August 11th, 2021
Building Cypress End to End Tests in TypeScript
August 2nd, 2021
Writing Less Stylesheets
When it comes to CSS preprocessors (stylesheet languages that add features on top of CSS and transpile to CSS), in the past I've often used Sass. When I first started learning about CSS preprocessors, the two main choices were Sass and Less. The reason I decided to learn Sass instead of Less was due to its greater popularity and me trying to follow industry trends. At the time, Bootstrap had just released version 4, which switched its stylesheet language from Less to Sass1. In my mind, it didn't make sense for me to learn a preprocessor language that was being left in the dust.
Over time, I increasingly wished to learn the difference between Sass and Less. It was hard for me to tell if there were differences in the functionality of Sass or Less, or if Sass was picked as the favorite due to syntactical preferences and third-party library support. Last year I wrote two front-end application prototypes, graphql-react-prototype and apollo-client-server-prototype. Instead of using a stylesheet technology I already knew such as Sass or JSS, I decided to learn Less and use it as the stylesheet language for these prototypes.
July 31st, 2021
Building a GraphQL React Prototype
Last year, I started using GraphQL at my job. I decided to create some GraphQL prototypes in my spare time, to get better acquainted with the GraphQL ecosystem. In 2018 I learned the basics of GraphQL and wrote two articles about my experience, but never dove into using GraphQL in real world applications. The GraphQL React prototype discussed in this article along with my Apollo prototype are the beginnings of that production application journey. In the future, I plan on using GraphQL for the API layer of my applications.
The GraphQL prototype discussed in this article is a React front-end application that connects to a GitHub GraphQL API. The API provides details about my repositories, and React displays those details in a dashboard. The dashboard is shown below.
July 26th, 2021
Creating AWS CloudWatch Synthetics Canary Functions with Terraform
I started looking into Synthetic Monitoring as a way to test my SaintsXCTF application running in production. I had an issue where the website unexpectedly stopped working, and there was no automated process in place to alert me. With Synthetic Monitoring, I created canary functions to test critical paths of the website, such as signing in a user. If canary functions fail, I get an email alerting me of the issue.
July 3rd, 2021
Exploring AWS DynamoDB
DynamoDB is a NoSQL database on AWS specializing in key-value and document storage. DynamoDB is fully managed by AWS, meaning users don't need to provision any servers for it to run on. I often compare DynamoDB to MongoDB, due to their similar functionality and JSON document/item structure.
Recently, DynamoDB has come up quite a bit in engineering conversations I've had in relation to building cloud native applications. I wrote a series of articles on MongoDB in 2017 while I was prototyping with the database. Recently I did the same with DynamoDB, creating a sample DynamoDB table with Terraform and using AWS SDKs to modify and test its contents. This article discusses what I've learned about DynamoDB and showcases my prototype code.
June 30th, 2021
Styling React Components With JSS
June 29th, 2021
JSS: The New Standard for Stylesheets
In my relatively short time as a software engineer, I've used many different approaches to writing stylesheets for web applications. My initial naive approach was writing a single CSS stylesheet per application, such as the styles.css file for my SaintsXCTF application that I wrote in college. Although this was a common practice in the early days of web development, lumping an entire website's styles into a single file has many downsides. First, a single stylesheet is difficult to read and gets very long. Second, it doesn't follow programming principles like DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself), abstraction, and encapsulation. Third, CSS lacks many programming language features which enable scalable and reusable code, such as functions, conditional statements, and variables.
June 29th, 2021
While writing this article I learned that CSS recently added variables into its specification1. Variable support is a great new addition (although, unsurprisingly, it is not supported by Internet Explorer). If CSS continues to improve, I may consider its use in certain future applications.
June 18th, 2021
SaintsXCTF Version 2.0: AWS Infrastructure
The infrastructure for my website saintsxctf.com is hosted on AWS. SaintsXCTF had AWS infrastructure prior to version 2.0, but it was redesigned and rewritten for the new version. This article outlines the infrastructure and walks through Terraform code which configures and builds the infrastructure.
June 14th, 2021
SaintsXCTF Version 2.0: Architectural Overview
On December 24th 2016, I released my first website saintsxctf.com. I was still a senior in college at the time, and used my limited software development knowledge from classes and a summer internship to build the application. SaintsXCTF is a training log designed for my college Cross Country and Track & Field teams at St. Lawrence University. Running competitively in college had a major impact on my life, and I was really proud to create the website to assist my teammates and coaches. Shortly after releasing the website, I created an Android application and an iOS application for SaintsXCTF. With SaintsXCTF accessible via web browsers and mobile applications, I felt my development work was complete and moved on to other programming projects.
As I began my professional software engineering career in the summer of 2017, I gradually learned industry best practices and became more well rounded as a developer. At this point, certain shortcomings and misguided assumptions about my SaintsXCTF applications became apparent. First, the core web application and API did not follow the latest industry standards. Second, all three applications were not properly tested and were prone to degradation if left unchecked. Third, the security & infrastructure of the applications was very basic and not fault tolerant. Lastly, my assumption that releasing the applications meant my work was done proved to be incorrect. As all software engineers know, the work just begins when an application is initially released.
November 5th, 2020
Building a Reusable React Component Library
For developers working on multiple React applications or working for an organization that uses React, there are benefits to using reusable component libraries. Component libraries are shared amongst applications and contain generic components such as buttons, accordions, and form elements. Besides the obvious benefit of code reuse, component libraries help enforce organizational style guides and allow developers to easily iterate on components used in all their applications. Component library setup is easy and can save a lot of front-end development time in the long run.
November 1st, 2020
Concurrency and Parallelism Concepts Translated into Python
Parallelism, multithreading, multi-process programming, and asynchronous programming; Concepts dealing with concurrency are often the most difficult to learn when learning a new programming language. There are often many different approaches available and it’s hard to know the best approach (look no further than Java: Concurrency in Practice, a 350 page book on writing proper concurrency code in Java). Python is no different, with multiple evolving libraries, and, for added confusion, a global interpreter lock (GIL) which restricts Python code to a single thread when running on its default CPython interpreter. In this article, I attempt to demystify concurrent programming in Python and work with libraries such as
October 1st, 2020
Interesting AWS Jenkins Jobs
I recently built a new Jenkins server hosted using Kubernetes on EKS. My main use of the Jenkins server is to automate application and infrastructure tests, deployments, and miscellaneous tasks. I get email notifications if these jobs fail, so I know when there is an issue with my software.
Many of my Jenkins jobs work with the AWS CLI and Terraform to interact with and manipulate my cloud infrastructure. I believe these jobs may be useful as templates for others wishing to achieve similar results.