Lots of code on here was written with the music of this artist 🙂

Listen/purchase: Into The Trees by Zoe Keating


Setting up my own flavour of Django

Okay, so I started doing stuff in python and of course stated playing around with django. And beeing used to padrinorb‘s convenient generators, I had to figure out how to get to my preferred setup. This is what I do:

  1. Run startproject projectname

  2. in

    import os.path
    and add

    os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), ('templates'))

  3. Make dir templates/ in the project folder
  4. Make dir views/ in the project folder
  5. Add an file
  6. import your views in __init__ (e.g.

    from index import hello
    if you have a view file called containing a function hello())

  7. In templates I put subdirs for all sites and a base.html which holds the frame for all sites.
  8. Now in import all views via

    from views import *

So, this gives me a view and a template dir as well as a frame for the sites.

Now that I got the views and template going I would like to have a seperate dir for static contents. Django’s static dir is simply /static whih is fine by me, but making a directory named static and putting stuff in won’t do. You have to put

STATICFILES_DIRS = (os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), 'static/'),)

After putting

{% load staticfiles %}

into the base.html. You can insert static files like css, image and so on by putting

{% static foo/bar.ext %}

into the template tag.

Legacy code and the “SuperProgrammer”

I started an online python course some days ago and part of the assignment is to peer evaluate other peoples code. The task was to print a message on the screen. Yes, I know, a boring task.
There I came upon something like this:

string = "xdxlxrxoxW xoxlxlxexH"
string = string[::-2]
print string

And this, in three lines, is the essence of problems I’ve encountered over the years with big complex projects and legacy code. Remarkably it seems to be a trap each projects “Super-Programmer” falls in…

1. Show-off programming
It’s okay to be proud of ones knowledge but, come on, this is about the job, not your ego.

2. The code is the documentation
NO, definitely not, code is just a small part of any bigger or more complex project. There ususally are configuration, directory structures, external dependencies (libraries) etc. Put it somewhere to be seen, the init file, a readme, a getting-started txt file but don’t assume.

3. Don’t oversmart
You found this very cool, super cryptic looking function that does unexpected thing… Yeah, probably use something that can be understood right away or at least leave a comment about what it does.

4. Modularize to death
Especially in ruby (but any other language as well) I found many people building modules around simple functions, meta programming things to bits and doing stuff they found in years old posts somewhere.
Those techniques are all good and useful at times but not every function is predestined to be reused in another project, so why not declare it a helper function?

In short:
1. Write code that can be read with by an average coder, not just by the “Super-Programmer”. Projects or companies dev teams seldom have an even knowledge distribution. (And in most cases you don’t even want that.)
2. Documentation!
4. Put your ego aside. I rarely think stuff like “Oh my, he/she came up with a fancy solution”, mostly it is along the line of “WTF! Why didn’t he use the obvious solution?” So if there is a reason for doing it differently go back to point 2 or 3.

Ruby Shortcuts

I sometimes stumble upon little snippets of ruby code that can replace longer loops. Like this one:


which eliminates all empty strings from an array of strings (does not work for Fixnum), which is quite handy following a “split” operation.

Another one is this:


which sums up all elements in an array and also works for strings.

Automating virtualization with veewee and vagrant

In order to consolidate my development environment a friend (thank you @bascht) mentioned veewee to me. Veewee automates and simplifys vagrant basebox creation. It comes with a plethora of templates for operating systems and versions. I use it to quickly build Ubuntu server on VirtualBox.

I started with a standard template (vagrant basebox define ‘appbox’ ‘ubuntu-12.10-server-amd64’) and customized the Including replacing the ruby install with rvm. This leads to problems when using chef which I don’t necessarily use so I can live with the inconvenience rather than with having to ruby setups.

