I’ve been using travis for free automated testing (“continuous integration”, CI) on my open source projects for a long time. It works pretty well. But it’s got some little annoyances here and there, including with github integration, that I don’t really expect to get fixed after its acquisition by private equity. They also seem to have cut off actual support channels (other than ‘forums’) for free use; I used to get really good (if not rapid) support when having troubles, now I kinda feel on my own.
So after hearing about the pretty flexible and powerful newish Github Actions feature, I was interested in considering that as an alternative. It looks like it should be free for public/open source projects on github. And will presumably have good integration with the rest of github and few kinks. Yeah, this is an example of how a platform getting an advantage starting out by having good third-party integration can gradually come to absorb all of that functionality itself; but I just need something that works (and, well, is free for open source), I don’t want to spend a lot of time on CI, I just want it to work and get out of the way. (And Github clearly introduced this feature to try to avoid being overtaken by Gitlab, which had integrated flexible CI/CD).
So anyway. I was interested in it, but having a lot of trouble figuring out how to set it up. Github Actions is a very flexible tool, a whole platform really, which you can use to set up almost any kind of automated task you want, in many different languages. Which made it hard for me to figure out “Okay, I just want tests to run on all PR commits, and report back to the PR if it’s mergeable”.
And it was really hard to figure this out from the docs, it’s such a flexible abstract tool. And I have found it hard to find third party write-ups and tutorials and blogs and such — in part because Github Actions was in beta development for so long, that some of the write-ups I did find were out of date.
Fortunately Drifting Ruby has provided a great tutorial, which gets you started with a basic ruby CI testing. It looks pretty straightforward to for instance figure out how to swap in rspec for
rake test. And I always find it easier to google for solutions to additional fancy things I want to do, finding results either in official docs or third-party blogs, when I have the basic skeleton in place.
I hope to find time to experiment with Github Actions in the future. I am writing this blog post in part to log for myself the Drifting Ruby episode so I don’t lose it! The show summary has this super useful template: