Steve Grunwell

Open-source contributor, speaker, and coffee snob

Tag: Open Source

Stacks of vintage, sepia-toned photographs

Paid Support for Legacy Libraries

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my good friend Eric Mann about an open-source package he maintains. This particular package has quite a number of downloads and active users, despite Eric trying to abandon it a few years ago. He’s since restarted development on it, but now he faces a problem: people are upset that he’s dropped legacy PHP version support.

This particular package is popular within the WordPress ecosystem, which is big on backwards compatibility. Despite the fact that both PHP 5.6 and 7.0 stopped receiving even security updates at the end of 2018, there are still plenty of users out there running their applications in old, insecure versions of PHP. As a result, some people were rather upset when Eric stated “I’m not going to spend my [limited] time supporting EOL’d versions of PHP.”

Some commenters were quick to jump in with remarks ranging from “well, it doesn’t take that much time to support older versions of PHP…” to “WordPress supports older versions of PHP, so should you!”, but Eric remained firm: if you want support for older versions of PHP, you can either pay me for my time or contribute the code yourself.

It may sound a little harsh, but I’m 100% with Eric on this one: he doesn’t owe anybody his time and effort. That’s time he could be spending with his family, out hiking, or working on projects that he enjoys. Heck, knowing what Eric can do, back-porting support for old versions of PHP should be way down on his list of priorities.

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An antique hour glass, resting on a rocky beach

Exclude Dependencies from Time Machine Backups

If you’ve used a Mac in the last decade or so, you’ve likely been prompted to configure Time Machine, macOS’ built-in automated backup solution; simply connect your backup disk (or use certain network attached storage devices) and Time Machine will automatically make incremental backups of your machine. In the event that your computer’s lost/stolen, its hard drive is corrupted, or you simply deleted that super important file, Time Machine makes it easy to restore your computer’s previously healthy state.

Where Time Machine is less convenient is in the case of developers: modern development practices often rely on dependency management tools (e.g. Composer, npm, etc.) to pull in third-party dependencies. Instead of including full copies of external libraries, developers can say “my application relies on package N at version X.Y.Z”, and the dependency manager can download the necessary code as a build step. This is great for keeping third-party assets both versioned and out of version control, but for the developer working on multiple projects it poses a bit of a problem: you end up with a ton of project dependencies on your machine!

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I just launched the Engineering @ Growella blog

As you may be aware, I joined a Cincinnati-based startup, Growella, as their Director of Technology in mid-November. Since joining, I’ve been hard at work building our site (which is slated to launch within the next few weeks), building our hosting infrastructure, and generally being the point-person for all things technological at the company.

I’m already learning a lot in my new role, and I wanted an outlet to be able to share those things. I’m also very fortunate that the rest of the company embraces open source software, so I wanted a place (besides this blog) to share what Growella has been working on, the problems we’ve been solving, and any releases of new software.

With all of that in mind, I’m proud to announce that about an hour ago we launched the Engineering @ Growella blog.

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Sunsetting WP Password Generator

My WP Password Generator plugin was my first foray into WordPress plugin development. It started back in 2010, just over a month after I started at Fahlgren Mortine, when my friend Greg Laycock and I were working on a client’s WordPress site and decided that manually generating passwords was a total pain. I suggested “what if we have a ‘Generate Password’ button on the user edit screen?”, he agreed, and I spent that night writing a quick plugin that makes an Ajax call to a script that generated a password. After we submitted it to the WordPress.org repository, we watched the download counts climb (I remember how thrilled we were once we crossed 100, and it just continued to rise from there).

As time went on, feature requests rolled in through the plugin forums and GitHub, but we intentionally kept the features simple (it’s a password generator, not a whole user management suite, after all). It was eventually rewritten to better adhere to the WordPress coding standards and use the native WordPress wp_generate_password() function instead of my home-rolled solution (which was actually pretty similar). It was never the flashiest plugin, but it was a perfect learning experience for both WordPress plugin development and managing an open-source project.

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Looking out from the Smithsonian Natural Science museum on a foggy day

Petition The People

Built for the second annual National Day of Civic Hacking, Petition The People leverages the We The People Write API to collect signatures on WTP petitions. Petition The People makes it easy to collect signatures while canvassing or at events, and is built responsively so it looks as great on a phone or tablet as it does the desktop.

The app is targeted at advocacy groups and organizations who might want to draw attention to more than one issue at a time, so organizations are able to create what I named “Campaigns,” consisting of one or more petition. Each campaign has its own unique URL, and users are presented with the body of each petition. After selecting at least one of the campaign’s petitions to sign, a single signature form is presented. This enables a user to sign multiple petitions at once, rather than manually entering their information across several petitions.

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Be excellent to each other.