Installing Tendenci on the Rackspace OpenStack Cloud Hosting Platform

##### UPDATE: this post is partially outdated. Please go to https://tendenci.readthedocs.org for the most recent installation instructions. #####

Tendenci has been open source for about 8 months, and we’re really excited to announce new options for the pro-open source community.  We have been testing Tendenci installations in other hosting environments to give you more freedom to choose how you host and maintain your Tendenci association website.

Tendenci Open Source Hosting Anyone Can Setup

This past week, our programming team wrote some scripts that make it easier to deploy and install Tendenci on other hosting environments outside of our own in-house managed hosting. Now, you can install Tendenci on Cloud hosting platforms like Linode and Rackspace in minutes without needing to be super-technical.

You just need to have root access to your server and a host provider that has the option to run versions 11.10 or 12.04 of the Ubuntu  open source operating system on the server. You’ll find the full technical spec’s required in this Help File on Tendenci Open Source Hosting.

This blog post is the first in a series of posts we’ll be writing so that you can set-up a Tendenci website on a server, even if you don’t have a computer science degree.  Stay tuned for more Tendenci Hosting Guides and email me if you have a hosting company you think we should write a guide for.

How to Install Tendenci on Rackspace Cloud Hosting

I wanted to find out what was involved in installing a Tendenci site on Rackspace’s open source Cloud Hosting platform, OpenStack. I’ve never used Rackspace, and my experience in managing website hosting falls more in the blogger realm with hosting platforms for WordPress like Dreamhost and Bluehost.  I was surprised at how easy the entire process ended up being, and I had a live, functional Tendenci Community website on a Rackspace cloud server in less than two hours – without having to bug my programming team.

If I can do it, I bet anyone can! Here are the steps I took (along with some explanations to technical details I learned during the process) to install a Tendenci website on Rackspace’s open source Cloud Hosting…

 Step 1: Research Rackspace’s Cloud Hosting Options

I found Rackspace’s support documents to be really simple and straightforward.  However, I did get a little confused trying to figure out which hosting package to select. To save you some time, here’s my breakdown of your options with Rackspace cloud hosting and my recommendations.

Rackspace offers 3 different Cloud Hosting service levels (prices start at around $20/month):

  1. Regular Cloud Hosting
  2. Private Cloud Hosting
  3. Hybrid Cloud Hosting

You’ll want to take the time to read more about the different plans and their costs, and write down questions you have as you go and you can send those questions to Rackspace’s support team before you sign-up. Rackspace has a great “Hosting 101” Resource Library of Articles that explain the different pieces to hosting in the cloud to help answer any beginner questions.

For most of you, you’ll probably want to opt-in for the Regular Cloud Hosting, which is the option I selected to set-up my Tendenci site on Rackspace.  If you don’t have someone on your staff to manage your IT, then I recommend you consider adding the Managed Cloud Hosting package that Rackspace offers for $100 a month.  Rackspace will manage the technical daily tasks like server maintenance, nightly backups and more.  You can learn more about what’s included in a managed hosting solution in this chart: http://www.rackspace.com/managed_hosting/dedicated_servers.

We include these managed hosting services with our Tendenci’s Community Hosting plans to ensure your website environment is healthy and in top performance. If you’re hosting your website on your own, you’ll want to make sure someone (either your hosting provider or an in-house IT team) is providing ongoing maintenance and security updates.

Step 2: Create an Account

Once you’ve selected the cloud hosting package that’s right for you, the next step is to signup with Rackspace by creating your account.  To signup, just go to https://cart.rackspace.com/cloud/ and start completing the fields.  You’ll need to have a credit card handy because Rackspace does request your billing information up front.

I didn’t have any trouble signing up and creating my account with Rackspace, and found the process to be really fast to complete.

After you sign-up, you’ll get an email and an on screen message stating that someone from Rackspace will be calling you in a few minutes at the phone number you provided to validate your new account. I received a phone call within 5 minutes of setting up my account and the process on the phone took about the same amount of time. After the phone call, I logged into my new Rackspace account and had full access to my Cloud Hosting Next Generation dashboard.

Step 3: Create a New Server

After you login, you’ll need to create your first server. You’ll need some information about the environment Tendenci needs to have:

  • minimum of 256MB RAM
  • Ubuntu 12.04 (or 11.10) operating system
  • recommended minimum of 1GB disk space for installing and this number will grow as you add more photos, graphics, and users to your website

Rackspace has a great help file on the full details behind creating a new server: http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/article/managing-my-server that I followed and, in about 10 minutes, I had a message on my screen showing my server was being set-up and then I was given the login password and get started.

