Django Projects    Posted:


Over the past 6 years, I've built a lot of things with Django. It has treated me very well, and I have very much enjoyed seeing it progress. I got into Django when I helped the company I was working for transition away from a homegrown PHP framework toward something more reliable and flexible. It was very exciting to learn more about Django at a time when the ecosystem was very young.

When I started with Django, there weren't a lot of pluggable apps to fill the void for things like blogs, event calendars, and other useful utilities for the kinds of sites I was building. That has changed quite a bit since then. The ecosystem has evolved and progressed like mad, and it's wonderful. We have so many choices for simple things to very complex things. It's amazing!

Unfortunately, during this whole time period, my development efforts have shifted from creating my own open source projects to share with the world toward more proprietary solutions for my employers. If it's not obvious to you from my blog activity in recent years, I've become very busy with family life and work. I have very little time to give my open source projects the attention they deserve.

For at least 4 years, I've been telling myself that I'd have/make time to revamp all of my projects. To make them usable with what Django is today instead of what it was when I built the projects. Yeah, this time has never showed up. Take a look at the last time I wrote a blog article!

I have decided to disown pretty much all of my open source Django projects. I've basically done this with one or two of the more popular projects already--let someone else take the reigns while I lurk in the background and occasionally comment on an issue here or there. I truly appreciate those who have taken the initiative here. But there are still plenty of projects that people may find useful that need some attention. I'm putting it up to the community to take these projects over if you find them useful so they can get the love and attention they need.

Here is a list of Django projects that anyone is free to assume responsibility for. Most of them are silly and mostly useless now. Some are unpleasant to look at and could use an entire rewrite.

The fact that I'm giving up these projects does not mean I'm giving up on Django. On the contrary, I'm still using it quite heavily. I'm just doing it in such a way that I can't necessarily post my work for everyone to use. I honestly don't expect much of this disowning effort, since the projects are mostly stale and incompatible with recent versions of Django. But please let me know if you do want to take over one of my projects and care for it.

Comments

Django-Tracking 0.3.5    Posted:


I've finally gotten around to looking at a bunch of tickets that had been opened for django-tracking in the past year and a half or so. I feel horrible that it's really taken that long for me to get to them! Every time I got a ticket notification, I told myself, "Okay, I'll work on that this weekend." Many have weekends have passed without any work on any of my projects. I'm going to get better about that!

Anyway, several fixes have gone into the latest version of django-tracking. Some have to do with unicode problems (thanks ramusus!). Others have to do with overall performance, while yet others have to do with overall stability.

The first interesting change in this release is that django-tracking no longer relies on the GeoIP Python API. Instead it's now using django.contrib.gis.utils.GeoIP. I had hoped that this would remove the dependency on the GeoIP C API, but it appears that I was mistaken. Oh well.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in this new release is the use of caching. With caching in place, the middleware classes don't slam the database nearly as badly as they used to. There's still more that could be done with caching to improve performance, but I think what I've got now will be a big help.

Another noteworthy change, in my opinion, is the use of logging. I've sprinkled mildly useful logging messages throughout the code so you can learn when something bad happens that is silently handled. I hope that this will help me improve the quality of the code as it will allow anyone who uses the project (and pays attention to the log messages, of course) to tell me when bad things are happening.

Finally, the packaging code has been updated to be much more simple. Version 0.3.5 has been uploaded to PyPI and is available via pip or easy_install. If you prefer to have the latest copy of the code, the official code repositories are (in order of my personal preference):

I can't wait for your feedback!

Comments

Django-Articles 2.1.1 Released    Posted:


I've been working on some neat changes to django-articles recently, and I've just released version 2.1.1. The most noticeable feature in this release is Auto-Tagging. Since I feel like I've described the feature fairly well in the README, I'll just copy/paste that section here.

The auto-tagging feature allows you to easily apply any of your current tags to your articles. When you save an Article object with auto-tagging enabled for that article, django-articles will go through each of your existing tags to see if the entire word appears anywhere in your article's content. If a match is found, that tag will be added to the article.

