Peterbe.com

A blog and website by Peter Bengtsson

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grymt is a python tool that takes a directory full of .html, .css and .js and prepares the html for optimial production use.

For a teaser:

  1. Look at the "input"

  2. Look at the "output" (Note! You have to right-click and view source)

So why did I write my own tool and not use Grunt?!

Glad you asked! The reason is simple: I couldn't get Grunt to work.

Grunt is a framework. It's a place where you say which "recipes" to execute and how. It's effectively a common config framework. Like make.
However, I tried to set up a bunch of recipes in my Gruntfile.js and most of them worked well individually but it was a hellish nightmare to get it all to work together just the way I want it.

For example, the grunt-contrib-uglify is fine for doing the minification but it doesn't work with concatenation and it doesn't deal with taking one input file and outputting to a different file.
Basically, I spent two evenings getting things to work but I could never get exactly what I wanted. So I wrote my own and because I'm quite familiar with this kind of stuff, I did it in Python. Not because it's better than Node but just because I had it near by and was able to quicker build something.

So what sweet features do you get out of grymt?

  1. You can easily make an output file have a hash in the filename. E.g. vendor-$hash.min.js becomes vendor-64f7425.min.js and thus the filename is always unique but doesn't change in between deployments unless you change the files.

  2. It automatically notices which files already have been minified. E.g. no need to minify somelib.min.js but do minify otherlib.js.

  3. You can put $git_revision anywhere in your HTML and this gets expanded automatically. For example, view the source of buggy.peterbe.com and look at the first 20 lines.

  4. Images inside CSS get rewritten to have unique names (based on files' modified time) so they can be far-future cached aggresively too.

  5. You never have to write down any lists of file names in soome Gruntfile.js equivalent file

  6. It copies ALL files from a source directory. This is important in case you have something like this inside your javascript code: $('<img>').attr('src', 'picture.jpg') for example.

  7. You can chose to inline all the minified and concatenated CSS or javascript. Inlining CSS is neat for single page apps where you have a majority of primed cache hits. Instead of one .html and one .css you get just one .html and the amount of bytes is the same. Not having to do another HTTP request can save a lot of time on web performance.

  8. The generated (aka. "dist" directory) contains everything you need. It does not refer back to the source directory in any way. This means you can set up your apache/nginx to point directly at the root of your "dist" directory.

So what's the catch?

  1. It's not Grunt. It's not a framework. It does only what it does and if you want it to do more you have to work on grymt itself.

  2. The files you want to analyze, process and output all have to be in a sub directory.
    Look at how I've laid out the files here in this project for example. ALL files that you need is all in one sub-directory called app. So, to run grymt I simply run: grymt app.

  3. The HTML files you throw into it have to be plain HTML files. No templates for server-side code.

How do you use it?

pip install grymt

Then you need a directory it can process, e.g ./client/ (assumed to contain a .html file(s)).

grymt ./client

For more options, check out

grymt --help

What's in the future of grymt?

If people like it and want to add features, I'm more than happy to accept pull requests. Some future potential feature work:

  • I haven't needed it immediately, yet, myself, but it would be nice to add things like coffeescript, less, sass etc into pre-processing hooks.

  • It would be easy to automatically generate and insert a reference to a appcache manifest. Since every file used and mentioned is noticed, we could very accurately generate an appcache file that is less prone to human error.

  • Spitting out some stats about number bytes saved and number of files reduced.

Screenshot
Buggy is a singe-page webapp that relies entirely on the Bugzilla Native REST API. And it works offline. Sort of. I say "sort of" because obviously without a network connection you're bound to have outdated information from the bugzilla database but at least you'll have what you had when you went offline.

When you post a comment from Buggy, the posted comment is added to an internal sync queue and if you're online it immediately processes that queue. There is, of course, always a risk that you might close a bug when you're in a tunnel or on a plane without WiFi and when you later get back online the sync fails because of some conflict.

The reason I built this was partly to scratch an itch I had ("What's the ideal way possible for me to use Bugzilla?") and also to experiment with some new techniques, namely AngularJS and localforage.

Live-search

So, the way it works is:

  1. You pick your favorite product and components.

  2. All bugs under these products and components are downloaded and stored locally in your browser (thank you localforage).

