Restarting a Discourse Container

We have a server that runs a kind of multisite Discourse environment that I discussed a number of years ago in this post. It is an Ubuntu server with Docker installed, and each of the Discourse instances on that server are spun up in Docker containers. It’s a very small, experimental part of what we do. In fact, we discontinued offering Discourse and Ghost in this kind of environment  a while back, and are far more interested in options like Cloudron, which makes hosting Ghost a breeze. That said, we have a couple of Discourse instances we still host and today the biggest one went down, which is always a bit of a scare for me given it is a unique environment. So, this post is simply going to retrace my steps in terminal to fix this because I always forget given it is not something I do often enough.

When I learned the server was down I figured I would try stopping and restarting the Container to see if that works. To do that I needed to go to var/discourse:

cd /var/discourse

From there, I tried to stop the container (to find the container name I looked in the /var/discourse/containers/ directory which has all the YAML files for each install, and the container names are everything before the .yml extension.

./launcher stop containername

That will stop the container and the following will restart it:

./launcher start containername

But when I went to stop the container I got the a storage full error, and when I ran a

df -h

on the server it was confirmed, the disk was full. I then proceeded to run the trusty NCDU command to get a sense of what was taking up all the space, and I have a suspicion it might be related to this overlay2 storage space issue others have complained about with Docker, but I took the easy route and deleted 10 GBs of old backups for the site and it was immediately back up and running. In the end a restart was not necessary, and I was able to solve a fairly random issue fairly quickly. 

Same Old Drupal

I was fielding a ticket today for someone who was having a couple of issues with Drupal 8 after install, namely they were getting a Trusted Host Settings errorHere is the full error that shows up in the admin area:

*Errors found*
Trusted Host Settings –  Not enabled
The trusted_host_patterns setting is not configured in settings.php. This
can lead to security vulnerabilities. It is highly recommended that you
configure this. See Protecting against HTTP HOST Header attacks for more
information.

Being the awesome web hosting support technician that I am, I Googled it for a solution. And after watching the following video from the DrupalTutor I learned a couple of things:

  • This happens in Drupal  8 on install
  • This issue has been happening as far back as 2016
  • The fix is to edit the settings.php file in sites/default after changing permissions and figuring out a pretty hacky solution

The fact that this was happening to folks as soon as they installed the application is insane to me. What could be a worse user experience? Add to that the caching error below, and you have a perfect storm of terrible:

*PHP *
OPcode caching – Not enabled
PHP OPcode caching can improve your site’s performance considerably. It is highly recommended to have OPcache installed on your server.

Fact is PHP OPcode caching is enabled on this server, so you have to once again search the error message and use the fix given in this forum post to get rid of the error. I did not even check to see if they have a visual text editor after resolving these issues because I just didn’t have strength. Really Drupal?

Blondie

Blondie’s Parallel Lines photoshoot

With the move of Reclaim Hosting’s infrastructure to DigitalOcean, we’ve had to retire fewer and fewer shared hosting servers. For us there is a natural cycle of students and faculty that sign-up for a class or project and a fair number no longer need the space after the class or project is done, which means there content is ultimately removed and we can keep using those servers without overcrowding. It’s a lot more sustainable than our previous setup with ReliableSite, and it means we have to add fewer shared hosting servers than previously. That said, the need still arises and given we’ve had to retire a bunch of servers like ramones, minutemen, huskerdu, unwound, etc. it’s nice to be able to reclaim the classics and bring them back to life—it’s like the inevitable “re-united and it feels so good” tour for servers. We actually started this in June with our last shared hosting server Fugazi and even followed up in August with a revival of our very first server Clash (just now realizing I never blogged that one!) so when Tim was inquiring about our next server name I just happened to be listening to Blondie‘s 1978 masterpiece Parallel Lines in Reclaim Video.

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To get even further in the weeds, neither Fugazi nor Blondie were previously shared hosting servers, rather they were the hostnames of the dedicated servers we were using on ReliableSite to manage several virtualized instances of Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) for schools using Solus. We quickly stopped naming DoOO servers after bands given how hard it was becoming to remember what band maps to what school, and simply named the server after the school. So the new shared hosting server names are actually ones that never really saw the light of day because they were effectively wrappers for a group of virtual private servers for various schools. There are a few others of this variety that we need to revive as well, namely Sonic Youth, the Replacements, and GenX. There ‘s  strange consistency and persistence to it all, at least in my mind. And now that there is even a pattern emerging, Fugazi (DoOO VPS server) then Clash (our first shared hosting server) then Blondie (another DoOO VPS server) the next server name has to be a throwback to the OG shared hosting servers, and I have a good idea which one. What’s in a name? Everything.

