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Assembla’s new status page provides visibility into system uptime

Posted by adam feber on Wed, Jun 11, 2014
  
  

No one likes service interruption or downtime, especially when there is no clear explanation of what is going on and when systems will be operational again. While Assembla’s strives to provide 100% uptime (currently 99.98%), things happen which is why we have set up http://status.assembla.com.

Assembla’s new status page allows you:

  • See the health of all Assembla services - our web application, repositories, and API
  • See server response time and historical uptime
  • View incident reports for explanations of outages and expected recovery times
  • Subscribe to downtime alerts and incident reports via email, text, webhooks, and RSS

Assembla Status Page

While we will still use twitter for communication, our new status page provides a more granular view of our services with the ability to subscribe to real time communication. Go check it out at: http://status.assembla.com.


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Interact with Assembla from your organization's chat room with Hubot

Posted by adam feber on Tue, May 27, 2014
  
  

hubot 128 smallWe recently released an Assembla Hubot script to the public allowing you to interact with Assembla from your organization’s preferred chat apps such as Slack, Skype, XMPP, and so many more. If you're not familiar with Hubot, he's a highly customizable robot that sits in your company's chat room and provides easy access to various tools, services, comic relief, and time wasters.

For months, we have been using this script internally to deploy code and interact with Assembla from our own chat rooms. We hope your team loves it as much as we have.

What can the Assembla/Hubot script do?

  • Fetch information on Assembla users, tickets, and projects

  • Create tickets

  • Merge/ignore/display merge requests

  • View and invoke SSH tool actions

  • An automated merge-and-deploy (via SSH tool) action

Deploying from the chat speeds up our workflow and allows the team to easily see changes being shipped to production. We simply tell Hubot what merge request we are ready to merge to master and deploy to production and it takes care of the rest. Learn more about how Assembla’s SSH tool and Hubot streamlined our deploy workflow.

For a full list of commands, visit: https://www.npmjs.org/package/hubot-assembla

How to get started

  • If you have any problems or questions with setting up Hubot, please let us known in the comments or by contacting support@assembla.com

  • If you are interested in adding to our script, you can fork our code and we will review pull request for submitted additions

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How To Take Charge of Your Project’s Navigation in 5 Minutes

Posted by adam feber on Tue, May 06, 2014
  
  
Tags: 

In this post, we will show you how to:

  • Set the default landing tool so team members that visit your project land on the most used tool without unnecessary clicks
  • Add/remove tools to ensure your team has all the tools available to work smarter
  • Rearrange your tool navigation to make the most used tools the easiest to access

Note: These configuration changes require ‘Owner’ project permissions. I you do not have this, you can visit the Team page to see who has these permissions and share this link.

Setting the default landing tool

By setting the default landing tool, team members will always land on the most used tool without unnecessary clicks. While a click only takes a second, when you compound that over hundreds of visits, you will be saving your team time while making their experience more enjoyable.

1. Visit the Admin page of your project → click on the ‘More’ button in the Appearance section.

admin appearance button

2. Scroll down to the Navigation section and select the desired tool in the “default landing tab is” dropdown.

default landing tab menu

3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Save Changes’ button.

If your default landing tool is the Tickets tool, you can set which Tickets view is the default (List, Planner, Cardwall) as well as the default filter. Here is how:

1. Visit the Tickets tool of your project → click on the ‘Setting’ sub navigation item.

2. In the left navigation menu, click on ‘Default Views’ and set the desired view.

assembla ticket settings2

3. If your default Ticket view is the List, you can set the default List filter in the ‘Default Views’ section. If your default view is the Cardwall, you can click on the ‘Cardwall’ section to set the default Cardwall filter.

Now when team members visit the Tickets tool, they will land on the correct view with the desired team filter. 

Add and remove project tools

If you haven't had a chance to browse through the tools section of Assembla, we recommend you check out all the great tools Assembla has to offer. You can reduce clutter by removing unused tools and add new tools for your team to try.

1. Visit the Admin page of your project → click on the ‘More’ button in the Tools section.

2. Browse through the tools list - you can click on ‘Add’ for any tool you want to add or ‘Remove’ for any tools you want to remove.

assembla tools admin snippet

Recommendation: Check out the Custom tab tool that provides access to external tools from within your Assembla project.

Rearrange your tool navigation

Now that you have set your default landing tool and determined the desired tools available within your project, it is time to order the tool navigation so mission critical tools are easily available and never overlook.

1. Visit the Admin page of your project → click on the ‘More’ button in the Appearance section.

2. Scroll down to the Navigation section and drag and drop the tools in the “Order Tabs” box to the desired order - displayed from left to right in the main navigation.

rearrange assembla tool nav

3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Save Changes’ button.

We hope this exercise helps you and your team navigate your projects more efficiently. If you have any problems or questions, you can get in touch with Assembla support at our help desk or by emailing support@assembla.com.

If you do not have an Assembla project, you can quickly sign up for free.

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The SSH Tool: One of Assembla's Best Kept Secrets

Posted by Ben Potts on Thu, May 01, 2014
  
  

I say Assembla’s SSH tool is one of our best kept secrets because it is one of the least used tools in Assembla’s arsenal yet potentially one of the most powerful, especially if you practice Continuous Delivery. Read on to learn:

  • How the SSH tool can be used to set up deploys and performs tasks like restarting services
  • How to configure the SSH tool
  • How we streamlined our deploy process at Assembla using the SSH tool
  • How you can get the SSH tool for free if you do not already have an Assembla account

What is the SSH tool?

A universal tool that can run virtually any command on a remote server over SSH. Add tasks to run with the click of a button or trigger tasks on time based events like hourly, daily, or when events happen such as commits or created merge requests within your repositories.

The SSH tool can provide comfort to Operations teams by standardizing common jobs that run on mission critical servers. With the SSH tool, you do not have to rely on team members to set up SSH, be able to run things via command line, or risk human error. Once configured, any team members with permission can use it and you’ll know actions will be performed with 100% certainty.

Not only is configuring the SSH tool more convenient than running the command in a terminal window, but it provides accountability and logging so you can see who performed the action and when, see a log of what happened, and see the result of the action (pass or fail).

What is the SSH tool useful for?

Deploying

While Assembla’s FTP deploy tool is great, it has its limits. With a little extra work, the SSH tool function as a flawless deploy tool no matter how complicated your setup might be.

If you already use a tool like Capistrano or have automated your application's deploy process on the command line, you are most of the way there. Just add your server to the SSH tool, configure authentication, and add the command.

If your deploy process is more complicated than sending files to a server, and you don’t have a script that deploys your application, we highly recommend you look into creating one. Once you have a working script, hooking it up to the SSH tool will be easy.

Other Maintenance Tasks

We have used the SSH tool internally or seen our customers use it for:

  • Deploying to multiple environments (eg staging, QA, production)
  • Restarting services (memcached, leaky webapps, etc.)
  • Rolling a deploy back to a previous version
  • Synchronizing a path on remote server(s) with version control

How to Configure the SSH tool

1. Install the SSH tool: If your project does not have the SSH tool as a tab, you can install it by visiting the Admin tab of your project > click on the Tools section > click the ‘Add’ button next to SSH. If you do not have an Assembla project, you can quickly sign up for free.

2. Configure a server: Add a name and description for your server, it's hostname or IP address and the port that it runs SSH on. Normally this will be port 22.

3. Download the DSA key and configure a user on your server: Download the DSA key from Assembla, and choose or create a user on your server that will be used to perform the tasks. Place the key into your user's authorized_keys file. Usually this will be /home/<USER>/.ssh/authorized_keys, but you may need to create the .ssh/ directory.

ssh dsa key

4. Create a script: Once a server is configured, you can click on the ‘New Script’ submenu option and configure the script. You can use the variables #SPACENAME# and #USERNAME# here, and they will be replaced by the name of the space and the user running the command respectively.

5. Once the server and script have been added, you are ready to rock and roll.

Advanced Tip: Assembla’s API can control the SSH tool with the same capabilities as the web interface so you can incorporate the SSH tool with 3rd party applications using the API.

How we streamlined our deploy process at Assembla with the SSH tool

All of our production deploys now happen through the SSH tool which has streamlined the process dramatically. We use Capistrano and have for a long time, but we used to need a member of the operations team to run Capistrano manually whenever a developer needed to deploy.

The old process was a burden on the developers and the Operations team, especially when we started deploying 10+ times a day. The old process usually went like this:
 

  • A developer would ask in the main chat room "Any ops around for a deploy?"
  • Ops would respond and might have a quick chat with the dev before the code to deploy would be merged
  • Ops would then announce in the chat  "Deploying.." and kick off the deploy manually
  • Ops would monitor the output from the deploy script and paste a url into the chat showing the changeset of what was just deployed
  • Then finally announce "Deploy done!"

Once we had the SSH tool in place, devs took on most of these tasks. They would still ask if operations staff were present just in case something went wrong. This was a huge time saver and removed much of the burden. It was now up to the dev doing the deploy to announce and paste the changeset URL. It still wasn't as good as it could be, so we improved it again.

We got rid of "Any ops around?" by building a step into the deploy script that looks for the status of operations staff on chat networks, and if all were in an "away" status, the deploy would fail.

Then, we made the SSH tool actions and merge request features accessible from the API and wrote a Hubot script for our bot named “jenks.” 

Here's what a typical deploy looks like now:

ssh hubot deploy

So one quick request in chat will kick off a deploy, keep the team updated, and let us know when it is done with a full report. Now that is service with a [virtual] smile.

Ready, Set, Go

If your team does not use the SSH tool, we hope you give it a shot. If you do not have an Assembla project, you can quickly sign up for free and try our SSH tool along with the many other great tools available.

Happy coding!

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Improve team productivity by letting us configure your space

Posted by Andy Singleton on Sat, Apr 26, 2014
  
  
Tags: 

We recently talked to some of our busiest customers, and we found that many of them had never configured their spaces.  Their team members were landing on empty pages and clicking around, instead of landing right where they wanted to be.

It's amazing what you can do with Assembla configurations.  However, we know you are busy and its not your job to figure out every detail. If you want, WE will do the configuration for you.

Go here to request and submit a ticket to get help from a configuration expert. Our support experts will swoop in to help configure your space.

Here is the TOP SECRET checklist that we use to get spaces tuned up.

  • Landing tab on each space - select the right place to start.
  • Remove or add tool tabs
  • Add custom tabs to show a unified view of all tools and systems used in the project
  • Add custom banners to build branding and team spirit
  • Ticket landing tab (list, cardwall, planner)
  • Set ticket status columns and tags to match your workflow
  • Ticket list filters. Default list in each view.
  • Current milestone
  • Default cardwall settings
  • Email alert defaults
  • Permissions - Owners and watchers. Tab visibility restrictions.  IP restrictions.
  • SVN and Git repository names
  • Git protected branches - enforce a code review workflow
  • Git and SVN server-side hooks
  • Do you want any Webhooks to go to a chat system?
  • Do you want to connect to Bigplans.io for a real-time chat and planning system?
  • Build hooks - FTP, Webhook, SSH tools to automatically build and post changes
  • Configure other tasks in the SSH tool

Assembla is designed to (hopefully) start simple, and then accept more configurations as your process gets more sophisticated.  If you do it long enough, you can end up with a lot of special configurations. For an example, here is a picture of the Assembla space where we build the Assembla.com application. 

assembla dev resized 600 1

At the top you can see a custom banner showing some key performance indicators - trials, subscriptions, and users.  I have opened the "More" menu list so that you can see some of the custom tabs that we added to give our team access to their development and monitoring tools.  You can see Jenkins, which does our builds and is posting status to tickets and stream, and NewRelic, a terrific tool for monitoring our production servers.  The list is longer than what you see here, including all of the developer forks of the master git repository.  We have also configured child spaces where each team can see their own cardwall.  Each tool is configured so that we quickly get the information that we want.  Using this system we can move dozens of changes per day from the ticket cardwall, to code review, to build and test, to release.

Ready to get started? Go here to request and submit a ticket to get help from a configuration expert.

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Error Monitoring Application Bugsnag Releases Assembla Integration

Posted by adam feber on Fri, Apr 18, 2014
  
  

Bugsnag is a web and mobile error monitoring application that detects and diagnose crashes within your applications. They recently informed us about their new Assembla integration that can create Assembla tickets for detected errors allowing your team to quickly start squashing these errors via Assembla tickets.

To set up this integration, you will first need to have a Bugsnag project up and running. To try Bugsnag out, you can sign up here. From your Bugsnag project, visit the Settings > Notifications section to enable the Assembla integration. Once enabled, you will land on the integration configuration page that look like this:

bugsnag assembla integration

  • Determine when an Assembla ticket should be created: when the first exception of a new type (error) occurs, when a previously resolved error re-occurs, and/or when you manually click on “Create Issue” on an error within Bugsnag.

  • Space URL: Such as https://www.assembla.com/spaces/space_name/tickets

  • Your API Key and API Secret: This can be created in your Assembla profile sidebar menu, or by following this link.

  • Tags (optional): This provides a default tag for all Assembla tickets created from Bugsnag such as “Bugsnag Error.” I personally love this part of the integration because with tag filters, you can easily see all errors that are being worked on and where they stand. To learn more about Assembla’s tag feature, check out our release announcement.

To learn more about other companies that have integrated with Assembla or to submit an integration for review, check out www.assembla.com/integrations.

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Improved File Search: What You Need to Know

Posted by adam feber on Thu, Apr 17, 2014
  
  

With the recent file search improvements, it is now easier to find the files you are looking for when you need them. With every file upload, we now index all the following elements: file name, tags, mime-type (media type), and author.
 

  • File Name: We now apply a word delimiter filter that splits words into subwords based on intra-word delimiters such as case transitions ("PowerShot" → "Power", "Shot"), letter to number transitions ("SD500" → "SD", "500"), and characters ("Wi-Fi" → "Wi", "Fi").
     
  • Tags: If you add the optional tags to a file, you can easily include a tag in the search parameters to locate the file.
     
  • Mime Type (Media Type): When a file is uploaded, it will be indexed with a media type such as hello.png will include “image/png” so it can be found with a search for “hello” or “image” or “png” or any combination like “hello image.” Almost all files have a mime type such as word, excel, zip, pdf, etc., and we now index them so you can locate your files easier.
     
  • Author: The author field consists of the user’s first name and last name as displayed in their profile as well as username. Usernames are also use the same word delimiter to split usernames into subwords. So if John Smith with username JohnRocks uploads a file, you can search for that file with “john” or “smith” or “johnrocks” or even just “rocks.”

Most importantly, the default logical search operation has changed to search for words using AND instead of OR when using a combination of words. For example, when you search “john image” it will return back anything that is an image AND that was uploaded by John.

We hope these improvements make file searching more efficient. If you have any other suggested improvements, please let us know on our feedback site.

Check out some other Assembla tips and tricks!

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Assembla's reaction to the SSL security vulnerability "Heartbleed"

Posted by Andy Singleton on Tue, Apr 08, 2014
  
  

heartbleedThe Internet was surprised recently by a bug in the OpenSSL software, called "Heratbleed," that might allow an attacker to see your HTTPS traffic including your password on a Web login form.  You can read about some of the technical details regarding "Heartbleed" here and the OpenSSL 1.0.1g fix here.

We updated the Assembla servers to remove the vulnerability within a few hours of being notified about a fix. Our acceleration provider, Edgecast, had not yet updated their servers with the fix. This extended the time that Assembla users were exposed to the vulnerability for a few more hours. We had turned off Edgecast, causing some pages to render more slowly, until Edgecast's servers were updated. Everything has since returned to normal.

Protect Yourself!

  • It is recommended that you reset your Assembla password. You can do so using the password reset form
     
  • If you use API keys or tokens, we recommend that you reset your API keys or tokens.
     
  • If you use the FTP tool, we recommend that you reset your server login credentials and update these credentials in Assembla's FTP tool.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us

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Assembla Tips and Tricks to Work Smarter and Faster

Posted by adam feber on Thu, Mar 20, 2014
  
  

assembla tips

Assembla has many powerful and hidden capabilities that can help you get your work done more efficiently. In order to get those most out of your Assembla projects, here are a few tips and tricks to help you and your team work smarter and faster. Do you have any tips and tricks you want to share Email tips@assembla.com or tweet your tips with hashtag #AssemblaTips.

