Category Archives: Tech

All about technology

Write awesome CLIs!

It’s time to start writing kick ass CLIs instead of hacking scripts! 🙂 It’s a lot easier than you might think.

If you’re impatient just scroll to the bottom for a link to the code in Github. 🙂

All those scripts

I see a lot of scripts around, but they usually suffer from many of these problems:

  • Missing or bad error handling
  • Limited input validation
  • Clumsy parameter handling
  • No testing, so every change requires testing all input combinations. Not to mention different state on the hard drive.
  • Copy and paste code. It’s hard to re-use libraries in scripts, even though a lot exists.
  • Implicit dependencies to OS and OS packages

I’ve done way too much of this in my time, and I have felt the pain of maintaining 16k lines of Bash code (I know, stupid). So I started looking for something better…

What I wanted

Coming from the developer side of things I’m really used to making third party libraries do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. It felt really awkward that there were no proper way to do this when creating tools for the command line. So I set out to look for:

  • A good way to define the Command Line Interface
  • Proper error handling
  • Test frameworks to enable automated testing
  • A way to package everything together with dependencies

In addition; I really wanted to do some automated testing. I hate writing code without knowing instantly that it performs as I believe it does. You might be differently inclined. 😉

Solutions?

There are many ways of doing this, but the only ones I’ve been able to get some real experience with are Python and Java. I would really like to learn Go, but it’s usually not politically viable and would take some time to learn.

I did maintain and develop a CLI in Python for a good while. And I really like the Python  language and all the awesome third party libraries available. But I always found it lacking in the distribution part. We were under certain (networking) constraints, so downloading stuff from PyPi was NOT and option. It took quite a lot of hacking with Virtualenv and Pip to set up some kind of infrastructure that enabled us to distribute our CLI with it’s dependencies. YMMV. 🙂

But all these hoops we were jumping through with Python made me think about what is great about Java. The classpath. 😉 Yeah, I know, I know. You all hate the classpath. But that’s because it’s been abused by the Java EE vendors through all these years. It’s really quite awesome, just make sure you take full control of it.

Java with some help from friends (see the details further down) would let me package it all up and create a truly cross platform single binary with all dependencies included (JRE required)! It even starts fast! (Unless you overload it with all kinds of Spring+Hibernate stuff. That’s on you.). And even though it sounds like something a masochist would do; it is actually kick ass. Try it. 🙂

If you don’t do this in Java; use Docopt (available in many languages). You should write CLIs and keep your build tool simple (dependencies, versioning, packaging).  I’ve seen way too much tooling shoe horned into different build tools. Write CLIs for the stuff not related to building and use the right tool for the right task.

Test a Java CLI

If you just want to try how fast and easy it actually works (you’ll need a JRE on your path):

$ curl https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/122923/executable-json-util-1.0-SNAPSHOT.jar > ~/bin/json-util && chmod u+x ~/bin/json-util
$ json-util
Usage:
  json-util animate me
  json-util say [--encrypt=] 

In case you did not catch that:

  • We downloaded a jar, and saved it as a regular binary and saved to ~/bin.
  • We executed it and didn’t give any parameters so it printed the help text.

It’s a really simple (and stupid) example, but to invoke some “real” functionality you can do:

$ json-util say "Hello blog!"
Hello blog!

$ json-util --encrypt=rot13 "Hello blog!"
Uryyb oybt!

Neat! Write the utils you need to be effective in a language you know, with the tooling you know (this util is created with Maven). And write some F-ing tests while you’re at it. 😉

Tell me more, tell me more…

The things that makes writing CLIs in Java fun, easy and robust is:

  • Java. 🙂 Alright, alright. Maybe not the best language for this stuff. But the new IO APIs and the Streams with Lambdas in Java 8 helps a lot. And it’s typed… If you’re into that kind of stuff. 🙂 You can of course do this in Groovy or anything else that runs on the JVM, but be aware that many of those languages takes some time to bootstrap and you’ll notice that every time you run the CLI.
  • Maven-shade-plugin. It packages your code together with all the dependencies to one binary.
  • Maven-really-executable-jars-plugin. It modifies the single jar with a zip-compliant header that lets you skip the “java -jar …” part of executing it every time.
  • Docopt-java. It makes writing, validating and parsing command line arguments extremely easy and fun.
  • Docopt-completion. Once you have your kick ass CLI, add some kick ass tab-completion. 😉

Show me code!