  3. When you click any bug it then proceeds to download its change history and its comments.

  4. Periodically it checks each of your chosen product and components to see if new bugs or new comments have been added.

  5. If you refresh your browser, all bugs are loaded from a local copy stored in your browser and in the background it downloads any new bugs or comments or changes.

  6. If you enter your username and password, an auth token is stored in your browser and you can thus access secure bugs.

I can has charts

Pros and cons

The main advantage of Buggy compared to Bugzilla is that it's fast to navigate. You can instantly filter bugs by status(es), components and/or by searching in the bug summary.

The disadvantage of Buggy is that you can't see all fields, file new bugs or change all fields.

The code

The code is of course open source. It's available on https://github.com/peterbe/buggy and released under a MPL 2 license.

The code requires no server. It's just an HTML page with some CSS and Javascript.

Everything is done using AngularJS. It's only my second AngularJS project but this is also part of why I built this. To learn AngularJS better.

Much of the inspiration came from the CSS framework Pure and one of their sample layouts which I started with and hacked into shape.

The deployment

YSlow
Because Buggy doesn't require a server, this is the very first time I've been able to deploy something entirely on CDN. Not just the images, CSS and Javascript but the main HTML page as well. Before I explain how I did that, let me explain about the make.py script.

I really wanted to use Grunt but it just didn't work for me. There are many positive things about Grunt such as the ease with which you can easily add plugins and I like how you just have one "standard" file that defines how a bunch of meta tasks should be done. However, I just couldn't get the concatenation and minification and stuff to work together. Individually each tool works fine, such as the grunt-contrib-uglify plugin but together none of them appeared to want to work. Perhaps I just required too much.

In the end I wrote a script in python that does exactly what I want for deployment. Its features are:

  • Hashes in the minified and concatenated CSS and Javascript files (e.g. vendor-8254f6b.min.js)
  • Custom names for the minified and concatenated CSS and Javascript files so I can easily set far-future cache headers (e.g. /_cache/vendor-8254f6b.min.js)
  • Ability to fold all CSS minified into the HTML (since there's only one page, theres little reason to make the CSS external)
  • A Git revision SHA into the HTML of the generated ./dist/index.html file
  • All files in ./client/static/ copied intelligently into ./dist/static/
  • Images in CSS to be given hashes so they too can have far-future cache headers

So, the way I have it set up is that, on my server, I have a it run python make.py and that generates a complete site in a ./dist/ directory. I then point Nginx to that directory and run it under http://buggy-origin.peterbe.com. Then I set up a Amazon Cloudfront distribution to that domain and then lastly I set up a CNAME for buggy.peterbe.com to point to the Cloudfront distribution.

The future

I try my best to maintain a TODO file inside the repo. That's where I write down things to come. (it's also works as a changelog) since I also use this file to write down what's been done.

One of the main features I want to add is the ability to add bugs that are outside your chosen products and components. It'll be a "fake" component called "Misc". This is for bugs outside the products and components you usually monitor and work in but perhaps bugs you've filed or been assigned to. Or just other bugs you're interested in in general.

Another major feature to work on is the ability to choose to see more fields and ability to edit these too. This will require some configuration on the individual users' behalf. For example, some people use the "Target Milestone" a lot. Some use the "Importance" a lot. So, some generic solution is needed to accomodate all these non-basic fields.

And last but not least, the Bugzilla team here at Mozilla is working on a very exciting project that allows you to register a certain list of bugs with a WebSocket and have it push to you as soon as these bugs change. That means that I won't have to periodically query bugzilla every 30 seconds if certain bugs have changed but instead get instant notifications when they do. That's going to be major! I confidently speculate that that will be implemented some time summer this year.

Give it a go. What are you waiting for? :) Go to http://buggy.peterbe.com/, pick your favorite products and components and try to use it for a week.

For people familar with AngularJS, it's almost frighteningly easy to make a live-search on a repeating iterator.

Here's such an example: http://jsfiddle.net/r26xm/1/

Out of the box it just works. If nothing is typed into the search field it returns everything.

