Monday, 1 July 2013

Setting up a Go Development Environment on a Samsung Chromebook

Since I've become an owner of a Samsung Chromebook, setting up a comfortable offline dev environment has been an ongoing goal.

I've been tinkering with various configurations for a while and have come up with this as as a starter for getting a Go Development environment up and running.

Part 1 - Installing the Go compiler

From start to finish this step should take about 40 minutes.

1. Boot the Samsung Chromebook into Developer Mode

The quick way to do this is to hold down escape + refresh + the power button.

Then press Control + D at the next page and over the course of the next 10-15 minutes the chromebook will wipe itself and install a developer mode enabled version. This brings a few things to the table like a command line shell.

2. Install Ubuntu with the help of Crouton 

I've tried dual booting Ubuntu on my Samsung Chromebook with ChrUbuntu which is fairly awesome but I had serious issues with the track pad, sound and general performance. I'm sure these issues will be ironed out over time and that being said - the wireless connectivity was much better on the Ubuntu boot than in Chrome Os - I didn't have to do the turn it off and on again song and dance with my router to get the Chromebook to connect which I frequently have to do with the Chrome Os boot.

Then I discovered Crouton and quickly I came to the conclusion that it is amazing. Ubuntu runs really smooth, the hardware works as per my Chromebook and whats more - I can switch between my linux distro and Chrome os at the touch of a button. Well four buttons (ctrl + alt + shift + Forward\Backward), but you get my point.

Installing Crouton is a piece of cake:

(i) Download the latest release from here:
(ii) Open a shell (ctrl + alt + t) then type "shell" at the command prompt
(iii) type: sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t unity

I've chosen unity over xfce which is used on the Crouton github page, no real reason here other than I preferred the look and feel.

Once it's finished installing it can be fired up with:

sudo enter-chroot startunity

3. Go

Go Lang is also very easy to install with apt-get and works beautifully:

sudo apt-get install golang

now check that Go is installed by typing: go version

Great, the Go compiler is in place.

Part 2 - Installing LiteIDE

This step takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Now compiling from the command line is one thing but I'm from the camp of developers that likes thumping out code in an IDE.

There are a couple of IDEs for Go that could be used - for example Eclipsegoclipse.

However I've chosen to go with LiteIDE for the time being as I like its simplicity.

There are a number of tools that need installing first that are missing from the crouton unity install:

1. make

sudo apt-get install make

2. g++

sudo apt-get install build-essential g++

3. GDB

sudo apt-get install gdb

4. QT4

sudo apt-get install libqt4-*

5. Git

sudo apt-get install git

6. LiteIDE

The only difference I had here from the instructions on the LiteIDE project page was with the QTDIR path which differs from the default path used by apt-get.

One further tip here - don't use sudo for the next few lines or you'll end up making work for yourself.

The build takes about 10 - 15 minutes. Once finished, we have a working LiteIDE in \litelide\bin

Opening the liteide application and confirming that traditional "hello world" code compiles and runs:


Friday, 14 June 2013

Mocking OS X with Mono and Moq

A quick way to test units of code with dependencies on other objects is to mock them up. This is not a new concept and the internet is awash with decent mocking frameworks and documentation on how to use them but I thought I'd jot a quick example anyway on how to go about mocking with mono on OS X.

I've built a simple class that has a dependency manually injected into its constructor.

Here is the interface for the dependency:

Implement the interface:

Create a class that depends on the IRepository:
Now when we invoke the above class:

All works as intended, the output is "Test" which is how we implemented the IRepository.

But when testing we want to isolate the MyWorkFactory class without having to rely on the working implementation of the IRepository interface.

So there are a few ways of going about this. We could create a new implementation of IRepository with known outcomes for testing. Or we can mock the dependency up.

I'm using Moq in this example as it's lightweight, works well on mono and is easy to use.

So let's mock/moq up the repository, inject it into the MyWorkFactory class and see what happens:

So as can be seen, the MyWorkFactory object now uses our Mocked repository dependency and outputs "My Mock" so we can test the class in isolation and configure the dependencies to test all avenues.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Samsung Chromebook

I unboxed a Samsung Chromebook this weekend and was looking forward to giving it a whirl but was  immediately deflated when it would not connect to my BT Home Hub. All manner of configuration changes later and I was still non the wiser.

The good news is that there is an active support forum and quick replies from the chrome ninjas. I was advised to enable the "Experimental Static IP Configuration" via the chrome://flags  configuration page. One reboot later and what do you know? I was connected.

So now 48 hours later I'm very pleased as a lot of boxes have been ticked:

  • It's fast. Really fast. Not just in terms of the boot up but the browsing is a lot more responsive than I am accustomed to.
  • The hardware is really nice. it's compact and light. The keyboard has a great feel to it and is great for touch typing.
  • The heat dissipation is excellent - this is certainly no leg warmer like the MacBook Pro
  • There are plenty of excellent apps on the chrome store to suit my requirements - and many offline compatible ones too.
  • The battery life is very good indeed - I've been using it for two hours and it's reporting over six hours left.
  • I can remote desktop onto my Desktop  and Mac.

Will it replace the MacBook Pro?

Maybe but I have a few issues to tackle first.

I'm missing a good text editor and the ability to develop .Net code. OK Google provide a Chrome Remote Desktop application that I can use to remote onto my Windows 8 desktop PC - it's very good but not quite as responsive as the Microsoft RDP client on the Mac. It may be the case that I dual boot the machine with Ubuntu and Mono to tick this box.

I've also recently taken an interest in programming in Python. I've discovered a decent alternative for the Chromebook is to "spin up" an Amazon EC2 micro instance and SSH onto it via the built in Chrosh (CTRL + ALT + T) terminal.

I'll probably blog about programming on the Chromebook once I've researched the options properly.

Oh yes, I'm going to have to find a different game to play too...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

OS X - Super Simple Database Application with C# in 5 steps

There have been a couple of recent developments in the Mono world that have made creating applications on OS X even easier.

One useful tool that has recently appeared on the scene is Nuget. Visual Studio developers have had access to nuget for many years and now and finally it is available to Mono users. It's made very easy to use via Matt Ward's MonoDevelop nuget add in.

This blog post will walk through using Nuget on MonoDevelop on OS X to create a simple database application.

Install the Nuget Addin into MonoDevelop, there are instructions here, I added a new repository via the Add-in repository manager that points to

1) Create a new Console Application

File -> New -> Solution -> Select C# and then Console Project

2) Create the model

The model is a simple POCO that will map directly to the database:

Nothing complicated here.

3) Use Nuget to add ServiceStack.Net OrmLite

There are many Object Relational Mappers out there for C#, for example Mono added Microsoft's Entity Framework last year shortly after it became open source. I'll blog about using Entity Framework in the future but for this post I'm going to use an ORM called ServiceStack.Net OrmLite to access a SQLite database.

Goto Project -> Manage Nuget Packages

Add the following package:

  • ServiceStack.OrmLite.Sqlite.Mono

Use the search box to locate the package and hit the Add button to add the package to your project:

4) Add a couple of additional references.

In order to use Linq to query the database a few additional references are required, add these by right clicking on the references folder and selecting Edit References...

  • System.Core
  • System.Data
  • System.Data.Linq

5) Use ORMLite to create the database, populate it with data and query it

When run:

The code for this blog post is available for download here.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

What's your crash plan?

Just over a week ago my trusty hand built Windows machine horrified me by presenting me with this message:

"Back up your files immediately to prevent information loss"

Oh dear - I hadn't backed up my files on my PC for a few months and even then it was just to an external hard drive and the Mac was even worse - my apple time machine had been gathering dust in a box somewhere since I moved house. This has bugged me for a while so now it's time for action!

I started exploring options for backing up the data from all the machines used by the household. After totalling the size of the data I currently wanted to back up (around 140 GB) it became apparent that free cloud storage offered by the usual software suspects just wouldn't do. For starters these services are not really aimed at backing up the contents of your household computers, their focus is on sharing documents.

I then remembered a Hanselman blog post from last year where he documented his back up strategy. He uses a service called Crash Plan so I thought I'd give it a try. 

The software supplied by Crash Plan installed perfectly and was super simple to setup and use on all the household machines running either OS X or Windows and has just worked.

Crash plan also provide a free application for the iPhone and Android phones used in the house - this application provides me with the status of all backups and also allows me to access individual files that have been backed up when I want.

Now I don't have particularly fast upload speed on my line but one week later and I am fully backed up. 

The hard drive still hasn't crashed but I now know if it does all is not lost.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

I passed Exam 70-480 Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3

Back in late October/ early November last year I noticed that Microsoft had refreshed their professional qualification exams and were running a promotion on one of the entry level exams - Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3. At the time of writing the promotion is still running until the end of March 2013.

I've been interested in pushing myself to get some professional qualifications for a while so took the bate and ran through the Jump Start modules on the Virtual Academy web site which made me think passing this exam is achievable.

I took the exam today and passed it with a sense of relief - this is the first exam I've taken in a long long time. I found most of the exam reasonably comfortable - there were a few areas that raised holes in my knowledge but on the whole it was a straightforward process.

I thought I'd write some notes on how I studied for it.

Unfortunately at the time of writing there is no official study guide book, however based on the content of the "Skills Being Measured" section on the exam details page the subjects can be broken down. I went through every bullet point and played around with the feature in code.

The Jump Start modules give you a taster of the subjects that are to be tested - I found this really useful - I could download the modules to my phone and watch them over the course of a couple of weeks on my daily commute.

Getting a good book on the subject was essential to me as I have a lengthy train journey in and out of work every day- There are many to choose from but I purchased JavaScript & jQuery the missing manual which I found an excellent resource and this was a significant help to me.

Another JavaScript book that has appeared up on my radar recently is Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja by John "jQuery" Resig - I really like the look of this one (even though the cover confuses Samurai with Ninjas) and have put it on my wish list. The publishers have generously provided a couple of chapters for download. I would seriously recommend reading Sample Chapter 6 as it is very important to understand inheritance and the infamous prototype property.

Lastly, reading about it is all well and good but I can't imagine anyone passing this without actually spending a considerable amount of time writing, breaking and fixing html, JavaScript and CSS. If you don't program for the web at work (fortunately I do) then it makes life even harder but not impossible.

If you're short on ideas on where to get started then try some of these suggestions

  • Find an interesting JavaScript library on GitHub and try and use it - play around with it. Let me know if you want a suggestion here!
  • Build a Twitter Bootstrap site and add some interactivity like form submit or a grid of data. Try and highlight menu items when the mouse hovers over them or selects them. Try and put it on top of some server code and pass data too and from it.
  • Use jQuery to dynamically add a few controls to a form. Then try it without jQuery ;-)

Basically noodling - it is a great way to learn, especially writing code that doesn't work and then figuring out why it doesn't work.

Also one thing that isn't covered by the syllabus is debugging, I'd seriously recommend getting comfortable debugging HTML, JavaScript & CSS with at least two browsers - all the major browsers have fantastic debugging tools baked in and there are lots of resources out there on how to use them, e.g. for Chrome.

Do you need to be on a Microsoft Operating system to study for this? Nope, I did most of my noodling on my Mac at home.

One final tip, understand this.

So what now? Passing this exam means I'm now a Microsoft Specialist but  I also have a few paths open to me. This exam is the first of three exams for a couple of Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) standards:

I think I'm going to opt for the Web Applications path to MCSD certification - next which is:

Exam 70-486: Developing ASP.NET MVC 4 Web Applications

Working with ASP.NET MVC 4 at work is a big help here but I still have a lot of studying to do - I'm aiming for mid Summer 2013 for this one...