Reclaim Hosting is proud to announce a new software package available for install in our hosting environment, the OHMS Viewer. The Oral History Metadata Synchronizer viewer tool is a project from the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. OHMS provides users word-level search capability and a time-correlated transcript or indexed interview connecting the textual search term to the corresponding moment in the recorded interview online. To find out more about the project visit http://www.oralhistoryonline.org/.
We had some t-shirts left over after our first run of Reclaim Hosting leisurewear in April, and they have been neatly folded and stacked in a bunker somewhere deep in the Virginia countryside. Since then, Tim and I have been getting inquiries from folks about how they can get their hands on a Reclaim shirt—they are all the rage! I guess they missed our 10,000 tweets about them in April and May—luddites!
We originally bought extras with the idea of giving them away as swag. But the we realized we don’t want to travel to conferences as vendors. And we sure as shit don’t want to suck up to people with free things because we’re already well on our way to owning the moniker of “successful business people.” In fact, we’re actively avoiding going to conferences as vendors because we are allergic to cavernously depressing hotels in Anaheim. What’s more, we see no reason why we should be doling out free swag given how freaking cheap we are to begin with! I mean come on, hippies, cough up some money for Reclaim swag—style does not come cheap! So, get a shirt while supplies last, and don’t cry about the cost— just think of that time you submitted a ticket after crashing your website trying to integrate WordPress with the think-farm known as Medium. Amatuers!
Hey all- I’ve got some exciting news this morning! In celebration of Reclaim Hosting completely rebranding (and just being awesome in general), we’ve decided to sell t-shirts.
A new look, you say?? Yes. Check it out:
We’ve made a lot of references to WordFence on the Reclaim blog, about how it’s a great tool for securing your site* against unmentionables, and how it’s easy to set up and use. But how easy is it, really? There are a lot of options in Wordfence, how do you know you’re setting up the right ones? We’re going to go through that today and get your site hardened against attackers in 10 minutes!
What is Wordfence?
Wordfence is a free security plugin that hardens (makes more secure) your WordPress site against a variety of common attacks. If you’d like to learn more about exactly what it guards against, you can check out their site, but the list of defenses is pretty comprehensive.
Wordfence has a free version and a premium version, and for this post, we’ll just be going over the free features – the premium version does have some nice features (remote scanning, phone support, some other advanced stuff), but we take care of some of that functionality for you, and if you’re a regular WordPress user, these features are probably not necessary. The top feature the premium version has that the free version doesn’t is scheduled scanning, so with the free version, you unfortunately have to run scans manually.
How do I install Wordfence?
To install WordFence or any other WordPress plugins, I recommend checking out our tutorial on how to install plugins, which can be found here. It only takes two minutes to read! Really!
Once I’ve added the plugin by clicking “Plugins” on my dashboard and searching for “WordFence,” I’ll click “Install Now”…
And then “Activate Plugin”…
As soon as I do this, I’ll get a notification on the left that prompts me to put in my email address for alerts, which I recommend, but we’ll need to revisit this a little later. It also asks if I’d like to join an email list, which I’ll opt-out of.
There’s also a button that says “Start Tour“, which I’ll skip for now. Instead, I’ll just click “Close“. WE ONLY HAVE TEN MINUTES. I’ll then click on the new “Wordfence” option in my sidebar.
You’ll be presented with another screen, and at the top it says “Start a WordFence Scan.” Ignore this for now, but DO click on the “Yes, enable auto-update” option. Then, head straight to “Options” under WordFence in the sidebar.
Once you’re on “Options,” leave everything you see at its default, then ALL the way down to the bottom of the screen. There is an option here that says “Import WordFence settings from another site using a token,” which can be found here. Copy the entire string of numbers and letters, paste it into the “import” field, and click “import settings.” Once you’ve done this, don’t forget to click “Save Changes” at the bottom!
Important: if you use the token method, you will need to update your email address in the “where to email alerts” field under “basic options” at the top of the Wordfence settings. If you don’t update your email address, you will not receive email alerts.
