Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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All entries tagged software-development.

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Jul 2020

Jun 2020

  • Scraping Facebook

    I had been meaning to quit Facebook for more than a year maybe, but I kept putting it off. The main reason being that I like having backups of my own digital data (still very much a pack rat), and Facebook’s social media export is less than ideal, for me at least. Less than ideal why? It doesn’t include a lot of content I would like backed up, including: comments on my posts (there have been some good conversations with friends over the years I would prefer to preserve) things I’ve reposted from other people content of certain groups I’m members of (again, mostly for some interesting discussions over the years) pictures posted by other people that I’ve been tagged in For a while I looked around for scraper programs/scripts to this for me, but none really did what I wanted.

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Apr 2020

  • Technical Interview Notes

    I’ve had the good fortune to be on the interviewer side of technical interviews much more often than I’ve been the interviewee. I’ve been doing a few more of these over the past couple of years and made some notes, so I thought I’d talk about technical interviews for a bit. Caveat: these are largely based on my own experiences, in the local environment here in the PH. Technical Exam / Screening Many companies will ask applicants to undertake a technical exam before letting them advance to further stages of the recruitment process.

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    Posted by under post at #software-development
    Also on: mastodon twitter / 0 / 1825 words
  • Unless you’re working at a small shop that only serves local clients, software development these days is often an international endeavor. That means the aspiring software developer needs to be able to work with and get along with people of different cultures. In the company I worked with, most projects back in the day we would have a person from the foreign office in charge. Their roles were either as project manager (PM) or system analyst (SA).

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  • Pure HTML Toggles

    Just last month, I wrote a method of implementing element toggles using a pure CSS approach. While that post was educational for me, it turns out there was an even simpler way of doing things. I found out about it when I read this post by Jamie Tanna. Apparently the details and summary tags already support HTML toggles, so we can do this with neither CSS or JS! I’ve updated the spoiler tags on this site to use this new method.

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  • Web Application Security

    A while back one of the biggest leaks of personal information in history was made by hackers accessing the Commission on Elections database here in the Philippines. More than 50 million voter registration records, including information such as full names, date of birth, address, among others. A small percentage of the data leaked also included email addresses and even passport numbers. The hack exposed more than half of the country’s population to the possibility of social engineering and other exploits.

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    Posted by under post at #software development
    Also on: mastodon twitter / 1 0 / 1352 words
  • Bespoke vs Product Development

    For most of my time working on software projects, it has always been for bespoke projects. Bespoke basically means a software program or package tailor-made for a specific client. The client provides all the requirements, the team fleshes out more details and specifications, some prototyping may or may not ensure, and implementation proceeds thusly. It’s relatively straightforward compared to product development. I only started getting involved with “product”-like projects over the in the latter half of my career as a software developer.

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    Posted by under post at #software development
    Also on: mastodon twitter / 1 0 / 1094 words
  • Naked CSS Day

Mar 2020

  • Browsers and HTTP

    Drew Devault wrote a great post/rant about the reckless limitless scope of modern web browsers: I conclude that it is impossible to build a new web browser. The complexity of the web is obscene. The creation of a new web browser would be comparable in effort to the Apollo program or the Manhattan project. For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking about contributing to an open source project.

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  • Pure CSS Spoilers

    Edit 2020/04/17: A month and a half later, I found a better way to do this! I previously had some post that had some content hidden via spoiler tags, using a custom Hugo shortcode. Since I’m an old-school developer I was previously doing this using some Javascript run on load: let elements = document.querySelectorAll(".spoiler_header"); Array.prototype.forEach.call(elements, function(el, i) { el.addEventListener( 'click', function( event ) { let nextEl = el.nextElementSibling; let display = getComputedStyle(nextEl)['display']; if (display == 'none') { nextEl.

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    Posted by under post at #software development #css
    Also on: twitter / 2 0 / 320 words

Feb 2020

Jan 2020

  • Flask vs Django

Nov 2019

  • Is SQL a dying art?

    I was helping my brother check some database issues the other week, and he mentioned how impressed he was with how quickly I was able to come up with SQL queries on the fly. I told him that SQL was one of the skills I considered myself to have mastery over. This shouldn’t be surprising given my early career path: for most of my first year working as a software developer, I was working on reports which involved lovingly handcrafted (and oftentimes quite complicated) SQL queries.

