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Archive for November, 2008

15 Nov 2008

by Noel

Questions on Scheme Web Development

Ben Simon asks questions about web development using PLT Scheme. We answer!

  • [W]hat kind of server do I need to reliably run this puppy? Any Linux VM will do to start with. We use Bytemark. Amazon EC2 is another option. I recommend installing PLT from source; don’t rely on your distribution’s package to be up-to-date.
  • I wonder what kind of memory usage I’d want to plan for? It really depends on your application but as a guide we’ve run simple apps in 64MBs of memory.
  • I’d have to test out PostgreSQL or MySQL db support to make sure it was strong. PostgreSQL is solid, MySQL is not.
  • I’d have to sort out what the deployment cycle is like. Just copy over files and restart? Yes. Could I do hot deployment of some kind, by reloading scheme files (one of my favorite tricks in the book)? The web server does have some reloading functionality but we haven’t used it (no good reason; it just isn’t something we do).
  • What’s the best production web server arrangement. The PLT web server is solid, but we usually proxy through Apache so we can take advantage of Apache’s flexibility should we need it.

Posted in Web development | No Comments »

11 Nov 2008

by Noel

Recent changes in the PLT web server

Jay McCarthy, maintainer of the PLT web server, has started blogging about improvements he is making to the web server. Start readinghere and go back through the last six or so posts. It is great to see the web server getting more visibility.

Posted in Web development | No Comments »

5 Nov 2008

by Noel

Tests as todos

Like most people I have a few projects on the go at once. To efficiently switch between them I must be able to quickly pick up where I left off. In my programming projects I’ve been using failing tests as reminders to myself. This fits in nicely with my programming workflow, and enables me to make progress before I’ve recalled all the details of the project I’m working on. Here’s how it works:

In my programming workflow I cycle between writing tests, writing code, and running tests (this is just test driven development). When I’m about to stop working on a project I write some failing tests, which act as a specification for what I should do next. At this point in time I’ve been working on the project for a while so I have recalled its structure and I’m in a good position to make this decision.

When I pick up a project after a break I enter straight into my normal workflow and run my tests. I inspect the failing tests and start implementing the functionality they specify. At this point in time I don’t even have to remember why I’m implementing this; the tests provide enough detail that I can just start coding. As I do so I invariably recall more details of the project. By the time I’ve finished the feature I’m ready to go at full speed.

This technique allows me to “hide” the time it takes to recall the project details; I still get useful work done in this period. It’s quite a simple idea and no doubt some of you are already using it, but if you haven’t tried it, give it a shot.

Posted in Code | No Comments »

4 Nov 2008

by Noel

Siesta time

When I went travelling in Spain I had a siesta just about every day. There are very practical reasons for doing so: it is so damn hot in the middle of the day, and, despite being very close to the Prime Meridian, Spain is on +2GMT in summer so the evenings last forever. Another benefit of siestas: I felt great!

This little anecdote is designed to entice to view
this graphic from The Boston Globe. Within you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about napping. Now a lot of it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Everyone knows the mid-afternoon lull (at Untyped Midlands it tends to lead to a frenzy of piano playing or drumming, for reasons I don’t understand) but few of us heed the urge to sleep. Perhaps we should. Remember to plan your naps: either get a full cycle (1.5 hours) or stop your nap after about 45 minutes. If you wake in the middle of deep sleep you’ll feel terrible.

If you have problems getting to sleep, I recommend a cat as a snoozing companion. They’re always ready for a nap and purring is very relaxing. Furthermore, a good alarm cat will stop your afternoon nap extending too close to dinner time.

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