Nginx Load Balancer Visualization on a Raspberry Pi Cluster

After some more tinkering with the Raspberry Pi Dramble (a cluster of 6 Raspberry Pis used to demonstrate Drupal 8 deployments using Ansible), I finally was able to get the RGB LEDs to react to Nginx accesses—meaning every time a request is received by Nginx, the LED toggles to red momentarily.

This visualization allows me to see exactly how Nginx is distributing requests among the servers in different load balancer configurations. The default (not only for Nginx, but also for Varnish, HAProxy, and other balancers) is to use round-robin distribution, meaning each request is sent to the next server. This is demonstrated first, in the video below, followed by a demonstration of Nginx's ip_hash method, which pins one person's IP address to one backend server, based on a hash of the person's IP address:

Solving the Emoji problem in Drupal 7

On many Drupal 7 sites, I have encountered issues with Emoji (mostly) and other special characters (rarely) when importing content from social media feeds, during content migrations, and in other situations, so I finally decided to add a quick blog post about it.

Have you ever noticed an error in your logs complaining about incorrect string values, with an emoji or other special character, like the following:

PDOException: SQLSTATE[HY000]: General error: 1366 Incorrect string value: '\xF0\x9F\x98\x89" ...' for column 'body_value' at row 1: INSERT INTO {field_data_body} (entity_type, entity_id, revision_id, bundle, delta, language, body_value, body_summary, body_format) VALUES (:db_insert_placeholder_0, :db_insert_placeholder_1, :db_insert_placeholder_2, :db_insert_placeholder_3, :db_insert_placeholder_4, :db_insert_placeholder_5, :db_insert_placeholder_6, :db_insert_placeholder_7, :db_insert_placeholder_8); Array ( [:db_insert_placeholder_0] => node [:db_insert_placeholder_1] => 538551 [:db_insert_placeholder_2] => 538550 [:db_insert_placeholder_3] => story [:db_insert_placeholder_4] => 0 [:db_insert_placeholder_5] => und [:db_insert_placeholder_6] => <p>[EMOJI_HERE]</p> [:db_insert_placeholder_7] => [:db_insert_placeholder_8] => filtered_html ) in field_sql_storage_field_storage_write() (line 514 of /drupal/modules/field/modules/field_sql_storage/field_sql_storage.module).

(Note: Actual Emoji was removed from this summary post to prevent Drupal Planet's aggregator from barfing on the feed... due to this very issue!).

To fix this, you need to switch the affected MySQL table's encoding to utf8mb4, and also switch any table columns ('fields', in Drupal parlance) which will store Emojis or other exotic UTF-8 characters. This will allow these special characters to be stored in the database, and stop the PDOExceptions.

Tips for a better Vagrant-based development workflow

I build and destroy a lot of VMs using Vagrant in the course of the day. Between developing Drupal VM, writing Ansible for DevOps, and testing dozens of Ansible Galaxy roles, I probably run vagrant up and vagrant destroy -f at least a dozen times a day.

Building all these VMs would be a pain, and require much more user intervention, if it weren't for a few things I've done on my local workstation to help with the process. I thought I'd share these tips so you can enjoy a much more streamlined Vagrant workflow as well!

Extremely helpful Vagrant plugins

None of my projects require particular Vagrant plugins—but many, like Drupal VM, will benefit from adding at least one venerable plugin, vagrant-hostsupdater. Every time you start or shut down a VM with Vagrant, the relevant hosts entries will be placed in your system's hosts file, without requiring you to do anything manually. Great time-saver, and highly recommended! To install: vagrant plugin install vagrant-hostsupdater

Major improvements to Drupal VM - PHP 7, MariaDB, Multi-OS

Drupal VM - Vagrant and Ansible Virtual Machine for Drupal Development

For the past couple years, I've been building Drupal VM to be an extremely-tunable, highly-performant, super-simple development environment. Since MidCamp earlier this year, the project has really taken off, with almost 200 stars on GitHub and a ton of great contributions and ideas for improvement (some implemented, others rejected).

In the time since I wrote Developing for Drupal with Vagrant and VMs, I've focused on meeting all my defined criteria for the perfect local development environment. And now, I'm able to say that I use Drupal VM when developing all my projects—as it is now flexible and fast enough to emulate any production environment I use for various Drupal projects.

Easy PHP 7 testing with CentOS 7 and MariaDB

After a few weeks of work, Drupal VM now officially supports running PHP 7 (currently, 7.0.0 alpha 2) on CentOS 7 with MariaDB, or you can even tweak the settings to compile PHP from source yourself (following to the PHP role's documentation).

DrupalCamp St. Louis 2015 finished, session videos available online!

DrupalCamp St. Louis 2015 was held this past weekend, June 20-21, 2015, at SLU LAW in downtown St. Louis. We had nine sessions and a great keynote on Saturday, and a full sprint day on Sunday.

DrupalCamp St. Louis 2015 Registration
The view coming off the elevators at SLU LAW.

Every session was recorded (slides + audio), and you can view all the sessions online:

The Camp went very well, with almost sixty participants this year! We had a great time, learned a lot together, and enjoyed some great views of downtown St. Louis (check out the picture below!), and we can't wait until next year's DrupalCamp St. Louis (to be announced)!

Sessions are Live for DrupalCamp STL.15!

The organizers of DrupalCamp St. Louis 2015 are excited to announce that the schedule is set for DrupalCamp STL.15; we will have sessions from a variety of presenters on a variety of topics—for both beginners and seasoned veterans alike!

DrupalCamp 2015 St. Louis - SLU LAW

Some of the great sessions lined up include a session on Git basics, the status of Migrate in Drupal 8, content strategy, securing Drupal, improving performance, improving search, Twig, and more! To kick it off, we'll have an awesome keynote from Alina Mackenzie (alimac) about getting involved in the Drupal Community.

Check out the sessions: DrupalCamp St. Louis 2015 Session Schedule.

Register for DrupalCamp STL.15 today, and build your schedule on the site—besides these excellent sessions, you'll get a tasty catered lunch, a comfy t-shirt, and some great memories and networking opportunities on both days of the Camp!


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