Rey Bango

Web developer, honey badger

Which Linux Distro for Web Development?

Total lazy web question.

If I were setting up a Linux machine for web development, specifically to learn and code with Ruby on Rails, should I go with Linux Mint or Ubuntu Desktop (or some other distro)? And why the specific distro?

Looking for some feedback in the comments.

A Time for Change

For the last three and a half years, I’ve been privileged to work at the greatest software company in the world; Microsoft. During that time, I launched a standards-based web development site (scriptjunkie.com), worked with major product teams (Windows, Windows Phone & IE), partnered to launch initiatives that offered tremendous value to developers, represented MS at many events, and became the community bridge to the Internet Explorer team. I’ve learned a lot about building products, setting expectations, customer communications, and cross-org collaboration at a scale most haven’t experienced. It’s been challenging and rewarding.

But to me, the greatest thing about MS is working with amazing people. People who care deeply about what they build and enabling users to do great things with their products. It’s easy to look at MS as a big monolithic entity and forget that there are incredibly passionate people working there WHO GENUINELY CARE. I’ve seen this first hand. So much greatness.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it. They even allowed me to do it remotely. At a time when so many companies are reining in their remote employees under the guise of “better collaboration” (read: we don’t trust you), Microsoft gave me the opportunity to have an excellent job while not having to uproot my family, suffer insane commutes and maintain great work/life balance. And let’s not forget the world-class benefits which are the icing on the cake.

I would recommend this company to anyone in a heartbeat because they truly care about their employees.

When Opportunity Knocks…

Even when things are going great, life sometimes throws you another option that you simply have to explore. And that’s what happened to me.

Beginning December 2nd, I will be taking on a leadership role in Telerik’s Developer Relations team working to create a unified developer outreach strategy for the company along with relevant and consistent outbound messaging for Telerik’s growing product lines. These products span enterprise and web audiences helping them target:

  • Desktop Development
  • Web apps
  • Mobile
  • Collaboration
  • Software Testing
  • Content Management

and are complemented with services and support that help upramp customers quickly and make them successful. With 800+ employees and 11 offices worldwide, Telerik is well-positioned to continue to innovate quickly and offer new solutions as the industry evolves.

It’s a career opportunity that I’m incredibly excited about especially with a company that has an established track record of success and growth while maintaining a start-up, agile culture. That I already knew plenty at folks at Telerik (some former-Softies I worked with and many others from the conference circuit) and all raved about the company made my decision substantially easier. And the fact that they embrace the remote-work culture really helped seal the deal. So on to the next stage in my career.

My last day at Microsoft will be December 1st. Thank you Microsoft for a fantastic 3+ years.

And welcome Telerik, I look forward to contributing to your continued success.

jQuery Fundamentals Training Material Available as Open Source

In an incredibly generous move, jQuery star Rebecca Murphey has released the training materials she uses for her jQuery Fundamentals class under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States license. This is a pretty significant contribution because developing good training material is very difficult and if you’re looking to help get your staff or friends up to speed on jQuery, this is a great foundation to build from. In fact, she seems to encourage it! Check this out:

You are free to copy, distribute, transmit, and remix this work, provided you attribute the work to Rebecca Murphey as the original author and reference the GitHub repository for the work. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license. Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to the license.

Seriously, that’s a lot of flexibility and she’s even set it up in a nicely package Github repo for easy access. I looked it over and this does a great job of covering the basics of jQuery.

If you use her materials, definitely give her, at the very least, a shout-out during your training. She deserves it.

I’m going to add this to my list of awesome web development resources since this is golden.

Thanks for the putting this out there, Rebecca!

Video Interviews – The YayQuery Crew and Paul Irish of the jQuery Team

Nailing down the crazy YayQuery crew and keeping them in one place was a challenge but Ralph Whitbeck and I managed to do it and nail down another jQuery Podcast/video interview in the process. Check them out:

Paul Irish is a crazy dude but also incredibly involved in jQuery and web standards development. He’s one of the newest members of the jQuery team and I sat down to chat with him:

Alternative Client-Side Storage using Sessvars.js

I was recently on a project where I needed a really flexible persistent data storage mechanism. Normally, this would be fairly easily handled via server-side data persistence code but in this case, each page of the app was basically a single-page XHR app in that to render the page required a JSONP call and lots of DOM insertion and manipulation. What I was trying to accomplish was back-button support for these dynamically rendered pages and as most know, hitting the back-button on dynamically rendered DOM elements won’t set them back to their original state. To further complicate the problem, the pages were being built based on user input into search forms which included input fields, select boxes and even fly-out accordion style controls. Basically, I was dealing with storing a large amount of data across page views and cookies definitely were not the solution. Also considering that the browser requirements started at IE6, none of the current localstorage mechanisms were viable.

