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Reclaim Video Inventory

Over the last couple of days, I’ve taken a break from my Documentation April to categorize Reclaim Video’s ever-growing collection of VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc. I feel like every couple of days (if not every day) we’re receiving a package in the mail enclosing one or two new VHS tapes from Jim’s wishlist. They’re always so fun to open, but then they inevitably pile up on the front desk until one of us as a moment to add them to our excel sheet. Oh yeah, we have been using excel to keep track of what we had, but Reclaim Video has quickly outgrown it. The excel list was hard to look at, hard to search through, and staying organized was virtually impossible.

What’s more, last week we received two (yes, two!) VHS donations from folks in the Fredericksburg community. Suddenly we were faced with a dilemma: how would we add these tapes to our collection without losing track of who donated what? Especially once duplicates of films are involved.. it was just getting complicated. We decided stickers on the tapes themselves was not an option, so a digital log of some sort was needed.

Enter Libib.com!

Tim found this Cloud Cataloging tool that’s made to keep track of books, movies, video games and more. I began playing around with the online version and the iPhone app and was immediately sold. The free version is perfect for anyone looking to log their personal collections, and we’ve made great use out of it for Reclaim Video so far. I imagine we’ll end up upgrading the pro version ($5/mo) to take advantage of its loaning features. We are a rental store, of course.

My favorite part of the app, without a doubt, has been the Barcode scanning feature. I’ve been able to easily scan hundreds of tapes and archive them on our new collection site, inventory.reclaimvideo.com. Movies that are recognized in the database are then automatically displayed with a ton of helpful metadata.

^Example of the metadata pulled. In addition, viewers are then able to leave reviews & I can easily keep track of how many copies are available. I wish more of the metadata was available on the public-facing site, but I’m imagining that’s part of the pro version.

In addition, we can now easily add donations & and organizing them using Tags. It’s beautiful! ^ Collections are organized by “libraries”, so Reclaim Video has three libraries: VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc.

^Full row of 007 Betamax

Just today I finally finished logging all the Betamax & VHS currently available at Reclaim Video. I took advantage of the opportunity to organize the tapes as well, so the right half of the room is VHS, and the left is Betamax.

^The forward-facing inventory site.

I’m excited to expand this over time– not only tweet-length messages to the right sidebar, but more laserdisc logging coming soon! It’s also nice to be able to send interested Reclaim Video renters somewhere to say, “hey, this is what’s currently in stock!”

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Email Troubleshooting

The Reclaim Team has recently brought back a professional development training session each week where larger questions and concepts are discussed. This gives us a chance to bring up any pain points that have been experienced over the last week in a place where everyone is devoted to learning for an hour. We have a #profdev slack channel where we make notes like Troubleshooting Slow Sites or Updating WHMCS, and then everyone agrees on an available time to meet. It’s been a great system and already proving to be very helpful.

The other week, our Professional Development session was focused on Troubleshooting Email. Configuring email can be tough as it is, so troubleshooting email can be a real bear. I’ve included my notes from the meeting below, as I’m planning on coming back to reference them. :) And if I can benefit from having these published, then maybe someone else can, too!

Goals for Troubleshooting:

-Look for/ Request IP address. Is it blocked?
-Request User’s email client settings
-Search for error messages
-Gathering as much information as possible using the tools below

Features & Tools in cPanel

Email Accounts

Where you can create email addresses, view existing ones, and access webmail on the server. If you can view certain emails from within the webmail client but the user can’t receive email on their local client, this is usually an issue with their Email Configuration Settings.

Forwarders

This allows you to send a copy of any incoming email from one address to another so that you only have one inbox to check. You can also use this section to forward all email accounts from one domain to another. If forwarders aren’t set up properly, this may be a reason for why email isn’t being relayed to the expected location.

Email Routing

If you’re planning on using Google suite and another third-party mail client, you MUST set your email routing settings to Remote Mail Exchanger.

Autoresponders

Set up automated emails to go out if your inbox receives mail. These are your ‘Out of Office’, etc. responses.

Default Address Maintenance

This feature will “catch” emails that are sent to an invalid email address for your domain. So for instance, if someone sends an email to info@labrumfield.com, I ordinarily wouldn’t receive it because I don’t have that email address set up. This feature allows you to say, “If anyone sends mail to an email address with my domain name in it, regardless if it’s been set up or not, forward it here.”

