Recent Blog Posts

Review: Elecrow HDMI 5" 800x480 TFT Display with XPT2046 Touch Controller

Elecrow 5 inch HDMI display with Raspbian Pixel on Raspberry Pi 3 model B

I recently found a discount code through SlickDeals for $10 off the Elecrow 5" HDMI Touchscreen display for the Raspberry Pi. Since the Raspberry Pi was introduced, I've wanted to try out one of these mini screens (touchscreen or no), but they've always been prohibitively expensive (usually $60+).

This screen hit the right price (even regular price is $40, which is near my 'okay for experimentation' range), and I picked it up, not knowing what to expect. I've had mixed experiences with Pi accessories from Amazon, and had never tried a product from Elecrow.

Drupal VM supports MySQL, MariaDB, and PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL elephant transparent PNG
The PostgreSQL logo. Same family as PHP's mascot!

For the past few years, I've been intending to kick the tires of PostgreSQL, an open source RDBMS (Relational DataBase Management System) that's often used in place of MySQL, MariaDB, Oracle, MS SQL, or other SQL-compliant servers. Drupal 7 worked with PostgreSQL, but official support was a bit lacking. For Drupal 8, daily automated test builds are finally being run on MySQL, SQLite, and PostgreSQL, so many of the more annoying bugs that caused non-MySQL database engines to fail have finally been fixed!

How to get your server's emails through Gmail's spam filter with Exim

There's one thing that most first-time server administrators have in common: they have to either learn a lot about how email and spam filters work, or they offload email delivery entirely to a third party.

The latter option is often the best option, since successful email delivery is a crazy complicated endeavor. I know, because I've worked on two separate medium-volume email delivery systems in the past (over 1,000,000 emails/month, to hundreds of thousands of recipients), and for both of them, I spent likely 1,000+ hours on email delivery problems.

But for many smaller sites, non-profits, and side projects, there's no budget for a reliable 3rd party email delivery service.

Recently, I was rebuilding a personal photo sharing website (just used for myself and my family and friends), and I decided to wipe the server clean and start over with an Ansible-based configuration that I could deploy locally and to any cloud environment. For email delivery, I decided to install Exim on top of a CentOS 7 minimal base image, and I used Drupal/PHP's mail functionality to pass messages to Exim.

Require a minimum Ansible version in your Playbook

It's helpful to be able to enforce a minimum required Ansible version in Ansible playbooks. Ansible Roles have long been able to specify a minimum Ansible version—but only for Ansible Galaxy and ansible-galaxy-related dependency management.

I've found more and more that users who installed Ansible further in the past (in the 1.7.x or 1.8.x era) are now using some of my newer projects that require Ansible 2.0 (there are so many nice new shiny things!), and they're running into errors like:

ERROR: [DEPRECATED]: include + with_items is a removed deprecated feature.  Please update your playbooks.
Ansible failed to complete successfully. Any error output should be
visible above. Please fix these errors and try again.

The problem, as it turns out, is that these users are running a version < 2.0, but it's not very obvious based on that error message!

Interview with Cal Evans on Voices of the elePHPant

A few months ago, when I spoke at php[tek] in St. Louis, I had the honor of being interviewed by Cal Evans on the Voices of the elePHPant podcast! In the interview, we discussed Drupal 8, Acquia, the Raspberry Pi Dramble, and the PHP community.

Check out the interview: Interview with Jeff Geerling - Voices of the elePHPant.

There's also a video recording of the podcast, embedded below:

Remapping the Caps Lock key to Escape in macOS Sierra

Update: As of macOS Sierra 10.12.1, the Caps Lock -> Escape remapping can be done natively in the Keyboard System Preferences pane! To remap without any 3rd party software, do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences and click on 'Keyboard'
  2. Click on 'Modifier Keys...'
  3. For 'Caps Lock (⇪) Key', choose '⎋ Escape'
  4. Click 'OK'

(See screenshot for reference).

For the past three years, I've used the Mac Development Ansible Playbook to automatically configure all my Macs, so they have the same applications, utilities, and preferences at all times. One of the most important tweaks I use is the combination of Karabiner and Seil to remap a few keys and to increase the key repeat rate.

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