Bryan Ruby


Thoughts, Words, and Deeds

Words

My review of the Snow Joe Two-Stage 80V Cordless Snow Blower

This winter I'll be relying on my newly purchased EGO Power+ Snow Blower to clear the snow off the driveway. However, this EGO snow blower isn't my first battery-powered snow blower as that honor goes to Snow Joe's first two-stage 80V Cordless Snow Blower, the iON24SB-XR (Amazon affiliate link).

As far as I know, Snow Joe is the only manufacturer of a cordless electric two-stage self-propelled snow blower currently on the market. For two decades I had been using a MTD gas powered two-stage snow blower that I bought at the local K-Mart. Whether gas or electric, I prefer two-stage snow blower over a single-stage which is why I originally purchased the Snow Joe over EGO's single stage snow blower. So, during the 2016-2017 snow season I used the Snow Joe two-stage as my primary means of removing snow from my house. I thought it would be good to stroll down memory lane and give you my initial review and overall impressions of the Snow Joe ION24SB in case you're considering to make a similar buy.

The EGO Power+ Nexus Escape Power Inverter

Given my continuous obsession with the EGO Power+ product line, I couldn't resist buying this new product by EGO. The new EGO Power+ Nexus Power Inverter just arrived at my doorstep. This new 150 Watt Inverter should be a nice convenient addition for whenever I need need backup power indoors to run my smaller devices.

All of EGO's current line of 56 Volt Batteries will work with the Nexus. The power inverter provides two USB ports and one AC port. While 150 Watts isn't a huge amount of power it's enough to power a tablet and laptop while out and about, lamps in the house, and even your TV and router in a power outage. While run time will vary, there are a number of reviews showing people powering their television for a few hours off  a single 5.0 Ah or 7.5 Ah EGO battery.

As my wife reminded me, I already have a Honda generator I use when camping with my travel trailer or when I have need for backup power here at the house. So why did I buy this product if I already own a generator? The problem with my Honda generator is that it is gas-powered so it has to stay outdoors when it's running. It's a bit of a hassle to have to pull in the power from the generator through a number of very long power-chords. This EGO inverter will let me bring a power source right into the house without having to crack the door open every time I need power.

Drupal 8.4 Available and Fixes Significant Database Caching Issues

Your hosting account was found to be causing an overload of MySQL resources. What can you do? Upgrade your Drupal 8 website to Drupal 8.4 or higher.

One of my goals in rebranding my website from CMS Report to socPub was to write diverse articles beyond the topic of content management systems. Yet, here we go again with another CMS related article. The Drupal open source project recently made available Drupal 8.4 and for me this version has been a long time coming as it addresses some long standing frustrations I've had with Drupal 8 from the perspective of a site administrator. While Drupal 8.4 adds some nice new features, I'm just as excited about the bug fixes and performance improvements delivered in this new version of Drupal.

When Drupal 8 was introduced it made significant improvements in how it caches and renders pages. That's great news for websites that use Drupal's built-in caching to speed up delivery of pages or page elements. But there was one unwanted side effect to the cache enhancements, excessive growth of cache tables with tens or hundreds of thousands of entries, and gigabytes in size. For my own website it is not too uncommon to see my database reach 4 GB in size. Let's put it this way, it was no fun to receive a letter from my hosting provider that they weren't too happy of my resource usage. Worse they threatened shutting down my website if I didn't manage the database size better. Just in the nick of time for you and me, Drupal 8.4 delivers a fix to the cache growth by introducing a new default limit of 5000 rows per cache bin.

Findings from TERMINALFOUR's 2017 Global Higher Education Survey

Results highlight significant concerns among higher education institutions about student recruitment targets due to proposed visa/travel restrictions as well as accessibility priorities. 

TERMINALFOUR, a digital marketing and web content management platform has a long history of serving the higher education community. This week they announced the results of its 2017 Global Higher Education Survey. The results highlight significant concerns among higher education institutions about student recruitment targets due to proposed visa/travel restrictions.  In a survey of 391 higher education professionals from 333 unique higher education institutions, 56% stated that travel restrictions will directly impact their institution’s ability to meet recruitment targets.

The survey was carried out among web, marketing, recruitment and leadership professionals in higher education across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.

The survey also found that 37% of higher education professionals have high levels of job insecurity. When asked to rate their personal job security in the context of Government policy, student recruitment challenges and internal restructuring, just 28% of respondents stated that they feel highly secure in their current role.

Mailbag: DRUD Tech Launches ddev Community Open Source Toolkit

Last week, I received an email inviting me to take a sneak peak at a press release that became public today. In the email, I was asked if I would be interested in hearing "news from new open source startup, DRUD Tech, founded by a couple of long-time Drupal contributors". According to the email, the company has been in "stealth mode" quietly working on their new product which is ready for launch this week. Given that I'm a long time fan of the Drupal content management system of course I said yes.

The new product is ddev (pronounced Dee-Dev) Community which is an open source solution intended to automate a number of web development tasks that frustratingly takes too much time and resources to manually accomplish. Having already mentioned Drupal, I should probably also mention that this toolkit is also intended for other CMSs including open source favorite WordPress. I've attached below a copy of the latest version of the press release I received. I also did a little digging around DRUD's website and found a video I placed under the press release which shows off some of the features in an earlier version of ddev.

DRUD Tech Releases ddev Community, the Premier Open Source Toolkit to Simplify End-to-End Web Development Processes

The new enterprise-grade, open source solution automates local web development processes to deliver unmatched cost and labor efficiencies

SendGrid Improves Email Marketing Editor Experience

SendGrid, a MailChimp competitor, pushes forward with new marketing campaign enhancements

While I may be an old dog with decades of experience utilizing websites for marketing purposes, I'm more like a newborn puppy when it comes to email marketing. Until a couple years ago, I never utilized email campaigns or email newsletters in hopes to get more visits to my websites. My current email marketing service provider is MailChimp, but there is another customer communication platform that is on my radar, Colorado-based SendGrid.

