Jay Harris is Cpt. LoadTest

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Azure Websites are a fantastic method of hosting your own web site. At Arana Software, we use them often, particularly as test environments for our client projects. We can quickly spin up a free site that is constantly up-to-date with the latest code using continuous deployment from the project’s Git repository. Clients are able to see progress on our development efforts without us having to worry about synchronizing codebases or managing infrastructure. Since Windows Azure is a Microsoft offering, it is a natural for handling .NET projects, but JavaScript-based nodejs is also a natural fit and a first-class citizen on the Azure ecosystem.

Incorporating Grunt

Grunt is a JavaScript-based task runner for your development projects to help you with those repetitive, menial, and mundane tasks that are necessary for production readiness. This could be running unit tests, compiling code, image processing, bundling and minification, and more. For our production deployments, we commonly use Grunt to compile LESS into CSS, CoffeeScript into JavaScript, and Jade into HTML, taking the code we write and preparing it for browser consumption. We also use Grunt to optimize these various files for speed through bundling and minification. The output of this work is done at deployment rather than development, with only the source code committed into Git and never its optimized output.

Git Deploy and Kudu

Continuous deployment will automatically update your site with the latest source code whenever modifications are made to the source repository. This will also work with Mercurial. There is plenty of existing documentation on setting up Git Deploy in Azure, so consider that a prerequisite for this article. However, Git Deploy, alone, will only take the files as they are in source, and directly deploy them to the site. If you need to run additional tasks, such as compiling your .NET source or running Grunt, that is where Kudu comes in.

Kudu is the engine that drives Git deployments in Windows Azure. Untouched, it will simply synchronize files from Git to your /wwwroot, but it can be easily reconfigured to execute a deployment command, such as a Windows Command file, a Shell Script, or a nodejs script. This is enabled through a standardized file named ".deployment". For Grunt deployment, we are going to execute a Shell Script that will perform npm, Bower, and Grunt commands in an effort to make our code production-ready. For other options on .deployment, check out the Kudu project wiki.

Kudu is also available locally for testing, and to help build out your deployment scripts. The engine is available as a part of the cross-platform Windows Azure Command Line Tools, available through npm.

Installing the Azure CLI

npm install azure-cli –-global

We can also use the Azure CLI to generate default Kudu scripts for our nodejs project. Though we will need to make a few modifications to make the scripts work with Grunt, it will give us a good start.

azure site deploymentscript –-node

This command will generate both our <code>.deployment</code> and the default <code>deploy.sh</code>.

Our .deployment file

[config]
command = bash ./deploy.sh

Customizing deploy.sh for Grunt Deployment

From .deployment, Kudu will automatically execute our deploy.sh script. Kudu’s default deploy.sh for a nodejs project will establish the environment for node and npm as well as some supporting environment variables. It will also include a "# Deployment" section containing all of the deployment steps. By default, this will copy your repository contents to your /wwwroot, and then execute npm install --production against wwwroot, as if installing the application's operating dependencies. However, under Grunt, we want to execute tasks prior to /wwwroot deployment, such as executing our Grunt tasks to compile LESS into CSS and CoffeeScript into JavaScript. By replacing the entire Deployment section with the code below, we instruct Kudu to perform the following tasks:

  1. Get the latest changes from Git (or Hg). This is done automatically before running deploy.sh.
  2. Run npm install, installing all dependencies, including those necessary for development.
  3. Optionally run bower install, if bower.json exists. This will update our client-side JavaScript libraries.
  4. Optionally run grunt, if Gruntfile.js exists. Below, I have grunt configured to run the Clean, Common, and Dist tasks, which are LinemanJS's default tasks for constructing a production-ready build. You can update the script to run whichever tasks you need, or modify your Gruntfile to set these as the default tasks.
  5. Finally, sync the contents of the prepared /dist directory to /wwwroot. It is important to note that this is a KuduSync (similar to RSync), and not just a copy. We only need to update the files that changed, which includes removing any obsolete files.

Our deploy.sh file's Deployment Section

# Deployment
# ----------

echo Handling node.js grunt deployment.

