Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Apex November 2017 Municipal Elections

It's that time of year again for municipal elections and we have two items coming up on the ballot, a parks bond and three seats on the town council.

First, let's talk about the Parks Bond. If you're unfamiliar with it, the town has put together a great FAQ that should address a lot of your questions. I asked John Brown, the Parks director, why the growth itself isn't enough to fund the initiatives and he pointed out that as we grow, those additional tax revenues are typically needed to offset the cost of providing services to meet the demands of the larger community (public safety, streets, infrastructure, etc). He also pointed out that if the funds are there, the council can opt to not issue some of the debt or increase taxes to repay it. If passed, the bond will add additional greenways (connecting 17 more neighborhoods!), provide for a senior center, and build out Pleasant Park (which could be useful for tournaments, meaning soccer parents, etc may not have to travel as much). In my opinion, this will have a great impact on our quality of life and we should all vote Yes for this.

Second, there are three spots opening up for the town council, Nicole Dozier, Gene Schulze, and Denise Wilkie's seats. Ms. Dozier is the only one running for re-election. There are five candidates running for these three seats:

I went to the candidate forum last night to hear from the candidates. If you were unable to make it, they will be posting a video on the Chamber website within a few days. Overall, the candidates seemed very similar to each other with very little disagreements.

So who has my votes? Well, I will be voting NDG (play on the NBA signs around town, encouraging people to vote for the block of Nicole, Brett, and Audra). Ms. Dozier impressed me with her experience, advocacy, and her drive to get a senior center in place. Mr. Hooks impressed me with his town experience (being on the planning board and a lifelong resident of Apex), poise, and volunteering with kids. Mr. Wilson impressed me with an emphasis on economic development.

Finally, if you want to see what the ballot will actually look like so you're prepared, you can see it here. Short and sweet!

Voting is November 7th! You can find election information here, including how to get an absentee ballot, your polling location, and more.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Watch out for Drupal 8.4!

I was using a Drupal composer template and a few days ago, it upgraded from 8.3 to 8.4 automatically. I noticed and didn't really think much of it, so I applied the database updates and went on my way. Today, two days afterwards, I ran across this article which pointed out that PHP 7 is required for the underlying Symfony framework. Our site is running on Debian 8, which has PHP 5.6 and powers other PHP applications, so I wasn't looking to update the underlying OS and possibly break my other PHP things.

So I downloaded a db snap from 8.3 and then re-applied the 8.4 update and took another database snapshot. Then I diff'd the database snapshots. The biggest changes seemed to be in the cache tables and removing and adding some revision columns. So I reverse-engineered a backgrade SQL script. With that, I updated the composer.json file from this:
        "drupal/core": "~8.0",

to this:
        "drupal/core": "8.3.*",

Then I took a precautionary database backup and then did a composer update, which took care of the code backgrade. Then I ran my script (drush sqlc < backgrade.sql) and then I did a drush entity-updates to actually update the database schemas to match the backgraded code.

Now I just need to ignore Drupal telling me about 8.4 until I'm ready to fully embrace PHP 7. I feel like something bigger needed to get my attention to the update in system requirements when I ran the initial composer update.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ode to Sendgrid

I recently have been playing around with Sendgrid and it is pretty amazing. I have had some experience with sending email programmatically with AWS' SES product and it's nice, especially with its SNS integration, but Sendgrid's killer feature is its speed. I had about 6,000 emails to send, each one personalized with an individual URL and the person's first name. With AWS and a multi-threaded PHP program, I can send about 15 emails per second, which would have taken almost 7 minutes to process. With Sendgrid, I create a template in their system with template tags and then I create a massive data structure with up to 1,000 entries and then post it to the Sendgrid API. Rinse/repeat. I was able to send my 6,000 emails in 6 seconds! Sendgrid took care of the personalization on their end and I was seeing emails being delivered very soon after. Wow. Here's my script code:

I've only scratched the surface - there's lots more Sendgrid offers. One of the nice things is that you can get an activity feed and some nice stats after you send an email to see how people respond:

Activity Log, showing opens, clicks, delivered, etc.

Stat report, showing email performance.

If you're a Google Cloud customer, they offer a free trial with up to 12,000 transactional emails per month. Definitely worth a checking out!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Global Climate

Climate change has been an ongoing issue for about 20 years (maybe more). I was influenced early on by Michael Crichton's book, State of Fear, which posits that there's no real scientific evidence of global warming. Plus, it was just another thing for humanity to focus on, that we need something to stay fearful of. It's an interesting theory, especially if you consider that the current growing fear of terrorism has probably reduced the fear of global warming, mitigating any resistance to progress. A few years ago, Casey shared this punnet-like square video of all the various perspectives of are we going to do anything about it and if global warming is caused by humans or not. So regardless of what you believe and if anything can be done, the risk of doing nothing seems a lot worse than the risk of doing something and it ending up not being a thing.

So with that out of the way, the current news of Trump and the Paris Climate Agreement has me more aware of local efforts. If the US government isn't going to lead the way, then we need to do what we can on a local level. As a North Carolina citizen, we have an opportunity to keep our state moving forward towards more renewable energy sources. There's a bill that was just filed with the NC House that rolls back some of the goals (the minimum stays at 6% vs. growing to 12.5% by 2021). I'm not a lawyer, but it also looks like nuclear energy will be considered renewable, which probably means that Duke Energy could just buy energy from its own nuclear plants vs. other renewable energy sources.

So, if you're a NC resident and you want to do something, you can find your representative and express your opinion. You can also look at what your town is up to.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Drupal 8 project killed

I realize I haven't updated my blog in awhile, because I've been in the thick of developing and rolling out our new site (check it out!). This was taking our existing Drupal 7 site for FSR Magazine and migrating it to this new site, which is responsive and better catered to deal with all food service news. Unfortunately, we ended up killing the Drupal 8 upgrade because it was just too complex, given our custom module codebase. D8 has a mindset change, where everything is an Entity and it takes a lot of OOP and YAML files to get things done.

I figure it would cost us hundreds of hours to upgrade to D8 and it was tempting to upgrade to D8 for the configuration management, Big Pipe, and better caching features. But that's time and money we didn't want to spend on the upgrade.

I've talked with some folks at my local Drupal User Group (shoutout TriDUG!) and several others are in the same boat, where existing sites aren't upgrading, but rather, they're doing new sites in D8.

At some point, we'll need to do something, but we're able to do what we need with D7. If pressed, it may be easier to port to Backdrop vs. upgrade to D8.