For example, if you have tags "test" and "art", and you wrote a new auto-tagged Article with the text:

This is a test article.

django-articles would automatically apply the "test" tag to this article, but not the "art" tag. It will only apply the "art" tag automatically when the actual word "art" appears in the content.

Auto-tagging does not remove any tags that are already assigned to an article. This means that you can still add tags the good, old-fashioned way in the Django Admin without losing them. Auto-tagging will only add to an article's existing tags (if needed).

Auto-tagging is enabled for all articles by default. If you want to disable it by default (and enable it on a per-article basis), set ARTICLES_AUTO_TAG to False in your settings.py file.

Auto-Tagging does not attempt to produce any keywords that magically represent the content of your articles. Only existing tags are used!!

I sure had fun programming this little feature. I know it will be particularly useful for my own site.

Another item I'd like to mention about this release: I've finally started using South migrations in this app. This is a move I've been planning to make for quite some time now.

Head on over to http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/django-articles or use pip install -U django-articles (or easy_install django-articles if you must)! Enjoy!

Comments

New Feature in django-articles: Articles From Email    Posted:


One of the features that I really like about sites like posterous and tumblr is that they allow you to send email to a special email address and have it be posted as a blog article. This is a feature I've been planning to implement in django-articles pretty much since its inception way back when. I finally got around to working on it.

The latest release of django-articles allows you to configure a mailbox, either IMAP4 or POP3, to periodically check for new emails. A new management command check_for_articles_from_email can be used to process the messages found in the special mailbox. If any emails are found, they will be fetched, parsed, and posted based on your configuration values. Only articles whose sender matches an active user in your Django site will be turned into articles. You can configure the command to mark such articles from email as "inactive" so they don't appear on the site without moderation. The default behavior, actually, is to mark the articles inactive--you must explicitly configure django-articles to automatically mark the articles as active if you want this behavior.

One of the biggest things that you should keep in mind with this new feature, though, is that it does not currently take your attachments into account. In time I plan on implementing this functionality. For now, only the plain text content of your email will be posted. Please see the project's README for more information about this new feature.

Please keep in mind that this is brand new functionality and it's not been very well tested in a wide variety of situations. Right now, it's in the "it works for me" stage. If you find problems with it, please create a ticket or update any similar existing tickets using the ticket tracker on bitbucket.org.

You can install or update django-articles using the following utilities:

  • pip install -U django-articles
  • easy_install -U django-articles
  • hg clone http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/django-articles/ or just hg pull -u if you have already cloned it
  • git clone git://github.com/codekoala/django-articles.git

Enjoy!

P.S. This article was posted via email

Comments

2Ze.us Updates    Posted:


There has been quite a bit of recent activity in my 2ze.us project since I first released it nearly a year ago. My intent was not to become a competitor with bit.ly, is.gd, or anyone else in the URL-shortening arena. I created the site as a way for me to learn more about Google's AppEngine. It didn't take very long to get it up and running, and it seemed to work fairly well.

AppEngine and Extensions

I was able to basically leave the site alone on AppEngine for several months--through about September 2009. In that time, I came up with a Firefox extension to make its use more convenient.

The extension allows you to quickly get a shortened URL for the page you're currently looking at, and a couple of context menu items let you get a short URL for things like specific images on a page. Also included in the extension is a preview for 2ze.us links. The preview can tell you the title and domain of the link's target. It can tell you how much smaller the 2ze.us URL is compared to the full URL. Finally, it displays how many times that particular 2ze.us link has been clicked.

That as all fine and dandy. It was the second Firefox extension I had ever written, and it's still running strong. In June or July of 2009, I started working on a little program to make it easier for me to interact with Twitter the way I wanted to. This was a great opportunity for me to incorporate 2ze.us into the application so any URL I wanted to post to Twitter would automatically be shortened for me, using my own shortener.