Here’s screenshots and the steps I took to create my first Rackspace server:

    1. Click the button to “Create Server”

    1. Name your server and select a data center location from the drop down menu

    1. Scroll through the list of operating system “Images” (an Image refers to the operating system you’d like Rackspace to install on your server) – in this case, you want to scroll down to find Ubuntu 12.04.

    1. Next, You’ll select the amount of RAM you want.  The minimum is 512MB and that will suffice for most small Tendenci websites.

  1. Then, push the “Create Server” button at the bottom of the page and Rackspace will set-up your server.  This process takes about 15-20 minutes, so go grab a cup of coffee or check your email and come back to the page in a few minutes.

Bonus Tips on Cloud Hosting Costs

Cloud hosting pricing can be somewhat confusing and here’s some tips to be aware of when you’re estimating your hosting costs:

  1. Different server configurations have different costs, and so adding things like additional RAM or storage space will increase your monthly costs.  Rackspace has a pricing chart online that shows the rates for servers depend http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/pricing for you to check out.
  2. Rackspace estimates its pricing by the hour and then estimates the monthly pricing based on 730 hours/month.  You’ll want your website up and running 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days/year and 366 days on leap years.  Your monthly pricing may be a little higher sometimes when months have 31 days and, therefore more than 730 hours.  For most websites, this will only be a few dollars difference from month to month.
  3. Basic Cloud Hosting with Rackspace doesn’t include things like your website Domain name registration fee, email accounts, or most server maintenance and backup services.

Step 4: Install Tendenci on Your Rackspace Server

Once your server is set-up, you can install Tendenci.  This is where you’d use the install scripts, and this is also the most technical step in the process.

Depending on if you’re using a MAC or a PC, you’ll need to use different tools to remotely login to your server and deploy the installation scripts that will upload  Tendenci’s software to run on your server. If you’re using a MAC, then you should have an application called “Terminal” that you can search for in spotlight.  You’ll open up terminal and remotely login to your Rackspace server using the IP address listed on your server’s control panel dashboard:

Rackspace recommends PuTTY for Windows PC users and you can download the tool for free on their website: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty.

After you’ve logged in with SSH to your server, you can install Tendenci using the deployment scripts and this process takes about 20 minutes of waiting (ready for that second cup of coffee?) while the software packages are installed on your Rackspace Cloud server.

Once this is finished, you have just one more step and then you can login to your Tendenci website and start customizing your layout and theme.

Step 5: Set-Up Your DNS

After Tendenci is installed on your server, you can view your live website by going to the 9 digit IP4 Public address.  This number is listed on your server profile page, and will look something like 101.01.10.01.  If you were to paste your IP4 address into your web browser, you’d be directed to your website.  However, most likely – you want to be able to type in your custom domain URL and visit your website instead of using a 9 digit string of numbers.

To do this, you’ll use the Rackspace Cloud Control Panel to add your website’s custom domain name to the DNS settings.  Rackspace has an excellent help file in their knowledge center that shows you the steps to creating and managing new DNS records: http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/article/creating-a-dns-records-for-cloud-servers-next-generation-control-panel.

I own the domain http://worthypr.com and I wasn’t using it for another site, so I followed Rackspace’s instructions on how to transfer a domain name and in about 5 minutes, I had setup the worthypr.com DNS settings.

After I installed Tendenci on the server, I then went back and created a new record in the DNS settings so that the url http://tendenci.worthypr.com would direct visitors to my Tendenci website IP address.  It can take a few hours for your DNS settings to propagate and take effect, and so you may need to check back every couple of hours to see if the DNS transfer worked correctly.

Now, you should be all set-up and ready to go! We’re hard at work testing and documenting different hosting platforms with Tendenci to give you more choices – if you have questions about installing a site on Rackspace or another Cloud provider, let us know via a comment below or email me and we’ll find answers for you.

Post Django Dash 2012 Recap

We did it. Django Dash for our second year in a row. A little different, but still memorable.

From home

This year we spent the majority working from the comfort of our own homes.

Thanks to Schipul and our decision to move toward a remote work lifestyle we were able to easily face this year’s competiton in style aka in our jammies.

If anything this saved us valuable travel and setup time.

