Losin’ It, Dead Zone, Videodrome, The Day After and more

That’s an attractive Beta shelf

The Reclaim Video storefront continues to flower as we bring in more titles.Over the last two weeks we added a bunch of titles such as Losin’ It and Dead Zone to knock a couple of titles off the 1983 wish list, the other three (The Hitcher (1986), Warlock (1989), and Wolf (1994)) came as part of the Ebay lot. 

We also got some new technology to track and share new arrivals:

We also scored an uncut VHS version of Cronenberg’s 1983 Videodrome—a foundational film for Reclaim Video. And to add to the vibe of Reagan 80s fear-mongering and paranoia we secured the 1983 made-for-TV gem The Day After.

Additionally, the shelves for our featured video rack (which we scored at Goodwill for $13) arrived, and it is pretty awesome.

So, it’s been an event couple of weeks leading up to the unveiling of Reclaim Video’s website and promotional video at OER18. Reclaim Video is going public 🙂 

Posted in Reclaim Video | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

This WP User’s Capability Issues

In a post I wrote a couple of days ago I made a plea for help with a WordPress Multisite issue that was plaguing me. Within 24 hours it was solved, it’s like Reclaim Hosting—but in blog comments 🙂 The issue was after migrating bavatuesdays out from under a WordPress Multisite setup into its own blog, I no longer had the ability to add new plugins and themes through the dashboard. I could do everything else, and I was stumped. I tried adding a brand new admin user with a fresh wp_user and wp_usermeta tables, but to no avail. Turns out, the issue was that related to user capabilities defined in wp_options. Boone Gorges spelled it out the the comments: 

It could be that your ‘administrator’ role doesn’t have the ‘install_plugins’ capability. This happens sometimes during the migration from Multisite, since on Multisite administrators cannot install plugins. You can check by examining the wp_user_roles value in wp_options, or with a plugin like https://wordpress.org/plugins/user-role-editor/. You can reset role caps with wp role reset administrator.

And the word on the street is that he looked like this while leaving that comment on his keyboard:

That was it, indeed, and Pat Lockley and Tom Woodward alluded to the very same thing (rich as kings on the bava!). Had no idea about wp_user_roles row in WP_options, and when I installed that plugin I was able to fix everything with a few clicks:

I just clicked and updated delete_plugins and install_plugins capabilities (as well as the install_themes and delete_themes for themes)  which fixed the values in wp_user_roles and I was back in business. Thank you Boone, Pat, and Tom for helping me out —you all rule. And now I can push forward with the rest of my blog downsizing. 

Posted in WordPress | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Uncanny EdTech

It’s funny how things align, just the other day Tom and I were chatting about some old presentations, particularly the Ed-Tech Survivalist’s “swamp of knowledge,” and I was thinking this is very much inline with my best memories of talking about EdTech. Then, with the news of radio legend Art Bell’s passing,  Brian Lamb tweeted about a presentation we did together with Tom Woodward in 2009 that was using an Art Bell-inspired, conspiracy-laden radio show as its motif. The idea was simple: the radio host’s guest is a time traveller from the future who turns out to be selling education insurance to those poor saps from the past. I blogged it back in November of 2009, and it it one of the several presentations we did for NMC that were pretty outlandish, bordering on bad performance art. It was when Alan Levine and Rachel Smith were running the Second Life conferences, and it retrospect they were pretty wild. I mean look at the screenshots below….

A radio show being broadcast from Second Life with a virtual TV monitor representing the Education insurance salesman from the future—as well as the random callers. What’s more, all framed within a sandy, cactus-filled arena that happens to have an old-school pay phone—that’s pretty bizarre. I never thought I would be looking back on Second Life fondly, but there you have it—the passing of time truly warps one’s perception of what was. And the audio is pure gold, trust me 🙂

Uncanny Learning

 I listened to the talk again this morning after almost 9 years, and I was struck by a couple of things. First and foremost how awesome the frame Brian Lamb came up with for the whole thing. His fandom for Art Bell paid dividends, and couching the whole thing as a edtech conspiracy radio show was perfect, and his intro and outro set the stage brilliantly.* Additionally, Tom’s whole idea of couching the episode around an education insurance salesman was a really smart way to get at a bunch of issues of the day: the privatization of education; the rhetoric of disruption; the empty promises of open; the danger of massive scaling; the militarization of schools; the insanity of educational costs and access; etc. He scripted most of the key points there, and they hold up surprisingly well.