Porting to WebFaction And PHP

Anyway, around the end of September 2009, I noticed that there were a lot of problems with 2ze.us. It was slow and sometimes completely unresponsive. Certain URLs would redirect to their full URLs, while others wouldn't. The Firefox extension stopped working nicely. Oh yeah, and AppEngine rolled back to a previous revision of the code without me telling it to. That's when everything just died. It didn't take long for me to decide to migrate my project from AppEngine onto my awesome WebFaction hosting.

At this point, I was faced with a small dilemma: keep the code in Python, or port it to PHP. I opted to port it over to PHP, because I didn't want all of the overhead of a full Django instance for a site that needed to be very zippy. And I was unacquainted with other Python options.

By early October 2009, I had managed to turn the project into a PHP beast, running on Apache. It was a lot more responsive than AppEngine ever let 2ze.us be. There were a few bumps along the road, what with the extension and Twitter client relying on various parts of the site. Eventually it got to a point where I could just let it sit and work.

Chromium Extension

Sometime around the end of December, I decided to write another extension for 2ze.us, only for Google Chrome and Chromium this time. This extension isn't quite as feature-packed as its Firefox brother, but it gets the job done.

Clip2Zeus

Shortly after "completing" the Chromium extension, I had what seemed like a pretty original idea. Who knows if it really is, but I still haven't seen another tool quite like the one that I made as a result of this idea. I thought, "Now, why should I need to install an extension in each Web browser I use on each computer I use? Is there a better way?"

The answer came quickly: a standalone, desktop application. Write one program that handles shortening URLs for you. My laziness told me to make a program that monitors your system clipboard for URLs. If a URL is detected, try to shorten it, and update the clipboard contents in place. Boom. Done. All extensions become useless beyond things like the URL preview (which is very useful, imo).

The next question I asked was, "Do I make it platform-dependent? Should I stick it to the majority of computer users and write my tool for Linux only? For OSX only? For, uh... Windows only?" Again, an easy question to answer. Support them all or don't even bother writing the application.

A week's worth of midnight hacking saw the birth of Clip2Zeus 1.0a. It's a cross-platform compatible desktop application that does exactly what I just mentioned. When it's running and detects a URL on your system clipboard, it will try to shorten it and update it in your clipboard. If you copy a block of text, the application will only modify the URLs in that block of text--meaning the block of text will still be in your clipboard, but it will have shorter URLs.

I use the program every day at work (on OSX). It's been very fun for me to see a short URL any time I copy a nasty URL to my clipboard. Imagine that; I'm a big fan of my own work...

Tornado

Lately, I've noticed that the site was getting kind of slow again. Sometimes it would take several seconds for Clip2Zeus to shorten URLs in my clipboard, when it was normally instantaneous. Every once in a while, Clip2Zeus would completely fail to connect to the website.

One of my friends has asked me a lot of questions about the Tornado framework in the past months. I had read a few things about Tornado when it was open-sourced last year, but I didn't really feel the need to dabble with it. These questions prompted me to tinker a little.

Last night I re-ported 2ze.us to Python, using the Tornado framework this time. So far I'm very impressed with its responsiveness. The framework offers a lot of neat little utilities, and it is very fast (as reported by dozens of other reputable sources).

On top of the speed increase that came with the transition to Tornado, my RAM usage on WebFaction has come down by nearly 100MB. Just by turning off the one Apache-backed website. Now I'm nowhere near my RAM cap! Wahoo!!

Enough rambling. Like I said at the beginning of this article, a lot has been happening with this project in the past year. I didn't even think about all of the time I put into projects related to my simple little side project. Looking back, I'm quite satisfied with how things have unfolded.

Statistics

Here are some simple statistics for 2ze.us. Since March 2009...

  • 5,252 URLs have been shortened using 2ze.us
  • 2ze.us links have been clicked 198,267 times
  • 315,951 URL characters have been turned into 11,532 characters

In April 2009...

