ownCloud – a self hosted alternative to DropBox and Google Drive

I’ve used both DropBox an Google Drive for a while. They are wonderful. I’m going to talk for a moment about free self-hosted alternative that I’ve grown fond of.

Cutting to the chase: ownCloud

Features Overview

  • Nice iOS app.
  • Mac & Windows clients are better than Dropbox
  • Support for multiple sync locations and selective sync
  • Public link sharing with optional password or expiration.
  • Server requires just PHP

Sharing

Sharing works very similar to dropbox. The expiration date & password options are quite nice for limiting who has access and for how long.

Selective Sync

Like Dropbox it supports selective sync.

Bandwidth Limiting

Great for control if you’re syncing large files. The Automatic setting is quite handy

Immutable.js .get() vs. .getIn()

At Sprout Social in some areas of our frontend app we use Immutable.js for our Redux store.

Standardizing Selector Styles.

When selecting state out of our store we’ve written a collection of selectors to consolidate selectors logic. We’ve always write these selectors in array notation to keep styles consistent.

messageStore.getIn([id, 'author', 'screenname']);

With all selectors written in array notation, for Immutable.js we use .getIn() by default — regardless if the path is only one key deep. It’s very convenient. Keeps our selectors looking consistent in shape.

messageStore.getIn([id]);

Immutable.js .get() vs. .getIn()

However it is always faster to do a .get() instead of a .getIn() .  For  .getIn() Immutable.js has to iterate through an array path and check the result for each key path along the way. This therefore makes .getIn() expensive and .get() ultimately cheaper.

Abstract .getIn()

So if we wish to keep all selectors a consistent array path style, but take advantage of the speed of.get() whenever possible we could make a get abstraction. The first thing to do is to create an abstraction for Immutable .getIn() — something like this:

Add .get() to the abstraction.

How could we get this handy abstraction to take advantage of .get() whenever possible?
We could peak into the arrayPath , if there is only one value, use plain old .get(). Seems simple enough.

But is it performant?

Array length checking is cheap. With a quick little JSPerf test we can see immediately takins the time to check if we should use  .get() is more than twice as fast than just always using .getIn().

https://jsperf.com/immutable-get-getin-path-check/1

In the end

In the end, this is a micro optimization. However, we saw ~50ms to ~150ms speedups for every actions in the app. It really depends on the how often your selectors run. We have a large number of selectors that fire quite a bit. For such a small change, we’ll gladly take any performance boost over 100ms.

Don’t worry about the abstraction, just remember to prefer.get() over .getIn() whenever possible.

Pro tip: Same goes for .set() / .setIn() and .update() / .updateIn(), etc.

Why I left Windows behind.

Ever since my youth I was Windows fanboy and a Mac hater. I swore to never ever become like those “Mac fanboys“, I scoffed even at the idea…

Alas – My newly found pains with Windows:

1. Background services are priority over focused application

I have a theory that Windows prioritizes Services over the focused application. It is very rare that I see an app on my Mac ‘hang’ or get slow. Hanging apps just sometimes happen on Windows and you sit and wait. This may be why clicking things sometimes feels slightly slow.

2. Slow to open an Application

If I were to race my Mac and Windows opening identical applications, my money would be on my Mac. Can’t say why, but clicking things just happen faster on the mac.

2. Latency between click and response

On a Mac clicking something seems to happen ‘now’ as appose to in a moment on Windows. The time difference is probably only a handful of milliseconds. Perhaps Windows just likes to animate transitions bit more, but snappiness certainly feels better.

3. Heavy OS

Windows seems to like to make itself visible via animations, sounds, alerts, task bar notifications. Sometimes I just want to focus, but Windows has something it thinks is important for me now. I can’t help but feel that Windows has many moving parts that aren’t per-se coordinated.

5. Stability over time

With age, a Windows machine get’s bogged down by … something. Clutter of background services, taskbar apps, updaters, or something. But even cleaning these up and defragging only seems to go so far. Wiping the and reloading seems to be the only surefire way to make a Windows machine truly fast again. On my Mac, I swear I just have to reboot it (because it’s probably been  month).