# 1. Select node version
selectNodeVersion

# 2. Install npm packages
if [ -e "$DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE/package.json" ]; then
  eval $NPM_CMD install
  exitWithMessageOnError "npm failed"
fi

# 3. Install bower packages
if [ -e "$DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE/bower.json" ]; then
  eval $NPM_CMD install bower
  exitWithMessageOnError "installing bower failed"
  ./node_modules/.bin/bower install
  exitWithMessageOnError "bower failed"
fi

# 4. Run grunt
if [ -e "$DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE/Gruntfile.js" ]; then
  eval $NPM_CMD install grunt-cli
  exitWithMessageOnError "installing grunt failed"
  ./node_modules/.bin/grunt --no-color clean common dist
  exitWithMessageOnError "grunt failed"
fi

# 5. KuduSync to Target
"$KUDU_SYNC_CMD" -v 500 -f "$DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE/dist" -t "$DEPLOYMENT_TARGET" -n "$NEXT_MANIFEST_PATH" -p "$PREVIOUS_MANIFEST_PATH" -i ".git;.hg;.deployment;deploy.sh"
exitWithMessageOnError "Kudu Sync to Target failed"

These commands will execute bower and Grunt from local npm installations, rather than the global space, as Windows Azure does not allow easy access to global installations. Because bower and Grunt are manually installed based on the existence of bower.json or Gruntfile.js, they also are not required to be referenced in your own package.json. Finally, be sure to leave the –no-color flag enabled for Grunt execution, as the Azure Deployment Logs will stumble when processing the ANSI color codes that are common on Grunt output.

Assuming that Git Deployment has already been configured, committing these files in to Git will complete the process. Because the latest changes from Git are pulled before executing the deployment steps, these two new files (.deployment and deploy.sh) will be available when Kudu is ready for them.

Troubleshooting

Long Directory Paths and the 260-Character Path Limit

Though Azure does a fantastic job of hosting nodejs projects, at the end of the day Azure is still hosted on the Windows platform, and brings with it Windows limitations. One of the issues that you will quickly run into under node is the 260-Character Path Limitation. Under nodejs, the dependency tree for a node modules can get rather deep. And because each dependency module loads up its own dependency modules under its child folder structure, the folder structure can get rather deep, too. For example, Lineman requires Testem, which requires Winston, which requires Request; in the end, the directory tree can lead to ~/node_modules/lineman/node_modules/testem/node_modules/winston/node_modules/request/node_modules/form-data/node_modules/combined-stream/node_modules/delayed-stream, which combined with the root path structure, can far exceed the 260 limit.

The Workaround

To reduce this nesting, make some of these dependencies into first-level dependencies. With the nodejs dependency model, if a module has already been brought in at a higher level, it is not repeated in the chain. Thus, if Request is made as a direct dependency and listed in your project's project.json, it will no longer be nested under Winston, splitting this single dependency branch in two:

  1. ~/node_modules/lineman/node_modules/testem/node_modules/winston
  2. ~/node_modules/request/node_modules/form-data/node_modules/combined-stream/node_modules/delayed-stream

This is not ideal, but it will solve is a workaround for the Windows file structure limitations. The element that you must be careful of is with dependency versioning, as you will need to make sure your package.json references the appropriate version of your pseudo-dependency; in this case, make sure your package.json references the same version of Request as is referenced by Winston.

To help find those deep dependencies, use npm list. It will show you the full graph on the command line, supplying a handy visual indicator.

__dirname vs Process.cwd()

In the node ecosystem, Process.cwd() is the current working directory for the node process. There is also a common variable named __dirname that is created by node; its value is the directory that contained your node script. If you executed node against a script in the current working directory, then these values should be the same. Except when they aren't, like in Windows Azure.

In Windows Azure, everything is executed on the system drive, C:. Node and npm live here, and it appears as though your deployment space does as well. However, this deployment space is really a mapped directory, coming in from a network share where your files are persisted. In Azure's node ecosystem, this means that your Process.cwd() is the C-rooted path, while __dirname is the \\10.whatever-rooted UNC path to your persisted files. Some Grunt-based tools and plugins (including Lineman) will fail because that it will reference __dirname files while Grunt's core is attempting to run tasks with the scope of Process.cwd(); Grunt recognizes that it's trying to take action on \\10.whatever-rooted files in a C-rooted scope, and fails because the files are not in a child directory.

The Workaround

If you are encountering this issue, reconfigure Grunt to work in the \\10.whatever-rooted scope. You can do this by setting it's base path to __dirname, overriding the default Process.cwd(). Within your Gruntfile.js, set the base path immediately within your module export:

module.exports = function (grunt) {
  grunt.file.setBase(__dirname);
  // Code omitted
}

Unable to find environment variable LINEMAN_MAIN

If like me, you are using Lineman to build your applications, you will encounter this issue. Lineman manages Grunt and its configuration, so it prefers that all Grunt tasks are executed via the Lineman CLI rather than directly executed via the Grunt CLI. Lineman's Gruntfile.js includes a reference to an environment variable LINEMAN_MAIN, set by the Lineman CLI, so that Grunt will run under the context of the proper Lineman installation, which is what causes the failure if Grunt is executed directly.

