Using Variables in a Custom Drupal Theme

At the Open Source Lab we host many of our sites as a Drupal multisite. This means that we have several instances of Drupal using the same theme, and then we can populate each site with different content as needed (for instance, cass.oregonstate.edu and osuosl.org would be different websites with different messages, but with Drupal they can look and act the same. Pretty neat!). Since not all of our sites are used by the OSL (i.e. the Center for Applied Systems and Software), I recently needed to make our logo and organization name into variables so that the user could just upload an image and fill in a text box to customize the site theme to their organization. Luckily, Drupal makes my job pretty easy.

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My Experiences with Openstack

In the simplest of terms, OpenStack is a massive undertaking. The goal of OpenStack is to fit just about every use case imaginable. This goal brings with it a daunting list of configuration options and requires a larger understanding of networking and virtualization systems. Couple that with cryptic error messages, and this makes for a system that can easily crush a newbie's confidence and cause them to scrap the system altogether. Luckily, there are some projects out there trying to lower the entry bar and get more people introduced to OpenStack. Two of the projects most referred to are DevStack (which the OpenStack developers actually use for development and testing) and RDO Packstack from RedHat.

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DevOps DayCamp

The Open Source Lab will host the new DevOps DayCamp on Saturday, October 11, in the Kelley Engineering Center from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

DevOps DayCamp will kick off DevOps BootCamp, allowing students to start their DevOps education early in the school year. In order to accommodate different experience levels, DayCamp is comprised of two tracks: a beginner track and an advanced track. The beginner track will help inexperienced attendees get started with DevOps through introductory sessions and workshops on the basics of DevOps. Additionally, the advanced track will be comprised of a hands-on hackathon with educational sessions throughout the day for the more experienced DevOps crowd. Advanced track sessions will be given by industry professionals and will include Ansible, Travis CI and Docker.

The OSL is hosting DevOps DayCamp instead of the fall Beaver Barcamp. Due to the tight academic calendar, as well as the amount of organizing a successful Barcamp entails, Beaver Barcamp is now an annual event held in the Spring.

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Make Bash, Not War

At the OSL we have shared workstations, most of which are named after colors. In the NOC, I usually work at emerald.workstation.osuosl.bak (Figure 1). I use tmux (Figure *) to multiplex so I can have multiple terminals open in a single ssh connection and connect to my session from anywhere. When splitting the terminal vertically, the prompt can get so long that it's hard to see the command that I'm entering (Figure 2). I'd like my prompt to automatically shorten itself in narrow windows. Fortunately, my terminal already knows how much space it has available: $COLUMNS is an environment variable which stores how wide your current terminal is, and the default unixism is 80. So in order to save space, I'd like to shorten my prompt to only a directory listing and a colored character replacing the normal $ or >.

Behold! (Figure 3, 4)

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A Recap of OSCON 2014

The OSL made a strong showing at the O’Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) this year with the majority of the student employees attending along with all of the full time staff. The conference was held in Portland, OR, and fell on July 20-24.

The Lab always places a special emphasis on education, and the conference was certainly an educational experience. The expo hall held dozens of booths filled with information and demonstrations about open source projects and the companies that support them.

The expo hall was student developer Evan Tschuy’s favorite part of the conference. “I liked wandering around the expo hall because there were so many booths. It was like ‘I’ve heard of that company! Them too! I’ve never heard of them, what are they about?’”

In between shifts at the OSL booth, staff that attended the conference were given the opportunity to go to a variety of informational sessions including A Glimpse of Git’s future, Data Structures and Netflix API: Top 10 Lessons Learned.

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Google Migration Post-mortem

OSU administration recently approached the OSL asking us to help migrate their email archives to Google. Through contacts with other local universities that had made the switch recently, we discovered that Portland State University had written and published an open source Python app to manage the process. In the name of expedience, we decided to fork that project and use that as our base from which to extend.

Having had time to reflect, I’d like to share a few lessons from the experience:

1. Enterprise means customized. All software comes bundled with biases and assumptions; small teams may be better off adapting their organization to fit those assumptions, but there exists a threshold beyond which it is easier to adjust software to fit the organization's assumptions instead. Despite forking a completed application, we found ourselves making several customizations and undoing several assumptions made by upstream developers.

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