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Creativity is hard

Dear Reader,

I have a friend named Jeremy Kendall who is an outstanding photographer. One day I was taking a picture of an old clay pot I thought of Jeremy and something kinda fell into place for me.

I can look through the view finder and see the subject. I can compose a picture properly to showcase the subject. I can adjust the settings for the available light. I can frame it and I can take a picture.

Jeremy however, can look through the viewfinder and see beyond the clay pot, he can see the beauty of the shot that is waiting to be captured. Jeremy doesn’t take pictures, Jeremy makes art.

We both use a camera, we both push the shutter button, but only one of us makes art.

The next time I am tempted to dismiss someone’s creation as “simple” because it’s something I can do, I’ll think of Jeremy.

This includes the next time I look at a SaaS product and think “I’m not paying $75 a month for 250 lines of code and a cron job.” (Actually happened. Cost me 3 years of my weekends.)

“Code is Poetry” as Matt Mullenweg is fond of saying. Code is truly is art.

It doesn’t matter if it’s written in a language I approve of. It doesn’t matter if I like the platform it runs on. Art is art, even if I don’t recognize it.

I need to remember that code is art and that someone poured a lot of love into that code, even if I don’t immediately appreciate it.

Until next time
I <3 |<

Making Lando work inside WSL2

Dear Reader,

About five months ago I started using Lando. I have never been a Docker fan. I know Docker is useful, but for most things I work on it just seemed to be one additional layer on top of everything else I’ve got to build. Then a friend I was working with at the time introduced me to Lando. Lando seemed almost perfect.

  • It was easy to spin up and down
  • It supported PHP, WordPress, Drupal, and Composer out of the box
  • It was easily extensible

Honestly, the only downside was that on Windows 10, it ran in Windows, not in WSL. On Windows all my development takes place inside WSL. Until  I started working a contract that required it, I didn’t even have Git or PHP installed on Windows, only in WSL.

Then WSL2 hit and everything changed. Docker released a new version that would run inside of WSL2 and would take advantage of the WSL2 Linux kernel when running in Windows. I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, as with everything in tech, there were hurdles to overcome. This blog post does not delve into the WHY things work the way they do; honestly, in some cases, I do not know. This is designed to be a step-by-step guide to getting Lando and Docker up and running.

Also, where applicable, I have linked to the original posts where I got the information. Most of this info was borrowed from other sites but I had to piece things together to get everything working.

Step, the first: Install Docker

I am going to assume you already have already upgraded Windows 10 and have WSL2 installed and operational. You will need a Linux distribution. I chose Ubuntu because Cent OS isn’t available (grumble).


If you have Docker Desktop installed on Windows 10, check the settings. If you have enabled WSL integration make SURE – I mean absolutely, positively SURE – that you do not integrate it with the distro you are going to be using Lando with. If that’s your default Distro then don’t check the “Enable integration with my default WSL distro” checkbox. Make sure the slider is not lit for the distro you will be using Lando with. Failure to do this will lead to hours of heartache and head-banging until you come back to this post, read it again from the top, and see this warning.

Ok, now that you either understood and heeded the warning above, or you ignored it thinking it doesn’t really apply to you, follow the instructions from to get Docker up and running on your WSL2 distro.

For me, these were the commands I executed. Feel free to copy and paste them one command at a time. (They are the same ones from the blog post but without the comments.)

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl software-properties-common libssl-dev libffi-dev git wget nano
sudo groupadd docker
sudo usermod -aG docker ${USER}
curl -fsSL | sudo apt-key add -
sudo add-apt-repository "deb [arch=amd64] $(lsb_release -cs) stable"
curl -s | sudo apt-key add -
echo "deb kubernetes-xenial main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/kubernetes.list
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade -y
sudo apt-get autoremove -y
sudo apt-get install -y docker-ce
sudo apt-get install -y kubectl
sudo curl -sSL`curl -s | \
grep "compose/releases/tag" | sed -r 's|.*([0-9]+\.[0-9]+\.[0-9]+).*|\1|p' | head -n 1`/docker-compose-`uname -s`-`uname -m` \
-o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose && sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

That got me almost there. right now, if you can run the following command and it works then you are golden.

docker run hello-world

If that worked, you can proceed to Step, the Second.

However, if you get this error:

docker: Error response from daemon: cgroups: cannot found cgroup mount destination: unknown.

Then you need one more step. Reading the thread, I found that Dinar-Dalvi posted this “temporary” fix. Execute these two commands in your WSL2 terminal.

sudo mkdir /sys/fs/cgroup/systemd
sudo mount -t cgroup -o none,name=systemd cgroup /sys/fs/cgroup/systemd

Now try Docker run hello-world again. It should work. If you’ve gotten this far, you are home free. The rest is pretty easy.

Step, the second: Install Lando

Ok, Lando’s install instructions are pretty dang simple. Go to the Lando Releases Page and grab the package for your distro from the latest version. Since I am using Ubuntu, I grabbed the .deb package. Then, following the instructions on the Lando Install Page I executed:

sudo dpkg -i lando-WHATEVER_I_DOWNLOADED.deb

Yup, it’s that easy.

Step, the third: Spin up your first Lando

I work with WordPress a lot so my Lando Hello World was spinning up a WordPress site. The very easy to use Lando manual has a page for WordPress and to init a container for Lando with WordPress, all I need to do is follow these instructions.

$ lando init \
--source remote \
--remote-url \
--recipe wordpress \
--webroot wordpress \
--name my-first-wordpress-app
$ lando start


Two minutes later I have a working WordPress site ready for my “Five Minute Install.”

Before you start the final WordPress install step, make sure you execute:

lando info

Lando has already installed a DB for you and created a user. lando info will give you the info you need to finish up the install and start developing your next great idea with Lando.

Step, the last: Wrap-up

If you are already a Docker aficionado and conversant with how to setup and maintain Docker containers, Lando, will be of little interest to you. However, if you are a developer who just wants to get a container spun up so they can work on a website (WordPress, Drupal, Laravel, whatever) it is a great tool and will fast become one of your regulars.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Posted in PHP

Treat Yo Self!

Dear Reader,

Yes, it’s a “Parks and Rec” reference.

I recently re-watched that series and this concept that was touted in a couple of episodes, always hits home with me.  I think it’s very important that we take time to take care of ourselves. Not an “In these trying times…” kind of thing, but every day, good or bad, make time for a moment that is just about you. I

  • Buy yourself something, A candy bar or small trinket
  • Get alone for ten minutes and just think of your happy place
  • Watch your favorite episode of your favorite TV show again
  • Listen to your favorite album with your headphones on

In Parks and rec, it was all about extravagance and opulence. It ended up financially devastating the participants. In real life it doesn’t have to be extravagant or out of your means.  The idea is not to buy happiness but to simply sit and smell the roses for a few minutes each day. The idea is to invest a small amount of time in your overall happiness and well being.

Invest in yourself today. Make time today to treat yo self.

Until next time
I <3 |<

The VS Code extensions I use for PHP development in 2019

Dear Reader,

I hate IDEs. I always have, I probably always will. I don’t always want to edit a file that is in a project and I don’t like any of the ‘project-less’ kludges that are out there.  So for the majority of my programming career, I’ve used “program editors”.  Programs just smart enough to know that I’m working in code and give me tools to do that properly, but not so smart that they get in my way. For the last few years I’ve been a huge fan of “Sublime Text”. I’ve owned a license at the last three places I’ve worked and even maintained my own personal license.  All that changed last year when I became one of the last developers on earth to notice VS Code by Microsoft.

Back in April, since I found myself with some time on my hands, I decided I would spend a day actually learning how to use VS Code. Maybe if I had bothered to do that with Sublime Text, I’d still be using it. but that’s a discussion for another day.

Once I got the basics setup, I started exploring Extensions. I’ve loaded more than 40 of them now at one time or another but I’ve paired my list down to my “Essential 12”. Here they are for you.

WAIT! Before we get started though, let me describe my setup.

I use Windows 10, but I use the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) for all of my development. My production servers are all Linux (CentOS if you MUST know) All of my projects are stored on either GitLab or GitHub.  You may be using MacOS or Linux, but since all my development is Linux, almost everything I talk about here will apply.

“Absolutely must have or it’s not worth using” extensions

Visual Studio Code Remote Development Extension Pack

This is the grandaddy of all the extensions. This is what made VSC actually useful to me on a day to day basis. It was only released in May, so I have the least amount of experience with this one but trust me, this is the ONE you have to install if you don’t install anything else.

This is actually an extension pack, not a single extension.

  • Remote – WSL
  • Remote – Containers
  • Remote – SSH: Explorer
  • Remote – SSH: Editing Configuration Files

The first three are the secret sauce. They allow you to edit files natively inside of the WSL, inside of running Docker containers, or on any machine that you can ssh into.

From a command prompt inside the WSL (I use bash so I’m going to say bash prompt form now on. You can translate into your favorite command prompt) developers can open a single file  or a directory by simply typing code.


code .

This will open VCS, instantiate a running instance of it’s server piece inside the WSL, and open the current directory ready for us to begin working.

It’s that middle task that makes the magic happen. VSC Remote Development Extension Pack actually has a server piece that it runs in Containers, WSL, and over SSH to allow it to seamlessly manipulate files and directories.

This group of extensions also integrate the remote file system into VSC so you can use File->New/Save/SaveAs/Delete etc on remote systems, WSL, and inside containers. That did away with the need for an extension solely for that purpose.

The fourth item on the list above is a convenience extension that makes editing remote ssh config files easier by giving keyword intellisense and syntax coloring.

BONUS: When you open the terminal window while connected to WSL, a container, or SSH, you get a command prompt in that environment. This means a bash shell in WSL for me, not the PowerShell. (which I still hate) The shell it presents is better and more compatible than any shell I’ve used in Windows so far. If you want, you can even setup forwarders. This could be your complete ssh solution if you so desired.

If you don’t have this extension, you are missing the power of VSC, especially if you work in Win/WSL.

PHP IntelliSense

Since the vast majority of my work in VSC is PHP code, I wanted more than the basic intellisense that is built into VSC. (It is actually recommended that when you install this extension, you turn off the native PHP intellisense) There are a couple of Extensions that do this, I tried them all and this is by far the best and least intrusive.

At least one of them tried to format things as I pasted them in. This caused me to have to do a lot of correcting, removing spaces, and reformatting before I could use the code I just pasted in. This plugin does not do anything too wild. It gives you basic keyword intellisense, tab completion, advanced searching, etc. One of my favorite things about this extension is that if you click on a use statement, it will locate the file that class is defined in and open it for you.

As I said, this plugin does not attempt to format your code for you. It recommends that you use the PHPCS extension for that. (Another reason I love it)

“Sugar coating that make the tool very nice to use” Extensions


This one really should be in a category all it’s own called “This is so cool” Extensions. Polacode allows you to create “snapshots” of your code. You activate it, you highlight the code you want snapshoted, and you click the shutter button. BOOK, you’ve got a png of your code ready to share on social media or incorporate into your next slide presentation. It really is that simple. (Well, when you click the button, it asks you where to save it and what to name it. Other than that it’s that simple.)

Outside of the Remote Development Extension Pack, this is probably the coolest extension I use.


If you do want your code auto-formatted, this is the extension to use. You have complete control over which standards to implement and those can even change on a project by project basis. If you use phpcs in your development process this is a must-have extension. If you install it though, take the time necessary to configure it properly for your base configuration and then modify that as needed on a per-project basis. Since I work in several communities, this allows me to say that my base config is PSR1/1, but my WordPress plugins adhere to the WordPress coding standards. (Mostly) The investment of 30 minutes to get everything setup and configured is time well spent.

Twig Language 2

Some of the work I do requires views and when I use a view, I always use Twig as my templating engine. This extension provides syntax highlighting and hovers for my twig templates. Syntax highlighting might not sound important but once you get used to it, and then you open a file that does not have it, you begin to wonder if your program is broke or if you’ve suddenly been transported into a black & white movie.

Code Spell Checker

Anyone who has ever received an email from me (or read one of my blog posts that pre-dates spellcheckers built into browsers) knows that I seriously suck at spelling. Even when I do have spell checkers they rarely work in code because $somethingImportant will never pass a spell checker. So I have this plugin. This one is hit or miss. It almost always identifies misspelled words in strings or comments (YEA COMMENTS!) but it used to be that I could have it fix them. That stopped working in the latest update. Hopefully they get that fixed soon.

Bracket Pair Colorizer

First, you should not have a lot of nested IF and FOR statements. Down that road is madness. However there are a lot of times where we have function calls nested inside other function calls, nested inside an IF. When you do find yourself in that situation, you want this plugin. This plugin assigns a color to each pair of brackets, braces, and parentheses.  This makes tracing down missing ones trivial and helps you understand the actual nesting of your code.


“You may not needs these but I sure do” Extensions


I write a lot. Of late I’ve been writing two books “Using the WordPress REST API” and “Extending the WordPress REST API”. These books are written in MarkDown and stored in private repos on github. (Leanpub refuses to support GitLab, my preferred site. ) Most of the time, MarkDown is easy to do, however, there are some rules that have to be followed. This plugin keeps all of my markdown clean and parse-able.

Prettify JSON

JSON is the lingua franca of APIs. It is heads and shoulders better than XML in every respect except one, readability. XML is human readable. This plugin basically does what PHP’s json_encode($payload, JSON_PRETTY_PRINT) does. It puts linefeeds where we need them and indents where we need them. It also does syntax highlighting and linting for JSON. If you find yourself pasting JSON into a text editor and making it readable by hand, you want this extension.  If on the other hand, you prefer XML, well, you have problems beyond the scope of this article. :)

Word Count

Again, another writing tool. Not even a tool, just a simple little plugin that tells me how many words are in a given MarkDown file. It is not important if you don’t do a lot of writing, but without it I couldn’t tweet out my “how many words I wrote today” tweets.

“I’m keeping an eye on this” Extensions


I’m an old database programmer. I still hand code every line of SQL I write. So I am always looking for new ways to access and manipulate data. I had high hopes for this extension because it looked like it would give me a powerful command line to access my database. To date I’ve not been able to do anything other than get a list of tables on a server.

Still, I have not uninstalled it. Every time there is an update, I try again to see if it is working better.



That’s it, that’s my current extension list. I hope I’ve introduced you to a new friend or two. If you are new to VS Code, I hope I’ve given you a few new toys to play with.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Job Security is a Myth

Dear Reader,

As I writ this, I am on “Sabbatical”. I took a few days off to plan and write.

As I was packing to go, the lovely and talented Kathy and I were discussing a couple of large purchases we are contemplating. During the discussion she said “If I knew your current situation were permanent, I’d go ahead and buy both.”

What she was referring to was the fact that I am currently a contract employee for a couple of different companies, this means my job is not permanent. It did make me think.

In my career, I have been fired three times. (in no particular order)

  • Company fired the entire development team including me, the Director. New CTO and he just wanted to clean house and bring in his own people.
  • Company pivoted and in an instance, no longer needed the role I filled.
  • Company was preparing to sell and needed to “trim the books”.

In each case, I can point to a solid WHY. I know why I was let go. In each case, I thought I had a secure job and was safe. In each case I was reminded that – at least in the US – job security is a myth.

Note, this is not me whining about being fired and I like the system here in the US because it gives entrepreneurs the flexibility to be wrong before they are right.

The point of this post is to remind myself each time it comes up that there is no such thing as job security. A job is a transaction, not a family, no matter who tells you different.

You are only there trading time for money, and the eye opening thing is, you are the cheapest solution the company could find for the problem you solve.

Cherish your time at every company, but  don’t take it for granted. Don’t assume that you will be there tomorrow. Always be prepared for the worst, even when you are enjoying the best.

Until next time,
I <3 |<