tutorial

Setting up a Pi Hole for whole-home ad/tracker blocking

Pi Hole - Admin DNS query request dashboard page in Safari

Pi Hole is a nifty open source project that allows you to offload the task of blocking advertisements and annoying (and often malicious) trackers to a Raspberry Pi. The installation is deceptively simple (a curl | bash affair), but I wanted to document how I set up mine headless (just plugging the Pi into power and the network).

Set up Raspbian Lite

I bought a Raspberry Pi model 2 B along with the official Raspberry Pi foundation Case. Then I bought a Samsung Evo+ 32GB microSD card (which comes with a full-size SD card adapter), and did the following steps on my MacBook Pro to set up the Pi's OS:

Drupal VM on Windows - a fast container for BLT project development

AKA "Supercharged Windows-based Drupal development"

tl;dr: Use either PhpStorm or a Samba share in the VM mounted on the host instead of using a (slow) Vagrant synced folder, and use Drupal VM 4.4's new drupal_deploy features. See the video embedded below for all the details!

I've often mentioned that Windows users who want to build modern Drupal sites and apps are going to have a bit of a difficult time, and even wrote a long post about why this is the case (Developing with VirtualBox and Vagrant on Windows).

Soup to Nuts: Using Drupal VM to build local and prod

Update, January 2019: I would like to point out that using Drupal VM to build production servers is not officially supported, and though it may work pretty well, you are own your own if you do use it in that capacity. Please see Drop 'official-ish' support for using Drupal VM to run production servers for more details. What follows was mostly a tech demo for a MidCamp session, and has only been used by a small fraction of the Drupal VM userbase.

In preparing for my session Developing for Drupal 8 with Drupal VM at MidCamp later this month, I wanted to build out an example of a canonical "this is the way I'd do it" Drupal 8 site using nothing but Drupal VM and Composer. And I wanted to build both my local development environment and a production environment on DigitalOcean, all using the Ansible automation playbooks built into Drupal VM.

Use a Drupal 8 BLT project with Drupal VM on Windows 7 or Windows 8

Windows 10 is the only release Acquia's BLT officially supports. But there are still many people who use Windows 7 and 8, and most of these people don't have control over what version of Windows they use.

Windows 7 - Drupal VM and BLT Setup Guide

Drupal VM has supported Windows 7, 8, and 10 since I started building it a few years ago (at that time I was still running Windows 7), and using a little finesse, you can actually get an entire modern BLT-based Drupal 8 project running on Windows 7 or 8, as long as you do all the right things, as will be demonstrated in this blog post.

Raspberry Pi Zero W as a headless time-lapse camera

tl;dr: There are many ways to capture time-lapse videos. But this one is cheap, completely wireless, and mine. If you want to skip the post and go straight for the glory, grab a copy of my Time-lapse app for the Raspberry Pi.

Time-lapses transform subtle, slow processes into something beautiful, and often make us think about things in new ways. For example, have you ever thought about just how heavy a wet snow is? The trees in your yard might know a thing or two about that! Check out a time-lapse I recorded this morning some mighty oak tree branches, as they relaxed upward as if in relief from the wet snow falling off:

Refurbishing a classic microphone - the Electro-Voice RE20

In the world of radio and professional podcasting, there are fewer than a dozen 'go-to' microphones. Each of the classics (e.g. the Shure SM7B, the Neumann U87, or the EV RE20) has it's own advantages and a few marquee users, but one mic seems to rule the roost when it comes to versatility and ability to color almost any voice with the 'talk show' sound, and that's the EV RE20.

Electro-Voice RE20 classic black and white mounted in shock mount microphone EV
The RE20 mounted in the 309A shockmount.

Profiling Drupal 8 Sites in Drupal VM with XHProf and Tideways

XHProf, a PHP extension formerly created and maintained by Facebook, has for many years been the de-facto standard in profiling Drupal's PHP code and performance issues. Unfortunately, as Facebook has matured and shifted resources, the XHProf extension maintenance tailed off around the time of the PHP 7.0 era, and now that we're hitting PHP 7.1, even some sparsely-maintained forks are difficult (if not impossible) to get running with newer versions of PHP.

Enter Tideways.

Tideways has basically taken on the XHProf extension, updated it for modern PHP versions, but also re-branded it to be named 'Tideways' instead of 'XHProf'. This has created a little confusion, since Tideways also offers a branded and proprietary service for aggregating and displaying profiling information through Tideways.io. But you can use Tideways completely independent from Tideways.io, as a drop-in replacement for XHProf. And you can even browse profiling results using the same old XHProf UI!

How to securely erase free space on a hard drive (Mac)

From time to time, I need to clean off the contents of a hard drive on one of my Macs—most often this is the case prior to selling the mac or giving it to someone else. Instead of just formatting the drive, installing macOS, then handing it off, I want to make sure all the contents I had stored on it are irrecoverably erased (I sometimes work on projects under NDA, and I also like having some semblance of privacy in general).

Disk Utility used to expose this functionality in the UI, which made this a very simple operation. But it seems to have gone missing in recent macOS versions. Luckily, it's still available on the command line (via Terminal.app):

diskutil secureErase freespace 0 "/Volumes/Macintosh HD"

This command would write zeroes on the entire 'Macintosh HD' drive. You can see a list of all the drives connected to your Mac with ls /Volumes. There are a few other common options available (instead of 0) if you run man diskutil and scroll down to the secureErase section. I most commonly use:

Removing Sticker Residue from a MacBook Air (or another laptop)

I like putting stickers on my laptops, to make them a little more personal. But I hate removing the inevitable sticker residue after peeling off stickers before I sell or pass on my old laptop.

In this video, I'll show you my current best technique for getting residue off most metal and hard plastic surfaces:

Let me know if you know of any better ways that won't mar the surface or take hours!

Setting up Faceted Apache Solr search in Drupal 8

Note: Extra special thanks to Doug Vann for providing motivation to finally post this blog post!

Early in 2016, when the Search API and Solr-related modules for Drupal 8 were in early alpha status, I wrote the blog post Set up a faceted Apache Solr search page on Drupal 8 with Search API Solr and Facets.

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