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Posts tagged with 'javascript'

Kyle Nitzsche

Noting that this week I delivered three hour long sessions of interest to those interested in writing HTML5 apps for Ubuntu:

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Kyle Nitzsche

Cordova 3.3 adds Ubuntu

Upstream Cordova 3.3.0 is released just in time for the holidays with a gift we can all appreciate: built-in Ubuntu support!

Cordova: multi-platform HTML5 apps

Apache Cordova is a framework for HTML5 app development that simplifies building and distributing HTML5 apps across multiple platforms, like Android and iOS. With Cordova 3.3.0, Ubuntu is an official platform!

The cool idea Cordova starts with is a single www/ app source directory tree that is built to different platforms for distribution. Behind the scenes, the app is built as needed for each target platform. You can develop your HTML5 app once and build it for many mobile platforms, with a single command.

With Cordova 3.3.0, one simply adds the Ubuntu platform, builds the app, and runs the Ubuntu app. This is done for Ubuntu with the same Cordova commands as for other platforms. Yes, it is as simple as:

$ cordova create myapp REVERSEDOMAINNAME.myapp myapp
$ cd myapp
(Optionally modify www/*)
$ cordova build [ ubuntu ]
$ cordova run ubuntu


Cordova is a lot more than an HTML5 cross-platform web framework though.
It provides JavaScript APIs that enable HTML5 apps to use of platform specific back-end code to access a common set of devices and capabilities. For example, you can access device Events (battery status, physical button clicks, and etc.), Gelocation, and a lot more. This is the Cordova "plugin" feature.

You can add Cordova standard plugins to an app easily with commands like this:

$ cordova plugin add org.apache.cordova.battery-status
(Optionally modify www/* to listen to the batterystatus event )
$ cordova build [ ubuntu ]
$ cordova run ubuntu

Keep an eye out for news about how Ubuntu click package cross compilation capabilities will soon weave together with Cordova to enable deployment of plugins that are compiled to specified target architecture, like the armhf architecture used in Ubuntu touch images (for phones, tablets and etc.).


As a side note, I'm happy to note that my documentation of initial Ubuntu platform support has landed and has been published at Cordova 3.3.0 docs.

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Kyle Nitzsche

Ubuntu HTML5 API docs

HTML5 API docs published

I'm pleased to note that the Ubuntu HTML5 API docs I wrote are now done and published on These cover the complete set of JavaScript objects that are involved in the UbuntuUI framework for HTML5 apps (at this time). For each object, the docs show how the corresponding HTML is declared and, of course, all public methods are documented.

A couple notes:
  • I wrote an html5APIexerciser app that implements every available public method in the framework. This was helpful to ensure that what I wrote matched reality ;) It may be useful to folks exploring development of  Ubuntu HTML5 apps. The app can be run directly in a browser by opening its index.html, but it is also an Ubuntu SDK project, so it can be opened and run from the Ubuntu SDK, locally and on an attached device.
  • The html5APIexerciser app does not demonstrate the full set of Ubuntu CSS styles available. For example, the styles provide gorgeous toggle buttons and progress spinnners, but since they have no JavaScript objects and methods they are not included in the API docs. So be sure to explore the Gallery by installing the ubuntu-html5-theme-examples package and then checking out /usr/share/ubuntu-html5-theme/0.1/examples/
  • I decided to use yuidoc as the framework for adding source code comments as the basis for auto generated web docs.  After you install yuidoc using npm you can build the docs from source as follows:
  1. Get the ubuntu-html5-theme branch: bzr branch lp:ubuntu-html5-theme
  2. Move to the JavaScript directory: cd ubuntu-html5-theme/0.1/ambiance/js/
  3. Build the docs: yuidoc -c yuidoc.json . This creates the ./build directory.
  4. Launch the docs by opening build/index.html in your browser. They should look something like this 
Thanks to +Adnane Belmadiaf for some theme work and his always helpful consultation, to +Daniel Beck for his initial writeup of the Ubuntu HTML5 framework, and of course to the team for their always awesome work!

