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jsRazor – New Way of Rendering Json That Is Pure Genius May 9, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Ajax, jQuery, JSON.Net, KnockoutJS, Open Source, Problem Solving.
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DClick this link immediately, and you’ll see wonderful things! Sensei has said many times that simple is better, and rgubarenko of MakeItSoft has a brand spanking new template engine that is so simple it makes you speechless.  His premise:  every possible rendering task can be accomplished as a random combination of two functional primitives:

repeat – repeats fragment of HTML code for each object in array
toggle – shows or hides fragment of HTML depending on boolean flag

Here is an example taken from the github site.  To get the output display below:

jsRazor Example Output

from a Json data set that looks like this:

var data_Themes = [ { name: "Dreaming Theme", colors: ["#2A1910", "#9E7064", "#B0967C", "#E7435E", "#6D4F3F"] },

{ name: "Moth Theme", colors: ["#30382D", "#565539", "#78765F", "#403F2B"] },

{ name: "5 Dark Theme", colors: ["#000000", "#280705", "#2E0500", "#3B0000", "#3C1100"] },

{ name: "Blue Volcano Theme", colors: ["#5077FF", "#8A84FF", "#81C1FF"] } ];

You will have a template that looks like this:

<pre><div id="example">
      <div class="name">{name} ({CountColors} colors)</div>
      <div class="wrap">
        <div class="color" style="background-color:{item};">
          <span style="color:white">{item}</span>
          <span style="color:black">{item}</span>
        <div class="rgb">({R},{G},{B})</div>

The controller that creates the final result is as follows:

<pre>// get initial template
var tmp = document.getElementById("example").innerHTML; 
// repeat theme objects (pass array of themes to repeat functional)
tmp = $.jsrazor.repeat(tmp, "themes", data_Themes, function (tmp, idx, item)
  // repeat inner color objects (pass array of colors of the current theme item)
  tmp = $.jsrazor.repeat(tmp, "colors", item.colors, function (tmp, idx, item)
    // use toggle to show dark or light color text (to be contrast with background)
    tmp = $.jsrazor.toggle(tmp, "dark", hex2rgb(item).mid <= 128);
    tmp = $.jsrazor.toggle(tmp, "light", hex2rgb(item).mid > 128);
    // output RGB representation of the color as custom value
    tmp = tmp
      .replace("{R}", hex2rgb(item).r)  // red
      .replace("{G}", hex2rgb(item).g)  // green
      .replace("{B}", hex2rgb(item).b); // blue
    // return processed template for current INNER item
    return tmp;
  // color counter is not a part of JSON, so we output it as custom value
  tmp = tmp.replace("{CountColors}", item.colors.length);
  // return processed template for current item
  return tmp;
// put processed output back
document.getElementById("example").innerHTML = tmp;</pre>

This looks very promising.  In fact, this could be a very cool way of writing reports in jQuery!  Think about it – with a tool like jLinq for filtering data sets and jsRazor, you could replace SQL Server Reports.


Develop A Theme For Your Project – Spock Can Help April 28, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Mythology, New Techniques, Personal Development, Problem Solving, software economics.
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Evil_SpockMany times Sensei has said you have to have a theme song for your projects. You may have certainly noticed that Sensei is old school, prog-rock and somewhat metal oriented. Spock’s Beard is a recent discovery and the group has direct roots with Transatlantic.

This latest album is a great source of inspiration, so if you have a ten minute walk ahead of, fire it up and it will get your head straight for serious productivity, creativity, or pure coding marathons.

Simplify Your Thoughts For Uninterrupted Flow April 24, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Agile, Coaching, New Techniques, Open Source, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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Sensei recently gave up FogBugz. This was not because of FogBuz, as it is a great product. But Sensei realized that it was not meeting his needs. It was too much. When on the hunt, you can’t be slowed down, and sometimes you have to jettison the extra weight. To be fair, the context here is a prototyping project, where errors / foibles / new features need to be captured. FogBugz is great a teams, but it does require, well, too many clicks. You should always ask yourself this question: which James Bond do I want to be?

doctor-no1_lg bond_large_verge_medium_landscape



Which Bond gets the babe? Pretty easy choice. The unfettered thinker makes them swoon. The guy with the helmet …not so much.

Keeping It Real By Keeping It Simple

Yep – Sensei sounds like a whiny Apple-simplify-your-life-and-wear-a-black-turtle-neck Zen iPad fan boy. Well, that’s not right either. There’s just the right tools for the the right job. So when in the fight with the development environment, brain firing on all cylinders, Seseni uses Workflowy. You can quickly categorize your lists / sentences / thoughts as you go. Just typing, no modal dialog boxes, no creating an item, waiting for it to save, clicking, scrolling, more dialog boxes.

Before you attack, Sensei is not saying this will work for teams, for bug resolution, and other endeavors that FogBugz does very well. But it’s all about eliminating the tactics that get in the way of you achieving your goals. This is critical. And when prototyping you need as much room in your head as possible so you solve the bugs, but not spend more time tracking the bugs. Below is a sample. Issues and features, pretty easy. Click it to see the details.


So What? Well, How About Taking It a Step Further

Sensei hopes that the enterprising readers out there can take this idea and run with it: Why not create system that parses the format shown above? When you edit, each line gets a Guid. Then, start at the top level. Each item at that level is story or a deliverable, maybe broken down by screen or function. A child of each story will have an Issues or Features item, and the child items of Issues naturally belongs to Issues. All else would be ignored when converting to a database record, yet retained in your notes.

bond_01_slide-9f8039ebe14dba26b56314bd850026a107423d9c-s6-c10 - CopyThis would be your starting pointing. Because each of these items has an identifier, later you could parse them into a database format, assign people, etc. The point is that the starting point is easier, is more productive because you just type. That way your work gets done, and you feel more like him.

Top 5 Words to Delete from Your Vocabulary April 21, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine.
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Just read a post that is a wake up call that alerts you to self imposed restriction. Hint: it’s in your language.

Everyday Power Blog


In this article we explore how language and self talk impact our ability to motivate ourselves, achieve at high levels and live the life we deserve. We also look at 5 popular dis-empowering words and phrases and replace them with empowering words and phrases to support motivation, success, love, gratitude and achievement.
Let’s get straight to it.
Our actions create our life… Agree? Our thoughts create our actions…. Agree? Our thoughts are communicated to us in the form of language…. Agree? So…how can we live our largest, most expressive and most loving life if we are using vocabulary that makes us smaller, weaker and discouraged.
Do you know anybody, maybe even yourself, who loves to use phrases like: “This only happens to me”, “Life’s a b*tch“, “I caaaaaaaaan’t!”, “Never!”, “I just can’t win”, “I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t”.
The biggest problem with these…

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The Speed of Thought, Part Duh!!! (Or Driving Stick Shift with Javascript) April 18, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Humor, jQuery, KnockoutJS, Mythology, Problem Solving, Scripting.
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scream_baron_blood_01Sensei is a libertarian – so you can interpret that to mean few rules, respect others freedom, government and busy bodies “leave me the hell alone”, stay-outta-my-way-attitude-person is his motto.  That means the only way to drive is with the stick.  Automatic is for the soccer moms.  Javascript is like driving manual transmission – sometimes you grind the gears.

You’re hero just spent a half hour pouring over some Knockout.js code, wondering why his observableArray went MIA on each push.  Can you see why?

var Question = function (id, question, sortOrder) {
this.Id = id;
this.Question = ko.observable(question);
this.SortOrder = ko.observable(sortOrder);

It’s not Javascript’s fault, it’s Sensei’s fault. Now you can see why he writes in the third person, ’cause it’s easier to remove yourself from these type of dumb mistakes when you can treat your persona as separate person!! If you see the issue, leave a comment before I post the resolution.

Learning Techniques: What the Research Says April 18, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Mythology, New Techniques, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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A great study in learning techniques how effective they are.

Learning Techniques: What the Research Says.

The Speed of Thought April 17, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Approvaflow, Business Processes, Coaching, Fluent, Mythology, Personal Development, Problem Solving.
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faradaypennytwinsOf late, Sensei needs to keep a clear head.  That has meant learning to segment ideas and really, really, really focus on streamlined features.  This is hard.  Not because Sensei has a plethora of great ideas.  That would be a nice problem to have.  Many times in software development you end up this guy:

This is the state where you have things you want to accomplish, yet even when you pair things down to the “essential”, other essential, critical factors must be taken into consideration before you create a mess.  This is life calling, and that string which suspends that giant sword that you noticed hovering over your head is about to snap.  There is a good chance that you need more discipline, better execution tactics, far better honed chops, you name the metaphor.  Sensei has been at this game for over 22 years, and still the speed that thought takes to become reality is way too slow.

With great sarcasm you can remind your self that some of the best work lays ahead, but the reality is that you still need to fight to be fluent, you have to claw your way to a Zen state of mind / no-mind.  So chose, the art of bushido or the art of BS.  Or maybe work smarter and enjoy life.

Before Sensei leaves you, ponder this:  does “being done” mean that you’ve dropped off a product but have to get on the phone in order to make changes, and maybe now that you are struggling why couldn’t you figure out to take time when it was more critical to be fluent with your productivity?


A Life Time In a Day April 5, 2013

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Coaching, Mythology, Problem Solving.
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If you are lucky, you can experience a life through the course of a day. Consider it the antithesis of ground hogs day. Instantaneous history, melancholy,!and certainty all at once. You are here, where do you go?


NuGet Causes Needless Headaches With RavenDB, RestSharp and Json.Net September 25, 2012

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in .Net, ActiveEngine, Mythology, Open Source, Problem Solving.
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Just because something is shiny and promises riches doesn’t mean you should put it in your pocketses.  NuGet, while good for getting an assembly for quick and dirty research and development, is a tour to the valley of frustration when you need to focus and deploy a solution with many dependencies.