Reclaim Hosting’s default setting is to discard these emails since they’re generally loaded with spam. So if a user has this setting turned on and then complains of an excess of spam, this could likely be the smoking gun.

Mailing List

We’ve found that this feature doesn’t work well at all, so we don’t directly support this. Instead, we recommend using GNU Mailman or Google Groups.

Track Delivery & Apache SpamAssassin

This is our go-to, one-stop shop for troubleshooting. This is where we as admins or the user can go to see what happened on the server. You can see successful email activity, failed sent emails, and deferred emails (meaning: emails are put on a queue to retry sending again). Time stamps, spam score ratings*, and event details (sender IP, user, router, etc.) are also available as well.

*Apache SpamAssassin is turned off by default, but can be enabled within the icon. It rates all incoming mail and filters what it defines as spam. SpamAssassin defines what spam is by rating it based on a set up specified rules. Everything over a 5+ rating is sent to the spam folder. You can modify the rating number and auto-delete spam under the Apache spam assassin icon.

Global Email Filters

We’ve received tickets in the past where folks had spam coming through so the users wanted to set a filter to automatically delete specific emails. cPanel has guides on this that can be found here.

Authentication & Calendar

Honestly, Reclaim Hosting isn’t all too familiar with this feature, but cPanel has written guides on setting it up here. There are so many better alternatives for managing contacts and calendars, so we rarely, if any at all, get requests for folks wanting to use their cPanel for this.

Boxtrapper

This is not that useful in our opinion. BoxTrapper “protects” you from spam by requiring all email senders not on your Whitelist confirm their identity before you can receive their mail. While that sounds great in theory, confirmation emails with a ‘noreply@’ email address would never make it to your inbox since there’s no one on the other end managing the address. This will also double your email incoming/outgoing quota.

Email disk usage

Allows you to view which email folders (inbox, spam, trash, etc.) are taking up the most space, and gives you the option to delete mail in bulk.

Email Tools in WHM

Mail Delivery Reports

This gives you the status of emails from all accounts on the server. It’s very similar to cPanel’s Track Delivery feature, but on a larger scale. This is a good starting point for admins who are troubleshooting mail delivery on the server.

Mail Queue Manager

This feature allows you to view and manage email messages queued for delivery. The only time I’ve seen the queue get backed up on the server is when there’s been a hacked account sending out a ton of email at once and hitting their ingoing/outgoing quota. So this feature can be helpful to track down what’s happening to a specific account.

ConfigServer Mail Queue

Same deal as above, but provides more options for refining your search. This is where Reclaim Hosting goes to delete queues that are backed up.

Email Processes in FTP

If you log in as Root on the server and navigate to var/log/, you can look through a couple different processes here:

  • exim_mainlog– successful activity
  • exim_paniclog– server level issues with the exim function
  • exim_rejectlog emails that were blocked due to a variety of things like spam blacklist
  • var/log/maillog– shows failed login attempts; find user’s IP address
  • messages– the catchall for mostly errors of some kind; firewall blocks
  • lfd.log– login failure demon; failed attempts
  • secure– SFTP/FTP logins

Searching through Email Processes in Terminal

grep command

grep "email@yourdomain.com" exim_mainlog

^searches email@yourdomain.com in the exim_mainlog

In order for an email to be sent/received, there are many processes that are happening behind the scenes. All of these processes are documented in the exim logs listed above, and are given the same Mail ID so we can track every process for one activity. I’ve highlighted an example of where the Mail IDs are located and what they look like above. If you’ve never looked at an exim file before, they can be a little tricky to read!

grep "mail ID" exim_mainlog

^searches mail ID in the exim_mainlog

In addition to time stamps, mail IDs, and error messages, the logs also document the user’s IP address. So in some cases, we can figure out what the user’s IP address is before he/she is able to get back to us with that information. From there, you can run the following command:

grep "IP Address" -R /var/log

^searches IP address in every file & folder in the /var/log directory

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Transparent WPMS Pricing Model

Managed hosting for WordPress Multisites is a something that Reclaim Hosting has always willingly taken on behind the scenes, but it was never formally offered to the public. And by “formally offered to the public”, I mean listed as a product option on our website. Well… gone are those days!

I wanted to put up a post quickly today to shout from the mountaintops that anyone wanting managed WPMS hosting can now do that through Reclaim (if they didn’t already know that they could.) What’s more, we have a handy-dandy calculator on the WPMS webpage that will give you a pretty good idea of what it will cost. Creating the calculator, surprisingly, was probably more helpful for us be the scenes than folks may realize. Pre-WPMS webpage, we priced these projects on a case by case basis: What will support look like? How about offsite backups? Will migration fees be determined by users or data?

