Frequently Asked Questions

The NearlyFreeSpeech.NET FAQ (*)

MySQL (*)

How do I get a MySQL process?

MySQL processes are created via the MySQL panel of our member site. For a description of our MySQL pricing, see this page.

Within a MySQL process, you will have full administrative control and you may create as many databases as you wish. One process is more than adequate for most uses, including supporting web sites, each with multiple unrelated applications, such as forum software and blogging tools, but you may add more if you wish.

We do reserve the right to limit excessive MySQL usage that disrupts other members. MySQL is very efficient, so this is rarely an issue, although it can come up if a process is using large tables that are not properly indexed.

(For information about the difference between a MySQL process and MySQL database, please see this related FAQ entry.)

What is the DSN (hostname) I should use to connect to my MySQL database?

The DSN, or hostname, for connecting to MySQL is the name you gave when you created it, followed by the extension .db. The full connection information can be found in the email sent to you when you created your database. Never use localhost as part of your database connection information.

If you need to find your DSN and no longer have this email, visit the MySQL panel. The DSN for your process appears in the first column. Clicking on the DSN name will take you to a page with more information about your process, including your default admin username.

DSN stands for Database Server Name and is sometimes also referred to as hostname or MySQL Server Name or even just server name. This is different from Database Name, which is something you choose separately for each program that uses your database (and usually create from our interface, the command line, or a tool like phpMyAdmin).

Ok, I have a MySQL process. How do I create a database?

Sometimes if you are using a pre-built application, it will create its own database, but in general you will have to do this yourself.

Remember that MySQL databases and MySQL processes are not the same thing. When you first create your MySQL process, there won't be any databases in it.

There are two easy ways to create a database inside your MySQL process. For either method, you will need the database administrator username and password. The username is the same as your member login name, and a temporary password was created and emailed to you when you created the process.

The fastest way to create a database in your MySQL process is to click the "Create a Database" action on the MySQL Process Information page for your MySQL process on the MySQL panel, and just follow the steps.

However, the phpMyAdmin tool that we provide can also be used: Choose "Open phpMyAdmin" from the "Actions" box on the MySQL Process Information page. Then log in to your MySQL process. Then choose the "Databases" tab. Next, look for the text box under Create database. Pick a name for your database and enter it in that box. Then select the Create button. That's all there is to it!

You can use this ability to set up a whole bunch of applications to use different databases in the same MySQL process, even if the applications are running on completely different sites and don't share any information.

Example: Suppose you have two sites, and you wish to run the phpBB forum software on both of them without having them smack into each other. You could create two databases, one called sitea and one called siteb, in your single MySQL process, then set the $dbname value in each site's phpBB config.php file to sitea or siteb.

(You can also use phpBB's $table_prefix feature for this purpose, but three out of four nerds agree that the two-database way is "better.")

What is the difference between a MySQL process and a MySQL database?

A MySQL process or MySQL server (or even MySQL server process) refers to the actual running MySQL software.

A MySQL database, on the other hand, is a collection of related tables within a MySQL process that share a common purpose, like running a forum or blog application.

A MySQL process may contain more than one MySQL database. (If it doesn't have at least one, it isn't very useful.)

MySQL processes are identified by their DSN or hostname, which is of the form example.db. You chose this when you created the MySQL process, and you can see it on your MySQL panel in the user interface.

MySQL databases are identified by their database name. You can create these from phpMyAdmin.

Sometimes the term MySQL database gets misused to mean the MySQL process. This usually happens when the process only has one database. We try to avoid that usage, because it is ambiguous and confusing, and we encourage you to do the same. But it happens, so if someone says "MySQL database" and you aren't 100% sure which one they mean, ask them. "Do you mean the MySQL process itself or the database within the process?" The confusion you avoid may be your own, because you have to know which name goes where when you configure your application.

If I lose my MySQL admin user password, can you help me get it back?

Possibly. When we created your database, we assigned a password to the 'root' MySQL user, which can only be used from the physical machine running the database (which no users have access to). If you have not removed our access, then we can reset your database password for you with no problem. In cases where this is all that is needed, the cost is $1 (waived for support subscribers). If you want to do this, open an assistance request and indicate you are aware of the charge. If the reset is successful, a temporary password will be emailed to you.

