Hubot with Git Submodules

I love hubot and use one in a few different places. One thing I do find though is that I often want to edit or evolve those plugins, and it seems somehow unethical to just hardcode my changes into my own repo. Once I figured out how to wire together a forked repo as a submodule, it became much easier to work with hubots with external plugins, so I thought I'd share my recipe for that. Continue reading

Git: upstream is gone

I came across a git repo recently that output this message with every operation I did:

Your branch is based on 'origin/master', but the upstream is gone.
  (use "git branch --unset-upstream" to fixup)

I was delivering a workshop at the time so I kinda snarled at it and carried on with what I was doing, but later I looked up what is happening. This occurs when a branch is tracking a branch that the git repo doesn't have any information about - the branches to be tracked aren't in the local repo metadata.

In my case, it happened because I had created and then cloned an empty repo for training purposes - so origin/master didn't actually exist yet! I added a quick commit-and-push to my script and hope that I won't be upstaged by this change that came in with git 1.8.5.

Hopefully this post will help someone else to avoid being upstaged or irritated by this as well!

5 Reasons to Consider Upgrading Your PHP Platform

In recent years, the release cycle of PHP has become much shorter. We now have a much more controlled and well-publicised process of releases, and moving between each version is no longer a leap of faith. The newer versions have HUGE performance improvements, great features, and better security, and the software is free to use. Yet we have a very, very long tail of PHP installations on older versions (around 75% on entirely unsupported versions at this point). Many of the companies I talk to think that upgrading will be pointless and painful, but that's not my experience of migrating PHP projects. Here are a few things you might like to think about or be aware of before you make the decisions that "not broken" is good enough for your applications. Continue reading

ZCE Preparation Pack

tl;dr version: the ZCE Preparation Pack is now available from Leanpub https://leanpub.com/zce costing $30.

I've been running a preparation course for the Zend Certified Engineer exam for many years now.  Once upon a time it was possible to buy a pack of sample exams and I used them myself when preparing for certification and also recommended them for all my students.  Unfortunately this resource became unavailable and so I created a sample exam to use with my own course .... and then (after some nagging!) made it generally available.

I've now relaunched the pack on a new platform (for boring regulatory reasons); its new home is on Leanpub which is a fantastic platform for authors, offering markdown authoring, github integration, and many other awesome features.  Perhaps more importantly, it also offers great features for readers: a 45-day money back guarantee and automatic updates to any book you have bought.

If you're thinking of improving your skills by studying for ZCE or considering upgrading your certification to the current version (PHP 5.5), this pack will help you to prepare.  It includes:
- Advice on what to expect on the day
- One exam's worth (70) of questions in the style of the ZCE
- Answers with explanations, worked examples, and resources for further study

Help yourself get ready for ZCE: https://leanpub.com/zce

Gollum the Git-Enabled Wiki

In trying to get company documentation off google docs and people's laptops and into a more useful format, I have been researching developer-friendly tools for business documentation. Requirements went something like:
- must handle words and documents
- should be available locally, bonus points for revision history
- must publish to the web, and ideally be editable there
- should accept content in markdown
- must have access control (which wiped out my original plan of using a static site generator)

While I worked on this, we were using the wiki feature in GitLab ... which pretty much hit the nail on the head. Further investigation showed that the wiki feature in GitLab (and indeed in GitHub) is a ruby gem called Gollum. Continue reading

Set Up Your First Hubot

It took me far too long to get my first hubot working; when I finally sat down to get it going the process was much easier than I expected! So here's a little guide in the hope that this helps you get started too.
Continue reading

Hubot and Slack

I'm enjoying using hubot to integrate services very easily and both give updates and respond to commands in chat. One of my hubots chats to us in slack rather than in IRC, and there are a couple of gotchas that I wish I'd known about before I started!

  • Hubot will not respond to you in PM, you need to join a channel and then /invite @hubot and your bot will join you in that channel and then respond when you address him/her by name
  • When configuring channel names for slack (I use the gitlab plugin which needs a GITLAB_CHANNEL environment variable), do NOT include a # at the start of it if you use slack - works a treat in IRC, but skip it for slack. I spent quite a while looking for a bug in the slack adapter before I figured this one out so it's written here for me to look up next time!
  • Also note that your hubot can only speak in channels that it has joined; I have seen hubot actually crash when asked to speak in a channel that exists but which isn't known to it.

I think this central way of having plugins which can integrate with many messaging platforms on one side, and integrate with many external APIs on the other means we'll be doing much more in chat ops moving forward. Already I'm impressed by how many of the hosted tools I use have webhooks, although there aren't hubot plugins for all of them (yet!).

XHGui on VM, Storage on Host

I'm doing some performance tuning on a project at the moment and my favourite tool is still XHGui - but it's designed to run on the same machine as its victim and since this is a vagrant VM, the chances of me destroying the machine and therefore the data are pretty high! Instead, I set it up to store the data onto the host and I thought I'd share how I did that. Continue reading

Todotxt on Android and Ubuntu

I'm a big fan of good tools, however struggle to find products that fit me because there are some key constraints:

  • I use Linux (specifically Ubuntu 14.10)
  • I don't use a pointing device. At all. If I can't use a tool from the keyboard, I can't use it at all (as a side effect, I use keyboard enablers in my browser so if your website has "helper" keyboard shortcuts, I probably can't use that either)
  • My other devices (phone, tablet, work phone) are all android

Taken together, this makes finding tools a challenge - but I've had good experiences with todotxt and the ecosystem around it. Continue reading