Seconds (1966)


I’ve been trying to get back into the very healthy habit of watching as many films as I possibly can. I have watched a ton of Italian crime films from the 1970s, a genre known as poliziottesco, and I’ll have a longer post about those sometime this month. But for now I just wanted to get a quick post out about a Criterion Blu-ray I picked up a while ago, but just got around to watching for the first time: John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966). One of the things that immediately struck me even before watching the film was the short essay about the film, “Reborn Again,” that was included as part of the packaging. What struck me immediately was that it was written by professor and film critic David Sterrit whom just so happened to live in my neighborhood in Baldwin, Long Island during the late 70s and early 80s. 

Baldwin is a suburb of New York City that, interestingly enough, is not entirely unlike the one the main character in Seconds was trapped, but instead of Grand Central it’s Penn Station or the Long Island Railroad versus Metro North. I hung out with his sons for a while, and I remember his office was in the basement of their house—right across from the 1st Precinct police station. I played Lode Runner for the first time on their Commodore 64, probably the same machine he used to write film reviews and quite possibly one of his many, many books about film. Strange how close the late 70s and early 80s seems to the setting of Seconds when looking back from/with 2020. The film is a total treat, and as Sterrit suggests, rather than focusing on the youthful optimism of the decade, Frankenheimer focuses on…

…the decade’s darker side—the sour aftertaste of McCarthyism, the expanding military-industrial complex, the growing sense that technology might be controlling us instead of the other way around.

The last bit resonates for many, I’m sure, but the aftertaste of McCarthyism is baked into the film in some interesting ways. For example, the first of the two actors that play Wilson, namely John Randolph, had been black listed as part of the Red Scare running rampant in the entertainment industry. Seconds would be his first film role in almost 20 years—the film is all about second chances on and off the screen. So Frankenheimer’s casting was a political act in and of itself that makes the content of the film that much richer. 

Mr. Wilson (John Randolph) on the Metro North

Mr Wilson (John Randolph) receives the impossible call

But it might help at this point to provide a quick plot summary, can you help me Wikipedia? Keep in mind, if you haven’t seen the film yet there is a bit of a spoiler below:

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. He has achieved success, but finds it unfulfilling. His love for his wife has dwindled and he seldom sees his only child. Through a friend, Charlie, whom he thought was dead, Hamilton is approached by a secret organization, known simply as the “Company”,[6] which offers him a new life. He ruminates on the proposition as he rides a commuter train on his way home. His wife meets him as he arrives home, but it is apparent that he is alienated from her.

Hamilton arrives at a meat-packing plant for a meeting. He is given workman overalls and hat, then exits the facility by a different door and is seated inside a truck that takes him to another building. He disappears into a large complex filled with dark, empty hallways, where he awaits his transformation. The Company gives Hamilton the body of a young man (Hudson) through plastic surgery, and a new identity, namely “Antiochus ‘Tony’ Wilson.” He later discovers this identity has been taken from someone who recently died.

He is resettled into a community filled with people like him who are “reborns.” Eventually, Hamilton decides the new life is not what he wants. He contacts the Company, letting them know he wants a different identity, and they agree, taking him back to wait for his new identity. There, he meets Charlie, who has also wished to go under yet another “rebirth.” Charlie is chosen and walked away from the waiting room. Later during the night, the owner of the Company discusses his original purpose for founding the organization, and assures Hamilton that the issues he has brought up will be looked into. Hamilton realizes as he is wheeled into the operating room, before being sedated, that he is to be killed. His body will be used as the catalyst (corpse) for a new patient to be reborn. The film ends with the camera panning up to a surgical light as a drill is brought down: as he loses consciousness, he has a memory of two figures walking along a beach; the image distorts and loses resolution.

Seconds is referred to as the third and final installation of Frankenheimer’s paranoia trilogy – the other two being The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964). Paranoia films would become a full blown genre in the 70s with classics such as The Parallax View (1974), Three Days of the Condor (1975), All the President’s Men (1976), and The Conversation (1974) to name a few, but Seconds has a lot more in common with the TV roots of the genre, namely The Twilight Zone, than most of the Hollywood takes to follow. From the sets to filming in black and white to quoting Twilight Zone’s “Eye of the Beholder” with an elaborate bandage unveiling—many parts of the film read  like an homage to Rod Serling.

The film plays like a prolonged Twilight Zone episode, but with pointed cultural commentary that was reminiscent of Serling’s Patterns (1955), particularly when Wilson finds himself in the wood-paneled corner office awaiting his appointment.

But the most compelling scenes for me were the ones that were cut from film when it was released in theaters, namely the 9 minutes featuring the hippie wine-making festival.

The re-made Wilson (Rock Hudson) letting go of his inhibitions

They were cut from the theatrical release due to nudity, but the real insanity for me was the psychedelic footage suestive of a bacchanalian orgy wherein our protagonist is meant to be liberated by this alternative lifestyle, only to find he is simply being duped by a manufactured movement that is an elaborate corporate distraction. Frankenheimer’s film can be read as a full frontal attack on the burgeoning hippie movement suggesting how empty the selfish pursuit of fulfillment at the expense of engagement truly is. Interestingly enough, Frankenheimer has noted that the cutting of he scene required by the film commission made it play more erotically:

Paradoxically, by shortening and deleting shots, the festival sequence picked up a sexual energy. “The result was that it looked like an orgy, but it wasn’t supposed to be and I didn’t shoot it that way,” Frankenheimer told Champlin. “The irony is that it was much more innocent in my version than in the one you see after the Code guys got through with it.

According to the above linked article Frankenheimer jumped in the wine vat to film the non-actor revelers in his underwear, which were quickly torn off:

Frankenheimer in the wine vat

After realizing the emptiness of his pursuit as a hippie artist in Malibu Wilson wants a re-do. But the company does no do refunds, and can not afford loose ends. You either have to bring someone else into the Panzi scheme to warrant another chance (or maybe just buy some time). But in the end, here are no real second chances. The final scene has a very Twilight Zone-esque twist wherein the misguided longings and selfish motivations of the individual crash headlong into the relentless capital machinery of shareholders and profits. The companies titular head plays powerless in the face of his client, and his jocular way almost convinces Wilson and the viewer everything will be all right … almost.

It’s a compelling film on many levels, and legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe’s photography provides a real distinctive element that adds depth and texture to the sense of surreal paranoia pervading the whole film. If you find yourself looking or something to watch, I highly recommend it, and the Criteion Blu-ray gives you the added bonus of Frankenheimer’s commentary.