Persistent Session Variables in JavaScript

After searching quite a bit, I finally found a solution that worked like a charm. Thomas Frank had created a library called Sessvars.js that leveraged the window.name attribute. The reason for using window.name is that values stored in it persist across page views making it ideal for my needs. The one caveat is that it can only store a string value which at first seemed to throw a wrench in my plans. I needed to store complex data, not just strings. Thankfully, Thomas had come up with a novel way of dealing with this by building a JSON stringifier which serializes and deserializes object data. This allowed me to create a complex data store that could then be converted to a string on the fly. Loved it!

What I did was grab the file name and used that as a key value to identify the specific information for that page. So my object would look something like this:

{ "page1.html" : { "form" : { "wrapper" : "#search-box", 
							  "hash" = "field1=foo&field2=21&field3=Mike" } },
	  		     "callback" : "resetWrapper" },
{ "page2.html" : { "form" : { "wrapper" : "#adv-search-box", 
							  "hash" = "field21=red&field22=blue&field56=February" } } 
	  		     "callback" : "resetWrapper" },							  
{...
}

The benefit of this is that it allowed me total flexibility in storing not only the affected form fields for that specific page as well as allowing for unique form field names on a page by page basis. I could also nest the data as deep as I wanted (i.e.: object within object).

Actually storing that data was extremely easy. I simply defined Sessvars.js in my document:

<script type="text/javascript" src="sessionvars.js"></script>

and then stored my data into a property that I created in the default sessvars object:

sessvars.myObj = { "page1.html" : { "form" : { "wrapper" : "#search-box", 
							  "hash" = "field1=foo&field2=21&field3=Mike" } },
	  		     "callback" : "resetWrapper" },
{ "page2.html" : { "form" : { "wrapper" : "#adv-search-box", 
							  "hash" = "field21=red&field22=blue&field56=February" } } 
	  		     "callback" : "resetWrapper" },							  
{...
};

The library attaches a method to the window’s unload event which automatically handles the stringification of the JSON data once you leave the page so basically assigning the value is all I needed to do to persist the data.

Restoring the Page

The great thing about Sessvars.js is that when a page is loaded, it immediately restores the persistent data making it immediately accessible to your scripts. We were using jQuery on this project so I created a method that would determine the current page, search through my sessvars persistent data and if it found a key, reload the form with the user’s values as well as re-run any previous JSONP calls to ensure the results were populated. I added the method in $(document).ready() to ensure it got called on every page load:

myApp.state = (function(){
	return {

		resetForm : function( key ) {
			if (sessvars.myApp.state[key]) {
			    var o = {};
			    var queryString = decodeURIComponent( sessvars.myApp.state[key].form.hash );
			    var wrapperEle = "", formEle= "", vals = "";
			    
			    queryString.replace(/([^=]+)\=([^&]+)&?/ig, function(item, a, b){
			    	a = a.replace( /\&/g, " ");
			    	b = b.replace( /\+/g, " ");
			    	if (o[a] && typeof o[a] !== "object") {
						o[a] = o[a] + "," + b;
					} else {
						o[a] = b;
					}
				});	 		    
	    
	    		wrapperEle = $( sessvars.myApp.state[key].form.wrapper );
	    
		    	for (var index in o) { 
			   		vals = o[index].split( "," );
			   		
			   		formEle = wrapperEle.find("input[name=" + index + "], select[name=" + index + "]");

			   		if (formEle.length > 0) {
			   		
				   		if (formEle[0].tagName == "INPUT" && (formEle[0].type == "checkbox" || formEle[0].type == "radio")){
				   			formEle.attr( "checked", "");
				   			for (var i=0; i < vals.length; i++) {
		   	   			
				   	   			if (index == "accordianSet") {
					   	   			wrapperEle.find("input[name=" + index + "][value=" + vals[i] + "]").trigger( "click" );	
				   	   			} else {
									wrapperEle.find("input[name=" + index + "][value=" + vals[i] + "]").attr( "checked", "true" );				   	   			
				   	   			}
				   	   			
				   			}
				   		} else {
				   			formEle.val( o[index] );
						}
						
					}
				}
    		}			
		},
		resetPage : function( key ) {

			if (sessvars.myObj.state[key]) {
				this.resetForm( key );
			}
			
			.... call various other methods to reset the page ....
			
