After reading for weeks that the iPad is going down the tubes, waah waah waah, Apple has just announced a new 9.7 iPad with an upgraded processor and 32GB of RAM for $329.
We’re moving to the cloud with cloud storage for working files. Old news of course, haven’t we had cloud storage for years already? Of course… let me count the ways:
- Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries
- Apple iDrive
- Microsoft OneDrive
- Microsoft Azure
- Amazon Web Services
- Google Drive
The wonderful TechSoup has an offer for Box at the “starter” level for 10 users for $84.00/year. This is just about right for our workgroup; we currently have 8 full and part-timers on our team, which leaves 2 additional slots available for what we hope we have for growth in the next year. While we do have an office, we are a distributed group. Each full-timer spends a minimum of one day per week outside the office, and our part time employees either work from home, or come in during only part of their week.
What we’re trying to replace here is is an in-office rack-mounted physical server. (remember those?) which sits in a corner of the office roaring away, much as it has for at least ten years. This is a Linux server running the Samba file-management system which is solid and reliable, but a pain to manage. We typically map to drive letters on each person’s workstation:
Drive F: – This letter is mapped to the user’s personal folder on the server. So, my case, my F: drive is mapped to //server/home/larry
Drive U: – This letter is mapped to our “Main” shared folder, under which there are about a dozen departmental or functional sub-folders including Admin, Creative, Editorial, Grants, etc.
On Linux if you know how Samba works; (and a GUI interface is really helpful…) you can restrict each of the folders to groups of appropriate users. So, for example, you can restrict the HR folder to your bookkeeper, HR manager and your E.D. There is an additional complication with Samba in that you have to maintain a parallel set of Linux logins and home directories for each Samba user. Box provides the ability to maintain a similar set of permissions and file restrictions within a web interface. Even thought the “starter” version isn’t as versatile as their full version it still allows you assign individual users as “collaborators” for individual folders.
Other user requirements:
- Cross-platform availability, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android
- Native applications for each platform.
- Available from anywhere with an internet connection
- Ability to sync between the cloud and the device.
- Butt-simple interface that passes the five minute test.
Next time we’ll get into more detail about Box.
To find out more about your MailChimp lists, create a segment.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out, (just dumb, I guess..) but MailChimp actually has a pretty good built-in querying ability directly from the management interface. It involves the segmenting function, where you create subsets of your list. MailChimp calls these subsets segments, and the classic use for this is to break up a large list so that you can test different segments by using different subject lines, or mailing times.
From a database perspective, it looks like this:
MailChimp vs. Database
create a segment = create a query
segment = query results, aka a “cursor”
segmenting options = query criteria, aka an SQL WHERE clause
saved segment = saved query results
In SQL, this would be the equivalent of:
SELECT * FROM <my eMail list> WHERE <my criteria> INTO <my segment>;
The available criteria are fixed, but there are a lot of useful ones. You can combine up to five criteria in a single segment request. For example, let’s say you want to see how your list is performing. You can query how many subscribers opened:
- all of your last five campaigns
- one or more of the last campaigns
- none of your last campaigns
The criteria are chosen from a convenient drop-down list.
To see the results of this query, click on the “Preview Segment” button at the bottom of the dialog box.
One thing you may note in the listing above, is a field called “Grade Level”. We include this field on our MailChimp sign-up form. It will be populated only if we acquired the user through that form and if they choose to give us that information. We also ask for zip code.
The “Contact Rating” field, with the stars, rates the quality of the contact based on their campaign activity and the length of time that they have been on the list. Oddly enough, new acquisitions start out with two stars. If they fail to respond to several campaigns, then they are demoted to one star. These stars are the basis of determining how to pare down your list; eventually you might consider removing 1-star contacts altogether, or sending them a “re-engagement” eMail beforehand. This is well documented on the MailChimp web site. To cut to the chase… 4 and 5 star members are engaged, 3 star members either have low activity, or haven’t been on the list long enough to earn a higher rating.
After manually changing a hundred blog posts imported with another theme from “published” to “draft”, I figured it was time to actually look at my WordPress database, since we may wish to do some global link updates, once we get all of the media imported from another blog. One of the best tools for this on Windows is the wonderful HeidiSQL program.
My Ubuntu server which hosts mySQL wants an SSL connection to accomplish this, so SSL must be used with HeidiSQL. This is done by using a intermediate program called plink which sits between HeidiSQL and Putty (the terminal program for accessing the Linux command line).
I found an explanation of how to use pLink with HeidiSQL. However, if you can reach the command line using Putty and an SSL connection on port 22, then you don’t have to do the first part of the instructions, because you already have the server’s certificate installed on your machine. It was cool to be able to verify this in the Windows registry by looking at the registry key. And then, I was in.