In fact, it is a good reminder for me that while playful and experimental, it was a pretty trenchant critique of the way in which we were off-loading education to the corporate harbingers of Web 2.0 in the name of convenience and “free.” The conceit was pretty simple: you’ll have to pay sooner or later for the deal with the devil given the ways things will go in the future—so it’s high time to buy education insurance. The funnest part of the presentation for me was constantly returning the conversation back to the fears and needs of the callers: “you invested a lot in your mind, doesn’t it make sense to protect that valuable resource you spent so much money on?” —which then becomes a seamless segueway for yet another pitch for education insurance. I loved that. I was personally convinced of the value of educational insurance by the end of the talk. And when you realize the insanity of the US system that burdens students with student loan debt as high as six figures—none of it seems comical. In fact, the student debt crisis is still hanging over our head, and we still have our heads in the sand about it—and neither MOOCs nor OERs are nearly enough to save us from it.

In terms of alignment, yesterday I invited by Jeff Nugent to talk to the educational technology folks at Colgate yesterday wherein I re-visited some of the practical innovations I was a part of at UMW: the Bluehost experiment, UMW Blogs, ds106, Domains, etc. And one of the things I came away with from that talk was that there was a counter cultural ethos to the ways things were being done more broadly in ed-tech, and that was often linked to blogging and personal spaces on the web. We wanted faculty and students to own their work, and by extension their data, and we wanted that work to be connected in some real ways to both the web and the institutions we supported. So rather than the great purging of personal university webspace and re-branding efforts of Web Communication departments that gentrified the EDU web, we kept alive the spirit of the university as a space where the personal web mattered and was valued. Not sure if this is just more retrospective self-congratulation on my part—it very well could be, and I certainly have a unique tolerance for such reasoning—but it does resist my own tendency to remember that everyone in ed-tech from 2004-2016 was simply caught up uncritically in the social media orgy that was Web 2.0.

Anyway, special thanks to Brian for posting the audio on the Abject, something that I would have given up for lost given the NMC site has been shuttered. But then again, once he posted it, Alan is suggesting he might even have the video—and I am loving the Second Life aesthetic these days:

I still love the blog-based web.

*Also interesting that it is a radio show given what’s to come in 2011 with ds106radio.

Posted in presentations | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

My Advancing Web Years: Issues with Trading my WPMS Mansion for a Florida Condo

Tim Treadwell’s Old Florida Collection

I just got off a call with Tom Woodward on an unrelated matter, and mentioned in passing an issue I’ve been having after moving sites from my WordPress Multisite mansion into stand-alone installs. He likened it to my packing up and letting go of the big old house and trading it in for a condo in Florida. It would make a fun video, and I could play the old guy pretty convincingly these days 🙂

Anyway, the issue I am having besides the usual back aches and broken links of an empty web nester, is that for the four sites I have moved out from my WPMS setup, I can’t add plugins and themes from the repository for any of them. In fact, the option is not even there:

I tried cleaning out the wp_usermeta table and starting fresh given it seemed like a capabilities/permissions issue for the users, basically not giving them access to the WordPress Multisite Network Admin options. This would make sense given bavatuesdays was one of many sites within the setup on its own network, but even after cleaning out the wp_user and wp_usermeta tables and starting fresh, I can’t add plugins or themes through the dashboard (FTPing them work fine).I turned off blogs.dir and mu-plugins, deleted everything in wp-config.php referencing the mutlisite, deleted sunrise.php, cleaned-up .htaccess, disabled then re-activated all plugins, and after all that still no love. I understand this is kind of an obscure problem, but was hoping someone might have some ideas given I am stumped at this point. I can’t fully enjoy my advancing web years when all the appliances are not working correctly in the new condo.

Update: This will be its own post here shortly, but for now I just want to note it was an issue with the wp_user_roles value in wp_options, as Boone pinpointed it in the comments below. In fact, Tom, Boone, and Pat all pointed towards capability issues with user privileges, and I just didn’t realize that was also handled in wp-options. I can now add themes and plugins from the repository cause of some very awesome folks who still use the web for good 🙂 The plugin User Role Editor Boone linked to made it dead simple to add the privileges for adding themes, plugins, etc. back for specific users, but more on that on the coming post. 

