Vagrant Up

Somewhat smarter working method for web developers: When building projects, work inside virtual boxes instead on your workstation directly. Why? Each project has it’s own characteristics and software dependancies. Each programmer added on the project has to spent time configuring his or her workstation to your project.

Does the following sound familiar?

We work with OSX so you better bring a mac. No, your are running 5.3, our project is build for PHP 5.4. You need to set the following env variables. Allow .htaccess. Oh, why don’t you have Git? And GD? etc etc.

You know what I mean right? Meet vagrant.

Interpreting the guide below and my brief experiement this morning, Vagrant allows quick starting (and sharing) of Virtualization boxes on workstations. A new employee enters the project, receives a laptop with instructions on how to pull the right vagrant/puppet setup, types ‘vagrant up’ and has a Linux distro of our choice with the right software installed due to chef firing up.

If this triggers your interest, I followed the instructions by ShawnMcCool on Github this morning and already moved one project inside the box. I’m going to experiment a bit more before I move all projects.

Vagrant / Chef instructions by ShawnMcCool on Github

Quick Glance at I3 Window Manager


I have been using the i3 window management over the weekend.

Now, what is i3? i3 is a tiling window manager created by Michael Stapelberg. Tiling means that instead of the floating windows on your conventional windows or mac desktop, windows are presented in tiles.

I just happened to pass by it and got intrigued. Working a lot in terminal emulators, I sometimes wondered what the desktop experience could be without all the clutter and the heavy use of mouse gestures. A tiled desktop essentially means that your applications are always visible and you have a clear overview. Applications will not hide behind each other but are displayed next to each other. Furthermore, there is no desktop. when you add a window, it’s added and your
screensize is reduced, unless you select a stacking mode.

I watched a presentation of Michael and he explained that the tile based window manager isn’t new. There was one before called ‘window manager improved’, then followed ‘windown manager improved improved’ and thus the name of his version became ‘i3’.

After playing with it for some time, I decided that I’ll keep it for some time longer. However, at work I still use OSX.

Thinking about all those OS’es reminds of a quote by David Field:

The thing about an Operating System is, you spend a huge amount of time invested with it, be it on your Mobile or Desktop its a very personal experience. You put your choice of apps, and your data on it, and spend most of your day using one, in some cases you probably spend more time with your OS than the people you care about. Its a personal choice you’ve invested in, one which is you’re tool of choice.

In the end it’s about picking the tool to do the job. Seeing a different approach to a method we’ve all be aquanted to is a fresh breeze. I can’t wait to work with it some more.

The Big 30

This week will mark my 30th birthday; Since it’s a round number it sounds like a milestone. Wowzers: 30 years… Old for some, young for others.

Octopress Update

Octopress is a highly customizable blogpost generator. Posts are written and stored in Markdown and Octopress allows easy Jekyll distribution as HTML through S3 or Github. If you use Octopress, I recommend following ’Making Octopress Fast’ written by Eric Wendelin. The guide will help you setup a GZipped website on Amazon S3. It worked like a charm but I lost two important elements: Previewing and quick deploys.

Previewing

After following the guide, all HTML/CSS and JS files are stored as GZip-9 files. Unreadable unless you add a ‘Content-Encoding gzip’ to the header of each file and enable a deflate mechanic to your local webserver. Besides, Jekyll is shipped with a preview WEBrick server which is rendered useless.

Solution: Preview from the public folder and add a second directory for compression.

I’ve added a referral to a compressed directory. Then make sure that all directives for minifying and combining read from #{public_dir} and that all zipping is delayed until after task tocompressed is invoked.

desc "Copying public contents to compressed folder"
task :tocompressed do
   puts "## Copying to compressed directory"
   puts "\n## copying #{public_dir} to #{compressed_dir}"
          cp_r "#{public_dir}/.", "#{compressed_dir}"
                 cd "#{compressed_dir}"
    end

Adding an extra directory to the process results in a public folder which can be previewed. Deployment is done from compressed_dir.

