Monday, March 30, 2020

The Importance of Taking Time Off

Ever since I've enrolled in the Open Source Development classes at Seneca, I've had a blast. I learned about using all sorts of new technologies, got to collaborate with people who are much more skilled at programming than I am, and I've had the chance to contribute to projects that seemed interesting. I could've graduated last semester, however the project and the idea of being able to learn and ship a product under the guidance of a very experienced professor convinced me to stay for another semester just for this course.

This isn't a post to say I regret my decision, far from it. The previous week prior to writing this post, I've been waking up at 8/9 in the morning and have been working on issues all the way til usually late in the morning of the next day (seems like this isn't unique for our class). But I started to feel kind of burnt out, the things I enjoyed doing just a week ago, I started to procrastinate on or not look forward to. I decided on a simple solution, take the weekend off and just enjoy time with things not related to Telescope. Do some exercise, go for a walk(I have no idea how advisable this is currently), spend time with the family or watch a movie. 

I think it helped. As I'm writing this blog, I am content with my routine of checking slack, opening up my laptop that hasn't been opened for a a few days, browsing through outstanding issues on Github, typing the commands 'docker-compose up elasticsearch redis' then 'npm start' and fixing currently stale PRs.

I think this is applicable to probably anything and not just my situation, if you're starting to not enjoy something, take a bit of time off, enjoy other things and then re-evaluate.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

OSD700 Release 0.8

This release was almost like 0.7, three weeks(kind of) to work on it. I worked on tackling most of the existing issues assigned to me as I had an outstanding ~15 issues that didn't have a PR yet.

All links are to their pull requests.

Issue 538: Expose Search Endpoint Via Web API
A throwback to working with Express.js, a previous PR went in to include ElasticSearch, we can currently use its client on port 9200, but we didn't really integrate it with Telescope, this PR was to fix that. I created a new endpoint now at, we also now have a query parameter called search that accepts search strings of less than 256 characters. Thank you to @raygervais, @manekenpix, @cindyledev for the review."search string here" should return blogs that contains whatever is entered after the "=" sign. Usually URL encodes spaces with %20 and I thought I would have to decode this, but surprisingly this was not the case and Express.js handles the encoding and decoding(I assume). I also added an error message informing the user if the user doesn't provide / provides an empty string for the search query parameter.

Issue 634: Nginx Configuration for Staging and Production
This one was awesome, I still have no idea what I'm doing with Nginx. But it was extremely fun to just collaborate on this with someone as we were trying to get this to work. Building on top of what @manekenpix had done previously to cache static files within Telescope, we're also caching all endpoints for Telescope. I forgot the exact settings we had, but hitting an endpoint on Telescope will now cause Nginx to cache the endpoint for the next while and instead of having to go to Telescope to get the requested page, Nginx will serve the cached endpoint until it is considered stale.

Assuming there are no cached endpoints yet. We can test it by doing a curl -I, there should be a response header with 'X-Proxy-Cache: MISS'. Visit the address in the browser, then use the same curl command again and this time you should receive 'X-Proxy-Cache: HIT'

Issue 648: Switch from in-memory to Redis-backed Session Management
This was a simple PR, switching away from a package we're using to a production ready package. It was simple until I realized, my PR was breaking a lot of our current tests. A suggestion from @humphd to use our current ioredis library fixed all these issues.

Issue 668 Compare Nginx Config with Mozilla Recommendations
Also Nginx related PR which I have no idea what I'm doing, except to use their recommendations in our nginx configuration file.

Issue 724 Add Site Property to Feeds and Redis
I think this PR is close, I just need confirmation if what I'm doing is a correct way.The feedparser-promised package parses all posts for the processed feed and returns a link in its metadata which is supposed to contain the url without the tags, for example should become But upon further testing, this is not the case and only feeds from Wordpress are working as intended. I wrote a simple function instead to just take the feed url provided by the user and do some regex to obtain the "link" foregoing the metadata link route as it is not consistent.

