July 29, 2008

From Eclipse to Emacs: Drupal development with Subversion, tags, templates, and xdebug

July 29, 2008 - Categories: drupal, emacs

Yesterday, I started working on my Drupal project in Emacs. I can’t believe I hadn’t moved to Emacs earlier. =)

I really like being able to diff a file with C-x v = (vc-diff) and check in a file with C-x v v (vc-next-action). I also like the way that svn-status (from psvn.el) lets me examine a directory tree, mark a set of files, and commit them–all without using the mouse. I probably should’ve set up keyboard shortcuts for these in Eclipse, but Eclipse made it too easy to just use the mouse. Emacs encourages you to use the keyboard, and it’s easy to customize any keyboard shortcut.

php-mode’s C-c . (php-show-arglist) works beautifully with the TAGS file that I’d set up using Exuberant Ctags, so I don’t need to do anything special in order to get function definitions. Definition functions for PHP functions would be nice. In the meantime, there’s C-c C-f (php-search-documentation).

The yasnippet template engine came in handy when I was writing test cases. I updated my module template to include the simpletest hook, added a test case template, and added a template for the simpletest hook as well. Yay dynamic templates!

And I just got Xdebug working with PhpMode and Geben… Sweet!

Development kaizen: Deployment and testing

July 29, 2008 - Categories: drupal, kaizen

I got back yesterday to a still-empty defect list, so I decided to spend the day working on some infrastructure to help my team work more effectively.

Thinking about what could make the most difference in the other developers’ productivity, I decided to invest time into making it easier for them to deploy code to the testing server. I had written a Makefile target that efficiently transferred only the updated files, but the other developers worked on Microsoft Windows and did not have all the necessary tools. I spent the morning writing a web-based interface for them: a password-protected PHP script that displayed a list of recent revisions and allowed people to deploy a selected revision to a separate server. Behind the scenes, it was a mess of bubblegum and string. To work around various limitations, I strung together sudo and suid and rsync and ssh key-based authentication. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. I e-mailed instructions to my team members, and they started using it right away.

After solving that problem, I focused on improving our tests. Fixing one bug often led to creating or recreating another, and these regression errors resulted in back-and-forth communication and wasted time. I explored the Simpletest automated testing framework for Drupal, and found out that I could write both unit tests and Web-based tests using the framework. However, I had a hard time figuring out why several of my Web-based tests consistently failed. I found out that the latest version of Simpletest for Drupal 5 did not understand the Location: header, which we use extensively in order to direct people to different subdomains and external sites. I fixed it and wrote a number of tests for one of our key modules. By the time I was ready to pack up and go home, I’d gotten into the swing of writing test cases.

Easier deployment and automated testing go a long way towards making a project almost a joy to work on. I’m glad I spent some time paving the way for my team and for other projects to come. =) Kaizen: relentless improvement.