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1 Year with Reclaim

January 30th, 2017, the day that I started as an intern at Reclaim Hosting. Which, at the time of writing this, it was 1 year ago to the day. How crazy is that? A year ago I was a second-semester senior, itching to get out in the real world and be done with school. I was so ready to finish my degree and start working. I don’t remember too much about the day, just that I was super nervous because I had no clue where to start in the world of web hosting. I think the day really consisted of paperwork. Thinking back to where I am today, I’ve learned a ton. Not just in the web hosting community, but about myself as well. So this post is just a bit of reflection in the year that I’ve worked with Reclaim, first as an intern, then part-time, and finally full-time this fall. I wrote about my time as an intern on this blog and what I’ve been up to while full time  (over here).
Keep notes: Yes, note taking does not stop after high school/college. It may not be as intense as a 50-minute lecture where the professor talks the entire class, but it’s still super useful. There are so many ways to take notes. Lauren uses her blog as a place for notes on specific processes. I personally have to write them down to stay in my brain, so I keep a little notebook in my bag and jot notes as I got. But, I’m slowly but surely heading towards the blog. Ask questions: I can’t say it enough, ask questions. Then ask some more. And don’t worry if you think you’re being annoying with all the questions, but that’s really the way to learn. Clarity: Explaining thing clearly is key. I’m still trying to get the hang of this, but I’ve found writing more detailed responses helps a ton when you are trying to troubleshoot. I still have a ton to learn, which is a great thing. I would be worried I did. I definitely want to keep learning, and I can absolutely do that through this job.
Ok now for the fun stuff! What has the year held for Meredith at Reclaim? Well let me tell ya, it was a fun year. I got to travel, first to Oklahoma in June, then to NYC in November. Both of these trips were incredible. The Oklahoma trip was to Reclaim’s first ever Domains conference in Oklahoma City.  This was a tremendous experience for one because I got to attend a conference that my company was running, but I got to see the schools and universities we work with through Domain of One’s Own. The NYC trip was a perfect opportunity for the Reclaim team to get some team bonding in. I started working full time a couple of months before and it was the perfect time to regroup before the end of the year. If you’d like to read more about these trips, I wrote blog posts about each (linked above). I got to see our office space, CoWork, expand to the what it is today. When I came in it looked like this:
Lauren Brumfield’s photo
And this is what it looks like now:
Talk about a space transformation! While I wasn’t completely around for the entire transformation, it was still super cool to see the midpoint of the renovations to the completed space. That second CoWork photo brings me to my last big moment of the year. In late October, we ran a workshop covering the ins and outs of Domain of One’s Own. This workshop is catered towards the Domain of One’s Own admins and how they can support the program on their campus. I had the privilege of talking through Domain migrations and transfers during the second day. Speaking to a group like this was something I’d never done before. It was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone.
And speaking of comfort zones, 2018 is shaping up to be a big one. In April, Reclaim is heading across the pond to Bristol, England for a two-day conference. During that conference, I’ll be speaking. Yes, I’m speaking at a conference. That’s something I never thought I’d hear see my self say type.  But in all honesty, I’m super excited for this opportunity and nervous at the same time (but it all goes away when I think about the fact I’m going back to England). But who knows where the rest of 2018 will bring! I’m honestly so glad I found this internship with Reclaim that led to a full time position. The opportunities Jim and Tim have given me are incredible, and I’m so grateful. Here’s to a year full of lessons and growth! Featured Image by Roman Bozhko on Unsplash

Troubleshooting: My Student Can’t Connect via FTP

Though it’s a great tool for moving data in bulk, File Transfer Protocol can be tricky. There are a ton of outliers that could result in that annoying “Login Failed” message, so knowing where to look can be half the battle. Reclaim Hosting support gets questions about FTP quite often, whether from a student or an administrator, so I thought I would throw up a little troubleshooting checklist. We’ve got a great outline & explanation for all-things-FTP here, so I definitely recommend giving that a read & sending that to the user. But in short, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is the student using a default FTP account or an FTP account that was created manually?

-If the user is working with the default account that is created automatically when they sign up, they should be connecting via SFTP. -Any manual accounts that the user created or someone created for them needed to be connected to via FTP.

2. Is the student using the proper SFTP/FTP settings?

If you’re not troubleshooting in person, the easiest way to verify this is by requesting that the user send you a screenshot of their settings, not the error they receive when they can’t connect. The user’s settings should look similar to this: ​
  • server/hostname: domain name
  • username & password: same as cPanel credentials (these were sent to the user in their account welcome email)
  • port: 22

3. Is the student using the proper credentials?

Once confirming that a connection is possible, I always send the user their credentials (regardless if they have them or not) in a one-time, secret link, and then request that they copy/paste them directly. (Sometimes the number 0 is mistaken for an uppercase O, for example.) If you ever need to reset those credentials, go to WHMCS>User Profile>Product/Services Tab & generate a new password there:

4. Is an SFTP/FTP connection possible?

Before even responding to the user, I always test an FTP connection on my end with the student’s credentials to make sure that this is indeed a user error and not a system error. 9 times out of 10 it’s a local error, but it’s still a good rule of thumb to eliminate all possible issues.

5. How many times has the student attempted to log in?

If the user has too many failed login attempts within a certain period of time, they may trigger a block on the server. In these cases, I also check their IP on the firewall to make sure that it’s unblocked and/or whitelists. I normally ask the user to send me their IP address by going here: http://ip4.me/ We have a guide for administrators on unblocking IP addresses here. Reclaim Hosting also has a separate firewall on some servers called BitNinja. If you’ve passed through all of the above steps and the student still can’t connect, shoot a support request to Reclaim with the student’s IP and we’ll make sure it’s whitelisted there as well.
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Reclaim Video Artwork

If you’re not already familiar with Reclaim Video, I suggest giving Jim’s post a read. But in short, we’ve decided to turn a storefront adjacent to our Reclaim office into a fully operational 80’s-style VHS store. We’ve already begun collecting tapes & VHS players, and have already broke ground on renovating the space: That’s all good and well, but why? Aside from making Jim’s fantasy a reality, we’re actually using Reclaim Video as Reclaim Hosting’s first *official* marketing campaign. I’ll save details about this for future posts, but will go ahead and note that we’re planning on using VHS tapes to get the word out about Domain of One’s Own. It’s gonna be fun. So in an effort to move towards this next chapter, we also felt that a natural next step for Reclaim would also be to update the artwork on our website; to “modernize” from a record label storefront to (you guessed it) an 80’s VHS storefront. Video killed the radio star, right? While the actual campaign, website, and VHS storefront will stay very true to the 80’s aesthetic, we wanted reclaimhosting.com to embody these changes while still bringing about familiarity for our existing customers. We reached out to Bryan Mathers, the awesome fellow who created our existing artwork, about our ideas. Our visual thinking session (i.e. 2 hours of us brainstorming while Bryan drew our thoughts) was insanely helpful. We were able to nail down our goals for the future & our plan for achieving them, all the while paying tribute to the individuals, organizations, and institutions who have helped us get to where we are today. We talked about building capacity, both internally and externally, but making sure this is done the right way. To stay familiar as we grow. Using the storefront metaphor: even though the “start-up” mentality seems fleeting, Reclaim will always and forever embody the idea of a local store that anyone can walk into, ask questions, speak to a knowledgeable human being, and receive quick support. As we grow, we will grow out, not up. Reclaim will never be a large, 20-story corporate building that offloads support to a third-party company across the globe. Reclaim will, instead, have several small mom & pop shops that will provide you with the same service as that original record label store. Enter new artwork:

Logo

^You can see the similarities, right? Same font, color scheme, and even the same record squiggles. It looks like the record logo has been cut in half to make way for the VHS tape, and I love that.

Logo with Tagline

^Same feel but adds a tagline & switches out the colors.