Issue 750 Make Search Bar Return Results
Building upon work I did previously to create a component for Author results, I now had to combine the GraphQL queries I worked on and the Author component so results will be displayed when a user types a string into the search bar. This was fun and stressful as it taught me more about React hooks, but tons of frustration on trying to get GraphQL queries and Apollo Client to work on the front end. In the end I wasn't able to get search bar to return results when the button is clicked, so I had to opt for it to dynamically return results as the user inputs text. Thank you @cindyledev for religiously reviewing all the later commits for this PR.

Issue 803 Include Version Info on Header Banner
This PR works, we've tested it locally with the commands npm run build and npm run develop and it has worked on several machines. I just don't know why ZEIT doesn't like it. We turned the version info on the banner into a link so when you hover over it, there's the SHA info regarding the commit it is on and clicking on it will bring the user to the commit in Github.

I keep saying this, but for this upcoming release, I'll be finishing up unfinished PRs and get Kubernetes working so I can tackle replacing our REST APIs with serverless functions.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Serverless Functions(Node)

Serverless functions are pretty cool, they take care of another worry developers might have: What if I get so many requests that it overloads my server? Simple, you don't. You let an almost trillion dollar company(Amazon) handle it. These functions are able to scale up and down depending on the # of requests all handled by AWS Lambda.

We'll be using the serverless package which makes settings up AWS lambda pretty simple.

Before we begin, make sure you have a AWS account and user created and provide the user programmatic access:
  1. Use the command: serverless config credentials --provider aws --key userKey --secret userSecret . Replace userKey and userSecret with the appropriate user information you created for the AWS account. 
  2. Use the command serverless create --template aws-nodejs --path folderName . Replace folderName with your choice, this will create a folder with serverless.yml and a file called handler.js
There's really two parts that make up the serverless functions, the serverless.yml and the corresponding .js file containing the functions. For this example I'll have a file called handler.js containing all my functions I wish to make serverless.

When trying to hook up the functions, we must have a few things:
  1. Define the functions in the file(handler.js)
  2. Make sure the available handler is available for the function
In my handler.js file I'll have the two following functions

hello() which returns the message 'Hi' and bye() which returns the message 'Bye'.
Here's how bye looks like

module.exports.bye = async (event, context, callback)  => {
  const str = `Bye`;
  return str;

The event argument contains information about other AWS services the function has gone through, if it went through a load balancer it will contain information about the load balancer. For more information about it, find it here.

The context argument contains information about the invocation, function and environment. For more information about it, find it here.

The callback argument contains information you want to send back in case of success or error, the callback actually accepts two arguments callback(response_error, response_success). Amazon provides documentation on how you should handle async vs sync callbacks here

Make sure both functions are exported. In the .yml file under the functions: section you want to create a section for each.
    handler: handler.hello
        - http:
             path: users/hello
             method: get

    handler: handler.bye
        - http:
             path: users/bye
             method: get
You'll notice we have the function name, followed by handler: fileName.functionName.

To push the code to AWS, we'll have to use the command serverless deploy -v, you'll have to push the code anytime you want the changes reflected on AWS

To call any of the functions to test on command line, use the command serverless invoke -f functionName

To test your app locally, we'll be using serverless-offline package. Once the package has been installed, we have to add the following at the end of serverless.yml:
  - serverless-offline

Use the command serverless offline start to start it up locally. This uses default port 3000 and you should now be able to get 'Bye' in the terminal or console when you hit the route: localhost:3000/users/bye

This wasn't too bad. Now you can say you have knowledge of cloud based programming!


Planning for March Break

Most public institutions have closed or are preparing to close for the next week and now we're getting an unexpected March Break so there's some planning on what to do for the next few weeks while this happens:

Last October I ran the ScotiaBank half marathon(21 km) a goal of mine since I was young. I've been thinking if this year's half marathon goes well again, I'll try for a full marathon(42 km) and make qualifying in the Boston marathon an eventual goal. I thought I did pretty well finishing in a time of 1:45 for a half marathon until I realized to qualify for the Boston event you need to finish a marathon in ~3:03. This means I have to shave off 15 mins off my half marathon time WHILE running twice as long. I've got a long way to go. The improving weather and off time should allow me to start running earlier.