I care, but I don’t care that you don’t know!

A vision for making at Reclaim HQ

A vision for making at Reclaim HQ

It's no secret that one of the true highlights of my time at the University of Mary Washington was working with George Meadows of the College of Education and Rosemary Arneson in the library to build the ThinkLab Makerspace. There are few things that were able to spark and capture the imagination of such a broad audience as this simple machine did in 2012

A vision for making at Reclaim HQ
MakerBot Thing-O-Matic

Some may criticize 3D printing as a solution in search of a problem, a gimmick at best. In the worst implementations I suppose I can understand the skepticism. But for me the true power was always in the ability not just to download and print a bracelet, but to show someone how they could truly make something their own. The ability to design and make physical something that exists in the digital still feels magical 6 years later.

One of our visions when we got our own office in addition to the coworking space and the video store was the idea of infusing some of that creative culture through a small makerspace, so with the time being right to renovate a small section of the office and Jim having a project with a need for it, I knew the first piece of equipment I wanted to get.

A vision for making at Reclaim HQ
Ultimaker 3 3D Printer in the soon-to-be renovated CoLab Makerspace

I had reviewed several top lists and talked to a few trusted folks running spaces currently and all signs pointed to Ultimaker as the top brand to buy for reliability. They're not cheap, but they're workhorses and if the past week and a half is any indicator it lives up to all expectations.

Jim has already blogged the exciting developments of working through a project to build a 1-dimensional adventure game using an Arduino, LED lights, and a 3D printed enclosure and joystick. In addition to that project we've tested prints with low quality, high quality settings, even getting comfortable enough to go an entire weekend printing a high-quality vase.

Today Jim and I jumped on an episode of Reclaim Today to talk more about it all and to show the thing in action. During the episode it's printing brackets that would end up being mounted to the wall in Reclaim Video to display Laserdisc videos. It's a gorgeous and practical application marrying futuristic tech with the aesthetic of the past in very cool ways.

Over the coming weeks the space will be renovated with a fresh coat of paint and some construction work as well as new furniture with an eye towards making it a hub for creativity. We're calling it CoLab, an extension of CoWork, and we'll be partnering again with the College of Education as well as possibly a few other key folks to continue fostering a culture here in Fredericksburg of making. We've only just gotten started and it's already a blast so I can't wait to see what's possible as others join in the fun and help us build it.

Best Practices for Tickets– Left Sidebar

Continuing on with the Zendesk train here, Reclaim is developing the best way to handle tickets as they come in. Up until now, we’ve had a little system going but it definitely needed a bit of improvement. I thought it would be handy to write out how we use the left sidebar of our ticket viewer in Zendesk. So while this post is really used for employees at Reclaim, anyone can really take bits and pieces to this process their own. I’ll start with an overview of what our window looks like when we’re interacting with a user then move into specifics about how these help us respond to each user as quickly and efficiently as possible.


This is what our main ticket viewer looks like from the administrator end. You can see on the left hand side there’s a tool bar dedicated to ticket fields. This helps us organize each ticket so they do not get lost. The middle section is where we see the users response and are able to write our own. The right sidebar is where the user’s data is held. We can see things like open tickets and their account information. 

Left Toolbar

This is what the typical left sidebar looks like when managing a ticket. You can see the ‘brand’ of the ticket, meaning all responses are coming from Reclaim Hosting. When a ticket is created for Rockaway Hosting, we’ll see the Rockaway logo. This is one of the first things I look at when interacting with a ticket, it tells me where I need to login to access the client information. From there, you can see who is assigned to (currently working on) the ticket and if there is any one CC’d to the thread. 

The next few sections you’ll see are mainly used for internal tracking and reporting. The tags section is used to tell us a bit about the ticket content. We can use these to run reports on specific tags to see how many tickets we get on each tag. 

After the tags, the next section you’ll see is the the ‘Type’ section. This is used to designate a the type of ticket we received. There are 4 ticket types that Zendesk created by default. They are Question, Incident, Problem, and Task. 

Each ticket type is used for a different purpose and helps us organize our tickets even more. 

  • Question: This type is used for someone who’s asking a question about an invoice, a domain registration or transfer or, how to get started with their account. 
  • Incident: This is used when someone submits a ticket for a specific issue. Maybe they’re using a certain plugin and it broke their WordPress site. Maybe they can’t login to their cPanel. Incidents are used for one off issues like this. 
  • Problem: A problem type ticket is used when there’s a known issue within our system or if there is a server down. The problem type is the parent to an incident type ticket. You’ll designate one ticket to become the ‘parent’ problem then you’ll be able to link other incident tickets to that parent. 
  • Task: Use the task type when you need to assign a date to a ticket. You can use this when you’re waiting for a domain to be released to the public after the redemption phase, or you want to follow up with a potential sales lead. After assigning the task type, you’ll see a due date field appear. Select the date you’d like and you can add it directly to your calendar.