Website Header

^LOVE this piece. We’ve still got our record albums, but this time instead of those having the application names, they now have some of our shared hosting server names, which just so happen to also be band names. We’ve also made room on the shelf for some VHS tapes, or popular tools in cPanel. Intermixed with those are a few DIY tapes, which I’m all about. Want to build your site on WordPress or Omeka? Or perhaps use your own HTML? Maybe watch a Zombies movie instead?

Up Close

^Here’s an up-close version so you can see titles a bit better. (Just now realizing that MediaWiki is one word, so we’ll get that fixed. :)) Which got us thinking…what if every domain was a VHS tape?

Blank Tape

^Tim had the brilliant idea to use this as part of our new splash page when someone signs up for a domain. Their newly registered domain could automatically generate on the tape when they refresh their page.

Interactive Video Tape Versions

To say the least, I’m thrilled with the work that Bryan has done so far. And I’m pumped for what’s to come! If you’ve got ’em, I would love to hear your thoughts on growth, metaphors, or art in the comment section below. And stay tuned for more artwork. :)
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Stay Glued to Your Reclaim Hosting

We setup our second shared hosting server in Europe last week in Digital Ocean’s London-based data center. Originally it was in response to the poor performance we were having with our Kraftwerk server in Frankfurt. As fate would have it, Kraftwerk is running better than ever since we set this new server up, but we are still ready and willing to take any request to be moved off Kraftwerk onto, wait for it …. the Wire server.
Our own correspondent is sorry to tell Of an uneasy time that all is not well On the borders there’s movement In the hills there is trouble From “Reuters”
Named after London’s punk pioneers that were eluded by mainstream success of bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, and The Ramones, but had arguably as great an influence on everything from hardcore to post-punk to alternative music of the 80s, 90s and beyond. Their debut album Pink Flag has become a classic, and to steal a quote from the Wikipedia article:
Steve Huey of AllMusic opined that Pink Flag was “perhaps the most original debut album to come out of the first wave of British punk”
That’s something. It’s worth listening to all 22 songs, the shape and form of the album displays obvious influence on The Minutemen‘s Double Nickels on the Dime. It defies an simple definition of punk, hence its wide influence, and in many ways captures the spirit of musical exploration around the idea of punk before that word morphs into a genre-defining set of characteristics that come to dictate the form in the 1980s. My first exposure to Wire was through Minor Threat’s cover of their song “12XU:” I remember listening to them based on the cover and thinking they’re not punk. That might provide a small, solipsistic sense of how alien they could seem only 8 or 9 years after releasing their debut album. But listening to them 30 years later they’re fresher than ever. So, in honor of timeless British punk, Europe’ second shared hosting server, and the UK’s first,* is named in their honor. Special thanks to Anne-Marie Scott who was willing to help us make sure this one worked by allowing us to migrate her sites before the announcement, and we can confirm no blog posts were lost during the transfer ?
*Might be worth noting this is not our first server in Digital Ocean’s London data center, we also host Coventry University’s instance of Domain of One’s Own through this data center, but given that is not a shared hosting server it is fair to say Wire is the UK’s first shared hosting server.
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Digital Ocean’s One-Click Apps vs. Cloudron

Digital Ocean has been en fuego as of late. They announced a whole bunch of new droplet plans, and the price-point for all of them has gone down. This is very good news for Reclaim Hosting because it gives us some breathing room with our infrastructure costs allowing us to continue to keep costs low.  We have been slowly moving most of our infrastructure from Linode and ReliableSite to Digital Ocean, and we could not be happier. They are constantly improving their offerings, and being in a virtual environment where we can increase storage or scale CPU instantaneously makes our life (and our clients’) a lot easier.
One-click Apps at Digital Ocean

One-click Apps at Digital Ocean

In addition to new plans and pricing, I noticed they were featuring one-click apps as well (though not sure how new this is), and I took a peak to see what they offered. It was interesting to see that some of the application they featured, namely Discourse (the forum software) and Ghost (the blogging app), were apps Reclaim was offering beyond our shared hosting cPanel-based LAMP stack. Given we’ve been exploring a one-click option with Cloudron (I recently blogged about setting up Ghost using Cloudron) I wanted to compare Digital Ocean’s idea of one-click to Cloudron’s. Long story short, there is no comparison. Here is Digital Ocean’s command line interface for setting up Ghost:

Command line interface during Ghost setup on Digital Ocean’s one-click apps

Here is Cloudron’s:

One-click install of Ghost on Cloudron

Digital Ocean is amazing at what they do, but their idea of one-click installs still assumes a sysadmin level of knowledge, which, to be fair, make sense given they are a service designed for sysadmins. When I tried the Ghost app it was, indeed, installed on a droplet in seconds, but the actual configuration to setup required full-blown tutorial for command line editing the setup. In addition to the domain pointing, this was setting up SSL and Nginx, granted that simply meant typing “yes” or “no” and clicking enter, but even when you did the setup was not guaranteed. After following the tutorial to the letter I still got the Nginx 502 bad gateway error, which means I was stuck.

Ghost 502 Bad Gateway Nginx Error

I could have tried to troubleshoot the 502 error, but at this point it was just a test and from my experience it was far from one-click.

Discourse example

I then tried the Discourse, and this was definitely easier than Ghost. It still required a tutorial, but that was primarily focused on setting up an SMTP account through Mailgun so the application could send email. After that, the setup was simple, but again the one-click setup process on Digital Ocean assumes an understanding of API-driven transactional email services like Mailgun or Sparkpost. Cloudron does not have a Discourse installer, so no real comparison there, but if it could manage the SMTP email setup in the background, I imagine it would be just as simple as their Ghost installer. I’m glad I explored Digital Ocean’s one-click application offerings because it confirms for me the potential power of tools like Cloudron that truly make it simple to install applications. Our community by and large will not be folks with sysadmin level knowledge, so integrating a solution that is truly one-click, avoiding DNS and command line editing,  would be essential.

Rethinking Workshop of One’s Own

If you missed the summary of the Fall 2017 Workshop, feel free to read it here So we’ve decided to slightly rework the content in the coming Spring ’18 Workshop of One’s Own! While there was nothing wrong with the Fall workshop, it was tailored specifically for the system administrator– the one who would be troubleshooting/supporting their Domain of One’s Own instance from the backend. We wanted attendees to be able to walk away with the knowledge to handle an influx of support tickets and server-side dilemmas of all shapes and sizes. But now that we have DoOO support documentation written and published, we feel comfortable branching out into a more discussion based, hands-on workshop. So for this coming March, we’re tweaking things slightly. We’d like to move away from the super hairy admin tech side and focus more on the people part of DoOO by talking through the following:
What are strategies for promoting DoOO on our campus? How can we approach faculty members who are hesitant of change? How can we tailor our DoOO program to the goals of our institution? Should DoOO look differently for an incoming Freshman compared to a graduating Senior? Where is the balance between managing our community and empowering our community?
Don’t worry– we’re still planning on including a baseline of information to maneuver and support the Domain of One’s Own platform on an administrator level, we just want to scale back on the nitty-gritty details. This will give us time to focus on things like project templates, SPLOTS, real-world case studies for applications other than WordPress, and creating awesome stuff on the spot. We want to unpack cPanel and highlight the potential of the tools available within a Domain of One’s Own environment.

Rough Itinerary:

// Day One 8 – 9: Coffee & Light Breakfast 9 – 5: How best to use each platform; Understanding WHM & WHMCS; DNS Overview; Common Support Troubleshooting; Graduating Exit Strategies // Day Two 8 – 9: Coffee & Light Breakfast 9 – 4: Strategies for Promoting DoOO; Case Studies for Omeka, Scalar & Grav; SPLOTs; Building your own project template

Food Situation:

+ We’ve got breakfast, lunch, & dinner covered on Day 1. We’ll also cover breakfast & lunch on Day 2. + We also may or may not have an escape room planned during lunch Day 1.

