Tuesday, April 16, 2013

NGINX Awesomeness: A Simple, Powerful Web Server and More

A 2MB exe which runs a web server to rival Apache? Well, maybe not, but if you Like Simple then you will Like NGINX. In terms of power it kicks Mongoose's ass I have to say because that critter, whom I am fond  of, was pretty limited. So, ff you want to run multiple sites, reverse proxy, finely control everything HTTP and more then NGINX is your new best friend

Download and run and you have a webserver on http://localhost serving up whatever is in your HTML folder. I've stripped down the conf/nginx.conf file in order to learn and explain it here:

http {
    server {
        listen       80;
        server_name  localhost;
        location / {
            root   html;
            index  index.html index.htm;
events {
    worker_connections  1024;

This obviously sets up an HTTP server on your machine listening on port 80. It's actually just the explicit version of the default settings and so equivalent to:

http {
    server {}
events {}

If you like being Spartan!

Next: want a second server (host name)? Just add a new server section:
server {
    server_name  mydomain.com;
    location / {
        root   /somewhere/else/;
        autoindex on;
The autoindex setting provides an automatic directory listing (great for local test servers).

Of course you can configure logging (even per server), HTTP settings (e.g. keep alive stuff), mime types, SSL, hostname wildcards, virtual directories, error pages, gzip (nice), deny access (for .htaccess you need a converter) and all the usual stuff you need. But what get's me excited is the reverse proxy stuff.

Our company uses an expensive, high tech appliance for reverse proxy (and load balancing) functionality. This helps keep our web servers out of the DMZ and provides a neat front so that we can have multiple different web servers behind one application on one domain. The downside is you need a degree in it to configure it. NGINX is Simple - remember! Watch this:

Let's say you have another web server running PHP and you want NGINX to reverse proxy it. Simply pass all URLs ending in .php to that server with the location command's RegEx functionality:

location ~ \.php$ {
    proxy_pass   http://myphp.mydomain.com:8080;
That's awesome IMO. You need some serious expertise and clicking to get that done in our enterpise level applicance whose name begin's with "F" and ends with "5" but shall otherwise remain unnamed.

So sharpen up your RegEx skills and run your whole organisation's web infrastructure through one domain if you like.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

OptiBrowser: Managing Links in a Multi-Browser World

As a web developer I have several browsers installed on my PC. This is not only for testing apps on different browsers but allows you to run the same app as a different user at the same time - something many web apps don't offer because they store session state in a cookie which is shared among windows of the same browser.

That's all fine but what about the default browser? Each OS allows you one and only one default browser. This means that when you click a link in an email it will always open in your default browser. If you're like me, and your default browser is internet explorer (don't ask), you find yourself copying the link and pasting it into Chrome.

Enter OptiBrowser!

OptiBrowser is your new default browser and yet it's not a browser at all. It's simply a menu which let's you choose which browser you want to start the link you just clicked in. Press <Enter> and it will start in your default browser. Of course this only applies to links you click outside of the browser - links clicked in a browser say in that browser.

Check it out on GitHub (cawoodm/optibrowser) and, if you have any issues post them there. It's written in C# (.NET 4) and compiled and tested under Windows 7 so far. Feel free to fork and improve.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Crafty Tennis: A Component-Entity Game in JavaScript

Been dreaming of making a game for some time now and have been very interested in Component-Entity Systems which are a great way of keeping complexity down in a game.

I won't go through all the details here but suffice it to say you can keep complexity linear by either  adding new entities to your game (more "things" in the game) or by adding new components (more "functionality"). You then simply tell each new entity you add which components it has.

// Player Left (with AI)
Crafty.sprite(32, "img/padleft.run.png", {
  padleft: [0, 0]
Crafty.e("Paddle, 2D, DOM, Color, Multiway, Bound, AI, padleft, SpriteAnimation")
.attr({ x: 20, y: H/2, w: 32, h: 32, player: 1 })
.bound({minX: 0, minY: 0, maxX: W/2, maxY: H})
.multiway(4, { W: -90, S: 90, D: 0, A: 180 })
.bind('NewDirection', runner)
.animate('run', 0, 0, 5) // From x=0, y=0 to x=5 (6 frames)

Check it out on GitGub (cawoodm/tennis) or download it - it's actually quite fun to play!

Of course all this development was made possible by the excellent (and free) in-browser editor called Scripted - it's a poor man's Sublime Text.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Clean Your Path

Note: This is a Windows tip!

Each time you install new software, especially nerdy, developer stuff, it tends to add itself to your system PATH. For single .exe programs (e.g. curl or git) I find this wasteful so I've devised a cunning plan. Let's say you install curl.exe in C:\some\folder\curl

  1. Remove the folder from your system path
  2. Create a curl.cmd text file in C:\windows\system32
  3. Edit this text file and add the following: C:\some\folder\curl\curl.exe %*
Now, open a DOS window and run curl google.com - it works! How?

  • %* passes all parameters on to curl.exe
  • C:\windows\system32 is always on your system path
I recommend doing this for all your favorite command line programs and even your favorite editor. My new favorite is Scripted!