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Today

Today

I recently got back from a lovely weeklong vacation in Myrtle Beach where amongst all the relaxing I got nostalgic while showing some old DTLT Today videos to a friend. Right on the heels of that I read Jim's post about Reclaim's 5 year anniversary and while doing some digging in my Twitter archive (I'm no longer on Twitter but have a full archive of my stuff here) I found that Jim and I must have put out an episode the day we went public with the idea of Reclaim Hosting narrating our thoughts on the formation of it. Luckily Jim is the best kind of pack rat and had a copy since the original post I wrote had a broken embed from a media server that no longer exists at UMW and I was able to get it back online. Seriously, if you're a Reclaim fan and have some time to spare check this out:

It never ceases to amaze me when I go back to watch these videos how they become a time capsule of a particular moment. I cherish every one we did because just like blogging it helps me understand not just the relationships and the interactions I've been privileged to have in my career but also the political, commercial, and cultural changes that were influencing the work we were doing as a group. So needless to say the bug was starting to bite hard and I know better than to fight that feeling.

So yesterday after floating the idea to Jim and thinking it really could happen I rearranged some furniture in our back office and spent the evening developing an opening sequence (I'm such a god damn sucker for branding, I can't help it!). In an homage to DTLT Today we are calling it Reclaim Today and we recorded our first episode today in meta fashion talking about why we're doing this and what our goals are for the podcast.

As a geeky colophon to that I wanted to write a bit about the technical aspects of building both the opener and how we're currently managing the podcast as a distributed company with half of the team of 4 remote.

For the opener sequence like many video projects I started by checking out what was available on Videohive. I have an Adobe Suite license and I've played with After Effects with a few other projects so I find these templates a great way to get something professional up real quick. I also found a decent audio track on Audiojungle (same marketplace, part of the Envato network). So for ~$35 and a few hours time finding images and editing text I had the pieces I needed to build the video you see at the top of this post.

For the actual recording we leaned towards Google Hangouts on Air, which you can setup to livestream but also record straight to YouTube. Hangouts are awesome in that it's dead simple to act as a standalone switcher between folks, people can share their screens, and no one has to "control the feed" as it were. Hangouts suck in that sometimes you might want that control. Great example was that I had to download the YouTube video, insert our intro video and outro, and reupload as a new video because apparently you can't play videos within a Hangout. The quality also leaves a bit to be desired. So we'll see if we stay with that or move towards something like Wirecast which we used extensively at UMW for a variety of projects including DTLT Today and it was very powerful but a complex and expensive piece of software (and we talk a bit about this conundrum on the first episode).

Another nice piece of the setup I got working was that we had a mobile TV cart on one end of the room with a long HDMI cable to a standalone mac mini that was driving the hangout. The mini had a Yeti mic and Logitech HD webcam connected to it and we ran a long audio cable from the Yeti behind the couch with a splitter so Meredith and I could both hear everything without any echo. It ended up being a pretty nice solution allowing us to look right into the camera while interacting directly with the screen behind it and managing audio in a way that allowed for now echoing. I do want to start breaking out the audio in a separate recording so we're not left with the compressed stuff Hangouts gives us for the final recording (thinking about Audio Hijack Pro for that).

So anyways, we're having a blast and we've launched this thing. As the kids say these days, like and subscribe for more!

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Using Google Apps with your Domain

Managing e-mail can be one of the harder parts of reclaiming your space on the web. While building a web presence is easier with modern applications like WordPress, the state of email clients and protocols is much less advanced. You'll have to grapple with getting your IMAP accounts setup and all the settings correct, webmail options are limited in functionality, and deliverability is always a concern with shared hosting servers.

Many users for this reason decide to use a service like Google Apps with their domain. Google Apps allows you to have email addresses based on your domain but completely powered by Google using Gmail as a webmail interface and connecting to any Google-supported client. Luckily it's absolutely possible to push mail to Google while still maintaining complete control of your domain for building out content on Reclaim Hosting. This is done by editing several MX Records which are a type of record for your domain that tells our servers who is in charge of handling email for the domain.

Google outlines the necessary records for setting up Google Apps on your domain at https://support.google.com/a/answer/33915?hl=en. Essentially we'll be editing the MX records to reflect the following:

Priority Mail Server
1 ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5 ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5 ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
10 ALT3.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
10 ALT4.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

To make these changes you'll log into cPanel and navigate to the Email section and choose MX Entry.

Email Section in cPanel

By default cPanel creates a single MX entry that points to your main domain as the server for email (so if your domain is hosted by Reclaim Hosting mail will be routed through the server your domain is on). We'll need to change that to take advantage of Google Apps for email. Each MX record has two items, a Priority number which tells the server which order to check for email records, and a Destination which is a domain that will serve the email.

MX Entry Editing Interface

You'll need to edit the existing one (or remove it) and then add a few additional ones from the table above. When you're done the records should look like this:

Completed MX Records

You're all done! Keep in mind changing records can take 24-48 hours to begin working, though it typically will happen much sooner. Once the records have propagated globally all email will be routed to Google and you can use their system to handle all of your email functionality while still maintaining control of your domain from Reclaim Hosting.

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Using Google Apps with your Domain

Managing e-mail can be one of the harder parts of reclaiming your space on the web. While building a web presence is easier with modern applications like WordPress, the state of email clients and protocols is much less advanced. You'll have to grapple with getting your IMAP accounts setup and all the settings correct, webmail options are limited in functionality, and deliverability is always a concern with shared hosting servers.

