Setting up Magento development environment, step by step. Part 3: Naming and structure

Naming and structure

Welcome back to Measure9 blog. Here I continue with article series “Setting up Magento development environment, step by step“. Please read Part 1 and Part 2, too.

I write about naming of things in this post. It’s important, it’s very important because in the long run it defines how you and you’re colleagues are going to talk about things, how you point at things and so on. It’s important to use common terms to build common understanding. Also I’ll explain the importance of SSH keys. I’ve learned to name things thru standards, conventions used in frameworks and long time industry-experience.

I’d like to start with this infamous and very good quote by Phil Karlton:

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

General rules about naming

  1. Never ever use special characters, other than ASCII letters in your file and folder names. Regardless of what Operating Systems claim there will be problems as soon as you move files around between different platforms and systems. I guarantee that. I’ll buy you a beer if you can prove that you’ll never had any problems with file/folder names with special characters 🙂 It’s especially important in non-English countries like Estonia (we have õ, ä, ö, ü), Germany, Sweden, Russia… Basically anywhere outside US and UK. (Side note – regardless of file names your application, your code, your files etc must be in / support UTF-8. That’s a standard.)
  2. Be very careful with case of names, especially when you’re working between case sensitive (all Linuxes), partly case sensitive (OSX) and case insensitive systems (Windows). Always prefer lower case where possible but as you know – Magento’s and Zend’s standards state some rules about class names etc. So just be careful and consistent.
  3. Avoid spaces in file and folder names.
  4. www-prefix is so-20th-century. My suggestion is to phase it out and let it go …

Development folders

Magento development folders/repositories/virtual hosts are kept under /srv/vhosts. Under that folder there are project folders. Usually one project has one, main domain name and it makes sense to name your development folder according to that. It’s easy to remember and it’s unique. Let’s say your customer is example.com. So your folder structure would look like this (explanation is below):

/srv
    /vhosts
        /example.com
            /conf
            /database
            /doc
            /design
            /keys
            /public
            /util

conf – virtual host configuration and other configuration files are in this folder

database – database change scripts, temporary dumps and other database-related stuff this is here

doc – here is project and code documentation (for example generated by ApiGen). Don’t hesitate to use external tools like Google Drive and a WIKI for documentation!

design – here are working PSD files of the theme, HTML templates etc, bought themes, generated/exported graphics, icons etc.

keys – keep SSL certificate keys and other keys in this folder. Here you can also keep project-related passwords in an encrypted file if you’re old-fashioned;)

public – this is the document root of your Magento. In other words this is the public folder that is served by your web server to end users. There are lots of other names that are used for this folder like html, pub, htdocs and so on. I decided to stick to public because it’s used in Zend Framework 2 and it says what it is. Always do remember that this folder is public, publicly accessible!

util – utility and helper scripts are kept in this folder.

Development hostnames (virtual hosts)

Most developers are working in local development machine and this tutorial assumes this way of working. In some cases people use hostnames like example.dev or example.local in their local development machine and these names are pointing to 127.0.0.1 i.e localhost. There are reasons to do like this but this is not good when you need to test integrations like Oauth. Google’s API Console does not support .local domain names. That’s why I suggest usage of following naming structure:

dev.example.com – point it to 127.0.0.1 in your /etc/hosts file.

test.example.com – point it to your test server in DNS.

However usually the DNS is under customer’s control and making changes there is time consuming or impossible. To overcome that you need to use YOUR domain for development and your own / your ISP-s DNS. If that’s the case you could use common naming scheme for development and test:

example.com.dev.mydomain.com – point it to 127.0.0.1

example.com.test.mydomain.com – point to to your test-server’s IP-address

staging.example.com – staging is also called pre-live. It’s an exact copy of live environment but usually it’s using less hardware / virtual servers. It’s the server where content and changes are staged before deploying these to production system (which is example.com or www.example.com).

If customer is having problems with DNS configuration then you can use your own DNS for the staging site also:

example.com.staging.mydomain.com – point it to the staging server’s IP-address

Usernames, passwords

My recommendation is to use e-mail addresses as usernames everywhere where possible. It’s not possible in most Linux shells but it’s possible in Magento’s frontend and backend. People, I mean – nerds and hackers, use all kinds of nicknames but it’s kind of … childish. Isn’t it? So use your e-mail as username in all your Magento solutions (BE and FE) and you and your colleagues know that and they don’t have to ask you every time. Easy to remember and easy to use!

About passwords. Try to avoid them as much as possible. They are just so insecure. Implement Oauth for Magento’s FE and BE login. Ask me if you need help with that.

If you need to create a password for a user for any reason then:

  1. make it complex (at least 12 characters, uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special symbols in it).
  2. make it expired so user must change it at next login and you don’t need to know it.
passwd -e username

This command would expire password for username  and she will be prompted for password change at her next login.

Another useful command is

passwd -d username

That command would remove password from the user’s account so that user can login with SSH key’s only (see below).

In Magento backend create a random password for your colleagues, forget it right there and ask your colleagues to use “Forgot password?” link to reset their password. You’ll test e-mail functionality of your Magento server this way, too 😉

SSH keys, logins, aliases

SSH keys are an excellent way to login without passwords. There is one very important thing to be remember about SSH key pairs:

SSH private key MUST NEVER leave the machine where it was created.

Translation to English: use SSH private key only on that machine where it was created. If you need another one, generate it and distribute another public key.

SSH key pairs can be generated with a simple command:

ssh-keygen

The default values are good in most cases. After you generate the key pair you will have 2 keys in your ~/.ssh folder:

  1. private key
  2. public key

The public key is “inherited” from the private key. Public key as the name says is public. After generating keys you need to distribute the public key to the servers where you want to log in. Usually the public key must be appended to the file ~/.ssh/authorized_keys. In Linux systems there is also command ssh-copy-id that is meant for distributing your public key. Use your password for the last time to distribute your public key and forget/delete your password:)

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