Dr Nic

Showcase of CoffeeScript – 2.5 mins for your next Dev Group meeting

If you are giving an “Introduction to CoffeeScript” talk at your local developer group in the future, I have a 2:30min video you might find exciting to show. CoffeeScript is so cool that I thought it really needed to be put to music. Hard rock music. AC/DC.

I finished my session at NordicRuby with this video and I think it helped get lots of people excited about CoffeeScript.

Because of it’s heavy dependence of the backing song – the screencast is boring without it – I’m kind of screwed as to how to distribute it to other presenters. The licensing rules of including music and it’s 600Mb size are prohibitive.

What the hell. I’ve included an inline sample above; and the links to the 600Mb version is below. All self-promotional “Dr Nic made this shiny video” bits have been removed. Go for gold. Share the CoffeeScript excitement.


NordicRuby finished 5 days ago, but many of the attendees and speakers are only finally winding down. Executed with the style, excitement and pizazz of Unspace’s RubyFringe and FutureRuby conferences, I had a brilliant time in Gothenburg. If NordicRuby’s organiser’s Elabs host the event again in 2011 I highly recommend attending. Carefully selected and sequenced speakers from around the world, 30 minute talks with 30 minute breaks over two days, an hour of lightning talks each day, and parties every night. Phew.

To CJ and Lilly, the organisers, the other speakers and all the attendees, thanks for an awesome experience in Sweden. Looking forward to coming back next year.

Why CoffeeScript?

JavaScript has a wonderful feature or two: it’s everywhere and it’s getting really fast. Unfortunately, its syntax was heavily influenced by Java/C++ and other popular goliaths of the time. But the JavaScript runtime is sweet. JavaScript syntax, not so sweet.

Like .NET and it’s selection of languages, the JVM and it’s growing smorgasbord of languages, I think the JavaScript runtime could benefit from more experimentation with alternate languages and/or syntaxes. Objective-J was one attempt. CoffeeScript is another.

Of the two, I like CoffeeScript. A lot.

Demonstrating CoffeeScript at Dev meetups

The video flies through core ideas pretty quickly, so I ran through syntax examples on a slide first, and then said “You know, I think this would go better to music,” and played the video.

Download and Demo

The purpose of offering the 600Mb video version is for the growing number of people doing CoffeeScript talks at their local software dev groups. The music in it is not licensed, not mine, but sounds awesome.

Please play the video with speakers. AC/DC on mute is a cruel act. Also watching the text jump around without the music is probably weird to watch. AC/DC and CoffeeScript. Perfect match, I think.

Formats: Torrent | Download (600Mb)

Tack så mycket

Swedish for “Thank you very much,” pronounced like “tuck sa-meekeh” or thereabouts.

If you use the video at all, I’d really appreciate it if you left a comment below!

First 5 Minutes of Stand Up Comedy

I thought you might be interested to see the fruits of my new hobby: stand up comedy.

It should be running in “HD” for 20% more laughs. Video taken by Greg Fairbrother, my awesome Mocra Off Railers co-driver.

I discovered a local Stand Up Comedy Course which started 6 weeks ago. The final “night” of the course was for the 8 of us to do a show for family and friends. I don’t remember reading about that on the sales brochure.

Nonetheless, knowing you had a 5 minute set to perform in front of your family and friends sets the expectation in your mind from day one that you don’t want to be shit. So we listened up, wrote as many jokes as we could think of, and hoped desperately we wouldn’t be a blubbering mess on the night.

It’s not all left to chance. Each week, the funny woman who ran the course, Fiona McGary, made us use the microphone on the stage. Either talk about our week, or list all the funny things you can think of about frogs. Or any other European people.

Each week we boldly attempted to make our other classmates laugh. At the start, they don’t. So I quickly learned to edit and then how to present comedy on stage. I tried to learn it fast because it’s weird telling a punch line, waiting for the laughs, and only being rewarded with a uncomfortable shared silence.

All my jokes started out crappy. So I attempted to edit them into “setup-punchline format”. Another phrase for “edit” is “delete half”. I’m a verbose writer. This turns out to suck awfully for stand up comedy. Or perhaps I should be a concise writer too. Oh the novelty of the idea.

Another way to edit a joke so it is ready for an audience is to delete all of it. Turns out, just because I thought of something funny doesn’t mean anyone else thinks it’s funny. Ewwww, that was an uncomfortable life lesson.

I don’t know anything else and the above is probably wrong too. The last six weeks have been a blur. Lots of practise, lots of editing, lots of writing, lots of testing ideas on Mocra staff when they aren’t expecting it, and weekly doses of disturbing reality at the Tuesday workshops when I realise I still have 10 years of more practise to go before David Letterman might ask me to come on his show. He’ll only be 112 years old by then, so fingers crossed.

I’m very appreciative of the 20+ family and friends who came along for the show. All the comedians were very appreciative of especially Lucas and Chendo who sat at the front and giggled like little girls all night.

Spending the last six weeks with the other noob comedians has been wonderful. It will be fun seeing everyone around the Open Mic rooms in Brisbane.

Finally, and most importantly, thanks to Fiona for running the course, and bumping us forward each week with the subtle phrase “that’s good; though it will need more editing.”

ChocTop – packaging and deployment of Cocoa applications


I’m getting close to releasing a new Cocoa application, CommitChat, a sexy interface to having conversations for each commit in each watched project in GitHub. It was time to start thinking about packaging and distribution.

The result is a new project for all Cocoa developers, called ChocTop, and a 30-minute tutorial screencast on how to use it. ChocTop is to Cocoa apps what Hoe is to RubyGems; except prettier.

Packaging Cocoa apps

You can package and release Cocoa apps in a number of ways. Each app is actually a folder, so they need some packaging. Zip files are easy and the bonus is they auto-open when people download them. But for me, without a doubt, is the DMG packaging with a custom background image and the embedded symlink to the Applications folder, like the one for CommitChat below.

CommitChat DMG

I’ve always loved it. It made me as a user feel that this piece of software was special. A custom DMG is like a piece of magic.

Now like most magic, its really only magical when you don’t know how its done.

But there in lies a problem. You want to release your own Cocoa software with a beautiful custom DMG but you don’t want to know how to do it. You want the magic, even as a developer, but that means you can’t know how to do it.

And trust me you do NOT want to know how to do it. Ever.


Unit Testing iPhone apps with Ruby: rbiphonetest

rbiphonetest logo

Everything to love about Ruby: the concise, powerful language; the sexy testing frameworks; and finally, the people.

Everything to love about Objective-C: hmmm; well…; and finally, its the only high-level language you can use to write iPhone apps.

On iPhone 2.0, to arrive on the 11th of July, you cannot run RubyCocoa. But you can run it on your Mac, so let’s use it to unit test your Objective-C classes. This tutorial shows you how to get started using a new project rbiphonetest [GitHub | Lighthouse | Google Group]

If you followed some of my recent tweets, this project was previously called “iphoneruby”. And alas, the screencast also calls it “iphoneruby” but that was a crap name. People thought it was a way to run Ruby on the iphone. I can’t do that yet. So, a far better name is ‘rbiphonetest’. [track on summize]

Even if you’ve never touched Objective-C, Cocoa, the iPhone SDK, nor RubyCocoa I recommend watching the video anyway. It should give you hope that if you make the transition to iPhone development you don’t have to go alone without Ruby: your trusty swiss army knife of language/libraries/tools.

The screencast is also available in high-def video (55Mb QuickTime)

Unit Testing iPhone apps using Ruby from Dr Nic on Vimeo.

Installation and Usage

To summarize the video, but change ‘iphoneruby’ to ‘rbiphonetest’, you install the framework via RubyGems:

sudo gem install rbiphonetest

Then change to your project’s folder and install the test framework:

rbiphonetest .

Finally, for each generic, non-UIKit-framework-using class you want to test:

script/generate model WidgetModel

Then write your tests in test/test_widget_model.rb

Supported Cocoa & iPhone frameworks

The mysterious, magical premise upon which rbiphonetest depends is possibly erroneous: that your Objective-C class can be compiled and tested against your OS X/Intel frameworks, and if your tests pass you assume you can then compile and include your class with the the iPhone/ARM frameworks.

I’m willing to go with this assumption until its proven dangerously flawed by some angry 20-year veteran of NextStep/Cocoa/iPhone. But really, how different could NSString be on the iPhone versus your Mac?

Fortunately there is one way to check for significant differences between your available Mac-based frameworks, such as Cocoa, and the iPhone-based frameworks, such as UIKit. We need to compare the framework names, header files and method signatures.

So for example, you cannot currently unit test any class that depends on/includes the UIKit framework. Why? It doesn’t exist on your Mac, so the Mac/Intel compiler cannot link it in. We’re compiling and running our tests with RubyCocoa, which itself is built against the Mac/Intel frameworks, not the iPhone frameworks. Hell, Laurent doesn’t even own an iPhone :) [Laurent is the Apple-employee maintainer of RubyCocoa and the newer MacRuby]

Similarly, its no use including/linking the Cocoa framework into your Objective-C class. Why? It doesn’t exist on the iPhone. It has its own UI frameworks, collectively called ‘UIKit’.

