Kaltura Community Edition

TL;DR version: Don’t waste your time. Kaltura server is prone to problems and the player simply doesn’t work reliably on a number of platforms.

Kaltura Open Source Video DeveloperVideo has become an important part of many websites, and for some YouTube simply does not cut it any more. Not using YouTube for video though can be expensive, in fact it can cost several thousand dollars a month for some sites to host, serve and encode their video for their reader and watchers. Because of the cost of the service, that I will not name, we took a hard look at testing out the Kaltura Community Edition to see if it would meet our needs and potentially save us thousands of dollars in cost per month.

We choose to install Kaltura on a DigitalOcean droplet and using the guide on Github for a single server install using Ubuntu had the server up and running. The first time round it was pretty easy to get the server running without using SSL, and in fact we were able to do a lot on the install including uploading, encoding, serving video etc. All seemed pretty positive, but then we tried to to do a mass upload of a few files and discovered pretty quickly our test droplet simply did not have the power to handle what we were trying to do.

One of the reasons why we choose DigitalOcean to test Kaltura was because it is easy to resize our test machine. A simple resize of our droplet had the Kaltura server up and running again with more ram and processor power to handle a test bulk upload. We were still testing without SSL but were hopeful that adding in SSL would not be to cumbersome. The FAQ here makes it sound like reconfiguring Kaltura is a simple matter of running, in our case the Debian commands,

# dpkg-reconfigure kaltura-base
# dpkg-reconfigure kaltura-front
# dpkg-reconfigure kaltura-batch

and adding the values to change ports and SSL certificates. In theory this should have been simple and easy, in reality it caused multiple headaches and searches on the Kaltura support boards and on the GitHub Issues section.

The problem often seemed to be related to the zzzkaltura.ssl.conf file not properly having the Apache variables replaced. After some searches we tried to edit the template file for zzzkaltura.ssl.conf located at /opt/kaltura/app/configurations/apache/kaltura.ssl.conf.template without the Apache variables but with our inputs and hoped that our problems would be fixed. No such luck. We still were not able to load Kaltura with SSL, in fact we were only able to get the default Apache SSL configuration.

At this point we tried to disable the default Apache SSL site configuration, much like we had to disable the default Apache website to get the non-SSL version of Kaltura to work. No such luck, we were then not able to load anything from the server and only got 404 errors. At that point we decided to re enable the default SSL site and move all of the settings from zzzkaltura.ssl.conf into the default SSL configuration and we restarted Apache. Much to our surprise the Kaltura Community Edition server worked. Once we got this working doing a few searches on the support forum and issues board found no mention of such a problem. I mention it here in the hopes that if you are having problems getting Kaltura running over SSL that it might help you.

Things were looking up once we got the server running with SSL we thought we might get lucky and actually be able to use the community edition for hosting, encoding and serving our video. Encoding seemed to work well, we had some small hiccups with the players but since we wanted to use a pre roll HTML5 player those small hiccups with the flash players did not seem to bother us. Unfortunately the next hiccup was a deal breaker, and if you are still reading because you are trying to still get Kaltura running I would recommend you stop trying to get the server running and save yourself time and energy. The short version is the HTML5 player in Kaltura does not work with Safari and in our tests that included both Mac OS and several versions of iOS.

We tried several things to get video to play using the HTML5 player in Safari from Kaltura, including some of the fixes listed on this post in the support forum but came up empty. At this point we decided that we had spent enough time trying to get Kaltura Community Edition to work properly and moved on to looking for a new provider to host, encode and play our videos.

I prefer to work with open source projects whenever possible but in this case the problems with the player and issues with setup added to the overall frustration with Kaltura. The project seems to be aimed more at driving people to use their commercial service, which by the time we were done testing Kaltura Community Edition, we wanted nothing to do with. What would be nice to see is the ability to use the Kaltura server for managing and encoding videos, since this part of our testing did seem to work well, but have the ability to use other HTML5 players, like Video.js, in place of the Kaltura HTML5 player.

I have had a couple people email me asking what we ended up using. In the end we landed at StreamShark. While the interface at StreamShark needs some work we have been quite happy with their service and have saved quite a bit of money since moving there. Even built a WordPress plugin to manage our videos with their API.

Developing Money Making Niche Sites with WordPress

Caroline Middlebrook ebookFirst I want to say that I am a subscriber to Caroline Middlebrook’s blog, and have been for quite some time. I don’t normally review ebooks, because to be quite frank, I have only found a few that are actually worth my time to read. Caroline’s ebook entitled “How to Develop Money-Making Niche Sites with WordPress” has both good and bad points, but it does have something for most people that are interested or are new to installing and using WordPress.

The Good
The best part about Caroline’s book is the sections on how to setup WordPress. She walks through setting up WordPress using Fantastico De Luxe that is available from most web hosts that offer the cPanel web hosting control panel. Once WordPress is setup she shows you how to change your permalink structure, add a new theme, add some plugins like the WordPress Database Backup plugin, All in One SEO Pack, and how to activate the Akismet Spam Filtering plugin. These are all pretty straight forward and good advice for people just getting started with WordPress.