		};

})();

$(document).ready( function(){
	myApp.state.resetPage( myApp.utils.getPageName() );
});

The result is that the search forms would get repopulated with the previously entered values and and the JSONP call re-run based on these new values. It worked exactly like we needed it.

Closing Thoughts

Using Sessvars.js definitely helped us out of a jam. After looking at a number of back-button solutions and even updating window.location, this turned out to be the best solution for our needs due to the dynamic nature of every page. The other takeaway is that using window.name safely affords you about 2mb of data storage. I say this because of the testing that Thomas did. In his research he found the following:

IE7 gave up at 32 Mb with a “out of memory” error. Firefox gave up at 32-64 Mb -sometimes crashed there about – otherwise threw an “out of memory” error.Safari gave up at 64 Mb and crashed. Opera has a limit built in (wise) and gave up after 2 Mb, throwing the error “Object to large (implementation limit.)”

I’ve not tested this out in newer versions of the browser so I can’t say if these limits are still set but for this project, 2mb was more than enough for our needs.

Update:

Since posting this I’ve been sent two other JS-based storage solutions which are definitely worth looking at:

Storage Pollyfiller by insanely talented developer Remy Sharp
LawnChair by uber-JS ninja Brian Leroux

Happy Birthday Dad. We Miss You.

pics 131 Today, my dad would’ve turned 67. It’s the first birthday we’ll celebrate without him. As the day goes by, the realization that he’s no longer with us really sets in. I know this day is going to be very rough for all of us, especially my mom. She’s experiencing a whole different level of sorrow than my brothers & I.

My youngest brother already sent me a text message this morning with a simple “I miss him” but simple as it may be, a text message on the phone, I know what he’s feeling on the other side of that line because I’m feeling the same way. I know my brother Rick is also down. I don’t need to ask him. I just know because he was taking care of my dad till his final days. Today is a tough day for him too.

Dad, we miss you so much but we know you’re better off now. A couple of things that I would’ve given you today:

A bottle of Jovan, your favorite cologne. As much as we tried to get you to switch to something cooler, you loved your Jovan:
Coty_Jovan_Musk_for_Men_Aftershave_50ml

Kisses and hugs from your 8 grandchildren (yep even the one that’s coming soon from Rick & Cindy):
pics 196
Logan

Another day in North Carolina:
IMG_0479

More time being harassed by your sons:
pics 040

Enchilado de Langosta:
enchilado

Most of all, I would’ve given you more time with Mom:
pics 134

S30 6-13-04 040

I hope you’re celebrating your butt off today, Dad. Without you, we wouldn’t be here and I appreciate you giving me life. Happy birthday.

NewEgg.com Totally Redeems Themselves

I posted the other day about my disappointment in NewEgg.com for what I felt was a lack of genuine interest in my problem with the way my order was packaged. I felt that I was doing the right thing by contacting them to explain how my package arrived in the hopes that it could improve their service but ultimately, it felt like it fell on deaf ears. NewEgg is a pretty big company and I honestly didn’t expect much to happen from my post. It was a venting session mainly.

So yesterday, out of the blue, I get a phone call Mike Paulus, NewEgg’s Customer Service Operational Support Manager, as well as Kerrigan Hodnett, a director at NewEgg. Woah! Quite unexpected!

We talked for about 20 minutes during which both were very apologetic for the service I had received and the lack of attention to my concerns. What struck me was that they took the time to look me up in their database to get my contact info, read through my chat transcript with the rep (ensuring they had a complete picture) and actually called me to ensure that my concerns were addressed and to let me know that they valued me as a customer. I didn’t ask them to do it. I didn’t request to speak to a manager. They just did it!

