Firefox 6.0 Is My Default Browser Again    Posted:


I've just made Firefox my default browser again (after using Chrome/Chromium as my default for quite some time). FF6 renders things almost as fast as Chrome, even on our ridiculously complicated pages at work. This was my primary reason for not using FF for such a long time.

However, there are other things that I've decided are worth going back to FF at least for the time being. If any of you know of ways to accomplish this stuff with Chrome, please enlighten me!

  • Tab groups. I often have dozens and dozens of tabs open. Some I like to have open for my "night life." Some I like to have open for research. Some I like to have open for work. Tab groups let me organize these, and hide the ones I'm currently not interested in.
  • Vimperator. This was one thing I missed dearly when I decided to ditch FF for Chrome back in the day. Vimium just doesn't work as well. It's close, but still not as robust. For example, I can still use Vimperator shortcuts when viewing a raw file. Not so with Vimium.
  • Permanent exceptions for bad certificates. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal. You visit a site that has a bad certificate, your browser warns you that bad things could be happening and advises you to be careful. That's great! However, for work we all use several VMs for development (I often have 7 VMs running all the time just for my day-to-day routine). They all share the same certificate, which is bad. Chrome doesn't let me tell it to stop bothering me about the bad certificate. Firefox does.
  • Memory usage. Strangely enough, memory usage isn't something that most people say is awesome in FF these days. But I've personally discovered that it is better than Chrome on "poorly-endowed" systems. Both Chrome and FF are consume gobs of RAM on my regular 8GB+ RAM machines, but I have plenty to spare so it doesn't bother me much. I recently inherited my wife's old MacBook, which only has 1GB of RAM. Chrome is absolutely painful to use--it's slow and brings the rest of the system to a crawl. Firefox is noticeably more responsive on that machine.
  • Selenium. I don't do much UI testing these days, but I do still use Selenium to automate some mundane tasks for work. Haven't checked to see if this is available for Chrome for a while...

So far, the only regret I really have with my decision to move back to Firefox (again, for the time being) is the amount of chrome. Chrome does a good job of staying out of the way and letting me see the web page. Firefox just has just a bit more going on at the top and bottom of the window. Definitely not a deal-breaker on my 1920x1080 laptop though ;)

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Lots Of Happenings    Posted:


Yay! First post in nearly 4 months! I feel kinda bad for leaving my April Fools Day joke on the front page for such a long time, but lucky for me my blog isn't very popular! I could have found myself in a world of hurt.

I'd like to give you all a quick update on what's been going on in my life that somewhat justifies a 4-month window of no blog posts. First of all, we had 25% of our backend development team (1 person, leaving 3 developers) get fired earlier in the year, so the workload at my day job got to be a bit heavier.

Second, my wife and I were pregnant with identical twin girls. It was a relatively high-risk pregnancy, so we spent many days in the hospital for checkups and whatnot. The doctors gave her somewhat strict bed rest orders, and I worked from home since the beginning of July (my job is awesome that way) so I could keep and eye on my wife and help with our soon-to-be two year old son.

Third, we had our identical twin girls this past Tuesday. They arrived at 9:25 and 9:27, and their names are Claire and Jane. Claire weighed 5 lb 3 oz, and Jane weighed 4 lb 14 oz. As expected, they lost a bit of weight at the beginning, but they're starting to gain weight again. My wife and the girls are all doing very well.

My son, on the other hand, is starting to realize that his world is changing quite drastically. We're trying to give him as much attention as we can, but it's definitely not the amount that he's used to. He seems to do very well with his new baby sisters, but there have already been several episodes where he just breaks down. It's sad.

I have a few days of leave and vacation that I'll be taking to help get everything settle at home. The girls are still in the "let's sleep all day and night until we're hungry" sort of phase (which is quite awesome), and my wife is up most of the night with them. That means the only person who doesn't sleep a ton during the day is my son, so we get some good father/son time.

Anyway, on to the nerdy stuff. Since I find myself with a couple hours of downtime here and there, I plan to do a bug-smashing ticket-resolving spree. Just as my blog has sat dormant for months, so have many of my side projects. Now is the time to change that!

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Simple Weighted Sort in Python    Posted:


Last night I found myself in need of a simple weighted sort function in Python. I had a list of integers which represented object IDs in my project. Some of the objects needed to be processed before the others while iterating over the list of integers, and I already knew which object IDs those were. The order the rest of the object IDs were processed didn't matter at all. I just wanted the special object IDs to arrive at the beginning of the list, and the remaining object IDs could be in any order.

I was surprised at how simple it was to produce such a weighted sort. Here's an example of what I did:

import random
object_ids = [random.randint(0, 100) for i in range(20)]
special_ids = [random.choice(object_ids) for i in range(5)]
print 'Object IDs:', object_ids
print 'Special IDs:', special_ids

object_ids.sort(key=special_ids.__contains__, reverse=True)
print 'Object IDs:', object_ids

And some sample output:

Object IDs: [13, 97, 67, 5, 77, 58, 24, 99, 29, 20, 29, 75, 100, 31, 79, 5, 27, 11, 6, 1]
Special IDs: [13, 1, 27, 6, 67]
Object IDs: [13, 67, 27, 6, 1, 97, 5, 77, 58, 24, 99, 29, 20, 29, 75, 100, 31, 79, 5, 11]

Notice that each of the "special" IDs have shifted from their original position in the object_ids list to be at the beginning of the list after the sort.

