"programmingblog" entries

The book sprint

Not just for code anymore

OpenStack Operations GuideDo you really want a technical book for your project? Does your community need to provide more helpful docs to support even more users? Does your community have a lot of knowledge they need to get out of heads and into bits and bytes? Do you have a good mix of technical experts and technical writers and users who would enjoy each other’s company for a week of hard work?

If the answer is yes, then consider a book sprint. If you’re in the open source world, you may have heard of a code sprint. A book sprint is a similar event, with an intense collaborative authoring session time boxed by a few days or a week. People get together typically in person to author and complete a book in a week.

Generally speaking it’s best if you have an idea of the scope and audience for the book prior to holding the sprint. These discussions can take place on line, such as on a mailing list or in a wiki page or Etherpad. You can also meet with future collaborators regularly, but understand, the first day of your sprint your book will certainly take shape. As book sprinter Adam Hyde says, “While you may not know the exact book you want when you go into the sprint, by the end you will have the book you need.”

For the OpenStack Operations Guide, we held a five-day book sprint in February 2013. OpenStack releases every April and October, and this timing was nearly halfway between two release dates. With Adam as our facilitator, seven authors agreed to work together and we nervously awaited our fate. We asked, “Could we complete a book in a week?”

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5 PaaS anti-patterns

Common behavior to watch out for when transitioning to a PaaS

Getting Started with OpenShiftToday I am going to cover 5 ways developers may be on a Platform as a Service (PaaS) but have not really embraced the new platform effectively. If you have done any of these things below while building your application hosted on a PaaS, like OpenShift, Heroku, or Google App Engine, don’t feel bad:

  • PaaS is a relatively new concept in the development world and I think some of these patterns are only recently coming to light
  • I have seen veteran developers making these mistakes as they move to the new paradigm

One piece of terminology I will use throughout the article is container. When I am using this word I am referring to the piece of the PaaS that hosts the application and does the work. An application can be composed of multiple containers and the PaaS will probably have a method to add your favorite server-side tech to the container. On OpenShift this is called a gear while on Heroku it is called a dyno.

So without further ado, let’s dig in on some of the code smells in the cloud.

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Just fork it

Making forking the norm

Brian Kardell (вкαя∂εℓℓ)tweeted:

Kip Hamptonreplied:

Free and Open Source software licenses make forking legal. Git makes forking easy. GitHub makes it easy to fork sociably. Can we just make this normal?

The most visible recent fork – LibreSSL‘s blunt forking of OpenSSL – was widely reported as conflict. It’s certainly not a polite break, but the OpenSSL’s Apache-style license means it’s legal.

Meanwhile, in a reminder that specifications can fork too, Ian Hickson put his objections to the W3C forking a WHATWG spec on www-archive to make sure his complaints of plagiarism would be part of the permanent record. WHATWG specs are licensed CC0, so once again, it’s legal.

It seems to be a common pattern to want to grant rights, but only want other people to use those rights if they acknowledge our control. (I sometimes have similar tendencies, granted.) We hope that people will contribute to our works while recognizing our power and our ownership over those works. Even the fact that we have to choose licenses at the start of a project gives us a sense of ownership and control, often hiding the (excellent) lack of control that comes once those licenses are applied.

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Wait, where is my variable defined?

Learn JavaScript scope so you always know where your variables are defined

You may have noticed that Head First JavaScript Programming is released! Now that the book is done, we’ve got a few more Head First JavaScript Programming teasers for you. The book is aimed at those of you who are learning JavaScript from the ground up, and our goal with these teasers is to tease out a few characteristics of the language that might surprise you, trip you up, or that you might want to pay special attention to as you learn.

Whether you’re coming to JavaScript from another language, or you’re learning JavaScript as your first language, the way scope works — that is, when and where your variables are defined — might surprise you. Scope in JavaScript isn’t always intuitive, and it’s easy to make some simple mistakes that can cause your code to work in unexpected ways.

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Fun, functional, and teachable?

Can Elixir bring functional programming to a much wider audience?

I was delighted to talk with Dave Thomas, co-founder of the The Pragmatic Programmers and author of their in-progress Programming Elixir. I’m writing Introducing Elixir for O’Reilly, and we both seem to be enjoying the progress of the language. Read more…

Make magic with Ruby DSLs

Demystifying your favorite libraries' domain-specific languages

For better or worse, I believe you can develop basic, yet useful, applications in Ruby on Rails with just a minimum amount of Ruby knowledge. Rails tucks away details behind object-to-table mapping, routing, database preparation, and other necessities for web applications to function. So, is Rails magic? It may seem like something shady’s going on behind the scenes at first, but all of these examples are really just instances of well-designed domain-specific languages within the Rails framework.