While there are still outlier cases no matter how we price this (support-intensive scenarios, for example), we’ve now standardized the costs associated with a managed WordPress Multisite instance for all educational institutions to see clearly. So when we give the option to choose an 8GB server at $40/month, that’s literally what Digital Ocean will charge us on a monthly basis for their infrastructure; Reclaim Hosting is not upcharging anything. Similarly, it costs Reclaim Hosting $35/mo for the necessary cPanel software & firewall licenses, and an average of $50/month for us to 30 days of reliable, offsite backups. Its completely transparent, and I love that.

^Feel free to watch the above screencast on using the calculator. Please note that its meant to estimate your monthly cost, so that’s why selecting the one-time fee for setting up Single Sign-On integration is not included in the final quote.

As you begin to make your server calculations and are unsure which server setup may make sense for your school, click the line above server size that reads …click here for our recommendations.

And just like that, our recommendations will appear!

Lastly, the bottom of the calculator turns into an inquiry form which is one of my favorite parts of this page, I think. Once you calculate your server requirements, you can click the “next” button, fill out your personal details, and click submit. Your specific selections & questions are then sent to support@reclaimhosting.com, where a Reclaim staff member will greet you with the next steps, provide clarification, and send you a formal quote. Boom!

See the WordPress Multisite webpage here.

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Using the Import/Export Tools in WordPress

Lately, I’ve been working with clients to move their website from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. With this request, I use the Import/Export tools to move the content from one site to the other. This tool bundles the content on the site into a .zip file which you can then move to another location. Disclaimer: It isn’t perfect, you only get the content of the site, so things like posts, pages, and settings on the site. The plugins, themes, and media arent’ included, so, if your site has a lot of media, or has a ton of plugins, this tool might not work for you. (I’m writing another post about a plugin that will move everything on the site for you so stay tuned).

As I’m writing to the clients with instructions on how to set up their site using these tools, I started looking for a tutorial that would walk them through the process. And can you believe it, there are no tutorials that show the process from start to finish? So I wanted to take the time to write the process down. This article will showcase the import/export tools within WordPress (.com and .org) the process is essentially the same for both, they just look a little different.

But wait, there are two versions of WordPress? Yes, there are, but they are run in different ways.  WordPress, in a nutshell, is an open-source content management software (if you want to look at a more in-depth explanation you can read about it here).  Automattic Inc. helps develop and maintain this software. We offer this software at Reclaim and users can install an instance on their domain, in fact, you’re reading this post on a WordPress installation.

WordPress.com is Automattic Inc.’s hosting company that runs the WordPress software explicitly. They offer free accounts with subdomains like meredithfierro.wordpress.com for free or users can purchase a domain. Then users can opt-in to pay a monthly fee to get full use of the software, like you would if you installed WordPress on your domain through your hosting company.


WordPress.com

Export:

The first thing you’ll want to do is export all of the content. Also, take note of the plugins and theme the site is using (this will save time on the other side).

  1.  Click ‘Settings’ under ‘Configure’ 
  2. Click ‘Export,’ under the ‘Site Tools’ section:
  3. From here you can choose the amount of content you’d like to export, or you can export the entire content on the website. When you’ve decided what to export, click ‘Export’: 
  4. WordPress begins to package the content together. When it finishes, a banner should appear at the top of the screen. Click ‘Download’: 

Read more

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Setting Up a Feed with Feedly

Working at Reclaim means I get to interact with people who do incredible work within the Ed Tech community. I was first exposed to this at #domains17 and I remember thinking that I wanted to keep up with all of these wonderful folks and the work their doing.

At first, I had no idea how I could keep up with all the blog posts except through twitter. I didn’t really like that idea though because I could lose tweets within my feed. I wanted a place where I could keep them all together. I don’t know too much about RSS feeds but I knew that’s where I needed to start. I a little bit of experience using FeedWordPress to syndicate blog posts to the main class hub but I knew that would chew right through my storage limit.

Then I came across Feedly. Feedly is a freemium (you can use it for free up to a certain threshold) service where you can ‘follow’ RSS feeds to different blogs. I’m enjoying it so far! The interface is simple and I had my feeds set up in a matter of minutes.

You’ll do most of your navigation through the left-hand sidebar. There’s an option to see what’s been posted today, what you want to read later, and filters you can set up to view the content more easily. From here you can do most of your feed’s organization. You can set up multiple feeds. Right now I have two feeds going, Ed Tech and Fashion/Lifestyle. These are both topics I wanted to curate within Feedly

Setting up these feeds were super easy. I searched for each person using their URL like http://meredithfierro.com/feed or http://meredithfierro.com/rss. These will bring up a feed of the website’s content. Then within Feedly, I searched that URL.

From here you have the option to follow this feed. Feedly also shows you how many followers this feed has, and how many posts they have per week/per month. In the case of my feed, it shows that I post one article per week (definitely not true, I don’t post that often).

Once you have the specific feeds you’d like to follow set up, you’ll see the posts you haven’t read yet. Currently, these are the ones I didn’t get the chance to read this weekend:

 

So setting up a feed through Feedly is as simple as that! I’m really liking Feedly so far. It makes reading people’s blog posts so much easier and is a great tool to keep everything in place.

 

 

 

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Handy DNS Tools

DNS, in general, has always been an intimidating topic for me. But the more you practice and work with it, the easier it gets! The following list of tools helps make my life easier when changing records, troubleshooting errors, etc.

What’sMyDNS

Going to What’sMyDNS.com is super useful if you want to check the status of DNS records during a move. If you’re pointing your domain to a different hosting service, for example, or routing your domain’s email through Gmail, you’ll have to edit nameservers or MX records, respectively. Whenever you make changes to DNS records, a good rule of thumb is that it takes up to 24-48 hours for those changes to stick. So staying on top of where everything is pointed can be really helpful in understanding a website error or DNS delay.

Simply search the domain in question and use the menu drop-down to change the record that you’re interested in:

 

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Featured App: Airmail

Just wanted to pop in quick to say that if you’re in the market for a great email client, I highly recommend checking out Airmail. I’ve been using it for a couple of months now per a recommendation from Tim, and haven’t looked back since!

I’ve somehow found myself in a position where I’m managing 5 email accounts, so I needed an interface that would allow me to access all accounts in a clean, organized fashion.

A couple of things to note about the main view: the color coding is phenomenal. Each of my accounts has a different color. Each email that comes in is then assigned to that color automatically.  You can view the master list that includes every email in all of your inboxes, or you can view each account separately. You can also see a list of your email accounts on the bottom, left-hand side. Read more

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From Asana to Suite CRM

One of my first changes that I established at Reclaim Hosting after being hired was moving all of our customer relationship content into Asana. (It was actually one of my first posts, too!) Fast forward a couple of years– I’m now transitioning Reclaim out of Asana and into Suite CRM.

Let me preface this post by saying the following: I love Asana. It has been a great tool to me personally and has been crucial to the inner workings at Reclaim for a while now. I set each university or institution as a “task”, and then separated the accounts into the following “projects”: Current Accounts, Opportunities, & Recycled Accounts. Each task description had the point contact, a link to the initial inquiry support ticket (if we were super organized) & sparse commentary about the account’s who/what/where/when/why. By using tags, assigning users, & setting due dates (i.e. our reminders) the RH team truly squeezed all we could out of the platform.

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Summer Cleaning: Kin HR

I was chatting with the team a few days ago about an internal vs. external focus within Reclaim, and always making sure there’s some sort of balance happening there. The last few months have largely been consumed by launching a sister web hosting company, hosting a two-day event out of state, and phases of heavy support. I consider this external. Everything listed is for the people.

Now that Reclaim has entered a slower season (*knock on wood*) we’re focusing a little more on the internal happenings at Reclaim.We’re spending time on internal + external documentation & organization, training & onboarding, and taking a break. Some projects are far easier than others, but all the more reason to tackle them, right? We’ve also just brought on our newest team member, Meredith Fierro, so make sure to read our updated About page here! And speaking of updated web pages, we have added an extensive list of schools associated with Reclaim Hosting, as well as a Code of Conduct within the last month.

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Featured: Casetify

My discovery of Casetify is the result of goofing around on a quiet Friday afternoon. I had just recently inherited my dad’s iPhone 6plus (he wanted the 7+) so I was on the hunt for a new phone case. Bryan Mathers has been doing some really awesome work for the Reclaim brand, so I thought it might be fun to showcase some of that work on a… case. Read more