SaltStack – installing, setting up and provisioning

The problem and the solution

I work at a company that creates web sites and applications. I joined them in 2008 when there were 2 front-end developers and 3 back-end, including me. Company slowly grew to 7 back-end and 6 front-end developers. The following problem started to get in our way more and more: we were working on one single development server, which means that from time to time we would step on each other toes. What happened is, one guy would open a file, the other guy would open the same file and whoever saves and closes first, is a loser. Also, that server had to have every possible service, program and PHP extension imaginable because it needed to support a lot of diverse projects.

If you ever worked in that kind of environment, you know exactly how we felt. So, what can one do to solve that problem? Best thing to do is to set up a local environment using virtual machines, and configure them for each project. For creating virtual machines we use Vagrant, which is a tool to build an appliance for VirtualBox (amongst others), and it gives us a default, tabula rasa machine. Next we need to configure that machine with all the needed packages and configuration to run a certain app.

So, how does one do that? Well, you could SSH into your box, run a couple of commands, edit a couple of files, than run some more commands, than edit some more files. By the time you are running files and editing commands, you start to look for some better solution. We developers tend to automate things, so why not automate setting up the server, which is called provisioning.

There are a number of provisioning systems out there, most common being:

Ansible differs from the other three by being agentless, that is to say, no software is needed to be installed on the server we’re configuring.

I have started to learn and use Puppet at the beginning but it threw me off with its verbose configuration and Ruby. Not that I don’t like Ruby, but I am more of a YAML guy.

While searching for alternative for Puppet, I came across SaltStack, and it was love at first sight. Lets dive in!

Saltstack – what is it made of?

Ok, now that we know the major players in this field, lets take a closer look at SaltStack.

  • Saltstack is comprised of a main server that is communicating with all servers we’re configuring. That server is called “Master”
  • All the servers we are configuring are called “Minions”
  • Execution modules are the heart of Saltstack – those guys actually run stuff. There are a lot of modules, for example, modules for installing packages, running commands, configuring apache or running composer, to name a few
  • State modules describe what state those execution modules must create
  • Pillars provide variables for states
  • Grains provide information about Minions

Yes, a lot to grasp, so let’s take deeper look at each of these.

Master server keeps states, pillars and top files. It talks to Minions via ZeroMQ, SSH or, RAET. ZeroMQ is the default message transport responsible for SaltStack being able to provision hundreds and thousands of servers at no time, asynchronously. SSH is good for talking to systems where you can not install the agent, for example routers, printers and such. RAET (Reliable Asynchronous Event Transport) is still in early development, as of this writing.

Minions provide information about themselves (Grains), they listen for commands that the Master sends and execute modules.

Top files are configuration files that provide structure for pillars and states; they tell Master what states or pillars need to be sent to what Minion for each of the environment.

State files describe a set of desired states that a system needs to be in, for example “apache needs to be installed and running”.

Pillars are a set of variables that are used in state files. For example, apache on redhat based distributions is named httpd, while on debian based it is named apache2. It is nice to be able to put that name in a variable so state configuration is agnostic to the name of packages.

Lastly, we have Grains, which are sets of variables provided by the Minions. Grains provide us with information like the operating system name and family, disk and memory information, number of CPU cores and so on.


I will constrain this tutorial to Ubuntu, but you can reference the documentation for your linux distribution.

Add saltstack PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:saltstack/salt

Install master on the server that is going to be our main server which communicates with minions:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install salt-master

Install minion on servers we’re going to provision with master:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install salt-minion

Configure master and minion for communication:

# Tell minions where the master is by editing /etc/salt/minion on the minion machine

# Run master
master $ sudo salt-master # or (re)start salt-master service

# Run minions
minion $ sudo salt-minion # or (re)start salt-minion service

After successful connection, minion will report: [ERROR   ] The Salt Master has cached the public key for this node, this salt minion will wait for 10 seconds before attempting to re-authenticate

When you see this, go to your master, stop salt-master service and list keys with sudo salt-key. Then you can accept the minion key with sudo salt-key --accept Start the service again. You have now enabled and secured connection between master and minions. To test the communication, ensure the minion is still running, and on master server, with the salt-master service running, issue sudo salt '*' You should see True for all connected minions.

There is an option to run SaltStack in masterless mode which is handy for working with your Vagrant box, or even setting up your own system. To setup the masterless environment, stop the minion daemon and edit minion configuration file:

# Tell minion that there is no remote file client by editing /etc/salt/minion on the minion machine
file_client: local

From this point we are going to write states configuration on the master, but you can opt for writing states on the masterless minion, just remember to replace commands from salt '*' to salt-call --local.


By default, configuration is YAML, which is great, but at first configuration files are written in Jinja templating language, which is even greater because that gives us the support of conditional statements, for loops and variables. And Jinja is for Python what Twig is for PHP, so if you have worked with Twig templating language or you use Jinja, guess what: you already know how to write SaltStack configuration!

There are other ways to write the configuration: for example, you can use JSON instead of YAML or write Python DSL, Pyobjects, or even plain Python. Best part: XML is not supported! Go, SaltStack!

Lets see a couple of examples.

Basic example – install Apache

In our /srv/salt folder, create a top file named top.sls. Also, create a folder apache and create init.sls. Structure should be this:

  • top.sls
  • apache
    • init.sls

Put contents from gist in top.sls and init.sls respectively, and run salt '*' state.highstate. This way, you are telling all the minions ('*') to put themselves in to highstate, that is to execute all states.

Pillars and grains to the rescue

We know that packages are not named the same way across different distributions. Apache is the first example that comes to mind, on RedHat based dists it is httpd, on Debian based dists it is apache2, and on some it is simply apache. Let’s rewrite our basic example with this in mind

Including / extending states

It is a great practice to be DRY, and with SaltStack you can write your states to be extendable. That way your elaborate state for installing apache that manages package repositories, sets up services, watchers and what not can be reused across projects, enabling you to specify only the custom, project specific configuration directives:

Whole example: Nginx

In this example we have two states and an extra file. First state is nginx, where we use pkgrepo to setup the PPA for nginx and that that is a requirement for pkg module. Next, we tell pkg module to install nginx and lastly, we tell service module to run the nginx service, and also to watch for changes to package, sites-enabled directory and nginx.conf file. If anything should change in those places, service will be restarted. Neat!

Second state is the nginx.conf file. With this state, we’re telling salt that it should create a file in said path, with provided source. Source is a file on a file server, which points to a location on our master server. Additionally, that file is also a Jinja template.

Lastly we have nginx.conf.jinja file itself where we can see how pillars and grains can also be used in configuration files, setting number of worker processes in this example.


To wrap it up, lets see what is possible when using SaltStack. You can install and configure packages, start and stop services, execute commands on remote servers. This gives you the possibility to set up your deployment procedure by:

  • pulling code from git
    salt '*' git.pull /var/www/application
  • installing dependencies with composer
    salt '*' composer.install /var/www/application no_dev=True optimize=True
  • and doing a cache warm-up (Symfony example)
    salt '*' 'cd /var/www/application && php app/console cache:clear --env=prod --no-debug'

You can set up servers in all major clouds, such as AWS, Linode, DigitalOcean, Rackspace and others with Salt Cloud, so if you are running Salt for your Vagrant based dev environment, you can use that configuration for production also, with certain environment based differences, of course. Furthermore, since configuration is just a bunch of files, you can version them with git and roll back your server to any previous state. You can even fork server configuration, holds a lot of formulas for various services such as Redis, Postgres and so on.

I hope this post helped you understand SaltStack and encouraged you to provision your dev box.

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PHP Google Analytics

Using Google API to get Google Analytics data with PHP

You might have a need to display data from Google Analytics on your website like number of product page views in your webshop CMS. To achieve that, you would request the page views and maybe sessions (unique visits) for a certain URL from Google Analytics. If you’re using PHP, Google created Google API PHP client to help you do that. In this tutorial we’re going to use Server to Server Application authentication mechanism called two-legged OAuth.

Installing the PHP client

Download code from or, better, use composer and

composer require google/apiclient @stable

Creating a Service Account

Go to Google Developers Console and create a project if you don’t have one for your app. Next, enable the API you want to use, we’re going to use Analytics API in this tutorial. After that, go to Credentials and go and create new Client ID. In the modal, select Service Account. New account will be created and a p12 key file will be downloaded. Store that file in a secure place, readable by your application.

Service account has Client ID and email address: put those in your configuration for future use.

OAuth Service Account

Setting up authorization and Google_Client

To authorize, we’re going to use Google_Auth_AssertionCredentials:

// OAuth2 service account p12 key file
$p12FilePath = '/path/to/key.p12';

// OAuth2 service account ClientId
$serviceClientId = '';

// OAuth2 service account email address
$serviceAccountName = '';

// Scopes we're going to use, only analytics for this tutorial
$scopes = array(

$googleAssertionCredentials = new Google_Auth_AssertionCredentials(

With this authorization credentials, create the client:

$client = new Google_Client();

Calling Analytics API

First, add that service account email address to analytics account view User Management. Next thing is to request analytics data. We’re going to request pagePath dimension with session and pageviews metrics for a specific analytics view. To get the Analytics View ID, go to analytics account -> Admin -> View settings. Data will be sorted by page views in descending order. We are also going to filter the data by pagePath, as we only want products pages.

// Create Google Service Analytics object with our preconfigured Google_Client
$analytics = new Google_Service_Analytics($client);

// Add Analytics View ID, prefixed with "ga:"
$analyticsViewId    = 'ga:SOMENUMBER';

$startDate          = '2015-01-01';
$endDate            = '2015-01-15';
$metrics            = 'ga:sessions,ga:pageviews';

$data = $analytics->data_ga->get($analyticsViewId, $startDate, $endDate, $metrics, array(
    'dimensions'    => 'ga:pagePath',
    'filters'       => 'ga:pagePath==/url/to/product/',
    'sort'          => '-ga:pageviews',

// Data 
$items = $data->getRows();

Your $items array now holds one item, with URL, sessions and page views data. Hope this tutorial helped you, and that you will be able to put various Google Analytics data to good use.

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Importing Amazon Kindle Paperwhite to Croatia

Every year I try to surprise my wife with some extraordinary birthday gift. Last year I bought her a nice looking designer dress, an e-book and ordered the Kindle so she can read the Ender’s Game once more. I opted for the newest Kindle, the Paperwhite one. So, ordering this kind of stuff to Croatia is not that easy. We did enter the EU, but for some reason I couldn’t have ordered it from UK, Germany or Italy. Go figure.

As I was a bit late with organizing the delivery, I didn’t have the time to go through 4 people to deliver Kindle like it is a reactor-grade plutonium. So it had to be the States. I placed the order on Wednesday, got charged $160 + $20 shipping. Amazon said that it would take five days to deliver. Two days later, I got an email from local DHL that the package arrived and that I should reply to them with my EORI number.

What is an EORI number?

An EORI number is a unique number throughout the European Community, assigned by a Customs Authority in a Member State to operators (businesses) or persons Economic Operator (EO). By registering for Customs Purposes in one Member State, an EO is able to obtain an EORI number which is valid throughout the European Community. The EO will then use this number in all communications with any EC Customs Authorities for appropriate customs declarations.

Ok, time to find a customs office and request the number. Things in Croatia work a bit different than in more western parts of the world. Namely, to request the EORI number you have to fill a form. And send it via mail. Snail mail. The mail that travels three days from the post office to its destination 6 km away. The mail that my Kindle, which is freezing in some cargo area, derides, having traveled from Nevada over Frankfurt to Zagreb in only two days.

Customs receive my request next Wednesday, and I wait a day to get my EORI number. Needless to say, it is Thursday, my wifes birthday, and all she got was an e-book she can’t read :). Now, EORI requests usually return the same way, via snail mail, but I decide to be assertive and hurry the procedure. Later on I realize that the EORI number is just your PIN prefixed with the country code, and all they needed to do is an INSERT statement to The Great Database Of People That Import Stuff™. Great. Now to pay the cargo “handling”.

DHL, after receiving my EORI number, charges me with $57 (ouch) and delivers Kindle on Friday.

Reading Kindle is great, wife and I share it, buying books is fun and less expensive (money- and space-wise) and I don’t regret one buck spent! Just, what sould I do with this EORI now :)

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Antique Pocket Watch Mechanism

Don’t Do Now What You Can Put Off Until Later

In this post I will try to address an issue of performance regarding heavy calculations, data processing or other tasks that happen in run time but could be put off for later.

How Stuff Works

Sites usually function quite well, there are a couple of SQL queries, hopefully some memcached /redis hits and a bit of string manipulation to put data into templates and serve them to the user. But from time to time, a new user registers, and  that results in processing and sending the registration email, possibly collecting his Facebook image and storing it locally, getting all his Facebook friends or last dozen of tweets, and all this takes some time. Time the user waits and looks at the spinner, wondering if something has gone wrong and whether he should close the site.

Diagram of user registration w/ sending email and collecting Facebook data

Another example is a situation of multiple image uploads at the same time. Application can take the entire server down if it processes images immediately. If, say, 100 people decide to upload an image at the same time, you have just created 100 processes (or more if you’re creating multiple variations of images) that are using as much of the CPU as possible.

What Can Be Done

To offload the process, you can put it in a queue. The most simple one is a cron job: after user registers, you enter data in the database with the flag “send_email=1″. Now, when the cron runs (every minute? every hour?), it collects all the new users who need to receive the email and it sends them one. Easy, right?

Lets stop for a second and take a closer look. What happens if there are 10 or 1000 tasks that happen in one minute? High volume traffic sites with lots of image uploads, for example. How long do we need to wait for our image to show up if 100 images are already waiting to be processed, and cron sits there, doing nothing for one whole minute?

What happens if we have a bug in our file run by cron that never proceeds to the next task, or if there is an exception that is not being handled? Cron will die and all those people will not get their email. Bad, huh? Cron tasks are OK for regular maintenance, but choose the right tool for the job.

Gearman, Beanstalkd, Resque & QuTee

There are a couple of solutions that allow us to do the heavy lifting in the background.

Diagram of user registration w/ queuing tasks to be processed via background worker

Gearman is one of the most popular job queue processors. It provides APIs for a lot of popular platforms (Java, Python, PHP, Perl). You can use it for background jobs as well as messaging another service to do the work at the run time (say, your PHP application asks a program written in C that runs on another server to do some task better suited for C language…).

Another popular queuing system is Beanstalkd, created originally to power the backend for the ‘Causes’ Facebook app. List of supported client libraries is impressive, and almost every major language is supported.

Resque is a ruby library, created by GitHub, and ported to PHP by Chris Boulton. Resque stores the queue in Redis storage server, and provides a web interface to monitor the tasks (ruby only).

As a side project, I have started to work on QuTee, a queue manager and task processor for PHP. To be feature complete, I have set these goals:

  • it has to have a good API to be easy to use,
  • it has to have as few dependencies as possible,
  • it has to be easily installed / configured, and with multiple backends in mind, it has to solve the background task processing on dedicated machines as well as shared hostings,
  • it has to provide some kind of interface to monitor the tasks status and start/stop workers.

Currently only Redis is supported, and supervisord is advised for maintaining worker processes (since I didn’t want to go into forking and adding another dependency).

Adding the task to the queue is really easy. After creating and configuring the queue, adding a task can be a oneliner:

// Define queue (usually in bootstrap / DIC of the application)
$redisParams    = array(
    'host'  => '',
    'port'  => 6379
$queuePersistor = new Qutee\Persistor\Redis($redisParams);
$queue          = new Queue();
// Create task
Task::create('Acme/SendRegistrationEmail', array('user_id' => 123456), Task::PRIORITY_HIGH);

In the above example, we have a class SendRegistrationEmail in Acme namespace that implements the TaskInterface. When the worker instantiates the task, it knows how to ->run() the task. However, there is no requirement for the task class to be a contractor of TaskInterface, but then we need to specify what method to run:

$task = new Task();

Tasks can have a unique identifier, so one task will not run multiple times. Workers are even easier, they only listen to queues (or one in specific) and run tasks, nothing else:

$worker = new Worker;

This example creates a worker that polls the queue every 30 seconds, and is interested only in tasks from the high priority queue.

Since QuTee is 0.7.0 right now, it lacks some functionality (task status web interface / logging / more backends) but can be used for background job processing.


When the code that is of importance to the task or worker changes, one needs to restart the worker. This is a thing to keep in mind when pushing a fix to production. To get around this problem, one could exit from the worker every hour or so, letting the supervisord to restart it.

Another thing to keep in mind about background workers are racing conditions and how to evade them. Lets say we have 100 workers, and have created a task to send newsletter to 1000 users with unique coupon. If each task selects the first coupon from the database at the same time, there is a good chance that a good number of users will get the same coupon (say you didn’t implement the read locking). For that reason it is a good practice to fetch all the necessary data when creating the task, so the task is as stateless as it can be, and that coupon is sent with the rest of the data.

One last thing that comes to mind are multiple database connections. When you start the worker, keep in mind that, if your tasks need a database connection, each task will connect to a database, perform the job and quit. Remember to mysqli_close() the connection since PHPs garbage collection isn’t that good.


Background workers and job queue greatly improve user experience and help reduce overall server load. If you didn’t use background workers up until now because of the hassle of setting everything up, I hope this article has given you some idea where to start and will motivate you to consider using QuTee because of its quick setup and, moreover, because it will develop excellent features, so go ahead and fork it :)

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Quick File Opening in NetBeans

NetBeans is an irreplaceable tool for my every day use. Yes, it’s written in boring, slow Java, but the feature set is great and it helps me to get my tasks done without getting in my way. There are some things that could be better or more responsive. One of those things are code scanning and opening files. I like how Sublime Text 2 does the file open (Go to Anything), and this is how to achieve this in NetBeans.

First, without any plugins, you can type ALT + SHIFT + O which brings up the Go to File dialogue. It is ok, but it doesn’t provide the fuzzy search (you can emulate it by putting * between letters). To achieve fuzzy searching, we need the help of a plug-in called Open File Fast. Plug-in is last reported to run with NetBeans 6.9, but I’m running it with latest, 7.2. To install and configure it, follow these steps:

  • Go to and download for the latest version
  • In NetBeans, go to Tools → Plugins → Downloaded → Add Plugins, select the downloaded file and click Install (
  • Restart NetBeans (although it is not needed to run the plug-in, I found that I couldn’t set key short cut for Open File Fast)
  • Now for the short cut. Go to Tools → Options → Keymap, search for “open file fast” → Assign short cut
I’ve assigned it CTRL + P. It still isn’t near as fast as Sublime Text, but it gets the job done.

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Doctrine2 CLI under Silex application

I got it running with Doctrine 2.3.1-DEV. Get doctrine provider using composer:

    "minimum-stability": "dev",
    "require": {
        "silex/silex": "1.0.*",
        "taluu/doctrine-orm-provider" : "*",
    "autoload": {
        "psr-0": { "Entity": "app/" }

Create doctrine.php and put the following content inside. I like to put it in bin/doctrine.php:

#!/usr/bin/env php5
// Load your bootstrap or instantiate application and setup your config here
require_once APP_ROOT .'/vendor/autoload.php';
$app        = new Silex\Application();
// Doctrine DBAL
$app->register(new Silex\Provider\DoctrineServiceProvider(), array(
    'db.options' => $config['db']
// Doctrine ORM, I like the defaults, so I've only modified the proxies dir and entities path / namespace
$app->register(new Nutwerk\Provider\DoctrineORMServiceProvider(), array(
    'db.orm.entities'              => array(array(
        'type'      => 'annotation',
        'path'      => APP_PATH .'/Entity',
        'namespace' => 'Entity',
    'db.orm.proxies_dir'           => APP_ROOT .'/var/cache/doctrine/Proxy',
use Doctrine\DBAL\Tools\Console\Helper\ConnectionHelper;
use Doctrine\ORM\Tools\Console\Helper\EntityManagerHelper;
use Doctrine\ORM\Tools\Console\ConsoleRunner;
use Symfony\Component\Console\Helper\HelperSet;
$helperSet = new HelperSet(array(
    'db' => new ConnectionHelper($app['db.orm.em']->getConnection()),
    'em' => new EntityManagerHelper($app['db.orm.em'])

And that’s it :)

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Pretty HTML5 multiple file upload with Bootstrap, jQuery, Twig and Silex

There are a number of ways to achieve multiple file upload functionality, but I like HTML5 way of doing it, and it will be supported across all major browsers when IE10 ships. Also, Twitters’ Bootstrap helped me achieve the look without problems. I used a bit of jQuery for help with events. Alongside vanilla html, I will put Twig form syntax to achieve this, together with Symfony2 Form component, for server side.

Demo: Pretty File Boilerplate


<span class="prettyFile">
    <input type="file" name="form[files][]" multiple="multiple">
    <div class="input-append">
       <input class="input-large" type="text">
       <a href="#" class="btn">Browse</a>

You can add required or accept attributes as needed.


.prettyFile > input { display: none !important; }
/*  The rest is from Twitter Bootstrap */
.input-append { display: inline-block; vertica-align: middle; }
.input-large {
    border: 1px solid rgba(82, 168, 236, 0.8);
    box-shadow: inset 0 1px 1px rgba(0, 0, 0, .075), 0 0 8px rgba(82, 168, 236, .6);
    border-radius: 3px 0 0 3px;
    font-size: 14px;
    height: 20px;
    color: #555;
    padding: 4px 6px;
    margin-right: -4px;
    width: 210px;
.btn {
    background-image: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, white, #E6E6E6);
    background-repeat: repeat-x;
    border: 1px solid rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.14902);
    box-shadow: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.2) 0px 1px 0px 0px inset, rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.0470588) 0px 1px 2px 0px;
    color: #333;
    display: inline-block;
    font-family: Tahoma, sans-serif;
    font-size: 14px;
    margin: 0 0 0 -1px;
    padding: 4px 14px;
    height: 20px;
    line-height: 20px;
    text-align: center;
    text-decoration: none;
    text-shadow: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.74902) 0px 1px 1px;
    vertical-align: top;
    width: 47px;


<form action="/path/" {{ form_enctype(form) }} method="post" >
    {{ form_errors(form) }}
        {{ form_label(form.files) }}
        {{ form_errors(form.files) }}
        {# Append [] to the full name of the form name - this is still an issue: #}
        {{ form_widget(form.files, { 'full_name': form.files.get('full_name') ~ '[]' }) }}
    {{ form_rest(form) }}
    <input type="submit" />


// Pretty file
if ($('.prettyFile').length) {
    $('.prettyFile').each(function() {
        var pF          = $(this),
            fileInput   = pF.find('input[type="file"]');
        fileInput.change(function() {
            // When original file input changes, get its value, show it in the fake input
            var files = fileInput[0].files,
                info  = '';
            if (files.length > 1) {
                // Display number of selected files instead of filenames
                info     = files.length + ' files selected';
            } else {
                // Display filename (without fake path)
                var path = fileInput.val().split('\\');
                info     = path[path.length - 1];
            pF.find('.input-append input').val(info);
        pF.find('.input-append').click(function(e) {
            // Make as the real input was clicked


namespace Acme;
use Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\Request;
class Controller
    public function uploadAction(Request $request)
        $form    = $app['form.factory']->createBuilder('form')
                    ->add('files', 'file', array(
                        'label'     => 'Files',
                        'attr' => array(
                            'multiple'  => 'multiple',
                            // 'accept'    => 'image/*'
        if ($request->getMethod() == 'POST') {
            if ($form->isValid()) {
                $data  = $request->files->get($form->getName());
                foreach ($data['files'] as $file) {
                    // Do whatever with the file

I have used Silex /  Symfony here, but anything will do.


  • HTML5 XHR drag and drop upload
  • cross-browser testing
  • vanilla javascript implementation

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Linux and accessing the Windows shares

I had the problem of accessing the windows shares on my network, I’m using Ubuntu and getting inside the workgroup directory didn’t show any machines. So, I’ve found the solution which is pretty simple:

1. Samba config

# edit /etc/samba/smb.cnf
# set the name of your work group (although, I have 2 different work 
# groups in my network, and I can access them both after this configs)
workgroup = WORKGROUP
# setup the netbios name. Use whatever name your machine is called. 
# From This sets the NetBIOS name by which a Samba server is known. 
# By default it is the same as the first component of the host's DNS name. 
# If a machine is a browse server or logon server this name (or the first 
# component of the hosts DNS name) will be the name that these services are 
# advertised under.
netbios name = ubuntu
# Reorder the naming services
name resolve order = lmhosts wins bcast host6

2. Add wins to Name Service Switch config

# edit /etc/nsswitch.conf or wherever NSS stores its config
# Add wins to hosts:
hosts:          files mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] wins dns mdns4

3. Restart Samba

# /etc/init.d/smbd restart

And that’s it, you should be able to access all of the shares across all of the workgroups.