Next to the ‘Type’ section is the ‘Priority’ section. We use this as a status to prioritize our responses to tickets. 

  • Low: This status is used when the user doesn’t necessarily need a response right away. 
  • Normal: Normal is probably going to be the most used status. Assign this priority to any ticket that comes through that isn’t a pressing issue. If you get a ticket with a question or a small incident ‘normal’ is a perfect priority. 
  • High: Used for all tickets that need more attention over other tickets. So we can use these if a server goes down or we need to take a look at a site as soon as we can. 
  • Urgent: This is the highest priority and used when the ticket needs to be looked at immediately. 

The last ticket field in the left sidebar is the ticket Topic. The topic field is a custom field Reclaim Hosting created to help us designate the broad category of the ticket. So, we can designate the topic as Billing, WHM, WHMCS, Domain management and, DNS to name a few. 


When editing the ticket before we send out our initial response, we go through each section and add tags, select the type, priority and, topic. These ticket fields are only viewable by the ticket agent (us at Reclaim) and we usually edit them as the ticket progresses. This is just a little glimpse at Reclaim Hosting’s back end of Zendesk– there’s definitely a lot of customization and our view might be a little different compared to another company. 

You’re Invited to the Domains 19 Conference

Nothing makes an event feel more official than when the website finally goes live. And the Domains19 website has been official since last Thursday, so I think it is fair to say this conference is definitely happening. It will be taking place on June 10 and 11th at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. The site art is a throwback to visions of the future during the 80s (hence the “Back to the Future” theme for the conference), and we are fortunate enough to have Ryan Seslow working with us to define the overall conference aesthetic. I’ve found imagining the aesthetic for Reclaim’s various projects over the years some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.* I’m biased though, I always feel the coolest and most compelling work comes out of art projects rather than papers. 

So for Domains19 we are hoping folks will explore various topics the event will focus on through a more experimental, interactive proposal of some kind. I’m planning on bringing back to my “Data is the New Flesh” installation from OpenEd 2013 featuring Dr. Oblivion (despite the fact no one has asked for it), and we’re really hoping others follow suit so I’m not entirely alone. In fact, I’ve a sneaking suspicion our keynote speakers, which will be announced over the next few weeks, will be eschewing traditional presentations formats for a more interactive and immersive series of experiences. 

All that said, more traditional presentations and panels are also fine … I guess 🙂 You can find the  call for proposals here, and if you are planing on coming but not presenting the registration page is also live. So, if planning on presenting or just coming to take in the Art of Domains, consider yourself officially invited! We would love to see you all in North Carolina this June to explore a wide variety of pressing themes that will hopefully transport us back to the various possible futures of EdTech.


*The tradition goes back to the myriad design work we’ve done with Bryan Mathers for severla years now, as well as the more recent building out of the Reclaim Video site with Michael Branson Smith.

Automations in Zendesk

If you’ve worked with me on a ticket in the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed a new email come into your inbox from Reclaim Hosting support. It might look something like this: 

I’ve been experimenting with a feature of Zendesk that automates some of the processes that Reclaim would normally complete manually, in particular, following up with the client. 

Now don’t get me wrong, following up with the client is very important and we will definitely continue to do this where we can manually. With that said, it does take up time throughout the day and we were looking for ways to improve our agent’s experience while keeping in touch with the client. 

I recently took part one of Zendesk’s training for Support Administrators where they touched on automations. Reclaim already has a few automations set up where we send out a survey after closing out the ticket and closes out the ticket completely after a few days. I was inspired to see where we could use some more automations within Reclaim’s support infrastructure. 

Tim came across an automation method called the Bump Bump Solve where users are notified with automatic follow ups 3 days after there is no response from the Client. The article talks about following up twice before the ticket is solved. The entire process looks like this:

While this method follows up with the client twice, I decided that Reclaim doesn’t necessarily need to follow up twice so, I modified the method to only follow up once before solving the ticket. 

I first tested this out with only tickets assigned to me, this way I made sure everything was going well and the users were notified. To make sure the automations were running as scheduled, I set up an additional notification to send an email to myself whenever the first email was sent out. 

We decided to follow up with users 48 hours after no response, rather than the 72 hours mentioned in the article. This is what the first follow up looks like:

After the automation sends out the follow up, it adds the tag #bump1 to the ticket. That tag is vital to run the next automation, which solves the ticket. 