A big problem with this is that the pattern matching isn't very good. For example, if you search for ter you get Teresa and Peter.
More realistically you want it to only match with a leading word delimiter. In other words, if you type ter you want it only to match Teresa but not Peter because Peter doesn't start with ter.
So, to remedy that we construct a regular expression on the fly with a leading word delimiter. I.e. \bter.

Here's an example of that: http://jsfiddle.net/f4Zkm/2/

Now, there's a problem. For every item in the list the regular expression needs to be created and compiled which, when the list is very long, can become incredibly slow.
To remedy that we use $scope.$watch to create a local regular expression which only happens once per update to $scope.search.

Here's an example of that: http://jsfiddle.net/f4Zkm/4/

That, I think, is a really good pattern. Unfortunately we've left the simplicity but we now have something snappier.

Unfortunately the example is a little bit contrived because the list of names it filters on is so small but the list could be huge. It could also be that we want to make a more advanced regular expression. For example, you might want to allow multiple words to match so as ter ma should match Teresa Mayers, John Mayor and Maria Connor. Then you could make a regular expression with something like \b(ter|ma).

For seasoned Angularnauts this is trivial stuff but it really helped me make an app much faster and smoother. I hope it helps someones else doing something similar.

I looked around for Javascript libs that do automatic input formatting for credit card inputs.

The first one was formatter.js which looked promising but it weighs over 6Kb minified and also, when you apply it the placeholder attribute you have on the input disappears.

So, in true software engineering fashion I wrote my own:

function cc_format(value) {
  var v = value.replace(/\s+/g, '').replace(/[^0-9]/gi, '')
  var matches = v.match(/\d{4,16}/g);
  var match = matches && matches[0] || ''
  var parts = []
  for (i=0, len=match.length; i<len; i+=4) {
    parts.push(match.substring(i, i+4))
  }
  if (parts.length) {
    return parts.join(' ')
  } else {
    return value
  }
}

And some tests to prove it:

assert(cc_format('1234') === '1234')
assert(cc_format('123456') === '1234 56')
assert(cc_format('123456789') === '1234 5678 9')
assert(cc_format('') === '')
assert(cc_format('1234 1234 5') === '1234 1234 5')
assert(cc_format('1234 a 1234x 5') === '1234 1234 5')

Check out the Demo

I've started experimenting with my home page to make it load even faster.

Amazon famously does this too which you can read more about in this Steve Souders post. They make sure everything that needs to be visible above the fold is loaded first, then, it starts loading all the other "stuff" below the fold. The assumption is that the user requests the page, watches it render and some time after it has rendered reaches for the mouse and starts scrolling down for more content. Or perhaps, never bothers to scroll down at all. Either way, everyhing below the fold can wait. We have more time, to load that in, later.

What we want to avoid is a load graph like this:

big html document delays loading other stuff

The graph is deliberately zoomed out so that we don't get stuck on the details of that particular graph. But basically, you have a very heavy document to load which needs to be fully loaded (and partially rendered) before it can load all other stuff that that page entails. As you can see, the first load (the HTML document) is taking up a majority of the load time. Once that's downloaded the browser can start parsing it an start rendering it. Simultanously it can start downloading all the mentioned resources such as images, javascript and CSS.

On WebPagetest they call this Speed Index; "The Speed Index is the average time at which visible parts of the page are displayed."
So basically, you want to display as much as you possibly can and then load in other things that are necessary but can wait in the background.

So, how did I accomplish this on my site?

Basically, the home page uses as piece of Django code that picks up the 10 most recent blog posts and includes them into the template. Instead, I made it only pick up the first 2 and then after window.onload a piece if AJAX code loads the HTML for the remaining 8 blog posts.
That means that much less is required to load the home page. The page is smaller and references less images. The AJAX code is very crude and simple but works enough:

onload = function() {
  microAjax("/rest/2/10/", function (res) {
    document.getElementById('rest').innerHTML = res;
  });
};

The user probably won't notice a huge difference if she avoids looking at the loading spinner of her browser. Only if she is really really fast at scrolling down will she notice that the rest of the page (about 80% of its vertical space) comes in a little bit later.

So, did it work?

I hope so! The theory is sound. However, my home page is, unlike an Amazon.com product page, very sparse. The page weighs a total of 77Kb (excluding external resources) but now only the first 25Kb is loaded and the rest later.