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Loopback How-to for ds106radio

A few folks have asked me the easiest way to get on ds106radio, so I figured I would document the setup I am currently stealing from Tim Owens—surprise, surprise 🙂 He shared his Loopback setup, which is a paid application ($99) that only works with Mac OS, so not only does it cost $$$ but it’s platform specific to boot—apologies to all the Windows and Linux folks out there. If you have a Mac but Loopback is too steep, you can try Audio Hijack which is $59. If you have no desire to spend money at all, I’ve been broadcasting on the setup Alan Levine shared a number of years ago and it’s working for me pretty well. 

This is the setup Tim Owens shared on Twitter this weekend, and I used it to create my own setup. I am happy to report Loopback is super simple. It effectively takes a variety of audio inputs and wires them together so that they’re a single output that you can broadcast to the radio using Ladiocast, which is the “Mixer” window above with the Input 1 area that is the Spotify Radio virtual audio device Tim created wiring his mic and Spotify together using Loopback. Ladiocast is a Mac app used for streaming to the Icecast server, and I am including those details in the screencast below:

Also, in the Encoding tab your settings should look something like this. I am trying out 128 Bit rate today, but mine was previously 48, so we’ll see how that works:

So, the settings above for Ladiocast which you will only be using in this setup to stream, and your Mixer from Ladiocast should look like Tim’s above, or mine below—essentially one input pulling in the Loopback virtual device you created:

Finally, here is a look at my bavaradio setup in Loopback that I will be trying out for the first time in a bit. Like time I have added muliple sources: iTunes, my microphone, Skype for call-in radio, and the USB Audio Codec is my turntable. So I have a few things going in column 1 (iTunes, mic, turntable, and Skype),that are all routing into my system’s output channels that are essentially the bavaradio device in Output Channels, or the second column. Monitoring (or the third column) is where I can listen to the device to make sure everything is coming in loud and clear. You’ll notice each source (iTunes, microphone, turntable, and Skype) has an on/off toggle and an options area for controlling the volume level.  

I think the next level would be getting a mixer integrated in order to more efficiently control levels and fade between source. Scottlo and Grant Potter recommend Mixxx.org (which is not exclusive to Mac and open source), so that might be the next step if this works cleanly.

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bavaradio: Some ds106radio Notes

Note bene: I started writing this post 2 days ago (it was actually the 11th day of lockdown, not the 10th), but things have gotten a bit more intense since. Tinkering with this blog and writing throw away posts has provided one anchor in the mental storm of the virus here in Northern Italy. Today is Day 13 of lockdown, and thank heaven for the radio. 

Today makes the 10th day of lockdown in Trento, and I’ve been coping with a healthy dose of work at Reclaim Hosting (it feels good to be help folks get setup or expand capacity on the fly), playing with my dog, and broadcasting on the ds106radio. I appreciated Martin Weller’s call for the ordinary this morning, and given I’ve been working remotely for five years I’m not facing the same disruption many others are waking up to.

More than anything I feel guilty not being able to help out more, I would like to enlist in a civic corps to re-stock shelves, pack boxes, or whatever other ordinary task needs to be done. I really appreciate the folks in our local bakery and supermarket who’ve greeted so many with a smile, provided a much needed liter of milk for morning coffee, delivered food to the elderly, and generally showed up regardless of the direct risk to their own well being. The real heroes in this invisible struggle with the unknown will not be syndicated.

Anyway, here’s to hoping you all are finding your way and staying safe. I feel like I’m a few weeks ahead in terms of current events of friends and family in the UK and North America. So, for what it’s worth, get ready to go on an extended lockdown (and frankly if you aren’t already you really should be) and follow the solid advice of paring down all expectations of anything professional, educational, etc. More than anything, though, connect with those you love and be kind to those you don’t.

So, to the point of this post, I have been busy on the radio. I’ve done at least 8 shows in as many days, and most of those featured a #vinylcast, i.e. streaming one album—on real vinyl—from my modest collection. These take up about half of the roughly 2 hour broadcasts in the middle of the day. The other half is me blabbing on. So, what have a I broadcast so far? Let me get the list recorded below given I will forget otherwise.

First up was Jesus Lizard‘s Goat (1991) for Rowan Peter given he told an awesome story about his encounter with David Yow—radio gold. The next day I streamed Deerhunter‘s 2010 album Halycon Digest given I had purchased it in LA a few months back but still hadn’t played it, and that is when I decided this could be a regular thing 🙂 I took a break the third day given I wanted to put together a radio show about Muhammad Ali after watching the 1996 documentary When We were Kings. I found a couple of tracks off Ali’s (then known as Cassius Clay) I am the Greatest spoken word/comedy album produced 6 months before his fight with Sonny Liston.  

The was then followed by Cat Power‘s “The Greatest,” which is a song I love:

After that I returned to I am the Greatest with track five titled “Will the Real Sonny Liston please Fall Down”:

There is some serious smack talking in that track, it is wild–so much so that it became a cultural phenomenon, bands like the Beach Boys were spoofing the smack talking. Here is a track wherein Mike “Cassius” Love and Brian “Sonny” Wilson have a back and forth that might be closer to home than either would care to admit?

After that I played a Youtube video highlighting some of Muhammad Ali’s more memorable trash talking:

After that I moved to discussion of the film When we Were Kings highlighting excerpts of the fight featuring Norman Mailer:

After that I played “Black Superman” by Johnny Wakelin, an opportunistic song inspired by the “Rumble in the Jungle.” It does highlight the play-by-play a bit, which is interesting.

After that, back to When We were Kings featuring George Plimpton talking about Ali’s commencement speech at Harvard delivering what he argues is the shortest poem in the english language: me/we

After that, two more songs inspired by Ali, the first was by “8ieme Round” by a Zairian band inspired by the legendary fight in that country in 1974:

And finally Eddie Curtis’s “The Louisville Lip”:

A quick note about this impromptu show, it was terrible. Nigel stayed with me, but it was a mess—my levels were off, I threw some major feedback back at listeners, and it was just hard. I was reminded that good radio is not easy, and lucky the standards on ds106radio have been lowered during these strange days, but damn it was frustrating. I think this is why I retreated to streaming vinyl so quickly. Hopefully I can get back in a groove sometime here soon with more impromptu shows on the radio, but for now #vinylcast #4life

……

Picking this post up two days later, I do enjoy the fact that the vinylcast’s do call for more focused listening to one album. They allow me to listen along closely as well, and I try and make sure it’s an album that holds up as an entire piece of art. In the two days since starting this post I actually got an idea after speaking with Kate Bowles via back channels about SPLOTs. She was discussing playing around with TRU Collector, which gave me an idea for a domain I recently registered, bavaradio.com, as part of a demo I was doing for a school getting up and running with Domain of One’s Own. I had the domain, and I registered it as kind of a goof, but after chatting with Kate it occurred to me I could be using that as a quick and easy site for starting to document the vinylcasts and any other radio shows I do.  It is a slick and easy tool for this, and it allows me to quickly share any tweets posted during the broadcast, an image of the album, a link to the Wikipedia page, and some brief thoughts around the vinyl choice and how I was feeling during that cast. What I like about that is it is short form blogging that I have on my server and will serve not only as a record of my shows, but also of my attempt to reach out through the airwaves while simultaneously trying to cope with a rapidly changing world. 

Image of bavaradio.com website

I added the first 11 vinylcasts, two of which I recorded and will add the show recordings to the posts as well. I also want to add the discussion I had with John Johnston on the radio about his experiences in a rural school outside of Glasgow, Scotland. But first I need to make sure he is cool with that and that the audio quality for any of my recordings is passable. Well, I guess that’s it for now, but hopefully not really it.

Posted in ds106radio | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

5 Top GIFs on the bava according to Kinsta’s Analytics

I’ve been a bit distracted by the outside world, as you all can imagine. I have to say I feel like Northern Italy has been going through the Corona Virus cycle for weeks now (my kids have been out of school since late February), and now we are 8 days into full blown lockdown. In fact, just a few minutes ago I heard a vehicle driving by announcing all residents need to stay inside save for justified reasons for leaving their property, namely: food shopping, medicines from local pharmacy, and/or work. It was first announced in Italian then English (which I appreciated), but what struck me was the English voice sounded exactly like Jamie Lee Curtis at the beginning of Escape from New York when she is setting up the dystopian scenario for that amazing film:

Bizarre, the feeling of living in a movie has never been more powerful than over the last week or so here in Trento. With more than a week into lockdown I am finding ds106radio a real savior right now—so thanks for that folks!

Another thing I have been doing to distract myself has been playing around with hosting alternatives for bavatuesdays. I have the site on Kinsta right now, and one thing that has struck me is while I’m aware my site has fallen off a traffic cliff since the heady days of EDUPUNK,* Kinsta has me clocked at around 2,500 unique visits a day.  This is a big delta from what I thought (100-200 daily at most), this is especially important given I am paying Kinsta by the visit. I was sure the $30 plan (which allows 20,000 visitors per month) would be more than enough, but not even 10 days in I’m almost at my monthly limit. For the time being I bumped the plan to 40,000 visits as I try and figure out what’s up.  

I never know if I’m reading this right, but 2,004 requests via /feed suggest there are quite a few RSS readers that wordpress.com and Google Analytics do not account for? Not sure that’s right though, sounds very high to me. Especially when the main site is suggesting 1,827 hits additionally. Anyway, I can’t really make sense of Kinsta’s analytics in terms of visitors and hits which is concerning given I am paying by the visitor. The other thing that may be at work here is that a few of my GIFs must be on some fairly popular page, and I am wondering if they are hot linking the images which is driving high bandwidth and also possibly counting as visits? Not sure, but what I do know is that the following 5 (and one for good luck) are the top bandwidth eating GIFs being viewed on bavatuesdays at the moment, and the selection makes me pretty happy! 

Apoclaypse Now hi-res is #1 by a long shot given–I thinks it’s 20 MBs  🙂 

Number 2 is a 4 GIF series from the Chinese film Ju Dou that was created by a student at UMW as part of GIF film analysis for Sue Fernsebner‘s Chinese Cinema course. 

JuDou1JuDou2Judou3 JuDou4

Analyzing Chinese Film GIFs

Number 3 is the cat from Alien, which I made—which makes me happy!

And another bava special is this one featuring the C.H.U.D. sewer, it is almost like the GIF breathes with the smoke coming through the holes.

And rounding out the top 5 is this gem from Road Warrior, which invokes the good old days of edtech survivalism 🙂

And honorable mention is this goodie, which is how I am feeling about pay-per-view hosting right now:

I want to try and setup a failover from Kinsta back to Digital Ocean, which at this point is becoming significantly cheaper than Kinsta. There’s a bit more work involved, but monthly it will be roughly $60 to $70 cheaper given based on Kinsta’s analytics I would need to pay $100 per month versus the $60 I just bumped to in order to avoid the overages—which amount to $1 per 1000 visits, so if I went 40,000 visits over that would be $40 more than the $30 I paid monthly, which at this rate would be my situation. Before I move back to Digital Ocean though, I want to see if offloading all my media to Amazon’s S3 or Digital Ocean’s Spaces makes a significant difference in terms of visits and/or bandwidth demands.

Also, I am noticing while I am trying to use Kinsta’s CDN, it is not seeming to take effect in any significant way given there are only bytes of media being duplicated and served from elsewhere. Anyway, gonna give myself a week or so to try and replicate from Kinsta to Digital Ocean as well as figure out offloading media. Just another to-do brick in the Lockdown Wall!


*I average between 100-200 unique users a day according to both Google Analytics and WP.com stats.

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What I learned from getting back on ds106radio

As I listen to Nigel Robertson (@easegill) spinning the tunes from New Zealand while I type these works, I am reminded of how much I love ds106radio—the little radio station Grant Potter propped up in January 2011 to add even more joy to an already ebullient online course experiment. It’s been around ever since! And while interest has waned over time, as with most things, if you keep it around long enough* it will come back in fashion—at least for a small community of quarantined web heads! I’ve been back on the radio the last couple of days, and I will share some specifics around how I am broadcasting on my Mac (as well as archiving), a good mobile app for human-in-the-street casts, and even #vinylcasting for all you crass materialists. But before I get into those details, it might be worth saying I am feeling an exhilaration and connection when opening Twitter that I have not felt in a very long time. While I scan the #ds106radio hashtag I am reminded why I loved that tool so much a decade ago, it was the folks it brought into my life, many of whom have become staples—they have broke bread with my family, greeted me on shores thousands of miles away, and generally brought a huge laugh and a welcome smile when I needed it. And like so many others out there presently, I need that right now. I mean, quite frankly, the last thing in the world I want right now is to be lectured in MOOC-like fashion by ambulance-chasing thought leaders about learning online, I need a master class in loving online!

So, thank you #ds106radio for re-entering my consciousness and reminding me what’s at the heart of these connections. 

Click to listen now!

So, how have I been doing it? Let me break it down here quickly, but feel free to reach out in the comments if you need more details or help.