Lessons learned

I said this last year, but I’ll say it again this year; because apparently we did not learn our lesson.

Make as many decisions as possible before the competition. Think roadmap or dare I say clipboard of fun.

One of our greatest strengths is our team. We work together every workday, this competition was no different. I can only imagine the stop-and-go speed of competing on a team that doesn’t know each other.

Not the time to learn

This year I spent some time on two things I’ve only spent a couple of minutes on in the past. The Twitter Bootstrap project and Class Based Views. While my colleagues spent their time learning about Google authentication and the interim their experiencing as they adopt new technologies.

Competition time is definitely not the time to learn new things. It’s just so hard not to. You find yourself inspired and when inspiration strikes all you want to do is strive, learn new things and create.

In the case of Google authentication, it had to be learned.  Our project was dependent on it, as always; it’s amazing what you can do when you have to.

I don’t foresee this habit waning any time soon. If anything I look forward to it. I learned a lot of useful things this weekend and I’m left wanting more. Give me that feeling anyday.

Veering from the original mission

Early Sunday morning we found ourselves having to make a choice. A choice between accumilating more points by submitting more commits and focusing on specific code requirements such as standards and creating tests. Or making a product that might actually provide some value to many in the near future.

We chose the latter. The idea of our project actually being useful at more than just collecting points is an honor. With this in mind we refocused and put effort into submitting a finished product that’s worth demoing.

We’ll be demoing our finished 48 hour project to the office and get our first ouside perspective. No matter what people say I’m not-so-secretly wishing we can keep up this momentum and continue improving our project.

What did you build, tell me already!?

Without getting into too much detail – at this point in time – it’s best summarized here. http://theoldmail.com

You can sign up for the site now and take it for a spin. Keep in mind that this was 48 hours of code. You might find some quirks and so-called missing features.

What about the competition?

It’s been said that we get our results some time this week; but as I mentioned before we’re more excited about the project itself and what it can bring to others.

It’s open sourced

One of the rules of the Django Dash competition is that the project itself must remain open sourced. So feel free to take a glance at our code on github.com and fork the code if you’d like to start contributing.

Tendenci Admin Navigation Gets a New Look Plus Learn When to Upgrade Your Website

We’ve been busy little Web Bees the past week and you’ll find a bunch of new features and updates to your Tendenci websites.  To highlight a few of our recent updates:

  • updated custom forms with the ability to simply drag and drop to rearrange your fields
  • added additional permissions settings to job boards, directories, and memberships
  • opened up our plugin app manager to give Site Admins the ability to manage and add new plugins.  (The first plugin we’ve released for free is our Videos Plugin – Here’s How to Install it!)

Check out all of the latest updates on our Software Updates page, updated weekly.

New Blue Tendenci Admin Navigation Menus!

Last week we surprised our Tendenci Enterprise and Tendenci Community site admins with new Admin Nav Menu colors.  Why? We are working to make it easier for our clients to know what version of the software you are using and your feedback was that the blue was a better color for your websites than the previous red color.

 What Does it Mean?

If your Top Bar Admin Nav Menu is a solid dark blue and looks like this:

 

… then you are on the Tendenci Enterprise version of our software.  Tendenci Enterprise websites have a custom theme and your software updates and hosting services are managed entirely by Schipul – The Web Marketing Company.

If you have a light blue admin bar that looks like this:

… then you are on the Tendenci Community version of our software.  Tendenci Community websites are virtually identical to Tendenci Enterprise in their software codebase.  The primary difference is that Tendenci Community websites use a template theme instead of a custom theme.  Your software updates and hosting services are managed entirely by us.

If you do not have a top bar Admin menu at all, and when you login you see a dashboard that looks like this:

… then you are on our previous version of Tendenci (Tendenci 4.0).  We released the newest version of Tendenci (Tendenci 5.0) about 18 months ago and we recommend you begin planning to migrate your Tendenci 4.0 website as soon as possible.  We’ve talked about this before in other blog posts and we 100% understand that costs and other factors make the migration a challenge for some of our clients.

To help you with your decision of when to migrate and how to budget for it, we’re offering a free report with personalized details about the costs and timeline involved with migration for your website and organization.  We’ll also include free recommendations on ways you can improve your web marketing now with your current website.

You can learn more about the process of upgrading your website CMS to the latest software version in the recent news article: Tendenci Offers Free Report to Help Answer the Question “Is It Time to Update Your Website?.

What New Changes are on the Horizon?