You can see an example of all of this (Java and Maven required) at: https://github.com/anderssv/executable-json-util .

SSL to the people

I have lost count of how many hours, days and even weeks I’ve wasted because of un-trusted self-signed/generated certificates in my time as a developer. Some util always trips up, makes me add a flag and then still fails. Trying to install custom root certificates works for some software, not all. It’s a complete mess and I long for the day it will be over.

Now, there is a solution: Let’s encrypt. Just get trusted certificates everywhere. Free, quick and easy. This will not give you all the levels of verification and trust that you can get from an SSL certificate; but it gives you an encrypted connection to every server out there. It’s way better than just HTTP, and it’s quick and easy.

Still beta, but took me about 10 minutes to set it up for this blog. Run, answer a question, check something and answer another. Bam! Encrypted! 🙂

Some thoughts and further links from Schneier.

Microservices reading list – part II

A little while ago I summarized some great articles and experiences with microservices. As it continues it’s travel along the hype cycle new excellent (and balanced) stuff is coming out, so I just thought I would add some of them.

I think these articles go more in depth about the trade offs and reasons behind choosing to build a microservices architecture. So read this post before you go back and review the ones in the first part. 🙂

These are the guys that had videos in my first post. Go there to see them. 🙂

Powerpoint presenters mode in VirtualBox

After switching to Linux as my main operating system I was expecting problems. Even though it has come far, it’s not really your granny’s operating system. 😉 I don’t use much Windows only software, but one of the problems was definitely going to be working with Powerpoint.

So I figured VirtualBox with Windows and Powerpoint would be a decent solution. And it has worked like a charm.

But I did miss presenters mode when doing the talks, and never really thought it would be possible. Until I discovered that you can change the number of displays associated with your VM. 🙂

It’s not without it’s quirks, but doable if you get used to it. So you can do:

  • Plug in your external monitor
  • Make sure the Linux settings are correct with resolution and placement
  • Make sure the VM isn’t started
  • Go into settings > Display on you VirtualBox VM
  • Set the VM to have 2 displays
  • Boot the VM
  • Go full screen with the VM
  • Configure windows settings to reflect multiple displays and resolution and position
  • Start PowerPoint and do F5 for presentation

It should work now. 🙂 Good luck with your presentation… 😉

A kind of Microservices reading list

I’ve been working with Microservices for the last couple of years. It was kind of an uncharted territory back when we started. But the attention on the net and in the community has increased a lot over the past year and this spring and summer brought quite a few sobering experience reports. It is definitely not failing, but there are some real considerations to be aware of, and some of them are quite major non-technical issues. Culture and organisation needs to be changed to support working in a highly distributed manner with Microservices.

So if you’re considering Microservices, you’ll be in for an exciting ride. For many it makes sense, but do read these articles and watch the videos to make sure you don’t just make a gigantic leap of faith. Being prepared for the issues will help you move forward when the going gets tough. 🙂

So here we go:

And if you have only two hours, watch these videos. A very clear message by two very good speakers:

If you’re Norwegian speaking you might also want to check out our talk about our experiences at my current client: https://vimeo.com/album/1807533/video/105777592 .

Let me know what I’ve missed. 🙂

My favourite Android apps: 2014 update

I thought I’d update my list of recommended applications. Let me know if there’s some missing!