The Python documentation for sort says that the key argument "specifies a function of one argument that is used to extract a comparison key from each list element." I'm using it to check to see if a given element in the list is in my special_ids list. If the element is present in the special_ids list, it will be shifted to the left because of the way the special_ids.__contains__ works.

In sorting, a value of 1 (or other positive integer) out of a comparison function generally means "this belongs to the right of the other element." A value of -1 (or other negative integer) means "this belongs to the left of the other element." A value of 0 means "these two elements are equal" (for the purposes of sorting). I'm assuming it works similarly with the key argument. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

As lqc states in the comments below, the key argument works differently. It creates a new sequence of values which is then sorted. Before lqc jumped in, I was using key=int(i in special_ids) * -2 + 1 to do the sorting, which is pretty dumb. Using key=special_ids.__contains__ is much more appropriate. Thanks lqc!!

This sort of weighted sort might not be just right for your needs, but hopefully it will give you a place to start to build your customized weighted sort!

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Learned Something New Today    Posted:


I learned something very interesting today regarding JavaScript. Back in the day, I used to put something like this in my HTML when I wanted to include some JS:

<script language="javascript">
...
</script>

Then I learned that I should be using something like this instead:

<script type="text/javascript">
...
</script>

I've been doing that for years and years now. Turns out I've been wrong all this time. Well, at least for 4 years of that time. I stumbled upon RFC4329 today for whatever reason and noticed that it said the text/javascript mimetype is obsolete. I dug into the RFC a bit and found this:

Various unregistered media types have been used in an ad-hoc fashion
to label and exchange programs written in ECMAScript and JavaScript.
These include:

   +-----------------------------------------------------+
   | text/javascript          | text/ecmascript          |
   | text/javascript1.0       | text/javascript1.1       |
   | text/javascript1.2       | text/javascript1.3       |
   | text/javascript1.4       | text/javascript1.5       |
   | text/jscript             | text/livescript          |
   | text/x-javascript        | text/x-ecmascript        |
   | application/x-javascript | application/x-ecmascript |
   | application/javascript   | application/ecmascript   |
   +-----------------------------------------------------+

Use of the "text" top-level type for this kind of content is known to
be problematic.  This document thus defines text/javascript and text/
ecmascript but marks them as "obsolete".  Use of experimental and
unregistered media types, as listed in part above, is discouraged.
The media types,

   * application/javascript
   * application/ecmascript

which are also defined in this document, are intended for common use
and should be used instead.

So yeah. It's time to go update all of my JavaScript stuff I guess. I thought the rest of you who are/were in the same boat as me might like to know about this...

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Auto-Generating Documentation Using Mercurial, ReST, and Sphinx    Posted:


I often find myself taking notes about various aspects of my job that I feel I would forget as soon as I moved onto another project. I've gotten into the habit of taking my notes using reStructured Text, which shouldn't come as any surprise to any of my regular visitors. On several occasions, I had some of the other guys in the company ask me for some clarification on some things I had taken notes on. Lucky for me, I had taken some nice notes!

However, these individuals probably wouldn't appreciate reading ReST markup as much as I do, so I decided to do something nice for them. I setup Sphinx to prettify my documentation. I then wrote a small Web server using Python, so people within the company network could access the latest version of my notes without much hassle.

Just like I take notes to remind myself of stuff at work, I want to do that again for this automated ReST->HTML magic--I want to be able to do this in the future! I figured I would make my notes even more public this time, so you all can enjoy similar bliss.

Platform Dependence

I am writing this article with UNIX-like operating systems in mind. Please forgive me if you're a Windows user and some of this is not consistent with what you're seeing. Perhaps one day I'll try to set this sort of thing up on Windows.

Installing Sphinx

The first step that we want to take is installing Sphinx. This is the project that Python itself uses to generate its online documentation. It's pretty dang awesome. Feel free to skip this section if you have already installed Sphinx.

Depending on your environment of choice, you may or may not have a package manager that offers python-sphinx or something along those lines. I personally prefer to install it using pip or easy_install:

$ sudo pip install sphinx

Running that command will likely respond with a bunch of output about downloading Sphinx and various dependencies. When I ran it in my sandbox VM, I saw it install the following packages:

  • pygments
  • jinja2
  • docutils
  • sphinx

It should be a pretty speedy installation.

Installing Mercurial

We'll be using Mercurial to keep track of changes to our ReST documentation. Mercurial is a distributed version control system that is built using Python. It's wonderful! Just like with Sphinx, if you have already installed Mercurial, feel free to skip to the next section.

