Free SSL Certificates Now Available

I know a number of folks who have shared my excitement at seeing support for the Let’s Encrypt project grow as the timeline towards a public beta inched closer and closer. Let’s Encrypt is a new certificate authority backed by a wide variety of sponsored organizations including big names like Mozilla, Google, the EFF, and Facebook. Their mission is to help secure the web by offering freely available TLS certificates. But why is this important?

Having an SSL certificate has been a traditionally cumbersome process of creating signing requests, storing private keys, verifying authority through domain records, and configuring Apache accordingly (not to mention there was typically a cost involved to this). There are a variety of reasons to do it that go well beyond getting a green padlock in your browser. When you login to website and interact with them over standard HTTP that traffic is easily monitored by others on your network. With our goal of helping users reclaim their digital identity and build out a space on the web, it only makes sense to provide the necessary tools to allow them to do that securely. In addition browsers have begun proposing plans to deprecate standard HTTP and display warnings in the browser.

Let’s Encrypt opened their public beta this past December and we’re pleased to finally announce a working solution that gives everyone immediate availability to install these certificates completely free of charge directly from their cPanel. All Reclaim Hosting customers will find a Let’s Encrypt icon under the Security section of cPanel. Receiving and installing a certificate is as easy as the click of a button. During the beta period certificates expire after 90 days, however using our tool certificates will automatically renew for you in the background every 60 days ensuring you never have to worry about an expired certificate again. You can read more about the process at http://docs.reclaimhosting.com/miscellaneous/installing-free-ssl-certificates.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.39.28 PM

Providing secure spaces to host your content is at the core of Reclaim Hosting’s mission and we believe this integration with Let’s Encrypt goes a long way towards a more secure and safe environment for us all.

What Was Wound

unwound02-e1359529260320
"Everything is a commercial, we advertise our memories We leave our shit on silver platters and then we buy whatever's left -- "Off this Century," Unwound
Reclaim Hosting has added another server this week. Building on our tradition of naming all of the machines after indy/punk bands, this one was dedicated to one of the very  best post-post punk bands of the 1990s: Unwound. This trio hails from the Olympia music scene, and they were the first band signed to the Kill Rock Stars record label, which also released indie groups such as Bikini KillBratmobile, The Melvins, and singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. In fact, Unwound may be amongst the lesser-known of those Kill Rock Stars acts, but over the course of the 90s they steadily produced brilliant albums, toured tirelessly, and forged a sound that is still getting broader recognition 15 years later. This fairly recent review in Pitchfork of the Numero Groups four-part reissue of Unwound's decade-long oeuvre is a testament to that, and the following pull quote from the "No Energy" reissue on Numero Groups site provides a nice profile:
As a robust rock underground got swallowed alive by the Major Label Industrial Complex, the very autonomous Unwound—Olympia, Washington's Great Noise Hope—toed the troublesome line between pay check and Check Engine light. Captured in the gaps of a ruthless touring schedule.
Underground, autonomous, and awesome!  In many ways they defied strict categorization given how disparate their sounds could be from album to album, and that might be one of the reasons they got out of the 90s alive! The Numero Groups reissue was also mentioned earlier this month in this LA Times post as an essential. How's that for history smiling kindly on this relatively obscure trio. What was craziest to me, as a fan, was that they were showing no signs of rust all they way up until the very end when they decided to call it quits in 2002. In fact, it could be easily argued that their final, double-album Leaves Turn Inside You (2001) was their most ambitious, and in many ways most impressive both conceptually and musically, to date. But that was Unwound, consistently changing, exploring, and creating outside of the distracting grunge musical explosion of the moment. They never flew a flag, staked out an agenda, or preached about this or that; they just came out and rocked. What's more, they remained fiercely independent throughout their entire career. They were with Kill Rock Stars until the end, and they played local gigs at record stores, all ages shows, and modestly toured the country delivering some of the best sounds of the decade for $5 or $6 a show for their entire career. A model for the indie edtech we continually aspire to at Reclaim. The above video clip has them playing Hexenzsene at Off the Record in San Diego in 1997, interspersed with clips of Justin Trosper  (guitarist) and Sara Lund (drummer) awkwardly explaining themselves. It's awesome, they talk about the emptiness of punk as a term, the importance of staying young, and the fact their shows are cheap enough that no one should get too pissed if it sucks. Here's to Unwound, I'm glad to be the first web hosting company to name a shared web hosting server in their honor. Some great reward for all their hard work!