Great question!  We are always looking at ways to add new features, more functionality, and improve the user accessibility of our Tendenci CMS.  Here are just a few of the awesome updates our programming team has planned this summer to make Tendenci work better for you:

  • Easier application process for your site visitors applying to become Corporate Members
  • Updates to Custom Forms to make this module even more versatile
  • Increased Functionality for Tendenci Community to auto-complete site settings during creation based on sign-up information
  • More ways to manage and organize online invoices and payments made through your Tendenci website payment gateway
  • More Print and Export to PDF options for content on the site like Pages and Membership applications

Want Something Not on the List?

Our products are customer-driven and we keep a priority queue for development based entirely on the features and modules with the most client requests.  Send us your feature suggestions and help us make Tendenci the perfect CMS platform for your organization’s website!

Questions and Comments?

We love to hear from you so please leave your comments below or contact us with your questions!

For our Tendenci 4 clients: I encourage you to complete our Is It Time to Migrate? form if you are wondering whether or not you can afford to upgrade your website or should start setting aside the budget for a new website soon.

Come check out our latest Training Videos on Tendenci’s Memberships ModuleCorporate Memberships, and Tendenci Community set-up.

Open Source Technology from the NonProfit Point of View – Houston NetSquared’s April Topic

On Tuesday, I had the honor of co-hosting this month’s Houston NetSquared meetup featuring Jeff D. Frey, the Web services manager in Rice University’s IT Department.  Jeff’s role at Rice is to help all the different departments within the university as well as nonprofits in the Houston community identify the best software tools and then install and integrate them.

Jeff spoke to the members of the  Houston NetSquared on the good and bad things about open source technologies.  He approached the topic  from the perspective of nonprofit organizations and their communities based on his experience working with all kinds of software and hardware solutions at Rice.  Here’s a wrap-up of Jeff Frey’s presentation “Open Source … and Six Blind Men.”

Six Blind Men?

Jeff began his presentation with one of my favorite parable’s 6 Blind Men and an ElephantEach man had a different impression of the Elephant after feeling just one part.

Jeff Frey uses this parable to explain that “Much like the elephant trainer, my role is to basically show you around the elephant of open source”.

The Open Source Elephant

Just like the six blind men in the parable, Jeff described that there are six different perspectives in nonprofit organizations, and each of them typically only sees one piece of the total project being planned.

Jeff describes the people that typically see each perspective’s piece of the open source elephant and talks about what he recommends nonprofit organizations should be aware of with open source tools to make sure each group’s perspective fits into the total picture and everyone in  your nonprofit organization likes to use the new solution.

The 6 Perspectives of Open Source:

1)      Community

—  This is the group of people that follow the open source software or product and is usually a tight knit group.

According to Jeff, nonprofit organizations should take a look at how strong an open source’s community is.  A strong community means the product will probably be better supported and have more “one off” or edge-case customizations that your nonprofit can benefit from for free or lower cost than if you had to pay for the custom development yourself.

2)      Customers

–-  The folks that a nonprofit serves including your members, donors, and visitors to your website.

The great thing about open source from your customers’ perspective is that it can look really high end, has improved stability, and has fewer compatibility issues with web browsers.  Open source makes it easier for you to look like you know what you are doing to your customers even if you can barely use a WYSIWYG editor.

3)      Management

–-  Your Board members, Executive Director, and the decision makers at your organization.

From the perspective of your Board and those approving the budget for the project, open source is a very appealing option.  There are little to no software costs, no programmers, and the potential for no hardware costs.  As Jeff put it “You can basically run your whole nonprofit on open source tools with virtually no software costs.”

4)      Employees

-–  The people most affected by the software package you select, the ones using it daily and sometimes this includes your volunteers.

Your employees and volunteers using the software everyday will want to know that the software will work and will be easy to use.  Different open source software options have varying levels of features and ease of use.  You’ll want to look at how much training your employees will need before they use the new product and if it has the features your organization needs.  Jeff suggests starting with something little that your staff does daily with the current solution and see how the proposed software performs with that task.  Then keep adding new daily tasks, one at a time, and test them before deciding on a particular software product.

5)      Developers

–-  The application developers that constantly support and add new features and functionality to the open source software.

“It wouldn’t be an open source product without having developers”, Jeff rightly states.  When looking at open source software, you should find out what are the code base standards and ask if there is a good, available API.  Find out what the language on which the software is built because some are more difficult to use, which increases programming hours for custom projects.