I personally prefer to install Mercurial using pip or easy_install--it's usually more up-to-date than what you would have in your package repositories. To do that, simply run a command such as the following:

$ sudo pip install mercurial

This will go out and download and install the latest stable Mercurial. You may need python-dev or something like that for your platform in order for that command to work. However, if you're on Windows, I highly recommend TortoiseHg. The installer for TortoiseHg will install a graphical Mercurial client along with the command line tools.

Create A Repository

Now let's create a brand new Mercurial repository to house our notes/documentation. Open a terminal/console/command prompt to the location of your choice on your computer and execute the following commands:

$ hg init mydox
$ cd mydox

Configure Sphinx

The next step is to configure Sphinx for our project. Sphinx makes this very simple:

$ sphinx-quickstart

This is a wizard that will walk you through the configuration process for your project. It's pretty safe to accept the defaults, in my opinion. Here's the output of my wizard:

$ sphinx-quickstart
Welcome to the Sphinx quickstart utility.

Please enter values for the following settings (just press Enter to
accept a default value, if one is given in brackets).

Enter the root path for documentation.
> Root path for the documentation [.]:

You have two options for placing the build directory for Sphinx output.
Either, you use a directory "_build" within the root path, or you separate
"source" and "build" directories within the root path.
> Separate source and build directories (y/N) [n]: y

Inside the root directory, two more directories will be created; "_templates"
for custom HTML templates and "_static" for custom stylesheets and other static
files. You can enter another prefix (such as ".") to replace the underscore.
> Name prefix for templates and static dir [_]:

The project name will occur in several places in the built documentation.
> Project name: My Dox
> Author name(s): Josh VanderLinden

Sphinx has the notion of a "version" and a "release" for the
software. Each version can have multiple releases. For example, for
Python the version is something like 2.5 or 3.0, while the release is
something like 2.5.1 or 3.0a1.  If you don't need this dual structure,
just set both to the same value.
> Project version: 0.0.1
> Project release [0.0.1]:

The file name suffix for source files. Commonly, this is either ".txt"
or ".rst".  Only files with this suffix are considered documents.
> Source file suffix [.rst]:

One document is special in that it is considered the top node of the
"contents tree", that is, it is the root of the hierarchical structure
of the documents. Normally, this is "index", but if your "index"
document is a custom template, you can also set this to another filename.
> Name of your master document (without suffix) [index]:

Please indicate if you want to use one of the following Sphinx extensions:
> autodoc: automatically insert docstrings from modules (y/N) [n]:
> doctest: automatically test code snippets in doctest blocks (y/N) [n]:
> intersphinx: link between Sphinx documentation of different projects (y/N) [n]:
> todo: write "todo" entries that can be shown or hidden on build (y/N) [n]:
> coverage: checks for documentation coverage (y/N) [n]:
> pngmath: include math, rendered as PNG images (y/N) [n]:
> jsmath: include math, rendered in the browser by JSMath (y/N) [n]:
> ifconfig: conditional inclusion of content based on config values (y/N) [n]:

A Makefile and a Windows command file can be generated for you so that you
only have to run e.g. `make html' instead of invoking sphinx-build
directly.
> Create Makefile? (Y/n) [y]:
> Create Windows command file? (Y/n) [y]: n

Finished: An initial directory structure has been created.

You should now populate your master file ./source/index.rst and create other documentation
source files. Use the Makefile to build the docs, like so:
   make builder
where "builder" is one of the supported builders, e.g. html, latex or linkcheck.

If you followed the same steps I did (I separated the source and build directories), you should see three new files in your mydox repository:

  • build/
  • Makefile
  • source/

We'll do our work in the source directory.

Get Some ReST

Now is the time when we start writing some ReST that we want to turn into HTML using Sphinx. Open some file, like first_doc.rst and put some ReST in it. If nothing comes to mind, or you're not familiar with ReST syntax, try the following:

=========================
This Is My First Document
=========================

Yes, this is my first document.  It's lame.  Deal with it.

Save the file (keep in mind that it should be within the source directory if you used the same settings I did). Now it's time to add it to the list of files that Mercurial will pay attention to. While we're at it, let's add the other files that were created by the Sphinx configuration wizard:

$ hg add
adding ../Makefile
adding conf.py
adding first_doc.rst
adding index.rst
$ hg st
A Makefile
A source/conf.py
A source/first_doc.py
A source/index.rst

Don't worry that we don't see all of the directories in the output of hg st--Mercurial tracks files, not directories.

Automate HTML-ization

Here comes the magic in automating the conversion from ReST to HTML: Mercurial hooks. We will use the precommit hook to fire off a command that tells Sphinx to translate our ReST markup into HTML.

Edit your mydox/.hg/hgrc file. If the file does not yet exist, go ahead and create it. Add the following content to it:

[hooks]
precommit.sphinxify = ~/bin/sphinxify_docs.sh

I've opted to call a Bash script instead of using an inline Python call. Now let's create the Bash script, ~/bin/sphinxify_docs.sh:

#!/bin/bash
cd $HOME/mydox
sphinx-build source/ docs/

Notice that I used the $HOME environment variable. This means that I created the mydox directory at /home/myusername/mydox. Adjust that line according to your setup. You'll probably also want to make that script executable:

$ chmod +x ~/bin/sphinxify_docs.sh

Three, Two, One...