I've been boxing for ~6 years now and instructor for 2 years. This week or more off should probably allow me to take some of the classes instead of only teaching.

A friend of mine reached out to me around December to see if I would be interested in teaching programming to children(Scratch) and pre-teens(basic Javascript) once a week for 8 weeks starting in at a community center starting February. I'm assuming it went well as he asked me to teach HTML/CSS basics starting April. Time to plan how and what to teach kids about HTML.

On a side note, for anyone who wants to test quick things for Javascript like a quickly written function or to test some packages without wanting to install express package and all that stuff in Visual Studio Code, I highly suggest Glitch. They have an option for launching a basic web-page or a node-express app (allows users to also install packages), they also have a terminal to interact with your app and the option to import/export your code from/to Github.

I have two dogs, got to take them out for more walks or runs during the time off!

During the first class of OSD700 our professor mentioned something pretty interesting that we could look into for Telescope, serverless functions. I'm not entirely sure if we'll have the opportunity to use it in Telescope, but I figured I'll look into it and if the opportunity arises, collaborate with another student who has expressed interest in it on and implement it.

Another is to learn a bit more about deployment: Docker and Nginx. I just kind of use Docker to get ElasticSearch running, but have no idea how to create a docker file from scratch myself as all the hard work was done by @manekenpix and @raygervais

Last goal I have is to also trim down the amount of issues I have assigned to myself. I think I had somewhere around 15 issues...

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

OSD700 Release 0.7

I tried to become a fullstack developer for this release. It... went better than I thought somehow? For this release I finally got to work on some front end. I remembered again why I like the back end so much more.

Thankfully, this release spanned 3 weeks instead of the normal 2 we're normally allotted. The first week I spent relearning how to use React and also learning how to use Material-UI. We're using Material instead of Bootstrap because some students in the class have developed a severe allergic reaction to Bootstrap. 

Author Result Component
Issue can be found here

I'm ashamed to admit, it took me at least 3+ hours just to make the search result component which can be found here (the time didn't include the design by @agarcia-caicedo). I'm very grateful I didn't have to design the component as well or we might not even have a component at all, also big thank you to @cindyledev for her reviews and suggestions as it made the process a lot quicker. 

Attaching the MyFeeds Component to the Backend
Issue can be found here

Wow, this took a whole day. Prior to this release, I saw our professor @humphd submit a PR to refactor some previously merged React code from class components to functional components and didn't understand what was going on... since it was front-end stuff. 

Well... a day was spent learning what functional components are(I learned React the class component way) and all the changes the React community have implemented. I read about how they are trying to steer people towards using React hooks instead of the previously used class components(although they are still supported). It took a while to understand (their docs are extremely helpful), still a newbie, but I understand it a lot more and have to admit, it is much better than their previous class components. Thank you to @Grommers00 for his work on the backend code changes and @Silvyre for creating the component + quick review.

Automatic Deployment to Staging on Master
Issue can be found here

I spent an afternoon with a frequent collaborator @manekenpix to figure out how this all works. It was pretty interesting as we thought it would take a very long time to get this working, but after 2 hours we had a simple server that was listening to issues filed in a private Github repository and would output a message. The next step would be to automate all the shell commands that are currently being manually executed by him whenever we want Staging to be updated. I am just hoping he gets to work on more issues aside from deployment because he has expressed how much he enjoyed coding.

Now, automatic deployment can range from being really simple to extremely complex. We can have an app that experiences some downtime as the app is updating to being really complicated where we apply the Green/Blue model and minimize any downtime.

