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1. Build your own little cloud

Everybody seems to be searching for ways to integrate digital communication into their home-office environments or client/customer workflows. But many are not willing to pay huge monthly fees or rely on services like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Slack.

For smaller teams meetings, or webinars for people up to 6, their is an alternative! You can easily use Nextcloud and its integrated Talk application for chat & webrtc video/audio streaming capabilities. Combined with the calendar app this becomes a very effective and low-cost solution.

2. Nextcloud Talk

Nextcloud Talk is a fully self hosted audio/video and chat communication service. It features web and mobile apps and is designed to offer the highest degree of security while being easy to use.

Talk makes it easy to call customers and partners in one-to-one or group-scenarios. Users can invite external chat participants with an URL into public rooms. The chat enables participants to easily exchange messages, links and notes.

Share the content of a single window or a full desktop screen for presentations with chat-partners. Manage participants by inviting, muting or removing them. Schedule meetings and be notified when they start. A lobby is provided for guests to wait until the call starts.

Calls are end-to-end encrypted so no communication can be intercepted. Chat logs are stored securely on your own server.

The peer to peer nature of Talk does inflate network traffic, creating one incoming and sending stream per other participant. This places practical limitations on calls that depend on network capabilities.

A typical private Nextcloud Talk setup should handle dozens of calls with each up to 4-6 participants, more if all participants have a good network connection.

Github

3. All the benefits of using Nextcloud & Talk

  • 100% open source
  • Self-hosted so no leaking of metadata
  • Encrypted, peer-to-peer audio/video calls
  • WebRTC for cross-platform support
  • Individual and group calls & chat
  • Mobile apps for Android and iOS
  • Easy screen sharing
  • Mobile calls & chat with push notifications
  • Commands to enable integration with other tools
  • Webinars & public web meetings

4. Setting up Nextcloud

Nextcloud is part of many hosting offers and can often be installed with one single click. You will also find hosting providers, that are specialised on Nextcloud hosting and offer you a preinstalled setup to use.

But any decent hosting setup should be enough to roll out your own. Setting up Nextcloud is really easy, as it offers a simple guided installation process.

If you need help setting up your own private instance, get in touch and we can work something out. Depending on your server setup and apps you want, it should not take longer than 60-90 minutes to get it up and running.

Alex, Contact Me

5. STUN / TURN Server

Nextcloud Talk tries to establish a direct peer-to-peer (P2P) connection, thus on connections beyond the local network (behind a NAT or router), clients do not only need to know each others public IP, but the participants local IPs as well. Processing this, is the job of a STUN server. As there is one preconfigured for Nextcloud Talk, still nothing else needs to be done.

But in many cases, e.g. in combination with firewalls or symmetric NAT, a STUN server will not work as well, and then a so called TURN server is required. Now no direct P2P connection is established, but all traffic is relayed through the TURN server, thus additional (at least internal) traffic and resources are used.

Nextcloud Talk will try direct P2P in the first place, use STUN if needed and TURN as last resort fallback. Thus to be most flexible and guarantee functionality of your Nextcloud Talk instance in all possible connection cases, you most properly want to setup a TURN server. COTurn is an open source solution, that offers just that.

If you need to setup your own TURN Server I can help. There are pretty cost effective ways, to host your own.

Alex, Contact Me

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21. December 2019

Merry Christmas

Time to slow down and enjoy some time with family & friends.


I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

“Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All the best wishes.

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You might have heard about Structured Data, Schema.org and JSON-LD.  

Search engines read structured data and use it to enhance search engine results. Structured data helps search engines to understand and categorize page content.

Example

This structured data, in JSON-LD format, describes a simple Article.

Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet. But not all structured data endpoints are actually used by Google, Bing or other search engines yet.

Allowed Structured Data

Google provides a detailed overview of structured data allowed and used for search results.

There are basic enhancements you can use, like the Article structured data above. There are also many other more specific uses, like Video, LocalBusiness, Events, FAQ, Job Postings, Recipe and so on. Bing also provides a basic overview, but their documentation is scattered and feels incomplete.

