• You are currently browsing the archives for the General category.

  • Archive for the ‘General’ Category

    Meetup in London: why is Windows not your platform of choice

    Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

    This Thursday, my colleague Mike Harsh and Keith Rowe (@krow) from Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group invite you to the Square Pig in London for some drinks and a chat. These two program managers are leading efforts to make Windows-based machines a better place for web development.

    I’ve put up a small web site with the info of the meetup and there’s also a Lanyrd page. Many thanks also to London Webstandards for banging the drum.

    Whilst I am not affiliated with this group and I can’t be there as I am on my way to JSConf Asia to present, I’d love to see a lot of people go and talk to them. This is a genuine offer to improve what Windows has for web developers and I already gave them quite a bit of feedback on the matter (I am a Mac user…).

    I’ve been worried about our Mac fixation as web developers for a while. We preach about supporting all platforms as “it is the web” but a lot of our tooling and best practices are very Mac/Command Line centric.

    I know this is a bit last minute, but as it is with London Pubs, you have to spring a grand to get the room for the evening, so please show up and at least make sure this expense ends in the form of food and drinks inside people who Microsoft can learn from.

    [Excellent talks] “OnConnectionLost: The life of an offline web application” at JSConf EU 2015

    Sunday, November 8th, 2015

    I spend a lot of timing giving and listening to talks at conferences and I want to point out a few here I enjoyed.

    At JSConfEU this year Stefanie Grewenig and Johannes Thönes talked about offline applications:

    I thoroughly and utterly enjoyed this talk. Not only because their timing worked really well and the handover from presenter to presenter went smoothly. I was most impressed to see an offline matters talk based on project/customer delivery data instead of the ones we normally get. Most offline talks explain the need, show the technology and ask for us to get cracking. This one got cracking and showed how things were done and what problems you run into.

    The slides are beautiful, the storyline makes a lot of sense and at no time you feel condescended to. The talk also shows that some “impossible to use in production” technologies like DOM storage do work if you use them in a sensible fashion.

    As a bonus – it has the cutest rhino at 11:55:

    rhino cartoon

    Double this with Nolan Lawson’s “IndexedDB, WebSQL, LocalStorage – what blocks the DOM?” and you learn a lot about local storage issues and solutions in a very short amount of time.

    Thanks Stefanie, Johannes and Nolan. I feel cleverer now.

    Quick tip: stop Powerpoint from breaking words into a new line

    Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

    With my talk decks needing more re-use in the Windows/Microsoft community, I am trying to use Powerpoint more and wean myself off the beauty of Keynote (and its random crashes – yes, all software sucks).

    One thing I realised today is that Powerpoint thinks it is sensible to break words anywhere to go to a new line, not by word, or even syllable, but by character:

    default line break setting
    Words are broken into new lines at any character, which makes alignment a not enjoyable game of “find the breakpoint”

    This is the preset! To get rid of it, you don’t need to summon the dark lord, but all you need to do is to unset the default. You can find this in:

    Format ➜ Paragraph ➜ Line Breaks and Alignment ➜ uncheck: “Allow Latin text to wrap in the middle of a word”

    Here’s a recording to show the difference:

    fixed line break setting
    By unsetting the preset you can do what you want – line breaks are now only possible after full words

    Why this would be a preset is beyond me. Now I can breathe freely again.

    Testing out node and express without a local install or editor

    Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

    Node.js and Express.js based web apps are getting a lot of attention these days. Setting up the environment is not rocket science, but might be too much effort if all you want to kick the tires of this technology stack.


    Here’s a simple way to play with both for an hour without having to install anything on your computer or even having access to an editor. This is a great opportunity for showcases, hackathons or a quick proof of concept.

    The trick is to use a one-hour trial server of Azure. You don’t need to sign in for anything other than an authentication and you can use Facebook, Google or a Microsoft account for that. You can edit your site right in the browser or by using Git and you can export your efforts for re-use after you discarded the trial server.

