Auto-rsync local changes to a remote server

As I've never been happy with the performance of Drupal running on behalf nfs shares in vagrant, I've been looking into a simple way to rsync my local changes into a vagrant box. There are separate tools like lsyncd or the deployment features of IDEs, but I wanted to have a simple solution that is easily scriptable. Thus, I ended up writing a simple shell script that watches a directory for changes events using inotify-tools and rsyncs the changes to a remote system via SSH.

Drupal 8 Entity API talk at the Drupal Dev Days in Szeged

I just gave a talk about the Drupal 8 Entity API at the Drupal Dev Days in Szeged. For everyone who missed it, here are the slides:

The best way to install git-annex on Ubuntu 13.04 and 12.04

After playing around with git-annex a bit, I figured its ubuntu install instructions are not ideal as the official ubuntu package is quite out of date (still at version 3.2), but git annex 4 comes with rather important improvements such as direct mode.

Fortunately there is an ubuntu PPA with an update version for ubuntu precise (12.04), which works well for raring (13.04) as well. To use it just run:

Introducing fluxkraft - web automation simplified with the power of Rules!

You might have heard some rumors about a tool called "fluxkraft": something like ifttt.com, but with Rules? Or what? Indeed, fluxkraft is one of our latest drunomics lab projects funded by netidee - a Austrian grant for powerful - and open - innovations, and yes - fluxkraft will be a tool for rule-based web automation, built as an open platform on top of Rules and Drupal! So, finally here are some first details on it:

So the idea is to build an easy to use Drupal distribution that allows you to automate various web-based tools like twitter, facebook and dropbox. Yes, you can do that already with services like ifttt.com, but fluxkraft will be an open platform, open-source and free for everyone to use and extend. That way, you can install it on your own servers and keep all the keys to your valuable data secured - and most importantly - under your control!

Then, as it's open source and will come with an API for adding connectors to new services you can simply integrate it with any service you want. So while the tool will provide some essential integrations for services like twitter and facebook from the start, the hope is that community will chime in and provide connectors to a variety of different online services.

Rules?

So how does that tie into Rules? Well, Rules already provides a solid technical base, but we'll add an API for easy-integration with external services to it - so we've got the kraft. But for the flux to gain enough strength, we'll build a new UI that makes it super-simple to create, mix, and share the rules that connect the various services together. So yes - we'll build a new Rules UI! Initially, it will be built separately and power fluxkraft, but if everything works out we'll see a new Rules UI pretty soon!

All fine, Doc? So what's the time(line)? We've mostly finished some initial wireframes, so expect a first shout for feedback on the the new UI at the Rules g.d.o. group soon! Then, the fluxkraft team will be working eagerly on the project such that - maybe - we might have a first preview release out for Drupalcon Portland in May. Howsoever, we'd love to share our learnings and show how we are reloading the Rules UX with fluxkraft, so I've proposed session!

Finally, so who's in the boat? Well, it's me "fago" who will be leading the project during the next months - in fact I'll dedicate most of my time to it. But, fortunately I've got some help of Christian Ziegler aka criz (Strategy, Community Management), Sebastien Siemssen aka fubhy (Development) and Nico Grienauer (Design, Inspirator).

If you are interested, follow @fluxkraft on twitter and provide feedback in a short comment below!

Semantic content enhancements with Drupal, Apache Stanbol and VIE.js

As previously announced on the IKS blog I’ve been recently working together with Stéphane Corlosquet on integrating the tools provided by the IKS project to do semantic content enhancements in Drupal as part of the IKS early adopter program.

The Interactive Knowledge Stack (IKS) project is an open source community which got funded by the EU to build an open and flexible technology platform for semantically enhanced Content Management Systems. Thanks to IKS, open source projects like Apache Stanbol, VIE.js or Create.js got started. While VIE.js and Create.js are already on their way to Drupal 8 via the Spark initiative, our focus was on integrating Apache Stanbol with Drupal 7. In short, Apache Stanbol is a java web application that leverages tools like Apache Solr, Apache Tika or Apache OpenNLP to provide a set of reusable components for semantic content management via RESTful web services. On the front-end side, VIE.js (“Vienna IKS Editables”) is the JavaScript library for implementing decoupled Content Management Systems and semantic interaction in web applications.

For leveraging Apache Stanbol with Drupal we send Drupal’s data over to Apache Stanbol’s EntityHub component for indexing, such that it is available to Apache Stanbol’s content enhancer. That means, we can use VIE widgets like annotate.js to send pieces of text over to Apache Stanbol for auto-linking content items indexed to Stanbol, which by default includes DBpedia entities, but could be easily extended by any source providing data in RDF. Next, the VIE autocomplete widget allows for easy tagging based upon entities indexed with Apache Stanbol - regardless of whether they come from DBPedia or from one of the Drupal sites your organization runs!

There must be Rules at the Drupalcon Munich

As there must be Rules at the Drupalcon Munich as well, I've had a Rules session together with Richard Jones from i-KOS.

Head over to the session page for a summary and find the slides attached attached to this post as well. Moreover, you can find all the screencasts we've used during the presentation here as well. It's a real Drupal commerce site we've been using in the session to show how Rules can be used to solve real life problems.

1 - No VAT for certain products

2 - Discounts for products that are not belts or bags

and then to make it work the same way years ahead

3 - Subscribe to back in stock notifications via Flag module.

4 - Notify me when something needs review with Workbench moderation

5 - Execute Rules components from Views Bulk Operations

6 - Let's do promitions, but only on Monday please!

7. Message users if they abandoned their carts

8. Log user communication with the Message module

A New Entity Property API for Drupal 8

Why?

While the conversion to full CRUD for entities and classed objects for Drupal 8 made good progress, we’ve not yet reached the goals of fully translatable entities and having a default entity serialization for import/export, content staging and web services. For those points we need to know what’s in an entity! Yes we can look up the fields, but there are also base entity properties and further stuff modules put on entities, which both are no fields so we do not know anything about them.

That is what the new Entity Property API is supposed to change: It’s about providing a unified interface to entity properties and fields, avoiding the split between fields and non-field properties. So fields will be entity properties working with the same API as well! Then, it’s about being able to instrospect what’s going to be in an entity - regardless whether it has been added by a module or by the user via field UI. But furthermore, with classed entity objects as the basis we can improve the developer facing API and make it easier to access property and field values (I’m looking at you, $entity->field_body[LANGUAGE_NONE][0][‘value’]).

What?

As we’ve outlined in the WSCCI Web Services Format Sprint report we want to have a modern OOP, interface based API for properties. The API should allow for introspection, so that it’s possible to look up the defined properties of an entity type in advance. If you know the Entity property information system of the Drupal 7 Entity module, it’s a bit similar to that, but instead of adding an extra layer above the existing entities it’s about supporting it natively. So there will be no need for entity wrappers - all the easy API and information will be directly available in $entity.

See the Entity Property API meta issue for a more complete list of planned features.

Drupalcon Denver...

At the Drupalcon Denver I've given a talk called "Drupalize your data: use entities!". Check out the recording of my talk and find the slides attached:

Also, I've been instructing at the "Rules Mastery" training, together with Johan Falk, Dick Olsson and Klaus Purer. The training materials are all available online so check them out at http://tinyurl.com/rulesmastery! To get into Rules check out the The tiny book of Rules - kudos to Johan Falk again :-)

Going freelance

Some weeks ago I decided to go for something new and to start freelancing. Anyway, I'll keep up the good relationship with epiqo, but starting from December I'm going to work on a freelance basis and look out for other exciting possibilities and projects. Of course I keep maintaining my beloved Drupal modules. Moreover if everything goes well, I hope to be able to reserve more time for community work that way and/or to find new sponsors for exciting developments.

It's done: Rules 2 is out!

Finally, slightly more than two years after I started the initial development I'm happy to announce the release of Rules 2.0 for Drupal 7!

So what's new compared to Rules 1.x?

While the fundamental concepts of "Event-Condition-Action rules" and parametrized actions remain, Rules 2.x is a complete re-write - quite some things changed. Now, it's building upon the Entity API module to fully leverage the power of entities and fields in Drupal 7. Change a taxonomy term? - No problem. Moreover that, Rules 2 now allows you to just select any entity property or field via it's so called "data selection" widget:

Data selection

The Rules data selection widget shows all suiting data properties when configuring an action or condition argument. Let's consider, you configure an action to send a mail - by using the data selector comment:node:author:mail you can easily send mail to the comment's node's author. For that the data selection auto-complete helps you finding suiting data selector:

You might note, that data selectors like node:title look like token replacements. But as actions need more than just textual data, the data selector gives them back the raw data, e.g. full entity objects or whatever fits depending on the data type. Thus, data selectors are not implement via token replacements, but via the entity.module's Entity property info system. Still, the Entity Tokens module (comes with Entity API) makes sure there are token replacements available for all the data selectors too.

The very same way one can naturally access fields too - e.g. node:field-tags gets you all the tags of your article node. However as only articles have tags, for that to work Rules needs to know that the variable node is an article first. Thus, make sure you've used the "Content is of type" or the "Data comparison" condition to check it's an article. Analogously, if you have an "entity" data item you can use the Entity is of type condition to make sure it's a node and access node-specific properties afterwards!

Read more about data selection in the drupal.org handbooks.

Switching parameter input modes

Related, Rules 2 allows you to switch the input modes while configuring the argument for an action parameter. Consider, you have an action that works with a vocabulary. Usually people might select the vocabulary to work with from the list of available vocabularies, but in some circumstances one wants the action to use the vocabulary of a specific taxonomy term. This is, where switching parameter input modes comes into play as it allows you to switch from fixed input mode (= configuring a specific vocabulary) to the data selection input mode - so you could just configure term:vocabulary as an argument by using the data selection widget.

Rules 2 provides small buttons below each parameter's configuration form which allow you to switch the input mode:

Components

Components are standalone Rules configurations that can be re-used from your reaction rules or from code. In Rules 1.x there are already "rule sets" available as "components" - but with Rules 2.x there are multiple component types: Rule Sets, Actions Sets, Rules, "AND Conditions Sets" and "OR condition sets". Rule sets come with maximum flexibility, but if the extra layer of having multiple rules is unnecessary for your use case, you can go with the simpler action set or a single "rule" component now! Next, the conditions sets make it possible to define re-usable condition components.

Components work upon a set of pre-defined variables (e.g. a node), just as for Rules 1.x. However with Rules 2.x it's now possible to provide new variables back to the caller, too.

Read more about components in the drupal.org handbooks.

Loops and lists

Rules 2 is finally able to properly deal with loops and lists! That means you can now access all your fields with multiple items, e.g. the tags of an article node. So you can easily loop over the list of tags and apply an action to each tag. That's also very handy in combination with node-reference or user-reference fields. Send a notification mail to all the referenced users? No problem.

Furthermore, one can access individual list items directly using the data selector - just use node:field-tags:0:name to access the first tag. If you do so, you might want to check whether a tag has been specified by using the "Data value is empty" condition though.

Read more about loops in the drupal.org handbooks.

Improved debug log

Fortunately, there has been another Rules related Google Summer of Code project this year. Sebastian Gilits worked on improving the rules debug log as part of his project! Now, the debug log makes use of some Javascript and appears all collapsed by default, so it's much easier to get which events have been triggered and which rules have fired in the first place. Also, we've included edit links so you can easily jump from the debug log to the Rules UI in order to fix up a miss-configured rule.

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