Posted in WordPress, wordpress multi-user | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Sequel Pro’s SQL Inserts

Another tool I’ve  been becoming more familiar with for sites that don’t have phpMyAdmin to access the MySQL databases is Sequel Pro. It’s an open source application for managing SQL databases on the Mac.  I have come to appreciate it in newfound ways after the UNLV migration; it is to databases management what Transmit has been to moving around files via FTP.  Anyway, one think I discovered it can do is copy the structure of a database table, such as wp_users:

And then insert it as SQL code in something like PHPMyAdmin:

Sequel Pro does all SQL query structuring for me, which is awesome. Was a nice little bonus to discover, and another trick for the toolbox.


Posted in reclaim, sysadmin | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

cPanel Minimalism

We recently migrated UNLV’s faculty websites to a Domain of One’s Own environment. I learned a lot during that migration which in turn helped motivate me to finally clean up the bavatuesdays multi-network site I’ve been putting off for over a year. Well, dabbling a bit every morning last week and yesterday, that is officially done. All sites on the bavatuesdays domain have been migrated and archived—I can take a short break before going after the jimgroom.net network. 

In the mean time I have been working on a talk for OER18 wherein Tim and I will be talking about hosting beyond the LAMP environment. Applications that run in other server environments that require Node.js, Ruby, etc. would be nice to offer, but integrating them into cPanel is not necessarily easy. I played with hosting Jekyl from a Reclaim account, but that does require a bit more command line work—which is often a non-starter. But alternatives to cPanel such as Cloudron that allow you to spin up containers that seamlessly manage the application’s server requirements, so all you are doing is choosing a domain to run it on. But we have also been playing with integrating SPLOTs more seamlessly into Reclaim’s offering, so there are several options, rather than any one way forward. Not to mention, cPanel and CLoudLinux are both working to make it easier to run Node.js and Ruby apps in their environment, so it may not necessarily be beyond LAMP at all—but rather within or alongside.

All of this brings me back to UNLV’s Faculty Sites, which have really paired down cPanel to the absolute minimum: WordPress, the file manager, and backups. That’s it. Minimalist, faculty can choose between WordPress or a DIY old school HTML site using the file manager to upload files (or FTP). It does kind of beg the question that I hear all too often about it being overwhelming, or there is too much to learn. No, it’s pretty much your own instance of WordPress, and those little files known as HTML (and a few links) that made the web possible. So, the future is as much within a LAMP environment, as it is beyond LAMP. 

Posted in open education, presentations, reclaim | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Securing the bava

Well, it took a while, but all pages and content on this blog is now forced over https. This was one of the motivations for getting bavatuesdays in its own WordPress install, and this weekend I finally pulled the trigger. it was pretty easy, I installed Let’s Encrypt, added the force https code to the htaccess file, and ran the Insecure Content Fixer plugin. The last one did not seem to get everything, so from command line I ran the following in the bavatuesdays.com directory via terminal to make sure all images load over https:

That cleaned up over 12,000 links, and gave me a shiny green “Secure” lock icon:

I’m not entirely sure bavatuesdays needed to be https given no one logs in or out except me (although I guess that’s one big reason), and it’s not highly sensitive material in my mind. At the same time, the idea of encrypting one’s website is reasonable and getting into that habit with all our web properties seems sensible. But Dave Winer’s recent rationale for not going to https makes a strong case for resisting being forced by Google to play their game:

So now Google points a gun at the web and says “Do as we say or we’ll tell users your site is not secure.” What they’re saying doesn’t stand up to a basic bullshit-test. There’s nothing insecure about my site. Okay I suppose it’s possible you could get hurt using it, I’ll grant you that. But I could get hurt getting up out of my chair and going into the kitchen to refill my coffee cup. Life is insecure. When Google says my old site is insecure what they really mean is “This is our platform now, and you do as we say or your site won’t work.”