The Fix (Because this isn't a hack)

Your development cycle has been configured to use lineman, so your deployment cycle should use it, too! Update your deploy.sh Grunt execution to run Lineman instead of Grunt. Also, since Lineman is referenced in your package.json, we don't need to install it; it is already there.

Option 1: deploy.sh

# 4. Run grunt
if [ -e "$DEPLOYMENT_SOURCE/Gruntfile.js" ]; then
  ./node_modules/.bin/lineman --no-color grunt clean common dist
  exitWithMessageOnError "lineman failed"
fi

Recommendation: Since Lineman is wrapping Grunt for all of its tasks, consider simplifying lineman grunt clean common dist into lineman clean build. You will still need the --no-color flag, so that Grunt will not use ANSI color codes.

The Alternate Workaround

If you don't want to change your deploy.sh—perhaps because you want to maintain the generic file to handle all things Grunt—then as an alternative you can update your Gruntfile.js to specify a default value for the missing LINEMAN_MAIN environment variable. This environment variable is just a string value passed in to node's require function, so that the right Lineman module can be loaded. Since Lineman is already included in your package.json, it will already be available in the local /node_modules folder because of the earlier npm install (deploy.sh, Step #2), and we can pass 'lineman' into require( ) to have Grunt load the local Lineman installation. Lineman will then supply its configuration into Grunt, and the system will proceed as if you executed Lineman directly.

Option 2: Gruntfile.js

module.exports = function(grunt) {
  grunt.file.setBase(__dirname);
  if (process.env['LINEMAN_MAIN'] === null || process.env['LINEMAN_MAIN'] === undefined) {
    process.env['LINEMAN_MAIN'] = 'lineman';
  }
  require(process.env['LINEMAN_MAIN']).config.grunt.run(grunt);
};

Credits

Thank you to @davidebbo, @guayan, @amitapl, and @dburton for helping troubleshoot Kudu and Grunt Deploy, making this all possible.

Changelog

2013-12-03: Updated LINEMAN_MAIN Troubleshooting to improve resolution. Rather than editing deploy.sh to set the environment variable, edit the file to execute Lineman. This is the proper (and more elegant) solution. [Credit: @searls]

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Tuesday, 03 December 2013 00:34:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [3] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | dasControls | JavaScript | SEO

If you have read my post on Misconceptions on JavaScript Plugins and SEO, you know that search engines don't do JavaScript. Though these plugins and libraries (such as one for pulling your latest Twitter Updates) are nice for adding dynamic content for your users, they are just end-user flare and add nothing to your SEO rankings. They also put an unnecessary tax on your users, as each client browser is responsible for independently retrieving the external content; the time for your page to render is extended by a few seconds as the client must first download the JS library then make the JSON/AJAX request for your content.

In response to this, I have created dasControls, a library of custom macros for dasBlog (the blogging engine that powers www.cptloadtest.com). I have started with content that is driven by custom JavaScript libraries and convert the content and data retrieval into server-side controls. For now, dasControls contains only a Twitter Status macro, but I intend to add more controls in the coming months.

dasControls [Build 1.0.0.0] : Download | Project Page

dasControls TwitterStatus Macro

The TwitterStatus macro uses server-side retrieval of your Twitter data, eliminating all client-side JavaScript calls for your tweets. By placing the Twitter request on the server, the data is also available to any search engines that index your page. Additionally, data is cached on the server, and new updates are retrieved based on the polling interval you specify. When using real-time client-side JavaScript calls, there is a 2-5 second delay for your end-users while the data is retrieved from Twitter; by caching the data on the local server, this delay is eliminated, and the content for each user is delivered from the local cache, lightening the load for the end-user while avoiding an undue burden for high-traffic sites.

Macro Name: TwitterStatus
Macro Syntax: <% TwitterStatus("user name"[, number of tweets[, polling interval]])|dasControls %>

  • User Name : String. Your Twitter handle.
  • Number of Tweets : Integer. The number of tweets to retrieve and display. [default: 10]
  • Polling Interval : Integer. The number of minutes between each Twitter retrieval. [default: 5]

Relevant CSS:

  • TwitterStatusItem : CSS class given to each Tweet, rendered as a DIV.
  • TwitterStatusTimestamp : CSS class given to each Tweet's timestamp ("32 minutes ago"), rendered as an inline SPAN within each Tweet element.

Using the Macro within a dasBlog Template

This macro is for use in the dasBlog HomeTemplate. The macro works just like any out-of-the box macro, except that you must also include the alias specified within dasControls entry the web.config (the value of the "macro" attribute). Your twitter handle is required, though you can also optionally include the number of Tweets to pull from Twitter (default: 10) and the number of minutes between each Twitter data request (default: 5). Because everything happens on the server, there is no need to include any of the Twitter JSON JavaScript libraries or HTML markup.

