tutorial

Using Ansible through Windows 10's Subsystem for Linux

Ever since I heard about the new 'Beta' Windows Subsystem for Linux, which basically installs an Ubuntu LTS release inside of Windows 10 (currently 14.04), I've been meaning to give it a spin, and see if it can be a worthy replacement for Cygwin, Git shell, Cmder, etc. And what I was most interested in was whether I could finally point people to a more stable and friendly way of using Ansible on a Windows workstation.

In the past, there was the option of running Ansible inside Cygwin (and this is still the best way to try getting Ansible working in an older Windows environment), but this always felt kludgy to me, and I hated having to recommend either that or forcing Windows users to do a full Linux VM installation just to run Ansible commands. I finally updated my PC laptop to the latest Windows 10 Anniversary Update, and installed the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and lo and behold, Ansible works!

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.

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!

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.

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