For broadcasting on my Mac, which allows me to play music via my laptop as well as pretend to be a Straw Boss with my radio persona, I use Ladiocast, which I believe is only for Macs users, but it’s free, so there is that. Grant pointed to mixxx.org, which I might have to explore this week. The key to getting Ladiocast running on your Mac is that you first have to install and wrap your head around Soundflower, which “creates a virtual audio output device that can also act as an input.” When I got on the radio in 2018 to play around, I found Alan Levin’s post on his most recent Rube Goldberg Broadcast Machine setup worked quite well. In hope this helps, here are my Ladiocast settings for broadcasting:

The other piece to this broadcasting was getting Skype fired up and running (you can probably use Google Hangouts, Whereby, Zoom, etc.), but I associate the talk radio on #ds106radio with Skype, so I guess old habits diehard. Here are my settings for getting Skype to broadcast through Ladiocast:

Seems to have worked for Paul Bond, who has been holding down the radio as part of his ds106 course at UMW for years, so power to the Bond!

The final piece for my Ladiocast setup is getting Vinyl working. I followed this tutorial for my Audio-Technica turntable with USB output, and turns out it is dead simple. Above is a look at my Ladiocast settings when casting from the Turntable rather than whatever is playing on my computer. I will be doing a #vinylcast today of Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest, as well as discussing my unorthodox approach to vinyl—namely only new 🙂

I have also experimented with archiving the stream, and I bought Audio Hijack a couple of years back when experimenting, and that provides me a way to record my output should I start archiving my broadcasts. Audio Hijack has a lot of options, and it is a bit beyond me. It replaced Nicecast, which was retired in 2018, and supposedly it can do all the same things, but it is not all that user-friendly. I may play with it, but frankly given it is relatively expensive ($70), not sure folks will go that route. Not to mention Cogdog highlights the fact you can use Audacity to record anything on the radio, so I may also try that as well. 

Finally, if you are mobile casting from your iPhone from, say, Jamaica, you can also try out the mobile app iziCast that Grant, once again, recommended to Timmmmyboy, and he has been using it to update us on his travel exploits in the time of plague. I downloaded it and had it setup almost instantaneously. It costs $4.99, but it does seem to have archiving built-in as well, just no way we can see to do much more than straight casting from your mic. I know GNA Garcia has an Android setup, which would be useful for many folks, but I heard she generously blog like it is 2006 this year, so who knows!

OK, so I guess that is just about everything I’ve done to get back up and running on the #ds106radio. I am also remembering another reason I enjoyed ds106radio, it’s fun to figure out the rig. I do need a good microphone and headphones, any recommendations radioheads? 


*Which Grant has done so magnanimously—keeping in character as always.

Header image credit: This Evil Empire

Posted in digital storytelling, ds106radio | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Bava moves to Kinsta, story at 11

It’s been surreal here in Northern Italy, and the last thing the world needs right now is another hot take on the Corona Virus or teaching online in the age of pandemics. My turn over the least 10 years has been to explore new (and old) web-based environments possible for teaching and learning, and frankly the syndicated, asynchronous and distributed learning environment sounds pretty good right about now. Throw in some radio, and it is near on perfect 🙂

But I profess and digress, but at least it’s not on Twitter. The point of this post is simply to chronicle my migration of this blog from Digital Ocean (DO) to Kinsta yesterday. I created the DO droplet back in January and documented the process (find the blog posts here, here, here, and here). I learn a ton from these projects and WordPress continues to be the tool I use and learn about the web through the lens of. I recognize the limitations therein, but that said I only have so much emotional labor to spare! So when I was doing a migration from Kinsta to Reclaim Hosting I became really intrigued by Kinsta’s model, to quickly re-iterate here they provide container-based WordPress instances, and their service is built on top of Google’s Cloud platform.

They provide what they call “premium” WordPress hosting, which comes at a price. At the lowest end of the spectrum it costs $30 per month, which is as much as a year’s hosting at Reclaim—and we even throw in a domain. But they aren’t really geared towards the same audience, they are positioned to serve folks how have a site that needs to scale resources seamlessly for both traffic spikes and quick growth. Like I said in my previous post, it reminds me of a dead-simple, elastic Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC-2 instance for those who don’t have the sysadmin chops but need to run a beefy, mission critical WordPress instance. But like AWS, resources come at a premium, but I’ll talk about that later on in this post.

For now let me focus on the migration and Kinsta’s stellar support. I actually tried to migrate the bava from my DO instance two days ago, but I ran into issues because my Kinsta container runs over port 51135, and I could not cleanly move a zipped up copy of my files between servers. The following was the command I used when logged into my DO server, but I kept getting connection errors. Below is a stripped version of the scp command I used

I jumped on chat support* and I was almost immediately answered by Ruby who told me there may be issues with my DO instance blocking port 51135, which turned out to be correct, I just was not smart enough to open it. Given the bava is almost 9 GB of files, SFTP is out of the questions given with my current upload speed it would take 12+ hours. Whereas a scp between servers takes literally minutes for a 9 GB zip file. I left things alone for the day as work at Reclaim started to gear up, but returned to it yesterday early with the idea of  actually moving the instance of bavatuesdays I had on Reclaim servers before migrating in January. This would have almost all the same files save anything uploaded after mid-January, which is an easy fix. I unblocked port 51135 on the old server and tried the scp command to the Kinsta container and it worked, 9 GB moved in 6 minutes. 

That was awesome, but when I tried unzipping the directory on Kinsta’s server I was getting disconnected from the server:

I jumped on the chat support, and Ruby once again bailed me out suggested I use the external Ip address for this rather than the internal given it is often more table. Boom, that worked. I was able to swap out the images I was missing since January, and my site was now on Kinsta. A few things I really appreciated was dead simple SSL cert and forcing of SSL through the tools panel:

After that, I tried upgrading to PHP 7.4, and that was dead simple too, all seemed to work, but the WordPress debugging tool showed me there was an issue with the Crayon Syntax Highlighter plugin for anything above PHP 7.2 (it was actually breaking any post with it embedded, which is annoying) so I reverted to 7.2 for now, but I should know better than to use plugins 4 years out of date. I am pointing my domain from my Reclaim cPanel, so no need for Kinsta’s DNS controls, but always interesting to see how they handle that:

Using Amazon Route 53, just like Reclaim, and I might have to add a domain to see how the controls look, and I do like the Gmail MX records radio button given that would, I imagine, pre-fill the records given they’re predictable, and be entirely out of the email game is a beautiful thing! 

Kinsta has built-in caching for sites (need to look more into the details behind that) and they also have a CDN tool, something I’ve never used on the bava, so I wanted to try that out to see if it speeds things up. Now, it is kinda of a joke to say that because speeding my site up means getting it to load under 4 seconds given I load images on heavy, and I never get a rating above D from Pingdom’s speed tester, but I am feeling the site is a bit snappier regardless 😉 

So, I got caching, CDN loading, and the like. Now when I moved to Kinsta I was un-phased by there 20,000 unique hits limit for the $30 plan given I average about 100-200 daily hits on the bava according to Jetpack—I’m not as big in Japan as I once was 🙂 But this morning when I checked the site recorded over 2200+ unique visits, even though Jetpack recorded 165. That’s a pretty big discrepancy.

