Commons in a Box comes to Reclaim Hosting

Commons in a Box comes to Reclaim Hosting

We are excited to announce that we have partnered with the Commons in a Box project to bring an automated installer to the Reclaim Hosting platform. This follows on the heals of their 1.1.0 release which introduced the concept of "packages" that allow for different community types to be automated. As part of that effort a new "OpenLab" package (used by OpenLab at City Tech) is available during install with a focus on teaching and learning.

Commons in a Box comes to Reclaim Hosting

The work to bring CBOX to Reclaim began over a year ago as part of an NEH-funded grant and we couldn't be more excited to make the software available to our community. This installer is not exclusive to our institutional clients, rather all servers will have the ability to quickly install and run Commons in a Box. That being said, we recognize that for many the potential of the software is to build a space for large communities and so we have a focused Managed Hosting option at Reclaim where we can run a dedicated server for your CBOX project including options like single sign-on.

A huge thanks to all the fine folks at the Commons in a Box project for working with us to make this happen!

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.

Get SiteSucker, Sucker

I had followed with great interest the discussion on the Reclaim Hosting Community site about archiving a dynamic, database driven site as static HTML files.  I share Alan Levine’s passion for trying to archive as much of the work I’ve done online as possible, I’m just not nearly as good at it. That said, today I had an occasion to use the Mac tool SiteSucker Tim Owens has been raving about for a while. The app costs $4.99 and takes any URL and packages up the entire site (including images and media) into local static HTML files.

Continue reading “Get SiteSucker, Sucker”

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.

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!

Alternative Backup Options in Installatron

After writing about the Clone Tool I started thinking about some of the other features of Installatron that aren't immediately noticeable but very powerful. One that I love is the variety of Backup Options in Installatron.

Installatron has quite a few options for automating the process of backing up your site. Keeping regular backups is a safeguard against any number of issues that might come up from automatic updates that happen to be incompatible and break a site to malware or even changes made on accident. When you install an application on Reclaim Hosting using Installatron it is automatically set to backup anytime there's an update to the software. However you can also set a few interesting additional options either in the Advanced Options area during the install or by clicking this wrench icon on any of your existing installs:

Accessing Install Details

One of the cool features about Installatron is that you don't even have to backup an install to your own account. At Reclaim Hosting we store backups from Installatron on a separate server that doesn't count against storage quotas, but there are options here to store it in a variety of other locations as well, for instance in your Dropbox account:

Backup Storage Locations

You can also setup automated backups that happen at regular intervals, for example a daily and weekly backup of the account or some other set schedule so you have options to restore from:

Automated Backup Intervals

To demonstrate this I chose Dropbox as my backup location and clicked Save at the bottom of the screen. Upon saving a window prompts me to authenticate to Dropbox so Installatron has access to my account.

Dropbox Access

After authorizing Dropbox to my account new backups will be stored as compressed files in my Dropbox account under a folder called Apps/Installatron

Backing Up

Backup File

This compressed file stores not only all of the files for that installation but also a complete copy of the database so you can take it with you to another hosting provider as well as restore a copy right from Installatron in the future if the need arises.