drupal 7

Getting Emoji and multibyte characters on your Drupal 7 site with 7.50

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog post titled Solving the Emoji/character encoding problem in Drupal 7.

Since writing that post, Drupal 7 bugfixes and improvements have started to pick up steam as (a) many members of the community who were focused on launching Drupal 8 had time to take a breather and fix up some long-standing Drupal 7 bugs and improvements that hadn't yet been backported, and (b) there are two new D7 core maintainers. One of the patches I've been applying to many sites and hoping would get pulled into core for a long time was adding support for full UTF-8, which allows the entry of emojis, Asian symbols, and mathematical symbols that would break Drupal 7 sites running on MySQL previously.

My old blog post had a few steps that you could follow to make your Drupal 7 site 'mostly' support UTF-8, but there were some rough edges. Now that support is in core, the process for converting your existing site's database is more straightforward:

Yes, Drupal 8 is slower than Drupal 7 - here's why

tl;dr: Drupal 8's defaults make most Drupal sites perform faster than equivalent Drupal 7 sites, so be wary of benchmarks which tell you Drupal 7 is faster based solely on installation defaults or raw PHP execution speed. Architectural changes have made Drupal's codebase slightly slower in some ways, but the same changes make the overall experience of using Drupal and browsing a Drupal 8 site much faster.

When some people see reports of Drupal 8 being 'dramatically' slower than Drupal 7, they wonder why, and they also use this performance change as ammunition against some of the major architectural changes that were made during Drupal 8's development cycle.

First, I wanted to give some more concrete data behind why Drupal 8 is slower (specifically, what kinds of things does Drupal 8 do that make it take longer per request than Drupal 7 on an otherwise-identical system), and also why this might or might not make any difference in your choice to upgrade to Drupal 8 sooner rather than later.

Set up a hierarchical taxonomy term Facet using Facet API with Search API Solr

I wanted to document this here just because it took me a little while to get all the bits working just right so I could have a hierarchical taxonomy display inside a Facet API search facet, rather than a flat display of only the taxonomy terms directly related to the nodes in the current search.

Basically, I had a search facet on a search page that allowed users to filter search results by a taxonomy term, and I wanted it to show the taxonomy's hierarchy:

Flat taxonomy to hierarchical taxonomy display using Search API Solr and Facet API in Drupal 7

To do this, you need to do two main things:

  1. Make sure your taxonomy field is being indexed with taxonomy hierarchy data intact.
  2. Set up the Facet API facet for this taxonomy term so it will display the full hierarchy.

Let's first start by making sure the taxonomy information is being indexed (refer to the image below):

Always getting X-Drupal-Cache: MISS? Check for messages

I spent about an hour yesterday debugging a Varnish page caching issue. I combed the site configuration and code for anything that might be setting cache to 0 (effectively disabling caching), I checked and re-checked the /admin/config/development/performance settings, verifying the 'Expiration of cached pages' (page_cache_maximum_age) had a non-zero value and that the 'Cache pages for anonymous users' checkbox was checked.

After scratching my head a while, I realized that the headers I was seeing when using curl --head [url] were specified as the defaults in drupal_page_header(), and were triggered any time there was a message displayed on the page (e.g. via drupal_set_message()):

X-Drupal-Cache: MISS
Expires: Sun, 19 Nov 1978 05:00:00 GMT
Cache-Control: no-cache, must-revalidate, post-check=0, pre-check=0
X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff

Solr for Drupal Developers, Part 3: Testing Solr locally

In earlier Solr for Drupal Developers posts, you learned about Apache Solr and it's history in and integration with Drupal. In this post, I'm going to walk you through a quick guide to getting Apache Solr running on your local workstation so you can test it out with a Drupal site you're working on.

The guide below is for those using Mac or Linux workstations, but if you're using Windows (or even if you run Mac or Linux), you can use Drupal VM instead, which optionally installs Apache Solr alongside Drupal.

As an aside, I am writing this series of blog posts from the perspective of a Drupal developer who has worked with large-scale, highly customized Solr search for Mercy (example), and with a variety of small-to-medium sites who are using Hosted Apache Solr, a service I've been running as part of Midwestern Mac since early 2011.