The Bad
The ebook walks you through setting a niche website, so instead of creating posts, you create pages. This is essentially the same as creating an old fashioned static website that you will add content to and then let it sit. Why do this? According to Caroline:

Why would you want to? Because one of the most common ways to make money on the Internet today is to pick a popular topic and put together a small website consisting of articles related to that topic and monetize the site with ads. The traffic comes from search engines and once the site is setup, it just runs on auto-pilot.

I have to question whether making niche websites that never get updated is still popular. Sure if you visit web master forums and check the sites for sale section you will find any number of niche websites for sale, but the money being made is not from running the websites, it is from creating them and selling them. Not to say you can’t make money from a niche website. I have the odd one and they can bring in some money, but the energy it takes to promote them and rank them high in the search engines to make decent money can be difficult depending on the niche.

For you to make more than enough for coffee on a daily basis you could build ten of them or a hundred and just let them sit, but then you could just go and use a free service such as Blogger to create the sites. Your development time would be less and you would not have to cover any hosting or domain name costs. Some people would consider Caroline’s method to be just another way of creating spam blogs, or splogs.

Caroline has done some good work on the ebook, and I believe the sections on installing WordPress and WordPress plugins would be helpful to people just starting out with WordPress or for those that just want a handy reference of things that they need to do when they install WordPress again. I have to question the overall value of creating a niche site the way she describes. At the very least if you do create a site similar to this one I would highly recommend you consider adding a blog portion to the site that you update. This will help provide more value to your readers and hopefully draw them back to your site.

As a side note Caroline also recommends using BlueHost for your niche site. I have used BlueHost in the past and did not have a very good experience with their service. Perhaps it has improved since I had an account with them, but I would recommend you explore another web host. I like Hostgator, which is where Epiblogger is hosted currently. Rhett has been using MidPhase lately and appears to be happy with their service. Two other possibilities for you to consider.

Edit: Opps I was wrong about Rhett’s web host. The nameservers said midPhase but the actual host is AN Hosting.

Top Blogs Failing at Error Pages

404 Dead End - found at: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/507614Epiblogger is still pretty new and in the rush to open the doors we did not take a lot of time to dust the cobwebs off of all the corners around the place. One of the cobwebs that I wanted to get around to sprucing up is the Epiblogger 404 error page. Many WordPress themes come with a 404 Template included in the theme, but often they are nothing special. As you can see the Epiblogger one does not give you much information.
Epiblogger 404 Page before image

I know what I like in a good 404 error page. I like to let users know that what they were looking for is no longer there and help them to find either what they came looking for in the first place or something even better. That usually means giving them some options to search the site, links to places where they might find what they are looking for and sometimes links to the most popular posts.

I thought I would go looking for some inspiration before I worked on the 404 error page here at Epiblogger so I checked out what the Technorati Most Popular blogs use for 404 error pages. I also checked a few other blogs that I thought might be interesting. I was looking for 404 error pages that helped readers to continue to browse the blog and were friendly. I thought I would find some creative uses of 404 error pages on the top blogs. I started to grade them as I went along. What I discovered surprised me.

Default Web Server 404 Error Page

boingboing 404 error page
These blogs returned nothing but the default web server error page. Not a lot of information is given in the web server default error page. It certainly does not give a user that has lost their way much to go on to find what they were looking for. There is not even a friendly link to the blogs home page. For this reason alone I gave all of these blogs a grade of F.

  • Boing Boing
  • Ars Technica
    Is actually less than a typical web server 404 page. Simply returns “The requested file was not found”.
  • Daily Kos
  • Perez Hilton
  • Seth Godin
    I really enjoy reading Seth Godin’s blog. I am surprised that the 404 error page is the default web server one. Is this not a missed marketing opportunity?
  • ReadWriteWeb
    Returns nothing but a blank page. No error code, no text, nothing. Better not get lost over here. If it was possible to give a lower grade than F they would have gotten it.
  • Kotaku, the Gamer?s Guide
  • Talking Points Memo
  • Drudge Report
  • O’Reilly Radar
    I expected more from O’Reilly. They write some of the best books on web technologies out there (I have several myself) but their 404 page is the default Apache? Sad but true.
  • How to Change the World
    Guy Kawasaki’s blog is one that everyone needs to spend some time reading. Just don’t look at the 404 error page.
  • Wired Blogs
    These aren’t the blogs you’re looking for. You can’t go about your business. Move along to a boring Apache 404 error page.

Prettied Up Web Server 404 Error Page

These blogs returned a custom or modified 404 error page, but they are close to the default web server error page. They also do not offer a lost user much to go on to help them find what they are looking for. Because they offer little to no help to the lost user they also get a grade of F.

Default Blogging Platform 404 Error Page

Techcrunch 404 error page
These pages return pretty much exactly what Epiblogger returns. Just a note saying the page is not there. Some had a search box, but considering most templates have a search box included in them they offer nothing more to help lost readers find something of interest.