How to integrate Structured Data

If you use a modern CMS, many structured data endpoints are already integrated out of the box (Article, Website, Logo, Person …).

Also modular content management systems often offer additional functionality through plugins, those help integrate structured data directly. Some do it better than others!

But if you really want to dive deep and integrate all those little things, structured data is still far more powerful when added manually. Especially things like events, products, job listings, courses, Q&A can greatly be enhanced by hand.

Alex@portalZINE

Validating Structured Data

Google and Bing offer validation tools for structured data. Both integrate it into their Webmaster Tools. You can also use the JSON-LD Playground to validate the JSON-LD itself or RDFa Play, Structured Data Linter, Facebook Debugger, Schema.org Generator and many other tools.

Need help?

I am a huge structured data fan and have been working with it for years now. I am constantly looking for new supported structured data endpoints, to enhance my own or customer websites & data.

Google constantly updates their documentation and highlights experimental structured data endpoints. Like Speakable for example, that highlights sections of a websites that are best suited for audio playback.

Fresh structured data helps to promote your content and enhance SEO, directly enhancing your discoverability and your search engine position. Your content becomes more meaningful for search engines, making it easier for them to promote it to the right potential user. It also ties into the GO GREEN concept, as you are reducing bounces of your website for users getting offered the wrong content.

Things like recipes and how-tos are already pushed to the top of the search index. A perfect way to promote your website and get noticed.

Have fun using or discovering structured data!

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I signed the Sustainable Web Manifesto a couple of weeks ago. The manifesto perfectly reflects how I have been handling my business and my projects.

I created a special “GO GREEN” subsection to talk about the topic in more detail and give you some more context about the areas I can help you with.

We all share and use the web, just as we all share and live on this planet. This manifesto is a public declaration of a shared commitment to create a sustainable internet.

https://www.sustainablewebmanifesto.com/
  1. CLEAN –  The services we provide and services we use will be powered by renewable energy.
  2. EFFICIENT –  The products and services we provide will use the least amount of energy and material resources possible.
  3. OPEN – The products and services we provide will be accessible, allow for the open exchange of information, and allow users to control their data.
  4. HONEST – The products and services we provide will not mislead or exploit users in their design or content.
  5. REGENERATIVE –  The products and services we provide will support an economy that nourishes people and planet.

“If we embrace sustainability in our work, we can create a web that is good for people and planet.”

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Together with my partners in crime (Dorit & Micha), we have finally opened our own personal online store.

We have been selling our single origin coffees (1st Single Malt Whisky Coffee, Basic – Single Origin Arabica, Kill me Quick Espresso -Single Origin Robusta), teas (Kräuterschorle – Kräutertee, Feuerkieker – Schwarztee) and rum (Fortune Teller – Double Aged Barbados Rum) using the Amazon Marketplace for the past 2 years.

No more Amazon

GreenApe has been a side project for the past years and I never wanted to deal with the maintenance of our own store. But its time to move on and do our own thing. Amazon has removed so many useful features over the years or added a new fee on top of other fees. Even though Amazon provides access to a large amount of customers, for small companies the fees build up quickly.

Our own

With our own store we can finally do bundles, coupons again and better optimized shipping. It will also allow me to better testdrive some new interesting features for my customers ;) Yeah its kind of my new toy or shopping lab! Its fun being able to work on untested new SEO features, structured data, merchant tools, shopping ads and tracking of all of those.

Locations

We have been selling in Germany for the past 2 years, but that might be changing in the future depending how well the new store shapes up :)

If you live in Germany, love good coffee, tee or rum … say Hi!

GreenApe – Makes Your Life Better
Homepage
Shop
Contact us

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Since I started in 2002, all iterations of portalZINE have been pure english content websites. You can read about the why on my services page.

I had potential customers in Germany complain about that a lot over the past few years. But your own website often suffers, while your customers get all the attention. That is how it is and how it should be!