You should now be at a stage where you can safely commit changes to your repository and have Sphinx build your HTML documentation. Execute the following command somewhere under your mydox repository:

$ hg ci -m "Initial commit"

If your setup is anything like mine, you should see some output similar to this:

$ hg ci -m "Initial commit"
Making output directory...
Running Sphinx v0.6.4
No builder selected, using default: html
loading pickled environment... not found
building [html]: targets for 2 source files that are out of date
updating environment: 2 added, 0 changed, 0 removed
reading sources... [100%] index
looking for now-outdated files... none found
pickling environment... done
checking consistency... /home/jvanderlinden/mydox/source/first_doc.rst:: WARNING: document isn't included in any toctree
done
preparing documents... done
writing output... [100%] index
writing additional files... genindex search
copying static files... done
dumping search index... done
dumping object inventory... done
build succeeded, 1 warning.
$ hg st
? docs/.buildinfo
? docs/.doctrees/environment.pickle
? docs/.doctrees/first_doc.doctree
? docs/.doctrees/index.doctree
? docs/_sources/first_doc.txt
? docs/_sources/index.txt
? docs/_static/basic.css
? docs/_static/default.css
? docs/_static/doctools.js
? docs/_static/file.png
? docs/_static/jquery.js
? docs/_static/minus.png
? docs/_static/plus.png
? docs/_static/pygments.css
? docs/_static/searchtools.js
? docs/first_doc.html
? docs/genindex.html
? docs/index.html
? docs/objects.inv
? docs/search.html
? docs/searchindex.js

If you see something like that, you're in good shape. Go ahead and take a look at your new mydox/docs/index.html file in the Web browser of your choosing.

Not very exciting, is it? Notice how your first_doc.rst doesn't appear anywhere on that page? That's because we didn't tell Sphinx to put it there. Let's do that now.

Customizing Things

Edit the mydox/source/index.rst file that was created during Sphinx configuration. In the section that starts with .. toctree::, let's tell Sphinx to include everything we ReST-ify:

.. toctree::
   :maxdepth: 2
   :glob:

   *

That should do it. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't really want to include the output HTML, images, CSS, JS, or anything in my documentation repository. It would just take up more space each time we change an .rst file. Let's tell Mercurial to not pay attention to the output HTML--it'll just be static and always up-to-date on our filesystem.

Create a new file called mydox/.hgignore. In this file, put the following content:

syntax: glob
docs/

Save the file, and you should now see something like the following when running hg st:

$ hg st
M source/index.rst
? .hgignore

Let's include the .hgignore file in the list of files that Mercurial will track:

$ hg add .hgignore
$ hg st
M source/index.rst
A .hgignore

Finally, let's commit one more time:

$ hg ci -m "Updating the index to include our .rst files"
Running Sphinx v0.6.4
No builder selected, using default: html
loading pickled environment... done
building [html]: targets for 1 source files that are out of date
updating environment: 0 added, 1 changed, 0 removed
reading sources... [100%] index
looking for now-outdated files... none found
pickling environment... done
checking consistency... done
preparing documents... done
writing output... [100%] index
writing additional files... genindex search
copying static files... done
dumping search index... done
dumping object inventory... done
build succeeded.

Tada!! The first_doc.rst should now appear on the index page.

Serving Your Documentation

Who seriously wants to have HTML files that are hard to get to? How can we make it easier to access those HTML files? Perhaps we can create a simple static file Web server? That might sound difficult, but it's really not--not when you have access to Python!

#!/usr/bin/env python
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

from BaseHTTPServer import HTTPServer
from SimpleHTTPServer import SimpleHTTPRequestHandler

def main():
    try:
        server = HTTPServer(('', 80), SimpleHTTPRequestHandler)
        server.serve_forever()
    except KeyboardInterrupt:
        server.socket.close()

if __name__ == '__main__':
    main()

I created this simple script and put it in my ~/bin/ directory, also making it executable. Once that's done, you can navigate to your mydox/docs/ directory and run the script. Since I called the script webserver.py, I just do this:

$ cd ~/mydox/docs
$ sudo webserver.py

This makes it possible for you to visit http://localhost/ on your own computer, or to use your computer's IP in place of localhost to access your documentation from a different computer on your network. Pretty slick, if you ask me.

I suppose there's more I could add, but that's all I have time for tonight. Enjoy!

Comments

Recent Events    Posted:


This entry is more of a personal nature than technical. I owe my visitors an explanation for the lack of activity on my part for the past few months. I plan on describing what has been occupying so much of my time, and also addressing what I plan to be doing to occupy my time in the near future.

First of all, our little baby boy was born last month, on the 8th of August. It has been a treat to have him finally join us, and I spend quite a bit of time with him. I currently work from home, so just about any chance I get I run over and play with Logan for a few minutes. It's great!