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Anthony Dillon

I was recently asked to attend a cloud sprint in San Francisco as a front-end developer for the new Juju GUI product. I had the pleasure of finally meeting the guys that I have collaboratively worked with and ultimately been helped by on the project.

Here is a collection of things I learnt during my week overseas.

Mocha testing

Mocha is a JavaScript test framework that tests asynchronously in a browser. Previously I found it difficult to imagine a use case when developing a site, but I now know that any interactive element of a site could benefit from Mocha testing.

This is by no means a full tutorial or features set of Mocha but my findings from a week with the UI engineering team.

Breakdown small elements of your app or website its logic test

If you take a system like a user’s login and register, it is much easier to test each function of the system. For example, if the user hits the signup button you should test the registration form is then visible to the user. Then work methodically through each step of the process, testing as many different inputs you can think of.

Saving your bacon

Testing undoubtedly slows down initial development but catches a lot of mistakes and flaws in the system before anything lands in the main code base. It also means if a test fails you don’t have to manually check each test again by hand — you simply run the test suite and see the ticks roll in.

Speeds up bug squashing

Bug fixing becomes easier to the reporter and the developer. If the reporter submits a test that fails due to a bug, the developer will get the full scope of the issue and once the test passes the developer and reporter can be confident the problem no longer exists.


While I have read a lot about linting in the past but have not needed to use it on any projects I have worked on to date. So I was very happy to use and be taught the linting performed by the UI engineering team.

Enforces a standard coding syntax

I was very impressed with the level of code standards it enforces. It requires all code to be written in a certain way, from indenting and commenting to unused variables. This results in anyone using the code, being able to pick up it up and read it as if created by one person when in fact it may have contributed by many.

Code reviews

In my opinion code reviews should be performed on all front-end work to discourage sloppy code and encourage shared knowledge.

Mark up

Mark up should be very semantic. This can be a case of opinion, but shared discussion will get the team to an agreed solution, which will then be reused again by others in the similar situations.


CSS can be difficult as there are different ways to achieve a similar result, but with a code review the style used will be common practise within the team.


A perfect candidate as different people have different methods of coding. With a review, it will catch any sloppy or short cuts in the code. A review makes sure  your code is refactored to best-practise the first time.


Test driven development (TDD) does slow the development process down but enforces better output from your time spend on the code and less bugs in the future.

If someone writes a failing test for your code which is expected to pass, working on the code to produce a passing test is a much easier way to demonstrate the code now works, along with all the other test for that function.

I truly believe in code reviews now. Previously I was sceptical about them. I used to think that  “because my code is working” I didn’t need reviews and it would slow me down. But a good reviewer will catch things like “it works but didn’t you take a shortcut two classes ago which you meant to go back and refactor”. We all want our code to be perfect and to learn from others on a daily basis. That is what code reviews give us.

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I’ve spent a few evenings this week implementing a derbyjs version of the Todo spec for the TodoMVC project [1] – and it was a great way to learn more about the end-to-end framework, and appreciate how neat the model-view bindings really are. Here’s a 2 minute demo showing the normal TodoMVC functionality as well as the collaborative editing which Derby brings out of the box:


It’s amazing how simple Derby’s model-view bindings enable the code to be. It’s really just two files containing the functionality:

The other files are just setup (define which queries are allowed, define the express server, and some custom style on top of the base.css from TodoMVC). Well done Nate and Brian, and the DerbyJS community (which seems to be growing quite a bit over the last few weeks)!

[1] I’ve still got a few things todo before I can submit a pull-request to get this added to TodoMVC.

Filed under: javascript

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Over the last week or so I’ve spent a few hours learning a bit about DerbyJS – an all-in-one app framework for developing collaborative apps for the web [1]. You can read more about DerbyJS itself at, but here are six highlights that I’m excited about (text version below the video):


1. The browser reflects dev changes immediately. While developing, derbyjs automatically reflects any changes you make to styles, templates (and scripts?) as soon as you save. No need to switch windows and refresh, instead they’re pushed out to your browser(s).