This, in turn, made me think perhaps securing the bava may be my kowtowing to the peer pressure/stigma to get the green icon in Chrome. I’m not sure this is my revolution when all is said and done-there are points to be made on both sides. Choosing to run an https site versus being forced reminds me a bit of helmet and seatbelt laws for your website. 25 years later we take putting on a seatbelt for granted, there is no fight in me on that front  anymore cause it just makes sense. Wonder if that will prove the case for https? Not sure, but for the meantime all content is being served over https, and if not necessary, there is something righteous about feeling secure on the web in this day and age 🙂

Posted in bavatuesdays | 4 Comments

Bavatumblr Archived and Retired

I had a 3 year run on Tumblr. It lasted between July 2012 and August 2015. I loved Tumblr for the GIFs, the film screenshots, and the digital art more generally. I could and did spend hours just scrolling through certain sites, and the attention to old school aesthetics was impeccable by many of the folks I followed there.  The IWDRM site had a lot to do with my Tumblr affair, but I remained pretty much a dilettante—just dipping in and out and grabbing other peoples stuff. But when Tumblr was good—it was the best of the graphic web. 


But time goes on, and nothing gold can stay. My abandoning of Tumblr was a slow process, and given I never had any strong network ties there is was relatively painless, but I would miss all the images, videos and web art I collected there, so I started an archive site for my Tumblr blog back in 2013, knowing early on the day would come. Well, the day came a while ago, and I am just finalizing things now. I ran Site Sucker on the site that I recently migrated, and have saved both the local links and the Tumblr links for posterity, so almost every post on my Tumblr has two on the archive. I am keeping the WP files and database in the rare case I just to revive it, but for now I can create my own living Tumblr with Reclaim Video 🙂

Posted in Archiving, art, Tumblr | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Organizational Linkrot

I’ve been going through the paces of trying to keep the bava in relatively good shape, and one of the things I forgot was a few random audio and video files that were outside the standard WPMS blogs.dir upload folder. While cleaning these up I noticed an audio file of an EDUCAUSE Now show from July of 2008. It was about data-rich blogging, and UMW Biology professor Steve Gallik was talking about the way he was using blog syndication to have students do their labs. I had a copy of the audio on my blog, and I found the original post to make sure it was embedding. While doing this I noticed that every EDUCAUSE link in the post was broken. The link to the 2008 Southern Regional conference, the link to Gerry Bayne’s personal page on EDUCAUSE, the link to the EDUCAUSE Now show, the screencast of Steve’s work, everything. 

But I did notice the UMW Blogs link is still solid. In fact, Kris Schaffer just blogged about the amazing work DTLT has done to clean-up and preserve this living archive of ed-tech at UMW spanning more than a decade. This is remarkable stewardship of an institution’s online past, and stands in stark contrast to professional organizations like NMC, which I blogged about before, and their complete disregard for preserving any of the numerous events they ran, not to mention the work of the people that were part of them. That is terrible stewardship, and it even got worse when they folded and the entire website was gone. That’s right, GONE!

In terms of 2008, EDUCAUSE is not faring much better, I couldn’t find any of those links through a Google search, I was figuring maybe the net.educause.edu was the issue, but I cannot find any of it at www either. I did see the Wayback Machine has some snapshots from 2008 which I reproduced here, but the links to any media don’t seem to work. And while the service the Internet Archive does is invaluable, shouldn’t organizations also do their part?
A good example of this is the way the folks at IT Conversations archived all of their amazing discussions through the Internet Archive so they will be maintained and live on as a web resource. Fact is, this was a big part of why the the idea of bringing blogging platforms on campus to prevent them from becoming an after-thought running off the side of your desk, but something the organization would support and, in turn, think-through their longevity as an institutional resource. This is also why the personal cyberinfrastructure was often seen as an alternative to spaces like Facebook in the academic sphere, Not only to encourage the building of a sense of an academic self outside the box store chains, but also to give more control and privacy over this work.While I do think that the personal archive can contribute back— the very act of blogging that EDUCAUSE conference in 2008 kept at least two of those conversations alive on the web—-I also think organizations should be prioritizing the consistency of their web archives.

I often think the fact that bavatuesdays is my individual home online makes all the difference. Do organizational fluctuations and turnover result in such web mismanagement?  Maybe, but then UMW’s DTLT has an entirely new team, yet that work has been done because there’s a broader sense of the value of the digital work done as part of the last decade at that institution’s history. That’s crucial, and with both personal and communal sites running on an organization service like UMW Blogs preservation and sense of consistency and history to document the intricacies of transformation of teaching and learning over the last 15 years becoming something more than a maintenance issue, they become an archive.

