Some delay with my pet project

Just a short update about my pet project and the evaluation posts:

I’m a little bit late with my project. The reason is that I had some high load periods at my job and I had to finish an article for a magazine.

Now with the high load managed and the article written, I’m fully commited to my project again and will continue with my tool evaluation. Be prepared to read more soon.

Setting up my infrastructure – Part 3: Bug tracker requirements

In my last blog post I explained why I want to automate as much as possible. For this I want a build server. The next thing that’s really important to me is, to log every issue and idea I have and have myself organized through the project.

For that I’m going to evaluate some tools, and before you start with downloading and installing all sort of tools and testing them, you should know what you’re looking for.

So lets start:
My personal requirements for a bug / task tracking tool:

  • Easy input of tasks / bugs / features / ideas
    I don’t want to spend a lot of time on ‘managing’ my task manager, and I certainly don’t want to overmanage myself.
  • Work log / spend time tracking
    Even though it’s a pet project, I’d like to see how much time a certain feature has cost. Additionally, if I can see my estimates vs. reality, and I log the reasons why I needed less/more time, I can improve my estimates.
  • Change logs / Release Notes report
    I’d love to be able to generate my release notes out of the tasks that have been fixed for a certain release, so I have to maintain this information only in a single place. Like in an additional field of the task, where I just enter the information that should be visible in the release notes.
  • Documentation
    Not necessarily required in the Bug tracker, but if I can note some technical details (i.e. in custom fields), then I know where to look for the information to build up the real project’s documentation.
  • Integration with VCS / Build server
    In a perfect world I would be able to see the related task(s) from a commit, the related commits from a task, the builds within the build server affected by those commits and the other way round: I would be able to open the corresponding tasks directly from the build in the build server.
  • An easy API

If that tool would support a little bit of analysis / reporting, that’d be totally great. I already mentioned the release notes generation above, but also time spent on features vs. bugs would be an interesting figure for my project. The last bullet point would hopefully make up for all the things that I would like, but that are not supported out of the box. Nevertheless, I actually don’t want to lock me in a specific tool, so writing custom stuff for a single solution would only be that last option, since that time is definetly lost when switching tools.

In the next post I want to share my thoughts on what a ci / build server should be capable of, before we want to start with the real evaluation.

Continue with the next part, or see the other parts in this series:

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Who am I? And how to prove?

Since I am currently setting up my infrastructure for my pet project, I wanted to sort out some little details.

My Bug tracker, the build server software, the repository managament… all this will be web based, and hosted on my new virtual server Gallifrey (that now also serves this blog). I don’t want my credentials go over the internet in plain text, so I want to access these applications only over HTTPS.

Now, of course I could simply use a self signed certificate and trust the certificate on all my machines, but what if I’m going to partner up with somebody else? An official SSL certificate would be better.

A colleague pointed me to StartSSL. They offer a 2 year multi-domain, wildcard certificate for just 59 USD. So I signed up there and – my bad – entered my mobile number as my contact number. That was a problem, because as I would get to know soon after that, they do a three-way check to validate my identity.

1.) They want to see two recent photo ID’s of me. So I emailed them photographs of my ID and my drivers licence.
2.) To validate my address and my name they wanted to see a phone bill showing my name and the address and the phone number.
3.) They call the number that, as by the documents, belong to the same person identified by the photo IDs, to ask for additional informations given on the ID (like place and date of birth).

Now the problem was, that my mobile phone contract is not mine, but payed by my company. So the phone bill didn’t show my name and they could not do this validation. After a few mails I figured out, that they could swap my mobile against my landline number, and so I emailed them a pdf scan of my land line bill, which shows me as the owner. Now that PDF scan was a bit too big for their email system, and until I figured that out a full day passed. By know I know that my email bounce notifications are sent every 24 hours.

Well, they called me on the landline, asked those questions and a few hours later I had my certificate.
So, you should be able to connect to this blog also via https, and also the other domains and web applications are secured too.

When you want a certificate from StartSSL, better be prepared and give them a phone number where your name is on the bill…

This blog just moved

Hello from.. Gallifrey.

As you should see in the footer, this blog just moved and now is hosted on my new server Gallifrey. Previously it was located on smarthost01, I admit, a very boring name for a server.

Perhaps it’s intersting for you, how I moved this installation. This was done in a few easy steps. I…
1.) scripted a backup of the database (including the user) directly in my wordpress directory using HeidiSQL,
2.) initiated a new Git repository in my wordpress directory, added all files to the repo and commited, then deleted the SQL file again,
3.) created a new repo on my Stash evaluation instance on the new server,
4.) pushed the local copy to the new repo,
5.) cloned the fresh repo on Gallifrey,
6.) executed the SQL file using HeidiSQL on Gallifreys MariaDB and then deleted the SQL file,
7.) configured an web in IIS on the directory, and applied the same file system permissions,
8.) tested the installation and switched the DNS entries from smarthost01 to Gallifrey.