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Development environment

This is a quick post on how to set up your own DNS server with custom TLDso you can easily and more quickly get started on your next project. I am doing my programming on the Linux machine (Ubuntu to be Precise :)). The idea behind this set-up is to evade the need to ever modify your /etc/hosts file. Also, there is a possibility to even skip the creating of Apache VirtualHost directive and restarting the web server. Onward with the How-To.


  • I use Ubuntu, so substitute apt-get with yum or what ever you use
  • Anywhere you see the IP, replace with your own
  • I haven’t set up any forwarders in named.conf.options

Install and configure DNS (BIND9)

sudo apt-get install bind9

Edit these files


zone "dev" {
    type master;
    file "/etc/bind/";

zone "" {
    type master;
    file "/etc/bind/db.192.168.1";


$TTL	604800
@		IN		SOA		dev. (
	             2012042301		; Serial
			 604800		; Refresh
			  86400		; Retry
			2419200		; Expire
			 604800 )	; Negative Cache TTL
@		IN		NS	dev.
@		IN		A
*.dev.	14400 	IN 		A


$TTL	604800
@		IN		SOA		dev. (
	     2012042301		; Serial
			 604800		; Refresh
			  86400		; Retry
			2419200		; Expire
			 604800 )	; Negative Cache TTL
@		IN		NS		dev.
253		IN 		PTR		dev.

Be careful to replace 253 in your files for your own last IP octet. Also, the filename should reflect your IP.

DNS servers setup…

Ok, now that we got this set up, we need to tell our system to use the local DNS server before going for the ISP and beyond. To achieve this, use Networking manager in Ubuntu, here’s how mine looks like. The final goal is for the /etc/resolv.conf too read: nameserver

…and finishing up

Now that everything is set up, restart bind:

sudo /etc/init.d/bind9 restart

Test your setup by pinging If you get the response from your server, all is working great.

Apache Virtual Document Root

If your projects have similar / identical directory structure (i.e. public directory for publicly available files) than you can go a step further and setup the Apache Virtual Document Root. In doing so, you will be able to create a new directory in your projects root and have it magically turned up by calling

<IfModule vhost_alias_module>
    <VirtualHost *>
        UseCanonicalName Off
        VirtualDocumentRoot "/path/to/projects/%1/public"

        ServerAlias *.dev

        SetEnv APPLICATION_ENV development

# Enable mod_vhost_alias apache module
sudo a2enmod vhost_alias
# Restart server
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

I don’t have this enabled for myself, but it does work, although not well tested. For further info on this topic, check the following links:

P.S. Yes, I got carried away while creating the featured image :)

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Comment driven development

There is quite a handful of programming techniques out there; TDD, BDD, YAGNI, DRY to name a few. This post will be about something many people might already be doing but don’t know it has a name: Comment-driven development or comment programming.

CDD is helpful for:

  • prototyping,
  • spitting out your thoughts in code editor, so you don’t forget anything later (good for brainstorming sessions),
  • explaining what needs to be done if someone else is going to be writing the code itself,
  • commenting the code :). Comments could remain, so your code is documented from the get-go

I often start the new PHP file or class or even method with the layout in comments. Here’s an example:

// Get the needed models
// Collect todo items
// Get lists that the todo items belong to
// Send to View

Ok, everything is clear. After the real code sets in it looks like this:

public function someAction()
    // Get the needed models
    $todoTable  = new TodoTable();
    $listTable  = new ListTable();
    // Collect todo items
    $todos      = $todoTable->findByAuthor($author);
    // Get lists that the todo items belong to
    foreach ($todos as &$todo) {
        $todo['lists'] = $listTable->find($todo['list_id']);
    // Send to View
    DIC::get('View')->todos = $todos;

As you can see, the comments can stay in place. Even for this simple example, it is good practice to document your code.

The Wikipedia article states:

In comment programming the comment tags are not used to describe what a certain piece of code is doing, but rather to stop some parts of the code from being executed. The aim is to have the commented code at the developer’s disposal at any time he might need it.

And later on:

However, comment programming is used instead of a real implementation. The idea is that many functions can be written like this, and then the design can be reworked and revisited without having to refactor a lot of source code.

So, Wikipedia article is somewhat contradictory to itself. The aspect of comment programming I am writing about here is the “comments instead of a real implementation” part.

Do you write your code with comments first approach? Do you use some other technique?

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