So for the moment we cannot test UI-related, iPhone-API-specific code. But we can test generic Objective-C. That’s better than a kick in the teeth. Surely. I mean, in the teeth… that’d friggin’ hurt.

“Fair enough Dr Nic, so which frameworks can my code use and yet still unit test it with your oh-so-special test library thingy?” Keep your pants on, I’m getting there. [ref]

To the best of my ability, I’ve compared the two sets of frameworks and listed the available Frameworks that are available on both the iPhone and your Mac. There are about a dozen. The most important is called ‘Foundation’. It holds gold nuggets like ‘NSString’.

The list of platform differences is on the wiki as a reference.

Note, this list doesn’t guarantee that any two framework classes – the iPhone and matching Mac framework – will behave the same. This list is compiled by finding the set of Frameworks with the same name on both platforms, e.g. Foundation.

Then it compares the set of public header files (Foundation.framework/Headers/*.h files) This comparison is by method signature. It pulls all lines from each header that start with + or – (+ is a class method and – is an instance method in Objective-C) and compares the two lists. If there is a single difference in the method signatures of the header files in the two platforms it is marked on the wiki page. You’ll need to look at the two header files yourself to see the differences. Some header files are ugly. C-based anything starts ugly and goes down from there, I think.

Python testing of iPhone Objective-C?

In the Python world there is PyObjC, a bridge-based twin to RubyCocoa. If you are a Python developer you could easily port this project to use PyObjC I would think. Ping me if you are attempting this and need any help.


I think this project can give Ruby developers a happy place to work from as they write their Objective-C/iPhone code. You still need to wire up your UI views and controller classes manually, but if you push all the “oooh that code really needs some tests” classes away from the UI-dependent frameworks then you can hook it up to rbiphonetest and write your tests in Ruby.

Currently the generator creates test/unit test stubs. I personally then add the Shoulda gem into my test_helper.rb for my apps. If an rspec and/or test/spec developer can help with adding support to the generators I’m certain the large rspec user-base would be happy campers.

Similarly, someone might like to investigate using MacRuby to run the tests instead of RubyCocoa. Fast tests vs slow tests. You choose.

What the?

Sometimes I re-read what I’ve written and notice things that don’t seem to make sense, but are in my vocabulary nonetheless. Yep, the things you learn living in Australia.

“Keep your pants on” – this seems to imply that until I mentioned otherwise you were about to take your pants off. Hardly relevant at any stage during this article, we’d both agree. Most code-based blog articles are “pants on”. This phrase means “don’t get upset”. You can try to figure out how you go from “don’t get upset” to “keep your pants on”. I have no idea.

Using Ruby within TextMate snippets and commands

I didn’t know you could run Ruby within TextMate snippets. As a consequence, a lot of the TextMate bundles I work on either have simplistic Snippets or the advanced code is run via Commands with code pushed into explicit Ruby files in the Support folder.

But sometimes I just want a clever snippet. For example, I want the ‘cla’ snippet to use the current filename to create the default class name instead of the current ‘ClassName’ default. I want default foreign key names to be meaningful.

I’ve now figured this out (thanks to Ciaran Walsh), and …

Um, lost already? Ok, let me show you via screencast on Snippets and Commands with Ruby (QuickTime (11Mb)):

TextMate Snippets running Ruby from Dr Nic on Vimeo.

Want to learn more about living with TextMate and Ruby?

The TextMate website has a series of videos, including one by the Ruby.tmbundle’s own James Edward Gray II (JEG2).

In addition, there is the latest TextMate for Rails 2 Peepcode written by myself and spoken by Geoffrey Grosenbach. Its cheap at $9, good value at $15.50, and perhaps overpriced in the $20-$30 range. Lucky its only $9.

The snippets used throughout the video

The current Ruby.tmbundle snippet (activated via ‘cla’):

class ${1:ClassName}

An attempt to use regular expressions to convert the filename to a classname:

class ${1:${TM_FILENAME/[[:alpha:]]+|(_)/(?1::\u$0)/g}}

The final snippet, with embedded Ruby to do the heavy lifting (note: added ‘singluarize’ to the snippet):

class ${1:`#!/usr/bin/env ruby
    require 'rubygems'
    require "active_support"
    puts ENV['TM_FILENAME'].gsub(/\.rb$/, '').camelize.singularize

Add this to your own Ruby.tmbundle, or clone mine (which is a clone of the original subversion repo).