If you have removed our access, which you are welcome to do, then we will have to use a different approach that is very time consuming, will cause downtime for your database and any sites that depend on it, will incur a professional services fee depending upon the amount of DBA time involved (typically $5 - $20). Although this is a fairly safe procedure, there always is the risk that it might cause you to lose some or all of your data.

We strongly recommend that you use your MySQL administrator username and password only for the purpose of creating other MySQL users. It is much too powerful to be used directly from your web site or plugged into any web pages or config files! To create a new user with only the necessary privileges, see: this entry.

Please keep careful track of your MySQL passwords.

How do I access my MySQL database process from the ssh server command line?

To connect successfully, use a command similar to the following:

YourPrompt> mysql --host=example.db --user=username -p Database

Where the "username" is the database username (usually the same as your NearlyFreeSpeech.NET login, unless you have created another) and "example.db" is the database DSN you chose when creating your database and "Database" is the name of a database in your MySQL process that you have created. Using the above command line, you will be prompted for your MySQL password. The initial password was emailed to you at the time you created your process, but hopefully you've changed it since then.

To create a database in your MySQL process from the command line, use a command similar to the following:

YourPrompt> mysqladmin --host=example.db --user=username -p create Database

Using the same values as the first example, this will prompt you for your MySQL password and then create a database called Database in your MySQL process. (We'll leave the task of coming up with a database name more creative than "Database" as an exercise for the reader.)

If you need to redirect input (for example to load a MySQL dump file), you will additionally have to specify the MySQL password on the command line, like so:

YourPrompt> mysql --host=example.db --user=username --password=password Database <database.sql

Can I use ssh port forwarding to access my MySQL database from a remote location?

This is allowed for two very specific purposes:

The best guideline for whether what you are doing is allowed is whether you are doing it. In other words, no automated port-forwarded access to MySQL is allowed; it must be you personally doing whatever you're doing. If, for example, you want to back up your process, you should use another method.

Because of the large variety of ssh clients and ssh-protocol tunneling applications that exist, and the innate complexity of ssh tunneling, we cannot provide any technical support related to remote access to your MySQL database.

To use ssh port forwarding in conjunction with the industry-standard OpenSSH client, one would use a command similar to the following on one's local system (not our ssh server):

YourPrompt> ssh -N -L 3306:your.db:3306 user_site@ssh.xxx.nearlyfreespeech.net

Please note that the command above needs significant specialization for use in your specific circumstances. If you are uncomfortable making the needed changes, this is not a feature you should attempt to use.

Where can I find more information on properly creating MySQL users?

The official documentation is here:

MySQL 5: http://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/5.0/en/user-account-management.html

phpMyAdmin: http://wiki.phpmyadmin.net/pma/user_management

On our system, whatever method you choose needs to boil down to two SQL commands:

Do not specify a hostname when creating users; since we use a clustered hosting network, you cannot predict from what host a connection will originate. Also, attempts to "GRANT ALL ON *.*" will typically fail due to the lack of the FILE permission by default on admin users, and it is bad practice to grant administrative privileges to a website user. Finally, try to avoid granting ALL if you can; security is always enhanced by minimizing the privileges of website users.

What are the default databases present in my MySQL process?

The "mysql" database contains vital information about the other databases, usernames and passwords in your MySQL process used when it starts up. It is a very important part of MySQL, and your process won't start if it's removed or corrupted. Unfortunately, MySQL will let you alter or remove it without any warning or special confirmation. Don't ever do that. Because people sometimes do, our system checks on this database periodically and if it detects a problem it will report your MySQL process as "Damaged" in our member interface.

MySQL 5.0 and later versions also contain a synthetic database called "information_schema" which can be used with SQL commands to obtain metadata about your other databases. Since this database is created entirely from information about other databases, it doesn't really exist, and attempts to alter or remove it will fail.

MySQL processes may also be created with a database called "test." This database serves no purpose and can be removed if you don't want to use it.

Why do I have to pay for a stopped MySQL process?

Because we still have to retain the associated MySQL data and reserve enough resources for you to start it at any time.