2. Separation of templates (views) and controllers. Derbyjs provides a model-view-controller framework that we’ve come to expect, with Handlebars-like templates and trivial binding to any event handlers defined in your controller. Derby also provides standard conventions for file locations and bundles your files for you.

3. Model data is bound to the view – derbyjs automatically updates other parts of your templates that refer to any data which the user changes, but that’s not all…

4. Model data is synced real-time (as you type/edit) – updating the data you are changing in all browsers viewing the same page. The data just synchronises (and resolves conflicts) without me caring how. (OK, well I really do care how, but I don’t *need* to care).

5. The same code runs on both the (node) server and the browser. The code that renders a page after a server request (great for initial page load and search indexing) is one and the same code that renders pages in the browser without (necessarily) hitting the server.

6. My app works offline out of the box. That’s right – as per the demo – any changes made while offline are automatically synced back to the server and pushed out to other clients as soon as a connection is re-established.

It’s still early days for DerbyJS, but it looks very promising – opening up the doors to loads of people with great ideas for collaborative apps who don’t have the time to implement their own real-time communication or conflict resolution. Hats off to the DerbyJS team and community!

[1] After doing similar experiments in other JS frameworks (see here and here), and being faced with the work of implementing all the server-sync, sockets, authentication etc. myself, I went looking and found both meteorjs and derbyjs. You can read a good comparison of meteorjs and derbyjs by the derbyjs folk (Note: both are now MIT licensed).

Filed under: javascript

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After experimenting recently with the YUI 3.5.0 Application framework, I wanted to take a bit of time to see what other HTML5 app development setups were offering while answering the question: “How can I make HTML5 app development more fun on Ubuntu” – and perhaps bring some of this back to my YUI 3.5 setup.

I’m quite happy with the initial result – here’s a brief (3 minute) video overview highlighting:

  • Tests running not only in a browser but also automatically on file save without even a headless browser (with pretty Ubuntu notifications)
  • Modular code in separate files (including html templates, via requirejs and its plugins)



Things that I really like about this setup:

  • requirejs - YUI-like module definitions and dependency specification makes for very clear code. It’s an implementation of the Asynchronous Module Definition “standard” which allows me to require dependencies on my own terms, like this:
    require(["underscore", "backbone"], function(_, Backbone) {
        // In here the underscore and backbone modules are loaded and
        // assigned to _ and Backbone respectively.

    There’s some indication that YUI may also implement AMD in its loader also. RequireJS also has a built in optimiser to combine and minify all your required JS during your build step. With two plugins for RequireJS I can also use CoffeeScript instead of Javascript, and load my separate HTML templates as resources into my modules (no more stuffing them all into your index.html.

  • mocha tests running on nodejs or in the browser – as shown in the above screencast. Once configured, this made it pretty trivial to add a `make watch` command to my project which runs tests automatically (using nodejs’ V8 engine) when files change, displaying the results using Ubuntu’s built-in notification system. (Mocha already has built in growl support for Mac users, it’d be great to get similar OSD notifications built in too).

The setup wasn’t without its difficulties [1], but the effort was worth it as now I have a fun environment to start building my dream app (we’ve all got one right?) and continue learning. I think it should also be possible for me to go back and re-create this nodejs dev environment using YUI also – which I’m keen to try if someone hasn’t already done something similar – or even possibly without needing nodejs? I think the challenge for YUI will be if and when most other modules can be loaded via AMD why, as an app developer, would I want to commit to one monolithic framework release when I can cleanly pick-n-chose the specific versions of small tightly-focused modules that I need (assuming my tests pass). Or perhaps YUI will join in and begin versioning modules (and module dependencies) rather than the one complete framework so that they were available via any AMD loader – that would rock!

Thanks to James Burke (author of RequireJS) and the brunch team for their help!

[1] For those interested, things that were difficult getting this setup were:

  • Many JS libraries are not yet AMD ready (or yet giving support), which means adding shims to load them correctly (or using the use plugin in some cases). And sometimes this gets complicated (as it did for me with expect.js). I don’t know if AMD will get widespread adoption, who knows? A result of this is that many JS libraries are designed to work within the browser or node only (ie. they assume that either window or module/exports will be available globally).
  • Using the coffeescript plugin is great for looking at the code, but the errors displayed when running tests that result from  coffeescript parse errors are often hard to decipher (although I could probably use an editor plugin to check the code on save and highlight errors).
  • A recent nodejs version isn’t yet available in the ubuntu archives for Precise. It wasn’t difficult, but I had to install Node 0.6.12 to my home directory and put its bin directory on my path before I could get started.

