Today I Learned #2

While a back ago I did a little test. I read the Deliberate Vim book, did the exercises and decided to go full Vim. So I installed ViEmu to my VisualStudio 2015. Aaaand had a few struggles. Some shortcuts conflicts that I had to solve manually and still it wasn’t so convenient to use.

I ended up skipping ViEmu for VS2017. But it didn’t last for long – one day I noticed I’m really used to some of the Vim commands and it’s more difficult to work now without them. So I did some research, and got a great recipe!

If you have anything keyboard-changing installed already (like Resharper) – reset all shortcuts to default – so you get only VisualStudio’s default key bindings. After that install ViEmu and let it take all the shortcuts it needs. Finally, install Resharper/apply Resharper scheme. Those are the steps that will provide minimal friction while working with Vim in VS.


Bonus round: For VisualStudio Code – just install a plugin, it works great!

PureScript: The First Look

After ElixirConfEu I decided to try PureScript. Partly for yet another frontend try, party because it looked interesting and partly because I wanted a little break with something way different and new.

I read a bit of this awesome book and did some of the exercises. Here are some first thoughts:

The bad:

  • Install npm, to install bower, to install dependencies. I get it, it’s JS. It’s frontend. It’s too young to have its own package manager and it’s even better that it uses a common tool. But come one, you can do it better than this. Especially if apparently you can compile to C/Erlang/someothers – not only JS.
  • Haskell-like docs. It’s not the worst, but it’s really not newbie friendly.

The good:

  • Types! This is the most awesome thing, really. You specify what type goes in, what goes out. It’s marvelous, especially for someone with a strong C# background.
  • Quite obvious, FP approach
  • Book (mentioned earlier) is a great learning resource. It’s free and written by PS creator
  • I know that it’s not something crucial, but I really like the syntax
  • How easy is to start, VSCode tools are great, you can google stuff and get some answers already
  • The community seems small but nice
  • Error messages are really, really helpful!

As you can see, there are way more “goods” than “bads”. Should you try it? Definitely? Should you use it in your pet project? Sure! Should you use it in production? It depends 😉 After going with dotnet core RC1 in production I’d say “hell yeah” but this requires the team that wants (not “can“; want!) to handle it, so my answer here is “it depends”. Nevertheless, I’m hyped and will do something more with it, but the break is over and I’m heading back to Beam world now.

Today I Learned #1

While using EntityFramework in my integration tests (which is a separate topic 😉 ) I discovered quite interesting thing. I guess this may be obvious to some, but I learned Entity “the hard way” jumping into an app with Entity already in place and had to adapt – this was my first app with a database by the way.

So if you add entities to your context I’m used to adding all entities to context, so the code would look like

using (var ctx = new Context())
    var first = new FirstEntity { .. };
    var second = new SecondEntity { .. };


But if entities are related, you can safely do this

using (var ctx = new Context())
    var first = new FirstEntity { .. };
    var second = new SecondEntity { Relation = first };

    //this will also take care of the first one!

Or even this!

using (var ctx = new Context())
    var second = new SecondEntity { Relation = new FirstEntity{ .. } };


It’s nice and saves some typing! 🙂

Property testing

During ElixirConfEu in Barcelona, I learned about Property Testing. It looks pretty neat and it got me interested. Basics sound quite easy but there’s more than meets the eye and I’ve been reading/listening about it for a while.
As I don’t feel comfortable enough to do a deep dive into the topic I will do an introduction to it. After I get a deeper understanding with some “real life” examples (or maybe doing them myself) I will write a follow-up.

Property testing is a term originating from Haskell lib called QuickCheck. It was created to ease the pain of writing many tests. Instead of writing n specific unit test you can generate them.

Using QuickCheck (here is the list of ports to your language of choice) you define a property of a piece of code you’re testing.

For trivial example – if you were to write your own ordering function you can define few properties – if you order it twice the result won’t change, the only change is the position of elements (so you don’t hanger values) and so on.

QuickCheck then generates data, runs n tests using this random data and if it finds failing case it executes something called shrinking – trying to find minimal failing case. It can ease up debugging or seeing straight away what’s wrong.