The token has all of the recommended security settings enabled for Reclaim Hosting users. If you’d like to get into the advanced features, simply scroll through the “Options” screen and see what’s available. Most of the options are self-explanatory, and if you’d like to know more, click on the little “information” button next to each option. The settings are pre-configured to email you (very occasionally) about important alerts – you can change the email settings at the top of the “Options” menu under “Alerts.”
A note about WordFence tokens – our token token contains generic, recommended settings for Reclaim Hosting users. If you end up with custom features, like whitelisted or blacklisted IPs, or if you’ve filled out any of the custom fields, your token will change. Do not share your updated token with anyone else!!
Now, under Wordfence in the sidebar, click on “Scan,” and then click “Start a Wordfence Scan.” The scan will only take a minute, and your results will be displayed immediately.
Looks like I’m all set! Occasionally, Wordfence will detect issues with plugins or themes that are really non-issues. If you work with a lot of plugins or themes, review these issues carefully. If you see any issues in these sections:
Definitely proceed with a repair and/or contact us for support in case we need to restore your site from a backup. BOOM. TEN MINUTES! Or less!
Since you do have to scan manually with the free version, try to run the occasional scan when you’re working on your site. The time and headache saved by detecting issues before they get bad is beyond worth it.
And there you have it! The 10-minute Wordfence express setup. Happy securing!
*Information Security is a comprehensive umbrella of services and technologies, none of which are bulletproof. Wordfence and other security plugins do help prevent the bad guys from breaking in, but there are unfortunately no guarantees in the wild world of web security.
Reclaim Hosting utilizes a web operating system called cPanel to deliver our applications and make things easy for you to use – you can become a web power user with cPanel without needing to learn how to code or looking at the Matrix.
You might already know how to do some things in cPanel, but if you’re interested in learning more and feel like taking the red pill, read on! (Disclaimer – some of these features are a little on the advanced side. If you’re not ready to check any of them out today, that’s totally OK. I’ve sorted out the features by difficulty, so if you’d like to explore, I recommend picking somewhere that’s within your comfort zone.)
Getting to cPanel
We’re going to get to cPanel by logging into the Reclaim Hosting client area – not the admin page for your WordPress/Drupal/Omeka site. If you’re with a school, you should have a custom link for getting to your client area; if you’re on shared hosting, click here. Once you’re in the client area, click on “cPanel” in the toolbar.
OK, cool. On with the features!
Number 1: Install a New Application (Difficulty: 4/5)
You can install any one of a huge number of applications using Installatron, our automatic installation program. You don’t just have to install WordPress, and remember, you can create a free subdomain or purchase an addon domain to set up a new app.
To get to Installatron, go to cPanel and click “Installatron Applications Installer”. Not only can you install new applications here, you can uninstall and manage existing applications. Management options are underneath each application, and to view the “menu” of available apps, you can click “Applications Browser.”
Woah! A real application all-you-can-eat buffet! You can select any application from the list to install.
A couple of notes here – it is highly recommended to set up a subdomain or domain before you install a new app, and remember, we will do our best, but we can’t support every app in Installatron. If you’d like to use some advanced features, we recommend consulting the documentation provided by the app vendor first.
Number 2: Set up an FTP Account (Difficulty: 2/5)
If you use an FTP client to upload or download any raw files, themes, or plugins, to your site, you may want to grant FTP access to another person for collaborative purposes without sharing your password with that person. In cPanel, you can easily make additional FTP clients and hand out the info to your teammates.
In cPanel, this can be found by clicking on “FTP accounts” from the main menu.
Here, you can specify the username, password, which domain you’d like to give access to, and which directory you’d like to give access to. Make sure to pick the right domain!
Number 3: Check Disk Space (Difficulty: 1/5)
Ever curious as to how much disk space you’ve used up on your account? There are two ways to go about checking – if you want an overview on how much space you have, look on the left of the cPanel screen for the bar graph icon and click on it.
On this screen, you’re looking for “disk space” on the right.
The second way to do it is to click on “Disk Usage” on the cPanel main menu, which will give you some more specific statistics as to what is actually using the most space.