This week, SendGrid announced a new editing experience for SendGrid Marketing Campaigns. The new email marketing editor addresses familiar pain points for marketers who previously had to choose between the convenience of visual design and efficient editing of code.

“Savvy, time-starved marketers crave elegant visual design tools that also allow them to quickly and safely edit HTML,” said Steve Sloan, Chief Product Officer at SendGrid. “With the enhancements made to the SendGrid Marketing Campaigns editor, marketers no longer have to choose one or the other. They are now equipped with the tools to choose their own path when editing for flexibility and efficiency, empowering them to drive high engagement from their campaigns.”

New flexible editing options give marketers the ability to edit in code, design view, or a mix of both, minimizes the risk of unwanted changes to custom HTML and delivers time savings and efficiencies. The improved editing experience benefits SendGrid customers whether they send campaigns via Marketing Campaigns or create API triggered templates through SendGrid’s delivery platform.

Powered by Battery: The Ryobi Electric Riding Lawnmower

A few weeks ago during my visit to the local Home Depot, I came across the Ryobi RM480E, an all-battery powered electric riding lawn mower. Ryobi claims that you'll get up to 2 hours of run time or cut up to 2 acres on a single charge. This quiet, smooth battery powered riding mower houses three high-torque brushless motors to support the mower's blades and drivetrain.  The RM480E's uses four 12V lead acid batteries instead of lithium-ion which given the choice  and given the size of the mower  so they're not lithium).

The mower itself has a 38 in. cutting width with a 12-position deck height adjustment. Cutting height ranges from a minimum measured at 1.5 inches to a maximum of 4.5 inches. The mower is capable of cutting in three modes: side-discharge, mulching, and bagging.

I have not reviewed the Ryobi RM480E myself, but overall the mower has received favorable reviews. However, most reviewers recommend that if you have around 2 acres or more you should stick with a gas mower. After 2 acres of mowing, the RM480E will likely require an overnight charge before you can continue cutting the rest of your acreage. The best Ryobi RM480E reviews I've read so far are written by Pro Tool Reviews as well as Paul Sikkema over at Today's Mowers.  For the best video review, check out the review by Tools In Actions (embedded below).

WordPress 4.8 introduces four new widgets

WordPress 4.8 is named "Evans" in honor of jazz pianist and composer William John “Bill” Evans.

WordPress 4.8 is now available and introduces users to new content management tools including three media widgets covering images, audio and video. The "Evans" release also includes link improvements, an updated text widget that supports visual editing, and an upgraded news and events section in your dashboard. 

When Matt Mullenweg announced the release of WordPress 4.8 he mentioned that this new version was built with you in mind. While the updates seem minor, he indicated that users will find that the improvements intuitive enough that "you’ll welcome [the changes] like an old friend".

New Widgets for WordPress

As mentioned, Wordpress includes three new media widgets and one rich text widget. Below is a description of all four widgets:

1. Image Widget

Adding an image to a widget is now a simple task that is achievable for any WordPress user without needing to know code. You simply insert your image right within the widget settings and see it appear automatically.

2. Video Widget

You can now add any video from the Media Library to a sidebar on your site with the new Video widget. WordPress gives examples of how this widget could be used including "to showcase a welcome video to introduce visitors to your site or promote your latest and greatest content".

An End of an Era: Mollom End-of-Life Announcement

Sometimes I get too nostalgic over computers or software that I once used in my daily life. I remember my first computer (the Commodore Vic-20), I remember my first programming language (BASIC), and I remember my first spam filtering software for user generated content (Akismet). But nine years ago, a new spam filtering service originally intended for Drupal called Mollom emerged and I quickly forgot about the other spam blocking software.

I was first introduced to Mollom by Dries Buytaert via an invitation to beta test the service on my websites. After installing Mollom, the amount of time I spent moderating anonymous comments for potential spam was significantly reduced. In less than three years, Mollom had blocked more than 100,000 pieces of spam on one of my websites. Along the way, Mollom was acquired by Acquia and would record blocking over 13.5 billion spam comments worldwide since its inception.

It was a good run for Mollom but unfortunately the end is near. An end-of-life announcement has been placed on the Mollom website notifying users that Acquia will no longer be supporting the service after April 2, 2018.

Joomla 3.7 Offers Seven Significant Improvements

A more feature rich Joomla! has just been released.

This week, the Joomla! Project announced the release of Joomla 3.7. This new release in the Joomla! 3 series features over 700 improvements to the popular content management system, including many features which "make administration of Joomla! Web sites easier and more feature-rich, as well as several security updates". The following are the seven biggest new feature improvements I found in Joomla 3.7.

1) Custom Fields

Administrators now have the ability to add Custom Fields to their articles, users, and contacts. Extension developers can also use this feature within their own custom Joomla! Extensions. With Custom Fields, there are now 15 different field types that can be utilized to structure more complex content entry systems which in-turn allows content authors to easily enter their data in a standard manner and display it consistently for site visitors.

2) Multilingual Associations Component

The Multilingual Associations Component allows administrators and authors to easily translate content from one single, unified interface. 

3) Improved Workflow

A category, article, or menu item can now all be created in one step from within the menu manager.

4) New Backend Menu Manager

Intended for sites where multiple people are accessing the Backend/Admin-side of the site is the ability to easily manage the admin menu with the new Backend Menu Manager. Now one can can create custom menus for the Backend just like you can for the Frontend. This feature allows site administrators to control which users can see what admin menu options