  • 217 URLs were shortened
  • 2ze.us links were clicked 617 times

In February 2010...

  • 1,182 URLs were shortened
  • 2ze.us links were clicked 32,830 times

Not too shabby for a side project.

Comments

Tip: easy_install / pip    Posted:


With all of the exciting updates to Mercurial recently, I've been on a rampage, updating various boxes everywhere I go. I'm in the habit of using easy_install and/or pip to install most of my Python-related packages. It's pretty easy to install packages that are in well-known locations (like PyPI or on Google Code, for example). It's also pretty easy to update packages using either utility. Both take a -U parameter, which, to my knowledge, tells it to actually check for updates and install the latest version.

That's all fine and dandy, but what happens when you want to install an "unofficial" version of some package? I mean, what if your favorite project all of the sudden includes some feature that you will die unless you can have access to it and the next official version is weeks or months in the future? There are typically a few avenues you can take to satisfy your needs, but I wanted to bring up something that I think not many people are aware of: easy_install and pip can both understand URLs to installable Python packages.

What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, when you get down to the basics of what both utilities do, they just take care of downloading some Python package and installing it with the setup.py file contained therein. In many cases, these utilities will search various package repositories, such as PyPI, to download whatever package you specify. If the package is found, it will be downloaded and extracted.

In most cases, you can do all of that yourself:

$ wget http://pypi.python.org/someproject/somepackage.tar.gz
$ tar zxf somepackage.tar.gz
$ cd somepackage
$ python setup.py install

Both easy_install and pip obviously do a lot of other magic, but that is perhaps the most basic way to understand what they do. To answer that last question, you can help your utility of choice out by specifying the exact URL to the specific package you want it to install for you:

$ easy_install http://pypi.python.org/someproject/somepackage.tar.gz
$ pip install http://pypi.python.org/someproject/somepackage.tar.gz

For me, this feature comes in very handy with projects that are hosted on BitBucket, for example, because you can always get any revision of the project in a tidy .tar.gz file. So when I'm updating Mercurial installations, I can do this to get the latest stable revision:

$ easy_install http://selenic.com/repo/hg-stable/archive/tip.tar.gz

It's pretty slick. Here's a full example:

[user@web ~]$ hg version
Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.2.1)

Copyright (C) 2005-2009 Matt Mackall <mpm@selenic.com> and others
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO
warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
[user@web ~]$ easy_install http://selenic.com/repo/hg-stable/archive/tip.tar.gz
Downloading http://selenic.com/repo/hg-stable/archive/tip.tar.gz
Processing tip.tar.gz
Running Mercurial-stable-branch--8bce1e0d2801/setup.py -q bdist_egg --dist-dir /tmp/easy_install-Gnk2c9/Mercurial-stable-branch--8bce1e0d2801/egg-dist-tmp--2VAce
zip_safe flag not set; analyzing archive contents...
mercurial.help: module references __file__
mercurial.templater: module references __file__
mercurial.extensions: module references __file__
mercurial.i18n: module references __file__
mercurial.lsprof: module references __file__
Removing mercurial unknown from easy-install.pth file
Adding mercurial 1.4.1-4-8bce1e0d2801 to easy-install.pth file
Installing hg script to /home/user/bin

Installed /home/user/lib/python2.5/mercurial-1.4.1_4_8bce1e0d2801-py2.5-linux-i686.egg
Processing dependencies for mercurial==1.4.1-4-8bce1e0d2801
Finished processing dependencies for mercurial==1.4.1-4-8bce1e0d2801
[user@web ~]$ hg version
Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.4.1+4-8bce1e0d2801)

Copyright (C) 2005-2009 Matt Mackall <mpm@selenic.com> and others
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO
warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Notice the version change from 1.2.1 to 1.4.1+4-8bce1e0d2801. w00t.

Edit: devov pointed out that pip is capable of installing packages directly from its repository. I've never used this functionality, but I'm interested in trying it out sometime! Thanks devov!

Comments

Mercurial 1.4.1 Released    Posted:


I just noticed that Mercurial 1.4.1 was released today. Most of the changes are pretty minor, but I wanted to voice my appreciation for a new extension that is included with this release: schemes.

This extension basically makes your life easier by shortening redundant URLs for you. For example, you can now use the following command to snag my simple Mercurial extensions repo from BitBucket:

hg clone bb://codekoala/hgext

Without hgext.schemes, that command would be something like one of the following commands:

hg clone http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/hgext
hg clone ssh://hg@bitbucket.org/codekoala/hgext

Not the most ground-breaking of extensions, but still pretty slick!

Comments

Automatic Config Replication With Mercurial    Posted:


I've done a lot of neat things since I started my new job earlier this month. I'm really excited about the things I've learned and experimented with, and I would like to share some of the concepts with my visitors.

At work we use a lot of virtual machines in our individual development environments. Most of these virtual machines use very similar configuration settings, but the settings are not a standard part of the installation. That is because we build our virtual machines using the same installation tools that our customers would use. The configuration I'm talking about is just stuff specific to our development environment.

Creating and configuring these virtual machines is one of the first things my mentor showed me how to do my first day on the job. He commented on how quickly I would probably start learning all of the configuration tasks because we tend to setup our development VMs several times a month. That was all fine and dandy, and I did get a pretty good feel for what needed to go into a development VM that first day.

However, after doing it so many times, I realized how much time I was using just trying to get the VM set up just right. It wasn't hard to configure--it was just time-consuming. It wasn't long before I started thinking of ways to optimize the process.

One of the ideas I came up with, which seems to be serving my purposes perfectly, is that of using Mercurial to quickly and easily get the exact same configuration from one box to another. It also has the added benefit of keeping a history of the changes I make to my configuration as time goes on.

I won't go into exact detail on how I have things setup at work, but I would like to try to describe a similar scenario that should illustrate my goal just as well.

Getting Started

One of the first things I would encourage you to do is follow along. It will make the concept sink in much faster, and you will probably see other applications very quickly. Please note, however, that if you're following along exactly, it could be a very time-consuming process. I will be using 3 virtual machines as I write this, but you could just as easily use 5, 10, or 100,000. Likewise, you could eliminate the virtual machines altogether if you're in an environment with several physical computers.

One virtual machine will act as the "master" server, or the one that will be configured first. The other virtual machines will act as "slave" servers, which will simply receive configuration updates that happen on the master server. We will also modify this behavior to be a bit more interesting toward the end of the article.

Virtual Machines Galore!

First off, I will create some basic virtual machines using the net install version of Debian 5.0.3. I really only need to create 1 VM and then clone it a couple of times. I am willing to furnish my virtual machines to those who are interested in using them. I will install some additional software in the VM to make sure the demo works smoothly. Among the packages that I will install are:

  • Python
  • Mercurial
  • OpenSSH server

Initialize a Repository

Once I have all of that set up in my virtual machines, I will initialize a Mercurial repository on the master server to maintain the configuration files that I am interested in. Let's just use the /etc directory for the time being. There's a pretty good chance that most of our system-wide configuration will all be contained somewhere beneath /etc.

cd /etc
hg init

Now let's have a gander at the files that we can have Mercurial manage for us:

hg st

Wow! That is quite a set of files, isn't it? Thankfully, they should mostly be plain text files. Mercurial is very efficient at managing text files. Let's now add all of the files in /etc to our repository, so they can be tracked and easily pushed out to other systems.

hg add

That command will happily add everything that hg st printed. Obviously, we can get a little more picky about what we do and do not add to our repository, but that's not the goal of this article. Now, this step merely tells Mercurial that it needs to pay attention to changes in these files. The files have not yet been committed to the repo. Let's do that, so we have a backup of our configuration files in their pristine state:

hg ci -m "Initial import"

The -m "Initial import" is just a comment, to describe what happened to warrant a commit to the repository. It is for your use and the use of anyone who has access to your repo.

Clone The Configuration

Now let's try to push the configuration we just committed on the master server to one of the slave servers. Since my virtual machines are all essentially in the same state, there should be no conflicts, right? Try running the following command on the master server:

hg push ssh://root@slave1//etc
root@slave1's password:
remote: abort: There is no Mercurial repository here (.hg not found)!
abort: no suitable response from remote hg!

Blast! We can't simply push the configuration files out to another computer. For that to work, we'd first have to have the repository itself exist on the slave server. Let's try this another way. One the slave server, run this command:

hg clone ssh://root@master//etc /etc
root@master's password:
abort: destination '/etc/' is not empty

Doh! Mercurial won't let us clone the repository from the master server! That's because Mercurial wants to clone to a new directory, with nothing already in it. One way to get around this hairball of a show-stopper is to just copy the repo using conventional UNIX utilities. Execute this command on one of your slave servers:

scp -r root@master:/etc/.hg /etc/

The .hg directory contains all of the repository information, and it's really all we need to snag in order to clone the repository. This might not be the most elegant solution in the world, but it will suffice for the time being. Once the scp command completes, we should have a full copy of the configuration file repository. Run this command to verify:

hg st

If your setup is anything like mine, you'll probably have a few files that are listed as being modified. Chances are that these files will vary from host to host anyway, and they are probably not worth keeping in a version control system. That would just be begging for conflicts.

I wrote an extension for Mercurial that should make this part of my tutorial a little less hacky. On your other slave server, run the following commands:

hg clone http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/hgext /root/hgext
echo "[extensions]" >> /root/.hgrc
echo "neclone = /root/hgext/neclone.py" >> /root/.hgrc

This extension gives you a new Mercurial command called neclone (N. E. Clone, or "not empty clone"). As we saw earlier, Mercurial doesn't let us clone a repository into a directory that is not empty. This extension allows us to do that. It works almost identically to the regular clone command... takes the same options and everything.

Still on your second slave server, run these additional commands:

hg neclone ssh://root@master//etc /etc
cd /etc
hg up -C

The last step is optional, and soon to be included as part of the extension. It will update your working copy to the latest revision in the repository. Beware that it overwrites any uncommitted changes you may have made to files that are tracked by Mercurial.

So now both slave servers should have a clone of the configuration repository from the master server.

Being Picky

Let's start to be a little picky about the files we are tracking in our repository. Some of the files appears as being modified on my slave server after copying the .hg directory from the master server are:

  • adjtime
  • alternatives/pager
  • alternatives/pager.1.gz
  • mailcap
  • network/run/ifstate
  • udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules

I think it's safe to remove these from the repository, to avoid conflicts with other systems. To tell Mercurial to stop tracking files it is tracking, without actually deleting the file from the filesystem, you can use the following command:

hg forget adjtime
hg forget mailcap

And so on. Go ahead and do that for each of the files that appeared to be modified on your slave server immediately after copying the .hg directory. I'm going to add /etc/hostname to the list of files to forget too.

After doing that, each of those files should appear as being marked for removal when you run hg st. Don't worry, this is normal. The files will not be deleted from the filesystem, but they will be deleted from the repository. Go ahead and commit those changes to the repository on your slave server.

hg ci -Am "Removed some files from version control"

Now let's push those changes out to the master server:

hg push
abort: repository default-push not found!

Since we copied the .hg directory directly using scp, our slave won't know where the changes need to go when we run the push command with no explicit destination repository. To fix that, let's create a file in /etc/.hg/ called hgrc on the slave server. In that file, put the following text:

[paths]
default = ssh://root@master//etc

The hg push command should now push directly to the master server. Yay! The problem we face now is that every other slave server in the group is out of date. How can we fix that? We'll use Mercurial hooks.

