App Release: Big Picture Calling Card

App Release: Big Picture Calling Card

Reclaim Hosting has long been a big fan of the work that Alan Levine is doing with SPLOTs (Smallest Possible learning...object...tools? Who knows what it actually stands for). The idea, born out of the work Alan was doing with Brian Lamb's group at TRU, was to make simple tools built on top of WordPress that solved simple problems. For users in Canada it was especially important that no logins be required. A suite of tools were developed and Alan has gone on to continue maintaining them and even developed additional ones like "Calling Card" themes for personal sites and packaging up the DS106 Assignment Bank and Daily Create into standalone packages.

As Jim wrote about earlier, we had visions of bringing Alan on in a fellowship role to work with us on developing many of these tools into standalone installers in our Reclaim Hosting environment. I'm happy to announce that the first of many goes live today, the Big Picture Calling Card.

Big Picture is a theme developed by Alan and based off of an HTML5UP theme of the same name. It's a single page landing site that works well for personal sites as well as small projects where you may want all the information on a single page. Now, installing a theme isn't necessarily hard, and Alan has done a lot of work documenting both in his Github repository as well as on his blog how to get up and running. But for users brand new to WordPress even the act of installing themes, activating plugins, and configuring settings in Customizer can be a hell of a learning curve (a great learning opportunity in my opinion, but a curve nonetheless). In the same way that creating an installer for Omeka has opened the doors for many more folks to work with that software we have seen time and again how building applications for our environment can simply the amount of onboarding necessary to build out amazing stuff.

Big Picture Calling Card is rolling out to servers over the next 24 hours for all Reclaim Hosting users and available directly in Installatron. And the great news is that this is the first of many SPLOT-based applications that we will be making available including additional calling card themes as well functional applications like the TRU Writer and TRU Collector.

The Next App: Nextcloud

The Next App: Nextcloud

You may have noticed in my last blog post a bit of a tease in that I've become a bit more comfortable recently with building installers. Of course not every application is going to be compatible with a cPanel environment or work well in the context of automating the install, but when possible we want to continue to build out a rich and robust library of applications for our users beyond just what is offered stock by Installatron.

Our newest installer is for Nextcloud, which is an app with a pretty interesting history. Nextcloud is an open source storage program that acts very much as a replacement for Dropbox and services like it. They have applications for desktop and mobile and you can keep your files in sync. They also have a variety of applications that can be run from inside the program. It is a fork of the ownCloud software created by the original developer of ownCloud and many programmers that were working for the company in 2016. There was some disagreement in ownership and the direction of the software and so being that it was open source they decided to start anew under a new name. Installatron has offered ownCloud for awhile now stock and it is still a supported application being developed with regular updates. I can't answer for you whether ownCloud or Nextcloud is a better direction, but I can say after playing around with Nextcloud it is a really slick experience.

The Next App: Nextcloud

Look for Nextcloud to be available on all servers on Reclaim Hosting in the next 24-48 hours. If you have a burning desire for another application that is not currently available as an installer, I would love for you to post in the Feature Requests category of our community forums. I'm an active participant there and use that as a way to gauge interest for what to work on next.

RSS is Not Dead: FreshRSS in Installatron

RSS is Not Dead: FreshRSS in Installatron

It all begins with a tweet (pay not attention to the fact I'm no longer on Twitter)

NewsBlur unfortunately is indeed not compatible in a shared hosting environment, great hosted service though so check them out! However instead of just letting Mark down I wanted to at least find an alternative. I personally love TinyTinyRSS but my needs are pretty simple, I have a Google Reader skin (because nostalgia) and I can j/k my way back and forth through articles with the keyboard. But in my search for options out there I stumbled on FreshRSS and the demo looked really interesting. If nothing else it's a fresh coat of paint for a self-hosted reader. And the site proudly proclaims it's open source nature. Given it was compatible with cPanel I wanted to see if I could get an installer going for it.

RSS is Not Dead: FreshRSS in Installatron

I have to say I'm starting to get into a bit of a groove building installers. While the announcements have not been too frequent on that regard, that will be changing in a big way in the coming months as we push out potentially 7 more apps to our environment by the end of the year. Our goal is to really make Reclaim Hosting not just an environment but also a library for educational tools. 4 hours later I've got a working installer and I'm publishing it out today.

RSS is Not Dead: FreshRSS in Installatron

FreshRSS is first and foremost a free and open source RSS aggregator. In my testing it's fast, mobile responsive, and pretty easy on the eyes. You can import an OPML of all your feeds to get started on the right foot and it's even got bookmarklets to interact with. Lots of cool stuff here and if you're not already on the RSS train or you're looking for a new ride, this might be it. It was published today on all Reclaim Hosting servers and should propagate within the next 24-48 hours.

Got an app you wish we supported? The Feature Requests category of our community forums is a great place to make your voice heard! I read and respond to every one.