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

We’ve made a lot of references to WordFence on the Reclaim blog, about how it’s a great tool for securing your site* against unmentionables, and how it’s easy to set up and use. But how easy is it, really? There are a lot of options in Wordfence, how do you know you’re setting up the right ones? We’re going to go through that today and get your site hardened against attackers in 10 minutes!

What is Wordfence?

Wordfence is a free security plugin that hardens (makes more secure) your WordPress site against a variety of common attacks. If you’d like to learn more about exactly what it guards against, you can check out their site, but the list of defenses is pretty comprehensive.

Wordfence has a free version and a premium version, and for this post, we’ll just be going over the free features – the premium version does have some nice features (remote scanning, phone support, some other advanced stuff), but we take care of some of that functionality for you, and if you’re a regular WordPress user, these features are probably not necessary. The top feature the premium version has that the free version doesn’t is scheduled scanning, so with the free version, you unfortunately have to run scans manually.

How do I install Wordfence?

To install WordFence or any other WordPress plugins, I recommend checking out our tutorial on how to install plugins, which can be found here. It only takes two minutes to read! Really!

Getting Started

Once I’ve added the plugin by clicking “Plugins” on my dashboard and searching for “WordFence,” I’ll click “Install Now”…

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

And then “Activate Plugin”…

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 MinutesAs soon as I do this, I’ll get a notification on the left that prompts me to put in my email address for alerts, which I recommend, but we’ll need to revisit this a little later. It also asks if I’d like to join an email list, which I’ll opt-out of.

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

There’s also a button that says “Start Tour“, which I’ll skip for now. Instead, I’ll just click “Close“. WE ONLY HAVE TEN MINUTES. I’ll then click on the new “Wordfence” option in my sidebar.

You’ll be presented with another screen, and at the top it says “Start a WordFence Scan.” Ignore this for now, but DO click on the “Yes, enable auto-update” option. Then, head straight to “Options” under WordFence in the sidebar.

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

Once you’re on “Options,” leave everything you see at its default, then ALL the way down to the bottom of the screen. There is an option here that says “Import WordFence settings from another site using a token,” which can be found here. Copy the entire string of numbers and letters, paste it into the “import” field, and click “import settings.” Once you’ve done this, don’t forget to click “Save Changes” at the bottom!

Important: if you use the token method, you will need to update your email address in the “where to email alerts” field under “basic options” at the top of the Wordfence settings. If you don’t update your email address, you will not receive email alerts.

The token has all of the recommended security settings enabled for Reclaim Hosting users. If you’d like to get into the advanced features, simply scroll through the “Options” screen and see what’s available. Most of the options are self-explanatory, and if you’d like to know more, click on the little “information” button next to each option. The settings are pre-configured to email you (very occasionally) about important alerts – you can change the email settings at the top of the “Options” menu under “Alerts.”

A note about WordFence tokens – our token token contains generic, recommended settings for Reclaim Hosting users. If you end up with custom features, like whitelisted or blacklisted IPs, or if you’ve filled out any of the custom fields, your token will change. Do not share your updated token with anyone else!!

Now, under Wordfence in the sidebar, click on “Scan,” and then click “Start a Wordfence Scan.” The scan will only take a minute, and your results will be displayed immediately.

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

Looks like I’m all set! Occasionally, Wordfence will detect issues with plugins or themes that are really non-issues. If you work with a lot of plugins or themes, review these issues carefully. If you see any issues in these sections:

Shields Up With WordFence in 10 Minutes

Definitely proceed with a repair and/or contact us for support in case we need to restore your site from a backup. BOOM. TEN MINUTES! Or less!