If you want to try it out or look at the code, just make sure NodeJS 0.6.12 is available on your path and do:

tmp$ bzr branch lp:~michael.nelson/open-goal-tracker/backbone-test/
Branched 42 revisions. 
tmp$ cd backbone-test/
backbone-test$ make
backbone-test$ make test
? 12 tests complete (47ms)

Filed under: javascript, open-goal-tracker, ubuntu

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I had a few hours recently to try updating my Open Goal Tracker javascript client prototype to use jQuery Mobile for the UI… and wow – it is so nice, as a developer with an idea, not having to think about certain UI issues (such as a touch interface, or just basic widget design). I can see now how ugly my previous play-prototype looked. Here’s a brief demo of the jQueryMobile version (sorry for the mumbling):


That’s using jQuery Mobile 1.01 for the UI and YUI 3.5.0PR2 for the MVC client-side framework, although I’m tempted to move over to backbone.js (which is what the YUI application framework is based on, it seems). Backbone.js has beautifully annotated source and a book – Developing backbone applications - which so far seems like very worthwhile reading material.

The prototype can be played with at

Filed under: javascript, jquery, open-goal-tracker, yui

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Just a heads up, this week’s CoffeeHouseCoders (CHC) Detroit-ish will be a bit different. One of the goals of moving the location to the new Caribou was that we get access to the meeting room. This opens up the opportunity for us to have some group discussion and such around various topics. We’re going to give that a shot this week with a group viewing of YUI Theater video viewings and JavaScript discussion.

Most of us do at least some JavaScript in our work and projects so I think it’s relevant and should be fun to geek out before the holidays start up. I’ll have a little projector and speaker and with the new videos from YUIConf 2011 going up, it’ll be nice to set aside some time to catch up on some of the recorded presentations. Take a peek and set aside one or two "must watch" videos for Wed night! Not all of the videos are YUI specific, so it should be useful for all of us doing JavaScript.

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Phew, well one day down. I dove head first into Canonical and Launchpad today. It’s a bit amazing the amount of information and parts there are to everything. Everyone welcoming me throughout the day was great, but my head is still spinning a bit for sure.

I managed to get a nice starter walk-through of Launchpad and find my way through a superficial bugfix and merge request. So hey, that wasn’t so bad heh. It’s kind of exciting to throw out all my usual tools I’ve been mastering for a while and start over. Make files, zpt files, ZCA, and YUI run the show. Time to see how people get things done without Fabric, Mako, and SqlAlchemy.

I’m really excited to get to some real change and hope to pick things up quickly. I know a while ago I was disappointed that Launchpad wasn’t taking advantage of some of the Javascript driven UI enhancements that we can do these days. The change of that is already in full swing and my team is looking to land a nice chunk on the bugs UI shortly. Let’s get to work!

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I’ve been playing around wit h YUI’s new application framework over the past few weeks, basically building on the ToDo list example app, extending it for a basic interface for the Open Goal Tracker project. Here’s a 2 min demo:

I’m loving the MVC separation in the client code, separation of templates, ability to use real links for navigating within the client (which will also work when copy-n-pasted to hit the server) etc.

If anyone is interested, you can play with the code yourself:

$ bzr branch lp:~michael.nelson/open-goal-tracker/html5-client-play
$ cd html5-client-play
$ fab test

which will setup the dev environment and run the django tests… followed by

$ fab runserver

To play with the demo html5 client: http://localhost:8000/static/index.html
To run the javascript unit tests: http://localhost:8000/static/app/tests/test_models.html

or find out more about the purpose of the app with the first 2 mins of this video from a year ago outlining where i hope to go with the application: (when time permits :) ).

Filed under: javascript, yui

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