Get attention from your team members with @mentions. For extra certainty, add a ! at the end like @adam! or @support! to instantly send an email to that member or group. 

Type @ and start typing a users name virtually anywhere in Assembla to call out users. User get notification alerts in their top bar to signify something needs their attention. Set up labels in the Team tab to mention groups like @support or @admin. 

Focus the attention of your team by setting your project’s default landing page (tool) and arranging the tool tabs so that the most important tools are easy to find. 

Visit the Admin tab of your project > click on the Appearance section > and scroll to the Navigation section. Drag and drop tools to rearrange the order of the tool tabs in the main navigation and select the desired default tool in the “default landing tab is” drop-down. When you have made the desired changed, scroll down and click on ‘Save Changes.’

Illustrate your point by dragging and dropping files on a ticket.

Once a ticket has been created, you can grab any file from your desktop and drop it anywhere on the ticket. This will upload and associate the dropped file to the ticket. 

Edit ticket status values to create custom workflows. Additional status workflows will be displayed on the Cardwall view so you can visually see the status of all work in progress. 

Go to the Tickets tool > Settings sub-tab > Status and Workflows section. You can create new statuses and rearrange the order of your statuses. The order the statuses appear on this page is the order they will appear in the status drop-down on tickets, and the order of the columns from left to right on your Cardwall view.

Get code reviews by setting repository branches as "protected” so only certain team members are able to push commits to a given branch after the code has been reviewed and approved.

Visit the repository’s tab within Assembla > Settings sub-tab > Protected Branches section and define what team members are allowed to perform what action to given branches.

cta tips2

We would love to hear your tips and tricks! Email us at tips@assembla.com or tweet your tips with hashtag #AssemblaTips.

If you do not have an Assembla project, get started for free.

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About Assembla Team Git

Posted by Andy Singleton on Wed, Feb 26, 2014
  
  
Tags: 

Assembla became known as the world's best Subversion host, but during the past four years we have added great Git workflows, and we rely on them for all of our own development.  This article answers some questions that we got recently about where to use Assembla Git, instead of Github or Gerrit or Bitbucket.  Please contact us if you need help getting started.

WHY USE ASSEMBLA?

Assembla is designed to build the “team” in distributed team.  Assembla gives you a team-oriented way to use git. You can put all of the branches and repositories in one workspace, with shared team permissions, one activity stream, and full visibility for new and existing team members.

Assembla is great if you create a lot of new projects, apps, and sites.  The "space" container increases maintainability by putting everything for a project in one place - code, documentation, tickets, history, team, FTP or SSH deploy, and extra tabs that can contain build and monitoring tools.  You get started quickly, you can always come back for enhancements, you never lose anything, and you can hand off to new team members and contractors, or make an extremely complete and professional delivery to clients.

FEATURES and WORKFLOWS

Assembla links code commits and merge requests to a ticket (or issue). You can see a complete history of the changes that affect a ticket.

You can ALSO see a list if the tickets that were affected by a merge request or a list of merges. This gives you automated release notes for a continuous delivery process.

Assembla implements the complete Github-style individual coding workflow. Developers can make an individual branch or repository. They can submit pull requests (called merge requests). They can review, comment, accept, or reject merges. They can use @mention and @mention! to call for reviews or post comments for specific team members.

Assembla also implements a Gerrit-style workflow which is often better for big teams or full-time teams. In the Gerrit-style workflow, team members start from a shared master branch, and they make temporary branches to review specific changes. This unifies the team and removes the work that team members have to do to maintain their own repositories. Assembla has automated this workflow to simplify the Gerrit or “branch per ticket” flow. The master branch can be marked as “protected”. When team members push changes to the master branch, Assembla automatically creates a temporary branch to test and review the change.

Assembla has a full API and Jenkins integration so that you can run continuous integration on review branches, merge requests, and master branches. Jenkins can even be added as an Assembla tab.

GETTING STARTED

If you already have an Assembla project and want to try our Git hosting, visit the Admin tab > Tools section of your project to instantly add a Git repository. If do not have an Assembla project, sign up for free now

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