Thursday, December 22, 2011

Faster feedback

In programming, the faster you get feedback from your code, the more productive you can be.

For example, suppose you're going to use the Javascript Date class in a web page to do some time calculations. Do you:
  • Write some code, save the file, reload the page, look at the results, and repeat?
  • Open a Javascript console (like Chome Developer Tools or Firebug) and experiment?
The second method gives you instant feedback. This means you can find the right approach more quickly and not lose focus in the meantime. The same is true when coding Ruby: if you want to see what Array#select does, irb will give you much faster feedback than a Rails app.

Other ways you can get feedback faster include:
  • To learn more about Git, create a temporary folder and a dummy project: mkdir ~/test; cd ~/test; git init; echo 'hello' > test.txt; git add .; git commit -m"first"; Now you can experiment: branch and merge, rebase, and whatever else you want to try without fear of screwing up a real project. When you're satisfied, just delete that folder.
  • If you're thinking of adding a command to one of your runtime configuration files, like .bashrc or .vimrc, run the command directly first and see what it does.
  • Take the time to make your automated tests run faster: you'll be more likely to run them often and less likely to lose focus when you do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Testing a Rails 3.1 Engine's Javascript with Jasmine

At work, we've got a Rails engine that provides some complex drop-in forms to various applications. The forms have associated Javascript which, on Rails 3.0, we had to copy and paste between applications. That's both annoying and fragile, since things can get out of sync.

To test our engine, we had created a dummy app with the Enginex gem, located in spec/dummy.

In upgrading the engine to 3.1 (currently on release candidate 6), we wanted to move the associated JS into the engine, so that they would be versioned together in a single gem.

That wasn't so hard, but we also needed our associated Jasmine tests to run. For that, we needed to precompile our Javascript before rake jasmine ran so that Jasmine could load and test it.

Precompile Problems

And that's where things got sticky. According to Ryan Biggs' documentation, the default matcher for precompiling files is:

[ /\w+\.(?!js|css).+/, /application.(css|js)$/ ]

Basically, besides application.js and application.css, any js (or css) files with multiple dots in it, whether it's or jquery.cookie.js, will get compiled to its own file.

We had two problems with that:

  • It didn't match our engine's manifest file, because it's not named application.js. (It's not named that because in the host application, we will already have an application.js and we don't want a conflict.)
  • It did match a bunch of other JS files which didn't need to be compiled separately. For example, the manifest requires jquery.cookie.js, so that file gets compiled and added into the manifest file. It doesn't need to also be compiled as jquery-aaff723a97d782d30e3fc2f0dee5d849.cookie.js; we don't plan to serve it separately.

To solve the first problem, in Engine.rb, we added:

initializer "myEngine.asset_pipeline" do |app|
  app.config.assets.precompile << 'myEngine-manifest.js'

To solve the second problem, we... did nothing. We don't care. We're letting it create extra compiled files that we don't need.

We could have changed the match regex to only match files with endings like in .js.something or .css.something, instead of the broad rule that will also match .min.js. But doing that in an engine might have broken a host application if it were compiling something we didn't foresee. Maybe at some point a host app will want to compile .csv.erb files or something; we don't want to preclude that.

So we chose "be unobtrusive to the host app" over "prevent unnecessary compilation".

(We also could have prevented jquery.cookie.js from being compiled separately by renaming it to jquery-cookie.js, but we think that's annoying.)

Jasmine Setup

Now that our myEngine-manifest.js was being compiled to myEngine-manifest-20309309d9309330309390.js, we needed to let Jasmine know to load that single file, containing all our compiled Javascript, rather than all the separate files it had to load previously. So, in jasmine.yml, we now have:

  - spec/dummy/public/assets/myEngine-manifest-*.js

The * will match whatever hash fingerprint is added to the filename.

Now, before we can run rake jasmine, we needed to make sure everything was compiled appropriately. So we created this simple Rake task in the engine's Rakefile:

task :precompile_jasmine => ['assets:clean', 'assets:precompile', 'jasmine']

Engine Rake tasks don't necessarily need access to Rails tasks, so to get the task above to work, we had to put the following above it so that we'd have access to those asset-related Rails tasks:

load File.expand_path('../spec/dummy/Rakefile', FILE)

Turning on Sprockets

To get Sprockets working in our dummy application, we had to make two changes to spec/dummy/config/application.rb:

  • Below the other railties requirements, add require sprockets/railtie
  • Within the app settings block, add config.assets.enabled = true

You may not need to do this; it's a side-effect of the fact that we generated our engine with a version of the Enginex gem that preceded Rails 3.1.

