen USB on a Supermicro motherboard

For future reference and edification: on certain Supermicro motherboards running OSes of Windows 7 or newer (including the Server variants like 2008 R2 or 2012), USB keyboard and mouse devices will act ‘stuttery’ or freeze during input. The issue I encountered was specifically missing keystrokes or repeated letter presses, and appeared to be present even before the OS had booted.

A response in the Spiceworks community pointed me to the Supermicro FAQ, which states:

Question
In X9DRW-iF, USB Mouse can’t work under Winodws 7.

Answer
Please change “ISOC” setting from disable to enable in the BIOS menu for problem solving. (This item locates at Advanced / Chipset / NB / QPI Config –> ISOC)

To clarify, reboot the server and get into BIOS by pressing Delete at startup when prompted. “NB” refers to North Bridge.

Home networking overkill with a Lanner FW-7540

I’ve recently run into a few issues with my home networking setup. In pure overkill fashion, I’ve bought some new hardware to deal with it all and hopefully, in the process, learn a bit more about different network configurations.

One of my main problems at this point is related to location. After buying a house last year, I still have yet to make significant progress on the “Ethernet to every room” project. Wireless is great and has drastically improved since the early gear, but even the 802.11ac standard and equipment is no substitution for the reliability and consistent speed of a gigabit wired line. ac routers right now can push 180Mbps throughput at 1 meter, but quickly diminish based on additional distance, other devices and the wireless adapters involved in the whole fiasco.

For the wired setup, I have all of the means to complete the process – or at least think I do until moving to whatever the next phase of the process is. At that point there’s usually much cursing, an order or two to Monoprice, and even a trip to Home Depot. Over the year I’ve relocated my folding table of tech gear to the basement, and there’s already quite a convenient hole in the floor to run some wiring through. As a result, my main tech closet in the basement all runs Ethernet, and I’m less inclined to start sawing drywall and drilling holes to the second floor on a whim.

Another problem I was seeing was poor wireless and routing performance in general. I’ve had the Netgear WNDR3700 in place for about two years now, and it’s run both stock firmware and DD-WRT with various success. I’d highly recommend the router with stock firmware for most home configurations, but DD-WRT seems to occasionally stop sending and receiving traffic on the 5GHz wireless interface.

With a router replacement, there are three main components to be aware of:

  • Router/NAT device, to handle Internet connection traffic and route it to the corresponding internal client
  • Switching equipment – usually built in to the router, but additional capacity is generally needed down the line for more than four systems or avoiding lengthy cables
  • Wireless radio interface – again, usually built into the router

I decided to split this up a bit into its logical components. For the router/NAT device, my friend Matt sold me on a Lanner FW-7540, which is essentially a small-form-factor box with four Intel gigabit Ethernet ports and a dual-core Intel Atom CPU. The machine easily runs software like pfSense, which is a FreeBSD distribution with a Web interface and some configuration utilities on top. It’s incredible software and very powerful.

For switching equipment, I turned off DHCP on the Netgear router and am not using the WAN (Internet) port, turning it into a wireless access point plus four-port gigabit switch. I believe there is an option to reassign the WAN port to a LAN port, but I am not entirely lacking for ports near the cable modem at this point. Other locations in the house utilize 8-port Monoprice gigabit switches and that’s probably what I’d put in if the Netgear died or started acting up.

The last part of the equation is wireless access, and I’m waiting for the Ubiquiti UniFi AP AC to become reasonably commercially available. For now, I’m expecting a UniFi AP Pro to start. Even in a residential neighbourhood, I typically see upwards of a dozen networks in range and would like a more powerful, better-located access point to serve the systems here.

So, what have I learned about this setup?

Serial access to the Lanner console is a bit of a fun time. The device includes an RJ-45 to DB-9 serial adapter, so I had to hunt for which devices around the house had a serial port. You’ll also want to have a basic understanding of how serial terminals work.

Installing pfSense – when picking the kernel, select the option that is not symmetric multiprocessing, or you’ll lose console access on the first boot. Initial configuration for making the device behave like a usual router/switch involves not only setting up “OPT1” and “OPT2” interfaces to be bridged to the LAN, but configuring the built-in firewall to allow all traffic between them. I accidentally set the firewall allow rules to only let TCP traffic pass between the network interfaces, and that basically ruined functionality for anything plugged into ports 3 and 4 on the Lanner.