Iterative deploys

Here is the problem I was experiencing. Deploys became long and dreadful after adding GZip to the deployment process. The s3cmd tool allows incremental uploading but since I started GZipping the files, s3cmd seems to just upload everything. At first I thought this might be because I was adding ‘Content encoding’ headers to the files I was deploying. Then I wondered if I could get around it with the ’ –skip-existing ’ parameter to the s3cmd command.

Solution: The problem was
caused by GZip leaving a timestamp inside the zip file. This was solved by adding the -n parameter to the gzip commando.

desc "GZip HTML"
task :gzip_html do
puts "##GZipping HTML"
  system 'find compressed/ -type f -name \*.html -exec gzip -9 -n {} \;'
     Dir['**/*.html.gz'].each do |f| test(?f, f) and File.rename(f, f.gsub(/\.html\.gz/, '.html'))
        end
     end

I still find myself evaluating the Octopress environment but it seems highly customizable so what’s not to love?

Final Week for Google’s RSS Reader

Google will kill it’s reader on the first of July, as mentioned here. I have been trying alternatives since their announcement last March. If you haven’t made up your mind, now is the time to check out this huge list of Reader alternatives. I’m still waiting for the Digg reader to appear, but after reading Macdrifter’s Feedly review i’m pretty certain that at least, I’ve found a promising alternative.

Don’t Worry About China Making Cheaper Products

A friend in Shanghai pointed me to this story today; The fastest computer in the world:

The Tianhe-2 was built by the National University of Defense Technology in China.It will be deployed at the National Supercomputer Center in Guangzho – two years ahead of schedule.

Amazing. From a t-shirt economy to railroads, highways, planes; And just look at the rate Chinese are registering patents. One phrase comes to mind: “You should not worry about China making cheaper products, you should worry about China making better products”.

Beautify Terminal With Oh My ZSH

Beautify terminal with Oh My ZSH

Get a marvelous terminal with just a few steps. If you are already using ZSH as a shell yet you might like to try this. If you are using bash I’d recommend giving it a go and see what you like best.

I installed ZSH using brew:

brew install zsh

zsh

Then I installed Robby Russell’s Oh My ZSH using:

curl -L https://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/raw/master/tools/install.sh | sh

Now edit your profile like so:

vim .zshrc

And you can setup your theme. I’ve chosen ‘af-magic’ for my terminal.

The Week We Ordered a Cow

A new habit. Instead of going to the supermarket, Suna and I decided we wanted to buy fresh meat from the farmer. We had three reasons for this:

  • Horse meat scandal: Over the last year, European supermarkets sold horse meat to customers intending to buy beef. It seems like supermakets have no idea, or do not care about where their food comes from. The farmer we located has his cows graze 10km from our house.
  • Price: This one is a bit hard to calculate but I tried. I took the price of 1kg of ground beef from the supermarket compared that to the stack we had. Turns out, the price of our meat is about 20% less of the supermarket’s. It’s a hard calculation but i’m pretty sure it’s cheaper generally. We had to portion the meat ourselves and purchase a freezer to store it in.
  • Changing eating habits: After half a decade of restaurant food, the last year was full of making dishes in our kitchen. Now that we are cooking every day, we found that there are a few dishes we can make well. We found that we tend to vary our vegetables but not our meats. Our farmer source delivered various parts, from soup bone to round steak. It forces us to cook a diverse meal every day.

I put the story above on Facebook and got mixed replies. Some responded with repulsion, others got curious and wanted to try ordering for themselves. It seemed to me that my friends who grew up on a farm were least appalled by the idea of sourcing your own meat. Perhaps some don’t realize that eating meat means killing an animal. It’s a sad thing but it’s true. Yesterday Suna and me watched cows graze while we took a walk, we agreed that at least our cow was able to walk freely outside.