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Posts tagged: "javascript" - page 2

Ruby's split() function makes me feel special (in a bad way)

Quick hand count: who knows what String.split() does?

Most developers probably do. Python? easy. Javascript? probably. But if you’re a ruby developer, chances are close to nil. I’m not trying to imply anything about the intelligence or skill of ruby developers, it’s just that the odds are stacked against you.

So, what does String.split() do?

In the simple case, it takes a separator string. It returns an array of substrings, split on the given string. Like so:

py> "one|two|three".split("|")
["one", "two", "three"]

Simple enough. As an extension, some languages allow you to pass in a num_splits option. In python, it splits only this many times, like so:

py> "one|two|three".split("|", 1)
["one", "two|three"]

Ruby is similar, although you have to add one to the second argument (it talks about number of returned components, rather than number of splits performed).

Javascript is a bit odd, in that it will ignore the rest of the string if you limit it:

js> "one|two|three".split("|", 2)
["one", "two"]

I don’t like the javascript way, but these are all valid interpretations of split. So far. And that’s pretty much all you have to know for python and javascript. But ruby? Pull up a seat.

Node.js child processes

me: Hey node, how can I tell if my child_process.spawn() call failed before it even runs the desired command? Is there a return value? An exception? Maybe there’s an error event I can listen for?

node: Even better! Here’s an example from the documentation to do exactly that:

var spawn = require('child_process').spawn,
    child = spawn('bad_command');

child.stderr.on('data', function (data) {
  if (/^execvp\(\)/.test(data)) {
    console.log('Failed to start child process.');

me: Thanks, that’s… That’s just stunning.

(For extra points, this doesn’t even work if the child process inherits stderr, as my actual code does. Is this just a silly example from the documentation, or is there really nothing better?)

Tame.JS: Async Flow Control

If you are interested in my defer work with async control flow in CofeeScript, you’ll probably be interested in Tame.JS. The guys from OkCupid have a history with this sort of thing, apparently they have been using a similar mechanism they built for C++ for years.

Tame allows for more explicit control over parallelism than defer, and is a pretty simple mechanism. Contrasted to Stratified JS it seems to be simpler and more interoperable with existing javascript codebases, but also has fewer features - Tame.js is at a similar level to defer, while Stratified JS offers additional features like promise values (strata), parallel composition, alternative composition and more.

Regardless of which you prefer, it’s good to see people tackling the problem despite the common wisdom seeming to be that there is no problem (or worse, that it can be adequately addressed with libraries alone).

As usual, there’s some good commentary going on at hacker news. There are even a bunch of people wondering when such a useful mechanism will arrive in CoffeeScript ;)

(view link)

Dealing with non-local control flow in deferred CoffeeScript

…a continuation (hah!) of defer: Taming asynchronous javascript with coffeescript.

In my last post, I outlined the ideas behind defer and its current state. One of the things I mentioned is that how to deal with return statements in asynchronous code is not yet decided. I’d like to explore a few of those ideas here. If you haven’t read the previous post, I suggest that you do.

defer: Taming asynchronous javascript with CoffeeScript

defer is something I’ve been working towards in various fashions for many months now. It’s a way of writing asynchronous javascript in a more straightforward and synchronous-looking way. My current approach has been to modify the CoffeeScript compiler to introduce a defer keyword. There is currently some debate on the issue (parts one and two have even more history) as to whether the functionality is necessary, useful or appropriate. Here, I hope to show the reasons behind the idea, why it does what it does, and how it helps programmers write more concise and readable code.

Battling javascript contortion with lisp (of all things)

I’m pleased to report that my crazy notions of replacing javascript metaprogramming with lisp metaprogramming appear to be headed steadily in the direction of success. It’d take a while to explain exactly what I’m up to (and the reasoning behind it), but essentially I’m trying to solve the same problem that async.js, narrative javascript and strands all try to solve: asynchronous callbacks are ugly, error-prone and downright confusing.

All of the above mentioned tools are unsatisfactory in various ways. Both narrative javascript and strands are complex enough that I uncovered serious bugs in both reasonably quickly. async.js is much more stable (and I actually have a working application with it), but still requires very careful programming and only works on mozilla browsers.

So I set forth with parenscript, which is essentially javascript dressed up as lisp. It doesn’t make for any prettier javascript, but it does make for one hell of a metaprogramming opportunity using lisp macros.

The aim is to convert straightforward, procedural-style code into the contortion required to appease asynchronous callbacks. I’m certainly not done yet, but I do have some compelling proof to show that it’s a plausible thing to do with lisp. Here’s a contrived example for, say, getting all items from whatever feed the supplied item-id belongs to. This involves getting the item to find the feed it belongs to, then returning all items contained within that feed. The “store” objects in this scenario refer to lawnchair stores, which do asynchronous local datastore lookups:

    (asyncfun get-sibling-items (item-id)
      (defer item (item-store.get id))
      (console.log (+ "item belongs to feed: " item.feed-id))
      (defer feed (feed-store.get item.feed-id))
      (ret feed.all-items))

And here is the generated javascript:

    function getSiblingItems(itemId, cb) {
      itemStore.get (id, function (item) {
         console.log('item belongs to feed: ' + item.feedId);
         feedStore.get(item.feedId, function (feed) {

This is just a simple example, but the lisp code still shows a remarkable reduction of both noise and contorted control-flow, and the generated code ought to work in all browsers. Worth pursuing, certainly.