To avoid being charged for having a MySQL process you are not using, you can remove it by visiting the "mysql" page, selecting the name of the process you want to delete, and then selecting "Permanently Remove Process" from the "Actions" box.

When I change my member password, do my MySQL passwords change too?

No they do not.

What does the MySQL Error Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/tmp/mysql.sock' (2) mean? (or socket 'please_see_the_faq')

You receive this message if you attempt to connect to MySQL without telling our system which actual MySQL process you wish to connect to.

When you created the MySQL process, you selected a DSN (also called its hostname), which is the name you must use to access your process. This name is of the form something.db and is also identified in your MySQL setup email and on your MySQL panel.

Most software packages that use MySQL offer a configuration variable of some kind to specify the DSN. You must enter the something.db name for this purpose. You cannot use localhost or leave it blank, or your program will not work, and you'll get this error message.

Why do I get an error "Cannot log in to the MySQL server" when I try to log in to phpMyAdmin?

There are several causes of this error. To figure out what's going on, look for a hash sign and a four-digit error code in front of this message. E.g. "#1045 Cannot log in to the MySQL server." This code is a MySQL error code, which comes in two varieties, 1XXX server codes and 2XXX client codes.

The two most common error codes are #1045 and #2002.

Error code #1045

This typically indicates a problem with the username/password combination provided. That's definitely the first thing to check. It could also happen if you got your username and password right, but mistyped the DSN and happened to get another valid one that doesn't accept your info.

Also, if your member login (which is also your default MySQL username) is too long for MySQL, our system truncates it automatically, and you must use that instead. You can verify the correct username information by visiting the "mysql" tab and clicking on the name of the process (ending in ".db"), which is listed under the "DSN" column. Your MySQL default username is listed under "How to Access MySQL."

Error code #2002

This indicates that the MySQL process didn't answer. In other words, it didn't even get as far as checking if your username and password were valid. This usually indicates a typo in the DSN, or that the MySQL process is not running. In rare cases, it may mean that the process is hung or deadlocked.

In some rare cases, if your MySQL process has existed for a long time without any updates to your password, it may be storing your password in a format phpMyAdmin can't authenticate against. (phpMyAdmin uses very recent PHP versions and extensions that are not compatible with archaic setups.) This will cause you to be unable to log in via phpMyAdmin, even with the correct username and password. In these cases, it is usually sufficient to change your MySQL password by another means (e.g. the command line), even if you "change" the password to the same thing.

When I try to log in to phpMyAdmin I get the error "the username was not provided." What should I do?

This often happens when you log in to phpMyAdmin with your administrator username and change the password for that username while you're logged in. The best thing to do in this case is to sign completely out of our member interface and log in again from scratch.

If this happens for some other reason, try accessing your database from the command line or web site. If that works, try closing your browser, or, as a last resort, deleting any browser cookies you have from members.nearlyfreespeech.net.

If you are not able to access the process at all, treat it as a lost MySQL password.

What 'Host' value should I use when creating MySQL users?

The MySQL "user" table that controls who can access your MySQL process contains a "Host" field that controls what hosts can connect as that user. No matter how you create MySQL users, when using our service, you should always make sure the "Host" field contains only the % character.

Since we use a clustered network with specialized nodes for hosting and specialized nodes for MySQL, you will never connect to your MySQL process from the server it's actually running on. Since things move around, you won't even know in advance which server will originate the connection. Using the % character allows connections from any of the servers on our network, which is the only way you will be able to connect. Using "localhost" or any other value will lead to connection problems.

Why shouldn't I use my MySQL admin username from my web site?

When setting up your site's MySQL connection information, it's tempting to skip the step of creating an additional user and just use the "admin" username (your member login name) and password. Never do that!

The first and most important reason not to do this is security. If your MySQL admin username's password is the same as your member password, you are storing your member password in plain text as part of your publicly-accessible web site. The slightest vulnerability in your application, the web server software, or the operating system could result in a compromise of your entire membership. Since that's a compromise of our system, we take a dim view of this and to protect ourselves, we tend to suspend sites if we discover the member password being stored in plaintext.

Even if you change your MySQL admin password, it's still not safe to use from your site. Your web site doesn't need administrator privileges against your database. It needs some subset of that, and creating a dedicated MySQL user for your site with only the necessary privileges is a good way to limit exposure to SQL injection attacks and other security issues.