While it’s all fun, I’m still not sure what are the cases in a commercial code where this is the best approach. Also, turns out that properties also form kind of patterns – and I’m yet to learn about all this.

Nevertheless, I’m quite hyped and want to learn more – it seems more of easy to get, hard to master useful tool than a novelty, but only time will tell.

Erlang Factory Lite Rome 2017 #1

Hello for the second (and last) part of EFL Rome2017 post! You can find previous one here

Music and Message Passing Concurrency by Joe Armstrong

Here goes the big name, Joe himself. While it may suggest a lot about music, it was more about messaging and integration. Joe showed how he could remotely control Sonic Pi. He was glad that there’s an other way to control a program “than clicking a bloody mouse!”.

He did that sending properly coded messages to UDP port. And here it all started. Joe is a big supporter of messaging based communication. API suposes a programming language, so it’s not a best way – you’re tied to programming language. As the main topic emerged once again – how to integrate and there are some programming languages better to do other things – so you’d naturally like to use them for specific purposes and not be stuck with one.

You should also treat specific parts/modules/apps like a black boxes – you know nothing (even the language used) except for how to communicate (using messages, of course 😉 ) – “the protocol only matters.”

  1. Pick transport (TCP/UDP)
  2. Pick encoding (XML/JSON/YAML/etc)
  3. Pick protocol description (RFC/UBF/etc)
Some combinations for you to pick from
With the Joe himself!

Joe picked OSC over TCP/UPD with some English to describe it. OSC is a very simple encoding – and it has “simplicity by design”, as Joe said, “if you can’t create complex data structures, the interface will be simple and easy to understand”.

“if you can’t create complex data structures, the interface will be simple and easy to understand”

Which is another way worth remebering. Complicated systems are easy – you just keep adding stuff. Simple systems are difficult to make.

I think thou – if one thing should be remembered from this talk it’s fact, that we should be able to understand the system by looking on the messages going in and out.

Adopting Elixir in a 10 Year Old Codebase by Michael Klishin

While it seems like adding Elixir to some Ruby ecosystem, it was actually using Elixir in Erlang project. They did a CLI tool in Elixir as a “check” with ~8k LOC, ~750 tests and 70 CL commands available.

I will just point out good:

  1. It’s more approachable than Erlang
  2. It’s a recriutment honeypot – easier to lure people into project
  3. Has decent standard lib
  4. Potentian contributors could have not contributed if it was in Erlang

And bad things he learned:

  1. Integration with is a pain
  2. Elixir/Erlang data type mismatches
  3. String vs Binary
  4. Some Elixir libs are a one man show ( 😉 )

Overall Michael feels like Elixir was worth adopting as sees a bright future for it – and you can utilize it even without agents, macros and sweet libs. He was even more optimistic for Elixir than for Erlang itself.

A Little Replica of the Internet in Elixir by Ju Liu

He describes himself as a Mad Scientist – and, boy, he is!

Basically it was a little trivia on the Internet and his attempt to do a small replica of it’s routing system using Elixir (and nerves). He had 2 RP3s connected, simulating North America and Europe with routing links. There’s a bit of how the Internet works and how it connects – he used that common knowledge to simulate it and it worked like a charm. There a code online if you want to look at it!

This is the Internet! Be careful not to break it!

The real show started when he took the router, connected third Rasp and added Asia – it all worked! It was a nice show for the Nerves project to show what you can do with them. Funny thing – the most problems, and the slowest part was HTML+JS frontend where all the arrows where hacked as separate CSS elements – so it crashed when connection number rose. Still, great project and you can look at it on github!

Embrace the Database with Ecto by Josh Branchaud

Basically it was how to use the Ecto and how to query the database. I really don’t know if it was the high temperature in the room, or it was just quite obvious to me – but I cannot say that I didn’t find anything at all – there was one statement that I won’t say if I find true or false – because it’s strengh is that it provokes some interesting conversations:

“The database should be the ultimate gatekeeper – it should validate the data coming in”

Monitoring and Pre-emptive support: The road to five nines on the Beam by Francesco Cesarini

It was a great talk with a lot of focusing on “no single point of failure” “we need at least 2 of everything”. He showed 2 types of monitoring usefulness – you can prevent failures, or do quick post-mortems. With monitoring you can prove your innocence in 1.5 minutes – without trying to replicate the bug and trying to debug. While there’s a lot to be said – he said so many cool stories I guess you have to go and give it a listen yourself – this one seems almost identical.