Quick note: I use only Nexus devices (direct from Google) so it has some shortcomings that are fixed by HTC, Samsung etc. But I prefer to fix some of them myself instead of living with all the bloat and slow updates from the other vendors. 🙂

Highlights

  • Agent – Lets you silence your phone when sleeping or in meetings. Read messages out loud when driving and remember where you parked. Nice little utility.
  • Amazon Kindle – Yeah. Books. 🙂
  • Audible – Audio books for my commutes. 🙂
  • Authenticator – 2-factor authentication. If you don’t know what this is it’s time to read up on it after Heartbleed. Works for Evernote, Gmail, Dropbox, Amazon and lots more.
  • CamScanner – Scan documents with your cell camera. Awesome. 🙂
  • Circa – News summaries. Works really well for catching up fast, and lets you follow topics once you find them interesting.
  • DashClock Widget – Customize your lock screen in awesome ways.
  • Deliveries – Package tracking for ALL providers
  • Dropsync – Some folders in Dropbox I actually want offline and on the phone, so this handles that. And it’s two way, so when I delete something on my computer it gets wiped off the phone too.
  • Evernote – Everything that needs to be remembered. It’s extremely flexible so you need to find your way of using it, but it’s worth it.
  • KineMaster – Video editing for your mobile phone. Pretty slick.
  • LastPass – Remember passwords and use different ones for each sites. Heartbleed…
  • NRK Cast – Cast NRK programming to Chromecast. Norway only.
  • Plex – Your media available everywhere. And with Chromecast. 🙂
  • Pocket – Read it later, got way too much stuff stored here.
  • PriceSpy – Compare prices. Think it’s limited to Nordic countries.
  • Shush! Ringer Restorer – Automatically restore your ringer when the meeting is over.
  • SwiftKey – Must have keyboard replacement. Just try it.
  • Textra – Simple and easy SMS and MMS application. Because I run Nexus the only other app installed for SMS is Hangouts. But try it, even if you have a decent one already.
  • Waze – Awesome free and social GPS driving application. Real time updates and re-routing based on traffic from other drivers that use Waze.

The rest

  • AirAudio – Sends your audio to AirPlay compatible devices. I have several Airport Express throughout my house that are wired to speakers. Spotify in sync over the entire house. 🙂
  • AllCast – Lets you cast videos and pictures to your Chromecast. Big screen baby!
  • ASTRO File Manager – Good file manager with support for advanced operations.
  • Avia – Media player with Chromecast support.
  • Banjo – Social media aggregator that focuses on friends near by, or just a map of everything that happens around you.
  • Battery Left – Predicts how many hours you have left of battery time based on you normal usage pattern.
  • BitTorrent Sync – Sync between your mobiles and computers. No central storage like Dropbox, but free and it might be a good thing the files doesn’t pass through the US. 🙂
  • Chromecast – Well not really much functionality here except for managing your Chromecast. It really means you should buy an Chromecast. 😉
  • ClockSync – Synchronizes your clock with the big internet. Requires ROOT.
  • Cloud Print – Print documents from your phone if you have set up cloud print on your computer.
  • DashClock Fitbit Extension – Well, used in DashClock to show Fitbit info.
  • DashClock Sunrise Extension – Shows sunset and sunrise on Dashclock.
  • Dashclock Yr Extension – Shows you the local weather in Dashclock
  • Device Manager – Locate your lost tablet or second phone. 🙂
  • Dropbox – Well, Dropbox. Let’s me access things on Dropbox without using space on the phone.
  • Endomondo PRO – Exercises. Great Fitbit integration too.
  • Facebook – Well, Facebook 🙂
  • Fitbit – Because I use a Fitbit Flex. 🙂
  • Flipboard – Good news aggregator for social media. Slick experience.
  • Foursquare – Best check-in network I guess. Not the most active user, but I’m intrigued by the recommendation possibilities.
  • Instagram – Yeah. 🙂
  • LinkedIn – Yeah
  • Markers – Simple graphics.
  • Meetup – Find Meetups and events close by. Great resource in Oslo as there’s a lot going on.
  • Messenger – Facebook Messenger. Despite all the noise recently about forcing everyone to use this, I really like this app.
  • Muzei – Dynamic wallpapers with multiple sources
  • Muzei 500px Editors Choice – A source for wallpapers
  • Netflix – Well, Netflix…
  • Nirvana ✓ – My TODO app. I like it’s adherence to the basics with some flexibility.
  • NRK Super – Entertain your kids in a pinch. Norway only.
  • NRKRadio – Live and recirded radio. Norway only.
  • NSB – Trains and tickets in Norway.
  • OpenVPN Connect – Call home… 🙂
  • PhotoCast – Cast photos to Chromecast. Does it in a fancy way. Still too slow though.
  • Pushbullet – Custom notifications from everything. Supported at IFTTT too.
  • QuizUp – When you have too much time on your hands… 😉
  • Quora – Awesome Q&A site. Get really insightful information on whatever you are wondering about.
  • Remote Desktop – Access your computers.
  • RuterReise – Oslo bus, tram and subway info.
  • Server Auditor – SSH client.
  • Shazam – Identify that song playing right now.
  • Skype – Yeah…
  • Snapchat – Well…
  • Speedtest – Check your network speeds wherever you are.
  • Spotify – Music…
  • Sun Surveyor – Check how the sun moves around a certain spot. Awesome when buying a new house.
  • Sync.ME – Sync information from LinkedIn and Facebook to your Google contacts.
  • Tasker – Make your phone do just about anything automatically.
  • Timely – Simple clock, alarm, timer, countdown app.
  • Titanium Backup – Backup and restore applications with settings. Requires ROOT.
  • Trello – Simple boards for todo, project, kanban etc.
  • TripAdvisor – Find and write reviews of everything. They also have specific offline guides for large cities, so make sure to search the market for them before travelling.
  • TripIt – Manage your itinerary and booking information.
  • TuneIn Radio Pro – Radio. Lots of radio.
  • Untappd – Social network for beer drinkers. 🙂
  • Vivino – Social network for wine drinkers. 🙂
  • Wakelock Detector – Since I am running a lot of applications I need to find the bad boy sometimes. This helps me find the ones using up battery. 🙂
  • Wifi Analyzer – Helps me diagnose bad connectivity and crowded channels.

Alright, as you see this is a quick alphabetical dump of many of my apps. Let me know if something can be done differently.

Speeding up development cycles with Docker

When I started doing Puppet development I was looking for a nice way to do testing. Vagrant was the best option at the time. But when Docker surfaced, and I figured it could speed things up considerably. And it does. 🙂

If you would like to move on to the code you can find my setup on Github. It should’nt take much work to transfer to your project or something else that is similar without Puppet. Go to Github for the code: https://github.com/anderssv/puppet-docker .

Let me know what you think. The README should help you getting started, but let me know if anything can be changed. 🙂

Docker is some kick ass technology. It can be used for a wide variety of many tasks. It gives complete isolation between containers when it comes to processes and software, while NOT reserving large amounts of disk, memory or CPU. And it is lightning fast (really, starting a new container takes less than a second)! Look into it if you haven’t.

Doing Puppet means that you need a VM, but you also you need to reset it every once in a while to simulate building a machine from the bottom up. Combining the mechanisms in Docker I was able to minimise what happens when you reset, except for the things Puppet does of course. So I have:

  • Created a Docker image (not uploaded to repo, created on the fly by the scripts) that can be used for launching Puppet scripts. Having everything like puppet rpms etc. installed, updated and available saves a lot of time when running.
  • Launch a SSH Daemon. This serves two purposes: Keeping the container running and allowing for a interface to run the puppet command.
  • Kill the container to reset, so you will get a “fresh” container to run on.

Doing this enables you to “boot” a fresh new image in no time, and get running Puppet scripts as fast as possible. It is my new favorite toy for automating and virtualising tests. 🙂 Let me know if there’s anything I can make clearer.