Installing Apache Solr in a Virtual Machine

Apache Solr can be run directly from any computer that has Java 1.7 or later, so technically you could run it on any modern Mac, Windows, or Linux workstation natively. But to keep your local workstation cleaner, and to save time and hassle (especially if you don't want to kludge your computer with a Java runtime!), this guide will show you how to set up an Apache Solr virtual machine using Vagrant, VirtualBox, and Ansible.

Let's get started:

Drupal on Mothballs - Convert Drupal 6 or 7 sites to static HTML

Drupal.org has an excellent resource page to help you create a static archive of a Drupal site. The page references tools and techniques to take your dynamically-generated Drupal site and turn it into a static HTML site with all the right resources so you can put the site on mothballs.

From time to time, one of Midwestern Mac's hosted sites is no longer updated (e.g. LOLSaints.com), or the event for which the site was created has long since passed (e.g. the 2014 DrupalCamp STL site).

I though I'd document my own workflow for converting typical Drupal 6 and 7 sites to static HTML to be served up on a simple Apache or Nginx web server without PHP, MySQL, or any other special software, since I do a few special things to preserve the original URL alias structure, keep CSS, JS and images in order, and make sure redirections still work properly.

NFS, rsync, and shared folder performance in Vagrant VMs

It's been a well-known fact that using native VirtualBox or VMWare shared folders is a terrible idea if you're developing a Drupal site (or some other site that uses thousands of files in hundreds of folders). The most common recommendation is to switch to NFS for shared folders.

NFS shared folders are a decent solution, and using NFS does indeed speed up performance quite a bit (usually on the order of 20-50x for a file-heavy framework like Drupal!). However, it has it's downsides: it requires extra effort to get running on Windows, requires NFS support inside the VM (not all Vagrant base boxes provide support by default), and is not actually all that fast—in comparison to native filesystem performance.

I was developing a relatively large Drupal site lately, with over 200 modules enabled, meaning there were literally thousands of files and hundreds of directories that Drupal would end up scanning/including on every page request. For some reason, even simple pages like admin forms would take 2+ seconds to load, and digging into the situation with XHProf, I found a likely culprit:

Fixing Drupal Fast - Using Ansible to deploy a security update on many sites

Earlier today, the Drupal Security Team announced SA-CORE-2014-005 - Drupal core - SQL injection, a 'Highly Critical' bug in Drupal 7 core that could result in SQL injection, leading to a whole host of other problems.

While not a regular occurrence, this kind of vulnerability is disclosed from time to time—if not in Drupal core, in some popular contributed module, or in some package you have running on your Internet-connected servers. What's the best way to update your entire infrastructure (all your sites and servers) against a vulnerability like this, and fast? High profile sites could be quickly targeted by criminals, and need to be able to deploy a fix ASAP... and though lower-profile sites may not be immediately targeted, you can bet there will eventually be a malicious bot scanning for vulnerable sites, so these sites need to still apply the fix in a timely manner.

In this blog post, I'll show how I patched all of Midwestern Mac's Drupal 7 sites in less than 5 minutes.

Multi-value spatial search with Solr 4.x and Drupal 7

For some time, Solr 3.x and Drupal 7 have been able to do geospatial search (using the location module, geofield, or other modules that stored latitude and longitude coordinates in Drupal that could be indexed by Apache Solr). Life was good—as long as you only had one location per node!

Sometimes, you may have a node (say a product, or a personality) affiliated with multiple locations. Perhaps you have a hammer that's available in three of your company's stores, or a speaker who is available to speak in two locations. When solr 3.x and Drupal 7 encountered this situation, you would either use a single location value in the index (so the second, third, etc. fields weren't indexed or searched), or if you put multiple values into solr's search index using the LatLonType, solr could throw out unexpected results (sometimes combining the closest latitude and closest longitude to a given point, meaning you get strange search results).

Multisite Apache Solr Search with Domain Access

Using one Apache Solr search core with more than one Drupal website isn't too difficult; you simply use a module like Apache Solr Multisite Search, or a technique like the one mentioned in Nick Veenhof's post, Let's talk Apache Solr Multisite. This kind of technique can save you time (and even money!) so you can use one Hosted Apache Solr subscription with multiple sites. The only caveat: any site using the solr core could see any other site's content (which shouldn't be a problem if you control all the sites and don't expose private data through solr).

There are two ways to make Apache Solr Search Integration work with Domain Access (one of which works similarly to the methods mentioned above for multisite), and which method you use depends on how your site's content is structured.

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