Green/Blue - Two identical versions(Green and Blue) of the app will be available, one sits idle as the other one is running. When we bring down the one that is running (Green), we direct traffic to the other(Blue). This minimizes whatever downtime is being experienced as the current files in Green are being deleted, updated to the latest updates of the app from the GitHub repo and Green's containers are being spun up. Once Green is up and running again, we direct traffic back to the newly updated Green and idle Blue again. In this case the Blue can also act as a back-up which we can revert to if there are changes breaking the app or if Green is somehow experiencing issues.

Switch our app from REST to GraphQL
Issue can be found here

We implemented GraphQL and it works, but only if you go to http://localhost:3000/playground or Out of all the issues this one was the most frustrating. I thought we were using Gatsby because it works well with GraphQL, I didn't know how it was going to work well, but it would just kind of work. This wasn't the case, we had to install an extra plugin called gatsby-source-plugin, It took a whole day for me to understand the changes I was making in gatsby-config.js 😂.

Anyways, this issue was so we can use all the queries we built for GraphQL to be used in the front end code too. A PR is ready to go which specifically addresses this issue... however moving forward some experimenting to understand how to use the data properly as well as what Static Query/ Page Query/ Static Query Hook are is going to be needed in order to use Gatsby properly with GraphQL

Overall, this release was a fun way to move away from just working on back end, refreshing/updating my knowledge on front end stuff and working on issues that were in between the two. I can't design things to save my life, but I can probably implement the design in React! Since I can do back end and front end things, I'm now a full stack developer right? Probably not.

For 0.8 alongside triaging issues, my goal is to try to get Kubernetes/minikube up for Production.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Fullstack Developer Wanted??

I don't get these job postings.

There was apparently an infamous post written on Medium by a big named guy declaring Fullstack is dead. 

After working on Telescope, I think so too. The field is so broad now with ever increasing amounts of technology a developer is supposed to know. A typical fullstack developer posting on sites goes as follows

We're looking for a fullstack developer with the following experience:
  • Node.js + Express/Java/Golang/Python/.Net
  • Javascript, CSS, HTML5
  • Angular/React + Redux/Vue
  • Docker
  • No SQL: MongoDB/ Cassandra/ DynamoDB
  • SQL: Oracle/ MySql
  • AWS (may or may not include serverless functions)
  • GIT
Bonus if you have experience with the following:
  • Redis/Memcached
  • User Experience design
  • GraphQL
  • CI/CD: Travis, Circle
  • Kubernetes
  • JWT/Auth0
WTF? One of the students in the class has spent pretty much a semester if not two, just learning and trying to implement SSO for Telescope. I mean I understand this is a wishlist, but this is insane. You might as well hire my Open Source Prof, @humphd at this rate. Thanks.  

OSD700 Release 0.6

Worked on a few issues for Telescope for this release:

GraphQL documentation for Telescope
Issue can be found here

This was fun, I knew nothing about GraphQL going into this. By the end of it I was even hacking away at nested queries on my own branch which we haven't even implemented yet in Telescope. I always shied away from documentation, because I rather be coding. I guess it is true. To see if you've really learned something, you should be able to explain or teach it to someone else.

GraphQL filters for Telescope
Issue can be found here

Aside from documenting on how to use GraphQL, I also took on an issue which required me to rewrite some queries to allow filtering and support future search functionality for the front end. This taught me some pain points about GraphQL as I always assumed it could do stuff like a traditional database, fro example: select * from posts where posts > provided date or something along those lines. GraphQL cannot or rather is unable to support this without installing another library, I ended up writing my own logic to do filtering and pagination.

On a side note, I also learned people can publish scalars(GraphQL typing) in packages for other people to download and use.

Include logic to filter inactive feeds and invalidate inactive feeds for Telescope
Issue can be found here

Another issue I started over the Christmas weekend and finally finished. This went through a few iterations and in the end it was suggested to scrap the current code written in favor of a more Redis oriented solution.