Other setup

  • To get Jasmine working with Rails 3.1, make sure you've got a new enough version. Jasmine worked for us.
  • You don't want to check in all your compiled assets, so be sure to add this to your .gitignore: spec/dummy/public/assets/*


Something weird about assets:precompile makes it, and any task that runs after it, run twice. This means that `rake jasmine` requires two interrupts to shut down properly in our current setup. (In a previous attempt, it tried to run again while it was running, and got an error because it couldn't re-bind to the same port.)


There's no way I could have figured this out by myself, and I'm not sure that I'll be able to answer questions about it. Adam Hunter and I worked on it together, and he contributed more brainpower than I did. But after all the blind alleys and frustration, I was determined to write up what we did, and got Adam's help doing so. So: good luck replicating this. :)

Also, if you're looking to use Jasmine in a Rails 3.1 app with coffeescript, this blog post from Pivotal Labs may be more helpful. We got some ideas from it, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sometimes you can be too DRY

In a Rails app, my favorite idiom for describing what users can and cannot do goes like this:

# In view code, for example...
  link_to "Edit Widget", edit_widget_path if current_user.can_edit?(widget)

  # which calls this method
  class User
    def can_edit?(resource)

 # ... which in turn calls this method
 class Widget
   def editable_by?(user)
     # whatever logic makes sense in this particular app

I first saw this approach a couple of years ago, when I was new to Rails and found Nick Kallen's post about from 2007. John Nunemaker has since created the Canable gem to make this even easier.

Defining these methods yourself is not that hard. But because they are all so similar, you might be tempted to use metaprogramming to shorten the code and make it more DRY.

This is a rare example where sacrificing a little bit of DRY can make the code a lot more readable and maintainable: readable because your eyes don't have to bounce around as much, and maintainable because you can edit each method separately.

  class User
     # Metaprogramming way
      :create => 'creatable', 
      :read => 'readable', 
      :edit => 'editable', 
      :delete => 'deletable', 
      :assign => 'assignable'
    }.each do |verb, adjective|
      define_method "can_#{verb}?".to_sym do |resource|
        resource.send("#{adjective}_by?", self)

    # Long-form way: less DRY but easier 
    # to understand at a glance
    def can_create?(resource)

    def can_read?(resource)
    def can_edit?(resource)

    def can_delete?(resource)

    def can_assign?(resource)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Metaprogramming Danger Box

In my last post, I showed how one can use the "execute around" pattern in Ruby to log any calls to a method, without cluttering the methods themselves with logging calls.

That gave us code like this:

def defuse_bomb
    with_log('defuse_bomb') {puts "Snip the red wire..."}

Our with_log method took care of printing out some logging info before and after executing the block given to it.

But as Adam pointed out in the comments, this is still kind of ugly. We don't have all the actual logging code inside of the "defuse_bomb" method, but have had to modify it to use with_log. What if we could add logging more transparently?

We can! With some metaprogramming magic added to the Logging module, here's the way the DangerBox class looks now:

class DangerBox
    extend Logging

    add_logging_to(:defuse_bomb, :throw_error)

    def defuse_bomb
      puts "Snip the red wire..."

    def throw_error
      puts 'I feel an error coming on...'
      raise 'Success: an error!'

    # This method's output won't be logged
    def eat_poison
      puts "Mmmmm, poison!! Nom Nom Nom Nom!!!!"


It still works the same way as it did before:

d =
  # ==== Sun Jun 12 16:55:49 -0400 2011 ====
  # About to execute 'defuse_bomb'...
  # Snip the red wire...
  # Executed 'defuse_bomb' successfully.

  # ==== Sun Jun 12 16:55:49 -0400 2011 ====
  # About to execute 'throw_error'...
  # I feel an error coming on...
  # Error while executing 'throw_error': 'Success: an error!'!

  # Mmmmm, poison!! Nom Nom Nom Nom!!!!

Adam, I see your "hmmmm" and raise you a "BOOYAH!" (Although I didn't write tests for my version of this, so you still win on that front.)