That was done in about 10 minutes in total. By the time of this posting, the DNS change should be propagated wide enough that you should see this served from Gallifrey. Moving a blog instance using Git is very easy and comfortable, so if you feel the urge to move your blog, this could be the way to go.

Setting up my infrastructure – Part 2: Automate everything

This post is the second part in the series about my pet project, and this is about automating stuff.

As I already mentioned, I want my personal project to be automated as much as it makes sense. That starts with automatic builds whenever I check in some new code, automated testing starting with unit testing, later integration testing and then, last but not least, automated UI testing and of course code coverage analysis while testing.

To be able to do the automated UI testing, I need the UI to run somewhere to test, so that will include automated deployment to one or more test environments.

I also want to automate the process of creating beta and of course release builds. If I’m going to release binary packages to the public, I also need to package them up in some sort of installer or NuGet packages. So when I start with that stuff, I’m going to automate that too.

Some of you might ask why I’m so bought in automating all that stuff and putting so much work in the backing infrastructure when this is ‘just a pet project’.

Well, there is mainly one reason: All those tasks are in fact pretty tedious, like running the whole test suite before committing, building, packaging up and deploying the project etc.

When I work on this project, I want to concentrate on the actual work, like getting things to work like I want them to work, see what I just did and not spent a lot of time on some boring and also error-prone tasks.

So I feel that every minute I spend for my infrastructure will pay for me later in the project. That is also why I’m going to chose my environment carefully and evaluate some products. More on that in my next blog post, where I want to introduce the build server and bug tracker’s in my first evaluation round. I also want to explain to you the important things that those tools need to be capable of – of course in my personal point of view and for this very pet project.

Continue with the next part, or see the other parts in this series:

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Setting up my infrastructure – Part 1: Basic tools

For my new pet project I want to use good and efficient tooling. Since I want to create a tool for me and other .NET developers and I feel at home on this platform, I’m going to use C# for the project.

I have my personal MSDN Professional subscription, and so I use Visual Studio 2012 Professional for development. I add my personal ReSharper licence for productivity and I chose Windows 8 Professional as my development OS (in a VM on my MacBook Air). Being totally in the Microsoft .NET ecosystem I’m also going to use MSBuild and MSTest.

Update: Talking about VM on my Mac, I use VMWare Fusion for that. I also have VMware Workstation running on my home server for my build server virtualization, but that will be part of another post.

For source code versionioning I chose Git. Mainly, because I feel that even if Mercurial currently has better tooling support on Windows, Git is more mainstream and tooling is becoming better. As Git clients I currently use the GitHub client and of course the official Git commandline client. I host my sources on BitBucket from Atlassian. They give you private repositories for free, and since I invited some guys I also can collaborate with 3 others if I want without the need to pay for a private shared repository.

Besides that, I of course have the usual .NET developer tools like The Regulator for working with regular expressions, LinqPad for small test thingies and DotPeek as my decompiler.

Now, besides that I need additional tooling to keep track of my tasks, so I need a bug / issue / task tracker. And I don’t want to build releases manually or do manual testing, so I will need some sort of automatic build & test tooling, which leads me to some continuous integration / build server. Chosing which tool is best here will take some time, and so I started to evaluate different solutions. More on that in a separate post.

So the toolset for my pet project is right now:

Continue with the next part, or see the other parts in this series:

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My new pet project

As already announced on twitter, this year is the year of my pet project.

I’m going to develop something and, hopefully, will be able to release it this year. I can’t tell you much about it at this stage, but the main idea is to create some developer tooling where I couldn’t find anything useful on the market up to now and of course to try out new things and stuff.

I also want to improve my personal process of development with some experiments during this project. The first will be to set up all required infrastructure I consider important for such a project.

During my efforts I want to inform you about tools and techniques I use during this experiment, so stay tuned for more.

This game has to be made: Elite: Dangerous

<Update> The Kickstarter reached it’s funding goal, and also the stretch goal of 1.4 mio GBP for a Mac version. With a few hours to go it’s still possible to accomplish the 1.5 mio stretch goal for 10 additional playable ships. </Update>

There is currently a Kickstarter by David Braben to create a sequel to the lengendary Elite computer game. I want this game, and so I want to point some additional people to this kickstarter. Now here’s my personal story why.

When I was a kid of about 8 or 9 years (in the late 80ies), we regularly visited my uncle and aunt in the black forest. In this house lived a young guy that had an Amiga and played Elite, and I was allowed to play it. That was my first contact. Whenever we visited, I played my own commander and eventually I made it into the second galaxy on his Amiga.

We moved there a few years later on, and that guy moved away. In the early 90ies I found out that someone in the next village had a copy of the original PC Elite, which I bought from him. It is still in a good condition (even though I don’t have a 5 1/4″ floppy drive anymore to read the disc). See this picture I just made:

My copy of Elite for PC
My copy of Elite for PC

I loved this game, played it through various galaxies and even blew away some Thargoids.