Since you do have to scan manually with the free version, try to run the occasional scan when you’re working on your site. The time and headache saved by detecting issues before they get bad is beyond worth it.

And there you have it! The 10-minute Wordfence express setup. Happy securing!

*Information Security is a comprehensive umbrella of services and technologies, none of which are bulletproof. Wordfence and other security plugins do help prevent the bad guys from breaking in, but there are unfortunately no guarantees in the wild world of web security.

Coffee and #ds106 at FredXchange

CYw1qiyWcAAUQyn I am back in Fredericksburg for a few days for some business and house cleaning. I head up to NYC on Tuesday, so it will be a fairly quick turn here, but it's always exhilarating to spend some quality time with my pardner Tim Owens. Yesterday was particularly eventful because we we're invited to talk at an Open Coffee Event hosted at the Foundry, the new co-working space  in Fredericksburg brought to you by the good people of the FredXchange. 12407529_203904386621759_989721171_n The story of how this came about is another bizarre testament to the wonder of the web. Libby O'Malley, one of the movers and shakers behind FredXchange, emailed me out of the blue a few weeks back asking me if I wanted to talk with the folks at the FredXchange about the venerable and righteously right ds106. She informed me that she had found out about that international gem through doing a google search for "Digital Marketing Degree," and ds106 was mentioned as a free alternative in an article that was a top-hit . I think it may have been this article, but I'm not sure. Look ma, no SEO!!! Crazy, I told her I am in Italy living like a pimp daddy in the old country, to which she suggested I come in via Google Chat. As much as I love the internet, I hate remote presentations. They can be done well, but the amount of work it takes to create the conditions of a good remote presentation versus simply being there is staggering. That said, I did know I would be in Freddy for a few days and threw that out and she agreed. I'm glad she did. 12547195_217760811892155_1759698265_n I have been in repose in my mountain villa in Italy mustering as much thought leader mojo as possible. It's hard work, and I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. Being a visionary is extremely demanding, especially in a country that is steeped in the hairy legacy of Lucio Battisti. But ed-tech pioneers persevere, and I knew it was time to get back on the road after 3 months of intensive meditation. And what did I do? I got nostalgic about the past---but I blame that on my new surroundings. More seriously, I hadn't presented for a few months, which is a good while for me. It felt good to talk about ds106. It just never gets old, and once I get going I feel as passionate about it as I did in 2011. It was pure in my heart. Tim and I didn't have a presentation prepared, or even a plan really. We talked briefly about an outline on the car ride over. Early days of the Bluehost experiment at UMW -> UMW Blogs -> ds106 -> Domain of One's Own -> Reclaim Hosting. It's interesting to look at that narrative progression and to see ds106 at the center of the story. I think that's pretty accurate. ds106 galvanized a community, brought Tim and I into contact, and reaffirmed that the Domain of One's Own experiment wasn't all that crazy at scale. I took the first 10-15 minutes talking about the Blue Host Experiment, UMW Blogs, and the beginnings of ds106, and Tim took the last 10-15 minutes talking ds106, Domain of One's Own, and Reclaim Hosting. 10413901_1645532262375051_656298805_n-1 It was quite fun, and I really enjoyed being back in front of a group of people talking about this stuff with Tim. One of the things about my work with Tim that is so rewarding is that we truly do have an amazing partnership. We agree on the fundamental principles undergirding Reclaim Hosting: fierce independence and freedom online! What's more, we push each other to keep going further. Tim has an insane standard for the quality of work and support that defines Reclaim, and every day I wake up knowing that it is the goal. When people come to Reclaim they get the best ed-tech support anywhere. Period. I stand by that statement. Try me, I dare you. It was awesome to be back in Fredericksburg hanging with Tim Owens sharing the work we've done thus far and planning for what's to come. In short, taking care of dot.bizness.

Cleaning a Hacked WordPress Site

As I sit here painfully waiting on Godaddy's slow servers to download all of a customer's files so I can migrate them to Reclaim Hosting I figured I'd write up some thoughts on how I approach the problem of cleaning up a site that's been hacked. Not all WordPress hacks are equal, but understanding how the files that make up a WordPress install are organized will help with cleaning one up. So let's look at the directory structure and break it down.

WordPress 4.4.1 Directory Structure

Here we have a clean WordPress install that hasn't yet been setup. I know this because a file wp-config.php isn't present at the root directory. In addition to several files at the root of the directory that handle logging in, serving up content, and mail delivery, we also have 3 main folders: wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes. Here's a brief description of each:

wp-admin - When you login to the dashboard of WordPress you might notice the URL is /wp-admin. The wp-admin folder stores all WordPress files necessary to display and interact with the backend of WordPress.

wp-content - This is where the files and folders unique to this particular install will end up. Plugins and Themes have a place here as well as all images that are uploaded to WordPress.

wp-includes - General php classes and any javascript files and libraries that WordPress relies on are located here.

In addition to all those files your WordPress install has a database. This is typically only going to be seen through an admin area of your hosting provider. At Reclaim Hosting we provide phpMyAdmin through cPanel to view the databases in your account. The database stores all of the actual content (your posts, pages, site information, etc).

Knowing all of this we can start to understand what the unique aspects of a WordPress install are versus the files and folders that can easily be replaced. The unique content of a WordPress install consists of:

  • A wp-config.php file that has our database information.
  • A wp-content folder with our plugins, themes, and uploads.
  • A database

That's surprisingly it! Everything else can be replaced with a fresh copy from WordPress.org and your site would still be there. So now we've narrowed down the number of potentially hacked files, but we can go even further. For example we know that plugins and themes are all available in the WordPress repository so we can download fresh copies of those as well (if you use premium themes or plugins you'd need to get access to those again of course). That can be a time consuming process but wouldn't you rather spend the time now getting this right?

When cleaning up a site I also take that as an opportunity to check and see if there are any plugins or themes I don't need. For example if I'm running a non-default theme I can easily delete all of the TwentyX themes provided by WordPress. Remember we're trying to remove as many potential targets for exploits as possible.

Finally when all is said and done and you're back online the last thing to do is run a full scan of your install. I personally like the Wordfence plugin which makes this a straightforward process and can also protect your install from future malicious activity. There are options to check all plugins and themes as well as files outside of your WordPress install in the Wordfence settings, both of which I recommend turning on before doing a scan.

Cleaning up hacked installs is never a fun process and with WordPress powering over 25% of the web now it's become somewhat a large target. But hopefully these tips help you understand how to get a site back online and cleaned up in no time.

Cleaning a Hacked WordPress Site

As I sit here painfully waiting on Godaddy's slow servers to download all of a customer's files so I can migrate them to Reclaim Hosting I figured I'd write up some thoughts on how I approach the problem of cleaning up a site that's been hacked. Not all WordPress hacks are equal, but understanding how the files that make up a WordPress install are organized will help with cleaning one up. So let's look at the directory structure and break it down.

Here we have a clean WordPress install that hasn't yet been setup. I know this because a file wp-config.php isn't present at the root directory. In addition to several files at the root of the directory that handle logging in, serving up content, and mail delivery, we also have 3 main folders: wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes. Here's a brief description of each:

wp-admin - When you login to the dashboard of WordPress you might notice the URL is /wp-admin. The wp-admin folder stores all WordPress files necessary to display and interact with the backend of WordPress.

wp-content - This is where the files and folders unique to this particular install will end up. Plugins and Themes have a place here as well as all images that are uploaded to WordPress.

wp-includes - General php classes and any javascript files and libraries that WordPress relies on are located here.

In addition to all those files your WordPress install has a database. This is typically only going to be seen through an admin area of your hosting provider. At Reclaim Hosting we provide phpMyAdmin through cPanel to view the databases in your account. The database stores all of the actual content (your posts, pages, site information, etc).

Knowing all of this we can start to understand what the unique aspects of a WordPress install are versus the files and folders that can easily be replaced. The unique content of a WordPress install consists of:

  • A wp-config.php file that has our database information.
  • A wp-content folder with our plugins, themes, and uploads.
  • A database

That's surprisingly it! Everything else can be replaced with a fresh copy from WordPress.org and your site would still be there. So now we've narrowed down the number of potentially hacked files, but we can go even further. For example we know that plugins and themes are all available in the WordPress repository so we can download fresh copies of those as well (if you use premium themes or plugins you'd need to get access to those again of course). That can be a time consuming process but wouldn't you rather spend the time now getting this right?

When cleaning up a site I also take that as an opportunity to check and see if there are any plugins or themes I don't need. For example if I'm running a non-default theme I can easily delete all of the TwentyX themes provided by WordPress. Remember we're trying to remove as many potential targets for exploits as possible.

Finally when all is said and done and you're back online the last thing to do is run a full scan of your install. I personally like the Wordfence plugin which makes this a straightforward process and can also protect your install from future malicious activity. There are options to check all plugins and themes as well as files outside of your WordPress install in the Wordfence settings, both of which I recommend turning on before doing a scan.

Cleaning up hacked installs is never a fun process and with WordPress powering over 25% of the web now it's become somewhat a large target. But hopefully these tips help you understand how to get a site back online and cleaned up in no time.

Installing Omeka-S Alpha on Reclaim Hosting via Command Line

Early yesterday morning I got two requests to setup Omeka-S for folks on Reclaim Hosting. The first question I asked myself is, “What the hell is Omeka-S?” Thanks to Sharon Leon’s post on the software, I now know:

Omeka S shares an ethos with Omeka Classic(2.x), but none of its code. There are a nice range of features for Omeka S that should make it appealing both to cultural heritage institutions and academic and research libraries, including:

*the ability to administer many sites from a single installation;
*a fully functioning Read/Write REST API, which the system uses to execute most of its own core operations;
*the use of JSON-LD as the native data format, which enmeshes the materials in the LOD universe;
*native RDF vocabularies (DCMI Terms, DCMI Types, FOAF, BIBO);
*and a set of modules to aid integration with Fedora, DSpace, Zotero.

Omeka-S seems to be the next generation of Omeka, and the fact that it has  a multisite feature built-in, as well as REST API functionality and JSON data format is more than promising. The interest amongst Reclaimers yesterday was most likely spurred by this post yesterday on Digital Humanities Now featuring Sheila Brennan’s presentation on Omeka-S at IMLS’s Focus conference in New Orleans.

The good folks at the Roy Rosenzweig  Center for History and New Media have been a constant source of support for us at Reclaim Hosting since the very beginning, and Reclaim never forgets its friends! What’s more, Omeka continues to be one of our most heavily used applications, so it makes good sense that we would try and support folks exploring Omeka-S. That said, it’s still Alpha software, so there is no Installatron installer for it yet.

In order to install Omeka-S I had to do a little commando lining thanks to some tips from Tim “R2D2” Owens. I tried to download and upload the zip file through CPanel’s file manager, and then install the application from there, but that continually failed me.  So, that may not work for folks on Reclaim Hosting. That said,  I can vouch for the following method using terminal/command line.

Note: Before you start the installation, you need to create a database and user for this application. Use the MySQL Database Wizard in CPanel to create a database and be sure to record the username, database name, and password. Also, you should probably create a subdirectory or subdomain that you will install the application in. For the purposes of this tutorial, that subdomain will be called “test.”

First, login to your terminal. You do this using the FTP username and password  you received in the Welcome email from Reclaim Hosting. Once you have them, the login looks like this:

ssh username@yourdomain.com

After that, you will be prompted for the password, be sure to use the FTP password we sent you in Welcome email.

Now you use the following commands to get your application up and running.

Run the following command from inside the folder you created, for this example that will be the directory test.

wget https://github.com/omeka/omeka-s/releases/download/v0.4.0-alpha/omeka-s.zip

Then unzip the application:

unzip omeka-s.zip

Now we need to move everything in the omeka-s folder up one level in the test directory.

mv omeka-s/*

This following command moves all the hidden files in the omeka-s folder up one level as well.

mv omeka-s/.* .

