Introduction to Compass

Compass describes itself as an open source CSS authoring framework. For me, it is a tool that helps me organize my CSS and create sprites easily.

To install compass you need to have ruby on your system, which I trust you can do by yourself. Once you have ruby installed you need to use these commands:

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gem update --system
gem install compass

Next you will want to create a compass project. Go to your project folder and use this command:

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compass create <project-name>
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Trasfering files via SSH

I sometimes need to transfer files from one computer to another using SSH and I always forget how to do it so I decided to write a short post as a reminder.

To copy a file from one computer to another we use the scp command, which is very easy to use:

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scp file.txt <remote user>@<some domain or ip>:<remote path>

The cool thing is that you can copy from the remote computer to your local computer inverting the order:

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scp <remote user>@<some domain or ip>:<remote path to file> /home/adrian/

Finally, if you want to copy a folder with all it’s content you need to add a -r flag.

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Hooking your github project to Travis-CI

I have a little open source project that I am trying to slowly improve. One of the steps I’m taking to do this is to add some tests and code static analysis. If something is running correctly I don’t want regressions so I need to plug it to CI so it runs for every commit. A lot of people are using Travis so I decided to give it a try. The first steps can be found at Travis’ getting started page.

My project is a PHP project but it needs node to run grunt tasks so I was worried about not being able to specify two programming languages in the yml file. Luckily Travis includes a version of node on all VMs no matter what type of project you are using, so I could freely use npm and grunt:

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language: php
php:
  - "5.4"
before_script: "npm install"
script: "./node_modules/grunt-cli/bin/grunt"

I also found that if you have a very specific requirement you can even use apt-get to download dependencies and then you will be able to use it as part of your task.

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Android layouts and styles

I have been slowly working more with Android and as I go I find myself in the need to do more complex stuff. I have been recently working on the UI side and I have been asking friends who have more experience with Android to review my code and I learned that I was doing some things the wrong way.

I come from a web development background so while I was learning how to use Android layouts I was looking at ways to translate what you do in Android with what you would do in the web. In Android we have layout files which are written in XML and live in res/layout/. When I started I pictured these being my HTML files, which is not completely correct. For styling android apps we use another XML file that lives in res/values/, these I thought of as being my CSS files.

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REST Services

The more I have been working on large scale projects the more I have seen the use of REST (Representational State Transfer) for almost everything. The basic concept of having an HTTP end point where you can make a request and get a JSON as a response is pretty easy to understand, but since I have never build a service from scratch I wanted to dig a little deeper into the architecture and requirements of this type of services.

Representational State Transfer

REST makes us think of our services as an interface to let the client know the current state of a resource. The state of our resource is saved somewhere in the server (Maybe in a database) and is modified or retrieved via HTTP verbs. For example, lets say we have a people table in a database and we want to know the current state of a specific person, we would do a GET request to this url:

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http://service.url/people/1234

And we would get a response with the information that is currently stored in the database about the user with an id of 1234.

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Unit testing Android Apps

I have written about unit testing in other posts so this time I will only focus on how to create a test suite and test cases for Android applications. Writing unit tests for Java is a little different than doing it for other languages like JavaScript because Java is not only a strongly typed language, but also is a lot less dynamic than JavaScript.

Creating a test suite

Good developers create tests for all their projects, and for Android there is an standard place where those tests live. Although you don’t really have to do this, it is recommended that you create a tests/ folder in the root of the Android project under test, at the same level as the src/ folder:

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MyProject/
    AndroidManifest.xml
    src/
    ...
    tests/
        AndroidManifest.xml
        src/
        ...
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Using Android preferences for storage

Android provides a few ways to persist information between sessions, with the simplest option being the preferences system. The preferences system allows you to save key value pairs with primitive data types as values.

To use preferences you need to import SharedPeferences and then use getSharedPreferences() within your activity to get the preferences object:

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import android.content.SharedPreferences;

// Somewhere in your code
SharedPreferences settings = getSharedPreferences("SomeKey", MODE_PRIVATE);
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Different settings for different language in vim

Recently I have been mostly working in JavaScript and per my project standards, all my tabs are replaced by 2 spaces. The problem with this is that for other projects in other programming languages the standard tab width is 4 spaces, so it becomes annoying to have to hit tab twice to indent a line correctly. To fix this you can declare settings specific for a language if you place them on ~/.vim/ftplugin/LANGUAGE.vim.

Since currently I am working on an Android app and I want a tab width of 4, I created the file ~/.vim/ftplugin/java.vim and added this content:

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" Make tabs 4 spaces wide "
set tabstop=4
set shiftwidth=4
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Git rebasing vs merging

When I switched to git for the first time I had a very hard time understanding what rebasing did to a point where I totally avoided it. I had been doing all my work on private and public repositories by going to master and merging to my feature branch or to a team member’s branch. I was happy with this way of working until I started on my new job a few months ago and they had a rebase based workflow. It goes something like this:

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cd repo
git pull --rebase
// Do some work and add stage it
git commit -m 'Some message'
git pull --rebase
git push origin master

In this little example I am working in my local master branch, but if I wanted I could create a feature branch and rebase it to master as needed. The most obvious benefit about this workflow is a very clean history. Lets look at a simple example of a merge based history:

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Changing your default name and e-mail on git

If you just installed git in your computer you probably got a message telling you that your name and e-mail haven’t been configured and suggesting you to change them the first time you commit:

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git config --global user.name "First Last"
git config --global user.email email@domain.com
git commit --amend --reset-author

This will set “First Last” and email@domain.com as your default name and email for any git repository you work on in that computer. This may be something you don’t want because probably you want to have different identities in different computers. One thing you can do is amend your commits with an alternate identity you want to use:

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git commit --amend --author="First Last <email@domain.com>"

If you will constantly be working on this repository this will become annoying really fast, so instead you can set your identity for a specific repository by adding this to your .git/config file:

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[user]
  name = First Last
  email = email@domain.com
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