Anchor: Free Client Management & Invoicing App For Freelancers

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Get Paid Fast With Stripe Or PayPal

Anchor is a new invoicing webapp that you run on your own server. It’s written in PHP and is free to use for any freelancer, individual, or sole proprietor.

It provides more features than Slimvoice, the drawback being that you have to host it yourself. That’s not really an issue for most of my readers, however. :) The only thing I wish Anchor had was quotes and job creation.

Because of the lack of job and quote creation, I don’t use Anchor myself. I use Ultimate Client Manager for invoicing, quote creation, and job creation. It, unfortunately, is not free. However, the guys behind Anchor, 23rd & Walnut, also have a product named Duet. Duet includes many of the features that Ultimate Client Manager has and costs $49. Upgrading from Anchor to Duet is seamless.

Anchor includes a visual invoice builder, has the ability to send PDF invoices to your clients, and allows your clients to log in to Anchor to pay their invoices using Stripe or PayPal. The reporting interface is very nice, which you can see in the screenshot below.
reporting

There’s no limit on the number of clients or invoices. It provides a very nice looking dashboard, have a look at the demo to get a feel for the entire Anchor app. Anchor is an excellent option if you’re just starting out and need something to help keep track of clients and invoices.

If you’re interested in using Anchor, have a look through the documentation and just spend some time on the Anchor homepage to get familiar with the features offered.

Anchor and Duet seriously have me considering dropping Ultimate Client Manager. :)

TinyCert: Generate SSL Certificates And Become Your Own Certificate Authority

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A few days ago I moved longren.io to https. I didn’t pay for a certificate though like I would when setting up an e-commerce site or something else important.

I even get the little green lock symbol in the address bar, but I think this is mostly due to my use of Cloudflare.

TinyCert is a service I discovered that lets you be your own PKI/certificate authority. It’s entirely free and provides you with a very nice interface for managing your certificates. The image below shows the interface for managing your certificates. The list on the right is a list of certificates, as you can see I’ve got one made up for longrendev.io, but haven’t put it in place quite yet.
tinycertinterface

The support from TinyCert is very good as well, I had a few questions regarding how their certificates would work with Cloudflare and they quickly cleared my questions up. SSL Labs from Qualys gives the SSL certificate an “A” rating. Should you use certificates from TinyCert in production? Probably not. I am, however, due to my use of Cloudflare.
ssl

This post isn’t meant to show you how to install certificates or use TinyCert, it’s simply to make you aware of the tool and what can be done with it. TinyCert has a pretty extensive FAQ, so should you have questions, which I’m sure you do, head on over and start reading. If you do need help installing the certificates from TinyCert, their help center does a nice job of providing instructions for Apache and Nginx based setups.

Have fun with TinyCert, it’s a pretty awesome service that I’ll continue to use and will absolutely be donating to. But please remember, TinyCert certificates should not be used for regular public websites and the service is not a substitute for a proper certification authority, but for self-signed certificates.

Automate Taking Snapshots of Your DigitalOcean Droplets with DOSnapshot

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Multi-threading. Auto-cleanup. Cron optimized.

There are a lot of neat tools people have built for DigitalOcean.

The app I’m really in love with is DOSnapshot, and is hosted on GitHub. DOSnapshot does exactly what its name would suggest, it takes snapshots of your droplets.

As of this post, I’m the only one that’s left a comment on the DOSnapshot Community Projects page, which took me a bit by surprise, given the quality of the tool.

Taking a snapshot of a DigitalOcean Droplet is essentially like making an exact copy of the Droplet (server) that you can then use again at a later time. Very useful for scaling and updating a Droplet to a newer version of your Linux distribution without losing all of the Droplet’s configuration.

Etel Sverdlov does a very good job of explaining the difference between snapshots and backups in this DigitalOcean community tutorial. I suggest you read it if you’re unsure what the differences between a backup and snapshot are.

1. Install DOSnapshot

DOSnapshot can be installed as a ruby gem, which is what I chose to do because it’s just so easy. Don’t install this on your DigitalOcean Droplet! It’s meant to run from your local machine. Installing DOSnapshot as a Rubygem is as simple as:

Pre-built binaries are also provided for Linux users, and OSX users have the option of installing via Homebrew Tap.