The next commands removes the omeka-s directory, which should now be empty.

rm -rf omeka-s*

Finally, we will need to edit the database.ini file and add the database info we creating using the MySQL Database Wizard.
Use the following command to edit the file:

nano config/database.ini

Now you will add the database details to the file, it should look something like this:

user     = "testacct_admin"
password = "yrp@ssw0rd"
dbname   = "testacct_omekas"
host     = "localhost"
;port     =
;unix_socket =

Click ctrl + x to save the database.ini file, and you should be all set. Now you jsut need to navigate to the URL you were installing Omeka-S, such as http://test.mydomain.com, and you should see the following screen asking for you to create the first user and password:

Installing Omeka-S Alpha on Reclaim Hosting via Command Line
__________________________

For server admins only:
If you are managing the server and installing Omeka-S for a client, use the su command to assume the role of that user so there is no need to change permissions afterwards. For example, if I was logged in as root user, and wanted to assume the role of jimgroom, I would type the following command as soon as I login:

su jimgroom

Get Your Grav On

Get Your Grav On

One of the many roles I have a Reclaim Hosting is keeping an eye on our Twitter account and interacting with folks there. I'm no power-user on Twitter but it's a space I know and I'm happy to support and respond to folks there. On Saturday a tweet came in from a new user, Paul Hibbitts mentioning his beginning explorations with our service.

I like to know who I'm talking to so I took a peak at his profile and ended up at his blog where he's doing some really interesting work bringing content out of the LMS and into his own domain using a piece of software that was new to me called Grav. Grav (which is short for Gravity) is a flat file CMS meaning there's no database to deal with. It uses Markdown for authoring content similar to the ever-popular Jekyll, but what struck me was not only how easy it is to install on a server (you just need PHP to make it run) but also that there were admin tools built in to allow an authoring interface, a configuration area, plugin and theme installation and updating, even backups.

Get Your Grav On

Get Your Grav On

I knew I had to play some more with it so I decided to give it a go. The install was dead simple, just drop the files in, setup a user by going to the site for the first time and creating one, and you're off and running. I figured as easy as that was, you'd still have to wrestle with FTP so why not build an installer for it using Installatron? So that's exactly what I did. In the process I was able move the user setup process out of the first page load and into the install itself by capturing that information and writing it to the necessary files.

Get Your Grav On

In addition Grav offers "Skeletons" which are basically packaged versions of their application anyone can build that are bundled with a theme, plugins, and content to jumpstart a new site. Imagine wanting to setup a Photography site using WordPress and all the steps you might take to get there, this let's you skip all that are start up with an instance that already has everything pre-configured so you can start adding your content and playing around rather than spending hours fiddling with a bunch of settings and finding the right plugins and themes. So I grabbed a few skeletons and made it a dropdown option to choose one during install.

Get Your Grav On

I have to say so far I'm super impressed. Not only is Grav fast since there's no database to make calls back and forth to, but it feels like incredibly modern software. There are some geekier options around the edges for power users (per-page front matter editing and YAML configs to name a few) but the presence of an admin plugin that puts the authoring tools right there on your domain is a huge step that's often absent in most flat file content management systems. And of course the big benefit to systems like this is since all the data lives directly on the file system your entire site is infinitely more portable. Moving to a new host or grabbing a backup is as simple as taking a copy of your files and away you go.

I spent so much time playing with getting the installer right I haven't had time to really dig into the software itself more than just a few quick tests but I have a lot of great plans for it. For one, our current documentation is built using Mkdocs but that requires external editing, pushing to the server, and then running a script to build the site each time a change is made. Converting it to Grav means we could author directly on the site and still push to our GitHub repo automatically and have both be in sync. And wouldn't you know there's an RTFM skeleton that looks heavily based on the ReadTheDocs theme we currently use with Mkdocs and looks perfect for documentation sites.