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.

Capture, Annotate and Share Screenshots

Newest app worth looking into: Annotate

I’ve been using this app for a couple of months, per Tim‘s discovery, and it rocks. As both the title of this post and the tagline of the app suggest, Annotate really does change the name of the game in the world of screenshotting.

Capture, Annotate and Share Screenshots

^Annotate allows you box out the part of a screenshot that you’re wanting to focus on. This is most useful in showing a customer where to click inside of their account. I love that it still keeps the rest of the screenshot visible so the viewer can keep their whereabouts, but still hones in on the important part of the screenshot.

Capture, Annotate and Share Screenshots

^Another favorite Annotate feature is the blurring out tool. I’m sure it’s assumed, but this is helpful for writing tutorials or support tickets where you need to screenshot a window that has holds private information. This screenshot also exemplifies the arrow and text features.

Continue reading “Capture, Annotate and Share Screenshots”

Magnet: Window Manager for Mac

If you know me at all, you know that I’m all about trying to find the most productive & time efficient way to get from point A to point B– especially when it comes to my job and technology. This can be a slippery slope however, when one day you wake up and realize that your planning tools to “stay organized” take up more of your time than the actual items themselves. (You should have seen my planner in high school- it was more detailed than my actual homework.) So through the years of perfecting my “help, don’t hurt” productivity policy, I’ve found that the most helpful tools end up being the simple, obvious ones. Which brings me to Magnet, my newest find. Magnet is a window manager for Mac that allows you to take advantage of the space on your screen or monitor without a second thought. This comes in handy when you need to have multiple windows open at once, and you’re not interested in fiddling with manually sizing and placing all of your windows using those little cursor arrows. Magnet is compatible with a dual display set up, and is super easy to install and begin using right away. Continue reading "Magnet: Window Manager for Mac"

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

Make sure to check out the previous applications that have been featured:
 Asana, Evernote & Slack.

In regards to continuing the ‘Featured Applications’ series on this blog, I wanted to briefly highlight one of the backbones of Reclaim Hosting: Intercom.

We say all the time that we are our customers– that Reclaim Hosting would be nothing without the users that take us on and support our vision for web hosting. So we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to support them in return. Having top-notch customer support is one of our biggest priorities, and we couldn’t be as rock solid as we are without the help of Intercom, our support interface.

Intercom describes themselves on their website as “the one place for every team in the Internet business to communicate with customers”. Truth. They offer a variety of ways that you can use Intercom, too: Live Chat, Marketing Automation, Customer Feedback and Customer Support.

HOW RECLAIM HOSTING USES INTERCOM

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

Reclaim uses Intercom’s customer support feature. Its pretty great, I think. Users can send their questions tosupport@reclaimhosting.com, or within the app in their Client Area. All messages on our end come through the same space for easy access.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

This means no repetitively checking multiple emails or message chains, or overlapping with other Reclaim support members.

And because you can easily tag and assign other support members to tickets, this really cuts down on overlapping as well.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

At a glance in the Intercom dashboard, I can easily see how many conversations are open, when we last got a response from the user, and who on our end is responsible for replying to them. And because everything is out in the open (as opposed to private email chains, for example) we can all be in the know about a user’s current problem.

Perfect example: I’ll start my day with support at 10am. Tim, Jim or Joe may have began a conversation with a user previous to my arrival- if they temporarily log off for a meeting or other engagement, I’m able to step in. The user doesn’t have to wait on a response.

 

The top menu bar of the Intercom dashboard shows all instances of conversations possible: which conversations are assigned to who, which ones are unassigned and how many conversations are open in total.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

The right-hand sidebar of the Intercom dashboard rocks as well. If I click on TW’s conversation, for example, I’m able to see a bunch of useful information about TW to the right- institution or location, email, browser, IP address, etc.

This makes things really simple when a user reaches out for help. Almost always the user can realize when there’s a problem, but often they don’t know the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ of the problem. So having a dashboard that automatically gives us server/account information is critical. It points us in the right direction to find the fix.

KEEP TRACK OF TAGS

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

Above the menu bar already mentioned, there’s a notification icon that keeps track of any tags you might’ve missed. There’s been many a time where I’ll log off for the day, and then sign in to Intercom the next day to find a few notifications from my co-workers saying “heads up, here’s another way to do this,” or something to that extent.

I’m constantly still learning and adding to my repertoire for how to handle unique support requests. So even though conversations may be long closed, I’m able to open them up and learn something new that I might have missed otherwise.

SPEAKING OF TAGS…

By far, my favorite Intercom feature is being able to have real-time brainstorming conversations with my co-workers on the same conversation chain that I’m having with a Reclaim user.

With each ticket that comes through, I have the option of replying directly to the user on the front end, or making an internal note that only support members see.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

^Front end with the user.

Featured Applications | 04: Intercom

^Back end with support members.

All support members can chat behind the scenes like this on a single ticket. We can work through problems together, or ask for help when we need it.

For more info about Intercom, check out their blog.

Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm

Yesterday I wrote about getting your own Sandstorm server up and running, and today I wanted to follow-up with some specifics about applications in Sandstorm. This should be a fairly short post because it’s really easy, but I’m really not into the whole brevity thing. As I mentioned yesterday, Sandstorm’s Application Market is really impressive and they have done an amazing job of integrating it into the server to make exploring and installing apps painless.

When you are in the Sandstorm dashboard you will see two areas: Apps and Grains.

Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm

Apps are just that, applications you can or have used. SO, for example, this is what the apps area looks like in my Sandbox dashboard.

Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm

A link to the App Market to install applications as well as those I have used, in this case Ghost, Hacker CMS, and WordPress. The other area of the dashboard is the section called Grains.

Continue reading “Anatomy of an Application in Sandstorm”

Importing Installations using Installatron

So I've been writing about some of the great features of Installatron that often go unnoticed like cloning and alternative backup options. Maybe those all sound like things you'd love to use, but you're old school and have an install in your account from long before you knew Installatron was the bees knees. Or maybe still, you have installation somewhere else on the web you'd love to migrate over. Well I have great news for you, Installatron can import applications and take over management of them for you.

Let's start by looking at installs that might already be in your hosting account, but not currently managed by Installatron. You may have migrated your account manually and setup those files and databases yourself to get the application online. Installatron makes it easy to add an existing application from your account. You start by logging into cPanel and clicking on the application you'd like to import into Installatron:

List of Applications

Note: While you may find the application you want to import on the homepage of cPanel if it's featured there, you can also click "View More" to see the full list, and there are indeed a lot.

Once you've found the application you want to import instead of clicking the "Install" button you're going to click the dropdown beside it and choose "Import existing install"

Import Dropdown

Since we're assuming the application is already in your hosting account you'll select "From this account" as the location (we'll cover the other option later)

Import from this account

Now all you have to do is tell Installatron what the URL of the install is and it will automatically read the install information and import it into your account. Once that's done you can take advantage of all the great Installatron features with your application.

Import Finalize

Now if you've been using Reclaim Hosting since the beginning you may not have a need for that, however importing applications is not limited to applications that are already on our server. Assuming you have FTP information for a previous host you can actually import those installs too! Follow the same instructions to find the application you want to import and choose the second option "From a different account"

Import from external account

For this to work you'll have to give Installatron FTP (File Transfer Protocol) credentials to you're old hosting account so it can migrate the information. By providing login information as well as the path to the files, Installatron can assume the privileges of your previous application and grab everything it needs to migrate.

Source Install Information

Destination Install Information

Once your application is imported you'll have a hosted application on Reclaim Hosting powered with Installatron which you can use to automate updates and backups. Moving files and provisioning databases is so last year!

Importing Installations using Installatron

So I've been writing about some of the great features of Installatron that often go unnoticed like cloning and alternative backup options. Maybe those all sound like things you'd love to use, but you're old school and have an install in your account from long before you knew Installatron was the bees knees. Or maybe still, you have installation somewhere else on the web you'd love to migrate over. Well I have great news for you, Installatron can import applications and take over management of them for you.

Let's start by looking at installs that might already be in your hosting account, but not currently managed by Installatron. You may have migrated your account manually and setup those files and databases yourself to get the application online. Installatron makes it easy to add an existing application from your account. You start by logging into cPanel and clicking on the application you'd like to import into Installatron:

Note: While you may find the application you want to import on the homepage of cPanel if it's featured there, you can also click "View More" to see the full list, and there are indeed a lot.

Once you've found the application you want to import instead of clicking the "Install" button you're going to click the dropdown beside it and choose "Import existing install"

Importing Installations using Installatron

Since we're assuming the application is already in your hosting account you'll select "From this account" as the location (we'll cover the other option later)

Importing Installations using Installatron

Now all you have to do is tell Installatron what the URL of the install is and it will automatically read the install information and import it into your account. Once that's done you can take advantage of all the great Installatron features with your application.

Importing Installations using Installatron

Now if you've been using Reclaim Hosting since the beginning you may not have a need for that, however importing applications is not limited to applications that are already on our server. Assuming you have FTP information for a previous host you can actually import those installs too! Follow the same instructions to find the application you want to import and choose the second option "From a different account"

Importing Installations using Installatron

For this to work you'll have to give Installatron FTP (File Transfer Protocol) credentials to you're old hosting account so it can migrate the information. By providing login information as well as the path to the files, Installatron can assume the privileges of your previous application and grab everything it needs to migrate.

Importing Installations using Installatron

Importing Installations using Installatron

Once your application is imported you'll have a hosted application on Reclaim Hosting powered with Installatron which you can use to automate updates and backups. Moving files and provisioning databases is so last year!