IP range selection is a good thing to plan out completely, especially if you’re a moron and pick the same range that your office uses to assign to VPN clients and a number of internal systems. Stick to low-numbered 192.168.x.y subnets to interfere with the least amount of connectivity, and select the appropriate netmask. I picked 10.0.0.0/8 and was in a world of hurt reconfiguring the network the next time I had to work from home.

Don’t dual DHCP or you’ll end up with what looks like periodic packet loss. Running a continuous ping to the router showed maybe two “Request timed out” results every twenty minutes or so. This interrupted music mounted from another computer as well as the Internet connection. Make sure all other DHCP servers are turned off or locked down appropriately!

(Messages in the pfSense logs for this condition look like repeated instances of the following block)

Apr 15 01:18:02 pfsense kernel: arp: 192.168.1.100 moved from 00:1b:21:b0:7e:bb
to 34:bb:1f:bb:0a:f8 on em1
Apr 15 01:18:15 pfsense kernel: arp: 192.168.1.100 moved from 34:bb:1f:bb:0a:f8
to 00:1b:21:b0:7e:bb on em1

Update 1: Useful sites that helped sort this out were:

And finally, have a UPS on all critical parts of the network path. They’re reasonably inexpensive and it’s nice to be able to still have Internet access during a power outage situation.

Fix issues signing in and updating apps from the Mac App Store

Problem: The Mac App Store on my laptop refused to allow me to update existing applications, download new ones, sign in to my account or view existing downloads. Trying the “Store > Sign In” and “Sign In” link from the Featured page both refused to display the usual login dialog. Attempting to update existing applications showed the usual “spinner” in the top toolbar with no progress.

Dead ends: Suggested on the Apple Discussion forums, there were several items suggesting anti-virus and firewall involvement. None of these were applicable to my situation and I was attempting all of these actions from an unrestricted TekSavvy cable connection.

Solution: This post on the Apple Discussion forums provided the initial help, but was incomplete in its solution. First, close out the App Store, then enable the debug menu by running

defaults write com.apple.appstore ShowDebugMenu -bool true

from the Terminal. Launch the App Store again, and choose Debug > Clear Cookies and Debug > Reset Application. Quit and relaunch the App Store, and you should be able to sign in and download updates successfully.

WordPress phpass generator: resetting or creating a new admin user

Again, in case I forget: If you’d like to reset a WordPress password from the database or create a new administrative user:

  1. Generate a PHPass hash using this mainframe8 tool.
  2. Insert a new row, or update an existing row, in the wp_users table. Use the hash from the tool in the user_pass column.
  3. If you’re adding a new administrator, insert the following values into wp_usermeta and replace user_id (2 in this example) with the newly created account’s ID:
    INSERT INTO wp_usermeta (`umeta_id` , `user_id` , `meta_key` , `meta_value`) VALUES
    (NULL , '2', 'wp_capabilities', 'a:1:{s:13:"administrator";b:1;}'),
    (NULL , '2', 'wp_user_level', '10');
  4. Enjoy a fixed WordPress admin account.

Remove enterprise policies on pre-BlackBerry 10 devices

All information in this post is provided as-is, with no warranties. It is written in my capacity as a developer and mobile phone enthusiast. Please contact your carrier support or BlackBerry Technical Support for official recommendations.

 

The application in this post is available to the public in the RIM JDK packages, available at blackberry.com/developers. It does not allow you to avoid corporate policies; reconnecting your device to a BES after using this procedure will reapply any enterprise policies. Use this procedure for personally owned devices from online auction sites, or to remove all restrictions associated with uninstalling BlackBerry Unite.

The absolute best way to remove an enterprise policy on any 8xxx or 9xxx series device (Pearl, Curve, 8800/8820/8830 or Bold) involves upgrading your device operating system to version 4.5 or later , then running JavaLoader with the “-u resettofactory” switches. Any operating system below version 4.3 will not work using this method.

The reason I suggest upgrading your OS first is because newer enterprise policy settings and BlackBerry Unite! configurations are not overwritten by the instructions on BlackBerry FAQ. Unite! specifically creates firewall rules that persist even after applying a blank policy.bin. (If the device’s existing policy prevents OS upgrades, use the BlackBerry FAQ process first and then continue with this page. I’ve also mirrored policy.bin for your convenience.)