Much of the past month and a half or more has been spent adjusting to the new lifestyle with an infant and working from home. It's very easy to get distracted. Another part of the past several months has been spent searching for new employment.

I graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho in April 2009 with a BS in information systems and a minor in accounting. My wife and I have been looking at jobs since before I graduated. With the arrival of our son, the quest became a bit more urgent (we were uninsured). It got to the point where it wasn't unusual for me to be applying to between 5 and 10 jobs a night. After more than 6 months of searching and applying to probably close to 100 jobs, things finally got a little more interesting.

A couple of weeks ago, I began doing my traditional job search/application routine. I saw a posting for a Python developer position, and the description sounded right up my alley. My first thought was, "Oh, I'll never get that--it's too good to be true. It sure can't hurt to apply though!" So I did. I shot my resume off to the specified e-mail address and went on looking for other new positions.

I was looking at jobs until about 5am that night (starting at about 8pm the previous day). My wife finally convinced me that I needed to get some sleep. I woke up again at 9am, and I couldn't go back to sleep for some reason. I had an unsolicited email from some contract position in Arizona in my inbox when I woke up. I kindly wrote back, informing the individual that my wife and I were more interested in permanent options. Then I got out of bed and described that exciting part of my morning to my wife.

A few minutes later, I looked over at my computer, and I noticed that I had a new e-mail in my inbox. I decided to take a closer look. To my surprise, it was a response from the Python developer position I had applied to a mere 13 hours earlier. The message was from the company's CTO, and he wanted to make sure I understood that the job would require relocation. My response informed the CTO that my wife grew up in the area, and that we were definitely willing to relocate (especially considering that this was the first time anyone has gotten back to me about a full-time, permanent position).

Only a couple minutes after sending off that reply, the CTO wrote back again to set up a phone interview. Having only been awake for just over two hours, after a 4-hour nap, I was very excited about the progress of my day thus far. The phone interview seemed to go very well. It lasted a solid 40 minutes. I actually really enjoyed the interview, which is really saying something because I abhor telephones. But my interviewers were very nice and easy to talk to.

The interview consisted of several questions to gauge my understanding of various things, including Linux, Python, and MySQL. The questions were all very fun for me. Thankfully, I was able to respond relatively clearly, or at least clear enough for those on the other end of the line to get a decent feel for what I know.

Only a few minutes after the interview concluded, I received another phone call from the company. They set me up with a flight for the following Monday (the interview took place on a Friday), and booked a king suite in a fantastic hotel for me to stay in. This was all within about 16 hours of sending my resume to the company.

I flew out of Idaho Falls on Monday afternoon and arrived at the hotel around 10pm at night. I set three alarms (I'm a deep sleeper) to make sure I'd wake up with plenty of time to make it to the office, chatted with my wife for a bit, and passed out. The bed was amazing after being on an airplane for half a day.

Tuesday morning, I headed out to the office at about 9:45 for my 10am meeting. I arrived a little early and had enough time to meet some of the great people there. It wasn't long before I found myself in the CTO's office, starting the real interview process.

We spent the rest of that morning and several hours of the afternoon in a grill session. The CTO and lead developers grilled me all over the place, asking very interesting questions. I felt like I had wasted their time and money, because I could not formulate very acceptable answers to several of the questions. There were several questions that I had to answer flat-out, "I don't know." It was a very stressful morning.

I think if I were in their shoes, I probably would have booted me out the door. Though, I do have to say, I feel like I learned more about Python and MySQL from those few hours with the developers than I had learned in a very, very long time. These folks are very intelligent.

After all of that, the CTO, the two lead developers who were grilling me, and I all went out to eat. We ate some delicious food, had some fun conversations, and then started to talk about the benefits package that the company offers.

After lunch, we returned to the office, played a little guitar, and then the CTO called me into his office. He handed me an offer. It was far more generous than my wife and I had hoped, so I accepted it on the spot. He and I discussed a few things pertaining to my new job, and he then dropped me off at my hotel. I spent the rest of the evening trying to wrap my mind around what had just happened and sharing the news with all of my friends and family.

I begin work for ScienceLogic, LLC as a Software Architect on the 5th of October. I immediately submitted my official 2-week notice when I arrived back in my hotel room. When I returned home, my wife and I had to scramble to get everything set for how and when we were going to move. We are going to be driving out to Virginia on Tuesday, the 29th of September. It's about a 2,200-mile drive.

So. There you have it. We had a baby, I got a new job, and we're in the process of moving. Oh, and one other exciting bit of news. Packt Publishing has asked me to review one of their Django books! I have received the book, and I will read it and post my review as soon as things settle down a bit more. Stay tuned!

Comments

Bulk Update With Mercurial    Posted:


Some of you may well know that I was previously an subversion user, more out of comfort than necessity. SVN was the first version control system that I became well acquainted with, so it just seemed like a natural choice for me when I thought I needed version control.