But how the heck did we get all this logging output? Obviously, it's something to do with the line that says:

add_logging_to(:defuse_bomb, :throw_error)

Well, yes: that and a spiffy new Logging module that redefines our methods on the fly to use logging. Here's the code:

module Logging
    # Keeps track of the methods we want to log
    def add_logging_to(*args)
      @logged_methods ||= []

    # Anytime a method gets added to our class (like with "def"),
    # this will execute
    def method_added(method_name)
      if @logged_methods.include?(method_name)
        # A lock to prevent infinite recursion; since we're
        # going to add a method below, we don't want that
        # to make method_added fire again, which would
        # make it fire again, etc...
        unless @adding_with_metaprogramming
          @adding_with_metaprogramming = true
          stashed_method = "stashed_#{method_name}".to_sym
          # Creates a new method named, for example,
          # "stashed_defuse_bomb", which does the same
          # thing as "defuse_bomb"
          alias_method stashed_method, method_name
          # Now we redefine "defuse_bomb" to do this:
          define_method method_name do
              puts "==== #{} ===="
              puts "About to execute '#{method_name}'..."
              # Calls "stashed_defuse_bomb" to get the original version
              puts "Executed '#{method_name}' successfully."
            rescue Exception => e
              puts "Error while executing '#{method_name}': '#{e.message}'!"
              puts "\n\n"
        # Remove the lock
        @adding_with_metaprogramming = false

Metaprogramming! It sounds terrifying, doesn't it? Like, if programs can write programs, next thing you know, the Terminator is going to be ripping through your door! But it's actually slightly less terrifying than that.

Anyway, I got the idea for the last post from reading one chapter in "Eloquent Ruby," and I got the idea for this post while lying in bed after reading another chapter. So: thumbs up, Eloquent Ruby! I hereby recommend you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Using the Execute Around pattern in Ruby

At my last job, I wrote a script that was run by a cron job overnight. The script was supposed to go through a MySQL table of scheduled database queries and, if they met some sanity checks, run them. This was so we could run slow queries like ALTER TABLE during the wee hours of the morning, when customers weren't hitting our database. It may sound odd to execute MySQL queries that had been stored in MySQL, but it worked. (Just don't drop the stored queries table!)

The first time my script ran, it failed, and I didn't know why. My boss wisely suggested that I add some logging: print messages to standard output. We were a PHP shop, so that meant echo statements; all this output was captured in a log file by the cron job, which ran my script like this:

query_runner.php > some_log_file.txt

I went crazy with the logging, announcing up front how many queries I had to run, my progress ("Running query 4 of 7..."), how long each query took, whether it had errors, etc. At the end I printed a nice summary.

All this made the log files very useful when something went wrong: I could tell which queries had and hadn't run, and generally why. I learned the value of logging, and that day, I became a man.

No wait, I'm confusing my stories. I just learned the value of logging, that's all.

Execute Around

Anywho, these days I'm coding Ruby, and I'm currently reading "Eloquent Ruby" by Russ Olsen. In one section, he shows a nice way of adding logging to any method you like, without cluttering up the internals of the method itself.

The secret is the "execute around" pattern: you pass your method, as a block, to another method, which can do things before and after executing it. In this case, the logging method will log a message, execute the block, log another message, and even catch and log any exceptions.

Here's an example:

module Logging
    def with_log(description, &block)
        puts "==== #{} ===="
        puts "About to execute '#{description}'..."
        puts "Executed '#{description}' successfully."
      rescue Exception => e
        puts "Error while executing '#{description}': '#{e.message}'!"
        puts "\n\n"

  class DangerBox
    include Logging

    def defuse_bomb
      with_log('defuse_bomb') {puts "Snip the red wire..."}

    def throw_error
      with_log('throw_error') do 
        puts 'I feel an error coming on...'
        raise 'Success: an error!'


Here's what it looks like in action:

d =
  # ==== Fri Jun 10 16:41:54 -0400 2011 ====
  # About to execute 'defuse_bomb'...
  # Snip the red wire...
  # Executed 'defuse_bomb' successfully.

  # ==== Fri Jun 10 16:41:54 -0400 2011 ====
  # About to execute 'throw_error'...
  # I feel an error coming on...
  # Error while executing 'throw_error': 'Success: an error!'!

Lovely! All the logging and error handling is done in one place, and the methods that use it can be much cleaner.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Understanding Rack applications

I'm starting to understand Ruby's Rack application architecture, and it's really cool. It's a simple concept, but very powerful, because of the ways it lets you stack up different components with different responsibilities.

First, the basics. According to the spec:

A Rack application is an Ruby object (not a class) that responds to call. It
takes exactly one argument, the environment and returns an Array of exactly
three values: the status, the headers, and the body.