What’s more I was transferring 2.5 GB of data in less than a day? Who knew?! At this rate I will hit my 20K visits limit in less than 10 days (versus the 30 I am allotted) bumping it up to $60 per month for 40,000 unique visits—and at this rate I would even hit more than that, pushing me into the $100 Business plan range. Yowzers! I was interested in where all the traffic was coming from, and it is bizarre, as you can imagine. All I can say to all you traffic hounds out there is make more GIFs! 🙂

My high-res Apocalypse Now GIF from 2011 was hit 56 times and required a whopping 755 MB of bandwidth.

God the bava is unsustainable! But even more surprising is the following image of the Baltimore Police Department putting guns and money on the table being hit over 1400 times in less than 24 hours! WTF! wire106 #4life

It is a strange world, but getting these insights from Kinsta’s analytics is kinda cool, and it reminds me that the bava is its own repository of weirdness outside the social media silos—“ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” I still have to get my SSH keys set, which I discovered is possible…

Oh yeah, one more thing. I was also concerned about hitting my storage limits given my plan limits me to 10 GB, and when I did a df -h it looked like I was using 13GBs. 

I jumped on support again, this time with Salvador, and he also ruled—their support is super solid, which is always a good sign. He gave me a different command to run in www, namely…

du -h -d 4 

Which gave me what I needed, 9.2 GBs, just under the wire:

And now I need to find a way to offload some of the media serving given it will quickly make Kinsta prohibitive in terms of costs, but I have thoroughly enjoyed their dashboard, and the laser-like focus of  creating an entire hosted, optimized experience  and environment for one tool.


*Kinsta uses Intercom for online chat support, which is a tool Reclaim had for about a year or two in 2015 and 2016 I believe. We did chat support when it was Tim, myself, and Lauren, that was our team! It was hard, and the chat format invited folks to add 3 word issues like “My site broke” or “HELP me please!” Just the thing every support agent wants to see 🙂 I was mindful of this and tried to be kind and give details and be patient, but the on-demand model can be rough. And I know folks are thinking of that as one way to imagine managing stuff online in times of crisis, but if Reclaim’s experience with chat is at all telling, resist the urge!  That said, Ruby and Salvador were there and helped and I appreciated it tremendously, so who knows. But my gut tells me if you have not done web hosting support for the last 10 years and are not prepared with definitive questions and have done your own troubleshooting you are in for a world of back-and-forth pain

Posted in bavatuesdays, reclaim, WordPress | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kinsta: Container-based WordPress Hosting

One of the benefits of doing migrations for Reclaim Hosting internauts is getting to see how different hosting companies operate. Many use cPanel which is familiar territory for us at Reclaim, but ever so often you come across some pretty different dashboard, such as Dreamhost. But recently I got a peek at the Kinsta user dashboard, and it definitely smacks of a next-generation hosting environment. 

So what do I mean by that? Well, it is container-driven hosting infrastructure run on top of Google’s Cloud. Given you effectively lease your own container as server, they’re not providing shared hosting at all, but rather isolated, scalable hosting environments. While Kinsta has limited their offering to WordPress,* what they’re doing could be imagined beyond any one app—albeit with the accompanying complexity of managing numerous container images. What’s more, they have optimized their environment for speed and elastically scale for intensive resourcing needs. It’s like AWS with a dead-simple user interface that assumes someone else will be managing all the disparate pieces.  Here is a look at the Dashboard that highlights resource usage. Notice the 3 important data points are visits, Content Delivery Network (CDN) usage, and disk usage:

Kinsta has their own Content Delivery Network built into their product, which helps with site load times. Having it baked-in means your clients will not need to use Cloudflare, or similar tools. They also have slick backup/restore options similar to Digital Ocean’s:

In fact, the interface in general reminds me a lot of Digital Ocean’s: simple, sparse, and easy-to-use. I was also struck by the way they abstract things out that would otherwise be lost in a sea of icons in cPanel, such as SSL certificates and forcing https. And then there are things you could never do on shared hosting like restarting PHP. Additionally, you have WordPress specific tools like site caching, debugging, and a search and replace for the database:

What’s more, you can also abstract out the WordPress plugins into the Kinsta dashboard to get a quick look at version numbers and what plugins have and have not been upgraded:

Not sure this is all that much more convenient than the WordPress admin area, but the idea of abstracting out pieces of the application and integrating them into the hosting user dashboard is interesting. 

We’ve been thinking a lot about what a next generation hosting environment for both our shared hosting and Domains schools might look like, and that exercise is a powerful lesson in thinking through your user interface experience. All driven by the question: “How can we abstract the things our users depend on from tools like WHM and WHMCS to create a more simplified, focused web hosting tool?” One that remains tricky is thinking through user management and billing, so always interesting to see these things baked in the the dashboard.

Probably the two biggest differences between Kinsta and cPanel-based shared hosting services like Reclaim Hosting are options and pricing. Kinsta is designed for WordPress exclusively, and it appeals to folks who want to optimize it for higher traffic demands. This is not a sandbox, although you can run a development environment alongside your production environment. You pay $30 a month for the lowest plan which includes 1 WordPress site and up to 20,000 monthly visitors. While more expensive than most shared hosting options, which is understandable, it is on par with the cost of setting up a 4GB or 8 GB droplet on Digital Ocean to run your WordPress site with weekly backups (something I do currently). I am considering moving my site again to Kinsta to get a sense of the differences, and explore a bit more what it ‘s like as a customer to work within a mass market container-based infrastructure provider—something that definitely intrigues me. Kinsta has, from what I can see on a cursory glance, done a pretty impressive job with just that. 

I think Kinsta points to the possible emergence of a different market than Digital Ocean, AWS, and similar cloud-based infrastructure companies (one actually built on top of them, much like Kinsta is built on top of Google Cloud). While these companies appeal to developers who can and will spin up their own servers an then take the time to setup a wide range of environments (whether container-based or more old gold LAMP stack stuff) to install an application, Kinsta does all that for you. It’s container-based WordPress hosting made simple, while also providing some options for folks who want a bit more such as SSH access, SFTP, etc. The fact it is a container provides more freedom in that regard, but I wonder where the limits lie. For example, I can’t imagine you change PHP versions, which is probably a good thing,  but I’d be interested to find out more. Anyway, here’s to moving the bava yet again in the name of progress and learning  🙂


*Which with 30% + of all websites is a decent-sized market to target, I mean the majority of Reclaimers also use WordPress.

Posted in reclaim, Reclaim Learning, WordPress | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Reclaim Arcade: Game Pick-ups, Living Rooms, Frosty Brew Thru, and Utah Arcades

My time back in Virginia, Utah and New York several weeks ago was jam-packed with work. In fact, my old bones are still recovering. Not only did I get a chance to attend the ever stellar UniversityAPI conference in Provo, Utah (more on that in my next post), but I also got to spend a lot of dedicated time working on Reclaim Arcade, which is quickly becomes like those objects in the sideview mirror that are far closer than they appear. As Tim the weekend before, I spent a lot of time driving to pickup video games. I went to King, North Carolina to pickup an all-time favorite of mine, a stand-up version of Gyruss.* And I have the picture of a high score to prove it:

219,500

The following weekend I drove to a suburb of Pittsburgh to pickup Street Fight II Championship Edition. It was a bit of trucking, but I enjoyed it—especially when I’m hauling an 80s arcade treasure in the trunk.

Between these two road trips there was shopping to do in preparation for Reclaim Arcade’s first official public appearance at the Frosty Brew Thru in Fredericksburg. I hit the jackpot on the first try at the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in the strip mall right next to ours. I came across a couch combo that even rivals the original living room sofa at UMW

The haul

Bones of the living room

And $200 later we have the bones of Reclaim Arcade’s living room. We got the coffee and side tables on Facebook a week earlier, and with the couch set we were in very good shape. The last piece was some shelving and a rug, both of  which we also found at ReStore. And like that we have the living room console 2.0 in less than two days, I have to say I was shocked how quickly, cheaply, and quite frankly perfectly this came together. 

Console Living Room 2.0

The rug is the only piece I would change right now, and if I can get my hands on a primo furniture TV piece the shelves can be re-purposed, but all-in-all I am very happy with this setup. Even the $10 lamp is perfect with the heavy-duty, plastic corrugated shade replete with a cigarette smoke-stained patina. It’s damn good! And all this was done by Thursday (I flew in Monday evening), just in time for us to head over to the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds the following day and setup for the Frosty Brew Thru. 

Frosty Brew Thru Setup

Living Room Pre-show

Frosty Brew Thru Setup

One of the things we quickly learned from the Frosty Brew Thru is that moving six OG 80s arcade games and two pinball machines, not to mention a full blown living room setup, is no small order. Tim has become a pro at moving arcade machines, and we’ve invested in a serial appliance dolly to lighten the load, but there’s no getting around the fact that one of these things can be a royal pain in the ass to move, no less eight. That was good to experience though, because it quickly dissuaded Tim and I from planning any other short-lived pop-up events before we open. And while it was a lot of work for a one-day event, it was fun to feature a few gems from our collection such as Centipede (our very first), Ms Pac-man, Donkey Kong, Joust, X-men, Mortal Kombat II, and our newer pinball acquisitions Stranger Things and Ghostbusters. 

DK in Action

X-men

Reclaim Arcade Living Room Test-run

Pinball is all the rage

More than anything though, people’s reactions to both the living room and the games were very, very encouraging. This is why we are doing this whole thing, we want to create a cool place in Fredericksburg for folks to hang out, and the reaction throughout the day reminded us what all the work is for. And it is worth noting Meredith took time out of her weekend to join us throughout the day—reclaim4life.

Fix it Again, Timmy

Another important thing we realized, which is a topic we would come back to during our tour of arcade bars in Utah, was that even with some of our newest and most mint games, stuff stops working. In particular we were having issues throughout the day with the coin mechs, and we quickly had nightmare visions of running around Reclaim Arcade refunding tokens and quarters all day. At the end of the day the Frosty Brew Thru was a good opportunity to get the idea of Reclaim Arcade out locally, get a realistic sense of  the overhead of pop-up events like this, reaffirm our raison d’être for starting Reclaim Arcade, as well as an opportunity to kick the tires on what the day-to-day might be like. So all-in-all it was very much worth it, and despite being exhausted the next day (Sunday) saw me driving at 4 AM to Pittsburgh to get a Street Fighter II machine, no pleasure but arcade pain. 

Mint Moon Patrol in SLC

That Tuesday we headed out for Utah to attend the uAPI conference as mentioned above, but we also took the time to visit a couple of arcade bars in the area. The first night we headed to Quarters in Salt Lake City, which was a full bar with no food. The games took actual quarters (I guess they would have to with a name like that) and the selection was decent. I appreciated how mint the classic 80s arcade games were though. Their Moon Patrol was gorgeous (and the Pavement song playing in the background was nice), it’s high on the list of Reclaim Arcade acquisitions …

Moon Patrol from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

I also noticed their Missile Command was quite beautiful. The screen really popped, and it made Tim and I go more closely over our machines after we got back to Freddy. 

Missile Command from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

But while their games were in good shape, the selection of 80s arcade games was lacking. I think of the 25 OG arcade games they had, maybe 8 of them would have made the “Jim Groom Cut”: Asteroids, Moon Patrol, Donkey Kong, Ms Pac-man, Missile Command, TNMT, X-Men, Robocop (though that is more sentimental than gameplay), and maybe, maybe Contra (although on playing that again I much prefer Ikari Warriors). I can’t really speak to the Pinballs given that is not my strength, but they had a good-sized collection, including Iron Maiden, Twilight Zone, and others. So that might be a big draw for folks. It had a Killer Queen game, which Tim and I are still trying to wrap our heads around, but so far it is not something we’re interested in.

Quarters Arcade Bar in SLC

It was first and foremost a bar with arcade games, and it had a bunch of spaces for folks to hang out as well, there was foosball, Skeeball, and an area for older consoles. It even looked like they were building out a stage-like space for performances, but I’m not positive about that. They had a bunch of room in their basement dwelling and used it pretty well, but at the end of the day it felt more like a bar than anything else, which is something I want to avoid at Reclaim Arcade. The real takeaway for me, though, was the condition of their games, they were tight and were able to run a fully automated cash business on the games alone, and in the two hours we were there we didn’t lose a quarter or see a game out of order—that is definitely something worth noting. The games at the Circuit in Richmond were not nearly as well taken care of in my experience.

Flynn's Retrocade

After the uAPI conference ended Tim and I decided to take a road trip from Provo to Roy, Utah to visit another arcade in the Salt Lake area, namely Flynn’s Retrocade. It’s interesting to me how different the various arcades popping up truly are. For example, Flynn’s was an arcade first and foremost, there was no alcohol or food (they can order a pizza for you that gets delivered) and they bill themselves as an arcade and soda bar. They had a fairly unremarkable selection of pinball machines, but their 80s arcade cabinets were awesome. It was a very impressive selection and, like Quarters, the games were in very good shape.