<% TwitterStatus("jayharris", 6, 5)|dasControls %>

Installation and Setup of dasControls

Download dasControls, extract the assembly into your dasBlog 'bin' directory.

dasControls [Build 1.0.0.0] : Download | Project Page

Enable Custom Macros within your dasBlog installation, and add the Twitter macro to your list of Custom Macros.
First, ensure that the <newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros> section exists within your web.config:

<newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>
  <!-- Other Macro Libraries -->
</newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>

Second, ensure that the Macros Configuration Section is defined in to your web.config <configSections>:

<configSections>
  <!—Other Configuration Sections -->
  <section requirePermission="false" name="newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros"
    type="newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.Core.MacroSectionHandler,
      newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.Core" />
</configSections>

Third, add the dasControls library entry to the dasBlog Macros section:

<newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>
  <add macro="dasControls"
    type="HarrisDesigns.Controls.dasBlogControls.Macros,
      HarrisDesigns.Controls.dasBlogControls"/>
</newtelligence.DasBlog.Macros>

Roadmap for dasControls

In the upcoming weeks and months, I plan on adding additional macros to the dasControls library, including Delicious, Google Reader's Shared Items, and Facebook. If you're interested in any others, or have any ideas, please let me know.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 22:33:55 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [1] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | JavaScript | SEO

Search Engine Optimization is high on the radar, right now. Whether it be the quest for the first Coupon site in Bing, the highest Cosmetics site on Google, or the top-ranked "Jay Harris" on every search engine, the war is waged daily throughout the internet. For companies, it's the next sale. For people, it's the next job. Dollars are on the line in a never-ending battle for supremacy.

One of the contributing factors in your Search Engine Ranking is Content. Fresh, new content brings more search engine crawls. More crawls contributes to higher rankings. Search engines like sites that are constantly providing new content; it lets the engine know that the site is not dead or abandoned. And though this new content idea works out well for the New York Times and CNN, not everyone has a team of staff writers who are paid to constantly produce new content. So we shortcut. We don't so much have to have new content as long as we make Google think we have new content. There are hundreds if not thousands of JavaScript plugins out there to provide fresh content to our readers, ranging from Picasa photos, to Twitter updates, to AdWords, to Microsoft Gamercard tags. But I have to let you in on a little secret:

JavaScript Plugins do nothing for SEO.
Nothing.
Search engine spiders don't do JavaScript.

"This must be a lie. When I look at my site, I see my new photos, or my new tweets, or my new Achievement Points; why don't the spiders see it, too?" Well, it's true. Google Spiders, and most other Search Engine Spiders, don't do JavaScript, which is why JS provides no SEO contribution; spiders do not index what they do not see. A look through your traffic monitor, like Google Analytics, will often show a disparity between logged traffic and what is actually accounted for in Web Server logs. Analytics, a JavaScript-based traffic monitor, only logs about 40% of the total traffic to this site (excluding traffic to the RSS feed), which means that the other 60% of my visitors have JavaScript disabled. A JavaScript Disabled on 60% of all browsers seems like a ridiculously high percentage unless you consider that Spiders and Bots do not execute JavaScript.

Just like Google doesn't see the pretty layout from your stylesheet, Google also doesn't see the dynamic content from your JavaScript. Pulling down HTML, (since it is all just text, anyway) is easy; there's not even a lot of overhead associated with parsing that HTML. But add in some JavaScript, and suddenly there's a lot more effort involved in crawling your page, especially since there is a lot of bad JavaScript out there. So search engines just check what has been written into your HTML. They read the the URL, the keywords and META description, but only the content as rendered by the server. JavaScript is not touched, and JavaScript-based content is not indexed.

So how do you get around this? How do you get this SEO boost, since JavaScript isn't an available option?

Use plug-ins and utilities that pull your dynamic data server-side, rather than client-side. Create a custom WebControl that will download and parse your latest Twitter updates. Create a dasBlog macro to create your Microsoft Gamertag. By putting this responsibility on the server, not only will you make life easier on your end user (one less JavaScript library to download), but you also make this new content available to indexing engines, which can only help your Google Juice.

Update:

I've been working on a set of macros for dasBlog to start pulling my dynamic content retrievals to the server. Keep an eye out over the next couple of days for the release of my first macro, a Twitter Status dasBlog macro that will replace the need for the Twitter JS libraries on your site.