Number 4: Manage Your Backups (Difficulty: 3/5)
We give you a few options for backup at Reclaim. The first option is the easiest one – we already back up your sites for you regularly, free of charge, but the backups do take up space on your account. To delete old backups, go to the Installatron Applications Installer from the cPanel main menu, then click on the “my backups” tab.
Once here, you can see a list of your available backups and delete old ones by checking the appropriate boxes on the right, and then clicking “delete.”
It goes without saying that you should always have a relatively recent backup of your site available at all times. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.
If you’d like to back up your site somewhere else, or back up to Dropbox, you have that option in cPanel. First, from the cPanel main menu, go to Installatron and click on the wrench icon next to the site you’d like to back up. Note: we recommend keeping your backups stored with us, however, backing up offsite can be an effective way to save space if your backups are large.
Scroll down to “Default Backup Location” and click on the “Add a new backup location” radio button. If you’re backing up with Dropbox, the page will prompt you for your Dropbox credentials when you click “Save all” at the bottom.
Number 5: Edit Your Databases (Difficulty: 5/5)
Warning: do not do this unless you are 110% absolutely sure you know what you’re doing.
If you really want to dig deep, update a setting, or set up an advanced feature, you can manipulate the databases that run on your site using our graphical database tool, phpMyAdmin. On the cPanel main screen, scroll down to “databases” and click “phpMyAdmin.”
phpMyAdmin will bring you to the editing screen, where you can see your active databases on the left. Click on a database and related element to edit, and don’t forget to click “save” if you make a change, edits are not saved automatically!
I hope you’ve found these tips useful – we’ll try to come up with more power user options for cPanel as we continue to expand our offerings. Happy Reclaiming!
Last night we got a request from the great Adeline Koh to provide a simple way for folks to give the gift of reclaiming their own bit of the world wide web. Who are we to fight with her? Below is a simle form we would ask anyone interested in gifting a Reclaim Hosting account to fill out.
Keep in mind we have not yet automated this feature with our billing system, so we will not be collecting any credit card information through this form. Rather, we will follow-up with the gift giver shortly after submitting to secure payment information from them personally. Happy holidays!
Jim and I are on opposite ends of the world today traveling for two great conferences we’ll be a part of this week. I’m on a plane headed to Los Angeles for DML 2015 where I’ll be joining two sessions related to the work we’re doing with schools and individuals through Reclaim Hosting. If you’re planning to attend I’d love for you to come say hello!
Tuesday @ 11AM – The Open Show: Connected Learning Without Expensive Acronyms @ CA Ballroom C
We bring together practitioners who are crafting connected learning environments via platforms such as WordPress / RSS (ds106, Connected Courses), the IndieWeb (Known), and patchworks (e.g. Google apps + Inoreader) and how they can even work together. Rather than a series of presentations, this session will be run more like a talk show. The tools features are not the primary subject of the conversations; panelists will use their these designs as a way to provide references and an audience experience. Instead, we will focus on how these networked structures break learning out of the boundaries of institution, geography, and social standing while also facing up the challenges of isolation and non-inclusion. Read More
Friday @ 2PM – Domains of Their Own: Piloting Personal Cyber-Infrastructure Projects at Four Disparate Campuses
Grounded in data collected over the course of the Fall 2014 term, this session will offer lessons learned from ongoing pilot programs at several disparate campuses of initiatives based on the University of Mary Washington’s ambitious Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) project. In a departure from traditional instructional and IT practices, these programs offer participants what Gardner Campbell termed “persona cyber-infrastructure” — all the tools and resources users need to launch and manage a broad range of websites, to create custom teaching and learning environments, and to curate and manage their online identities on their own terms. Read More
Meanwhile Jim is in Barcelona for the EDEN Annual Conference and will be giving a keynote on Thursday @ 9am titled The Uneducation of a Technologist: From EDUPUNK to ds106. In advance of this conference Jim was interviewed by Steve Wheeler from Plymouth University UK to provide some background about the work he’s doing and just a few of the things he’ll be talking about. You can checkout the full interview here.
If you’re attending either of these conferences and you’re using Reclaim Hosting currently or you’re thinking about the possibilities of it for your course, department, or institution we’d love for you to come say hi and participate in the discussions!