NuGet has a pretty dialog box so you think you can just “wire up” and go, but this is an illusion my precious.  Sometimes it doesn’t update the Hint path.  Sometimes it forces you to install packages in certain order, as with SignalR, RestSharp and RavenDB.

Think about it – NuGet pulls down files, creates directories and then references to all the paths that were just created.  We can’t do that ourselves by pulling a directory, the adding the reference to old fashioned way, meaning the way that leaves you feeling more in control, not requiring you to spend hours hunting references in package.config files in different folders?  The main premise is to eliminate this practice, right?  What is going to happen when you introduce AppHarbor into the mix where you won’t be able to look and the production server to divine what assemblies are indeed deployed!

What Works Versus What Makes You Feel Cool

Sensei wants to direct you to a solution where a developer needed to use two versions of Json.Net with RavenDB.  His solution:  add dependentAssembly tag to the web.config, upload the file to a sub directory of the bin folder, and move on.

Ok, so it’s not cool, but the job is done.  And that should be the whole point.  Why use tools that put us in this mess in the first place?  Unfortunately NuGet is becoming the primary way to get assemblies.  The road may go ever on but projects have a deadline!!  Poor Smeagul.

Some Pitfalls To Avoid With KnockoutJS “options” Binding September 8, 2012

Posted by ActiveEngine Sensei in ActiveEngine, Ajax, KnockoutJS, Mythology, New Techniques, Open Source, Tutorial.
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As Sensei has written earlier, KnockOutJS is a great framework for creating rich client side solutions for you web applications.  Simply said it cuts your development down considerably by performing CSS binding for you, while also bringing better structure to your Javascript through the use of the MVVM pattern.  But even the greatest of all wizardry, magery, grammary, magik has its stumbling blocks.  Each tool you use constrains you in some way.  This week Sensei uncovered another puzzle that has left him wondering still if he found the best solution.  Maybe you will have some insight you can share with the “options” binding from Knockout.

Here is the scenario:  You have a <select> ( or a drop down list as us old school Windows devs are found of saying) that you wish to populate with values from an array.  There are two ways that this select list will be used.  The first is when you create a record, and naturally you would like the list to display “New …”.  The second goal is set the value of the <select> to match the value of a current record.  Here is the JS-Fiddle with the first attempt. Selecting from the list sets the value, and you’ll the update at the bottom. Clicking “Simulate Editing Amys Record” will set the value of the list to “Amy” as though you were performing an edit operation.  Here is the view model code:

var ViewModel = function() {
var self = this;

// Simulated seed data from server
this.seedData = ko.observableArray([
ID: 1,
firstName: 'John',
value: '333'},
ID: 2,
firstName: 'Bob',
value: '333'},
ID: 3,
firstName: 'Amy',
value: '333'}]),

// Simulated data from server
self.data = {
title: ko.observable('This is a sample'),
selectedValue: ko.observable("")

self.prepForNew = function() {

self.changeIt = function() {


var vm = new ViewModel();

Now bear with Sensei as he describes the behavior that was so confounding.  We are initializing the <select> by setting data.selectedValue(“”).  The first time the page is displayed we get the behavior that we want.  Click the “Set List for New Record List”.  Nothing happens.  If you trace with Firebug you’ll see that the value is indeed being set, but once it leaves the method it reverts to the current value in the <select>.

Speak, friend, and enter …

Oookkay. Scratch your head. Walk away. Come back, fiddle so more. Rinse, then repeat for about 5 hours.  This shouldn’t be.  In his frenzy Sensei did not consult StackOverflow.  At last an idea came to mind.  Why not add “New …” as the first entry in <select>, give a value of -1 and an ID of -1.  This way at least it is identifiable.  Seems silly but when you have things to accomplish sometimes you just have to eat the sausage instead of thinking about how its made.  Check out the new JS Fiddle before Sensei explains.

Three simple changes have occured.  First we cheate by adding a new object to the array that supports our <select>.  We gave it the “New …” as the first element.

this.seedData = ko.observableArray([
//  Here is the default caption object
ID: -1,
firstName: 'New ...',
value: ''},
ID: 1,
firstName: 'John',
value: '333'},
ID: 2,
firstName: 'Bob',
value: '333'},
ID: 3,
firstName: 'Amy',
value: '333'}]),

We yanked out the “optionsCaption: ‘New …” entry in the HTML mark for the view.  Finally the altered the method self.prepForNew to set the value of selectedValue to “New …” with the statement selectedValue(“New …”);  This forces KnockOut to sync to what we want.  Remember that we are working with methods when setting values with Knockout, hence the use of (“New …”);

Sensei is happy to have things working.  Being perplexed over finding out the cause instead of simply creating something simple did fret away the hours.  Like with any new tool, there are nuances that won’t become apparent until you are hit over the head with their pitfalls.

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