Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants

Salut! I'm a twenty-something Web developer from ice cold Quebec City. I love music, comic books, hockey, 35mm films and India Pale Ales. Follow me or write me at louisroy+spam@louisroy.net if you wanna get in touch!

Package management for the Web

In these last couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting with various package managers in an effort to really grasp how they work and assess if package management as a whole would be a productivity booster at my workplace. While this seems like a classic case of the D.U.H. for Ruby, Node.js or Python folks out there, as a PHP guy in an agency, this is rather new to me.

I’ve fiddled with RubyGems and NPM for the last couples of years now, but never in the context of building an app. For example, I’ve used SASS to build better stylesheets, I’ve used LocalTunnel to test websites on mobile devices, I have tested LiveReload to accelerate front-end development. But none of these packages made it in an actual app as a library; they were rather tools that helped me build and test my projects. So I started looking at how and why we should start doing this at work in a very PHP/CSS/JS driven environment.

With PHP having such a low-entry barrier, it usually gets bad rep for having a disorganized community and probably the most diverse types of users (absolute non-programmers that fiddle with HTML once in a while to veterans of the Web industry). Composer kinda proves, for me at least, that this language is still alive and stronger than ever. Most major frameworks are represented on Packagist and more packages are added every day. For us, it would make a lot of sense to keep our repositories to a minimum and download dependencies apart from the rest.

On the frontend side, Bower makes an excellent job at covering most libraries. NPM provides all the necessary Grunt plugins to optimize images, render screenshots, concatenate and minimize stylesheets and scripts and so much more.

I have yet to figure out how we will integrate all of these technologies in our day-to-day workflow but I strongly believe this year will be the year of package management for us.

To Hell and Back

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I’ve spent the last month on the road with 3 of my buddies driving from Quebec City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. And it’s been a hell of a ride.

Couple of highlights :

  • Shenandoah National Park, VA : amazing wildlife and sceneries;
  • Nashville, TN : truly is the “Music city”, lots of partying going around;
  • Austin, TX : young, vibrant, welcoming, I’d would live there any time;
  • Great Sand Dunes, CO : out of this world;
  • Rocky Mountains, CO : impressive and so much fun;
  • Badlands, SD : again, out of this world;
  • Chicago, IL : third time there, still found a way to have fun

Pictures of the trip over there : https://www.flickr.com/photos/louisroy/sets/72157646805727221/

Hyperlocal Mesh Networks

Great article by the NY Times about how communities organize themselves when no one seems to care about them. I expect to see more and more of these local networks over time.

This quote stood out for me :

Joshua Breitbart, a senior fellow at New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, which created the software that helps the Red Hook mesh operate, said digital culture was too focused on the global, as opposed to the local. “The general narrative of Silicon Valley is, build an app and change the world,” Mr. Breitbart said. “There should be room to say, ‘Build an app and change my neighborhood.’ ”

Is this the dawn of hyperlocal software development?

My girlfriend and I went to see Under the Skin yesterday night at Le Clap. I went to bed completely puzzled by this visually striking and very creepy movie, as if there was something I missed in all this.

So this morning I’m looking for clues all over the Internet. I feel like there’s more to this movie than the simple “alien hottie abducts male all over Scotland” synopsis. And there most certainly is, I’m not just there yet.

But I’m not here to spoil anything. This is the kind of artsy flick I would have brushed aside rather quickly normally. But maybe I’m changing. Maybe this is a good movie.

Albatros’ website

So it’s been about two months now since I’ve started playing bass with Albatros. I figured it might be useful for the band to have a website. I feel most new bands are usually scattered all across the Web (Facebook, Bandcamp, MySpace, whatever) and sometimes forget it’s good to have a centralized presence somewhere. This was my goal with this website : minimalistic and straight to the point. 

What’s particular about this page? Really not that much except it was the first time I was trying Github Pages as a real hosting solution. Pretty easy to set up : I created a new organization for the band, created a new project following the naming scheme, pointed our domain to GitHub servers and added the CNAME file. Everything was up and running after a few hours and we’re now pushing and pulling our way through last minute tour dates changes!

Some studio time with Albatros at Le Pantoum.

Some studio time with Albatros at Le Pantoum.

Raspberries

I’ve been experimenting with Raspberry Pis for the last couple of months now. I have two ongoing projects and these little things never cease to amaze me.

My first idea was to build a micro Super Nintendo to carry around. A lot of people have had the same idea in the last years and so I managed to get it working without too much problems. RetroPie, EmulationStation and the overall Raspbian community made it all very easy to get it up running. I ended up 3D-printing a case I found on Thingiverse (it’s not a SNES, but it’ll do the job). This Pi has a 64GB SD card which can pack a lot a whole lot of ROMs (all legal, of couse). Surprisingly, I’ve been able to run PS1 games without too much hassle (Twisted Metal, baby!!). N64 games have been challenging though, hope I can fix that in the next few weeks. 

The other thing I’m working on is a video streaming computer. With the camera module attached, this Pi’s job is to encode a video feed then transfer it to a remote server who then streams the data to users. We’re currently using it to monitor our 3D printer and make sure it doesn’t do anything crazy overnight. I have followed this quick tutorial to make it work and I’m currently releasing some code based on what I learned in the last few weeks.

CDN-hosted JavaScript Represents an Additional Point of Failure

With the recent launch of jsDelivr, I came across a good discussion on Hacker News. With everything seemingly going towards CDN-hosted assets these days, Andrian Rossouw had some valid concerns about that recent trend. Most notably, his example about living behind the Great Firewall of China and not being to properly load a website really struck a chord. That’s the kind of problem that is hard to track down and that can have disastrous effects on the long term. I still think CDN-hosted libraries are great for rapid prototyping and for very small projects, but you do have to be careful and think twice before using that kind of code on larger projects.