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New language to the toolset: NodeJS

I’ve started self-teaching myself NodeJS and not surprisingly there was a recent popular reddit link pointing to a not very short introduction to nodejs here ( http://anders.janmyr.com/2011/05/not-very-short-introduction-to-nodejs.html ) . At this point I haven’t found any good books for reference lookup… but hopefully in a week or so I’ll have gotten spooled up enough to be able to report back.

In the meantime as I use Ubuntu for everything but games, this short article here ( http://www.codediesel.com/linux/installing-node-js-on-ubuntu-10-04/ ) was enough to get a working environment running though I recommend using a pristine virtual machine instance to keep things simple.

Last point, a reliable friend & peer of mine recommended I check out this MVC like framework for NodeJS ( http://expressjs.com/ ). Preliminary it feels like a hybrid between Twistd and CherryPy in Python or Limonade PHP as far as style… aiming more for simplicity over feature/complexity.

Snake game prototype

Running live here

User input is fed off the left & right cursor keys.

Ping additions included a formalized Quad tree library into the ping.Lib namespace but I want to fix up the factory function I wrote to take an instance of the Canvas rendering class instead of manually writing out the root dimensions. Otherwise collision checks are still a tad wonky… there’s a high propensity for near misses unfortunately 🙁

Stellar simulator thingy

Inspired by this

Source code @ Github here

So… this basically covers elliptical paths ( which I want to play with more ), a rendering chain I’m happy with, and a few others things. What isn’t exactly right: speed, planetary/stellar surface animation is missing, and I’d like to have a fly by mechanism that shifts the Y ratio progressively over time.

Deferreds for JQuery 1.5

Anyone familiar with async programming like Node.JS or Python’s twistd library will be familiar with deferreds. Its usually a simple nuisance to re-implement when needed, so it’s nice to hear that’s not an issue anymore with JQuery’s $.when & $.then methods

Really useful guide here

What does this mean?

Say you’ve got a compound action you want to complete. For example a user clicks on a leaf in a tree like directory
menu. Now you want to update both the menu to add any possible sub nodes of that leaf PLUS update a content panel and once its finished, maybe update the hash tag to the current page’s url.

  $.when( updateMenu(), updateContent() )
     .success( function(){
           console.log("Both menu & content panel have been updated!");
     .fail( function(){
           console.log("Oh noes, we didn't finish... try again?");

That’s pretty much the gist of deferreds in a nutshell. Furthermore it appears that the author of this fantastic addition to jQuery really grokked the concept of deferreds because you can chain one deferred result to multiple child deferred’s allowing for cascading events to fire in response to one event.

Python pydoc module

Python documentation here


$python -m pydoc pydoc

Talk about eating your own dogfood! This is exactly like using the help() function in the python command line interpreter… except accessible from your shell prompt…. but wait!

It’ gets better! Not only does it make julian fries ( may not for any implementation ) but it’s got a few versatile little secrets

$ python -m pydoc
pydoc - the Python documentation tool
pydoc.py <name> ...
    Show text documentation on something.  <name> may be the name of a
    Python keyword, topic, function, module, or package, or a dotted
    reference to a class or function within a module or module in a
    package.  If <name> contains a '/', it is used as the path to a
    Python source file to document. If name is 'keywords', 'topics',
    or 'modules', a listing of these things is displayed.
pydoc.py -k <keyword>
    Search for a keyword in the synopsis lines of all available modules.
pydoc.py -p <port>
    Start an HTTP server on the given port on the local machine.
pydoc.py -g
    Pop up a graphical interface for finding and serving documentation.
pydoc.py -w <name> ...
    Write out the HTML documentation for a module to a file in the current
    directory.  If <name> contains a '/', it is treated as a filename; if
    it names a directory, documentation is written for all the contents.

Now the graphical interface isn’t anything to write home about, but the -p option provides a no thrills web interface to
almost everything accessible to your python interpreter. This can make it slightly easier to troll through foreign modules
looking for undocumented sub modules and classes… or having an accessible reference doc for properly managed modules

Python urllib

Python documentation here

Unfortunately there is little or no documentation on the command line properties of urllib but it does recognize everything that urllib can handle. So
python -m urllib http://website.com will grab the specified url and print to std out

Note FTP works as well but you need to follow the pattern ftp://user:password@website.com if authentication is required

Python module dis

Python documentation here


python -m dis myFile.py provides an interesting look into a python file’s guts
I could easily imagine this being part of some sort of static time inspect system where dis sits at the front and a parse
walks down the output lines, turning the data into a dependency and symbol graph. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to provide anything more and is really just a test function most likely intended for unit-testing the python stdlib.

Python SimpleHTTPServer

When working on pure javascript applications ( canvas widgets & such ), I’ve found using the SimpleHTTPServer disgustingly useful as it serves the current working directly without much thrills.

Python documentation here


$ python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8081
Serving HTTP on port 8081 ...

Note that it’s not necessary to set the 2nd argument to if you want the service to listen on all routes. It normally will by default listen on everything… just habit for me to always append that.

Another useful part of this server is that it servers an apache directory style listing of all file’s present unless there is a valid index file like index.htm present.

Canvas tag: Collision detection & pixel decay

UPDATED: March 14, 2011 here

Continuing my tests/experiments with the Canvas tag has led to the Ping prototype. I had 3 minimal things I wanted to accomplish: Detecting the intersection of a 360 degree arc of ray/line segments to previously defined in map shapes; a visual decay/fade out of intersection points on the canvas, and lastly a test of performance. In addition I decided to experiment with another approach to Javascript object construction in the hopes of getting a performance gain.
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