Transfer Large Files
WeTransfer is a slick application which allows you to send large files to a friend or colleague, and which completely eliminates the process of sharing a file in Google Docs or Dropbox. The free version allows you to send files up to 2Gb in size. A paid version allows you to send files up to 20GB in size, and you can have a custom download page.
Boss works from home. Boss wants to have access to QuickBooks accounting, running on Windows. Boss is a Mac person. So, we have two problems…one of access to the QuickBooks data file, which is running on a dedicated server, and the cross-platform problem of running Quickbooks on a Mac. After talking this through (VPN?, Shared file on Google Drive?, Buy dedicated laptop for Boss?), remote access software comes to the rescue.
FileMaker Buy 1 Get 1
FileMaker is offering their Buy 1, Get 1 deal through December 20th. The offer is for desktop versions of FileMaker Pro, or FileMaker Pro Advanced which runs on Mac or Windows.` Buy one at the full or educational price and get a second license for free. In the U.S., this lowers the cost of workstation licenses to $164 each for FileMaker Pro, which is a killer deal.
The following is a step-by-step run through for installing Ubuntu 16.04 server as a virtual machine running under a Windows 10 host. Two prerequisites:
- Download and install Oracle VirtualBox on to your Windows 10 workstation.
- You will also need to download the Ubuntu Server 16.04 .iso file and place this file in a known spot on your hard drive.
Prepare the VirtualBox VM:
Click on “New” to create a new virtual machine: You’ll get this initial screen to choose the operating system you wish to install and choose a name for the your VM.
The next screen asks what you want to RAM memory. The recommended memory size is 768MB, but I’ve had decent luck by boosting this to 4 gigs, (on my 8 gig Windows 10 workstation.).
Accept the next suggestion to create a virtual hard disk. The default 8GB is fine, because VirtualBox will expand this if necessary.
Accept the default next screen, to choose the file type.
… and accept the default “dynamically allocated”
Finally you can choose the file size:
In this case, I chose 16 gigabytes.
Once you have completed the screens above, you need to change two other parameters before starting the actual installation:
Under Settings, change the networking connection to “bridged adapter”
Under storage, point the little CD image to your .iso file.
Install Ubuntu 16.04
At this point you are ready to start the VM, and go through installing Ubuntu from the .iso file. This is the standard Ubuntu installation from here on out… run from a console command line interface.
After making your keyboard and language selections, there are several prompts for additional information:
Choose a HostName: UBSandbox
Choose an initial account: larryk
Choose a login name for this account: larryk
Choose a password: mypassword
Encrypt your home directory? No
Set your time zone. Setup will suggest your local timezone and then ask
Is this time zone correct? Yes
Partitioning Method: Choose “Use Entire Disk”, don’t worry about LVN
Select Disk to partition…. choose the defaults.
Write changes to disk? Yes
At this point the files are copied to the disk, and the installation continues ore or less on its own for five minutes or so, then you’ll see a question about the use of an http proxy. This relates to the configuration for the package manager which is used to update the operating system. You can probably ignore this unless you know you are in a corporate environment that uses an http proxy server.
The next screen asks you about updating. I would answer this with the default “no automatic updates”. .
Finally there is a screen that allows you to select additional software packages to be installed. I would include the LAMP server, and the OpenSSH server. LAMP will be the usual Linux+Apache web server + PHP + mySQL
But wait! There’s more! You will be asked for a password for the mySQL database. Ignore this at your peril…and choose the same password as you used for your user account at the beginning of your installation.
At this point the installation will run for a few minutes and then …
Will this ever end? Accept the default ‘Yes” to install the GRUB boot loader.
And then…. we’re done.
At this point, you should have a working web server that is running an IP address on your network. To figure out that address. run ifconfig from the VM console. In our case we’re at 192.168.219.213
Looks promising. Now, we can open a web browser from our Windows workstation (or any other machine on the network, and we should see the Apache web server home screen.
We’re ready install WordPress. Before doing that however, you might create a snapshot* of the current state of the VM. This means we will always have a backup of the current machine that we can fall back to as we’re experimenting with installing things. If you haven’t already installed Ubuntu three or four times, you can always delete the whole VM and reinstall if you want to start from square 1.
*I know….this is for a future blog post.
Because WordPress is such a popular program, there are tons of resources available. After searching for installing WordPress on Ubuntu Server … I found this page. I followed all of the instructions, with the two exceptions:
- I did not configure a static IP address for the sandbox server.
- I prefaced all commands with sudo.
Once this was accomplished, I ended up with the default installation page at:
The first page that comes up is a page which asks for information which will will be written to the wp-config file. Note that all of the parameters are identical to the ones that were used when setting up the mySQL database in the initial step.
The next page asks for the WordPress site name, and a login password.
About 30 seconds later, you should see a message that WordPress was installed, and that you can now log in with the name and password that you just created in the last screen. Do that and the familiar WordPress dashboard will come up. Hooray!