2. Set Your DigitalOcean Client ID and API Key

Once you’ve got it installed, you’ll need to set your DigitalOcean Client ID and API Key. You can set them as environment variables, or you can pass them as parameters when actually running DOSnapshot. This is straight from the README:

First you may need to set DigitalOcean API keys:

$ export DIGITAL_OCEAN_CLIENT_ID=”SOMEID”
$ export DIGITAL_OCEAN_API_KEY=”SOMEKEY”

If you want to set keys without environment, than set it via options when you run do_snapshot:

$ do_snapshot –digital-ocean-client-id YOURLONGAPICLIENTID –digital-ocean-api-key YOURLONGAPIKEY

3. Take A Snapshot

DOSnapshot has a pretty large number of options that you can specify. I’m going to keep this simple so you get the basics of it. Learning a few of the main options will be mostly what you need to know, after you’ve got them figured out, setting up a cronjob is cake.

You can take snapshots of all of your droplets at once, you can specify which droplets to take snapshots of, and you can specify droplets that you don’t want to take a snapshot of. I typically take a snapshot of a single droplet at a time, and I do it like this:

The above will take a snapshot of only one droplet, a droplet with an ID of 1111, replace 1111 with the ID of your droplet. You can find your droplets ID in your browser URL bar while managing the droplet. So if you see https://cloud.digitalocean.com/droplets/1234567, your droplet’s ID is 1234567.

Here’s all of the options.

4. Scheduling With Cron

First, you must have cron installed. There’s plenty of tutorials on how to do that. That tutorial even explains how to configure a cron job using the crontab utility. There’s an example crontab entry in the DOSnapshot README. Mine is pretty simple:

If you have questions about setting any of this up, feel free to leave a comment!

Monitor SSH Activity on Your Server with Papertrail & Saved Searches

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Search for common phrases related to SSH logins

Papertrail is good for all types of things, I especially enjoy it because it makes finding problems quite easy. Another fun thing to do with Papertrail is see how many people are trying to either login to your server via ssh, or attack sshd itself.

Find Potential Break-In Attempts

You can save searches in Papertrail, which makes finding certain events extremely easy. When I want to see potential break-in attempts, I have a saved search for not listed in AllowUsers. My server names have been blacked out in the image below.
papertrail-not-listed

Show All sshd Associated Event Logs

To see all events associated with sshd, you can save a search for program:sshd. This will show all log entries generated by sshd. Again, server names have been censored.
papertrail-program-sshd

Papertrail has groups that you can put your servers into. Saved searches can be applied to a specific group of servers, or all servers. It’s really quite nice, especially if you have a server that almost nobody ever logs in to. Papertrail also lets you know the last time a log message was received from a server. For most servers, the last log event will have been moments ago.

Receive Alerts for Saved Searches

One of the best features are the alerts on saved searches. If you have a server that nobody but you logs into but you, you can setup an alert for when someone logs in via SSH. Most of the time the alert will just be you logging in, but this is excellent information to have if someone else does manage to login. Someone could have obtained your private key or your password.

You can specify the minimum number of events needed before the alert is activated. I’ve got an alert setup that sends me an email after my public key has been accepted 20 times. The alert is sent once an hour. I have the minimum number of events so high because I login frequently with FileZilla and make small edits to files, which causes a lot of SSH logins.
papertrail-saved-search-alert

If you have to manage any servers at all, you might as well give Papertrail a try. They have a free plan that lasts forever. If you find that you need more than 100MB of log storage space, you can get 1GB for $5 per month, which is plenty for most folks. $5 only includes 1 day of log retention, $7 per month gets you a week of log retention.

My Portfolio

longrendev

I finally have one!

I’ve known for a long time that I need some type of portfolio, especially since I’m doing freelance web development full-time now.

A potential client wanted to see my portfolio. I explained that I didn’t have one for various reasons, and instead described to him some of the more interesting projects I’ve done.

After the long email describing previous projects, I decided to create an online portfolio. I had recently bought the domain longrendev.io, but wasn’t using it for anything. So, I found a nice Twitter Bootstrap based portfolio WordPress theme and got to work. The theme needed some tweaking, the grid displaying the projects was a bit messed up and needed fixed, which was very easy.

The theme I chose was StanleyWP, a simple, minimalistic portfolio theme. The best thing about it was it’s price, free.

It’s built with Twitter Bootstrap 3.0.3, which is a little old, but still gets the job done. The current version of Twitter Bootstrap is 3.2.0.

Once I get some client projects finished up, I’ll probably take some time to update StanleyWP to use Twitter Bootstrap 3.2.0, or whatever the newest version is at that point in time.

Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think. There’s a LOT of projects I still need to add, so the list of projects right now is fairly minimal. I am also going to be using that site to take project requests.

If you need a portfolio site and would like to use StanleyWP, let me know if you need help fixing up the grid issues. It’s very simple to do, but may not be so simple for someone who isn’t a developer, like a designer. :)