This blog post is the fourth in a series of posts I decided to write because I felt sharing the recent challenges with making decisions about implementation of new and updated web projects could be a help to people. This blog post is an update about what has transpired since my last blog post.
As I mentioned in previous Posts I planned to start working on Workpool Online, my commercial web project, after the first of the year. Well that did not happen LOL. However many wonderful things have been implemented since my last blog post. We have had such growth in the popularity of iktusNETlive
that we decided that I would focus on adding new functionality that will benefit the visitors as well as us as administrators. Thankfully most of the modules that I have written I will be using to develop Workpool Online. That is the beauty of using Ruby on Rails for web development. All Rails applications have the exact same structure so the reuse of modules is very easy to do.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts I have been developing our websites using Ruby, Ruby on Rails and the technique of responsive web design in order to optimize the experience of our visitors regardless of what type of device they are using. We had been changing iktusNETlive to be icon driven to make it easier for people to access all sections of our website on tables and smartphones. However we found ourselves in a situation where we were forced to make a change months ahead of schedule regarding the media (audio/PDF) that we provide on the website. The company we were using changed ownership and the new owners did not grandfather our contract.
Because of this we found ourselves in a situation where our costs were exponentially increasing because of the increased traffic to the website. Even with cutting back services we knew we were facing an uphill battle where we would never know what our monthly costs were. We decided to write our own Media Library software using PostgreSQL as the database. This was something the company suggested since they were not set up for what we wanted for iktusNETlive, which was to be a web portal for many ministries. It took about a month to develop the software and to enter all the information we had with the third-party vendor. Since the end of February 2013 we have been using our own Media Library. We also had to deploy a new non-flash Media Player that will play both audio and video files with an intuitive interface in order for people using mobile devices to be able to access our media. The Media Library
allows people to listen to audios, videos and read PDF files. Each item can be searched by the media creator (minister, teacher, etc.), media type, language, topic (multiple possible) and target audience (multiple possible). You can click the Media Library Search button to view the search page. This piece of iktusNETlive is the core of what we wanted to accomplish but did not expect to do it so quickly. Oh the life of IT work.....
While I was writing the software for the Media Library I became very concerned about hosting the production version of iktusNETlive on our office Mac Mini Server where I do my development work. It is a good practice to have separate development and production servers on different Internet networks. In addition since we were developing our Media Library we needed to find somewhere to store media for ministers who did not have websites. We decided that we had to consider the installation of a production server outside our office. We thought about purchasing another server and sending it to a colocation location. Making this decision would allow me to do my development work without messing with our websites. We would also have a place to store our media for ministers who do not have websites or do not use media servers on their websites.
My husband Bernard had researched colocation facilities for Mac Mini Servers off and on for over a year. After researching this again we decided to rent a production server in the cloud from MacStadium
in Atlanta, GA. They have an amazing internet port speed, 100 times the amount that most people have in their homes. This would speed up the access of iktusNETlive tremendously. The memory on our MacMini Server was double what we could have purchased for a similar price. We opted for a SSD (Solid State Drive) instead of a hard-drive in order to increase speed and reliability. We were thinking about purchasing one from them but decided to rent one instead. The company has excellent customer service. We have not had any problems they needed to fix yet and at this point do not expect to because of the excellent quality of Mac Mini servers. However we have had to submit tickets to get things done for us that we do not have access to modify. The tickets were worked within 24 hours. We have been so pleased with the company and highly recommend them. iktusNETlive has been hosted on that server since mid-February 2013. If you have colocation needs and want to use Mac Mini servers I highly recommend MacStadium. They are a wonderful company.
With all of what I had accomplished to that point we felt that we had covered every base regarding iktusNETlive. Normally we post updates about what we do on Twitter and Facebook using TweetDeck. We announced phase one of our new Media Library like we announce other enhancements being made. However after this announcement we received a response that shocked us. Someone posted a comment in response to our announcement stating that they were blind and hoped that the change would not make it more difficult to access.
I almost broke down and cried because we felt that we were doing all we knew to reach out to all not realizing that we could have lost blind people. Another reason I almost cried is that I thought about all the websites I have used on computers and on mobile devices since the Internet because available in 1994. None of them had sections specified for the visually impaired. We decided to test this using the accessibility section of our Mountain Lion operating system which includes a speech reader. I was amazed at how they attempt to read graphics and was completely fed up. I could not imagine how it would be for people that depend on speech readers. I immediately shifted gears and began to communicate with this person to see how we could develop a section of iktusNETlive which would work for blind people. Within two days I developed a few basic pages with text and links that is easily accessible to speech readers. I plan to make similar changes to future web applications, commercial and ministry. I just developed and implemented a text search on all pages which list and play media items.
The last thing I want to mention (yes it will be the last thing LOL) is the mail server. In my last post I stated that I was abandoning the mail server. However with the growth of our mailing list we are slowly getting close to reaching the daily email relay limit using the email address we use with ActionMailer, the process Ruby on Rails uses to send emails from a Rails application. We needed to find an affordable solution quickly because we keep adding people to our mailing list. On Monday I decided to revisit this issue.
One issue I had was that with Lion Server we had Server Admin Tools where we could define a lot of variables, including defining the Firewall, DNS and Mail Service. With the Mountain Lion version of the server software Server Admin Tools were not provided. Unfortunately some of the documentation was not updated properly for OS X Server, the server application for Mountain Lion. I ended up calling Apple three times to get some of the information I needed to set this up. I did what I was advised to do and could not get it working on our development server. It took me a while to remember that the Mac Mini Server server only has port 25 open for sending emails. Our office ISP blocks port 25 so I could not test the setup on our development server. Thankfully I took notes while on the phone with Apple and was FINALLY able to implement our mail server on our production server yesterday morning. I will need to check to see if there is a default relay value set through the terminal. Other than that the mail server issue has been resolved. YEAH!!!
There will be part five of this series. I just don't know when of course. Hopefully I will have started Workpool Online:) Stay tuned.