Skip to content

Tag: workflow

Kir: find commands by describing them from the shell

When doing system administration to fix a crash on some Unix-based server, I have run several times into the issue of trying to remember how to perform a certain task, but not remembering the exact sequence of commands. After that, I am always doing the same thing, and I have to resort to do a search on Google to find the commands I need. Those tasks are generally not frequent enough to be worth it to memorize the commands or create a script, but frequent enough for the process of searching to become really annoying. It’s also a productivity issue since it requires me to stop the current workflow, open a web browser and perform a search. For me, those things include tasks such as “how to find the number of processors on a machine” or “how to dump a Postgresql table in CSV format.”

I thought that it would be great to have some piece of code to just be able to query Google from the command-line. But that would be a mess, as for each query I would need a simple sequence of commands that I need to type, and not a blog article with fluffy text all around which is what Google is likely to return. Also, I thought about using the API ofย commandlinefu.com to get results directly from there. So I did a small Python script that performs text search that way, but the results were never exactly what I was looking for, since the commands presented there have been formatted by people who do not have the exact same needs I have. This is what brought me to implement Kir, a tiny utility to allow for text-search directly from the command-line and give the exact list of commands needed.

Automatic repository and web server synchronization on commit

When developing a web site or web application, it is always a hassle to first commit the code to the repository, and then use FTP or SCP to update the code on the web server. Various IDEs allow to automatize this “code synchronization” process with a simple button to click, however this is still one additional step on the developer’s mind. We all went through these moments where, developing late in the night, we were trying to fix a bug and realized that we were working on the wrong version as we had forgotten to update the code on the web server. What a waste of time! For the development of a recent project, that includes sharing code with other developers, I decided to put an end to this code synchronization issue, by making it fully automatic. In this article, I first present the problem and my design of a configuration-independent solution. Then, I apply this solution to the specific context of my project, which uses Python as a web server, BitBucket/Mercurial as a repository solution, and Apache/PHP to handle the commit notifications.

Motivation

Manually updating the files on a web server after a commit is a simple and straightforward step. However, it can be the source of various errors, such as:

1. Accidentally uploading the files in a wrong location on the web server
2. Forgetting to update the code on the web server and waste time debugging a deprecated version
3. Being distracted by thinking about updating the code on the web server, and losing focus on the development flow
4. Wasting time, as even if updating manually takes only a few seconds, these seconds will add up dramatically

The actual step of committing the code to the repository can hardly be automatized, as only the developer can say when the code is ready to be pushed. On the contrary, updating the code on the web server could easily be avoided. A simple system would be to get the web server to update its files and restart automatically whenever a commit is made to the repository. Figure 1 below describes the design of this automatic synchronization system.

Figure 1 - Automatic synchronization of web server and repository on commit