Creating Multi – Language websites has been part of my services & portfolio for years, with an extreme application setup handling 13 languages in 2014 for the soccer world cup.

Multi-Language setups have come a long way and it was time to showcase that on my own setup as well. Not only to calm those potential customers, but to testdrive new functionality and possibilities on my own setup. portalZINE has always been my testlab for stability and new feature sets.

Most of my static pages are available in English and German now, the blog itself will remain pure English.

Need help setting up a multi language website, get in touch!

Cheers
Alex

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After some downtime, GreenApe is breathing again. I revived the brand with a good friend of mine and we will be reopening shop options shortly.

Michael and I have been friends for a long time. We have been working on many different projects over the years.

He launched GreenApe in 2011 and I helped him with his first steps. A couple of months ago we decided to merge our competences and expand what GreenApe offers and stands for.

From the website:The GreenApe brand was established in 2011. GreenApe’s career began with the 1st Single Malt Whisky Coffee.

As the first of its kind, our coffee is refined with Original Single Malt Whisky. To this day, he pampers many connoisseurs and gourmets with his unique taste. Now there is another reason to rejoice.

From now on, we are continuously expanding the GreenApe product world with several stylish gadgets and useful accessories. For you this means that you will be able to discover even more beautiful, special or practical things in the future.

GreenApe is all about lifestyle & leisure products, fun gadgets and unique food & drinks.

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RIPS is a static code analysis tool to automatically detect vulnerabilities in PHP applications.

By tokenizing and parsing all source code files RIPS is able to transform PHP source code into a program model and to detect sensitive sinks (potentially vulnerable functions) that can be tainted by user input (influenced by a malicious user) during the program flow.

Besides the structured output of found vulnerabilities RIPS also offers an integrated code audit framework for further manual analysis.

RIPS

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IFTTT

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”.

BUFFER

Buffer is a new and smarter way to share what you want to share on Social Media. You add updates to your Buffer queue and it will be posted for you well spaced out over the day – and at the best times.

RECIPE

  1. Make sure all the Buffer social media profiles are set to update by default.
  2. In IFTTT, make sure your Gmail and Feed channels are turned on.
  3. Create a new recipe
  4. For this, select the Feed Channel, and choose the New feed item box. Then, enter your blog’s RSS feed.
  5. Click the Create Trigger button.
  6. For that, select the Gmail Channel, and choose the Send an email box.
  7. For the To: address use your SECRET Buffer email address.
  8. For the Subject use {{EntryTitle}}.
  9. For the Body use {{EntryUrl}}<br>@now . Remove the @now, if you want to add new feed items to the Buffer queue and not send them imediately.
  10. Click the Create Action button, give your recipe a description and click the Create Recipe button.
  11. Now when a new item is added to you RSS feed, IFTTT will update Buffer , which will update all connected social media profiles.

 

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2. February 2016

LMS meets SaaS

As I said before, Learning Management is really taking off and I get many client requests to do some kind of  integration or custom solution for them.

In one of my latest articles I started listing solutions for WordPress, WordPress and the LMS universe.

But those solutions might not always be the best fit for your project. Many of them actually try too hard to be everything. The amount of cross linked functionality is getting insane and increases the point of failure.

In some cases a trimmed down solid solution might be the better way to go. SaaS (Software as a Service), part of the cloud trend, is providing more and more options, this includes the LMS arena. Stop worrying about the software and concentrate on your content again. The SaaS provider takes care of functionality, support, updates and delivery. This is nothing new, solutions like TalentLMS or Litmos LMS offer this for some time now.

Modern SaaS solutions provide Public APIs, that allow you to seamlessly integrate them with your current solution. So in case of a LMS, that part of your project could be handled by the SaaS provider, while e-commerce, social and other content areas remain under your full control.

One solution I am currently looking at is Intuo, which is a fresh startup out of Gent / Belgium. They provide a solid set of features and a clean API to handle single signons and content access. That would allow a seamless integration into WordPress for example :)

We are looking at a very crowded LMS market, but always nice to have options :)

Enjoy coding …

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