A fine collection in Utah

The space was very similar to what Tim and I first imagined Reclaim Arcade being: a strip mall storefront with games lining either wall all the way back.

Scenes from a Reclaim Arcade

Scenes from a Reclaim Arcade

Our vision has evolved a bit since then, but it was interesting to see how Flynn’s did this. I loved their attention to detail, the Han Solo doormat as you enter was a good example of this:

Han Solo rug at Flynn's Retrocade

Not to mention the ceramic tiles designed like a Pac-man maze. Very cool!

Ready!

They also had some nice neon signs that I have some ideas for Reclaim Arcade. But at the end of the day the games were everything. There list was impressive: Robotron, Starwars Cockpit, Empire Strikes Back, Pooyan (a personal favorite), Defender, Dragon’s Lair,† Ms Pac-man, Centipede, Asteroids, Popeye, Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Track and Field, Frogger, Q*bert, Paperboy (realizing this is a must-have), 1943,  Super Punch-Out, Dig Dug, Moon Patrol, Millipede, Rootbeer tapper, etc. You can see a full list here, but I noticed there was no Major Havoc which I wanted to try. Maybe I am biased about this list because we already have a good number of these games, in fact we are only missing Paperboy (essential), Pooyan (yes, please!), Dragon’s Lair (I’m in no rush on this anymore), Frogger (we should have this), Moon Patrol (want it), Empire Strikes Back (no real rush, it is not nearly as good as Star Wars), a Tapper machine (we want one, but they’re pretty expensive) and 1943 (still on the fence). So, all-in-all this collection was probably the closest to ours I have seen, and having them all in the same room was awesome.

Pooyan Control Panel

Pooyan from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

Jounrey

Popeye

We did pick-up a Star Wars vector game since this trip, but it is not a cockpit, but given the price and how tight a fit the cockpit was for me I am not complaining. I still want one, but that can wait.

The Much Sought-after Starwars Cockpit

One of the things that was really useful about this visit as well was re-playing games like Dragon’s Lair and Empire Strikes Back and being reminded they may not be worth the money. Not to mention playing other games I had forgotten all about, such as RoadBlasters. 

Roadblasters

This is a fun game, and I would definitely add it to the list. Whereas the sequel to Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, was not very good at all, and it will save me an uninformed impulse buy:

Ghouls 'N Ghosts

I was also underwhelmed with Contra and Super Pacman. Whereas I dug a game I never played before, Astro Blaster:

Astro Blaster

So, all in all it was really useful fieldwork for Reclaim Arcade, but I think the biggest thing Tim and I got out of this visit was re-considering having our arcade machines use tokens or quarters. We had just assumed this would be how things work, but after the headache of mechs at the Frosty Brew Thru and thinking through how Flynn’s only had one person working who took your money and then you played as much as you wanted we began to re-consider. 

Flynn's Retrocade

The idea of an admission fee for folks became quickly appealing when we started to think how much overhead this could save us not only in chasing down lost quarters and tokens, but it also would prove a boon for renting out the space for private parties. Switching games from accepting quarters or tokens to free-play is not trivial, it takes hours and hours of work, and if party rentals become a thing we want to avoid giving out endless tokens, not to mention the savings on actually buying tokens, fixing coin door mechs, and providing change machines, which do not come cheap. As we left Flynn’s we became increasingly convinced that having a flat-fee for playing the games, and leaving all the 80s arcade cabinets on free-play may be the way to go. We drove back to Provo discussing as much, and I have to say the dreaming about the possibilities of Reclaim Arcade is half the fun for me.

DKjr

RallyX Cocktail from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

The next day we parted ways, Tim back to Virginia and me on my next leg of the trip to visit family and pick-up more arcade games. My brother did me a solid and grabbed a Donkey Kong Jr and a cocktail RallyX I had tracked down on Long Island. I think a part of him enjoyed it, though he would never let on as much. All I heard was, “When are you gonna get them out of my garage, Jimmy!” Not an easy chore when you are in Italy 🙂 So, for anyone counting that is 4 on this trip, and I had a fifth in my sights (a cocktail Pengo in Allentown Pennsylvania) but I just ran out of room in the truck and I couldn’t pay via PayPal, which meant I would have to get cash, something a prefer to avoid.  I still want the Pengo cocktail, but I guess we’ll see.

The Upside-down

Can you diagnose the problem and prescribe a fix?
I just so happened to be invited to a Super Bowl party (it was a good one this year) hosted and attended by some age-old friends from elementary, middle, and high school on Long Island, and I couldn’t resist taking them out to the car to show them what I would be hauling to Virginia the next day. The reaction was a mix of pity and mild interest for my health 🙂 So, family visit done, games loaded, Super Bowl watched, and now the drive back to Freddy from Long Island with just two more full days to go before I am back on the plane abroad.

The Hitcher

The Hitcher on VHS

I have to admit I spent some of the time recovering in the living room watching The Hitcher on VHS. I also had a lot of fun watching our first donation to Reclaim Video, Strange Brew, thanks to Tim Clarke. Tim is amazing not just because he rules as an instructional technologist at Muhlenberg College, but also because he has amazing taste in VHS tapes. Strange Brew was even more relevant than I remember given the whole plot revolves around a video game cabinet doubling as a surveillance tape/hard drive that foils the sinister master brewer’s evil plot to take over the world. Did you remember that? I didn’t!

So, that was fun. But the last order of business was a check-in with Spaces, the design firm locally in Fredericksburg that is helping us design the space of Reclaim Arcade. We spent Wednesday morning looking over the plans and talking about the details and I have to say if I had any doubts up-and-until that point, I was quickly convinced that Reclaim Arcade is going to be legend!

Recalim Arcade Design Development

I’ll save the details for another post given I should probably spend some time talking through the broader design of the space, but when I saw the specifics and we discussed the project both broadly and specifically I was convinced we are creating something really, really special. And I have been riding on that high ever since. The work is real, and we’re starting to feel the time crunch, but we knew what was ahead of us, and Tim Owens is a machine that won’t stop, can’t stop until everything is perfect. That’s why we rule! Avanti Reclaim! 


*It really is a brilliantly designed game, and I also bought a cocktail version of this game for personal use given I am getting old and need to sit down more often while playing 🙂 

† Admittedly it has atrocious gameplay, but the laserdisc graphics still hold a draw. But after trying it out here I would have to say it is near-on impossible to actually play it, and I would think twice before buying this or Space Ace. They play much better on the iOS, frankly.