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Monday, 31 August 2009 08:47:29 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | Flash | JavaScript | Programming | Tools

As I discussed in an earlier post (Blog your code using Google Syntax Highlighter), Google Syntax Highlighter is a simple tool that allows bloggers to easily display code in a format that is familiar end users. The tool renders the code in a very consumable fashion that includes colored syntax highlighting, line highlighting, and line numbers. Out of the box it supports most of the common languages of today, and a few from yesterday, but some common languages are unsupported. Perl, ColdFusion, and Flash's ActionScript all are unloved by Google Syntax Highlighter, as are many others that you may want to post to your blog. For these languages, the solution is a custom brush.

Syntax Highlighting Brushes

For Google Syntax Highlighter, brushes are JavaScript files that govern the syntax highlighting process, with names following the format of shBrushLanguage.js, such as shBrushXml.js. Brushes contain information about the keywords, functions, and operators of a language, as well as the syntax for comments, strings, and other syntax characteristics. Keyword-level syntax is applied to any specific word in the language, including keywords, functions, and any word operators, such as and, or, and not. Regular expressions apply character-level syntax to code, and identifies items such as character operators, the remainder of an inline comment, or the entire contents of a comment block. Finally, aliases are defined for the brush; these are the language aliases that are used within the class attribute of the Google Syntax Highlighter <PRE> tag. With this information, the brush applies the syntax highlighting styles according to the CSS defined for each component of the language.

Breaking Down Brushes

Decomposing the SQL Brush

In JavaScript, everything is an object that can be assigned to a variable, whether its a number, string, function, or class. Brushes are each a delegate function. The variable name of the brush must match dp.sh.Brushes.SomeLanguage.

dp.sh.Brushes.Sql = function() {

Next, define the list of keywords for applying syntax highlighting. Each list is not an array, but rather a single-space delimited string of keywords that will be highlighted. Also, multiple keyword lists can exist, such as one list for function names, another for keywords, and perhaps another for types, and unique styling can be applied to each grouping (we'll get to styling a little later).

  var funcs = 'abs avg case cast coalesce convert count current_timestamp ' +
    'current_user day isnull left lower month nullif replace right ' +
    'session_user space substring sum system_user upper user year';

  var keywords = 'absolute action add after alter as asc at authorization ' +
    'begin bigint binary bit by cascade char character check checkpoint ' +
    'close collate column commit committed connect connection constraint ' +
    'contains continue create cube current current_date current_time ' +
    'cursor database date deallocate dec decimal declare default delete ' +
    'desc distinct double drop dynamic else end end-exec escape except ' +
    'exec execute false fetch first float for force foreign forward free ' +
    'from full function global goto grant group grouping having hour ' +
    'ignore index inner insensitive insert instead int integer intersect ' +
    'into is isolation key last level load local max min minute modify ' +
    'move name national nchar next no numeric of off on only open option ' +
    'order out output partial password precision prepare primary prior ' +
    'privileges procedure public read real references relative repeatable ' +
    'restrict return returns revoke rollback rollup rows rule schema ' +
    'scroll second section select sequence serializable set size smallint ' +
    'static statistics table temp temporary then time timestamp to top ' +
    'transaction translation trigger true truncate uncommitted union ' +
    'unique update values varchar varying view when where with work';

  var operators = 'all and any between cross in join like not null or ' +
    'outer some';

Following the keyword definitions is the Regular Expression pattern and Style definition object list. The list, this.regexList, is an array of pattern/style objects: {regex: regexPattern, css: classString}. The regexPattern is a JavaScript RegExp object, and defines the pattern to match in the source code; this pattern can be created using one of three options within Google Syntax Highlighter.

Predefined Patterns
Within Google Syntax Highlighter, dp.sh.RegexLib contains five predefined regular expression patterns. MultiLineCComments is used for any language that uses C-style multi-line comment blocks: /* my comment block */. SingleLineCComments is used for any language that uses C-style single line or inline comments: // my comment. SingleLinePerlComments applies for Perl-style single line comments: # my comment. DoubleQuotedString identifies any string wrapped in double-quotes and SingleQuotedString identifies strings wrapped in single-quotes. These options are used in place of creating a new instance of the RegExp object.
Keyword Patterns
Google Syntax Highlighter has a GetKeywords(string) function which will build a pattern string based on one of the brush's defined keyword strings. However, this is only the pattern string, and not the RegExp object. Pass this value into the RegExp constructor: new RegExp(this.GetKeyword(keywords), 'gmi')
Custom Pattern Definition
Create a new RegExp object using a custom pattern. For example, use new RegExp('--(.*)$', 'gm') to match all Sql comments, such as --my comment.