And this was it – it was a great experience and possibility to talk with those people was sometimes eye-opening.

Integration series: Messaging

Last time we spoke about some integration methods we can use.

As we see, there are methods that are not so tight coupled, being able to generate lots of little data packages (like file transfer), easily synchronizable (like shared database), details of storage’s structure hidden from applications (unlike shared database) and being able to send data to invoke behavior in other app (like RPI) but with being resistant to failure (unlike RPI).

And here messaging comes to play. The rules are simple: you create message, send it to message channel and someone waiting for this kind of message will get it. While it has some problems on it’s own, it is reliable, fequent, fast and asynchronous and.

  1. Being asynchronous means you won’t block process while waiting for the result/answer. Calling app can continue with it’s work.
  2. Decoupling. Messages will be sent to message channel without knowing almost anything about receiver. The common interface are the types of messages sent, not the bidings between apps. It also allows separation integration developement from application developement.
  3. Frequent, small messages allow applications to behave almost immediatly by sending more messages.

And many more we’ll explore in the series. Why I will write a series on it? The main disadvantage of messaging is the learning curve. While other methods are fairly easy to use, messaging and async thinking is not something we’re used to. But once learned this concepts will help you not only when integrating lots of enormous applications. You can also apply it to “integrate” classes/functions/actors in your code.

Introduction to integration

I started to get more into integration and integration patterns. There are few reasons:

  • Open Settlers II will be created with integration with possible UI integration in mind
  • It will be helpful in my daily job
  • I feel that it’s an important topic in software engineering

Having this set up, let’s briefly talk about some integration methods.

File transfer

We want two (or more) applications to exchange data. We can use simplest solution – write it to file for others to read. (Almost?) every language non-esoteric lanuage has some file read/write function built in. It is also easy to do no matter what environment you’re working with. Coupling is not so tight as application devs can (should?) agree on common file format(s) to work with. Changes in code won’t change the communication as long as output file is the same. With json it’s easier than ever. Even with third party apps it’s still trivial to consume messages from software we don’t have influence on.

There are also some downsides, too. There is a lot of work with deciding on file structure, file processing. Not too mention storage place, naming conventions, delivering file (if one app doesn’t have rights to output location of other), times of reading/writing (and what will happen if one reads while the other writes). But it all is nothing compared to one big problem. Changes propagate slowly (one system can produce file overnight, after “collection” of other). Desynchronization is common and it’s easy for corrupted data be spread before any validation (if it’s even possible).

Shared database

Shared database is a remedy for the synchronization problem. All data is in one central database, so information propagates instantly. Databases also have transaction mechanism to prevent some reading/writing-while-writing errors. You also don’t need to worry about different file formats.

But it also comes with a price. It’s difficult to design a shared database. Usually tables are designed to fit different applications and are a pain to work with. Worse if we’re talking enterprise level solutions and some critial app – its needs will be put higher, making work for others harder. After creating database design there’s a tendency to leave it as it is – changes can be hard to follow. Another problem is third-party software. It will usually work with its own design and it may change with newer verions. Database itself can become a perfomance bottleneck

Remote Procedure Invocation

Sometimes sharing data is not enough, because data changes may require actions in different applications. Think changing address at goverment service – there are a lot of adustments and documents to be generated. Apps maintain integrity of data it owns. It also can modify it without affecting other appliactions. Multiple interfaces to CRUD data can be created (e.g. few methods to update data, depending on caller), which can prevent semantic dissonance and enforces encapsulation.

It may loosen the coupling, but it’s still quite tight. In particular doing things in particular order can lead to muddy mess. While developers know how to write procedures (it’s what we do all the time, right?) and it may seem like a good thing it’s actually not so good. It’s easy to forget that we’re not calling local procedure and that it will take more time or can fail due to multiple reasons. Due to this thinking also quite tight coupling arises (as stated before).

As always, there’s always a tradeoff. But do we have the best approach here? Or can we do even better? I’ll address these questions in the next post in series.