Developing software in the Real World

Getting started writing an Alexa Skill

We now have 4 Amazon Echo devices in the house, and, inspired by a demo LornaJane gave me at DPC, I have decided to write some skills for it. This article covers what I learnt in order to get my first Swift skill working. Our bins are collected by the council every other week; one week it's the green recycling bin and the other week, it's the black waste bin. Rather than looking it up,… continue reading.

Use curl to create a CouchDB admin user

This too me longer to find than it should have done, so I'm writing it here for future me. When you install CouchDB, it is in a mode where anyone can do anything with the database including creating and deleting databases. This is called "Admin Party" mode which is a pretty cool name, but not what I want. Creating admin users To create a user in 1.6 (I've not used 2.0 yet, but assuming it's… continue reading.

View an SSL certificate from the command line

I recently had some trouble with verifying an SSL in PHP on a client's server that I couldn't reproduce anywhere else. It eventually turned out that the client's IT department was presenting a different SSL certificate to the one served by the website. To help me diagnose this, I used this command line script to display the SSL certificate:

Running it against, the start looks like this:

In my case, I… continue reading.

View header and body with curl

I recently discovered the -i switch to curl! I have no idea why I didn't know about this before… Curl is one of those tools that every developer should know. It's universal and tends to be available everywhere. When developing APIs, I prefer to use curl to view the output of a request like this:

-v is for verbose and so you get told all the information you could possibly want. However, usually, I… continue reading.

Proxying SSL via Charles from Vagrant

The Swift application that I'm currently developing gets data from Twitter and I was struggling to get a valid auth token. To solve this, I wanted to see exactly what I was sending to Twitter and so opened up Charles on my Mac to have a look. As my application is running within a Vagrant box running Ubuntu Linux, I needed to tell it to proxy all requests through Charles. To do this, you set… continue reading.

Customising Bootstrap 3

I'm sure everyone already knows this, but it turns out that you can customise Bootstrap 3 without having to understand Less. Part of the reason that I didn't realise this is that I run my web browser windows quite small and regularly don't see the main menu of as it's hidden being the "three dashes" button. However, there's an option called Customize on it. This page gives you a massive form where you can… continue reading.

Apigility tutorial on TechPortal

A few days ago, techPortal published my tutorial Create a RESTful API with Apigility. Apigility was announced at ZendCon US in October 2013 and I think that it looks like a useful tool for creating APIs. I particularly like that versioning is built in from the start and that it handles content negotiation. If you want to learn about Apigility, then have a read. The source code is available on GitHub.

Setting the umask when using Capistrano

This is one of those posts to remind me how I solved a problem last time! I've recently been using Capistrano for deployment and other remote tasks and it's proving quite useful. One problem I ran into was that the umask was being set to 022 when using Capistrano and 002 when I was ssh'd into the server itself. After a bit of research, I discovered that the secret is to put the umask statement… continue reading.

Objects in the model layer

I currently use a very simple set of core objects within my model layer: entities, mappers and service objects. Entities are objects that represent something in my business logic. For example, in my traditional Album's tutorial, the entity would be the object that holds one album. It has properties such as title, artist and date created and methods that are specific to this entity. Mappers know how to save and load an entity from the… continue reading.