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GitLab 14.2 brings macOS 'build cloud' closed beta and improved Gitpod support among nearly 50 new features

Open-source rival shows it can compete with Microsoft's GitHub

GitLab has updated its code repository and DevOps platform to version 14.2, including a private beta of a macOS "build cloud" for compiling applications for Apple's operating system.

"Today, Apple ecosystem developers on GitLab SaaS need to install, manage and operate GitLab Runner on their own macOS systems to execute CI/CD workflows," said the company.

The ability to ban users has been enhanced with an option to hide all issues created by a banned user

GitLab Runner is an application that runs jobs in a pipeline, similar in concept to a GitHub Action (Actions on GitHub already support macOS runners but billed at 10x the rate for Linux runners). The new feature is in beta and limited to select customers and open-source users.

According to GitLab, the new service is provided in association with MacStadium, a company that provides hosted Mac build machines and servers. Users can select the versions of macOS and Xcode, from macOS 10.13 with Xcode 7 to macOS 11 with Xcode 12. The VMs used for the build cloud are relatively high spec – 4 vCPUs, 10GB RAM and 14GB storage. General availability of the macOS build cloud is planned for November 2021, at which time pricing will also be announced.

Also new in 14.2 is deeper integration with Gitpod, a third-party service which provides hosted development environments configured in code. The new feature lets developers launch a Gitpod environment based directly on a merge request, whereas until now it was necessary to launch Gitpod from the main branch, switch to the merge branch, and build again.

In response to GitHub's launch of Codespaces, which offers similar functionality, Gitpod has extended its free tier to both public and private repositories for up to 50 hours per month.

The GitLab editor has a new live preview option for Markdown files. Previously there was a preview tab, but now there is a split-screen view with the preview updating automatically as the file is edited. GitHub lacks a live preview for Markdown, though having said that, the new, which can open any file in a lightweight Codespace implemented entirely in the browser, does provide a live preview via Visual Studio Code.

Among further new features are variables in include statements in pipeline definition files; implicit ordering of pipeline jobs via a new "needs" statement; a new vulnerability-tracking algorithm for security analysers used for Go, JavaScript/TypeScript, Python, and Ruby; and a new user interface for installing Kubernetes agents. Developers can also now create GitLab branches from Jira issues. The ability to ban users has been enhanced with an option to hide all issues created by a banned user.

Application secrets are no longer shown in the GitLab user interface for an application's configuration. Now there is just a Copy button for accessing the secret.

The full list of changes is extensive – there are nearly 50 new features as well as a long list of bug fixes and performance improvements.

GitLab is more feature-rich than its rival GitHub, thanks to its ambitious and energetic development. GitLab is also open source, with a community edition under an MIT license, and an Enterprise edition (built on the same core) which is under a proprietary but source-available licence, whereas GitHub is closed source.

Those characteristics will help it compete with GitHub, which is making strong use of its integration both with Azure for Codespaces and with Visual Studio Code. ®

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