drupal 7

NFS, rsync, and shared folder performance in Vagrant VMs

It's been a well-known fact that using native VirtualBox or VMWare shared folders is a terrible idea if you're developing a Drupal site (or some other site that uses thousands of files in hundreds of folders). The most common recommendation is to switch to NFS for shared folders.

NFS shared folders are a decent solution, and using NFS does indeed speed up performance quite a bit (usually on the order of 20-50x for a file-heavy framework like Drupal!). However, it has it's downsides: it requires extra effort to get running on Windows, requires NFS support inside the VM (not all Vagrant base boxes provide support by default), and is not actually all that fast—in comparison to native filesystem performance.

I was developing a relatively large Drupal site lately, with over 200 modules enabled, meaning there were literally thousands of files and hundreds of directories that Drupal would end up scanning/including on every page request. For some reason, even simple pages like admin forms would take 2+ seconds to load, and digging into the situation with XHProf, I found a likely culprit:

is_dir xhprof Drupal

There are a few ways to make this less painful when using NFS (since NFS incurs a slight overhead for every directory/file scan):

Fixing Drupal Fast - Using Ansible to deploy a security update on many sites

Earlier today, the Drupal Security Team announced SA-CORE-2014-005 - Drupal core - SQL injection, a 'Highly Critical' bug in Drupal 7 core that could result in SQL injection, leading to a whole host of other problems.

While not a regular occurrence, this kind of vulnerability is disclosed from time to time—if not in Drupal core, in some popular contributed module, or in some package you have running on your Internet-connected servers. What's the best way to update your entire infrastructure (all your sites and servers) against a vulnerability like this, and fast? High profile sites could be quickly targeted by criminals, and need to be able to deploy a fix ASAP... and though lower-profile sites may not be immediately targeted, you can bet there will eventually be a malicious bot scanning for vulnerable sites, so these sites need to still apply the fix in a timely manner.

In this blog post, I'll show how I patched all of Midwestern Mac's Drupal 7 sites in less than 5 minutes.

Multi-value spatial search with Solr 4.x and Drupal 7

For some time, Solr 3.x and Drupal 7 have been able to do geospatial search (using the location module, geofield, or other modules that stored latitude and longitude coordinates in Drupal that could be indexed by Apache Solr). Life was good—as long as you only had one location per node!

Sometimes, you may have a node (say a product, or a personality) affiliated with multiple locations. Perhaps you have a hammer that's available in three of your company's stores, or a speaker who is available to speak in two locations. When solr 3.x and Drupal 7 encountered this situation, you would either use a single location value in the index (so the second, third, etc. fields weren't indexed or searched), or if you put multiple values into solr's search index using the LatLonType, solr could throw out unexpected results (sometimes combining the closest latitude and closest longitude to a given point, meaning you get strange search results).

With Solr 4.x, especially Solr 4.3 and 4.5, there were some great improvements to spatial search, mostly enabled by switching from the old and trusty single-value LatLonType to the new (but slightly slower) SpatialRecursivePrefixTreeFieldType, or RPT for short.

Multisite Apache Solr Search with Domain Access

Using one Apache Solr search core with more than one Drupal website isn't too difficult; you simply use a module like Apache Solr Multisite Search, or a technique like the one mentioned in Nick Veenhof's post, Let's talk Apache Solr Multisite. This kind of technique can save you time (and even money!) so you can use one Hosted Apache Solr subscription with multiple sites. The only caveat: any site using the solr core could see any other site's content (which shouldn't be a problem if you control all the sites and don't expose private data through solr).

There are two ways to make Apache Solr Search Integration work with Domain Access (one of which works similarly to the methods mentioned above for multisite), and which method you use depends on how your site's content is structured.

Solr Search with Domain Access - Siloed Content

If the content you are indexing and searching is unique per domain (just like it would be unique per multisite Drupal instance), then you can set up Domain Access to index content with a different Apache Solr hash per site, like so:

Hosted Apache Solr for Drupal

Midwestern Mac has been offering Apache Solr hosting for Drupal websites for the past three years, but this service has never been given too much attention or made easy to sign up for and use—until now!

Today we're announcing the re-launch of our service with a new website: Hosted Apache Solr.

Hosted Apache Solr home page - Drupal 7

The website was built on Drupal 7, and uses a custom base theme shared with Server Check.in (our server monitoring service built with Drupal and Node.js). We built a small payment integration module for PayPal subscriptions (though we're considering using Drupal Commerce, so we can use different payment processors more easily), and have built a very simple to use front-end for managing Solr core subscriptions.

If you don't know much about what Apache Solr can do for your site's search and listings, here's a one-sentence summary: Solr enables highly customizable and speedy content indexing, faceted and advanced search filtering abilities, and raw speed—indexing and searching are many times faster than database-backed search (like Drupal's default search or basic Views filtering).

Overriding a template file (.tpl.php) from a module

There are many times when a custom module provides functionality that requires a tweaked or radically altered template file, either for a node, a field, a view, or something else.

While it's often a better idea to use a preprocess or alter function to accomplish what you're doing, there are many times where you need to change the markup/structure of the HTML, and modifying a template directly is the only way to do it. In these cases, if you're writing a generic custom module that needs to be shared among different sites with different themes, you can't just throw the modified template into each theme, because you'd have to make sure each of the sites' themes has the same file, and updating it would be a tough proposition.

I like to keep module-based functionality inside modules themselves, so I put all templates that do specific things relating to that module into a 'templates' subdirectory.

In my example, I'd like to override field-collection-item.tpl.php, which is included with the Field collection module. To do so, I copy the default template into my custom module's 'templates' folder, and modify it how I like. Then I implement hook_theme_registry_alter() to tell Drupal where my template exists:

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