Second, your admin username has the SUPER privilege. MySQL only allows a certain number of connections at a time. If it runs out, either due to a problem with your application or a glitch in the MySQL process itself, your site will start getting "too many connections" errors. However, in order to make sure you can get in and fix it, MySQL always holds a single connection aside for a user with the SUPER privilege. If your site is using your admin username, you'll be unable to resolve the issue yourself because that "rescue" connection will already have been wasted by the site. If you find yourself in that situation, you'll have to open a support issue and ask us to manually restart the process.

Note: If you have a subscription membership, you can request that we log in and manually restart your process. The protective measures described above are designed to ensure that it is never necessary. If you bypass all the protections, you can still wind up in this situation.

So remember, using your MySQL admin username from your site is a terrible idea. It seems easy and harmless up front, but sooner or later you will wind up regretting it.

How can I remove my MySQL process?

To remove your MySQL process, visit the MySQL panel, click on the name of the relevant MySQL process, and select the "Permanently Remove Process" action from the MySQL Process Information panel.

How do I enable or disable InnoDB for my MySQL process?

InnoDB is a standard part of all MariaDB 10.x processes.

InnoDB can be added to older processes (i.e. MariaDB 5.3) that do not already have it. To do so, enable it from the Actions box on the MySQL info panel for that process. (A small additional fee applies.)

InnoDB cannot be completely removed. If you do not want to use it and you have a MariaDB 10.x process, you can attempt to disable it to save money by using a custom configuration similar to:

default-storage-engine = MyISAM
innodb = OFF

This setting may cause your process to use less memory (and therefore cost less), but please make very, very sure you don't have any important data in InnoDB tables before disabling it.

We do strongly recommend using InnoDB whenever possible. We use it ourselves, exclusively. The power and reliability of InnoDB are well worth the small additional cost.

How can I make automatic backups of MySQL?

Ordinarily, we prohibit unattended access to our systems. However, there's an exception for backups, and this definitely qualifies.

There are basically three parts:

  1. Something on your local computer to schedule/run the backups. On a Unix system or Mac, this would be "cron." Windows has a way to do the same thing, but we are not familiar with it. So you set this up to run a task every time you want the backup to happen. (E.g. once a week.)

  2. Something to connect to our system and cause the backups to happen. This is a programmable or command line ssh client.

  3. Something on our side to do the backups from our shell. This is the "mysqldump" command line utility. This is typically invoked like:

    YourNFSNPrompt> mysqldump --user=youradminusername --password=yourpassword --host=yourprocess.db

    This command spews the backup directly to standard output, so you generally want to send it somewhere after that. If you happened to be using a Unix machine on your side and the OpenSSH client, you could do something like:

    YourLocalPrompt> ssh yourname_yoursite@ssh.phx.nearlyfreespeech.net mysqldump --user=youradminusername --password=yourpassword --host=yourprocess.db | gzip >backup-yourprocess-20120627.sql.gz

That would create a compressed SQL file on your system containing a full backup of your MySQL process on our system. To do this in an unattended way, you would need an ssh public key installed on our system that has no passphrase on the private key on your local machine. (Unless you do something super-elaborate with ssh agents, which is possible but beyond the scope of advice we can provide.)

Since the MySQL password you're using will be in the above command, we recommend creating a separate MySQL user with the minimum privileges necessary (i.e. SELECT) to do backups. You could do that from phpMyAdmin or with SQL similar to:

MySQL> CREATE USER backup IDENTIFIED BY 'b2liu44fbh2f3bhjfhj3';
MySQL> GRANT SELECT ON *.* TO backup;

Then use backup and b2liu44fbh2f3bhjfhj3 (being sure to use a fresh random password and not this example one) in lieu of your normal MySQL username and password in the mysqldump commands above.

This will take some (or a lot of) tweaking depending on what you've got on your end, but that's the gist of how it can work.

What does it mean that my MySQL process is "damaged?"

This indicates that you have altered or removed the contents of the "mysql" database of your MySQL process in a way that will prevent your process restarting, or render it unusable after restarting. MySQL processes don't restart very often, so it could be weeks or months before the effects of these actions surface, by which time you will probably have forgotten all about them.

If you catch the problem before your process restarts, you should still be able to connect to it and make a backup of your data.

If you don't catch the problem in time, there is essentially no way to repair it; your MySQL process either won't start anymore or will start but won't be accessible. You'll end up having to delete the process and start over with a new one. If you contact us before you delete the old MySQL process, we may be able to recover some or all of your data and restore it to the new one, but if this is possible and you wish it done, a non-trivial service fee will apply to cover MySQL administrator time.

Keep in mind that while our system does check periodically for this type of damage, it doesn't detect all cases and may not pick it up right away. To keep your MySQL process safe and happy, make sure you always leave the "mysql" database alone.

The "FLUSH PRIVILEGES" SQL command will also cause a running process to immediately fail if it has this type of damage.

What username and password do I use to administer my MySQL process?

When you created your MySQL process, a temporary password was set up automatically. The name of your process, your admin username, and the temporary password were all sent to you via email at that time. The temporary password is not stored and no one at NearlyFreeSpeech.NET knows what it is. Also, we recommend that you change the admin password and create additional users for your application.

Your MySQL admin username is typically the same as your member login. However, we allow longer usernames than MySQL supports, so if your username is very long, it may be truncated for MySQL. To check your MySQL admin username, view the MySQL Process Information panel in our member interface for your MySQL process. The username will be shown on the "Default Admin Username" line of the "How to Access MySQL" box.

If you have lost the MySQL admin password, you can request that we try to reset it for you.

How do I enable or disable MySQL logs?

Visit the MySQL panel of our site, click on the name of the relevant process, and then choose "Edit MySQL Settings" in the "Actions" box. (Keep in mind the caveats mentioned on that page.)

To request log retrieval, please use this assistance request.

How do I upgrade from MariaDB 5.3 to MariaDB 10.x?

There is no in-place upgrade between MariaDB major versions. To upgrade, create a new process and migrate your data from the old process to the new process. This approach removes the risk of an upgrade failure, and ensures you can "roll back" and continue uninterrupted if the upgrade fails.

The recommended way to migrate data is from the ssh command line, but it can also be done via phpMyAdmin if you prefer. To do this from the command line, export the data from the old MySQL process:

YourPrompt> mysqldump --user=exampleuser --host=exampleold.db -p --lock-all-tables --databases exampledb1 exampledb2 exampledb3 >migrate.sql

(Replace exampledb1 through exampledb3 with the names of all of your databases in the process. Do not include "mysql" or "information_schema" in the list.)

Load your data into the new process:

YourPrompt> mysql --user=exampleuser --host=examplenew.db -p <migrate.sql

(Replace exampleuser with your MySQL administrator username. Both mysqldump and mysql will prompt you for the password on the next line.)

After the data is copied over, you can perform any checks or updates you wish, like updating table types to take advantage of new features. You'll also need to create users in the new process for your web site(s). (What a great time to change/upgrade the passwords!)

When you are ready, update your site(s) to use the new hostname (and, hopefully, password). Save the old values so that if something doesn't work, you can switch it back.

Once you have confirmed that everything is working as you expect, delete the old process. You may want to put this off for a week or so to see if you missed anything, but make a note to do it so you don't keep paying for the old process indefinitely.

Why do newly-created MySQL processes seem so expensive?

When a MySQL process is first created (or started) it can be very resource intensive. After things settle down, our system can very carefully start to prune away at bits that aren't being used to get the resource usage down. This process is very conservative so as not to impact performance, and it can take a couple of weeks.

The effect of this is that the initial billing estimates of MySQL are based on a usage level that isn't (usually) sustained, so it's not unusual for it to report that a new process may cost several dollars a month because based on that limited sample, it would. But as things settle down, the estimate will typically go down to reflect your real usage. As of September 2016, the median cost for MariaDB 10 processes is about $0.60 for resources and storage combined and over 72% of MariaDB 10 processes cost less than $1.00/month.

If your usage records and estimates remain high for more than a week or two, you may wish to review your usage to see if something is more intensive than you expected. Missing indexes, for example, can really increase the resource usage of a MySQL process.