So each component in a rack stack is like a rung in a ladder. An incoming request is stashed inside a hash called the environment, which includes info about the request itself and othert things (see the spec). That environment is passed down the ladder from one component to the next until it gets to the app at the end. The app receives the environment, generates a response, and returns it. Since the app was called by the final rack component, it hands it response back to that component. That component then returns the response to the component which called it, etc, effectively passing it back up the ladder, until it's returned to the user.

Got that? Requests go down the ladder, responses come back up.

Of course, in that description, each component is just passing the environment down and then passing the response back up. If that's all a component did, it would be useless. To be useful, it will have to actually something. Specifically, a given component will do (at least) one of three things:

  1. Screen the requests. For example, if the component is for authorization, it verifies that the user has entered a valid login. If it's an invalid login, it will return a "failed login" response and never call the next component. If it's a valid login, it will pass the request to the next component - maybe a Rails app.
  2. Modify the environment before passing it on to the next component. Our authorization component might do this in addition to screening: if there's a valid login, it might set a user object in the environment before passing that to the next component. With this setup, the next component can assume that the user object will always be set whenever it gets a request.
  3. Modify the response after getting it back from the next component. A silly example would be to translate the response into Japanese.

Notice that each component needs to know what the next component in the chain is, so that it knows who to call. That's why whatever you give to Rack::Builder#use needs to have an initialize method that accepts the next component, in addition to a call method that accepts the env.

The application at the end, however, doesn't need to call anybody else; it just needs to take the env as it then stands and generate a response. So whatever you pass to Rack::Builder::run doesn't need an initialize method; it just needs to respond to call(env). Even a lambda can do that.

Some pseudocode examples of call methods:

# A component with this call method would be useless.
# Still, it's worth remembering that this:
def call(env)

# ... is Ruby shorthand for this:
def call(env)
  result =
  return result

# Instead, we can do something useful on the way in:
def call(env)
  valid_user = contains_valid_login?(env)

  if valid_user
    # Next component can rely on having a current_user object


# Or we can do something useful on the way out:
def call(env)
  result =

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ruby's Set class

Yesterday at work, we ran into an interesting problem. We're creating the new version of an application and discarding the old, ugly code. But we need to migrate some data: the old system has (let's say) widgets, and the new system has widgets, too. The old system uses 5 different databases (see how ugly?) with weird row schemas, but it does reliably have widget color, size, and shapes. The new system uses one database and has a nice row schema, but it also has widget color, size, and shapes.

We need to know: which widgets are only in the old system? Which widgets are only in the new? Which are in both?

Enter Sets

Asking these questions tripped a switch in my mind. "I know about this!", I thought. "This is a job for sets! And Ruby has a Set class."

I'd never used them yet, but sets are made for this kind of thing. Sets are often illustrated with Venn diagrams: overlapping circles, where you ask "which things are only in the left circle? What's in the overlap?", etc.

For instance:

A set is a list of items where no item is repeated. If you have more than one set, you can compare them and answer the kinds of questions we've been asking. Here's a demo I just threw together:

require 'set'

  def sets_demo

    # Sets ignore duplicate values
    game_words =['duck','duck','duck','goose'])
    puts "Unique game words                 : #{game_words}\n\n"
    #=>   Unique game words                 : goose, duck

    # Here are two sets with one thing in common
    fast  =['bullet', 'cheetah'])
    round =['bullet', 'beach ball'])

    # All the ways we can compare them
    puts "Round                             : #{round}"
    #=>   Round                             : bullet, beach ball
    puts "Fast                              : #{fast}"
    #=>   Fast                              : cheetah, bullet
    puts ''

    puts "Round and Fast (&)                : #{(fast & round)}"
    #=>   Round and Fast (&)                : bullet
    puts "Round but not Fast (-)            : #{(round - fast)}"
    #=>   Round but not Fast (-)            : beach ball
    puts "Fast but not Round (-)            : #{(fast - round)}"
    #=>   Fast but not Round (-)            : cheetah

    puts "Round OR Fast (|)                 : #{(round | fast)}"
    #=>   Round OR Fast (|)                 : cheetah, bullet, beach ball

    puts "Round OR Fast, but NOT both (XOR) : #{((round | fast) - (fast & round))}"
    #=>   Round OR Fast, but NOT both (XOR) : cheetah, beach ball


  # Formatting the way the sets print
  class Set
    def to_s
      to_a.join(', ')


Got it?

In my examples, the items in the sets were strings, but they could be anything. In our case at work, we used hashes: a widget was represented by a hash containing its color, shape and size. So, we just had to:

  1. Connect to each of the databases in the old system, getting all the widgets, creating a hash for each one, and dropping each into an old_system_widgets set (which automatically ignores duplicates)
  2. Connect to the new system's database and make a similar set of its widgets
  3. Do the kinds of set operations illustrated above

Voila! Now we knew which widgets were new and which ones still needed to be migrated to the new system.