    Here’s the short process to start playing:

    1. Go to http://tryappservice.azure.com/
    2. Make sure “Web App” is selected (it is the default)
    3. Click “Next”
    4. Select “ExpressJS”
    5. Click “Create”
    6. Sign in with a Facebook, Google or Microsoft account. *
    7. Wait for the server to get set up (1-2 minutes)
    8. Click the URL of your app to see it
    9. Select “Edit with Visual Studio online”
    10. Start editing your site live in the browser

    * This is a prevention measure to avoid people spawning lots of bots with this service. Your information isn’t stored, you won’t be contacted and you don’t need to provide any payment details.

    You can also clone the site, edit it locally and push to the server with Git. The server is available for an hour and will expire after that. In addition to Git you can also download the app or it’s publishing profile.


    There is a quick video of me showing setting up a trial server on YouTube.

    Video transcript

    Hello I am Chris Heilmann and I want to quickly show you how to set up a
    node and Express.js server without having to install anything on your computer. This is a good way to try these technologies out without having to mess with your settings, without having to have an editor. Or if you want to show something to a client who don’t know what node and express do for them.

    What you do is you go to a website that allows you to try out Microsoft Azure without having to do anything like buying it, or signing up for it or something like that.

    Everything happens in the browser. You go to tryappwebservice.azure.com and then you say you want to start an application. I say I want to have a web application and if I click Next I have a choice of saying I want an asp.net page or whatever. But now I just want to have an Express.js page here right now. I click this one, I say
    create and then it can sign in with any of these settings. We only do that so spammers don’t create lots and lots of files and lots and lots of servers.

    There’s no billing going on there is no recording going on. You can sign out again afterwards. You can log in with Facebook, log in with Google or you can login with Microsoft. In this case let’s sign in with Google – it’s just my account here – and I sign in with it.

    Then I can select what kind of application I want. So now it’s churning in the background and setting up a machine for me on Azure that I will have for one hour. It has a node install and Express.js install and also gives me an online editor so I can play with the information without having to use my own editor or having an editor on my computer.

    This takes about a minute up to two minutes depending on how how much traffic we have on the servers but I’ve never waited more than five minutes.

    So there you go – your free web app is available for one hour and will expire in in 58 minutes. So you got that much time to play with the express and Node server. After that, you can download the app content, you can download a publishing profile (in case you want to stay on Azure and do something there). Or you can clone or push with git so you can have it on your local machine or you put it on another server afterwards.

    What you also have is that you can edit with Visual Studio “Monaco”. So if I click on that one, I get Visual Studio in my browser. I don’t have to download anything, I don’t have to install anything – I can start playing with the application.

    The URL is up here so I just click on that one. This is of course not a pretty URL but it’s just for one hour so it’s a throwaway URL anyways. So now I have “express” and “welcome to express” here and if I go to my www root and I start editing in my views and start editing the index.jade file I can say “high at” instead of “welcome to”. It automatically saved it for me in the background so if I now reload the page it should tell me “hi at express” here. I can also go through all the views and all the functionality and the routes – the things that Express.js gives me. If I edit index.js here and instead of “express” I say Azure it again saves automatically for me. I don’t have to do anything else; I just reload the page and instead of “express” it says “Azure”.

    If you’re done with it you can just download it or you can download the publishing profile or you can just let it go away. If you say for example you want to have a previous session it will ask you to delete the one that you have right now.

    It’s a great way to test things out and you don’t have to install anything on your computer. So if you always wanted to play with node.js and express but you were too timid to go to the command line or to mess up your computer and to have your own editor this is a great way to show people the power of node and express without having to have any server. So, have fun and play with that.

    All things open talk: The ES6 Conundrum (slides/screencast/links)

    Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

    I just delivered a talk on JavaScript and ES6 at All things Open in Raleigh, North Carolina.

    This is just a quick post to give you all the content and links I talked about.

    Here’s the slidedeck on Slideshare

    And the screencast of the talk on YouTube

    Links I mentioned: