Capybara with Selenium and Vagrant (without Rails)

Once upon a time I wrote a blog post about using Capybara with Selenium and Vagrant (which you can still find on the previous incarnation of my blog here) … things have changed a bit since then however: it got easier to run headless browser tests for example (no longer requiring an Xvfb setup) and nowadays Rails even ships with Capybara by default for its systems tests taking away a lot of the complexity of setting it up for developers using the framework.

Capybara with Selenium is still an amazingly good combination for automated testing of web applications in a real browser, so in this article I will revisit running automated browser tests with it on a Vagrant box with the same perhaps somewhat unimaginative little Sinatara application as I did back in 2012.

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Using OpenSSL to verify downloads

Hashes are commonly offered by download pages for you to verify the integrity of your downloaded files. I typically verify these hashes using OpenSSL which supports many types of hashing algorithms and is available on many unix-like systems (and can often be installed on them easily enough if it is not yet present).

The basic method for verification works as follows: after downloading a file enter the command openssl {hashalgorithm} {/path/to/downloaded.file} to calculate a hash based on the file’s contents. If the hash shown matches the hash on the download page the file is as intended.

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Committing parts of your changes via the git command-line interface

If you have ever used made extensive use of GUI interfaces for git you may have come across the ability to stage and commit only parts of your changes to files rather than committing everything that you changed in said files at once. Recently I learned that the command-line interface to git supports the same feature using the -p flag when staging or even committing files which is what I briefly want to go through in this article.

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Scripting tmux

I spend quite a bit of time on the shell, more often than not inside a tmux session. For those of you not familiar with tmux, it is a terminal multiplexer (akin to GNU screen) allowing you to split your terminal into multiple windows and panes. Its a tool that offers man conveniences such as being able to start a session on a server, detach from it and to come back to later (in a different SSH session) or even having multiple people sharing a single session without having to physically be in the same place.

When developing with Ruby I tend to program using Vim in a tmux session. In my setup I usually have a window per project which has three panes: one for Vim, a second to run processes in (such as a rails web server) and a third as a console to run ad-hoc commands or an application console. With my configuration this setup looks something like the below screenshot:

While you can easily create the above panes with a few keystrokes, you can also script tmux to setup this up for you with a single key combination. This is what I will be diving into in this article.

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Flushing your DNS cache on Ubuntu 20.04

Often enough I run into this little problem: I make a DNS change and want to see the results. When I check for the changes though it looks as if nothing has changed, and sometimes this is caused by my system’s DNS cache.

Clearing the cache on Ubuntu 20.04 can be done with the following command: sudo systemd-resolve --flush-caches, you can verify that the caches have been emptied by following that up with the command systemd-resolve --statistics which then gives an output like shown below:

DNSSEC supported by current servers: yes

Current Transactions: 0    
  Total Transactions: 21870
  Current Cache Size: 0    
          Cache Hits: 6722 
        Cache Misses: 15158
DNSSEC Verdicts            
              Secure: 7783 
            Insecure: 21703
               Bogus: 0    
       Indeterminate: 0    

The text and numbers will vary per setup, the “Current Cache Size” should however display a value of 0 to indicate your cache has been cleard.

If you are running dnsmasq next to the standard systemd-resolve like I do, restarting dnsmasq (with sudo systemctl restart dnsmasq) will ensure its caches are cleared to (otherwise you may still end up getting cached results).

And that’s all that I have for this very short post. If you have feedback on this article or have questions based on its contents then feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or through e-mail.

Obtaining your external IP address from the command-line

Sometimes you need to know what your external IP address is, for example when you need to make use of a protected service where they need to (temporarily) add your IP address to their firewall’s allow list to allow you to connect to said service.

If you have a broadband connection at home it is possible that you have a fixed external IP address and that you already know what it is. If you are however visiting elsewhere you likely do not know what it is, a quick solution in such cases is to open your browser and use a site such as to see what your external IP address is. But what if you need to know this on a Unix-like server that only offers a command-line interface (or if you simply prefer to use your shell)?

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Using dnsmasq to run a local TLD

If you work on a lot of different projects you likely have a lot of different entries in your hosts file to point fake domains to localhost or one or more Vagrant boxes. This can be a bit of a pain to manage. If you’re running Linux, BSD or Mac OS then this article offers an option that might ease this problem a bit: dnsmasq.

In this article I will describe how to setup dnsmasq to run your own local (fake) top level domain for which all domains will route to localhost (or another IP address of choice, to point to a Vagrant box for example). While writing this article I used Ubuntu 20.04, if you are running another operating system that can run dnsmasq you may have to do things slightly differently… in that case: be ready to consult some manuals.

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Using sed (the non-interactive command line text editor)

If you go to the sed webpage it tells you that it is a non-interactive command line text editor. Unlike interactive editors you do not spend time in sed, instead you invoke sed with a set of command line parameters and it directly outputs or writes its result.

I have often used it in Vagrant provisioning scripts to tweak configuration files, you can however also use it to extract information from text files (such as log files) and convert that into a different format (such as CSV). In this article I will demonstrate how you can use sed to do some of these things to give you some insight into it’s utility.

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Consuming a REST API with the Ruby standard library

Making use of REST APIs is a commonplace task for many a software developer. When working with Ruby there are quite a few RubyGems that you can use to aid you in this endeavour. Faraday, httpclient and HTTParty are examples just to name a few. If you however do not want to add dependencies to your project you can also make us of Ruby’s standard library, which is what I will be going through in this article.

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Vim tip: Visual block editing

Vim is my favourite editor, it has been for many years. Over 10 years ago, in May 2010, I wrote a blog post about visual block editing in Vim. Much to my surprise that article is still read by people every month to this very day. Since its still relevant I have updated it and placed it here on my current blog.

This article assumes that you are familiar with the basics of Vim. If you are not yet familiar with vim then the vimtutor is a good place to start, you run it by executing “vimtutor” instead of “vim”. With that said, on to visual block editing!

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