I keep my own definitions for veewee in a separate directory to be able to version control it. Basebox creation itself is done by a little script. This setup requires git, and VirtualBox to be installed. I clone veewee parallel to the directory holding my definitions.

cd ..

echo “nnBuilding dbesbox and exportingnn”
if [ ! -d $BASE/veewee/definitions ]; then
mkdir $BASE/veewee/definitions/
cp -r $BASE/my-devenv/appbox/ $BASE/veewee/definitions/appbox/
cp -r $BASE/my-devenv/databasebox/ $BASE/veewee/definitions/databasebox/
cd $BASE/veewee/
veewee vbox build ‘appbox’ —force
veewee vbox export ‘appbox’ —force
echo “nnDone building and exporting appboxnn”
mv $BASE/veewee/ $BASE/my-devenv/

veewee vbox build ‘databasebox’ —force
veewee vbox export ‘databasebox’ —force
echo “nnDone building and exporting databaseboxnn”
mv $BASE/veewee/ $BASE/my-devenv/

cd $BASE/my-devenv/
veewee alias delete vagrant #Eradicate the “Gemfile could not be found” error
source ~/.zshrc

After building the two boxes I add them with

vagrant box add 'appbox' ''

and databasebox accordingly.

My Vagrantfile looks like this: do |config|

config.vm.define :app do |app_config| = "appbox" :hostonly, "" # is the host
app_config.vm.provision :shell, :path => "provisions/"
app_config.vm.provision :shell, :path => "provisions/"

config.vm.define :db do |db_config| = “databasebox” :hostonly, “”
db_config.vm.provision :shell, :path => “provisions/”
db_config.vm.provision :shell, :path => “provisions/”


My provisioner is shell, but a »gem install chef« would enable you to use chef subsequently to provision. (Since rvm installation requires a closing and restarting of the shell or login/logout I found this to be more reliable.)

Now a simple ‘vagrant up’ starts both boxes and pointing the browser at is answered by the nginx in appbox. My application is configured to use the db server at

Update on the .zshrc

I needed a little more information from my prompt so I extended it a bit

setopt autocd
setopt promptsubst

autoload -U colors && colors
autoload -Uz vcs_info && vcs_info

precmd() { vcs_info }
zstyle ‘:vcs_info:*’ enable git hg bzr
zstyle ‘:vcs_info:*’ check-for-changes true
zstyle ‘:vcs_info:*’ get-unapplied true
zstyle ‘:vcs_info:*’ unstagedstr “!”
zstyle ‘:vcs_info:*’ formats “%F{5}[%s:%r|%b]%u”
zstyle ‘:vcs_info:*’ actionformats “%F{5}[%s:%r|%b-%a]”

PROMPT=”%F{2}%n@%M:%F{6}%d%F{11}» “

The result is a shell that lets me switch into a directory without typing cd and if the dir is version controlled it shows me the versioning system, the repo name, the branch I’m on and whether there are unstaged changes (indicated by !)

Datamapper – Padrino – warden

I took a break from coding, but was still looking for a useful set of tools for developing web applications. And I think I found a solution that fits my needs (small core but extensible, modular, reasonable features, usable documentation or active user groups at least).

The goal was to create a backend that would output json objects that could be processed in an independent frontend.

First step was to generate a project following the guide

padrino g project -d datamapper -a mysql -e none

I set renderer (-e option) to none because I am using rabl for templating the json output.
For authentication I chose warden. So I added these to the Gemfile

gem 'warden'
gem 'rabl'

Then turned to the app/app.rb and added

use Warden::Manager do |manager|
manager.default_strategies :password
manager.failure_app = myApp

Warden::Manager.serialize_into_session do |user|

Warden::Manager.serialize_from_session do |id|

For creating the model I used the padrino generator again, since the user model is pretty straight forward (extend as needed)

padrino g model User username:string password:string email:string

After setting up config/database.rb you can create the database by using

padrino rake dm:create

To have some entries in the database to work with I costumize the db/seeds.rb which is mentioned in the padrino blog tutorial

Having done this warden should be in the system but is not working yet, since we have to define at least one strategy:

For now I like to use a common username/password login, which is already defined as default in manager.default_strategies. (You could add others if you wanted to, look at the warden-wiki for details)

Warden::Strategies.add(:password) do
def valid?
... code goes here ...
def authenticate!
... code goes here ...
? success!(user) : fail!("Invalid")

So in valid? you would define the requirements that have to be met to go on with the authentication process. In this case checking params[“username”] && params[“password”] would make sense.
After creating a usable authentication! function request to a controller can be authenticated via adding env[‘warden’].authenticate! before the login controller code.
If authentication was successful you can add env[‘warden’].authenticated? to following controllers and get the user (or what you decided to return for success) by calling env[‘warden’].user.