For these pattern/style objects, the regular expression pattern is followed by the name of the CSS class to apply to any regular expression matches. The style sheet packaged with Google Syntax Highlighter, SyntaxHighlighter.css, already defines the many CSS classes used by GSH; place the additional styles for your custom brushes within this file, in a new file, in your HTML, or defined them within the brush using JavaScript.

  this.regexList = [
    {regex: new RegExp('--(.*)$', 'gm'), css: 'comment'},
    {regex: dp.sh.RegexLib.DoubleQuotedString, css: 'string'},
    {regex: dp.sh.RegexLib.SingleQuotedString, css: 'string'},
    {regex: new RegExp(this.GetKeywords(funcs), 'gmi'), css: 'func'},
    {regex: new RegExp(this.GetKeywords(operators), 'gmi'), css: 'op'},
    {regex: new RegExp(this.GetKeywords(keywords), 'gmi'), css: 'keyword'}
  ];

The delegate definition ends with any style specifications. Apply a style sheet to the entire code block using this.CssClass. Also, as mentioned above, the brush can define custom CSS using this.Style as an alternative to placing the CSS in HTML or a CSS file. When finished, close the delegate.

  this.CssClass = 'dp-sql';
  this.Style = '.dp-sql .func { color: #ff1493; }' +
    '.dp-sql .op { color: #808080; }'; }

The final component of a Brush, set outside of your delegate, contains the prototype declaration and any aliases to apply to the Brush. Aliases consist of a string array (a real array this time, not a space-delimited string) of language aliases to use, such as ['c#','c-sharp','csharp']. Alias values must be unique across all defined brushes that you have included into your site.

dp.sh.Brushes.Sql.prototype = new dp.sh.Highlighter();
dp.sh.Brushes.Sql.Aliases = ['sql'];

Making a Custom Brush (for ActionScript)

I like rich media applications, such as those developed in Flash or Silverlight. I was surprised when I found that Google Syntax Highlighter does not ship with an ActionScript brush, and more surprised when I found out that no one has written one, yet. So, using the methods from above, I created one. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive brush, but more like Stone Soup. It's a start. Please feel free to add to it.

dp.sh.Brushes.ActionScript = function() {

  var keywords = 'and break case catch class continue default do dynamic else ' +
    'extends false finally for if implements import in interface NaN new not ' +
    'null or private public return static super switch this throw true try ' +
    'undefined var void while with';

  this.regexList = [{regex: dp.sh.RegexLib.SingleLineCComments, css: 'comment'},
    {regex: dp.sh.RegexLib.MultiLineCComments, css: 'comment'},
    {regex: dp.sh.RegexLib.DoubleQuotedString, css: 'string'},
    {regex: dp.sh.RegexLib.SingleQuotedString, css: 'string'},
    {regex: new RegExp(this.GetKeywords(keywords), 'gm'), css: 'keyword'}];

    this.CssClass = 'dp-as';
}

dp.sh.Brushes.ActionScript.prototype = new dp.sh.Highlighter();
dp.sh.Brushes.ActionScript.Aliases = ['actionscript', 'as'];
Wednesday, 10 December 2008 16:47:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [1] - Trackback

Filed under: Blogging | JavaScript | Programming | Reviews | Tools

Google Syntax Highlighter is a simple tool that allows bloggers to easily display code in a format that is familiar end users. The tool renders the code in a very consumable fashion that includes colored syntax highlighting, line highlighting, and line numbers.

/*
This is an example of how Google
Syntax Highlighter can highlight and display syntax
to you, the end user
*/
public void HelloWorld()
{
  // I have some comments
  Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!");
}

It is purely a client-side tool, as all of the processing is done strictly within the browser through JavaScript. There is no server-side processing. Since it is all JavaScript, you don't need special Copy/Paste plugins and macros installed to your favorite IDE or your blog authoring tool. (I am leery of random plugins and installing them into the software that I use to feed my family.) To including code in your blog post, copy your code from Visual Studio, Notepad, Flash, Firebug, or any tool that displays text, and paste it in to your post. As of v1.5.1, Google Syntax Highlighter supports C, C++, C#, CSS, Delphi, HTML, Java, JavaScript, PHP, Pascal, Python, Ruby, SQL, VB, VB.NET, XML, XSLT, and all of this is just what comes out of the box.

Setting Up Syntax Highlighter

To get Syntax Highlighter running on your blog, download the latest version of the RAR archive and extract the code. The archive contains a parent folder, dp.SyntaxHighlighter, with three child folders:

dp.SyntaxHighlighter
  \Scripts         //Production-ready (Compressed) scripts
  \Styles          //CSS
  \Uncompressed    //Human-readable (Uncompressed/Debug) scripts

Once the archive is extracted, upload dp.SyntaxHighlighter to your blog. Feel free to rename the folder if you like, though I did not. It is not necessary to upload the Uncompressed folder and its files; they are best used for debugging or for viewing the code, as the files in the Scripts folder have been compressed to reduce bandwidth by having most of their whitespace removed.

