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.

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.

Xdebug in WebMatrix

Xdebug is a very popular PHP extension that helps with debugging and profiling of PHP scripts by providing a lot of valuable debug information. Microsoft WebMatrix is a development tool for building web applications. When WebMatrix is used to build or modify a PHP-based web application the debugging tasks can be greatly simplified if Xdebug extension is used. This post explains how to install and use Xdebug extension with WebMatrix.

Step 1: Enable PHP in WebMatrix from the site “Settings” page:

Note that if you installed any of the PHP applications from the Application Gallery then PHP will be automatically enabled.

Step 2: Download the appropriate build of Xdebug extension from downloads page. If your site uses PHP 5.2 then download “5.2 VC6 Non-thread safe (32 bit)”. If your site uses PHP 5.3 then download “5.3 VC9 Non-thread safe (32 bit)”. Use 32 bit build even if your Windows OS is 64 bit.

Step 3: Install the extension by copying the downloaded file to the following locations:

  • For PHP 5.2 on Windows 64 bit:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\IIS Express\PHP\v5.2\ext\
  • For PHP 5.2 on Windows 32 bit:
    C:\Program Files\IIS Express\PHP\v5.2\ext\
  • For PHP 5.3 on Windows 64 bit:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\IIS Express\PHP\v5.3\ext\
  • For PHP 5.3 on Windows 32 bit:
    C:\Program Files\IIS Express\PHP\v5.3\ext\

Step 4: Open the php.ini file located in the PHP installation folder, e.g.
C:\Program Files\IIS Express\PHP\v5.2\php.ini and append the following at the end (make sure that the absolute path is correct for your version of PHP and Windows.):

[xdebug]
zend_extension = C:\Program Files\iis express\PHP\v5.2\ext\php_xdebug-2.1.0-5.2-vc6-nts.dll

Step 5: Configure PHP to display errors by changing these PHP settings in php.ini file:

display_errors = On
error_reporting = E_ALL & ~E_NOTICE

Step 6: Test that extension is enabled and works by either calling a phpinfo() function from a script or by running a buggy script:

The Xdebug extension provides a lot of useful features that help with debugging of PHP applications. You can learn more about them from the Xdebug documentation. For example you can use it to profile a PHP application. Just change the php.ini file as shown below and then make a request to a PHP script:

[xdebug]
zend_extension = C:\Program Files\iis express\PHP\v5.2\ext\php_xdebug-2.1.0-5.2-vc6-nts.dll
xdebug.profiler_enable = On
xdebug.profiler_output_dir = C:\Windows\temp

The profile log will be saved into the specified directory and will have a name cachegrind.out.* Use WinCacheGrind to open and analyze it:

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.

XML with C#

There is an excellent support for XML in Microsoft .Net framework, and there is very good and easy article on it at Yahoo Developer Network.

I am pasting its content here for convenience. Enjoy 🙂

Using Returned XML with C#

Once you have retrieved data from a web service you will need to do something with it. This HOWTO describes the various built-in methods .NET provides to use XML returned by a web service.

Overview

The .NET Framework provides excellent support for XML. Combined with the databinding support of WinForms and ASP.NET applications you have an easy and powerful set of tools. ASP.NET 2.0 takes databinding another step further by providing the DataSource control which lets you declaratively provide data access to data-bound UI controls.

Returned Data to a String

The simplest way to view the returned data is to get the response stream and put it into a string. This is especially handy for debugging. The following code gets a web page and returns the contents as a string.

C# STRING SAMPLE

public class StringGet { public static string GetPageAsString(Uri address) { string result = ""; // Create the web request HttpWebRequest request = WebRequest.Create(address) as HttpWebRequest; // Get response using (HttpWebResponse response = request.GetResponse() as HttpWebResponse) { // Get the response stream StreamReader reader = new StreamReader(response.GetResponseStream()); // Read the whole contents and return as a string result = reader.ReadToEnd(); } return result; } }

USING XMLREADER

XmlReader provides fast forward-only access to XML data. It also allows you to read data as simple-typed values rather than strings. XmlReader can load an XML document without having to use HttpRequest, though you won’t have the same amount of control over the request. If you use HttpRequest, you can just pass the stream returned by the GetResponseStream() method to XmlReader. Fast write-only functions are provided byXmlTextWriter.

With .NET 2.0 you should create XmlReader instances using the System.Xml.XmlReader.Create method. For the sake of compatibility and clarity the next sample uses the .NET 1.1 creation method.