Refactor promises for plumadriver
Issue can be found here

I was suggested this issue by our prof, since I did quite a bit of work on refactoring promises for Telescope. It was an interesting experience reading typescript code and contributing to another repository after a few months of just working on Telescope.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

GraphQL Nested Queries

The whole point of GraphQL is its flexibility, I can view all the authors in the database and then I can add an additional query that can display all the books by the one author, we call these nested queries. I recently spent an afternoon + evening with @manekenpix to take a look at nested queries in GraphQL for the Telescope project.

We currently have a schema like below
  # 'Feed' matches our Feed type used with redis
  type Feed {
    id: String
    author: String
    url: String
    posts: [Post]
  }  # 'Post' matches our Post type used with redis
  type Post {
    id: String
    author: String
    title: String
    html: String
    text: String
    published: String
    updated: String
    url: String
    site: String
    guid: String

Notice feed can also return an array of Post,  to allow nested queries, we have to define them in resolvers after the Query:

module.exports.resolvers = {
  Query: {
    //Queries are here
  Feed: {
    posts: async parent => {
      const maxPosts = await getPostsCount();
      const ids = await getPosts(0, maxPosts);
      const posts = await Promise.all( => getPost(postId)));
      const filteredPosts = posts.filter(post => ===;
      return filteredPosts;

What the above code does is get all Posts in the database, then filter the Posts only returning Posts that have the same author as the returned value of the feed author. For example if I'm running the following query in GraphQL

  getFeedById(id: "123") {
    posts {

and the author name is Marie, the parent parameter that is provided to the nested query (posts) will be the results of the getFeedById which in this case the author name is Marie.

Real life data using a classmate of mine:

Friday, January 24, 2020

OSD700 Release 0.5

As part of 0.5 I was working working mainly on two issues and got a chance to help someone start contributing to Telescope.

I've blogged a bit about using async/await to replace our Promise code in Telescope. I started the working during the winter break and was finally able to get that merged this week. The issue actually took a while as it spanned across ~15 files in Telescope and had me refactor functions and tests at the same time, which admittedly was pretty scary. I can say I know how to use async/await a bit better, but there's still a long road ahead!

My other issue I've been working on is a collaboration between me and another classmate @manekenpix to deploy Kubernetes(minikube) on a site for Telescope at http::// We've had success being able to deploy services and even got the ingress to work on our own machines locally. However after 5 hours of sitting down and lots of expletives yelled at the computer, we had an issue when trying to deploy it on the machine CDOT has prepared to host Telescope. We forgot minikube runs using a vm on the computer, exposing the service and deployment only really exposes it to the computer the vm is running on. After a bit of researching and asking around on the slack channel we have decided to try a Bridged connection to expose the vm to outside traffic. We're crossing our fingers to have this for 0.6 (hopefully).

Helping a new contributor
Lastly, our professor Dave Humphrey has been actively recruiting students from his other classes to participate on Telescope (where was this teacher when I started learning web development). Which I think is an amazing idea as they gain experience in filing/fixing issues, receiving feedback and just collaborating with other programmers on an open source project. One student took on a great starter issue to standardize the error code on the project. I was kind of a mentor in helping the contributor get their code merged. This gave me flashbacks to OSD600 where our professor pretty much spent the whole semester teaching git and helping students with their git problems. Long story short, the student was able to get their PR merged and is happily taking on another issue. Git is hard and it is even more so when things land daily if not every few hours, the student admitted he used git before, but wasn't used to the pace at which Telescope moved.

The mentoring also taught me something, our professor has started to emphasize the importance of submitting a PR with some work completed instead of a full fledged PR. This way if their current work is starting to go sideways the community can direct the contributor to the correct path, preventing them from going further down the wrong path. For example, the contributor I was helping out kept trying to rebase, apply their changes then commit to their PR all in one go and this kept failing. Instead, I asked the contributor to:
  1. rebase their PR and drop any of the unrelated commits, push code to their PR. At this point we'd review and see what other changes we need to make, such as do we have to use any files from master to the working branch because a file on the working branch is too far gone?
  2. if the current status of the PR looked good, we'd apply their changes to fix the issue and review to see what other changes we need to make
This approach worked a lot better and the contributor got their PR merged today!