In conclusion: sets are swell!

Hmmm. That's a pretty weak ending.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ruby's String#unpack and Array#pack and Unicode

At work, I'm exporting some data for use by a system that doesn't understand Unicode. I ran across an Obie Fernandez post explaining his approach.

One method he showed was this:

def to_ascii_iconv
    converter ='ASCII//IGNORE//TRANSLIT', 'UTF-8') 
    converter.iconv(self).unpack('U*').select{ |cp| cp < 127 }.pack('U*')
Essentially, this means that Iconv will convert the characters that it can from Unicode to ASCII. For example, รก will be converted to 'a. (I don't know where to find a comprehensive list of these transliterations.) After the transliteration step, any remaining non-ASCII characters - for example, Japanese characters, which have no ASCII equivalent - are discarded using the pack and unpack methods. To see how this works, try this in irb:
Your string is converted into an array of numbers representing their Unicode values, as we requested by using "U*". (I'm still a bit fuzzy on exactly how Unicode values work, but let's keep rolling.) Ruby's Array#pack method can do the opposite conversion: numbers to string values.
There you should see a string of all the legal ASCII values, which, apparently, are all in the 1 to 127 range. Knowing this, it's easy to see how you can throw away non-ASCII values in a string:
some_string.unpack('U*').select{|character_value| character_value < 127}.pack('U*')
And that's what Obie's code does after its initial conversions with Iconv. Now, if you're curious, you might want to see what Unicode values some other numbers map to. No problem: just change the range value from our earlier example, and write the resulting values to a file (in my case, the Unicode characters don't show correctly in irb):
string = (1..300).to_a.pack('U*')'unicodes_hooray.txt','w'){|f| f.write(string)}

Open that up in an editor that can display Unicode to see what you got.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Authorized_keys and SCP

I have SSH access to a machine, and I want to add my public key to the `authorized_keys` file so I don't have to type a password to log in. A friend taught me a neat command for doing this:

% cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh user@server "cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys"


  • Output the contents of my public key
  • Send that as standard input to this ssh command
  • The ssh command runs `cat` on the server
  • Since `cat` on the server is called without arguments, it uses standard input - in this case, the contents of my public key file
  • My public key gets added to `authorized_keys`

Added my key to `authorized_keys` has another benefit, besides not having to type the password when I SSH in: since I'm automatically recognized as a user, I can use tab completion for scp commmands. (Note: I'm using the zsh shell; remote tab-completion doesn't work for me in bash.)

In other words, if there's a file called "foo.txt" in my home directory on that server, and I want to copy it to my local machine, I can start type this:

% scp user@server:fo

... and hit tab, and it will auto-complete "foo.txt". That makes using scp a lot less tedious.

Using git cherry-pick

One Git command that I've found to be really useful lately is "git cherry-pick". It lets you take a single commit from one branch and apply it to another.

For example, say you're working on your "add_blinking_lights" feature branch, and you find a bug in the "rotate_missile_chamber" method. You fix it and commit to the branch between a couple of other feature commits.

It's going to be a while before you merge this feature back into your master branch, but you do want that bugfix to go live on the next deploy. So, on the feature branch, you do this:

cyborg[add_blinking_lights]% git log -3
e9dd159 Added tests for blink rate
a8e358c Fixed bug in rotate_missile_chamber
a7d3302 Added tests for lights turning on

OK, so you know the hash for the bugfix. Now you do "git checkout master."

On the master branch you run "git cherry-pick a8e358c". Here's what that command does:

  • Look at that commit on the feature branch
  • See what changes it introduced
  • Create a new commit on the master branch that introduces the same changes

Notice that it creates a new commit on the master branch. If, on master, you run "git log", you'll see a different hash for the same commit message. Why?

This is because of how Git models what a commit is. A commit is a complete snapshot of the whole repository, and the hash for a given commit reflects the state of every file in the whole directory - it is a hash of all their hashes.

So clearly, since master branch doesn't have all of the commits from the feature branch, a complete snapshot of it at the time the bugfix is applied will generate a different hash than a complete snapshot of the feature branch at the time the bugfix is applied there. Thus, different hashes.

But when you do merge the feature branch into master, that won't matter; the hashes for the individual file where you made the bugfix will be the same, because their contents will be the same, so there will be nothing to update on master for that file.