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    Posted by under post at #software development #sql
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 365 words
  • What to do in a production crisis

    Despite our best efforts as software developers, it can still happen: production goes down. Or some sort of bug introduces catastrophic data error. Hopefully you have a support/DevOps team to handle the response. If not, the dev team themselves have to step in. This usual means a mad rush to figure out what happened and how to fix it, sometimes during off hours and maybe even into the early morning, all while facing pressure from clients and higher-ups.

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    Posted by under post at #software development
    Also on: twitter / 1 1 / 441 words
  • DevNotes: Python's yield

    I’ve been using Python for well over 10 years, and I still don’t have an intuitive mastery of one of its keywords: yield. Everytime I see it in someone’s code I need to stop and mentally remind myself what it does. I figured I’d write a devnote to help improve my recall. Typically, yield is used in a function with a loop, like so: def some_func(lim): for i in range(0, lim): yield i yield means the function returns a “generator” that can be used as an iterable in a loop:

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    Posted by under post at #software development #devnotes
    Also on: twitter / 1 0 / 172 words
  • A while back I found myself having to figure out how to compile/build/run a mobile application. The developers previously assigned to the project were no longer available to consult with, but they did leave behind some documentation. However, their documentation quality left a lot to be desired. The instructions they left basically amounted to: npm install ionic serve ionic codrova run android/ios Okay, first sign of trouble is that their instructions were basically commands that anyone who knew the app used Ionic would be able to Google.

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    Posted by under post at #software development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 725 words

Aug 2019

  • Python: Markov Chains

    Back when I was still learning Python in 2008, one of the first “fun” scripts I wrote was a text generator using Markov chains. I’d run it against all the chat logs I had with people at work and serve the results from a webserver on my computer. THe results were often amusing and sometimes hilarious. Since I’ve been going through my old scripts lately, I thought I’d update that script to Python 3 (read: add parentheses around print params and use pathlib) and run it against all the posts on this here site.

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    Posted by under post at #software development #python
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 162 words
  • Devnotes: Python Pathlib

    Ever since I started learning Python back in 2008ish, I’ve been using it as my primary scripting language for various tasks such as processing log files, organizing my own file system, processing stuff on this blog, and so on. A lot of it is basically moving files around. In the days of Python 2, that involved a lot of imports of different libraries like os, shutil and glob. It can become a bit messy with so many imports, and I often can’t remember which import I need for a particular case and end up having to search for the documentation (or stackoverflow, let’s not kid ourselves here).

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  • Big news in online repositories this week is that Bitbucket is sunsetting support for Mercurial! This might be the death knell for Mercurial, although Git was already the super popular choice before. Back when I started using online source control for my personal coding projects I started out with Bitbucket over Github because they offered unlimited private repos and Mercurial (which I had already tried out before at work, so at first I preferred it over git).

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  • I recently found myself doing a really small project as sort of a proof of concept/demo for a potential client. It often seems that it might be a waste of time to do something like this since you don’t know if the project will actually push through or maybe the client will want something else. To kind of hedge my bets a bit, I decided to take the opportunity to try out some new technologies so that no matter what I at least learned something from all of this.

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    Posted by under post at #devnotes #software development
    Also on: twitter / 1 0 / 750 words
  • I decided to start doing small “devnotes” on developer stuff I’m doing so I can refer to them later (and also because I feel like I could use more technical content on this blog) Today is about PostgreSQL. I haven’t used it much beyond standard ANSI sql stuff. You won’t always have a graphical interface to access your database, sometimes you need to ssh to prod and query the database from the shell.

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    Posted by under post at #devnotes #software development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 317 words

Jul 2019

  • I have a small mobile app that I wrote using React Native (henceforth RN) back in 2017, currently deployed on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Shortly before my US trip, I got an email from Google telling me about a required action: By August 1, 2019, all apps that use native code must provide a 64-bit version in addition to the 32-bit version in order to publish an update.

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  • 10X Programmers

    The topic of the mythical “10x programmer” has been the topic of discussion recently on tech twitter, due to a thread listing out the supposed signs of being such a mythical beast. 10x engineers Founders if you ever come across this rare breed of engineers, grab them. If you have a 10x engineer as part of your first few engineers, you increase the odds of your startup success significantly. OK, here is a tough question.

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    Posted by under post at #software development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 1948 words

Apr 2019

  • Learning from failure

    Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill I already typed the above quote into the post, then realized I had already used it before. Whatever, just goes to show, I’m no stranger to failure. I was reminded of this quote because recently I prepared a demo for a project that didn’t push through. At first I was annoyed at the wasted effort, but I realized that I had wisely taken the demo project as an opportunity to learn/sharpen some skills.

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Mar 2019

  • A Quick Twitter App I Wrote

    I wish I had a more concise way to describe it, but I really don’t. Some time ago this guy I follow on Twitter, visakanv wanted to know how to do a certain search: he wanted to know who a given famous person follows on Twitter, and among those, finds the one who follow him (visakanv), so he could network through them. I might not be explaining the concept too well, here’s the thread.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 373 words
  • Lies and marketing

    I mentioned before that as an engineer, I’m not fond of marketing. Image credit: Dilbert.com (Disclaimer: Liking the Dilbert comics is not an endorsement of Scott Adams’ politics) It’s not that I can’t be good at salesmanship either. I have a good grasp of communication skills and think I have a decent chance of writing good copy. My main issue is that I’ve been exposed many times to sales/marketing practices that just seem dishonest downright or scummy.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
    / 0 / 312 words
  • If I could give some advice to someone starting out in their software development career, it would be this: Don’t stay in the same place too long. The first company I worked at, I stayed with them for thirteen years, which I now feel was way too long. I have to admit, the work was hard and challenging, but I was young and had a lot of energy and was willing to work the long hours.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 480 words
  • Another repost from my Quora answers, this time some info for anyone looking to move into programming. What are the pros and cons of making your career in programming? Pros: It is a very rewarding career financially. Software development often ranks in the top 10 highest-earning careers in most countries There is a lot of scope - you could be developing web applications, mobile applications, embedded applications, client-side, server-side, data analysis, artificial intelligence, games, etc It is very difficult to be bored.

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    Posted by under post at #quora #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 459 words
  • Given my recent misgivings about Quora, I thought it might be a good idea to cross-post some of my answers from there into this blog, with some edits even. So here’s the first one! (stuff in italics were added during the cross-post) How can you read and study a large software project source code? Attacking a large, existing codebase that you are unfamiliar with can be a daunting endeavor.

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    Posted by under post at #quora #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 393 words

Feb 2019

  • Reddit PH: Software Dev Q&A

    I had some free time the other day so I randomly decided to post in the PH subreddit’s regular afternoon random discussion thread, asking for questions about software development. I ended up typing some longish answers, I thought I’d copy them over to the blog in case anyone was interested. TBH I meant more like StackOverflow type questions with specific technical problems, but I ended up answering mostly career-related questions, which is fine, but disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert, these are just my opinions on things.

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  • Hacktoberfest

    Last October I participated in #Hacktoberfest, sponsored by DigitalOcean and Github. It’s a “celebration” to promote open source activity, and basically you just need to submit 5 pull requests to any github repository, and they give away swag to anyone who completes the activity. Microsoft held a [counterpart celebration] where they only require you to submit 1 pull request to any Microsoft repository. I’ve always wanted to start participating in Open Source, but it’s a bit difficult to find a good place to contribute (other than logging issues of course).

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  • A while back I started a Twitter trivia bot as a weekend project. That bot is still up and running on Twitter, you can check it out there! But today, I thought I’d write about the answer-checking mechanism used by the bot. It was a bit interesting to me because it was the first nontrivial use I had for Django’s unit testing framework. I’m not too keen on unit testing web functionality (something I still have to learn), but this seemed an appropriate first use of a unit test framework for several reasons:

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Jan 2019

  • I’ve been working with Javascript for more than a decade. Last week while helping another developer debug a problem, I had to Google how to check if an element exists in a Javascript array, something superbasic, that one would expect most newbies to know. I’m sure I Google some superbasic thing at least once a week. It’s not embarassing or anything, it’s a common occurrence. I’m surely not alone. Just last night a tweet about this crossed my TL:

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    Posted by under post at #Javascript #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 340 words
  • Someone responded to my post on things to learn in 2019 by asking how one finds the inspiration to learn all of the things. Well, my first answer was that those are just things I find interesting and may look into, but that’s not really an answer for the inspiration part. Software development is a very wide field, one where the amount of things you can learn increases daily, so it’s almost impossible to keep up with everything.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
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  • Git vs CVS

    A while back we were tasked with helping a client’s internal dev team to migrate their repositories from Subversion to Git. The distributed VCS seemed ideal for their situation - they had a very small in-house dev team managing contributions from external subcontractors. The main rationale was that their process of merging contributions from the external developers was extremely complicated and often resulted in conflicts that were challenging to merge. Before this, I hadn’t actually used Git too deeply myself (aside from cloning stuff from Github), and especially not in a team setting, so the training one of our other engineers gave them was a good opportunity for me to become familiar with Git as well.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 702 words
  • Tech to Learn in 2019

    One of the things about self-identifying as a “Full Stack Developer” or “Solution Architect” is that there’s no shortage of things to learn, and oftentimes it’s good for your career-wise to at least have some passing knowledge of a bunch of technologies. It helps that I really like the field as well. I try to make sure I study or learn at least one new programming language or framework every year (though I am willing to stretch that definition as needed).

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
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  • Solution Architect

    Although I still primarily identify as a “Full Stack Developer”, during the past few years I’ve also found myself in a role called “Solution Architect”. The thing about being a solution architect is that there isn’t really a clear definition of the role, what it involves, or the scope of responsibility. I suppose it depends largely on the organization and the project. The role mostly involves making techical decisions on a larger scale, like project-wide or organization-wide, rather than on the micro day-to-day technical decisions involved in a typical software development involves.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
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  • Revisiting C++ after a decade

    This year I had the dubious privilege of having to work with a C++ project again. Although my college education was in C, that was a completely different animal. I did self-study C++ for a bit back even before I was working, mostly because I was interested in game development even back then. I remember trying some OpenGL and/or DirectX stuff back with good old Borland Turbo-C++ during the DOS days and using the Dev-C++ IDE when I shifted to Windows.

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    Posted by under post at #c++ #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 953 words

Dec 2018

  • For any nontrivial software project of at least moderate team size, there can be a significant cost to onboarding a new team member, especially at later stages when you are rushing to meet deadlines. The most signifiant cost is of course the communication overhead as described in the Mythical Man Month. Fun story, the CEO of a company once told me they would add more developers to a delayed project to meet the deadline and when I pointed out the increased overhead he said to me that it wasn’t a problem because they would just assign modules to those devs that have minimal dependencies so they don’t have to communicate so much.

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    Posted by under post at #devto #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 2 / 790 words

Nov 2018

  • My history in text editors

    Text editors (and by extension IDEs) are a programmer’s best friend. I thought I’d look back at a number of text editors I’ve used over the years. (I grew up with Windows, so I won’t list vim/emacs/nano here, even though I’m at least a bit proficient with vim by now. That is, I know how to exit vim.) Notepad – of course, the default editor in Windows. The one we turn to when all else fails.

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    Posted by under post at #Tech Life #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 3 / 666 words
  • 168 hours vs 10000 hours

    According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, you need 10,000 hours of continuous sustained practice to become an expert. There are 168 hours in a week. If you never sleep and you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 60 weeks. (Around 14 months) If you sleep 8 hours a day, you only have 112 hours in a week. If you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 90 weeks.

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  • Version Issues

    SCM (Software Configuration Management) doesn’t just refer to version control for the software you’re building. It also means controlling the versions of software you depend on. This includes operating system and programming runtimes. Sometimes even minor version differences can cause issues in running your software. I have two example stories to share: One of our clients asked us for help with an upgrade their production servers from CentOS 6.4 to 6.

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    Posted by under post at #Software Development
    Also on: twitter / 0 / 320 words

Oct 2018

Apr 2018

  • StackOverflow

    As a programmer, I’ve always been a big fan of StackOverflow. I asked my first question there and also wrote my first answer in September 2008, which was the month the site launched, so I was pretty much there from the beginning. The site was a huge boon to programmers when it first came out, because the internet as a venue for asking questions and answers back then was a horrible fragmented landscape of small forums and mailing lists and sites like Experts Exchange, all of which were terribly designed.

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Feb 2018