It can be tempting to discount the work with blogs and wikis over the last 10+ years as just part and parcel of a broader social media orgy or, worse, outdated. Much of it was trying to establish local open source alternatives to these corporate spaces in order to harness the power of these tools while providing a buffer from the trappings of not only the LMS, but also Facebook and Google. Arraigned, indeed 🙂

Posted in Archiving, UMW Blogs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberating the bava from Multi-Network Oppression

10 years ago I moved bavatuesdays into what was then a WordPress Multiuser (WPMU) site, a setup which would now be known as a multi-network WordPress Multisite (WPMS) instance. I had the idea back in March of 2008 to take all my different sites, such as jimgroom.net, bavatuesdays.com, planetmiles.net, etc., and move them under one WPMU roof WPMU at wpmued.org. But the kicker was they would not just be mapped domains, but each would be in its own network that could have other sites within it, such as radicalreuse.bavatuesdays.com running on the same WPMU instance. It was fun stuff, and it held up quite well for a decade.

That said, as time went on many of the sites needed to be archived, and eventually many of the plugins running this setup were woefully outdated. Not only was my blog’s error log ridiculously active, but I was running into issues getting my site running cleanly over https. So, in the end, I decided to pull everything apart. I appreciate the convenience of having all my sites running off a single WordPress—it made updates to new versions, plugins and themes dead simple. But, in the end, the multi-network was overkill. Bavatuesdays was the only site that was truly active, and just about everything else was long overdue for some Sitesucker action. So when the setup started getting in the way of some fairly simple and important things like securing the site, I figured it was high time to invest in an overhaul. So, this post documents the beginnings of that with bavatuesdays (I still have a few more networks within that WPMU to clean out).

A clean slate for the bava

As I mentioned and documented a few posts ago when working on the UNLV migration, we had the process for moving individual sites within a WPMS into their own WordPress instances down to a science.  I pointed the domain away from the WPMS instance to a new directory called bavatuesdays.com and installed a blank WordPress there. I then dropped all the database tables and imported the SQL export I got from Sequel Pro with the appropriate tables (namely all the tables for the blog with ID 30—which was bavatuesdays—as well as the wp_user and wp_usermeta tables). [Before importing the SQL file I did a quick find and replace of all the tables defined by the blog ID, i.e. wp_30_ , with wp_ .] I also downloaded the entire WPMS site locally so I could quickly upload the files, themes and plugins using rsync. Below is the command line code for that, which was run from the wp-content directory of the downloaded WPMU files on my desktop:

After that, I did a few find and replace commands to clean up the database paths and URLs throughout the blog in the directory where the new WordPress site lives on the server:

And finally, I got rid of all extra users and their metadata from wp_user and wp_usermeta using the following commands in the SQL section of MyPHPAdmin (my main admin account has the ID of 1, which is why this is the only user not deleted):

The final thing I had to do is clean up the names in the wp_usermeta table. The privileges row was not giving me proper access and I realized there were a bunch of instances of the wp_X_ (where X = a number) that seemed to be preventing me from accessing all elements of the dashboard, so I cleaned up a bunch of those manually by changing the tables references back to wp_. I have to look into this in more detail as to why, but it did solve my issue.

Like a second marriage to renew vows

And for the first time in over a decade, the bava is running on a single instance of WordPress. I did the same for all the subsites of bavatuesdays, namely festival.bavatuesdays.com, tumblr.bavatuesdays.com, and radicalreuse.bavatuesdays.com. I don’t think there are any other subsites under the bava worth saving, and I will most likely convert these 3 into stand alone HTML site using Sitesucker given they’re all inactive at this point. I really enjoy doing this kind of thing, it makes me feel good to do some technical upkeep on a space I have put so much time and energy into over the last 13 years, it’s almost like fixing things around an old house (another favorite past time) or mowing the lawn, there is a certain satisfaction in these things for me, and in that way the bava.blog just keeps on giving?

Posted in bavatuesdays, WordPress, wordpress multi-user, wpmu, wpmued | Tagged , | 3 Comments