Several months ago I read a blog article by a buddy, in which he briefly discussed Mercurial. I had been meaning to give some distributed version control systems a shot after some disasters related to the centralized nature of SVN. This blog article prompted me to take a stab at Mercurial and some others.

Within a few days I was sold on Mercurial. I won't go into details simply because I'm not one for religious wars that way. Let's just say that Mercurial seemed to be perfect for my wants and needs.

There were, however, a few things about using Mercurial that I miss from the SVN world. One such thing is that you can update several "working copies" of something in SVN with a single command. For example, I keep a lot of my 3rd party Django applications in one directory. Many of these applications use SVN. Sometimes I'll just run a command like this:

svn up /path/to/third/party/apps/*

Each project that uses SVN will automatically be updated without much fuss with such a command. However, with Mercurial, it appears that you need to be in an actual Mercurial repository in order to update it. There are extensions to get around this problem, but I was looking for something a little different.

Since I use Linux almost exclusively, I didn't feel bad about just using the power within to do the work. The following command does everything I need it to:

find -name ".hg" -type d | xargs -t -i bash -c "(cd {}; hg pull; hg up)"

This command finds any directories called .hg anywhere under your current location on the filesystem. Any matches will be used in the command at the end: cd {}; hg pull; hg up

So far I haven't had any problems with this command, but your mileage may vary. To make things even easier, I made an alias for this rather long command:

alias hgupall='find -name ".hg" -type d | xargs -t -i bash -c "(cd {}; hg pull; hg up)"'

I put that line in my ~/.bashrc script, which is executed each time I log into my computer. With that in place, all I need to do is something like this:

cd /path/to/third/party/apps
hgupall

And the aliased command handles the rest. Pretty slick stuff. Hooray for Mercurial and Linux!

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My VIM Adventures    Posted:


Along with my recent adventures with Fedora 11, I decided to force myself to become more proficient with VIM. For those of you who do not know, VIM is based on perhaps one of the oldest surviving text editors around today. There are often religious-grade battles between those who believe in VIM and those who believe in Emacs, another long-surviving text editor. I'm not trying to get into any debates about which is better, and I'm not interested in why I should not be using VIM. If you still feel like I need to be set straight, please use the contact me form instead of the comments section.

Anyway, most people who use these editors fall into 1 of 3 categories (there are probably more categories actually):

  1. They're familiar with it enough to get the job done, but they're not exactly proficient. Therefore, they don't care about evangelizing the editor.
  2. They're proficient with the editor, but they're afraid of the politics involved in religious wars relating to text editors, so they don't evangelize.
  3. They're proficient with the editor and feel that the whole world would be better off if everyone used their preferred text editor. As such, they cannot shut up about the dang thing and drive all of their friends, coworkers, and acquaintances mad.

A few of you will probably agree with what I'm about to say. I fear I have transitioned from stage 1 to stage 3 fairly rapidly. I can't stop talking about VIM all of the sudden! You'd think it's the next best thing after sliced bread the way I've been blabbering about it. And here I am, writing an article about it. Hah.

Ever since I first started using Linux, I have been using vi to handle most of my text editing when I was in a terminal. I knew enough to get around. Basic things like navigation and inserting text were pretty much all I knew how to do. I dabbled with a tutorial here and there, but it wasn't long before the things I learned were lost, since I usually preferred a graphical text editor over VIM.

My recent experimentation with VIM has proved to be very fruitful, if I do say so myself. I am no longer tied down to some editor that is slow and bulky, I don't have much to worry about when I switch computers (chances are that VIM is on any computer I use regularly), and I don't even need to be sitting at the computer I'm using VIM on! In fact, today I was doing most of my work over an SSH session to my netbook. I felt more productive today than I have in a very long time.

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed using a mouse to perform basic tasks on my computer. Using VIM allows me to rid myself of the mouse entirely for my text editing tasks, and I don't feel at all limited in my capabilities. Things that used to be quite sketchy operations using my favorite graphical editors end up being very simple with VIM.

I also love the obscurity favor of it all.

Examples

I wish I could just keep adding stuff to this list! There are so many neat things I want to share with everyone about VIM! I'm sure there are more efficient ways to do some of the things I have been learning with VIM, but this works very well for me.

Laziness

I do a lot of reStructuredText for various things. In fact, I'm writing this article using VIM right now. ReST is fantastic, but it's horrible to do using an editor that is not set up with a mono spaced font. I like to see things nicely lined up (I'm a Python developer, after all). I also like to have my section headings have an underline that is as long as the heading itself. For example, the heading just above this looks like this:

Examples
========

In this particular instance, it's not a big deal to hold down the equals key long enough to underline the word "Examples". However, sometimes I get some pretty lengthy section titles. The lazy side of me doesn't want my finger to hang around on the same key for very long (or tap it dozens of times, for that matter). Also, trying to figure out how many characters are in a section title without a mono spaced font is very annoying.

The/a solution? Say I have a section heading that is 50 characters long. To underline it, all I have to do is type 50i= and hit the escape key.