This is really what customer service is about and I can’t remember the last time a company, especially the size of NewEgg, took the time to reach out to me about a problem. I’m still very much astonished by this but I’m very thankful that Mike & Kerrigan took the time to contact me. It really does speak volumes about the type of business that NewEgg is & how they care for their customers.

NewEgg.com Disappointment

I let a lot of things slide mainly because I’ve been around enough to know some things are beyond your control. But today, the folks at NewEgg.com disappointed me. I’ve ordered plenty of PC gear from them and they’re generally very good. So when I saw the following, I was surprised to say the least:

box1

box2

The fact that the box was all messed up, while not a good situation, didn’t really concern me because NewEgg always does a great job of packing stuff to prevent damage. They also have very good customer service so if something got lost, I’m sure they would’ve replaced it.

What did bother me was the following:

box-packagin

That is just a terrible packing job and in my opinion is a sign of pure laziness. How the heck would anyone feel it’s okay to stick in a bunch of packing, lay the ordered product on the top of it and just close the box?! That’s a recipe for disaster. Having worked at UPS when I was younger, I know how packages are handled and that is NOT the best way to ensure something goes undamaged. Very disappointing.

When I spoke to a customer service rep about all of this, I have to say that I just got the feeling that it wasn’t a concern to them. She did offer me a $5 credit but really wasn’t interested in getting the pics that I took until I pressed her on it.

I just hope this isn’t a sign of things to come since it’s one of my favorite sites to purchase equipment from.

Update: I received a call from NewEgg the next day and they’ve totally redeemed themselves.

jQuery & ColdFusion..CF'ers are Starting to Catch the Fever

I've been writing about the jQuery JavaScript framework for some time and really trying to help the CF community understand the power of this very lightweight library. As the head of evangelism for the jQuery project, it's my job to ensure that the correct message gets out about jQuery and that I continuously find ways of helping jQuery developers get the information they need. Being very vested in ColdFusion, I want CF developers to know why I chose jQuery for my JS development and how they can benefit from its power. So when I see so many big names in the CF world getting tuned onto it, I know there's something special about jQuery.

A cool thing that's happened of late is that jQuery has started to find it's way into the toolboxes of CF developers with no prodding at all. Basically, they've heard how great jQuery is, took it for a test run and are now hooked, the most recent being Ray Camden & Dan Vega.

This is very exciting to me as it demonstrates jQuery's continued growth and acceptance in the development world. Everyday I find new sites that are leveraging jQuery to add amazing functionality for their users and seeing CF developers adding to that is truly awesome.

If you want to learn more about the jQuery project, here is a great list of resources that I've compiled:

jQuery Current Version: v1.2.6

jQuery Main Site:

http://jquery.com/

jQuery UI Effects & UI Library Main Site:

http://ui.jquery.com/

The compressed & uncompressed code:

http://code.google.com/p/jqueryjs/downloads/list

SVN Info:

http://code.google.com/p/jqueryjs/source

Plugins & UI Widgets/Controls:

http://plugins.jquery.com/

Documentation:

http://docs.jquery.com/Main_Page

http://remysharp.com/jquery-api/

http://jquery.bassistance.de/api-browser/

Mailing Lists- jQuery Support, community news:

http://groups.google.com/group/jquery-en

Project Blog:



http://jquery.com/blog/

Learning Resources:

http://docs.jquery.com/Tutorials

http://www.learningjquery.com/

http://15daysofjquery.com/

Sites Using jQuery:

http://docs.jquery.com/Sites_Using_jQuery

Twitter accounts for the latest jQuery and jQuery UI news:
http://twitter.com/jquery

http://twitter.com/jqueryui

Ext 2.0.1 Released

The Ext team is happy to announce the release of version 2.0.1 of Ext JS. This is a maintenance release that fixes several issues with the 2.0 release. Some notable issues that have been addressed include:

  • Fixed various overflow/scroll issues related to form fields and grid
  • Workaround included for the Firefox 2.0/Mac overflow:auto invisible scrollbar bug
  • Fixed several issues related to destroying form elements
  • Multiple GridView and GroupingView fixes
  • Various other minor bug fixes and documentation updates

For complete details on what's changed, please have a look at the 2.0.1 release notes. We encourage all Ext 2.0 users to upgrade to 2.0.1 at your earliest convenience.

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