Why database should be taught before programming in universities?

Database Programming
Learn Database before Coding

Often students from the initial semester ask me how do we store our data in our programming projects? When students join university to learn about computer science and technology they are usually taught programming first in courses like introduction to programming. As part of the coursework, students are required to work on a project. The majority of the projects, in fact almost all projects involve data handling and that data needs to be stored somewhere, usually in databases.

Problems Students Face

As a novice students don’t know how to store data. One option is to store data in plain text files if filing is taught to them but in that case, their project becomes too complex for them. In my opinion, file format is an advanced topic for students that have just started learning how to program. So, students get stuck on where and how to store data. They create variables and arrays to store data in memory but that is not very useful until they have the option to store their data somewhere permanently that they can retrieve later. Otherwise, every time they run their project they have to feed data from the beginning.

Teach Database Before Programming

If universities modify their courses and add database in the first semester and replace programming courses with it then it would be easier for students to get started in computer science degree. Introduction to databases is a relatively easier course than programming and students will know what a database is, how to store data in the database, and how to retrieve it later using SQL. Then in the next semester if they do a programming course then it will require only one lecture to teach them how to access a database from your code and how to store and retrieve data. That will make their projects more valuable and make more sense to them and they can take it to an advanced level in forthcoming courses.

Your Take?

What is your opinion? Please, let me know in the comments.

Click here to read more about Databases.

Creating Git branch in detached HEAD State

git detached head

Recently, I came across a situation where I checked out a git branch and it showed me this message related to detached HEAD state:

You are in 'detached HEAD' state. You can look around, make experimental changes and commit them, and you can discard any commits you make in this state without impacting any branches by performing another checkout.

I guess this happened because the branch that I was checking out was rebased. Otherwise, it usually happens when you checkout a commit with its hash. But in my case, I was checking out a branch. Anyway, this is a special state called “detached HEAD”. While you can commit changes in this state, those commits don’t belong to any branch and will become inaccessible as soon as you check out another branch. But what if you do want to keep those commits?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is to use the “checkout” command again and you can use the same branch again:

git checkout <branch> #now you're in detached head state
# do some work and stage it
git add --all
git commit -m "add some work while in detached head state"
git branch <branch>
git checkout <branch>

Pretty easy, right?

Read more articles related to git here.

Laravel: Specified key was too long error on migration

When you install a new Laravel project with ‘laravel new’ and run the migration that comes with it you might get the following error:

#php artisan migrate
Migration table created successfully.


 [Illuminate\Database\QueryException]
 SQLSTATE[42000]: Syntax error or access violation: 1071 Specified key was too long; max key length is 767 bytes (SQL: alter table `users` add unique `users_email_unique`(`email`))

[PDOException]
 SQLSTATE[42000]: Syntax error or access violation: 1071 Specified key was too long; max key length is 767 bytes

To solve this error edit your app/Providers/AppServiceProvider.php file.

Add the namespace:

use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Schema;

and then add the following line in boot() method of your AppServiceProvider class.

use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Schema;

class AppServiceProvider extends ServiceProvider
{
 /**
 * Bootstrap any application services.
 *
 * @return void
 */
 public function boot()
 {
   Schema::defaultStringLength(191);
 } 
}

This should solve your problem. Just delete all the tables and rerun the migration.

Click here to read more about Laravel.

Setup CodeIgniter Docker container for development

Docker

Docker is the world’s leading software container platform. Developers use Docker to eliminate “works on my machine” problems when collaborating on code with co-workers. Operators use Docker to run and manage apps side-by-side in isolated containers to get better compute density. Enterprises use Docker to build agile software delivery pipelines to ship new features faster, more securely and with confidence for both Linux and Windows Server apps. If you want to learn more about Docker head to their What is Docker section here.

CodeIgniter

CodeIgniter is a powerful PHP framework with a very small footprint, built for developers who need a simple and elegant toolkit to create full-featured web applications. If you want to learn more then head to their official website which has great documentation as well at https://codeigniter.com/

CodeIgniter on Docker

If you’re excited about using Docker for your development and you are working on a CodeIgniter (CI) based PHP project then you are lucky. It is very easy to setup CI based project with Docker. Just follow the instructions below to setup a fresh CI project with Docker.

docker-compose up -d

It will spin up two containers—one for the app itself with Nginx and another for MariaDB for your DB. App container will create a directory in your project folder and install CodeIgniter in it.

Now browse http://localhost:8000 in your browser and you’ll see the CodeIgniter page. It’s that easy.

Click here to read more about Docker.

Event handling with custom components in Vue.js

If you’ve been working with Vue.js lately and developing custom components to build your apps you might come across how to communicate from child component to parent. There are couple of scenarios here.

