Pressflow-6 and Pantheon-Mercury on GitHub (updated x2)

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In the past year I've discovered two things:

  • The revision management system Bazaar (aka "bzr") is an occasionally flaky little thing and I've experienced several crashes doing mundane tasks. I much prefer using Git or even Subversion as they've proven to be rock solid in my use of them over the years.
  • The Drupal fork Pressflow has a lot going for it.

However, because Pressflow uses Bazaar rather than Git I've been reluctant to bother trying it. Now that I'm working somewhere that is starting to use Pressflow for production sites I figured it was time to get over the headaches and start contributing.

As my first step towards this goal I've set up what I'm intending to be a semi-permanent mirror of Pressflow-6 on GitHub. While there were two existing mirrors neither of them had been updated yet, so now at least there is an up-to-date mirror of it available. In doing this I am committing to keeping this current for as long as I am using Drupal 6 for work, which should continue through 2011 and probably longer.

I'm also going to see if I can get involved a bit more with the Pressflow group, possibly throw some ideas learned during my days at Bonnier to help improve Drupal 6's performance for high-traffic sites, especially for logged-in users.

One of the most common uses of Pressflow is as part of the larger Pantheon Mercury project, which is a custom OS configuration for making installations of Linux tailored specially for running Pressflow, complete with a reverse-proxy engine and a local install of the Solr search engine. At Bluespark Labs we're standardizing on using this as the basis for all new production installations so it's in my best interests to know how it works and, potentially, contribute to the effort. So, like with Pressflow, my first step towards this is to create a GitHub mirror of the Pantheon project, which I'll try to keep current.

Update: You can also access the repository using Subversion, which can be useful to e.g. use svn:externals to save some steps when updating:

  • svn checkout http://svn.github.com/damienmckenna/pressflow-6.git

Update x2: FourKitchens, one of the leaders in the Pressflow group, have announced their own official git and svn mirrors of the bzr repository:

Spam-free after resolving my Mollom problem

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As a brief follow-up to my post about dealing with spam on Drupal, the problem I had with Mollom turned out to be purely in my site configuration. Apparently some of the configuration changed from the previous version I had been using, so as soon as I re-saved the settings it all started working correctly again! I'm happy to say I haven't seen any spam come in during the past ten days and Mollom is the only anti-spam engine I'm currently running.

Movies I'm anticipating for Summer 2010

Some of the upcoming movies I'm looking forward to for this Summer include:

  • April 16th: Kick Ass - an unusual take on the superhero origin story.
  • May 7th: Iron Man 2 - does this need an explanation?
  • May 28th: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - I loved the original computer game from almost 20 years ago, it has Jake "Donnie Darko" Gyllenhaal
  • June 18th: Toy Story 3 - Toy Story 2 is one of Pixar's best, and it comes out on a family member's birthday, so we're all going to go see it!
  • July 9th: Predators - a pseudo reboot of the franchise sees a bunch of tough humans whisked away to be the game for the predators' favorite past time. The trailer looks pretty good, and I'm a fan of the franchise (excluding AVP and AVP2).
  • July 16th: Inception - written & directed by the person behind the amazing reboot of the Batman franchise, the trailer has definitely grabbed my attention.
  • July 23rd: Salt - Angelina Jolie running around in an action flick. Say no more.
  • August 13th: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - the latest movie from directory Edgar Wright, the other brain behind "Shawn of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" looks like an unusual but light 90 mins of escapism.

Of those there are only three I could see wanting to get on DVD later - Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2 and Inception, the rest I'd probably only be interested in seeing the once, though obviously that might change once I get to see them.. Not as many as other years, definitely less of the big ones this year interest me overly much, e.g. I have no interest in seeing The Expendables.

So, anything pique your interest? Are there other ones you're looking forward to?

Dealing with site spam on Drupal (updated)

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A constant annoyance with managing website today is the level of spam that comes in through comments, forum posts, contact requests, user registrations, etc, etc, etc... Not only can spam messages make your site look like crap, if you have any sort of comment reply notification (as this site has) you can end up emailing spam to your visitors, which will turn off a LOT of people. There are times when you don't seem to be getting much and then other times when it seems your site is being flooded with this junk - this week feels like the latter.

There are several ways of dealing with spam:

  1. Allow all content be automatically posted and moderate it after-the-fact,
  2. Manually approve every piece of content from unknown sources or unrecognized users,
  3. Add a plugin / code that blocks content based on certain keywords, e.g. swear words, references to Star Trek, etc.
  4. Add a plugin that requires some sort of identification that the visitor is a legitimate person rather than an automated program, dubbed CAPTCHA ("Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"),
  5. Add a plugin / code that uses advanced algorithms to try to automatically detect spam,
  6. Add a plugin / code that identifies spam using distributed user actions, e.g. someone in a foreign country, like Alaska, sees that a message containing "Barney", "submarines", "camfires", "milkshakes" and "UFOs", they mark it as spam and that knowledge then helps identify similar content on your site.

So, the above is all wonderful, but where do you start? The first option above is messy as you end up with a lot of junk to deal with, the second one halts the natural flow of conversations as everything must be approved, and the third option is very limited - what if you *wanted* to discuss the effects of watching Barney-like dinosaur puppet TV shows on the reproductive cycle of goats, that conversation would be sure to cause a few messages to be blocked? So that leaves advanced solutions as the only viable options.

For this site, which is built with the excellent content management system Drupal, I took a look at some different modules that cover some of these concepts. One in particular piqued my interest, a service built by the creator of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, called Mollom. Based on a combination of several of the above ideas, Mollom seems like it would be a great solution, and with a really good Drupal module available so I gave it a spin.

So cut to a year later and the Mollom service has been working really well, leaving almost no spam. Unfortunately in the past ten days it has failed almost completely with thirty to almost one hundred spam messages getting through daily, which is obviously not what I want.

As a result of the influx of spam getting past Mollom I've changed over to using a service called reCAPTCHA (some details on Wikipedia) which provides a simpler though more reliable CAPTCHA. Installation on Drupal is super-simple, you just install the CAPTCHA dependency and then install the reCAPTCHA module itself, sign up for the free reCAPTCHA service, do a little bit of configuration (admin/user/captcha) and then hopefully just forget about it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE: Believe it or not but no sooner had I tweeted about this post than Dries himself responded! that after upgrading to the latest version it was necessary to reconfigure the module as it seems the settings structure changed. As a result I've switched back to Mollom to give it one last try. That said, I did suggest that an update script be added that leaves a message for the admin informing them of this. We'll see how it goes!

I'm not that guy

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I wanted to share a bit of my philosophy with you.

In the name of work, in the name my employer, in the name of finishing projects so certain managers can save face, I've done a lot of things, worked a lot of extra hours, pushed myself pretty close to my limits.  There have been times I've worked eighty, ninety, one-hundred hour weeks (103.5 is my record) to get projects completed in time, worked two brick-n-mortar jobs where the only time I saw my family was for a few minutes in the morning before arriving home at 2am+.  I've gotten through it, we've gotten through it, learned and moved on.  But with all of this there's one thing I'm unwilling to do - extensive travel.

In 1998 I moved from Ireland to the USA to be with the woman I loved and had just married.  In 2000 I moved with her from New Hampshire to Florida because she needed to, and over the past ten years we've built a life for ourselves, have two amazing children (and a dog & two cats) and look forward to hopefully many years of happiness together.  I have a wonderful family, a lot to be grateful for - I am grateful for it and I want to be with my family.

While a large number of people world-over spend their careers driving & flying all over the country, nay world, I'm not that guy.  I'll sacrifice a lot in the name of my career, but I'd rather have a slightly less awesome job so I can spend more time with my family.


Disclaimer: I know a lot of people who do travel for their jobs, a lot of people I have immense respect for and do not think any less of them for it, but it's not a choice I can make.

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