I tested this with curl, since the frontend is intended to be independent. I put the login process in a post route, so
after starting padrino

curl -d "username=...&password=..." localhost:3000/login

gave me the defined output of a successful login.

One pitfall when testing a subsequent controller with curl is that in contrast to a browser you have to add the cookie information. In order to get it you could call

curl -vvv -d "username=...&password=..." localhost:3000/login

and can extract the rack.session=… …; and call the controller with

curl --cookie "rack.session=... ...;" localhost:3000/subsequent_controller

Sinatra, Datamapper and CouchDB – a trainwreck

Just for purely educational reasons (why not) i decide to combine these three on heroku. The spoiler is already in the title: it didn’t work at all. Datamapper is quite cool and works great with the shared Postgres database, but don’t even bother to get the mongo or couch adapter working. Datamapper seems to gets massively reworked, maybe wait for this to be done and then try again. As for Postgres or MySQL it looks nice.

Sinatra, Mustache and Heroku – change of plans

Okay, I really like Mustache, it’s clean, it has a reasonably small set of options (conditionals, lists etc.) and has many implementations. One of them being javascript (Mustache.js).
So, i thought what about using Sinatra to generate JSON responses and serving templates, while the client is responsible for the representation. The benefit being a clean RESTful application and a deferred rendering process allowing to play with different options on caching JSON objects and exploring AJAX features.
And above all a fun project.
So, the basic idea:

  1. the root path “/” reads an index html file and hands it out
  2. navigation elements trigger to asynchronous AJAX requests (one for the template, one for the view)
  3. when both are finished mustache.js kicks in and renders the page (or parts of it)


get "/" do
  response ="index.html").read


var template = null;
var view = null;
var templateFinished = false;
var viewFinished = false;

function getTemplate(template){
  [...] xhRequest [...]
  if(request.readyState == 4){
            template = req.responseText;
            templateFinished = true;

function getView(view){
  [...] xhRequest [...]
  if(request.readyState == 4){
            view = req.responseText;
            viewFinished = true;

function process(){
  if(templateFinished == true && viewFinished == true){
	document.getElementById("content").innerHTML = Mustache.to_html(template,view);

So, in my case the rendered stuff replaces the content in the div with the id “content”. To elaborate on that one could pass the id of the element to be replaced as an option to the function and really play with this.

Sinatra, Mustache and Heroku

I’ve been playing around with Sinatra, in order to see how it would do in the wild I decided to use Heroku as a comfortable hosting solution.


Begin creating your Sinatra app. Add a Gemfile, since Heroku runs a bundle install.

Commit to git.

To deploy to heroku install the heroku gem and create an instance for your app by calling “heroku create”. By default, this is enough to get going if you want the application to be run under a subdomain (e.g. you can do so by adding the desired name to the create.

If you push your app to &quote;heroku master&quote; it should boot and be running. If it doesn’t look into the log-files by typing &quote;heroku logs&quote; in your Command line.


Mustache is a logic-less templating language derived from c-templates. Adding it to Sinatra is quite simple, install the mustache gem and add to your app.rb

require 'mustache/sinatra'
set :public => './public/'
register Mustache::Sinatra
require_relative 'views/layout'
set :mustache, {:views => './views/', :templates => './templates/'}

&quote;public&quote; holds static files like css. It works without explicitly setting it on my local machine but won’t do with Heroku, adding this fixes it.

It is important to include and provide the layout file since the engine looks for it.
The layout file includes the frame for all the views. For example:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="layout.css">
<div id="header">{{> _header}}</div>
<div id="main">{{{yield}}}</div>
<div id="footer">{{> _footer}}</div>

My layout shows a custom Title for each view, header and footer are partials.
You will need a view and a layout for every page. All views extend the layout if they use it:

class Codebrigade
  module Views
    class Index < Layout
       def title
           "Hello there"

Next steps are CouchDB and Sinatra integration…