Cutting Text Mid-Line

Another neat thing is being able to cut text from the cursor to a particular character somewhere later on (or earlier on!) in the same line. Say I have a hyperlink whose address I wish to change:

<a href="http://www.somelong.com/that/I/want/to/change/">Link Text</a>

Instead of using the mouse to highlight the href attribute's value (or highlight it using shift on the keyboard), I just position my cursor on the h in http and type dt". VIM will lop that address right out of there (and you can paste it elsewhere if you'd like). I used this particular shortcut countless times today as I replaced things like {% url some-named-url with,some,parameters %} with {{ some_object.get_absolute_url }} in some Django templates.

Search & Replace

And I cannot neglect the classic search and replace functionality in VIM. You can use fancy regular expressions in VIM to replace some text with something else. I was trying to do a little refactoring today, and I came up with a command like this:

:s/something/lambda (a,b,c): \0(a,b,c)/g

That sort of command works great to replace all occurrences of "something" on the current line with "lambda (a,b,c): something(a,b,c)". Fantastic. What about a global search and replace, instead of just the current line? Stash a % at the front of the command (:%s/something/lambda (a,b,c): \0(a,b,c)/g) and you're in business.

Now what if you only wanted to perform that search and replace over a certain group of lines instead of a single line or the whole file? This is one I'm particularly thrilled about:

:.,.+9 s/something/lambda (a,b,c): \0(a,b,c)/g

That little beauty will perform the search and replace on the current line and the following 9 lines. How awesome is that?

Moving & Deleting Words

Sometimes as I am writing something, I decide I would like to reword a sentence as I near the end. Sometimes this involves simply deleting a word or two. Sometimes it means chopping a few words out of the beginning part of a sentence to put them back at the end somewhere. Whatever the case, VIM seems to handle my needs perfectly well.

Say I have this sentence (from the Vimperator Web site): "Writing efficient user interfaces is the main maxim, here at Vimperator labs." If I want to move the "here at Vimperator labs" to the beginning of the sentence, assuming I just finished typing it, I would place my cursor over the period at the end, type dT,, hit ( to go to the beginning of the sentence, hit P to insert what I just copied, and then handle the rest of the clean up (capitalization, fixing the comma, etc). I could have also done something like, 4db instead of dT,.

If I want to cut/delete an entire word, or to the end of whatever word my cursor is currently on, I could use dw. For more than one word, just put a number before the command. It's great stuff!

Taking It Too Far

I've gotten so carried away with all of this VIM business. I really have. I installed vimperator in Firefox. This extension gives Firefox a VIM-like interface. Now I can do pretty much all of my regular surfing without using the mouse. Some may argue that this is absolutely impractical because it would take much longer to get to the right link on a page using the keyboard than it would with the mouse. That may be true. I dunno, but I still think it's awesome that I really don't need my mouse to browse the Internet now.

As I was playing with vimperator tonight, one of my buddies pointed out another useful extension called It's All Text. This extension allows you to use your preferred text editing program in regular old text boxes in Firefox. It is this extension which has just made writing my blog articles 200x more efficient. Now I can quickly and easily write my articles right here in VIM without having to copy and paste all over the place. Pretty dang incredible.

Oh yes, I'd like to thank Chad Hansen and Jonathan Geddes for helping me out as I explore the depths of VIM. You guys rock!

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My Fedora 11 Adventures: Part III    Posted:


Alrighty folks. Good night's rest? Check. Need to get work done? Check. Today's adventure will be about getting my computer set up for the regular development tasks that I need to do every day for my work and hobbies.

Getting Work Done

The first thing I noticed this morning when I turned on my computer was that it took exactly 1 minute from the time I hit the power button to the time I hit the enter key to log into my computer. Logging in took an additional 15-20 seconds. That was quite nice.

The next thing I noticed was that I was not connected to my network as I should be. Clicking the system tray menu item as I did last night did the trick, but I'm going to have to investigate how to make it connect automatically at boot.

Automatic Network Connectivity

It looks like I can have my Ethernet be activated automatically by right clicking on the network manager icon in my system tray, selecting "Edit Connections," selecting "System eth0," clicking the "Edit" button, and finally checking the "Connect automatically" option in the subsequent window. We'll see if this truly activates my connection next time I boot.

In an effort to get my wireless working, I poked around a little more in the "Edit Connections" screen, but I didn't see anything that seemed useful. I did find something that seemed a bit more interesting by selecting Applications > Administration > Network Configuration from the KDE menu. This utility suggested that my wireless adapter was actually wlan1 instead of the wlan0 that the tray icon seemed to think it was.

I tweaked a few settings about my wireless adapter, such as marking the "Activate device when computer starts" and "Allow all users to enable and disable the device." In the Hardware Device tab, I selected my actual Broadcom wireless adapter instead of the non-existant wlan0. I also hit the probe button next to the "Bind to MAC address" box.

My network manager tray icon still shows no wireless networks (of which there is no shortage around here), and running iwlist scan as root says "Network is down" next to wlan1. I think I will just mess with it later. Maybe it will "just work" when I reboot next time.