Here's a measurement before and one after. It's kinda hard to compare because "fluctuations" on network I/O make measurements like this quite unpredictable. Also, there's various odd requests like New Relic and Google Analytics which clouds the waterfall view. However, what really matters is in the "First View" of the after measurement. If you look closely you'll see that now a bunch of images aren't loaded until after the "Document Complete" event has fired. That, to me, is a big win.

Below the fold

If you're interested in how it was done, check out this changeset.

So I've now built my first real application using AngularJS. It's a fun side-project which my wife and I use to track what we spend money on. It's not a work project but it's also not another Todo list application. In fact, the application existed before as a typical jQuery app. So, I knew exactly what I needed to build but this time trying to avoid jQuery as much as I possibly could.

The first jQuery based version is here and although I'm hesitant to share this beginner-creation here's the AngularJS version

The following lists were some stumbling block and other things that stumped me. Hopefully by making this list it might help others who are also new to AngularJS and perhaps the Gods of AngularJS can see what confuses beginners like me.

1. AJAX doesn't work like jQuery

Similar to Backbone, I think, the default thing is to send the GET, POST request with the data the body blob. jQuery, by default, sends it as application/x-www-form-urlencoded. I like that because that's how most of my back ends work (e.g. request.GET.get('variable') in Django). I ended up pasting in this (code below) to get back what I'm familiar with:

module.config(function ($httpProvider) {
  $httpProvider.defaults.transformRequest = function(data){
    if (data === undefined) {
      return data;
    }
    return $.param(data);
  };
  $httpProvider.defaults.headers.post['Content-Type'] = ''
    + 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded; charset=UTF-8';
});

2. App/Module configuration confuses me

The whole concept of needing to define the code as an app or a module confused me. I think it all starts to make sense now. Basically, you don't need to think about "modules" until you start to split distinct things into separate files. To get started, you don't need it. At least not for simple applications that just have one chunk of business logic code.

Also, it's confusing why the the name of the app is important and why I even need a name.

3. How to do basic .show() and .hide() is handled by the data

In jQuery, you control the visibility of elements by working with the element based on data. In AngularJS you control the visibility by tying it to the data and then manipulate the data. It's hard to put your finger on it but I'm so used to looking at the data and then decide on elements' visibility. This is not an uncommon pattern in a jQuery app:

<p class="bench-press-question">
  <label>How much can you bench press?</label>
  <input name="bench_press_max">
</p>
if (data.user_info.gender == 'male') {
  $('.bench-press-question input').val(response.user_info.bench_press_max);
  $('.bench-press-question').show();
}

In AngularJS that would instead look something like this:

<p ng-show="male">
  <label>How much can you bench press?</label>
  <input name="bench_press_max" ng-model="bench_press_max">
</p>


if (data.user_info.gender == 'male') {
  $scope.male = true;
  $scope.bench_press_max = data.user_info.bench_press_max;
}

I know this can probably be expressed in some smarter way but what made me uneasy is that I mix stuff into the data to do visual things.

4. How do I use controllers that "manage" the whole page?

I like the ng-controller="MyController" thing because it makes it obvious where your "working environment" is as opposed to working with the whole document but what do I do if I need to tie data to lots of several places of the document?

To remedy this for myself I created a controller that manages, basically, the whole body. If I don't, I can't manage scope data that is scattered across totally different sections of the page.

I know it's a weak excuse but the code I ended up with has one massive controller for everything on the page. That can't be right.

5. setTimeout() doesn't quite work as you'd expect

If you do this in AngularJS it won't update as you'd expect.

<p class="status-message" ng-show="message">{{ message }}</p>


$scope.message = 'Changes saved!';
setTimout(function() {
  $scope.message = null;
}, 5 * 1000);

What you have to do, once you know it, is this:

function MyController($scope, $timeout) {
  ...
  $scope.message = 'Changes saved!'; 
  $timeout(function() {
    $scope.message = null;
  }, 5 * 1000);
}


It's not too bad but I couldn't see this until I had Googled some Stackoverflow questions.

6. Autocompleted password fields don't update the scope

Due to this bug when someone fills in a username and password form using autocomplete the password field isn't updating its data.

Let me explain; you have a username and password form. The user types in her username and her browser automatically now also fills in the password field and she's ready to submit. This simply does not work in AngularJS yet. So, if you have this code...:

<form>
<input name="username" ng-model="username" placeholder="Username">
<input type="password" name="password" ng-model="password" placeholder="Password">
<a class="button button-block" ng-click="submit()">Submit</a>
</form>


$scope.signin_submit = function() {
  $http.post('/signin', {username: $scope.username, password: $scope.password})
    .success(function(data) {
      console.log('Signed in!');
    };
  return false;
};

It simply doesn't work! I'll leave it to the reader to explore what available jQuery-helped hacks you can use.

7. Events for selection in a <select> tag is weird

This is one of those cases where readers might laugh at me but I just couldn't see how else to do it.
First, let me show you how I'd do it in jQuery:

$('select[name="choice"]').change(function() {
  if ($(this).val() == 'other') {
    // the <option value="other">Other...</option> option was chosen 
  }
});

Here's how I solved it in AngularJS:

$scope.$watch('choice', function(value) {
  if (value == 'other') {
    // the <option value="other">Other...</option> option was chosen 
  }
});

What's also strange is that there's nothing in the API documentation about $watch.

8. Controllers "dependency" injection is, by default, dependent on the controller's arguments

To have access to modules like $http and $timeout for example, in a controller, you put them in as arguments like this:

function MyController($scope, $http, $timeout) { 
  ...


It means that it's going to work equally if you do:

function MyController($scope, $timeout, $http) {  // order swapped
  ...


That's fine. Sort of. Except that this breaks minification so you have to do it this way:

var MyController = ['$scope', '$http', '$timeout', function($scope, $http, $timeout) {
  ...


Ugly! The first form depends on the interpreter inspecting the names of the arguments. The second form depends on the modules as strings.

The more correct way to do it is using the $inject. Like this:

MyController.$inject = ['$scope', '$http', '$timeout'];
function MyController($scope, $http, $timeout) {
  ...


Still ugly because it depends on them being strings. But why isn't this the one and only way to do it in the documentation? These days, no application is worth its salt if it isn't minify'able.

9. Is it "angular" or "angularjs"?

Googling and referring to it "angularjs" seems to yield better results.

This isn't a technical thing but rather something that's still in my head as I'm learning my way around.

In conclusion

I'm eager to write another blog post about how fun it has been to play with AngularJS. It's a fresh new way of doing things.

AngularJS code reminds me of the olden days when the HTML no longer looks like HTML but instead some document that contains half of the business logic spread all over the place. I think I haven't fully grasped this new way of doing things.

From hopping around example code and documentation I've seen some outrageously complicated HTML which I'm used to doing in Javascript instead. I appreciate that the HTML is after all part of the visual presentation and not the data handling but it still stumps me every time I see that what used to be one piece of functionality is now spread across two places (in the javascript controller and in the HTML directive).

I'm not givin up on AngularJS but I'll need to get a lot more comfortable with it before I use it in more serious applications.

In yesterdays DjangoCon BDFL Keynote Adrian Holovaty called out that Django needs a Real-Time story. Well, here's a response to that: django-sockjs-tornado

Immediately after the keynote I went and found a comfortable chair and wrote this app. It's basically a django app that allows you to run a socketserver with manage.py like this:

python manage.py socketserver

Chat Demo screenshot
Now, you can use all of SockJS to write some really flashy socket apps. In Django! Using Django models and stuff. The example included shows how to write a really simple chat application using Django models. check out the whole demo here

If you're curious about SockJS read the README and here's one of many good threads about the difference between SockJS and socket.io.

The reason I could write this app so quickly was because I have already written a production app using sockjs-tornado so the concepts were familiar. However, this app has (at the time of writing) not been used in any production. So mind you it might still need some more love before you show your mom your django app with WebSockets.

screenshot
Last month I built a very basic mobile app using jQuery Mobile. It's still available here.

One flaw I found with jQuery Mobile is that it's a bit slow. Scrolling up and down feels sluggish. It looks pretty though.
This time around I opted instead to use Twitter Bootstrap instead. (inspired by some other blog post with a similar experience)

Also, with this version I've set up a domain name: uslicensespotter.com
The source code is available here and there are some interesting pieces of this that I'd like to delve into deeper.