Automating Config Replication

Mercurial offers some very useful hooks that we can use to automatically push configuration changes out to each of our slave servers. We will use the commit and changegroup hooks to do the magic. Let's create a script that will live on the master server to take care of pushing our changes out to each slave server. Create a new file in /etc/ on the master server called propagate.sh:

#!/bin/bash
hg up
for node in 'slave1' 'slave2'
do
    ssh root@$node "cd /etc; hg pull -u"
done

Let's also make sure this script is executable:

chmod +x /etc/propagate.sh

This script assumes that your /etc/hosts file or your nameserver are configured appropriately to allow slave1 and slave2 to be resolved to IP addresses. The reason we're SSH'ing into each slave server and using hg pull instead of simply using hg push ssh://root@$node//etc is because you can't force an update on a remote server using push. You can, however, request an update when you're using pull.

Obviously, this script is not the most sophisticated of scripts. It might work well for my demonstration, with only a few servers, but once you get beyond that it would be a nightmare to maintain the list of servers the script has to connect to. You can use whatever means you'd like to keep track of the servers you want to replicate your configuration to. I don't want to bother with all of the crap I'd get for suggesting one thing over another, so it's now your call.

Now it's time to configure the Mercurial hook to execute that script when the master server sees a changeset get into its repository. Open up /etc/.hg/hgrc on the master server, or create it if it doesn't exist. Make sure it has at least the following in it:

[hooks]
commit.propagate = /etc/propagate.sh
changegroup.propagate = /etc/propagate.sh

Let's try it out! Run these commands on your master server:

echo "" >> /etc/hosts
hg ci -m "Added a blank line to the hosts file"
root@slave1's password:
remote: Permission denied, please try again.
remote: Permission denied, please try again.
remote: Permission denied (publickey,password).
abort: no suitable response from remote hg!
Connection closed by slave2
warning: commit.propagate hook exited with status 255

Blast! The script failed because it wanted us to type in a password, but it was not in interactive mode. Let's fix that with a little preshared key magic. I won't go into the details about how this works, but the following commands on your master server should get us rolling:

ssh-keygen
cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys2
scp -r ~/.ssh root@slave1:~
scp -r ~/.ssh root@slave2:~

Warning

Keep in mind this is not secure and should probably not be how your production machines are configured, especially with the root user.

For simplicity's sake, just accept all of the details and don't set a passphrase. These commands enable us to SSH into our slave servers without using a password. If you get an error such as:

remote: Host key verification failed.
abort: no suitable response from remote hg!

...it just means you need to manually log into your master server from the slave machine that threw that error. When doing so, you will have to answer "yes" to a question about the authenticity of the host you're logging into.

Testing It Out

It is now time to see if we can make a configuration change on one slave server and have it show up on the other slave server. Let's update the hosts file a little bit. Let's add the following line on the second slave server:

10.0.0.5        nonexistanthost

Now let's commit the change and push it off to the master server:

hg ci -m "Added a dumb line to the hosts file"
hg push

My system actually told me that that it had copied the change out to another host. I know because I saw these lines:

remote: pulling from ssh://root@master//etc
remote: searching for changes
remote: adding changesets
remote: adding manifests
remote: adding file changes
remote: added 1 changesets with 1 changes to 1 files

Now when I look at the first slave server, I should see that new line in my /etc/hosts file. Also, the log on each server should have the same entry that I just made about adding "a dumb line to the hosts file."

Seem Like A Lot of Work?

A lot of what we just did probably seemed like more work that it is worth, right? Well, being a nerd typically comes with a few qualities. One quality which I have observed many a time in my most geeky of friends is that they will spend hours and hours up front on a program or script just so they can save 2 minutes in the future. They work hard to be lazy.

There is a lot of boilerplate configuration that takes place in this particular scenario. I realize that. What I haven't shared with you, though, is how I automated the boilerplate configuration as well as the propagation of configuration. I'm tired of putting this article off, so I will have to leave those details for another article. Sorry!