Until now, there are some games that try to resembly the original elite.
I’m not talking about the two more or less official sequels Frontier (‘Elite II’) and Frontier: First Encounters. They were in the spirit of Elite (David Braben, one of the original Elite programmers, was the head here), but I personally disliked the way too realistic physics. More than a few times I ended up drifting into endless space with all the fuel used in what one would call a dogfight. I’d call it turn, burn fuel to change direction to the target, fire a few times by passing through it, turn, burn fuel etc – until one of the ships eventually runs out of fuel or gets hit.

Frontier and Frontier: First Encounters were a nice idea, but totally failed by being too realistic in physics.

What I liked to play too:

  • Wing Commander: Privateer
  • Freelancer
  • All parts of the X – Series
  • EVE Online

In my opinion the X-series games from Egosoft (a german game studio) are very good in resembling the old Elite feeling. Especially that one can build his own space stations, produce goods, own multiple ships and have them fly on auto pilot to trade is a very nice idea and I love to see the next part X: Rebirth on a totally new game engine.

Eve is a very good massive multiplayer game, but the dogfight capabilities are very limited and I really miss the pilot’s perspective from the cockpit.

Nevertheless, the original Elite with his legendary ships like the Cobra, the galaxies you can level through (without jump gates like in X) and the whole feeling of total freedom is unique, and I’d love to see a sequel.

So I backed Elite: Dangerous in the hope that David Braben won’t mess up the physics again and I really do hope that they get the missing 200 Pounds in the next few days.

I’m a proud backer of the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter, and I say: This game has to be made.

Windows Server 2012 – First impressions

I thought I could play a little bit with Windows Server 2012. Said that, I logged into my Windows Azure management portal and created an extra small VM with Windows Server 2012 on it.

A few minutes later my VM was provisioned and ready. The virtual hard disk is sized to 30 GB and fits in the free storage that is part of my MSDN subscription. The VM already had a remote desktop endpoint configured and I added a new endpoint for port 80. I then logged into the VM.

At login, the server automatically started the server management application on the desktop. The new console in the ‘Modern UI’ style (heck, I propably stick with Metro forever), so, the Metro UI console is very clean and lean. With a few clicks the web server role was added and installed.

Even with only about 765 MB of ram the server runs smoothly and fast. The new task manager gives a lot of additional information compared to the old one, and the server manager dashboard hints directly to potential problems.

At a first glance, the system seems very capable and I think it’s worth spending some more time with that VM.

The ‘Apache on OS X Mountain Lion’ problem

Whoah, I just dived into severe problems with the apache web server on my MacBook Air, running OS X 10.8 – Moutain Lion.

In preparation of my sessions “JavaScript” and “HTML5” at the EKON 16 conference in november I wanted to set up the web server that is in fact included in the OS X installation.

In previous versions of OS X there was a ‘Web sharing’ option in the system preferences, but this was removed in Mountain Lion. There are several posts out there in the wild showing how to manually enable apache and PHP. I found this instruction on the intertubes and read (but not exactly followed) it.

In my megalomania I went: “I already did that, it can’t be that difficult now. Lets go.” (several years ago I set up apache with PHP 3.something on a Linux system).

So this is what I did:
I skipped the first part of the instruction (starting apache) and directly went to the part where I enabled the user-specific /Sites directory. I set up the directory with all required options, allo/deny rules etc. and THEN I tried to start the web server.

Guess what? It didn’t work.

So the next thing was to look for the error logs (remembering I once had experience with Linux and error logs were a good hint on where to look for my stupid errors). Sadly, the error log folder was empty. So I double-checked the apache config for alternate log folder configurations – and found none.

A experienced apache administrator would guess that there is something wrong with the config file itself, so that apache would not even know about a configured error folder to put its logs into – but I again needed to search for starting problems with apache: Port already taken? Nope. Wrong host name? Nope. It was quite a bit of trial and error until I found this blog post about troubleshooting apache on Mountain Lion. It hinted me to this little command:

sudo bash -x /usr/sbin/apachectl -k start

Starting apache this way prints the messages directly onto the console – and so I could see where apache failed to start. It was in the user-specific /Sites config. The problem was a simple typo in the closing tag (I hacked in ‘diectory’).

So far, so good. Apache launched, my user website worked at my http://localhost/~Sebastian url – but it responded with a 403 – ‘Not authorized’ every time I accessed the folder. Strangely enough, it delivered files when I directly navigated to them (i.e. localhost/~Sebastian/test.html).

In several other attempts I found that the default configuration for the root folder disallowed directory listings and did not allow overwriting this, and how to enable PHP (that commented out entry was hidden very well).

Struggling with apache configs distributed to several locations, unix command lines, nano and a extremely bloated apache documentation I am really grateful that I usually work with IIS in my day to day business. Gladly I don’t have to set up mod_mono on my MacBook Air (yet).