More Info:

For more information about the workshop, click here.
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Hardcore Show Flyers

The other day at Reclaim Hosting we were having some issues with the Devo server. Load was high and while investigating it I happened to see traffic to the domain hardcoreshowflyers.net through Apache status. I was intrigued, so rather than fixing the server I headed over to the site (I jest, Tim fixed the server—per usual ? ) to see if it was what I thought it was, and boy was it ever.
Crumbsuckers' "Life of Dreams" album advertisement

Crumbsuckers’ “Life of Dreams” album advertisement

The site was a full blown archive of hardcore punk show flyers from the 1970s through 2017. After this chance discovery I proceeded to lose a good part of the day. One of my earliest music shows was a Sunday matinee at CBGBs in 1985 to see the our hometown punk band The Crumbsuckers. It just so happens that they were playing with New York City hardcore legends The Cro-Mags—I was pretty blown away. I am not certain, but this flyer could very well be an advertisement for that show I went to in 1985: How this fuels my penchant for nostalgia. But the craziest part is looking through the flyers to see what shows I was at. Crumbsuckers were my entré to the scene, and I quickly learned to love the Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law, and Agnostic Front (a kind of trio of NYC trashcore), but the Bad Brians were something else all together for me. It led me to the DC scene and the straight-edge movement defined by Minor Threat, which then led me to Dag Nasty. At the same time the straightedge scene was gaining steam led by Youth of Today, Judge, Uniform Choice, and Bold. I went to more than a few Youth of Today shows, and after a while it began to get fairly boring and preachy with Ray of Today talking shit on “the dope smoking longhairs” —and then a whole bunch of bands (including the Cro-Mags) became Hari Krishnas and I was outta there.

Bold, Supertouch, and Sick of it All flyer for a show at The Anthrax in 1987

I know I saw Youth of Today and Uniform Choice at CBGBs, and I believe a show with Bold and Judge (though not sure if they played together) at The Anthrax in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1986 or 1987. But the site also reminded me of bands I have seen but not thought about in a long while like Supertouch, No for an Answer, Sick of it All, and many others. There were a ton of bands associated with the scene, and it’s amazing how these simple flyers capture not only my imagination, but chronicle the various sinews of a entire subculture. This is very cool work, and once I fell down the rabbit hole I noticed the site was looking for patrons. I could not resist, for me the folks who have the time and patience to collect and curate an archive like this provide an indispensable service that takes a ton of effort. What’s more, it directly feeds into my personal interests and history. I immediately benefitted from it, so it only made good sense to support he work. But cooler than that is it was using Reclaim Hosting so we could waive hosting fees to try and ensure a site like this stays online as long as possible. Hardcore Show Flyers represents the best of the web for me, a niche collection someone has amassed and wants to share freely over time. This is obviously a passion for the proprietor, and the small, passion-driven web wins for me every time. Thanks for this.
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There Goes the Reclaim Neighborhood

Bryan Alexander has moved his forward facing blog/site bryanlaexander.org to Reclaim Hosting, so in other words there goes the neighborhood. Not long before severed feet start washing up on our virtual shores. There is no shortage of love on the bava for Bryan Alexander, and I do think the final coup will be getting Infocult off Typepad sometime soon—everyone has to have a dream. Two of the biggest blogging influences on the bava were D’Arcy Norman’s compulsive sharing of any and all edtech work he was working on (I just stole what he was doing with Drupal and did it for WordPress) and the bizarre, insane “Uncanny Informatics” that was Bryan’s Infocult. That were many other influences, but those two brilliantly framed the poles I wanted to oscillate between on this blog. So moving Bryan’s site from WordPress.com to Reclaim was cool for many reasons, and reinforces the essence of my last post quite well. Anyway, I’m blogging like an old timer here—but it’s my blog dammit! Anyway, the point of the post was to make a couple of quick observations about migrating Bryan’s site from wordpress.com to a stand alone WordPress instance. I think its interesting because when you’re migrating a site that’s your client’s bread and butter you don’t want to mess things up. Granted that moving between WordPress.com and a stand alone site is dead simple*, but things like images, embeds, and polls can get lost in the migration. Not to mention making sure they retain their wp.com followers/subscribers, widgets, theme, etc. [The theme was easy cause like the great bava, he is rocking Twenty Ten #4life.] And this is when I began realizing the genius of Jetpack. Jetpack not only enabled me to reproduce all the custom wp.com widgets like his Flickr photos, latest Tweets, email subscriptions, etc, but it also gave me seamless integration with Akismet and PollDaddy, which meant literally nothing was lost in the move. What’s more, when you have a significant number of email subscribers and RSS readers like Bryan, the fact that none of them are lost demonstrates how Automattic uses Jetpack as an umbilical cord between their various commercial services and the free, open source product that made it all possible. And then there are stats, added security, monitoring, backups, image hosting, etc. So, a day after the migration Bryan has access to a ton of different plugins and themes (not to mention the core code), but has lost none of the features wordpress.com provided—which is pretty brilliant. We’ll see if anything pops up in the immediate future, but outside the DNS caching pushing some folks to the old site, it’s been quite seamless. And if people do happen to comment on the old site while DNS is propagating (or Bryan shoots off another post too soon) nothing is lost given it is on the original infouclt.wordpress.com site. This might seem rudimentary to some folks, and I have done more than a few wordpress.com transfers now, but it struck me that if your whole livelihood revolves around your site, making a move like this seem trivial is amazing—so kudos to the good folks at Automattic for making it easy and to Bryan for becoming a reclaimer!
*Bryan had so many posts and comments that the export was broken up into 5 different XML files, which is the first time I have seen that happen. Uncanny informatics!
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Sebadoh: Smash Your Head on the Reclaim Rock

In addition to our first shared hosting server in Canada, we are also thrilled to announce a new shared hosting server in Digital Ocean’s San Francisco-based data center called Sebadoh, in honor of the band formed thanks to Lou Barlow’s frustration with J. Mascis‘s creative control over Dinosaur Jr. We already have a server named in honor of Dino, so Lou Barlow may very well be the first musician that is part of two bands Reclaim has named servers after—though I may need to be fact-checked on that one.

Sebadoh is associated with the 1990s lo-fi scene, often associated with Pavement and Guided by Voices, amongst others. I was first exposed to Sebadoh as an undergraduate in Los Angeles in the early 90s with their compilation album Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock. Songs like “Brand New Love” and “Vampire” highlight the best of post-punks EMO roots:

But the album I remember most fondly is their 1994 release Bakesale. It seemed to play endlessly on the portable, battery-driven CD player in my girlfriend’s insurance-less, beat-up Toyota (or was it a Honda?) while driving the endless boulevards of Los Angeles. It’s definitely my favorite, I mean how can you beat lyrics like “I need the Dramamine To be as crazy as your scene” 

So, here’s to the spirit of 90s lo-fi at Reclaim Hosting as we gear up for 2018.

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Reclaim’s D.O.A. in Canada

Reclaim Hosting is happy to announce a new shared hosting server in a Digital Ocean’s Toronto-based data center. And while the Toronto data center has been around since 2015, it just got block storage in September.We named this server after the pioneer political Canadian hardcore punk band D.O.A. With their first two albums Something Better Change (1980) and Hardcore ’81 (1981) you have arguably the earliest examples of the new punk style that would dominate the 1980s. Political anthems like “Smash the State” provide a good example of this:

Or “F**cked Up Ronnie” as an early instance of 1980s punks sonic war on Reagan:

In fact, the song has been updated for the times:

It’s pretty telling to hear both Henry Rollins and Keith Morris talk about the impact D.O.A. had on the emerging hardcore scene.

I love Morris’s description of seeing D.O.A. open up for X in LA.

So, it seems only fitting to christen Canada’s first Reclaim Hosting server as D.O.A. If any one would like us to move their sites to this new server for whatever reason just submit a support request and we’ll be sure to make it so.