Why?! There's a Better Way (tm)

There is always a better way. Always. Go ahead and use whatever you feel is the most efficient method for keeping configuration files in sync across several computers. This is just one more option to add to your toolkit. Don't worry, I won't be offended if you don't like it or don't use it. It works perfect for me and it's free, and I just wanted to share!

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Google Code + Mercurial = Many Happies    Posted:


Last night I noticed that Google Code is actually offering the Mercurial project hosting that they promised back in April. I guess it's been around for most of May, but I never saw any news to suggest that it was actually public. As soon as I noticed it, I converted one of my less-known, less-used SVN projects to Mercurial. I'm really liking it.

I need to do a bit more work on this particular project before I announce it to the world, but it's out there, and it's Mercurial powered now babay. I think I will be leaving most of my other projects in SVN so I don't upset all of the other people who actually use them.

Oh, I also noticed that the project quotas were bumped up quite a bit. Now each project seems to get a whopping 1GB of space for free!!! What do you have to say about that, BitBucket/GitHub/Assembla/[insert dirty, rotten free open source project hosting host name here]?!

Hooray for Google Code!

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Checking In    Posted:


I suppose I should update everyone out there about what I've been up to lately. It seems strange to me that I post article much less frequently now than I did when I was a full-time university student. You'd think I'd have a whole lot more time to blog about whatever I've been working on. I suppose I do indeed have that time, it's just that I usually like to wait until my projects are "ready" for the public before I write about them.

The biggest reason I haven't posted much of anything lately is a small Twitter client I've been working on. Its purpose is to be a simple, out-of-the-way Twitter client that works equally well on Windows, Linux, and OSX. The application is written in Python and wxPython, and it has been coming along quite well. It works great in Linux (in GNOME and KDE at least), but Windows and OSX have issues with windows stealing focus when I don't want them to. I'm still trying to figure it out--any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Chirpy currently does nothing more than check your Twitter accounts for updates periodically. It notifies you of new updates using blinking buttons (which can be configured to not blink). I think the interface is pretty nice and easy to use, but I am its developer so it's only proper that I think that way.

Anyway, that project has been sucking up a lot of my free time. It's been frustrating as I build it in Linux only to find that Windows and OSX both act stupidly when I go to test it. That frustration inspired me to tinker with a different approach to a Twitter client. I began fooling around with it last night, and I think the idea has turned out to be more useful than Chripy is after a month of development!

I'm calling this new project "Tim", which is short for "Twitter IM". This one also periodically checks your Twitter account(s) for updates (of course). However, Tim will send any Twitter updates to any Jabber-enabled instant messenger client that you are signed into. If you're like me, you have Google Talk open most of the day, so you can just have Twitter updates go straight there! You can also post updates to Twitter using your Jabber instant messenger when Tim is running by simply sending a message back!!

The really neat stuff comes in when you start to consider the commands that I've added to Tim tonight. I've made it possible for you to filter out certain hashtags, follow/unfollow users, and specify from which Twitter account to post updates (when you have multiple accounts enabled). I hate all of those #FollowFriday tweets... they drive me crazy. So all I have to do is type ./filter followfriday and no tweet that contains #FollowFriday will be sent to my Jabber client. I love it.

More commands are on the way. Also on the way is a friendly interface for configuring Tim. Getting it up and running the first time is... a little less than pleasant :) Once you have it configured it seems to work pretty well though.

If you're interested in trying it out, just head on over to the project's page (http://bitbucket.org/codekoala/twitter-im/). Windows users can download an installer from the Downloads tab. I plan on putting up a DMG a little later tonight for OSX users. Linux users can download the .tar.gz file and install the normal Python way :) Enjoy!

Update: The DMG for OSX is a little bigger than I thought it would be, so I won't be hosting it on bitbucket. Instead, you can download it from my server.

Don't forget to read the README !!!

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