That automation is very similar to the follow up automation, but instead of sending out an email, it marks the ticket solved.

And that’s it! If we don’t hear from a client in 96 hours from their last update, the ticket is closed out. 

We wanted these automations to be a little nudge to the client to remind them they opened a ticket with us, and allows us to clear out our queues so we can focus what is important in the moment, like helping you!

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!

Reclaim Video Laserdisc and VHS Haul

I have been quiet on the Reclaim Video front with everything going on with the Fall semester start-up, so before they become a distant memory I wanted to mention a couple of nice hauls of  Laserdiscs and VHS tapes we got in the last couple of months. Back in late August I took a trip to the Fat Kat Records location in Ruther Glen, Virginia to stock up on laserdiscs, and that I did. 

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There are a lot of gems, I particularly enjoyed the Japanese import of Blue Steel (1990), which I proceeded to watch the next day, its cool to re-visit early Kathryn Bigelow after seeing her career develop as a filmmaker, althoughI think I most enjoy  her early films like Near Dark (1987) and Point Break (1991)—but what a career.

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I also picked up some VHS tapes on this trip to Fat Kat, and I was happy about that:

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I wanna do a Quest for Fire/Waterworld double-feature at some point 🙂 I even got a cassette tape:

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And a book:

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But the real score was a few weeks ago when I found a lot of 300+ VHS tapes on Craig’s List. Full blown lots like this are harder and harder to find, and this one was a total gem. Meredith went to Maryland on her way back from the Nationals game and after hearing about Reclaim Video the Ingram family donated the whole lot for free, including  ton of empty VHS cases. This is a particular collection, I will get more pictures and add them to the ones below, but here is a small taste.

The back seat of Meredith’s car after pickup

6 Boxes of 80s VHS Tapes

Some VHS tapes from the Ingram Haul, love Turk 182, The Star Chamber, The Bad News Bears and Rambo, and even Night Hawks! (a personal favorite—we now have that one on laserdisc and VHS).

You had be at Mad Max

We still have to inventory it all, but our collection to a major jump with the addition of all these titles, and I have to think we approaching the 1000 mark for VHS tapes alone. I’ll need to confirm as much, but I have to think this haul pushed us over that number. Meredith also got the perfect card for the Ingrams, and now they have a lifetime membership to Reclaim Video 🙂

Thanks you card for the Ingrams for their generosity and support of Reclaim Video!

Thank you letter to the Ingrams

And beyond that haul, I got a 4-VHS set on Ebay featuring Streets of Fire (1984), the rock musical from the 80s you might not have ever seen. I was inspired by Paul Bond’s post on the film and his awesome GIFs—it’s a truly bizarre film.

4 Tapes

Willem Defoe at his very best

One final note, we have a second part-time employee at Reclaim Video that started a bit ago, so it’s becoming more official everyday. I am pretty hands-off on the day-to-day (understatement), but I understand people actually rent videos on occasion 🙂 And the big news is that there may be hope of telepresence via an iPad robot by as early as December, one can dream. I love Reclaim Video, and I don’t nearly blog about it nearly enough.

Tripod

After my last post I started searching round for timelines and details about early web hosting companies like Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. and I found a pretty neat timeline from The History of the Web site. Of particular interest was not only that tripod.com pre-dated Geocities.com by a couple of months (Tripod.com was registered on September 29, 1994 and Geocities in November). But Tripod was not up and running until 1995 framing itself as a hosting service specifically for college students to create a space for themselves online:

Tripod

The domain name for Tripod is registered, pre-dating most other free web hosting services like Geocities and Angelfire. Tripod’s explicit goal is to give college students a way of setting up a spot for themselves on the web, though it would eventually come to be known as an easy-to-use service for free web homepages.

Nothing new under the web’s sun. Reclaim roots! I was now intrigued, and I wanted to get a better look at Tripod back in the day, and the Wayback Machine has a mint screenshot from December 21, 1996.

Tripod.com on Dec. 21, 1996

I took the screenshot using the Full Page Screen Capture extension in Chrome, and I’m liking it. I think the whole page is interesting because of the dead space in the bottom right, and the links all the way down on the left are telling. I also like the Fidelity Investments banner ad. At the end of 1996 the service claims to have 150,000 users, a number that seems almost quaint two years for a web-based tech company. I also like the branding with AOL as a “Members’ Choice” site. So much goodness here, so going to add this as another possible site for the OWLTEH exhibit. Are these posts jumpstarting your 90s memory? If so, post a link using this form to a site from the 90s with your description to be considered for the Exhibit happening in Coventry in exactly two weeks.