Posted in Reclaim Arcade, video games | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Thinking about Mentorship

As this last day or two might suggest, I have finally started to settle in after a few weeks of travel. It’s not only been busy on the Reclaim Hosting front, per usual, but the intensity around Reclaim Arcade is ramping up. That project deserves its own blog post and then some, but suffice to say we are just two months away from our projected opening date, and what little hair I have left is currently endangered 🙂 It also takes me longer and longer to re-enter after a long stint away. My manic depression is particularly unstable when I find myself away from home for extended periods of time, so I have to pay more attention to that reality given it is one of the few hiccups I’ve consistently run into in an otherwise peaceful and balanced season of my life. But once I get back on the blog I know things are starting to settle down a bit, which makes me happy. Also, extended weekend getaways to Alto Adige for hiking and snowboarding never hurts my outlook on things either.

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Scenes from Val di Funes

A post shared by Jim Groom (@jim.groom) on

But I digress. I’ve been trying to actually write about my experience at the OE Global conference in Milan this past November, which was awesome for catching-up with friends old and new. I always relish the time I get to spend listening to Tom Woodward talk about the work he’s doing, and the site he created to share the tiny teaching tools he cranks out for VCU for his workshop is an absolute goldmine that I should have shared much sooner. 

Alas, world enough and time, but this post is testament it’s never too late. It was also awesome to catch up with my Swedish connection Jörg Pareigis who co-presented with Tom, it’s like we were back in Karlstadt having fika! Another highlight was sitting in on a session alongside Tom, Anne-Marie Scott, and Terry Greene listening to Jim Luke talk about the commons—it is a compelling framework for trying to make sense of open presently. But something I have been coming back to again and again is something Brian Lamb said while we were jumping from bar to bar trying to figure out a way to get one more last call before last call. Brian is always good at making me chew on things for a while, and during our far-ranging discussion about edtech (because whenever we are together we spend some fun time kicking the tires on that lemon) the idea of mentorship came up. In particular, and I am paraphrasing from an unreliable memory here, the question around whether or not folks of a certain age are doing the work of mentoring a new generation of edtechs.

It’s always hard for me to think of myself as “of certain age” (to quote Antonella) but I know, in retrospect, how crucial folks like D’Arcy Norman, Brian Lamb, Martha Burtis, Andy Rush, Zach Davis, Mikhail Gershovich, Luke Waltzer, Jerry Slezak, Gardner Campbell, Jon Udell, Alan Levine, Mike Caulfield, Tom Woodward and Matt Gold to name just a few have been while I was getting my feet in edtech. All those folks were crucial in their own way in helping me get a better sense of the field and what was (and was not) important. I remember arrogantly poking fun at blogging to Matt Gold in 2004, only to be an avid blogger myself in 2005. Or in 2004 when Zach Davis told me to read Stephen Downes’s blog if I wanted to get a sense of the field in order to get hired as an Instructional Technology Fellow at CUNY. Zach and Luke also got me up and running with my first WordPress site for a faculty member in 2004/2005 at Hunter College. Then there was Mikhail who helped me figure out photoshop and video compression as we played the role of blogfathers in early 2005. Or how D’Arcy Norman showed me how to blog about WordPress through his blogging about Drupal. Or the way in which Martha modeled working with faculty and truly theorizing the value of a toolbox like cPanel for edtech. Or when Brian himself linked to a post I wrote on the Abject during the early days of the bava which helped me realize the field was not simply limited to a physical office on a campus in Virginia. Woodward was simply up for anything remotely fun and that was awesome. Or when Gardner said just about anything. I could do this all day because, in fact, I enjoy doing it because the folks who got me excited about the possibilities of edtech changed my life, and I really love them for that. 

So, the question that Brian asked at a bar in Milan has stuck with me. What am I doing to get the next generation of edtechs equally excited about the field—warts and all. I think ds106 was good moment for that given I think I was briefly a mentor to Tim, but he quickly outshined me in every element of the job so I had to, in turn, become his mentee so I could learn how Domain of One’s Own might actually be created. It’s only gotten worse since then 🙂 But, I want to believe that Tim and I have tried to play this role with the folks at Reclaim Hosting, but before Brian raised the question I am not sure I was all that intentional about it. My logic being I have so many real and readily apparent faults that playing the role of mentor to anyone would be a fraud. I still believe this, but I also think it’s time to be more intentional with not only my learning but also my sharing and championing of folks coming up in the field. I can only play the hits for so long, right Brian? 🙂 So anyway, this month will try and be a return to form of featuring and championing some of the folks that have inspired me, in particular Lauren and Meredith at Reclaim Hosting, and even before that as students at UMW—they have ruled for near on 7 or 8 years in and out of the classroom. And more recently Lauren Heywood’s unbelievable awesome work with Coventry Learn—it has been a big inspiration for our own rethinking of DoOO at Reclaim Hosting, and I can’t thank her enough for being so generous with her work!

So, anyway, thanks Brian for continuing to push me to get over myself and look at the bigger picture, how can edtech be all bad if it brought you into my life you crazy bastard?! Don’t answer that anyone!

Posted in reclaim, Reclaim Learning | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Migrating WordPress without Access to Database or Core Files

One of the things I have been doing a lot of at Reclaim Hosting these days while the US sleeps is migrating accounts. We have a steady flow of fine folks moving to Reclaim, and one of the things we do is help them bring their content and domains along smoothly.

The other morning I ran into a situation wherein I couldn’t access either the database or core files of a WordPress site I was migrating so I went looking for a solution.* And while I was considering the Duplicator plugin, I was a bit wary given the recent exploit. Tim and Lauren pointed me to the All-in-One WP Migration plugin which was exactly what I needed.

The free version allows you to move both database and files of a site up to 515 MB. This worked for one of the two sites I was migrating, but the second was 518MB so I needed to access a premium addon plugin to finish the job. The add-on plugin allows for unlimited size downloads, and also allows you to upload the backup file the plugin creates via FTP so you can restore it directly from the plugin interface. I preferred this method because uploading the file via the web often runs in PHP upload size errors and timeout issues that often draw out the process unnecessarily, whereas the unlimited add-on plugin simplifies the process for big sites saving me a fair amount of time.

The All-in-One WP Migration plugin is a good plugin to have in your WordPress tool belt if you want a clean migration that takes all database settings, plugins, and themes and seamlessly migrates them to another WordPress site hosted elsewhere. I usually default to doing this with a MySQL export and an archive of core files, but if you find yourself without access to either (or not sure on how that process works manually), this plugin is an excellent option. I have not tried it on a WPMS site, yet but I think that would be the next logical step given getting core files and a database export for WPMS is far more involved process than a stand alone WordPress site. Anyone have experience on that front? Either way, it might be a good weekend experiment as I prepare for the #reclaimWP March madness..


*Although truth be told I could–but that is another story.

Posted in plugins, reclaim, Reclaim Learning, WordPress | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments