Publishing future blog posts with GitHub Pages and GitHub Actions

Monday, 4 May 2020

I switched to using GitHub Pages and Jekyll for my blog a while ago. There was one deficiency I noticed - the lack of being able to publish future blog posts. Because the site is static, the Jekyll processing is only performed when a new commit is pushed, and it only publishes content ‘in the past’. The problem is a future post has already been committed to Git, but there’s no subsequent commit to republish the site once the publish date comes around.

There’s been various hacks around (usually involving an scheduled commit followed by a revert), but after listening to a recent podcast from Scott Hanselman talking to Edward Thomson about GitHub Actions, I wondered if they might offer a way to automate refreshing the site on a daily schedule.

I started by adding a GitHub Action workflow to the website and took a look at some of the existing actions others had already written, figuring someone might have solved this problem already. I discovered that GitHub Pages treats ‘user’ sites like mine differently to ‘product’ sites. The actions I found seemed suited more to the ‘product’ kind (as they wanted to commit the static content to the master branch).

I then resorted to Twitter..

Rob (who I know through the Global DevOps Bootcamp) gave a good suggestion - using the Request a page build REST API. It took a few goes to get the API call working with octokit/request-action, but a test post later and I confirmed it worked!

Here’s the current version:

name: Build GitHub Pages

    - cron:  '0 */12 * * *' # Rebuild twice a day (every twelve hours on the hour).

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - uses: octokit/[email protected]
        id: post_build
          route: POST /repos/flcdrg/
          GITHUB_TOKEN: $

Nice, now I can schedule blog posts in the future, and know that they’ll be published as intended.

Future post

Friday, 1 May 2020

If I coded the GitHub Action correctly, this blog post should get published even though I’ve dated it 40 minutes in the future from when I committed it to the repository.

Errors from PowerShell 7 in Azure Pipelines

Thursday, 30 April 2020

I’m aiming to use PowerShell 7 as much as possible, including in Azure Pipelines tasks. I was getting a bit frustrated recently though where I had a task failing, but the log gave absolutely no clue as to why.


Starting: MyTask
Task         : PowerShell
Description  : Run a PowerShell script on Linux, macOS, or Windows
Version      : 2.165.0
Author       : Microsoft Corporation
Help         :
Generating script.
========================== Starting Command Output ===========================
"C:\Program Files\PowerShell\7\pwsh.exe" -NoLogo -NoProfile -NonInteractive -ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted -Command ". 'D:\a\_temp\be69a030-2e55-4cb5-9f80-98968e90f3b2.ps1'"
##[error]PowerShell exited with code '1'.
Finishing: MyTask

What’s going on? Turns out it’s because PowerShell 7 now defaults to the ‘ConciseView’ for errors and so the error ends up being so concise it isn’t actually logged. I’m not the first to experience this. The fact that the concise output is not logged at all does look like a bug though.

The solution

Set $ErrorView to ‘NormalView’ as the first line of your script - then you’ll see useful error details that will help with diagnosing what the problem is.

$ErrorView = 'NormalView'

Hopefully in the future, they’ll fix the problem with no errors being logged, or enhance the pwsh task so you can set the errorview as a task property outside of the script.

Update 15th May

As Justin mentions in the comments, this problem has been fixed, so no need to prepend your scripts with $ErrorView = 'NormalView' now!

Upgrading WSL2 to Ubuntu 20.04 and running Jekyll

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Ubuntu LTS 20.04 just came out, and you can either install into WSL2 from the Windows Store, or if you already had Ubuntu for WSL then you can upgrade that in place using sudo do-release-upgrade -d.

There’s a few confirmation prompts along the way. Eventually you’ll get to a point where it wants to reboot. The trouble is if you try sudo reboot it will complain that you’re not running systemd and give up.

The solution is to jump back to Windows and run wsl --shutdown, then relaunch Ubuntu and it should be happy.


Having a freshly upgraded install of Ubuntu, I thought it was time I got a local copy of Jekyll so I could preview my blog posts.

To ensure that I’m using the same Gems that GitHub Pages use, I updated my Gemfile to just reference the github-pages gem.

source ''

gem 'github-pages'

And then install Jekyll prerequisites:

sudo apt-get install ruby-full -y
sudo apt-get install build-essential dh-autoreconf -y
sudo apt install zlibc -y
sudo apt install libxml2-dev -y
sudo apt install libxslt-dev -y

Tell Ruby to install Gems locally (so we don’t need sudo)

echo 'export GEM_HOME=~/.ruby/' >> ~/.bashrc
echo 'export PATH="$PATH:~/.ruby/bin"' >> ~/.bashrc
source ~/.bashrc
gem update

gem install pkg-config -v "~> 1.1"
gem install nokogiri -- --use-system-libraries

bundle install

Using the Developer PowerShell Visual Studio with PowerShell 7

Monday, 27 April 2020

One of the nice new features introduced in Visual Studio 2019 16.2 was the Developer PowerShell for VS 2019 - a nice accompaniment to the existing cmd.exe based Developer Command Prompt for VS 2019.

Windows Start Menu showing Developer PowerShell.

I use PowerShell as much as possible, and for a long time now I’ve made a habit of updating my profile.ps1 so that all the Visual Studio tools are available from the PowerShell command prompt. Previously this required running the old VsDevCmd.bat batch file and capturing the environment variables it set to then bring them into the PowerShell process. You can see an example here.

But now there’s first class support for integrating Visual Studio tooling into your PowerShell environment.

If you take a look at the Windows Start Menu shortcut that’s added, you’ll see it’s defined with a target similar to this:

C:\Windows\SysWOW64\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe -noe -c "&{Import-Module """C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Enterprise\Common7\Tools\Microsoft.VisualStudio.DevShell.dll"""; Enter-VsDevShell f9f5056f}"

With the release of PowerShell Core 6, and now PowerShell 7, I’m now favouring these latest releases of PowerShell over the ‘legacy’ Windows PowerShell 5.1. The problem was until recently, the assembly you see referenced in the shortcut above only worked in Windows PowerShell. It wasn’t compatible with PowerShell Core. Pleasingly this was fixed in Visual Studio 2019 16.5.

So now in your PowerShell 7 profile, you can add:

Import-Module "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\Enterprise\Common7\Tools\Microsoft.VisualStudio.DevShell.dll"
Enter-VsDevShell -InstanceId 9034d7ab

And you’ll get the full DevShell experience: !Windows Terminal with PowerShell 7 and Visual Studio integration

There’s just one catch - notice that InstanceId? That’s unique for every machine. You can either grab the value out of the properties of the Start Menu shortcut, or run vswhere -property instanceId which will return the instanceId of the newest instance of Visual Studio.