Category Archives: JSON

Changing Directions

I See Dead Tech….

Knowing when a technology is dying is always a good skill to have. Like most of my generation we weren’t the first on the computer scene but lived through several of it’s more painful transitions. As a college student I was forced to learn antiquated technologies and languages. I had to take a semester of COBOL. I also had to take two years of assembler for the IBM 390 mainframe and another year of assembler for the x86 focused on the i386 when the Pentium was already on the market. Again and again I’ve been forced to invest time in dying technologies. Well not any more!

Hard drives are dead LONG LIVE SOLID STATE!

I set the data on a delicate rinse cycle

I’m done with spinning disks. Since IBM invented them in nineteen and fifty seven they haven’t improved much over the years. They got smaller and faster yes but they never got sexier than the original. I mean, my mom was born in the fifties, I don’t want to be associated with something that old and way uncool. Wouldn’t you much rather have something at least invented in the modern age in your state of the art server?

Don’t you want the new hotness?

I mean seriously, isn’t this much cooler? I’m not building any new servers or desktop systems unless they are sporting flash drives. But don’t think this will last. You must stay vigilant, NAND flash won’t age like a fine wine ether. There will be something new in a few years and you must be willing to spend whatever it takes to deploy the “solid state killer” when it comes out.

Tell Gandpa Relational is Soooo last century

The relational model was developed by Dr. EF Codd while at IBM in 1970, two years before I was born. Using some fancy math called tuple calculus he proved that the relational model was better at seeking data on these new “hard drives” that IBM had laying around. That later tuned into relational algebra that is used today. Holy cow! I hated algebra AND calculus in high school why would I want to work with that crap now?

NoSQL Is The Future!

PhD’s, all neck ties and crazy gray hair.

Internet Scale, web 2.0 has a much better haircut.

In this new fast paced world of web 2.0 and databases that have to go all the way to Internet scale, the old crusty relational databases just can’t hang. Enter, NoSQL! I know that NoSQL covers a lot of different technologies, but some of the core things they do very well is scale up to millions of users and I need to scale that high. They do this by side stepping things like relationships, transactions and verified writes to disk. This makes them blazingly fast! Plus, I don’t have to learn any SQL languages, I can stay with what I love best javascript and JSON. Personally, I think MongoDB is the best of the bunch they don’t have a ton of fancy PhD’s, they are getting it done in the real world! Hey, they have a Success Engineer for crying out loud!!! Plus if you are using Ruby, Python, Erlang or any other real Web 2.0 language it just works out of the box. Don’t flame me about your NoSQL solution and why it is better, I just don’t care. I’m gearing up to hit all the major NoSQL conferences this year and canceling all my SQL Server related stuff. So long PASS Summit, no more hanging out with people obsessed with outdated skills.

Head in the CLOUD

Racks and Racks of Spaghetti photo by: Andrew McKaskill

Do you want this to manage?

Or this?

With all that said, I probably won’t be building to many more servers anyway. There is a new way of getting your data and servers without the hassle of buying hardware and securing it, THE CLOUD!

“Cloud computing is computation, software, data access, and storage services that do not require end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services. Parallels to this concept can be drawn with the electricity grid where end-users consume power resources without any necessary understanding of the component devices in the grid required to provide the service.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about! I just plug in my code and out comes money. I don’t need to know how it all works on the back end. I’m all about convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources. You know, kind of like when I was at college and sent my program to a sysadmin to get a time slice on the mainframe. I don’t need to know the details just run my program. Heck, I can even have a private cloud connected to other public and private clouds to make up The Intercloud(tm). Now that is sexy!

To my new ends I will be closing this blog and starting up to document my new jersey, I’ll only be posting once a year though, on April 1st.

See you next year!

Out Of My Comfort Zone: Building a Web App

If you read Fundamentals of Storage Systems – Stripe Size, Block Size, and IO Patterns you know I built a little web tool to help you with sizing and estimating your RAID array’s performance. This is way out of my area of expertise. Luckily for me I like a challenge and had a guiding hand from some friends. I haven’t done any web programming since I wrote a photo album mod for Snitz! forum package in 2002, using classic ASP. I still get thank you emails from folks that have been running it for years. Needless to say my skills are a little rusty. My first instinct was to fire up Visual Studio 2008 and build an page tied to a back end SQL Server 2008 database. Well, is just different enough that I was struggling to do the most basic things. So, I thought it would be good to “get back to basics”. A very good friend of mine has been a professional web developer for the same company since about the time my photo album came out. He lives and breathes web technology. The problem was he doesn’t do at all. Everything he does is standards compliant HTML and JavaScript. I told him about my spread sheet of calculations and my desire to turn it into a web page. Joe quickly begged me to leave him alone. Once I calmed him down, he did a little sample page to get me on the right track. I took a look at it and thought it would be easy to goof around in this JavaScript stuff. I was wrong. What a convoluted world web developers live in.

I hacked on it the weekend before Christmas and was pretty happy with my handy work, right up until I showed it to some people. Comments like “Kill it with fire!” were common. I explained what it was and that took some of the hostility out of the feedback. The next Monday I asked the two lead web heads at work to look at it. Once Ben had washed his eyes out with bleach he told me under no certain terms could he fix it. My powers of persuasion, and a threat to never approve another schema change, helped bring him around. He explained several new technologies to me I wasn’t aware off, like CSS. Ben showed me quickly how to format the page so peoples heads wouldn’t burst into flames when they saw it. He also spoke of things like Ajax and JSON. Being the clueless data guy that I am I turned to my trusty friend yet again, Google.

Quick Definition List

JavaScript, the underpinning of the modern dynamic web 2.0 world.

Ajax (asynchronous JavaScript and XML, a group of interrelated web technologies that allow for dynamic web design.

JSON (JavaScript Notation), a lightweight data-interchange format, a way to structure data like XML implementing name/value pairs and ordered lists.

JQuery, a JavaScript library used to traverse HTML elements and build dynamic content easily.

JavaScript Implementation

What struck me was just how much had changed, yet stayed the same. One of the things I’ve always hated is no two browsers render the page the same way. If it worked in Firefox it didn’t work in IE. The other thing I didn’t realize for quite a while was any of the browsers would happily run the worlds worst code. I’m not talking poorly written code, I mean flat wrong. They will let any old JavaScript run. JavaScript is defined as a loosely typed language. The way it is implemented it goes from loosely to sloppy very quickly. Don’t get me wrong here. The language specification EMCAScript, is solid. The implementations are very poor in most browsers and that is where the problems developing for JavaScript really come in. I’m not saying JavaScript is slow, quite the opposite in fact. It is just difficult to make sure you are actually writing the correct code. Having worked with Visual Studio for quite some time, I’ve become spoiled with having my IDE tell me when the syntax is wrong before I hit the compile button. So, I was back to Google again looking for tools to help me out.

The Tools

I quickly settled on Aptana Studio 2.0 to do the actual code work. I also used Notepad ++, which is by far the best text editor in the world. with Aptana Studio allowing me to see errors in real time and use the preview function to look at page renders without having to have browser windows open. I did look at Microsoft’s new Expression Suite 3.0. It is nice. The designer is slick, but in typical Microsoft fashion it mangles some parts of the code that I then have to fix by hand. Aptana Studio also has a built in JavaScript minimizer that shrinks the size of your JavaScript files for quicker load times. Aptana Studio doesn’t enforce the use of line terminators and when I compacted my JavaScript it wouldn’t load. I did some additional digging and found an awesome Lint tool for validating JavaScript JSLint. My favorite thing about it is the quote and link on the front page “Warning: JSLint will hurt your feelings.” I knew I had found the right tool. After several passes I got my code to validate and minimize without any errors. I quickly looked for other Lint based tools and found one for JSON as well JSONLint.

The Work

Over the course of a few weeks I tinkered with the page, adding features, correcting mistakes and cleaning up the layout. The biggest thing that I learned is just how fast JavaScript can be. Even after I did the initial page I had no doubt a database would be involved at some point. I had compiled a small database of hard drives and their characteristics and wanted to add that to the page. The problem was I would basically have to redo the page again in or some other dynamic language to pull the data from the database. So, I cheated. As a proof of concept I built a JSON structure with a sample of the data to load the drop down list box and all the variables dynamically. I was stunned at just how fast the page was to respond. I hacked together some T-SQL that would generate the JSON object from my database, all 1200 entries. I cleaned it up a bit made sure that JSONLint validated it ran the minimizer on it and plugged it in. Holy cow, it worked! It was also still very vast. I just couldn’t believe it. The only drawback is having to update the JSON if I add new drives to the database.


What I’ve Learned

The main takeaways for me on this project are simple, web development stinks. Now I know why web folks have a hard time with T-SQL, they already have to be experts in five or six different technologies across two or more platforms. I use to introduce Joe as “My friend who does JavaScript”, now I know is is a hard core developer! What I build is simple and works. I think the layout is tolerable. If you have any suggestions or feed back just drop me a note.