Yesterday I wrote about getting your own Sandstorm server up and running, and today I wanted to follow-up with some specifics about applications in Sandstorm. This should be a fairly short post because it’s really easy, but I’m really not into the whole brevity thing. As I mentioned yesterday, Sandstorm’s Application Market is really impressive and they have done an amazing job of integrating it into the server to make exploring and installing apps painless.
When you are in the Sandstorm dashboard you will see two areas: Apps and Grains.
Apps are just that, applications you can or have used. SO, for example, this is what the apps area looks like in my Sandbox dashboard.
A link to the App Market to install applications as well as those I have used, in this case Ghost, Hacker CMS, and WordPress. The other area of the dashboard is the section called Grains.
The Grain terminology is a bit confusing for me, I am not sure exactly what they mean by it. But I tend to think of these as instances of applications you have installed on your server. Clicking on anyone of those instances will bing you to the application. For example, if I click on the Look a Ghost blog link (which features an instance of the Ghost blog engine) I can edit and publish to that instance from within Sandstorm. The editor is effectively embedded in Sandstorm
Clean as a whistle. You’ll notice above the application you have some additional icons and menu items now.
On the uppermost admin bar you have the Look a Ghost blog text to the left which provides a space to change the title of this site. The (517KB) is the size of the application. The Share access link allows you to invite other users to access this application. In terms of the icons: the trash can deletes the application; the computer screen provides a debug log; the arrow enables you to download a backup; the recycle sign enables you to restart the application, and the key provides webkeys that enable you to connect an external app.
The admin bar below this provides access to creating new posts in the blogging software Ghost, as well as enables you to change the settings for Ghost. It also gives you the ability to connect your domain (more on this below), and the ability to view the site live. One of the things that is different about running apps in Sandstorm versus something like CPanel is the DNS. The URL for my Ghost site is the following dynamically created subdomain link: https://081nxt28267hab2fqvgn.altlab.sandcats.io/ Sandstorm is running DNS off of the URL Sandcats.io and provides folks who setup a server their own subdomain at something like altlab.sandcats.io. After that, applications are given dynamic URLs as a subdomain of the subdomain the gave you. Not the prettiest URL for public facing sites, but you have the option to map a domain as you can see in the Connect Your Domain tab:
So, if you have a domain like lovecats.io, you can map a series of applications on subdomains like ghost.lovecats.io, wordpress.lovecats.io, etc. And, to be painfully pedantic, the subdomain can be named whatever you like. So, you could have a number of these applications running off a subdomain of a domain of your choice through Sandstorm. Kinda cool. And the thing about Sandstorm that I like a lot is it’s just you and the applications. CPanel has a ton of overhead and clutter by comparison. Sandstorm’s interface is dead simple, and you know what they say about simple, right? It WINS!
Another interesting element of Sandstorm is how they abstract out certain elements of an application. Take, for example, WordPress on Sandstorm. Given they way things run on in terms of security and enabling applications to work within their system (I’m not totally 100% clear on the specifics as to why) you can’t automatically activate and run themes and plugins, you have to download them to your desktop and upload them manually. Similarly, you can’t add users through the application, rather this can only happen through Sandstorm. That said,this provides an interesting feature: the ability for any one to contribute to a WordPress site with just a shared link, not unlike Google Docs.
I’ve spent a little time creating and domain mapping a WordPress instance in Sandstorm for VCU’s ALT lab, so I’ll document that shortly as well.