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Ken Davidson

Getting Drupal 8 Up and Running

Technology, PHP, Drupal 84 min read

So, we recently got a vendor (which won't be named here due to how absolutely terrible they are) to migrate our Drupal 6 site to Drupal 8. Given that I literally knew (and probably still don't) anything about Drupal I assumed it would be a fairly straigh forward process. I've worked with and as a vendor before, I get how things go - the games you play trying to milk more mony out of clients.

It's a super shady practice that I couldn't stand when we attempted to do it to some clients; which makes having to deal with it on the flip side flat out annoying.

Due to the lack of knowledge and training that we got transferred to us in terms of development environments, I was tasked with getting things setup myself. Since I generally try not to do things half assed I decided to jump all in and get everything I could think of setup.

Cloning the Repository

The one shining star in this is that we were responsible for maintaining the git repository where the vendor would put their changes. First things first let's get things cloned:

1$ git clone <repsoitory>

which went great.

Deciding on a Development Environment

So this is where things got tricky, there are so many different ways in which we can create and maintain the environment (looking through a few files I found that they were using MAMP on MacOS), but after talking to some other Drupal-ists (the fact that this is a thing) pointed me in the direction of Lando.


TLDR; after getting this environment setup, it was unusably slow on Windows so I scratched it, continue to #mamp.

Although we aren't using it, here's the .lando.yml file that got things up and running:

1name: sc-drupal8
2recipe: drupal8
4 - vendor
6 webroot: docroot
7 composer_version: '1.10.17'
9 drush:
10 service: appserver
11 cmd: php /app/vendor/drush/drush/drush --root=/app/docroot

Would have been solid I think on MacOS.


I'll be honest, the first time I attempted to set this up I used XAAMP which didn't go well.

Mamp seemed to be pretty straight forward, it came with a little bit tighter installation and configuration with XAAMP and had a bit easier to read documentation.

Installing MAMP

There wasn't really much issue here with installing MAMP, although to make life easier I chose to specify an exact version in the README in order to hopefully stop some headaches later on.

Download MAMP

And run through the installation process, it was pretty straight forward.

Configuring MAMP

Configuring mamp was pretty easy as well:

  • There was only one Apache
  • There was only one Mysql
  • We chose to work with 7.4.16 version of PHP

Some minor updates were required:


Open up the C:\MAMP\conf\mysql\my.ini file and make the following changes:

1# Need to be able to restore the test/uat database locally
2max_allowed_packet = 64M

There are two configuration files that need to be updated together, this seems like a specific to Windows thing that I haven't yet found a work around for. It's not to bad to copy and paste a file, so there wasn't too much effort put in:

Both C:\MAMP\conf\php\7.4.16\php.ini and C:\MAMP\bin\php\php7.4.16\php.ini need to be modified. The reasoning for this is that running composer and php from the command line uses the version configured in the Environment Path while the Apache version uses the one located in the bin folder. Meh.

1# Get debugging available
3zend_extension = "C:\MAMP\bin\php\php7.4.16\ext\php_xdebug.dll"
4xdebug.mode = debug
7max_execution_time = 600 ; Maximum execution time of each script, in seconds
8max_input_time = 60 ; Maximum amount of time each script may spend parsing request data
9;max_input_nesting_level = 64 ; Maximum input variable nesting level
10memory_limit = 1024M ; Maximum amount of memory a script may consume (128MB)

If you follow a lot of the tutorials online for getting XDebug working, you'll run into some issues in your log. So a heads up to always check it

1Xdebug: [Config] The setting 'xdebug.remote_enable' has been renamed, see the upgrading guide at (See:

Becuase of Drupals cookies and Chrome inability to handle HttpOnly, Secure=None cookies anymore, you won't be able to login using Chrome unless you make SSL/HTTPS available for your local environment. On Lando this was done for you using the proxy, it was glorious, but now that we have to do it manually it's a bit of a process. There are tons of tutorials around on how to generate local keys, so I'm just going to show the MAMP configuration:

Within C:\MAMP\conf\apache\httpd.conf

1LoadModule ssl_module modules/
2Include /MAMP/conf/apache/httpd-ssl.conf

And the new file C:\MAMP\conf\apache\httpd-ssl.conf

1Listen 443
3<VirtualHost *:443>
4 ServerName localhost:443
5 SSLEngine on
6 SSLCertificateFile "/MAMP/conf/ssl/server.crt"
7 SSLCertificateKeyFile "/MAMP/conf/ssl/server.key"

Drupal 8 Configuration

Now that we've got the MAMP environment setup and ready to go, we need to continue down the Drupal 8 path.

Compser Install

It looks like the vendor followed some standard of best practices (from looking around) so we need to run the composer install command to get dependencies. While doing this I ran into one massive gotcha that blew my mind. Essentially we were provided with a composer.json file that:

  • Wasn't locked to specific versions
  • Had some dependencies in dev version

Both of which had issues of their own and was something that coming from a Maven background just boggled my mind. It resulted in different versions being on different installs for different developers and provide with a week or so long of attempting to find out why the dev dependencies were missing (which now looking back seems so obvious), but you can read about it here

TLDR; manually delete all dev version dependencies before running composer install so that they can be checked out as git submodules correctly.

Drupal Settings

Another fun thing provided in the project were the setting file(s). We were given (in git) two files:

  • settings.php
  • settings.local.php

which required us to copy/overwrite settings.php with settings.local.php which then turned out to cause some problems with the deployment and development environments of my co-workers. After looking around I found that the better practice was to:

  • Have a settings.php file that read settings.local.php file when it exists (which had been completely removed)
  • Have the settings.local.php file not be committed to git so that it can be managed using the example.settings.local.php file

Again so much confusion on why these weren't being followed already. After looking at the original example file it was pretty obvious this was meant to be in there. I'm assuming due to how Aquia (or whatever the companies called) deploys things it needed to be changed?

2 * Load local development override configuration, if available.
3 *
4 * Use settings.local.php to override variables on secondary (staging,
5 * development, etc) installations of this site. Typically used to disable
6 * caching, JavaScript/CSS compression, re-routing of outgoing emails, and
7 * other things that should not happen on development and testing sites.
8 *
9 * Keep this code block at the end of this file to take full effect.
10 */
11if (file_exists($app_root . '/' . $site_path . '/settings.local.php')) {
12 include $app_root . '/' . $site_path . '/settings.local.php';

Up and At Them!!

After this you should be able to connect to:

  • http://localhost
  • https://localhost

and be able to move around.

I skipped the database/install section since it's pretty straight forward


Now that the site is up and running we need to be able to debug the application. We're kind of split here on the IDE to use so I needed to get debugging working in both VSCode and Eclipse.

Visual Studio Code

Create the default launch.json configuration

2 // Use IntelliSense to learn about possible attributes.
3 // Hover to view descriptions of existing attributes.
4 // For more information, visit:
5 "version": "0.2.0",
6 "configurations": [
7 {
8 "name": "Listen for Xdebug",
9 "type": "php",
10 "request": "launch",
11 "port": 9003
12 }
13 ]

and then run the debugger. You should be able to place a breakpoint anywhere in the application (index.php although I learned that was a bad choice in Eclipse) and have the breakpoint hit.


Eclipse was a little more painful to setup, although not terrible.

  1. Open Properties > PHP > Debug > Debuggers
  • Debug Port = 9003
  1. Open Properties > PHP > Installed PHPs
  • Add the appropriate PHP
  • Select the appropriate Debugger (below)
  1. Open Properties > PHP > Servers
  • Edit the Default PHP Web Server
  • Point docroot to the appropriate folder
  • Ensure the Debugger XDebug is selected with the port 9003
  1. Create a Debug Configuration
  • Open up Debug Configurations
  • Select PHP web Application and click New
  • On the Server tab select Default PHP Web Server and the /sc-drupal8/docroot/index.php file.
  • On the Debugger tab confirm XDebug is selected

Eclipse debugging will open a new Debugger thread for each request made (css, images, etc) if you're debugging the index.php file this blows things up pretty quickly. There are a few configuration options with regards to XDebug that I haven't quite figured out how to tone down.

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