Get Your Grav On

I'm looking forward to playing with Grav more to see what's possible and I know plenty of folks who have been interested in the idea of flat file systems like Jekyll that could appreciate an easy-to-use system like this. We pushed the installer out to our shared hosting systems over the weekend and I hope to get access for all our institutions in the coming week as we make some updates there. And I'm glad to have been curious enough to read Paul's bio and find out more about what he's up to with it as a starting point for my own explorations with the software. As always, Reclaim Hosting gives back to me as much if not more than what I give it.

Get Your Grav On

Get Your Grav On

One of the many roles I have a Reclaim Hosting is keeping an eye on our Twitter account and interacting with folks there. I'm no power-user on Twitter but it's a space I know and I'm happy to support and respond to folks there. On Saturday a tweet came in from a new user, Paul Hibbitts mentioning his beginning explorations with our service.

I like to know who I'm talking to so I took a peak at his profile and ended up at his blog where he's doing some really interesting work bringing content out of the LMS and into his own domain using a piece of software that was new to me called Grav. Grav (which is short for Gravity) is a flat file CMS meaning there's no database to deal with. It uses Markdown for authoring content similar to the ever-popular Jekyll, but what struck me was not only how easy it is to install on a server (you just need PHP to make it run) but also that there were admin tools built in to allow an authoring interface, a configuration area, plugin and theme installation and updating, even backups.

Get Your Grav On

Get Your Grav On

I knew I had to play some more with it so I decided to give it a go. The install was dead simple, just drop the files in, setup a user by going to the site for the first time and creating one, and you're off and running. I figured as easy as that was, you'd still have to wrestle with FTP so why not build an installer for it using Installatron? So that's exactly what I did. In the process I was able move the user setup process out of the first page load and into the install itself by capturing that information and writing it to the necessary files.

Get Your Grav On

In addition Grav offers "Skeletons" which are basically packaged versions of their application anyone can build that are bundled with a theme, plugins, and content to jumpstart a new site. Imagine wanting to setup a Photography site using WordPress and all the steps you might take to get there, this let's you skip all that are start up with an instance that already has everything pre-configured so you can start adding your content and playing around rather than spending hours fiddling with a bunch of settings and finding the right plugins and themes. So I grabbed a few skeletons and made it a dropdown option to choose one during install.

Get Your Grav On

I have to say so far I'm super impressed. Not only is Grav fast since there's no database to make calls back and forth to, but it feels like incredibly modern software. There are some geekier options around the edges for power users (per-page front matter editing and YAML configs to name a few) but the presence of an admin plugin that puts the authoring tools right there on your domain is a huge step that's often absent in most flat file content management systems. And of course the big benefit to systems like this is since all the data lives directly on the file system your entire site is infinitely more portable. Moving to a new host or grabbing a backup is as simple as taking a copy of your files and away you go.

I spent so much time playing with getting the installer right I haven't had time to really dig into the software itself more than just a few quick tests but I have a lot of great plans for it. For one, our current documentation is built using Mkdocs but that requires external editing, pushing to the server, and then running a script to build the site each time a change is made. Converting it to Grav means we could author directly on the site and still push to our GitHub repo automatically and have both be in sync. And wouldn't you know there's an RTFM skeleton that looks heavily based on the ReadTheDocs theme we currently use with Mkdocs and looks perfect for documentation sites.

Get Your Grav On

I'm looking forward to playing with Grav more to see what's possible and I know plenty of folks who have been interested in the idea of flat file systems like Jekyll that could appreciate an easy-to-use system like this. We pushed the installer out to our shared hosting systems over the weekend and I hope to get access for all our institutions in the coming week as we make some updates there. And I'm glad to have been curious enough to read Paul's bio and find out more about what he's up to with it as a starting point for my own explorations with the software. As always, Reclaim Hosting gives back to me as much if not more than what I give it.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

Reclaim Hosting utilizes a web operating system called cPanel to deliver our applications and make things easy for you to use – you can become a web power user with cPanel without needing to learn how to code or looking at the Matrix.

 

You might already know how to do some things in cPanel, but if you’re interested in learning more and feel like taking the red pill, read on! (Disclaimer – some of these features are a little on the advanced side. If you’re not ready to check any of them out today, that’s totally OK. I’ve sorted out the features by difficulty, so if you’d like to explore, I recommend picking somewhere that’s within your comfort zone.)

Getting to cPanel

We’re going to get to cPanel by logging into the Reclaim Hosting client area – not the admin page for your WordPress/Drupal/Omeka site. If you’re with a school, you should have a custom link for getting to your client area; if you’re on shared hosting, click here. Once you’re in the client area, click on “cPanel” in the toolbar.

 

5 Awesome cPanel Features

OK, cool. On with the features!

Number 1: Install a New Application (Difficulty: 4/5)

You can install any one of a huge number of applications using Installatron, our automatic installation program. You don’t just have to install WordPress, and remember, you can create a free subdomain or purchase an addon domain to set up a new app.

To get to Installatron, go to cPanel and click “Installatron Applications Installer”. Not only can you install new applications here, you can uninstall and manage existing applications. Management options are underneath each application, and to view the “menu” of available apps, you can click “Applications Browser.”

5 Awesome cPanel Features

Woah! A real application all-you-can-eat buffet! You can select any application from the list to install.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

A couple of notes here – it is highly recommended to set up a subdomain or domain before you install a new app, and remember, we will do our best, but we can’t support every app in Installatron. If you’d like to use some advanced features, we recommend consulting the documentation provided by the app vendor first.

Number 2: Set up an FTP Account (Difficulty: 2/5)

If you use an FTP client to upload or download any raw files, themes, or plugins, to your site, you may want to grant FTP access to another person for collaborative purposes without sharing your password with that person. In cPanel, you can easily make additional FTP clients and hand out the info to your teammates.

In cPanel, this can be found by clicking on “FTP accounts” from the main menu.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

 

Here, you can specify the username, password, which domain you’d like to give access to, and which directory you’d like to give access to. Make sure to pick the right domain!

Number 3: Check Disk Space (Difficulty: 1/5)

Ever curious as to how much disk space you’ve used up on your account? There are two ways to go about checking – if you want an overview on how much space you have, look on the left of the cPanel screen for the bar graph icon and click on it.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

On this screen, you’re looking for “disk space” on the right.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

The second way to do it is to click on “Disk Usage” on the cPanel main menu, which will give you some more specific statistics as to what is actually using the most space.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

5 Awesome cPanel Features

Neat!

Number 4: Manage Your Backups (Difficulty: 3/5)

We give you a few options for backup at Reclaim. The first option is the easiest one – we already back up your sites for you regularly, free of charge, but the backups do take up space on your account. To delete old backups, go to the Installatron Applications Installer from the cPanel main menu, then click on the “my backups” tab.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

Once here, you can see a list of your available backups and delete old ones by checking the appropriate boxes on the right, and then clicking “delete.”

It goes without saying that you should always have a relatively recent backup of your site available at all times. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

If you’d like to back up your site somewhere else, or back up to Dropbox, you have that option in cPanel. First, from the cPanel main menu, go to Installatron and click on the wrench icon next to the site you’d like to back up. Note: we recommend keeping your backups stored with us, however, backing up offsite can be an effective way to save space if your backups are large.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

Scroll down to “Default Backup Location” and click on the “Add a new backup location” radio button. If you’re backing up with Dropbox, the page will prompt you for your Dropbox credentials when you click “Save all” at the bottom.

5 Awesome cPanel Features

Number 5: Edit Your Databases (Difficulty: 5/5)

Warning: do not do this unless you are 110% absolutely sure you know what you’re doing.

If you really want to dig deep, update a setting, or set up an advanced feature, you can manipulate the databases that run on your site using our graphical database tool, phpMyAdmin. On the cPanel main screen, scroll down to “databases” and click “phpMyAdmin.”

5 Awesome cPanel Features

phpMyAdmin will bring you to the editing screen, where you can see your active databases on the left. Click on a database and related element to edit, and don’t forget to click “save” if you make a change, edits are not saved automatically!

5 Awesome cPanel Features

I hope you’ve found these tips useful – we’ll try to come up with more power user options for cPanel as we continue to expand our offerings. Happy Reclaiming!