In hindsight, I think I've become a better programmer. 4/5 months ago I was attempting to enhance another person's simple note taking app on github.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Async Await and Promises

As a continuation of my PR for Telescope, I thought I should talk a bit about async/await and the old way of using return new Promise(). Here are a few examples of do's and don'ts:

// Async functions return promises, no need to add await 
async function returnsPromise(){
  return await promiseFunction();

// DO
async function returnsPromiseFixed(){
  return promiseFunction();


// Don't use await when function is not async 
function noAsync(){
  let promise = await promiseFunction();

// DO
async function noAsyncFixed(){
  let promise = await promiseFunction();

// Writing errors
async function f() {
  await Promise.reject(New Error("Error"));

async function f() {
  throw new Error("Error");
// Use try catch to wrap only code that can throw // DON"T DO async function tryCatch() { try { const fetchResult = await fetch(); const data = await fetchResult.json(); const t = blah(); } catch (error) { logger.log(error); throw new Error(error); } } // DO async function tryCatchFixed() { try { const fetchResult = await fetch(); const data = await fetchResult.json(); } catch (error) { logger.log(error); throw new Error(error); } } const t = blah(); //--------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Use async/await. Don't use Promises // DON"T DO async function usePromise() { new Promise(function(res, rej) { if (isValidString) { res(analysis); } else { res(textInfo); } if (isValidStrinng === undefined) { rej(textInfo); } }) } // DO async function usePromiseFixed() { const asyResult = await asyFunc() } // -------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Don't use async when it is not needed... Don't be overzealous with async/await // For example the sentiment module we're using is not an async function // DON"T DO = async function(text) { const sentiment = new Sentiment(); return Promise.resolve(sentiment.analyze(text)); }; // DO = function(text) { const sentiment = new Sentiment(); return sentiment.analyze(text); }; // -------------------------------------------------------------------------- // Avoid making things too sequential // DON"T DO async function logInOrder(urls) { for (const url of urls) { const response = await fetch(url); console.log(await response.text()); } } // DO async function logInOrder(urls) { // fetch all the URLs in parallel const textPromises = url => { const response = await fetch(url); return response.text(); }); // log them in sequence for (const textPromise of textPromises) { console.log(await textPromise); } } // --------------------------------------------------------------------------
// Examples
// refactor following function:

function loadJson(url) {
  return fetch(url)
    .then(response => {
      if (response.status == 200) {
        return response.json();
      } else {
        throw new Error(response.status);

// Solution:
function loadJson(url) {
  let fetchResult = await fetch(url);
  if (fetchResult.status == 200){
    let json = await fetchResult.json();
    return json;

  throw new Error(fetchResult.status);

// refactor to use try/catch
function demoGithubUser() {
  let name = prompt("Enter a name?", "iliakan");

  return loadJson(`${name}`)
    .then(user => {
      alert(`Full name: ${}.`);
      return user;
    .catch(err => {
      if (err instanceof HttpError && err.response.status == 404) {
        alert("No such user, please reenter.");
        return demoGithubUser();
      } else {
        throw err;


// Solution:
async function demoGithubUser() {
  let user;
    let name = prompt("Enter a name?", "iliakan");
    try {
      user = await loadJson(`${name}`)
    } catch (err) {
      if (err) {
        alert("No such user, please reenter.");
        return demoGithubUser();
      } else {
        throw err;

// Call async from non-async
async function wait() {
  await new Promise(resolve => setTimeout(resolve, 1000));

  return 10;

function f() {
  // ...what to write here?
  // we need to call async wait() and wait to get 10
  // remember, we can't use "await"

// Solution:
function f() {
  wait().then(result => alert(result));

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Importance of Taking Time Off

Ever since I've enrolled in the Open Source Development classes at Seneca, I've had a blast. I learned about using all sorts of new ...