First, you’ll need JavaLoader, usually packaged online as JL_Cmder. You can download a basic version of JavaLoader (1.9.1) here – no installation required, just unzip the tools to a folder of your choice. This download also includes a batch file to reset your IT policy automatically.

Once ready, connect your device to your PC using a USB cable and close any instances of Desktop Manager. Then, run the included resettofactory.bat script. Once complete, your device will be clear of any IT policy settings – you can check in Options/Security Options/General Settings.

If the batch file doesn’t work, use Command Prompt to run javaloader -u resettofactory.

More scams: How you can get ripped off using PayPal

One of my most popular posts still seems to be “Apparently you can get scammed using PayPal and Gmail“, in which I received my first scam attempt from a Gmail address. The comments on this post typically are people who have avoided being scammed out of their goods, but a number of people recently are asking how the process actually works and why something’s a scam.

First of all, if the offer is too good to be true, there’s something wrong. Nobody in their right mind is going to willingly add an extra $100 upfront for shipping. People using Craigslist and Kijiji are universally cheap and will offer pennies on the dollar for your merchandise, or worse yet try to “trade” you. If you see an offer that comes in for more than you’re asking for, or adds an exorbitant amount for inconvenience, you’re getting greedy and stupid.

Second, nothing is ever final with PayPal. There are countless horror stories online, but let’s just be clear for people who think PayPal offers any seller peace of mind:

  • If you sell an item and use PayPal for the transaction, and don’t ship with a tracking number, the buyer can just claim they never received the merchandise. PayPal will always side with the buyer and return the funds from your account to theirs.
  • If you do use a tracking number, the buyer can lodge a complaint and claim that the item is not as described. Supposedly they are required to return the item to you, but PayPal will just return the funds to their account.
  • In the event of any issue with the transaction, the buyer always wins.

Oh, wait, you say. But what if I immediately withdraw the funds from my account once the buyer has paid me? Then PayPal can’t do anything?

Actually, they can. PayPal will put your account into a negative balance and any funds you add or receive will first go towards that negative amount. If you keep a negative balance for over 30 days, they will send you to collections and close your account. This will  eventually appear on your credit report and you will be constantly hounded to repay the negative balance. It doesn’t matter that you were scammed out of your money; you’ll have to dispute the payment and likely take the matter to court to have it resolved.

PayPal is not seller-friendly. The only reason people use it on eBay is that it’s the only allowed payment choice in many circumstances, and the high-volume sellers do a pretty good job of staying in PayPal’s good graces. If you’re selling 1000 items and 10 people defraud you, you still have a 99% success rate and it’s really just the cost of doing business. The same scenario doesn’t apply for a single seller selling a single item, especially if there are other signs of sketchy behaviour before the transaction.

Migrating back to WordPress with regex and ‘tr’

I decided that I didn’t really feel like trying to manually upgrade ChintzyCMS to the latest version, so my personal site is now back running WordPress. I wasn’t interested in migrating comments, so if you’ve said something witty in the past you’ll need to look forward for new material.

There were a few tools that helped in the PostgreSQL to MySQL and import process. I’m still a bit upset that WordPress doesn’t support Postgres natively, but such is life.

  • First, I used phppgadmin to export the posts table as XML, which gives a <column> and <row> style output from the table. I deleted the header and column description  tags from the beginning and end of the file.
  • Using the guide at WordPress Codex – Importing Content, I performed the following search and replace operations based on the Importing from [X]HTML instructions:
    • For each column tag that needed to be replaced, I searched for the regex
      <column name="title">([^<]*)</column>

      and replaced it with the appropriate tag pair, such as

      <title>\1</title>
    • For each column that didn’t have an equivalent match in the WordPress database, I searched for the same regex and replaced it with an empty string.
    • I saved the resulting file out as posts.xml.
    • Using the UNIX tr utility described here, I removed all newline characters in the file:
      tr -d '\n' < posts.xml > posts_no_newline.xml

I then was able to import the posts_no_newline.xml file using the WordPress RSS Importer plugin.

There are still some posts that contain remnants from an ASCII to UTF-8 conversion (the new MySQL database stores content in UTF-8) which I’ll likely fix programmatically; when that happens, I’ll update with how that was performed.