Many users for this reason decide to use a service like Google Apps with their domain. Google Apps allows you to have email addresses based on your domain but completely powered by Google using Gmail as a webmail interface and connecting to any Google-supported client. Luckily it's absolutely possible to push mail to Google while still maintaining complete control of your domain for building out content on Reclaim Hosting. This is done by editing several MX Records which are a type of record for your domain that tells our servers who is in charge of handling email for the domain.

Google outlines the necessary records for setting up Google Apps on your domain at https://support.google.com/a/answer/33915?hl=en. Essentially we'll be editing the MX records to reflect the following:

Priority Mail Server
1 ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5 ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
5 ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
10 ALT3.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
10 ALT4.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.

To make these changes you'll log into cPanel and navigate to the Email section and choose MX Entry.

By default cPanel creates a single MX entry that points to your main domain as the server for email (so if your domain is hosted by Reclaim Hosting mail will be routed through the server your domain is on). We'll need to change that to take advantage of Google Apps for email. Each MX record has two items, a Priority number which tells the server which order to check for email records, and a Destination which is a domain that will serve the email.

Using Google Apps with your Domain

You'll need to edit the existing one (or remove it) and then add a few additional ones from the table above. When you're done the records should look like this:

Using Google Apps with your Domain

You're all done! Keep in mind changing records can take 24-48 hours to begin working, though it typically will happen much sooner. Once the records have propagated globally all email will be routed to Google and you can use their system to handle all of your email functionality while still maintaining control of your domain from Reclaim Hosting.

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An Update on Reclaiming Efforts

An Update on Reclaiming Efforts

A few weeks ago when Google announced the discontinuation of Google Reader effective July 1st what began as a moderate approach to reclaiming things here and there that were important to me was sent into a tailspin. Maybe that seems dramatic but the Reader shutdown really hits home to me possibly because it's one of the first services to shut its doors on me that I personally used every single day, often several times a day. It's hard to trust a company after something like that and more importantly it raised larger issues about what the RSS landscape looked like before a heavy like Google came in and wiped out the competition only to bow out now. I had briefly flirted with the idea of getting off Google servers but now it was personal. So here's what I've done in the meantime:

Fever

Their have been tons of blog posts detailing all the various Google Reader alternatives out there. Most of them feel like switching from one proprietary web platform to another. The idea of hosting my own solution appealed to me and paying a nominal fee to a developer I've admired and respected for years was the icing on the cake. I've been using Fever since the day the shutdown was announced and it's been absolutely great. I save items I enjoy which feed into a widget at the bottom of this blog. If there's one thing I wish it had that would be a "mark as unread" feature since I used that previously to keep posts available to me. I've been trying to retrain myself to "save" items I want to come back to which works ok but not as well. I will say I'm a bit hesitant to how well Fever will be supported given Shaun's blog post about the current state of it but regardless it's working well now and since it's hosted in my space I can use it without worry of a company attempting to monetize or close its doors on me. ### Mail

Gmail was always expected to be one of the hardest ones for me to give up. I'm not sure why that is, I'm certainly not a power user of many of its features and most of time I'm checking my mail through a client with its own featureset anyway. I connected Apple Mail to Gmail over IMAP to download all of my email and then setup a mailbox on my hosting server, connected that to Apple Mail, and dragged it all into an Archive folder there. I setup a forward on Gmail to my new address, changed the contact for as many of the services I could think of (that's an ongoing thing), and never looked back. I have to say this was one of those switches that I expected to be worse than it really was. I'm rarely using the web client but when I need to Roundcube on Hippie Hosting is pretty nice (and there's a whole host of plugins for it I haven't even explored much yet). The hardest part is getting people to know the new address but with all email from the Gmail address coming to me and my replies coming from the new address I'm hopeful over time that will self-correct (I thought about setting an auto-reply letting the user know of the change but figured that could cause real problems with mailing lists so I didn't do it). ### Google Docs

Switching away from Google Docs has been a lot harder. Getting an archive of everything I had was pretty easy thanks to Google Takeout so I grabbed everything and dropped it into an archive folder in my ownCloud folder. But the fact remains there are no good web alternatives to Google Docs. There are plenty of repositories but not many collaborative editing suites and none as robust. I've played with a hosted install of etherpad-lite which works ok but it's not great and the server demands make it a non-starter for most people that don't have their own dedicated box. For now I'll have to keep my account active but with a focus on doing more with local documents rather than making GDocs the default environment for all of my document editing which was previously starting to become the case. ### Google Groups

I subscribe to just a small handful of Google Groups which are basically listservs with a forum-style frontend. Sadly there does not appear to be a way to subscribe and interact with a group without a Google account. A few searches appeared to show some promise but the information is outdated and none of the things I tried work anymore. I get the digest emails to my new email address since Gmail forwards over but I can't respond via email and if I want to interact with the thread I have to log in with my Google account. Ugh. So yeah, a few wins, a few losses. Overall I can honestly say this hasn't been as painful as I would have expected. Especially for something as big as email which I use so regularly. I think we often get caught up in the fear of the unknown and we let it paralyze us from exploring these alternatives. Google is our comfortable Lord and ruler. It's been refreshing to notice I'm no longer signed into a Google account all the time and my life is no worse for it (and in many ways better). Photo Credit: Alan Levine