6. Frequent reboots required

Speaking of reboots. I’ve had my Mac hit 100+ days of uptime with hardly any issues. This is completely unheard of in the Windows universe. Having an uptime of 7 days, is pretty good for a Windows machine (I have managed 60 +days, but it’s pretty rough by then). With a Windows machine the default it to ‘shut it down’. They just weren’t built for longevity. You constantly must reboot.

7. Long boot time and resume time

When you do reboot, it time for a coffee break. Reboot a Mac, and you might have time to stand up, stretch your arms. When in the workplace, the reboot sound on a Mac is a mark of ‘shame’. Everyone looks around for who was the one that had to reboot their Mac, *gasp*.

8. Sounds, sounds everywhere

Speaking of sounds. Why must every-little-thing make sounds on a Windows machine. Am I right angry little elephant Windows sound? Turning off Windows sounds is the first thing I do on a new install of Windows. Every once and a while they turn themselves back on when you accidentally set a theme instead of a new wallpaper.

9. Lack of SSH

Not to say you can’t install SSH, but the lack of it is a bit of a bummer I can’t SSH from just any Windows machine. Though I hear this has recently changed maybe.


Well thems my thoughts. With all that said… Ironically I still love and use my Windows machines. I didn’t really leave it behind.

React “statePropsPrecalculationError” and TypeError ‘state’ of undefined

Debugging a React component can be a pain.

There are many causes for “statePropsPrecalculationError”, for debugging see my post on Debugging React statePropsPrecalculationError post.

When you specifically have ” ‘state’ of undefined” the fix is simple:

Recently I ran into “statePropsPrecalculationError” alongside with the the console warning TypeError: Cannot read property ‘state’ of undefined(…)`.

This is super easy to fix, but not immediately obvious. Whenever you use `this.setState()` inside your component, you must define your initial state!

Just add a `getInitialState()` definition!


const MyComponent = React.createClass({
getInitialState() {
return {
isOpen: false
};
},
toggleOpen() {
this.setState({isOpen: !this.state.isOpen});
},
render() {
return (

Hello World!

);
}
});

Code: Regex for Instagram Username and Hashtags

Instagram is unique when it comes to it’s rules for usernames and hashtags. Here is one take at create a regex to detect them in JavaScript.

The rules

  • Two matches @ mentions with no space between @thebox193@discodude
  • Matches with one . in them @disco.dude but not two .. @disco..dude
  • Ending period not matched @discodude.
  • Match underscores _ @_disco__dude_
  • Max characters of 30 @1234567890123456789012345678901234567890

The RegEx

(?:@)([A-Za-z0-9_](?:(?:[A-Za-z0-9_]|(?:\.(?!\.))){0,28}(?:[A-Za-z0-9_]))?)
Instagram username RegEx

Examples

You can try it out over on Debuggex. Here is a an example implemented in JavaScript.

LoDash.js / Underscore.js mixins

Here are a few mixins I’ve created for LoDash.js I’ve found handy.

_.getDeep

/**
* Safely retrieves the value of a deeply nested object value
* @param {object} O The Object to be searched
* @param {string} str Dot notation string of the address of the attribute to be retrieved
* @return {mixed} Value of nested item or undefined
* @link http://stackoverflow.com/a/15400575/417822
*/
_.mixin({'getDeep': function(O, str) {
if ( !_.isObject(O) ) return;

var seg= str.split('.');
while(O && seg.length) {
O = O[seg.shift()];
}
return O;
}});

_.hasDeep

/**
* Tests if a deep value has a value/exists. Uses _.getDeep to retrieve value.
* @param {object} O The Object to be tested
* @param {string} str Dot notation string of the address of the attributed to be tested
* @return {boolean}
* @todo validate that falesy values 'false' '0' etc come back as true.
*/
_.mixin({'hasDeep': function(O, str) {
return !_.isUndefined( _.getDeep(O, str) );
}});

_.isDefined
Because typing !_.isUndefined() all the time is tiresome. Using _.isDefined is clear and more readable.

/**
* Shorthand for !_.isUndefined
* @param {mixed} e Item to be tested
* @return {boolean}
*/
_.mixin({'isDefined': function(e) {
return !_.isUndefined(e);
}});

_.compactObject

/**
* Removes all falsy and undefined values from an object
* @param {object} o Object to be compacted
* @return {object} Compact Object
* @link http://stackoverflow.com/a/14058408/417822
*/
_.mixin({'compactObject': function(o) {
var clone = _.clone(o);

_.each(clone, function(v, k) {
if(!v) delete clone[k];
});

return clone;
}});

_.compactObject

/**
* Toggles an array element
* @param {Array} arr Source Array
* @param {Mixed} val Value to toggle
* @param {Boolean} Optional: Boolean to determine whether to add or remove
* @return {Array} Result
*/
_.mixin({'arrayToggle': function(arr, val, state) {
if ( _.indexOf(arr,val)==-1 || state)
return _.union(arr,[val]);
else
return _.without(arr,val);
}});

Code: Data structure

In my understanding there are different types of data. Each is unique in purpose, mutability, and scope. Clearly identifying the role of an attribute and grouping it with related ones creates a cleaner interface to work with.

Raw Attributes

The raw data that is persisted to the server.

This data should be treated as if immutable, unless planning to persist a change of one of the values to the database. This is the once source of ‘truth’ that is trustworthy. If it is reformatted, or changed it looses its trustworthiness.

user: {
 firstName: 'Phil',
 lastName: 'McCool',
 username: 'pmccool'
}

Computed Values

Take in Raw Data, and reformat it for later use.

More often than not these are a convince to remove the need to repeat logic throughout the app.

If there is an urge to create a value here to describe the model’s content ‘isAdmin’, ‘fullName’, there is a good chance these ought to be part of the data schema to start with.

They can come at a cost of being computed but not always needed everywhere throughout the app. Alternately getter functions could be used to allow a more ‘on-demand’ approach (add result caching and get the both of both worlds).

computed: {
 fullName: 'Phil McCool',
 shortName: 'Phil M.',
 numberVowels: 3
}

State

Describing the state status, of either the data or of the component/view.

State data describes progress or what things are doing currently – [changing, updating, modified]. While these are similar to configuration items, they mutable are more closely tied to the model data describing what is happening to it. If their were multiple components/views that display the same model, they may all want to know the current state of the data. It’s meta data to the data.

These values should update frequently.

state: {
 isLoading: false,
 isModified: true,
 page: 4
}

Configuration

How something should be displayed or behave.

These ought be on the component/view that is rendering the item. It describes the preferences of how something should behave or be displayed. Think of them as options, ways to deviate from the norm, an API for this component/view.

A component/view should have a set of defaults for these values to fall back upon.

Config attributes can make it tempting to overload abstraction. Draw a line of making a new component/view when the core functionality has config options that cause different logic paths.

config: {
 size: 'large',
 template: 'card',
 color: 'blue'
}

 


Take Aways

It can be very tempting to merge or stuff configuration and state data right into the model data. It’s convenient, but lazy. It taints the raw data. If put an ‘isLoading’: true value into our data model then persist it to the server, we ought to feel like we did something wrong.

Ideally we would be able to group data in our actual data structures, but at minimum, we can always just keep in mind the role of an attribute and group mentally.

TL;DR

  • Not all data is alike.
  • Don’t mutate / override original data
  • Computed, State, and Config data shouldn’t be mixed in with raw data.

Code: jquery.otherdropdown.js

Today I published my first node npm package and bower package – jquery.otherdropdown! For quite a while I’ve been reusing a simple code snippet that made it possible for a user to add their own custom response to a select dropdown. I never thought I would publish it.

The principle is simple, in a list of options when the ‘other’ response is selected, prompt the user to specify what they mean. Try out the demo.

jquery.otherdropdown

I’ve seen forms that add an additional input, but it’s effective – but feels choppy to the user. Processing the data can also be slightly more complex when you have to check for a value that may or may not exist.

A long while ago I wrote a script (before jQuery was prevelent) that manipulated the DOM to give the effect I was after. Since then it’s been modified and switched to use jQuery and made it into a plugin.

The functionality is all self contained and pretty simple to use.  Use jQuery to get the select dropdown and runn the plugin on it:

$('.myDropdown').otherdropdown();

Publishing it to Bower I realized could be helpful not only to me but to everyone. Why not give it a go? Many things needed to be done, make it flexible with options for customization, create documentation and demos, and sharpen up the code. After several hours it was ready to go!

It’s been fun to work on. More complex idea are cooking.

A place for collecting my miscellaneous thoughts.