Oh, The Huge Manatee

A blog about technology, open source, and the web... from someone who works with all three.

Drupal Does Face Recognition: Introducing Image Auto Tag Module

Last week I wrote a Drupal module that uses face recognition to automatically tag images with the people in them. You can find it on Github, of course. With this module, you can add an image to a node, and automatically populate an entity_reference field with the names of the people in the image. This isn’t such a big deal for individual nodes of course; it’s really interesting for bulk use cases, like Digital Asset Management systems.

I had a great time at Drupalcon Nashville, reconnecting with friends, mentors, and colleagues as always. But this time I had some fresh perspective. After 3 months working with Microsoft’s (badass) CSE unit – building cutting edge proofs-of-concept for some of their biggest customers – the contrast was powerful. The Drupal core development team are famously obsessive about code quality and about optimizing the experience for de…

The #1 Question I Get Asked Working at MS: Why Do You Run Linux?

I’ve had all of a week working at Microsoft, and so far it’s been great. I’ve managed to get my Linux daily driver machine working with almost all the MS internal systems (more on that in a separate post), and all the daily use applications have web or Linux versions available. So far, so good!

But every time I’ve asked for support, or visited IT, or encountered something that didn’t work perfectly, I hear the same question: “Why do you want to run open source software, anyway?” The question isn’t asked with malice or condescention. It’s asked with genuine curiosity. This is tremendous progress for Microsoft.

It is an impo…

My War on Systemd-resolved

I run ubuntu as the base for my daily driver machine – heavily customized though it is – because Canonical’s choices are, by definition, mainstream. That makes them easy to support, easy to understand, and generally easy to work with. So what I’m about to describe is exceptional in how frustrating it is for me. Seriously, this one issue keeps is enough to drive me into the arms of another distro.

Ubuntu has a built in DNS cache, which it checks first when trying to resolve anything. This Makes Sense For The User in that DNS queries are resolved faster if they come from local cache. It Makes Sense for the network admin, in that repetitive DNS queries don’t take up bandwidth. But it really doesn’t Make Sense for the web developer.

The local DNS cache takes up port 53, which is a problem if you’re trying to run any different kind of DNS service locally. For example, the DNS service that practically an…

I’m Joining Microsoft, Because They’re Doing Open Source Right

I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed with Microsoft as a Principal Software Engineering Manager. I’m joining Microsoft because they are doing enterprise Open Source the Right Way, and I want to be a part of it. This is a sentence that I never believed I would write or say, so I want to explain.

First I have to acknowledge the history. I co-founded my first tech company just as the Halloween documents were leaked. That’s where the world learned that Microsoft considered Open Source (and Linux in particular) a threat, and was intentionally spreading FUD as a strategic counter. It was also the origin of their famous Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish strategy. The Microsoft approach to Open Source only got more aggressive from there, funneling money to SCO’s lawsuits against Linux and its users, calling OSS licensing a “cancer”, and accusing Linux of violating MS …

The 3 Skills You Need to Become a Rock Star Developer

A lot is made of so-called “rockstar developers” in any given language or framework. They have a seemingly magical knowledge of the language and API, finding obscure methods and writing best-practice code as if by instinct. I’d like to lift the curtain on this: it’s not that hard to be this kind of rock star. You can do it, too… even without a fancy computer science degree. If you know how to code in a given language, you just need 3 skills and some patience. It will take about a year of working this way to get there, but you’ll find people throwing around “the R word” sooner than you think.

1) Know how to explore the source

For most of us this c…

Why No Mainstream PHP Speakers Come to Drupalcon - and How We’re Changing That

I’ve learned something incredible as the PHP Track Chair for Drupalcon Vienna. The Drupal Association has no way to invite PHP speakers to Drupalcon.

This blew me away when I first learned about it. After all the work to bring mainstream PHP to Drupal core, after all the outreach to PHP-FIG, after all the talks Drupalists have given at major PHP conferences, how is this possible?

You see, basically every other PHP conference covers their speakers’ travel and accommodation costs. Drupalcon doesn’t, and never has. Historically it has to do with Drupalcon’s identity as a community conference, rather than a professional one. But it means the best PHP speakers never get to Drupalcon.

On one hand that’s great for our project: our speakers are all passionate volunteers! They’re specialists who care deeply about the project. On the other hand, it contributes to isolated, “stay on the island” thinking. If the only speakers we hear are Drupalists, where do we get new insights? If the only people at the BoF or code sprint table…

That Time I Resurrected My Linux MacBook Pro

In the airport last week, my laptop stopped booting.

I have a 2012 Macbook Pro – yes, that coveted “last good model” – and it runs Ubuntu Linux. It’s my roving office as I travel the world to conferences, performances, and job sites. So when I started it up at JFK airport this week and got a gray screen of death, I was a little concerned.

I tried starting into Startup Manager by holding the “Option” key. No bootable options appeared. Just an unhopeful file folder with a question mark. This was Not A Good Sign.

Generally this icon means that EFI couldn’t find a valid startup device. This is not the first time I’ve seen this – I’ve played with my boot options enough to mess this up for myself a few times! I breathed a heavy sigh and tried starting onto the…

Better PHP === Better Drupalists: The PHP Track at Drupalcon Vienna

One of the best parts of Drupal 8 is our shift to enterprise PHP coding structures. With tools like composer and Symfony’s structures like Events and Dependency Injection, Drupalists are learning to be great PHP developers, and vice-versa. Today, the fastest route to becoming a rock star Drupalist is through PHP.

I’m one of the PHP track chairs for Drupalcon Vienna, and this year our focus is better PHP === better Drupalists. How can better PHP make your life as a Drupal developer easier?

Stop Waiting for Feeds Module: How to Import RSS in Drupal 8

How do you import an RSS feed into entities with Drupal 8? In Drupal 6 and 7, you probably used the Feeds module. Feeds 7 made it easy (-ish) to click together a configuration that matches an RSS (or any XML, or CSV, or OPML, etc) source to a Drupal entity type, maps source data into Drupal fields, and runs an import with the site Cron. Where has that functionality gone in D8? I recently had to build a podcast mirror for a client that needed this functionality, and I was surprised at what I found.

Feeds module doesn’t have a stable release candidate, and it doesn’t look like one is coming any time soon. They’re still surveying people about what feeds module should even DO in D8. As the module page explains:

It’s not ready yet, but we are brainstorming…

Stay for Community

The Crellpocalypse in the Drupal world last week has shaken the entire community. This event and its handling have called our fundamental values and structures into question. We’ve had fights on social media, calls for Dries to step down, and valuable contributors stepping away from the community. I have friends on every side of the situation, but all I can think is: This seems like the perfect time for a singing, dancing, spandexed pageant about the Drupal community.

Why? For those who don’t know, I’m one of the authors of the DrupalCon Prenote, the “pre-keynote” show that kicks off DrupalCon right before Dries’ keynote. The organizer (and my officemate), Jeffrey A. “jam” McGuire and I have been living our own special version of the crisis (Read Jam’s post about taking sides on this here…