After you have uploaded the files, you will need to add script and style references to your site's HTML. This is code is not for your posts, but rather for your blog template. In DasBlog, I place this code in the <HEAD> block of my homeTemplate.blogtemplate file. Remember to change the file paths to match the path to where you uploaded the code.

<link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet"
  href="dp.SyntaxHighlighter/Styles/SyntaxHighlighter.css"></link>
<script language="javascript" src="dp.SyntaxHighlighter/Scripts/shCore.js"></script>
<script language="javascript" src="dp.SyntaxHighlighter/Scripts/shBrushCSharp.js"></script>
<script language="javascript" src="dp.SyntaxHighlighter/Scripts/shBrushXml.js"></script>
<script language="javascript">
window.onload = function () {
  dp.SyntaxHighlighter.ClipboardSwf = 'dp.SyntaxHighlighter/Scripts/clipboard.swf';
  dp.SyntaxHighlighter.HighlightAll('code');
}
</script>

To make the tool most efficient, including minimizing the code download by the client browser, highlighting is only enabled for the languages that you specify. The highlighting rules for each language is available through a file referred to as a Brush. The code sample above enables only C# and XML/HTML by including the core file, shCore.js, the C# brush, shBrushCSharp.js and the XML/HTML brush, shBrushXml.js. A unique brush file is available for each of the supported languages, and only the core file is required. These brushes are located in your Scripts directory (the human-readable version is in the Uncompressed folder). Include only the brushes that you like; if you forgot a language brush, the code will still display on your page, but as unformatted text.

<!-- Unformatted HTML Code / No Brush -->
<p id="greeting">Hi, mom & dad!</p>
<!-- Formatted HTML Code -->
<p id="greeting">Hi, mom & dad!</p>

Making Syntax Highlighter Go

Now that the application is deployed to the site, how does it get applied to a post? Paste the code into the HTML view of your post, inside of a <PRE> tag. Create a name attribute on your tag with a value of code, and a class attribute set to the language and options you are using.

<pre name="code" class="c-sharp">
  public void HelloWorld()
  {
    Console.WriteLine("Hello, World!");
  }
</pre>

One catch is the code must be first made HTML-safe. All angle-brackets, <tag>, must be converted to their HTML equivalent, &lt;tag&gt;, as well as ampersands, & to &amp;. I also find it helpful if your code-indentation uses two-spaces, rather than tabs.

<!-- Pre-converted code -->
<p>Hi, mom & dad!</p>
<!-- Converted code -->
<pre name="code" class="html">
  &lt;p&gt;Hi, mom &amp; dad!&lt;/p&gt;
</pre>

The class attribute is made up of both language and option aliases. These aliases consist of one language followed by your desired options, all in a colon delimited list.

class="language[:option[:option[:option]]]"

The value of language is any of Syntax Highlighter's defined language aliases, such as c#, csharp, or c-sharp for C#, or rb, ruby, rails, or ror for Ruby. See: full list of available languages.

Options allow for such things as turning off the plain text / copy / about controls (nocontrols), turning off the line number gutter (nogutter), or specifying the number of the first line (firstline[n]). A JavaScript code block with no controls header, and starting the line numbering at 34 would have a class attribute value of class="js:nocontrols:linenumber[34]". See: full list of available options.

Extending Syntax Highlighter

Because Google Syntax Highlighter is entirely in JavaScript, you have access to all of the code. Edit it however you like to suit your needs. Additionally, brushes are very easy to create, and include little more than a list of a highlighted language's keywords in a string and an array of language aliases. Creating a brush for ActionScript or QBasic would not take much time. Language brushes exist in the wild for Perl, DOS Batch, and ColdFusion.

In a future post I plan on discussing Brush Creation in depth through creating a brush for ActionScript.

Comparing Syntax Highlighter to Others

I am a fan of this tool, though that should be obvious considering it is what I use on this blog. I like how readable the code is, how extendable it is, and how easy it is to use. I don't like its compatibility--or lack thereof--with RSS; since all of the work is done in JavaScript, and RSS doesn't do JavaScript, there is no syntax highlighting, numbers, or options within a feed, though the code formatting is still maintained. Other tools, like the CopySourceAsHtml plugin for Visual Studio or Insert Code Snippet for Windows Live Writer convert your code into formatted HTML, where all of the syntax highlighting is applied through HTML attributes and embedded CSS. Their methods are much easier than Syntax Highlighter, since there are no stylesheets or JavaScript files to include in your HTML, and you don't have to worry about making your code HTML-safe. Also, their method works in RSS feeds. However, there isn't the same level of control. Through Syntax Highlighter's extendibility, I can theme my code views, such as if I wanted them to look like my personal Visual Studio theme. Through Syntax Highlighter, I can also make changes at a later time, and those changes will immediately reflected in all past posts, whereas making modifications to the HTML/embedded CSS pattern is much more difficult.