Immediate parent child components

If you want immediate parent-child components to communicate then a child event can fire an event and the parent can listen to it. To do this you can do something like this.

index.html

Vue.component('v-parent', {
 template: `
 `,
 
 methods: {
   handleEvent() {
     alert('parent caught the event');
   }
 }
});

Vue.component('v-child', {
 template: `
Fire Event
 `
});

new Vue({
 el: '#app'
});

app.js

Non-Parent-child components

If two different components want to communicate or if the component listening to the other component’s event is not a direct parent (like a grandparent or even above in the hierarchy) then Vue provides the bus concept. I have created a fiddle on JSFiddle that you can see running here.

One reason why you should refactor your code often

Once upon a time, a consultant made a visit to a development project. The consultant looked at some of the code that had been written; there was a class hierarchy at the center of the system. As he wandered through the hierarchy, the consultant saw that it was rather messy. The higher level classes made certain assumptions about how the classes would work, assumptions that were embodied in inherited code. That code didn’t suit all the subclasses, however, and was overridden quite heavily. If the superclass had been modified a little, then much less overriding would have been necessary. In other places, some of the intentions of the superclass had not been properly understood, and the behaviour present in the superclass was duplicated. In yet other places several subclasses did the same thing with code that could clearly be moved up the hierarchy.

The consultant recommended to the project management that the code be looked at and cleaned up, but the project management didn’t seem enthusiastic. The code seemed to work and there were considerable schedule pressures. The managers said they would get around to it at some later point.

The consultant had also shown the programmers who had worked on the hierarchy what was
going on. The programmers were keen and saw the problem. They knew that it wasn’t really their fault; sometimes a new pair of eyes is needed to spot the problem. So the programmers spent a day or two cleaning up the hierarchy. When they were finished, the programmers removed half the code in the hierarchy without reducing its functionality. They were pleased with the result and found that it became quicker and easier both to add new classes to the hierarchy and to use the classes in the rest of the system.

The project management was not pleased. Schedules were tight and there was a lot of work to
do. These two programmers had spent two days doing work that had done nothing to add the
many features the system had to deliver in a few months’ time. The old code had worked just fine. So the design was a bit more “pure” and a bit more “clean.” The project had to ship code that worked, not code that would please an academic. The consultant suggested that this cleaning up be done on other central parts of the system. Such an activity might halt the project for a week or two. All this activity was devoted to making the code look better, not to make it do anything that it didn’t already do.

How do you feel about this story? Do you think the consultant was right to suggest further clean-up? Or do you follow that old engineering adage, “if it works, don’t fix it”?

Six months later the project failed, in large part because the code was too complex to debug or to tune to acceptable performance. The consultant was brought in to restart the project, an exercise that involved rewriting almost the whole system from scratch. He did several things differently, but one of the most important was to insist on continuous cleaning up of the code using refactoring.

This is an excerpt from the book preface “Refactoring – by Martin Fowler”.

Using Response.Redirect in try…catch block

Using Response.Redirect in a try catch block will throw an exception “Unable to evaluate expression because the code is optimized or a native frame is on top of the call stack.”.

To work around use the overloaded method Response.Redirect(String url, bool endResponse) and pass false to second argument. The detailed reason can be found at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/312629/EN-US/.

REST Web Services calls with C#

Its really easy to call REST based web services from C#.Net. Let’s see how to do it. We’ll be calling Yahoo Web Services as an example here.

Make REST Calls With C#

The .NET Framework provides classes for performing HTTP requests. This HOWTO describes how to perform both GET and POST requests.

Overview

The System.Net namespace contains the HttpWebRequest and HttpWebResponse classes which fetch data from web servers and HTTP based web services. Often you will also want to add a reference to System.Webwhich will give you access to the HttpUtility class that provides methods to HTML and URL encode and decode text strings.

Yahoo! Web Services return XML data. While some web services can also return the data in other formats, such as JSON and Serialized PHP, it is easiest to utilize XML since the .NET Framework has extensive support for reading and manipulating data in this format.

Simple GET Requests

The following example retrieves a web page and prints out the source.

C# GET SAMPLE 1


using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Net;
using System.Text;
// Create the web request
HttpWebRequest request = WebRequest.Create(“http://developer.yahoo.com/”) as HttpWebRequest;
// Get response
using (HttpWebResponse response = request.GetResponse() as HttpWebResponse)
{
// Get the response stream
StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream());
// Console application output
Console.WriteLine(reader.ReadToEnd());
}

Simple POST Requests Some APIs require you to make POST requests. To accomplish this we change the request method and content type and then write the data into a stream that is sent with the request. C# POST SAMPLE 1

// We use the HttpUtility class from the System.Web namespace
using System.Web;
Uri address = new Uri("http://api.search.yahoo.com/ContentAnalysisService/V1/termExtraction");
// Create the web request
HttpWebRequest request = WebRequest.Create(address) as HttpWebRequest;
// Set type to POST
request.Method = "POST";
request.ContentType = "application/x-www-form-urlencoded";
// Create the data we want to send
string appId = "YahooDemo";
string context = "Italian sculptors and painters of the renaissance"
+ "favored the Virgin Mary for inspiration";
string query = "madonna";
StringBuilder data = new StringBuilder();
data.Append("appid=" + HttpUtility.UrlEncode(appId));
data.Append("&context=" + HttpUtility.UrlEncode(context));
data.Append("&query=" + HttpUtility.UrlEncode(query));
// Create a byte array of the data we want to send
byte[] byteData = UTF8Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(data.ToString());
// Set the content length in the request headers
request.ContentLength = byteData.Length;
// Write data
using (Stream postStream = request.GetRequestStream())
{
    postStream.Write(byteData, 0, byteData.Length);
}
// Get response
using (HttpWebResponse response = request.GetResponse() as HttpWebResponse)
{
    // Get the response stream
    StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream());
    // Console application output
    Console.WriteLine(reader.ReadToEnd());
}