6)      Support Staff

—  These are your designated “power users” and can be internal or external to your organization.  Often this will be an IT consulting firm or Web design agency who customizes and updates your software.

When looking at open source solutions from the perspective of your power users, you will want to find an open source product that has a strong network of partners and support professionals.  Ask if the software has a regular schedule to roll out new versions and patches and find out about the hardware, network, back-up and maintenance processes and costs when comparing software.

Tell Us which of the six perspectives you think you fall under in our comments below!

I probably fall under the power user perspective in most cases, and in particular when talking about Tendenci.  I spend most of my days inside a Tendenci website updating content, adding events, creating training documentation, etc. and I honestly love it.

Has the Elephant Left the Building?

With all the excitement we’ve felt here with the open source release of Tendenci last week – we also recognize the hesitation and concerns from our current clients and their community.  We want to keep the conversation going to address your questions and I thought I’d add my personal takeaways from Jeff’s Netsquared presentation and invite you to tell me what else you’d like to talk about.

Jeff Frey surprised us with a slide on Tendenci in his presentation and Jeff shared his feedback on our newly open source CMS to the Houston NetSquared members.  Here’s what he thinks about Tendenci:

  • Tendenci has a very new/young community of developers and followers and his advice to me was to “get in the mindset of moving in the direction of building your developer community”.
  • Tendenci is written in the Python programming language, which is the language that “all the cool kids are coding in now,” including what Rice undergrad programmers are learning.
  • Unlike a lot of open source software, Tendenci has more than just a forum to support its clients and community; it has real people to call, email, and come Hang Out with.

One important quote I heard Jeff say at NetSquared was “Open source doesn’t mean free as in no cost, it means free as in liberated.” And throughout Jeff’s presentation, he reiterated that while the software code is freely available, and anyone can download a copy and start using it for free… there are different costs associated with open source software that can include things like hosting, IT support staff, development to customize the platform for your organization, and hardware costs.

To provide you with an example: you can create a free twitter account to use but you then may have to pay for…

  • the computer or laptop that you access twitter from,
  • the internet connection to connect to twitter,  Then,
  • the designer to customize your twitter landing page,
  • the staff member or to manage your twitter communications,
  • the web marketing agency to train you and your staff how to use twitter…

As you can see, each of these extras come with an extra cost.  It is no different with other open source software, including Tendenci.  Open source software does greatly reduce the total cost of the project so that more nonprofit organizations can afford to have better tools to operate online and offline.

I want to leave you with a comment from an audience member Tuesday night at NetSquared:

” The thing about Open Source that I love is there is a huge community helping find the bugs before I have to find it, and fixes it, and I don’t have to pay for it or deal with it.”

Thanks to the programming giants who walked before us

Giants. Giants I tell you.

Yes, I’m excited about Tendenci going open source. But first – THANK YOU to the giants who walked before us to make this possible.

As a programmer, granted I haven’t been in the code much the last 5 years doing the whole “running the company thing”, but I haven’t forgotten how important it is to give credit where credit is due. We just pushed Tendenci 5.0 live on github yesterday. As far as I know, Tendenci is the only “open source CMS system built specifically for nonprofits” and I could add “written on the Django framework and Python.”

That is what makes open source so cool. As David Geilhufe told me today when we bumped into each other at NTEN, “welcome to the open source community. it took you a while but you got here.” David’s right.

Tendenci 5 was a complete rewrite and took over 3 years to complete.  I have said thanks to our programmers numerous times. But what giants’ shoulders did we stand on? Quite a few. Tendenci would not have been possible without the original committers on Django. So a RESPECTFUL tip of the hat to these trail blazers. #respect #thankyou

  1. Adrian Holovaty
  2. Simon Willison
  3. Jacob Kaplan-Moss
  4. Wilson Miner

And the list of brilliant committers goes on. Because it is a community. These people enabled us to give. I respect that.

To put it all together, Tendenci is a full web application. It is written on a framework called Django which is “the web framework for perfectionists with deadlines.” Django is written in a programming language called Python. Python was created by the amazing Guido van Rossum. I have never met Guido. But I know his brain is absolutely amazing and that our current business model would not be possible without Guido. Thank you Mr. Rossum. And thank you for everyone who contributes to the Python project.

We have a lot to learn still. And we are studying and learning as fast as we can. Any help is appreciated. But first and foremost, thank you to all of the programmers who walked before us and made our current path possible. ~Ed