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Pj Metz
Pj Metz

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Student's Guide to enabling CI/CD with SaaS

Blockchain technology is set on changing the world; its most visible uses are currently NFTs and Cryptocurrency, two topics I do not entirely understand, except that they involve wacky looking monkeys and a digital currency with a name that sounds like a Dungeons and Dragons kingdom.

A gif of an NFT Monkey wearing some ridiculous outfit

Lord Eneftee of Ethereal, or whatever

But this article is not about either of those topics, because clearly I don’t know much about them. Instead, this article is about why GitLab has had to implement some changes for users of GitLab’s free SaaS (GitLab hosted) tier and how you, a student user, can still get some awesome features. We’re here with some advice to help you participate in great open source projects and use CI/CD on The DevOps Platform for static websites, class projects, or whatever you’re into. So let’s get into it.

Crypto Mining Abuse

So, it turns out, a lot of CI/CD companies were having their services abused for mining crypto currency. People created free accounts and would run code that would utilize the computing power offered for CI/CD to instead mine for crypto. This, as it also turns out, is not a great way to use the free computing access from these companies. So, in response, several companies decided to change the way users create a free account. No more temporary email addresses eating up electricity to mint AntEaterCoin, or whatever new cute animal based coin is out there.

an anteater walking around sniffing the air

Is this a thing? I did literally no research on if there’s an anteater coin. If it’s not a thing I claim it for myself.

GitLab's response was to check if it’s a real human on the other side of that email by requiring a bank card of some kind, debit or credit, to verify the user. This card is never completely charged, there is just a $1 pending charge to it that disappears. This is only for verification purposes, we don’t store your card’s information and it is never charged again. And it’s only one part of our effort to keep our resources available only to those using them for their intended purposes. We're currently looking for feedback on this process, and you can use this google form to tell us more about how we can improve this process.

Ok, so what can I do?

You’re a student, I assume. At least, that’s who this article is intended for. So there’s a few options you have in order to get through this new requirement.

If you are in possession of a bank card, credit or debit, we encourage you to go ahead and verify. I know money can be tight and I remember counting down to the cent how much I had recently spent so I would know whether I was having ramen or take out for dinner that night. The dollar is an authorization charge and will never clear your bank account, but it will lower your *available * balance by one dollar, so we want you to be aware of that. Check with your bank to see how available vs actual balances work to know your situation completely.

If you cannot use a bank card, for whatever reason or choice, there are some other options so you can still use the CI/CD GitLab offers. One involves installing a runner on your local machine and setting your CI/CD to use that runner. The other is to help your school apply for a GitLab for Education license. Let’s talk about these two options.

My own runner

The runner is the tool that actually takes your .gitlab-ci.yml file and, uhhh, runs it.

Forrest Gump from the movie running and saying “I like running”

Fun Fact: This movie was definitely about DevOps

Shared runners are runners that GitLab provides for SaaS users. Verified users, including those with GitLab for Open Source Program, GitLab for Education Program and other licenses, have access to these runners. However, you can install a runner directly on your machine and point your project to that runner in order to use CI/CD. This comes with the bonus of no restrictions on minutes, since you’re using your own machine’s power for the runner.

Our docs have an extensive and detailed set of instructions for installing runners on a variety of systems. There is also a section on registering your runners, an important step so your repository knows where and what to communicate with when it’s time to continuously integrate or deliver/deploy. There are also plenty of youtube videos and articles on the subject. I like this one from Valentin Despa. You can also always find help on the GitLab forum.

GitLab for Education

GitLab offers free Ultimate licenses with unlimited users, either SaaS or self-managed, for qualifying educational institutions as long as it's for the purposes of teaching, learning, or research. This program is always expanding, and currently serves over 1,000 institutions and has 1.25 million active seats. Several universities are already using GitLab in classrooms across the world, and your classroom could benefit from it as well. In order to obtain a GitLab for Education license, a full-time employee of the university needs to apply. After the application is verified, your university will have a number of seats that can be assigned to students and you’d be able to use part of the 50,000 CI minutes that comes with the license and would no longer need to enter a credit card. This is especially useful for institutions looking to prepare their students for working in the tech world, as GitLab is The DevOps Platform and is utilized throughout the industry.

If this interests you, encourage a professor, chair, or other instructor to apply for the GitLab for Education Program licenses. It costs zero dollars and is a great way to get you and your classmates involved in the DevOps world. Check out our landing page here to learn more or head directly to the join page so you can send it to your professors and help them help you. Need to convince your professor it’s worth it? Interested in seeing how other schools are using GitLab? Want to read a case study about a few schools that are absolutely crushing it? Well then have I got a few links for you!

  • Dublin City University is setting their students up for great success in the future and saving their professors tons of time on grading code.
  • Heriot Watt is leading the way in peer testing using GitLab.
  • University of Surrey has found a stable home for it’s 2,300 projects and 110,000 builds.

How do I know all this? Well, my name is Pj Metz and, coincidentally, I’m an Education Evangelist for GitLab. You can follow me on Twitter to see the newest education news out of GitLab and on Twitch where I stream a few times a month with shows highlighting people in tech (including students) and Team members from GitLab. If you’re interested in showing off what you’ve created on GitLab, fill out this form for an opportunity to be on our Student Spotlight Stream.

That's all for now. Stay connected with GitLab on Twitter to find out about all the amazing things we're doing in Education and beyond. Keep an eye out the 22nd of each month for our new releases, going on 122 months in a row without fail.


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