A domain-specific language, or DSL, focuses on a particular problem set, or domain, instead of trying to be all things to all people. By contrast, typical programming languages like Ruby are general-purpose languages–they offer a large, varied set of tools to accomplish any number of tasks. Ruby itself is a great example of a general purpose language: You can use it to perform system maintenance tasks, retrieve data from external services, calculate statistics–not to mention, develop complex web applications. But what if you need to focus on a specific task, like running system backups, test-driving software development, or defining database migrations in a Rails application? This is where DSLs come into play.

There are two types of domain-specific language, as defined by Martin Fowler. An external DSL requires its own parser to process commands passed to it. The result is a language that will likely not look at all like the language it was implemented in. SQL, for example, is an external DSL. You interact with a database via a language developed specifically for creating queries–not in the language your database itself was written in.

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5 ways developers win with PaaS

Powering your app with open source and OpenShift

Getting Started with OpenShift As a software developer, you are no doubt familiar with the process of abstracting away unnecessary detail in code — imagine if that same principle were applied to application hosting. Say hello to Platform as a Service (PaaS), which enables you to host your applications in the cloud without having to worry about the logistics, leaving you to focus on your code. This post will discuss five ways in which PaaS benefits software developers, using the open source OpenShift PaaS by Red Hat as an example.

No More Tedious Config Tasks

Most of us don’t become developers to do system administration, but when you are running your own infrastructure you end up doing exactly that. A PaaS can take that pain away by handling pesky config and important security updates for you. As a bonus, it makes your sys admin happy too by allowing you to provision your own environment for that killer new app idea you want to tinker with, rather than nagging them for root access on a new VM.

On OpenShift, it goes like this: let’s say you decide you want to test an idea for a Java app, using Tomcat and PostgreSQL (yes, we could argue about the merits of those choices, but work with me here). You can spin that up with a one-line terminal command:

That -s on the end is telling the platform to make the app auto-scaling, which I will elaborate on later; yes, that’s all it takes. RHC (Red Hat Cloud) is just a Ruby Gem wrapping calls to the OpenShift REST API. You could also use the OpenShift web console or an IDE plugin to do this, or call the API directly if that’s how you roll. The key technologies in play here are just plain old Git and SSH — there’s nothing proprietary.

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5 ways to improve battery life in your app

Tips and tricks to squeeze the most out of your mobile UI

mobile_html5 Editor’s Note: Mobile HTML5 is a book by front-end engineer and frequent speaker Estelle Weyl. It is packed with hands-on examples to make you a stronger web developer–including best practices for SVG, Canvas, and CSS3 tailored to fit mobile devices. In the excerpt below, Estelle walks you through five easy things you can do to improve battery life in your mobile web apps. As throughout the book, the tips she provides come from her own real-life experience with these technologies.

Unlike desktop computers that are tethered to the wall at all times, and even laptop computers that are generally used by stationary users, mobile users do not recharge their devices throughout the day. Mobile users expect their devices to last, at a minimum, 24 hours between recharging.

Your users do realize that calls and GPS usage consume battery power. However, if they think they’re just using their browser to surf the Web, they don’t consider that different websites will drain their battery faster than other sites. It is our job, as developers, to manage the power consumption of our code. Read more…

On software, satisfaction, and being CEO

Connecting with women in technology at DeveloperWeek 2014

I was honored to be on stage with four notable women in technology, last month at DeveloperWeek. The panel included Jennifer Davis, Anne Ahola Ward, Anna Chiara Bellini, and Selby Walker. Each of the panelists responded in earnest to questions that explored work satisfaction, taking ownership of one’s career, and the real and perceived barriers that keep anyone from taking charge of their career path, ever reminding the audience that it takes a shift in just one person’s self-concept to promote change in the world.

Following are (just a few of) the most enjoyable moments from the afternoon:

  • Arabella says women must inspire other women to imagine careers in tech [at 1:37]
  • Why Jennifer Davis isn’t bored after six years at Yahoo! [at 9:24]
  • Anne Ahola Ward on the culture at her company, CircleClick [at 11:49]
  • Selby Walker talks about the value of accomplishments [at 14:46]
  • The Princess or Bitch question – Anna Bellini responds [at 22:13]

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Deliberations on DevOps

Report from the DevOps Conference

There is a growing movement in the tech world, which over the past couple of years—and even more so in the past few months—has gained significant momentum and is changing the way organizations operate and do business. Much like the industrial revolution, there is a push to increase production speeds through automation and streamlined work processes. The only difference is that now the product is virtual. The movement is called DevOps, and while early adopters are already reaping the benefits of this methodology, it is quickly becoming not only an advantage for businesses, but a necessity.

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