Installing/Configuring The Tools

As I previously mentioned, I prefer to use things that work well without getting in my way. When talking about text editors, VIM is just fine for me, and VIM 7.2.148 is already installed on my Fedora 11. One less thing to install.

Next up comes the installation of all of the goods for Firefox. It turns out that Fedora comes with Firefox 3.5 Beta 4--a bold move. I hope my extensions all work! The extensions I will be installing right now include:

  • AdBlock Plus: get rid of pesky ads that slow down my computer
  • Firebug: an amazing tool when debugging Web pages
  • Web Developer: has some niceties that Firebug doesn't come with
  • Screengrab: fantastic for taking screenshots of full Web pages
  • 2Zeus: my own little extension that allows me to quickly get short URLs a la tinyurl.com and is.gd

When I plugged in my external 1TB Seagate hard drive, I got a delicious Fatal Error message:

/images/fedora/p3/fatal_error.png

All appears to be in order, however, as I have access to all of the partitions on the external drive.

Next I want to install Opera. It appears that the place to look is Applications > System > Software Management in the KDE menu. Let's see what we have. Searching for Opera in the only obvious search box sent my computer into a crazy "let me do something without telling you" cycle. I have no idea what's really going on, but my processor has been maxed out for the past 3 minutes and my network has been working a little here and there. Can it really be that difficult to find a simple package? Oh! It finished! It took 6 minutes and 54 seconds to find nothing. Excellent. Let me look somewhere else.

Awesome. My computer is non-responsive. The hard drive is still working, but my GUI is doing nothing. I love it. Attempts to drop back to a trusty console using Control, Alt, and F1-F6 rendered no results. I wonder if I can SSH in from here... I sure can! Fantastic. Let's see what's happening.

It appears that X is taking up 90% of my processing power, but my computer is still not responding to any of my input. Dang it! Now my SSH session isn't working. Looks like the only option I have now is to do a hard reset. Joy of joys. Thank you for this opportunity, Fedora. Last time I did a hard reset, I was in Windows and it trashed my 1TB external.

So far rebooting seems to be going well. I wonder if my network will be setup properly still... Fantastic! It works! Wireless is still not available though. I can live without that for the time being.

Back in the Software Management utility, searching for Opera again proved to work much more quickly, but I didn't get any results. I suppose I'll just go download it from their site. The download for Opera 10 beta 1 is a mere 7.2MB, and it looks like it will open in the same Software Management utility that I've been dinking around in.

When I downloaded the Opera package, I asked it to open directly in the default program, KPackageKit. That doesn't seem to be working in the least, so I am going to try to just save it to my home directory and install it some other way. Sorry guys and gals, I ended up just dropping back to a terminal to run rpm -Uvh opera-10.00-b1.gcc4-shared-qt3.x86_64.rpm and that seemed to work fine. Opera appeared in my KDE menu, and it runs well now.

Next up is Pidgin. Pidgin 2.5.5 is installed by default, and getting it up and running was as trivial as ever.

Now to test Flash... YouTube, here I come!! Beh, Flash is not installed by default, and it's also not in the Software Management tool. What use is that thing?! Maybe if I apply all of the updates in the "Software Updates" section it will feel more useful... Here it goes.

Cool. System is unresponsive again. Let's see if I can reboot from here. Nope! Thank you, Fedora, for making me hard reset my system more in 2 hours than I have had to in YEARS. Yeah, thanks buddy.

10:50 AM So the software updates continue to not work. It appears that a ypbind package is the culprit which is causing everything to hang... I disabled it and tried to install the software updates again.

10:53 AM GUI is non-responsive again. Yay.

10:56 AM Third hard reset in 3 hours. Maybe I will have to modify my original parameters and try GNOME to see if that makes the computer usable for more than an hour at a time.

11:00 AM That's it! I'm getting rid of KDE 4... sorry folks, GNOME is my only hope of getting work done. Second clean shutdown out of 5 since the installation completed last night.

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Pony Power + Django Critter = Sheer Genius    Posted:


I just love the Django community. So many good times. I hope that the rest of you find some form of entertainment in the next part of this article.

This morning I woke up to a humorous post by Eric Walstad on the django-users mailing group. It discussed a story about his 9-year-old daughter who has seen the light with Django. She apparently fully understands what Django is capable of and how amazing it truly is. Here is her version of what Django, embodied as a "critter," can do:

Django is a computer programming critter. He is loyal only to computer programmers and does all their work. He types with the ball on the end of his tail, at the speed of light. He beeps when his work is done and when you take him home, he flies around the house, doing all your chores. He's a helpful little fellow.

That just about sums it all up! Django rocks. We already have Pony Power to get us through the day, but when you put Pony Power and the Django Critter together, this is what you get:

Django Pony + Django Critter

Oh man!! Can you feel it? I sure can. Django is amazing, and anyone who's not using it is missing out.

(disclaimer: the characters in the image above remain the property of their respective owners)

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