Final Thoughts

I like CopySourceAsHtml in Visual Studio. I used it for years on this blog. But I code in more languages than VB.Net or C#, and the plugin isn't available within the Flash or LoadRunner IDE. I was also frustrated with pasting my code in, only to find that it was too wide for my blog theme's margins, and would have to go back to Visual Studio, change my line endings, and repeat the process. I'm sticking with Google Syntax Highlighter. It works for all of my languages (as soon as I finish writing my ActionScript brush), and when my line endings are too long, I simply change my HTML. And in my HTML, my code still looks like code, rather than a mess of embedded style. I have to sacrifice RSS formatting, but as a presentation developer that is very particular about his HTML, I am glad for the customization and control.

Monday, 24 November 2008 10:41:50 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [9] - Trackback

Filed under: JavaScript | Programming

Recently, here at the ranch, we have been experiencing a few issues with Internet Explorer’s javascript functionality. It’s not that IE is doing anything wrong, but rather that it performs unexpectedly. When opening a new window in javascript [window.open()], the height and width dimensions are relative to the size of the canvas / stage / content area (depending on what discipline you are from), all commonly referred to as innerHeight and innerWidth. However, when you execute a resize function in javascript [window.resizeTo()], the height and width dimensions are relative to the size of the entire window, including any chrome, commonly referred to as outerHeight and outerWidth.

Thus, if you create a window (500px x 300px), then resize it to (505px x 305px), the window will actually get smaller, since the chrome adds more than 5 pixels to height and width.

The problem: SCOs (Courseware) can be of any size, depending on the specifications, requirements, and whims of the original clients and developers. To keep courses in their most visual-appealing state, we need to size the content window to precise innerHeight and innerWidth pixel dimensions. Due to our site’s design, the link that launches the Course Shell window has no idea what the size of the SCO is. The Course Shell (LMS) knows how big the SCO is, but it is loaded into the Course Shell window, which is obviously done after the window is created and initially sized. We need a way to size the window to content-dimensions after the window is created.

The catch: Internet Explorer has no native support for innerHeight and innerWidth, let alone a way to resize to those dimensions. Furthermore, the difference between the inner- and outer-dimensions due to window chrome can change from OS to OS and from theme to theme. For example, in Windows XP’s default “bubbly” themes, the title and status bars are much taller than in Windows “Classic” themes. Internet Explorer has no native way to identify the difference in inner- and outer-dimensions, making it difficult to resize to an inner size using an outer size command.

I hacked together some (perhaps mediocre, but still effective) javascript to resize a window to its inner dimensions rather than the outer dimensions, regardless of the amount of chrome that the OS adds.

HTML

<div id="resizeReference"
    style="position: absolute; top: 0px; left: 0px; width: 100%; height: 100%; z-index: -1;">
    &nbsp;
</div>

Javascript

function resizeWindow(iWidth, iHeight){
    var resizeRef = document.getElementById('resizeReference');
    var iOuterWidth = iWidth + 10;
    var iOuterHeight = iHeight + 29;
 
    if (resizeRef) {
        var iPreWidth = resizeRef.offsetWidth;
        var iPreHeight = resizeRef.offsetHeight;
        window.resizeTo(iPreWidth,iPreHeight);
        var iPostWidth = resizeRef.offsetWidth;
        var iPostHeight = resizeRef.offsetHeight;
        iOuterWidth = iWidth + (iPreWidth-iPostWidth);
        iOuterHeight = iHeight + (iPreHeight-iPostHeight);
    }
    window.resizeTo(iOuterWidth, iOuterHeight);
}

The HTML tag creates a hidden DIV whose height and width match the window. This provides innerHeight and innerWidth. The JS takes the dimensions of that DIV and resizes the window to those measured dimensions. Since this transfers the inner-dimensions to the outer-dimensions, this provides the exact size of the window chrome. We can now resize to the input parameter height and width, plus the height and width of window chrome, to give us a resize to inner-dimensions.

Execute resizeWindow no sooner than below the closing Body tag, so that the DIV is rendered.

It is a bit of a hack, but it works for now.

Tuesday, 02 May 2006 10:23:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [3] - Trackback