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Showing posts from January, 2020

What you can and can't learn from personal software projects.

Ok, controversial click bait title aside, personal software projects do an enormous amount of good in teaching you how to learn new languages, write better code, architect code and may even make you a buck or two on the side (if you are lucky). However, there are some things that you are not likely to learn when writing personal software projects and I wanted to discuss a few of them here. What they can't teach you How to communicate your ideas By definition a personal project is personal. You are probably the only one working on it (though you can ask a friend or two to help, which is highly advisable if you can). When you want to add a new software pattern or framework, you just do it. While that's incredibly liberating, one of the benefits of working in a team is having to explain your decisions will make you more reflective and will give you a better sense of if you are doing things the right way or not. If you meet with resistance to the idea, it means you have to th

Ecto "inheritance" using macros

Oooh them's fighting words. Anyways, this is definitely not true inheritance by any means, but let me explain the problem and then the solution. Ecto is the primary way you connect to the database in Phoenix. However, Ecto differs in many significant ways from ActiveRecord in Rails. You can set up a schema file which lists the relationships between your "models" or "entities", but these schemas do not allow you to directly access the database. They are merely descriptions of how the data is expressed. To access the database, you need to use a data context which uses Ecto. So, from my article comparing Active Record to Ecto ( ) defmodule Schema.Article do use Ecto.Schema import Ecto.Changeset alias Schema.Author alias Schema.Comment @permitted_fields [:title, :content] @required_fields [:title, :content] schema "article" do belongs_to(:author, Author)

Elixir - destructuring, function overloading and pattern matching

Why am I covering 3 Elixir topics at once? Well, perhaps it is to show you how the three are used together. Individually, any of these 3 are interesting, but combined, they provide you with a means of essentially getting rid of conditionals and spaghetti logic. Consider the following function. def greet_beatle(person) do case person.first_name do "John" -> "Hello John." "Paul" -> "Good day Paul." "George" -> "Georgie boy, how you doing?" "Ringo" -> "What a drummer!" _-> "You are not a Beatle, #{person.first_name}" end end Yeah, it basically works, but there is a big old case statement in there. If you wanted to do something more as well depending on the person, you could easily end up with some spaghetti logic. Let's see how we can simplify this a little. def greet_beatle(%{first_name: first_name}) do case first_name d

Comparing Rails' Active Record Pattern with Phoenix/Elixir/Ecto

Rails has a very well established Active Record pattern for dealing with the database. You have an Active Record model which maps to the database table, the schema of the model comes directly from the database schema and you place your model specific methods on the Active Record model. This file is also where you set your model relationships (e.g. has_many, has_one, belongs_to). Your instance of the model has all the methods built in. In Ecto/Phoenix it's a little different. First of all, the database schema doesn't automatically map to the "model". In fact we don't really have models (as Elixir is a functional paradigm). What happens in one file in Rails, happens in essentially two (or more). You have a schema file (where you have to list out all the attributes and relationships). Using the schema file, your "instance" is essentially a data structure (with no methods on it). If you want to transform the data on your struct, you would use a context mod