C# XMLREADER SAMPLE

using System.Xml;
// Retrieve XML document
XmlTextReader reader = new XmlTextReader("http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/forecastrss?p=94704");
// Skip non-significant whitespace
reader.WhitespaceHandling = WhitespaceHandling.Significant;
// Read nodes one at a time
while (reader.Read())
{
	// Print out info on node
	Console.WriteLine("{0}: {1}", reader.NodeType.ToString(), reader.Name);
}

USING XMLDOCUMENT

XmlDocument gives more flexibility and is a good choice if you need to navigate or modify the data via the DOM. It also works as a source for the XslTransform class allowing you to perform XSL transformations.

C# XMLDOCUMENT SAMPLE

// Create a new XmlDocument
XmlDocument doc = new XmlDocument();
// Load data
doc.Load("http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/forecastrss?p=94704");
// Set up namespace manager for XPath
XmlNamespaceManager ns = new XmlNamespaceManager(doc.NameTable);
ns.AddNamespace("yweather", "http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/ns/rss/1.0");
// Get forecast with XPath
XmlNodeList nodes = doc.SelectNodes("/rss/channel/item/yweather:forecast", ns);
// You can also get elements based on their tag name and namespace,
// though this isn't recommended
//XmlNodeList nodes = doc.GetElementsByTagName("forecast",
//                          "http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/ns/rss/1.0");
foreach(XmlNode node in nodes)
{
	Console.WriteLine("{0}: {1}, {2}F - {3}F",
	node.Attributes["day"].InnerText,
	node.Attributes["text"].InnerText,
	node.Attributes["low"].InnerText,
	node.Attributes["high"].InnerText);
}

Using XPathNavigator/XPathDocument

XPathDocument provides fast, read-only access to the contents of an XML document using XPath. Its usage is similar to using XPath with XmlDocument.

C# XPATHDOCUMENT SAMPLE

using System.Xml.XPath;
// Create a new XmlDocument
XPathDocument doc = new XPathDocument("http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/forecastrss?p=94704");
// Create navigator
XPathNavigator navigator = doc.CreateNavigator();
// Set up namespace manager for XPath
XmlNamespaceManager ns = new XmlNamespaceManager(navigator.NameTable);
ns.AddNamespace("yweather", "http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/ns/rss/1.0");
// Get forecast with XPath
XPathNodeIterator nodes = navigator.Select("/rss/channel/item/yweather:forecast", ns);
while(nodes.MoveNext())
{
	XPathNavigator node = nodes.Current;
	Console.WriteLine("{0}: {1}, {2}F - {3}F",
	node.GetAttribute("day", ns.DefaultNamespace),
	node.GetAttribute("text", ns.DefaultNamespace),
	node.GetAttribute("low", ns.DefaultNamespace),
	node.GetAttribute("high", ns.DefaultNamespace));
}

Using a DataSet

Using a DataSet from the System.Data namespace lets you bind the returned data to controls and also access hierarchical data easily. A dataset can infer the structure automatically from XML, create corresponding tables and relationships between them and populate the tables just by calling ReadXml().

C# DATASET SAMPLE

using System.Data;
public void RunSample()
{
	// Create the web request
	HttpWebRequest request
	= WebRequest.Create("http://xml.weather.yahoo.com/forecastrss?p=94704") as HttpWebRequest;
	// Get response
	using (HttpWebResponse response = request.GetResponse() as HttpWebResponse)
	{
		// Load data into a dataset
		DataSet dsWeather = new DataSet();
		dsWeather.ReadXml(response.GetResponseStream());
		// Print dataset information
		PrintDataSet(dsWeather);
	}
}
public static void PrintDataSet(DataSet ds)
{
	// Print out all tables and their columns
	foreach (DataTable table in ds.Tables)
	{
		Console.WriteLine("TABLE '{0}'", table.TableName);
		Console.WriteLine("Total # of rows: {0}", table.Rows.Count);
		Console.WriteLine("---------------------------------------------------------------");
		foreach (DataColumn column in table.Columns)
		{
			Console.WriteLine("- {0} ({1})", column.ColumnName, column.DataType.ToString());
		}  // foreach column
		Console.WriteLine(System.Environment.NewLine);
	}  // foreach table
	// Print out table relations
	foreach (DataRelation relation in ds.Relations)
	{
		Console.WriteLine("RELATION: {0}", relation.RelationName);
		Console.WriteLine("---------------------------------------------------------------");
		Console.WriteLine("Parent: {0}", relation.ParentTable.TableName);
		Console.WriteLine("Child: {0}", relation.ChildTable.TableName);
		Console.WriteLine(System.Environment.NewLine);
	}  // foreach relation
}

Further reading

Related information on the web is listed below.

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.