  • TechCrunch
    Standard WordPress 404 page. No better than Epibloggers, except full of ads.
    Grade D-
  • The Official Google Blog
    Default Blogger page not found error page. I suppose you can’t do much when you are on Blogger. You take what they give you.
    Grade D-
  • Crooks and Liars
    Very basic. The blog template and error code.
    Grade D-
  • Mashable.com
    Just offers a search box in the sites template. Their sidebar is really long, and a search box does not take a lot of room on a page so, the sidebar runs over the footer and makes the whole page look like a mess. Time to fix it up Mashable.
    Grade D-
  • uthink
    It looks pretty but does not offer much to help you find anything.
    Grade D
  • Search Engine Land!
    Gives you a search box, but the rest is just your basic 404 page.
    Grade D
  • dooce
    Offers a nice Google ad but the rest is the blog template.
    Grade D-
  • Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO
    Has a search box and that is about it. For some reason I thought the famous Google software engineer would have something more.
    Grade D
  • John Chow
    Other than his template advertising the 404 error page is surprisingly bare. Just a little blurb about the file not being found. I am surprised he does not have a specialized ad rate just for his 404 page.
    Grade D
  • Lorelle on WordPress
    I really thought Lorelle would have more than just a search box. Her WordPress blog usually offers so much. I thought the 404 error page would as well.
    Grade D

Links to Categories/Other Pages

Huffington Post 404 error page
These blogs make it easier for lost readers to find what they are looking for. Most offer not just a search box, but also links to the home page, archives, categories or popular posts. They give readers a place to go instead of a dead end while still letting people know that there has been an error.

  • The Huffington Post
    Offers a nice search box and links to the different sections of the site.
    Grade C
  • icanhascheezburger.com
    I thought they would at least have a funny picture of a cat, but it is pretty boring.
    Grade C
  • Problogger
    Offers a search box, a way to contact him and links to the most popular posts.
    Grade C
  • Smashing Magazine
    Not only offers links to the home page but they include one of their posts talking about 404 error pages. Lots of great information. Probably the most informative 404 error page I have ever seen.
    Grade A
  • TreeHugger
    Offers a search and links to the home page and recent posts. Informative and useful.
    Grade C
  • Dosh Dosh
    Offers a Google search and links to the most popular posts.
    Grade C
  • Copyblogger
    Offers a link to the home page and some hints at how to find what you are looking for. This was close to being placed in the default blogging platform 404 error page section. To be honest I expected more from Copyblogger.
    Grade C-
  • ShoeMoney
    Lets you know something went wrong and offers excepts of the latest posts. It was surprisingly simple but effective.
    Grade C+
  • GigaOM
    Links to categories and author pages.
    Grade C
  • A List Apart
    I had high expectations for A List Apart. They offer links to the home page articles and the about page. The page is the best written 404 page I think I have seen.
    Grade B+
  • Neatorama
    Offers links to the most popular posts, but uses images. Some are pretty funny. My favorite was the Top 10 Coolest BBQ Grills image. How I wish I could BBQ…but I digress.
    Grade A-
  • Lifehack.org
    Offers you a list of the archives, popular posts and a search box.
    Grade C
  • 43 Folders
    Offers similar options as other blogs. A search box, most searched for pages and popular posts. The popular posts section is divided up between popular now and most popular.
    Grade C+

Redirects to Home Page

These blogs redirected the 404 errors right back to the home page. You would not even know if you had made a mistake or not. I had to watch the headers using Firebug. Often I would not even get a 404 error, but a 301 or 302 redirect. While I can understand why you would want to redirect people to the home page on a 404 error I think the server should at least return a 404 error code to the browser. For this reason I gave these blogs a grade of F.


Overall I looked at just under 50 blogs and their 404 error pages. What did I learn? That the state of 404 error pages on blogs is atrocious! I count 25 top blogs that I consider failing at helping users that find their site by broken links to be able to easily find something useful and interesting on the blog.

I was also surprised at how many of the top blogs listed by Technorati have 404 error pages that are the default. It is so easy in the majority of blogging platforms to create a custom 404 error page that there is no excuse not to do it. If I was not writing this post I would have had the 404 error page here at Epiblogger done in under 30 minutes, and that is if I ran into a problem.

The only blog that I thought made a great use of their 404 error page was Smashing Magazine. They not only gave readers helpful hints on how to find the information they are looking for they also delivered a complete post on 404 error pages. Congratulations you did something creative and useful for people that could have just ended up at a dead end.

I have to give the top blogs a horrible grade of D- for their error pages. Considering how well these blogs produce quality content they certainly did not take the time to look at their error page and how they could use it to help visitors find what they wanted and possibly even become regular readers of their blogs.

Epiblogger 404 error page afterWhat did I decide to do with the Epiblogger 404 error page? Well I added a link to the home page, a search form and our archives. I also added something fun lower down on the page. Many of the 404 error pages are all just dead serious, but there is no reason why you can’t have a little fun with your 404 error page. If I was to grade our 404 error page, well we went from a D- up to a C+. We offer readers options to find the information that they are looking for, but there are no links to our most popular posts or excepts from the most recent posts.

A welcoming 404 error page can be helpful to encourage a lost reader to become a regular reader. Take a few moments to take a look at your 404 error page on your blog and see how you can improve it to help readers find the information they are looking for. What unique features would you add to your 404 error page?