HTTP Authenticated requests

The del.icio.us API requires you to make authenticated requests, passing your del.icio.us username and password using HTTP authentication. This is easily accomplished by adding an instance ofNetworkCredentials to the request.

C# HTTP AUTHENTICATION

// Create the web request
HttpWebRequest request
= WebRequest.Create("https://api.del.icio.us/v1/posts/recent") as HttpWebRequest;
// Add authentication to request
request.Credentials = new NetworkCredential("username", "password");
// Get response
using (HttpWebResponse response = request.GetResponse() as HttpWebResponse)
{
    // Get the response stream
    StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream());
    // Console application output
    Console.WriteLine(reader.ReadToEnd());
}

Error Handling

Yahoo! offers many REST based web services but they don’t all use the same error handling. Some web services return status code 200 (OK) and a detailed error message in the returned XML data while others return a standard HTTP status code to indicate an error. Please read the documentation for the web services you are using to see what type of error response you should expect. Remember that HTTP Authentication is different from the Yahoo!Browser-Based Authentication.

Calling HttpRequest.GetResponse() will raise an exception if the server does not return the status code 200 (OK), the request times out or there is a network error. Redirects are, however, handled automatically.

Here is a more full featured sample method that prints the contents of a web page and has basic error handling for HTTP error codes.

C# GET SAMPLE 2

public static void PrintSource(Uri address)
{
    HttpWebRequest request;
    HttpWebResponse response = null;
    StreamReader reader;
    StringBuilder sbSource;
    if (address == null) { throw new ArgumentNullException("address"); }
    try
    {
        // Create and initialize the web request
        request = WebRequest.Create(address) as HttpWebRequest;
        request.UserAgent = ".NET Sample";
        request.KeepAlive = false;
        // Set timeout to 15 seconds
        request.Timeout = 15 * 1000;
        // Get response
        response = request.GetResponse() as HttpWebResponse;
        if (request.HaveResponse == true && response != null)
        {
            // Get the response stream
            reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream());
            // Read it into a StringBuilder
            sbSource = new StringBuilder(reader.ReadToEnd());
            // Console application output
            Console.WriteLine(sbSource.ToString());
        }
    }
    catch (WebException wex)
    {
        // This exception will be raised if the server didn't return 200 - OK
        // Try to retrieve more information about the network error
        if (wex.Response != null)
        {
            using (HttpWebResponse errorResponse = (HttpWebResponse)wex.Response)
            {
                Console.WriteLine(
                "The server returned '{0}' with the status code {1} ({2:d}).",
                errorResponse.StatusDescription, errorResponse.StatusCode,
                errorResponse.StatusCode);
            }
        }
    }
    finally
    {
        if (response != null) { response.Close(); }
    }
}

Further reading

Related information on the web.

How to kill your time by hardcoding?

My colleague asked me to help him solve an issue he was facing. I sat with him and after spending more than half an hour I realized that someone has hardcoded the server name :@ while we were assuming that we have already moved to another server.

The main thing to realize here is that if we have spent few more minutes in making the server name configurable at first place then we could have saved hours that we spent later just to find out that server name was hard-coded. Not doing this results in frustration, waste of time, de-motivation, brings down the moral of the team, and finally kills productivity and you lose credibility.

Threads in Perl without using thread module

Threads are not good in Perl. If you want to know why, you can read PerlMonks article here. But C/C++ threads are good 🙂 How can you leverage the benefit of C/C++ threads in Perl? Well, if you have a C/C++ library which is multi-threaded then you can write a Perl wrapper on C/C++ library. For writing a wrapper you can use Inline::C or Inline::CPP module, that provides a very gentle and easy way to wrap up your C/C++ calls.

What happens is that if you call a C/C++ function which uses threads from a Perl script/process, it will make your Perl process multi-threaded. You can see this by using -m option of ps if you are on Linux platform.

I was working on a Perl based project and I used a multi-threaded C/C++ library. I was curious how will it work. I ran the Perl process and when I see the process in ps with -m option, it was showing two processes, actually one process and second was the thread. When I was using a single threaded library it used to show only a single process in ps. I also tested the functionality which was supposed to use the multiple threads and it worked as expected.

I think this is a better way to use threads in Perl if you really need threads, instead of using thread module of Perl. If you are not desperate, then try to stick with single threaded model of Perl, or use Perl wrapper over C/C++ multi-threaded library.