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Learnings Week 20 2011 published on 22 May 2011

Following last week's learnings, here's another dose of little bits and pieces I've learned over the past week or so.

  • Using cd - is a good way to jump to the "prevous directory." That is to say if you change from $HOME to ~/source/github/ and then to /opt/graphite/current/webapp, at that point if you enter cd - you'll jump back to ~/source/github/.
  • fc will pop open $EDITOR with the previous command so you can clean it up, or fix the command. I've found this incredibly useful to turn shell-one-liners that organically grow to hundreds of lines into simple scripts.
  • (This learning was the inspiration for an earlier pseudo-rant) Inside of the redis codebase is a library for dynamic strings in C which is rather magical! When allocating a new "magic string", the library actually allocates a block of memory larger than the string itself, and prepends the string portion of the memory with a struct filled with meta-data. Making your block look something like [[struct sdshdr][char *]]. The pointer you pass around is to the [char *] block, allowing you to easily print and work with the string as per normal. In order to free this memory, the library provides a free(2) wrapper which does free(s - sizeof(sdshdr)); While normally, double free(2) calls can be detected and alerted in Glibc, an accidental double-free on this structure will explode in spectacular and hard-to-trace-without-valgrind ways!
  • If you need to print a number when echoing a variable, such as in a for loop, use: typeset -Z5 x. This will make the x variable 5 digits long. I found this to be very useful for quickly generating a sequential list of serial numbers, e.g. for x in {1..10}; do typeset -Z5 x; echo "ZTX1${x}A"; done
  • You can use the "Git Publish" feature of the Jenkins Git plugin to push tags to GitHub for successful builds. When used in conjuction with GitHub's "downloads" feature, which auto-generates tarballs for tags, you can automate creation of pre-tested nightly snapshots, graciously hosted by GitHub.