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!

Remove a single Certbot (LetsEncrypt) certificate from a server

I've been using Certbot to generate and renew Let's Encrypt certificates for most of my smaller sites and services, and recently I needed to move a site from one server to another. It was easy enough to build the new server, then generate the certificate on the new server and use it in Apache or Nginx's configuration.

However, on the old server I no longer wanted to have the old certificate get renewed every week/month/etc. during the certbot-auto cron runs, so I looked to see if there was a way to simply have Certbot delete a certificate. It turns out there's not, but there is an issue—adding -delete option to remove the cert files—to add this functionality.

How I record my own conference presentations

At this year's php[tek] conference, I decided to record my own sessions (one on a cluster of Raspberry Pis, and another on tips for successfully working from home). Over the years, I've tried a bunch of different methods of recording my own presentations, and I've settled on a pretty good method to get very clear audio and visuals, so I figured I'd document my method here in case you want to do the same.

Set up faceted Apache Solr search on Drupal 8 (2016 - deprecated)

Note: A lot has changed in Drupal 8 and the Search API module ecosystem since this post was written in May 2016... I wrote a new blog post for Faceted Solr Search in Drupal 8, so please read that if you're just getting started. I'm leaving this up as a historical reference, as the general process and architecture are the same, but many details are different.

In Drupal 8, Search API Solr is the consolidated successor to both the Apache Solr Search and Search API Solr modules in Drupal 7. I thought I'd document the process of setting up the module on a Drupal 8 site, connecting to an Apache Solr search server, and configuring a search index and search results page with search facets, since the process has changed slightly from Drupal 7.

Migrate a custom JSON feed in Drupal 8 with Migrate Source JSON

June 2016 Update: Times change fast! Already, the migrate_source_json module mentioned in the post has been (mostly) merged directly into the migrate_plus module, so if you're building a new migration now, you should use the migrate_plus JSON plugin if at all possible. See Mike Ryan's blog post Drupal 8 plugins for XML and JSON migrations for more info.

Recently I needed to migrate a small set of content into a Drupal 8 site from a JSON feed, and since documentation for this particular scenario is slightly thin, I decided I'd post the entire process here.

I was given a JSON feed available over the public URL http://www.example.com/api/products.json which looked something like:

Drupal VM - Quick Introduction Video

After months of having this on my todo list, I've finally had the time to record a quick introduction video for Drupal VM. Watch the video below, then a transcript below the video:

Drupal VM is a local development environment for Drupal that's built with Vagrant and Ansible. It helps you build and maintain Drupal sites using best practices and the best tools. In this quick overview, I'll show you where you can learn more about Drupal VM, then show you a simple Drupal VM setup.

The Drupal VM website gives a general overview of the project and links to:

How to shoot a large event (photography gear / workflow)

Jeff Geerling shooting photos with Nikon at Steubenville Youth Conference
Shooting with a Nikon D7100 and 70-200mm f/2.8 VR (photo by Sid Hastings).

I love taking pictures. Specifically, I love taking pictures at meaningful events where people show a range of emotions, and enjoy interesting environments and situations. I've been honored to help at a few large events year after year, such as the Ordination Masses for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, or the Steubenville St. Louis Mid-America youth conference, and I thought I'd try to write an article detailing my workflow with tips and techniques for other photographers getting into solo event photography.

How to Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Cluster ('Bramble')

Rasbperry Pi Dramble

One of the first questions I'm asked by those who see the Dramble is, "How do I build my own?" Since I've been asked the question many times, I put together a detailed parts list, and maintain it on the Dramble's project wiki on GitHub: Raspberry Pis and Accessories.

For a little over $400, you can have the exact same setup, with six Raspberry Pi 2s, a network switch, a rack inside which you can mount the Pis, microSD cards for storage, a 6-port USB power supply, and all the required cables and storage!

Raspberry Pi RGB LED boards

Ansible 101 - on a Cluster of Raspberry Pi 2s

Ansible 101 - Raspberry Pi Dramble cluster

Over the course of this year, I've acquired six Raspberry Pi model 2 B computers, and configured them in a cluster (or 'bramble') so I can use them to test different infrastructure configurations, mostly for running Drupal 8. All the Ansible playbooks and instructions for building the cluster are available on the GitHub project page for the Raspberry Pi Dramble.

Each Raspberry Pi has its own RGB LED board that's wired into the GPIO pins, so they're controlled by software. I can demonstrate different ways of managing the cluster via Ansible, and I finally took the time to make a video, Ansible 101 - on a cluster of Raspberry Pi 2s, which shows how it all works together:

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: