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.
September 29th, 2020
Jenkins Server Modern Infrastructure with Kubernetes on EKS
In a prior article, I discussed a Jenkins server I created on AWS EC2 and EFS. In this article I’ll discuss the second generation of that infrastructure, which uses Docker containers orchestrated by Kubernetes on an EKS cluster.
September 28th, 2020
Building an AWS EKS cluster with Terraform
Recently I made the decision to move my applications to Kubernetes, specifically hosted in an EKS cluster on AWS. Before making this decision, my applications (saintsxctf.com and jarombek.com) were hosted using different methods. saintsxctf.com was hosted on autoscaled AWS EC2 instances and jarombek.com was hosted on AWS ECS. I also had prototypes using different hosting methods and a Jenkins server which was hosted on EC2 instances. Moving all these applications to Kubernetes unifies the deployment process and allows me to take advantage of containerization and container orchestration.
In this article, I'll discuss the process for setting up my EKS cluster with Terraform. I'll also detail my experience deploying ALB Ingress Controller and External DNS pods on the cluster.
September 27th, 2020
Jenkins Server Legacy Infrastructure on EC2 and EFS
Back in 2018, I created a Jenkins server which automated tasks for my applications. Jenkins is a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) tool which I've written about in the past. When I first created the Jenkins server, I had a few jobs which ran unit tests, but I never took full advantage of them. Over the past two years, I've gained a greater appreciation for CI/CD tools and their ability to save time deploying code and building confidence in codebases by automating tests. Nowadays all my applications have automated test and deployment jobs on Jenkins.
Since 2018 the Jenkins ecosystem has evolved along with my understanding of cloud concepts. My original Jenkins server was hosted on an AWS EC2 instance which utilized AWS EFS for persistent storage. In the spring of 2020, I decided to rewrite the Jenkins server infrastructure. With my added knowledge of containerization with Docker and container orchestration with Kubernetes, I hosted the Jenkins server on AWS EKS as part of a Kubernetes deployment. In this article, I discuss the original EC2 Jenkins server and its creation process with Terraform. In an upcoming article, I'll discuss the Kubernetes Jenkins server infrastructure.
April 19th, 2020
Interesting Aspects of Pandas
In my previous article I walked through interesting aspects of numpy. I first learned numpy back in college during a course on Artificial Intelligence. With my daytime work becoming more Python based these past few months, I took numpy back up.
Before this winter, I never used pandas. Pandas is a data analysis library similar to numpy. In fact, pandas uses numpy arrays in many of its exposed methods. While numpy exposes an array data structure, pandas has two main data structures:
DataFrame. In general, pandas is commonly used for manipulating and analysing time series or table data (think SQL table or excel spreadsheet)1.