Optimization

This new app feels faster and scrolling is smoother. There is still some parts where it doesn't feel snappy. The primary part is when you click one of the buttons. It works something like this:

// binding (simplified)
  $('form a.btn').click(function(event) {
    var $el = $(this);
    var id = $el.attr('id');
    if ($el.hasClass('btn-success')) {
      switch_off($el);
      State.remove(id);
    } else {
      switch_on($el, new Date());
      State.add(id);
    }
    return false;
  });

// the switch_on function
  function switch_on($el, timestamp) {
    $el.addClass('btn-success');
    $('i', $el).addClass('icon-white').removeClass('icon-remove').addClass('icon-check');
    $('span', $el).text(timeSince(timestamp));
  }

There are two potentials for making this faster.

  1. Instead of using element.click(...) I can use touch events which supposedly fire better thus starting the actual animation earlier.
  2. Instead of modifying the element (adding a class, adding a class, removing a class, adding a class, changing the text) what I could do is to remove the element from the DOM, manipulate it and then re-insert it back into the DOM. That way the (mobile) browser doesn't have to re-render after each manipulation.

My next task is to apply both of these ideas and try to somehow keep and eye on which makes the biggest impact.

Deployment

One neat new feature with this new code is the deployment script, build.py. The actual code might be a bit of a mess but the way it works for me is great.

What I do is that I work on the app by editing dev.html and when I deploy I run python build.py and it opens dev.html and concatenates and minifies all CSS and Javascript ready for ideal caching. This reduces the static assets down to just three files weighing only 78Kb altogether.

(Note: even more can be done such as switching to ZeptoJS and removing bootstrap stuff I don't need with a custom download)

What the script does is that it parses the dev.html template with lxml and applies whatever transformations it needs to do such as generating the Apple touch images eg. this one

I think a lot of mobile web developers can benefit from this script. Maybe you don't want to copy it verbatim but you might want to copy it and do the transformations you want to do.

This is part 1 in, hopefully, a series of blog articles about developing mobile apps with Javascript.

Screenshot
My app that I'm going to build is called "US License Plate Spotter". A dead-simple app where you tick off each US state once you see it.

In case you didn't know, in the USA, you mostly see "local" license plates because if you for example buy a car in Micigan but move to California, after about 3 months you have to re-license it with plates from the state you're living in. So here where I live, in California, you mostly see "California plates" but every now and then you see other plates such as Nevada, Washington or Floria. The further away, the less likely to be spotted.

Anyway, the first version is available right here: http://www.peterbe.com/uslicenseplates/index.html Code is on Github
It works best in smartphones like an Android or iOS app since it's built with jQuery Mobile

This is about 2 hours of work which is pretty quick but it was easy because I've used jQuery Mobile a lot in the past and this was more or less just getting familiar with the recent changes.
The app works fine and I even used it this last weekend to keep track of new license plates since Friday.

Next steps:

  1. Polish it a bit more with an icon, an about page and maybe add the date it was spotted
  2. Add "cloud storage" (at the moment it uses localStorage) using the Facebook API
  3. Compile an Android and iOS version with PhoneGap and see if I can launch it in some app stores.

UPDATE

Here's part 2 in the series.

I learned something today thanks to my colleague Axel Hecht; the difference between $element.data('foo') and $element.attr('data-foo').

Basically, the .data() getter/setter is more powerful since it can do more things. For example:

<img id="image" data-number="42">
// numbers are turned to integers
assert($('#image').data('number') + 1 == 43);
// the more rudimentary way
assert($('#image').attr('data-number') + 1 == '421');

Integers is just one thing the .data() getter is able to parse. It can do other cool things too like booleans and JSON. Check out its docs

So, why would you NOT use .data()?

One reason is that with .data(name, value) the original DOM element is not actually modified. This can cause trouble if other pieces of Javascript depend on the value of a data- attribute further along in the page rendering process.

To see it in action check out: test.html

In conclusion: just be aware of it. Feel free to use the .data() getter/setter because it's way better but be aware of the potential risks.