I tend to think that language and phrasing is a powerful indicator of priorities. The web hosting industry is filled with smoke and mirrors meant to obfuscate and confuse by way of jargon, smoke, and mirror. “No hidden fees” can easily appear next to a feature list that has at least 3 asterisks to clarify what “Unlimited” and “Optimized” might actually mean to your host. Jim has talked about what we’re doing with web hosting and the Domain of One’s Own project with a reference to Jon Udell as trailing edge technologies. Rather than come up with trendy names like “Cloud-based Grid Resources” we stick to the basics and do our best to make sure you understand what comes in the box. The fact is this stuff isn’t new or innovative, but we’re pushing on it because we believe that it was and remains a powerful way to build on the web. Giving you a toolbox might be intimidating at first and we’re constantly pushing on how to make that accessible, but the alternative world of glossy additional layers between you and the tools you use to build your identity in these spaces is not one we want to inhabit.
One great example of language choice in that regard is how I refer to our users. Users. Even as I type that I can’t stand the term. It feels completely faceless, and yet I’m lucky enough to know so many of the faces of fine folks that choose to host with us and I meet more every day. So you’ll often see me refer to Reclaim Hosting as a community rather than just users or a company. Like any community it probably has more work to be done in building interactions with each other, but I think it’s important to know you’re not in this alone and you’re not just a faceless user to a company with a business that forces you to figure it out yourself or pay exorbitant support costs to get help.
When I get the chance to help you fix a problem on your site or answer a question about what you’re working on it’s also an opportunity for me to learn a bit more about you and what you’re doing. You’re a high school Psychology teacher that used to play with Frontpage but hasn’t tried building a site in years. You’re a historian that wants to explore the deep seas of what it means to be a digital scholar and perhaps play with some of those tools you keep hearing about at AHA. You’re a student in the journalism program at your college discovering how to use the web to market yourself and perhaps rethink online publishing in the process. I don’t just refuse the stale business terms on principle, I refuse them because how can I work with an awesome community of educators, students, and real people like you and call it anything else? It’s a privilege to play a part in helping advance our corner of the web together and rest assured that as long as you’re with Reclaim you’ll always have support both from us and from each other to help you when you need it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We’re super excited to announce that Scalar is now available to all Reclaim Hosting users and institutional partners via our automated installer in cPanel! Scalar is a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that’s designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online. Scalar enables users to assemble media from multiple sources and juxtapose them with their own writing in a variety of ways, with minimal technical expertise required. Scalar joins Omeka and Known in the family of application installers developed by Reclaim Hosting. We’re committed to making educational applications available in open and accessible ways to larger communities and the addition of Scalar underscores this commitment. The development of this installer wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Craig Dietrich and the rest of the group at USC. Over the coming weeks we’re looking forward to working with them to help make the experience of publishing in your own domain with Scalar even better.
My name is Tim Owens and I’m the co-founder of Reclaim Hosting and often the person you’ll be interacting with when you run into problems or need a helping hand. It never hurts to put a face to a name and there’s nothing that bugs me more than faceless corporations that treat you like a number and their business like faceless entity. When Jim Groom and I began Reclaim Hosting in 2013 we believed that web hosting didn’t have to be difficult but that the solution wouldn’t be found in technology alone, rather in people helping each other out. This idea of distributed edtech is at the core of our mission and we hear time and again how that personal relationship makes all the difference.
At the end of 2014 I announced on my blog that I’d be going full time with Reclaim Hosting to continue building those relationships and ensuring that Reclaim continues to excel at providing the best support and platform for building on the web. Today is my first day working in this new position. No longer is Reclaim a side project that Jim and I manage alongside full-time positions. Not only do we have a lot of great plans for growing Reclaim and the community that has come to trust us as a leader in hosting, but I have the time, energy, and focus to do that here.
So come say hi, ask questions, get advice. Because you’ll find that no question is too small and when you need help you’ll find it here with a personal touch that has sadly become the exception rather than the rule when it comes to working on the web. It’s great to meet you and I’m excited for 2015 and what we can do here together!