Of course, another way of approaching this problem would have been to switch to master before committing the bugfix in the first place, then merge master into the feature branch, or cherry-pick from master to the feature, or rebase the feature on master. But the method above is simple, and if you did already commit the bugfix on your branch, is the best way to get that commit into production.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Where cliche is a mandate

A recruiting company that spams me has the slogan "Where Commitment is a Passion."

What does that even mean?

"We're always looking for stuff to commit to. I just committed to eating a whole jar of pickles! Jimmy over there committed to sing everything he says! Linda committed to paying the mortgage for the zoo! We're c-c-crazy for commitment!"

Monday, March 7, 2011

Short Rubyzip tutorial

Rubyzip is a handy tool for creating zip files with a Ruby script. But to me, the documentation doesn't make it immediately obvious how to use the thing. This quick tutorial should get you started.

Say you're submitting some pictures of kitchen gadgets to Strange Cooks Weekly. You need to zip up your images before sending them, and you're contractually obligated to use Ruby to do it. Here's how.

require 'rubygems'
require 'zip/zip'

puts "Zipping files!"

file_path = "Users/me/Pictures/kitchen_implements"
file_list = ['toast_mitten.png', 'gravy_jug.png', 'biscuit_juicer.png']

zipfile_name = "/Users/me/Desktop/", Zip::ZipFile::CREATE) do |zipfile|
  file_list.each do |filename|
    # Two arguments:
    # - The name of the file as it will appear in the archive
    # - The original file, including the path to find it
    zipfile.add(filename, file_path + '/' + filename)

Note that if the zip file already exists, this script will try to add stuff to it. If you try to add a file that's already in the archive, it will complain.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Using Ruby for SCP file transfers

Today I needed to write a Ruby script to fetch a file using SCP. I thought it would be nice if it also displayed a "percent complete" counter as it went. This is what I came up with.

require 'rubygems'
require 'net/scp'
puts "Fetching file"

# Establish the SSH session
ssh = Net::SSH.start("IP Address", "username on server", :password => "user's password on server", :port => 12345)

# Use that session to generate an SCP object
scp = ssh.scp

# Download the file and run the code block each time a new chuck of data is received!("path/to/file/on/server/fileName", "/Users/me/Desktop/") do |ch, name, received, total|

  # Calculate percentage complete and format as a two-digit percentage
  percentage = format('%.2f', received.to_f / total.to_f * 100) + '%'

  # Print on top of (replace) the same line in the terminal
  # - Pad with spaces to make sure nothing remains from the previous output
  # - Add a carriage return without a line feed so the line doesn't move down
  print "Saving to #{name}: Received #{received} of #{total} bytes" + " (#{percentage})               \r"

  # Print the output immediately - don't wait until the buffer fills up
puts "Fetch complete!"

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Best error message ever

A while back, I sent a text message and got this error back from AT&T.

Wow... thanks. I... didn't know you cared?

Apparently they just append the text of the message (this one was to my wife) to the end of the error, without saying "original message follows" or anything like that.

In case anyone wants to try getting their own amusing messages, I believe this happened because I mistakenly sent to a land line.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Watching your log for a specific value

If you use Unix, you probably know about piping one command's output through another. You may also know that
tail -f somefile
will show you whatever gets added to the end of a file in real time.

While working with Rails, I do
tail -f log/development.log
all the time to watch how Rails processes my page requests. Today, I was looking for a specific error message to show up - a MissingTemplate error that a user had experienced**, and I was trying to reproduce it.

Since I didn't care about anything that was being logged at that moment other than the error I was looking for, it occurred to me to do this:

tail -f log/development.log | grep 'MissingTemplate'

As I poked around our site, I saw nothing. Until I encountered the error, and BAM - that one line popped into my terminal. Error case located!

Just one more way that chaining simple tools together can be very powerful.

**Actually, the user didn't see the MissingTemplate error; they got a friendly error message, as they should. But we got an email from Hoptoad with the actual error.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PHP: now running in the browser!

Got this email from a recruiter just now:

Hope you are doing well. We have an urgent requirement for
PHP Front End Developer . Please go through the below mentioned job opportunity and let me know your availability for the same.

PHP Front End Developer!? Wow, those zany Facebook developers must be at it again. First they got PHP to compile, now they've got it running in the browser!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

IE: Still the biggest yak to shave

My conclusion after a day and a half of fixing IE-only Javascript bugs.

And this is IE8, mind you.

Come on, Microsoft. Just use Webkit, already.