Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Basic Auth over HTTP using Ruby, Net::HTTP

I'm writing this one down because it took way too long for me to stumble around it. The Net::HTTP class provides http transport level page access. Most of the time I use open-uri, which treats web pages like files, because that is, as the kids say, one hella fine way to roll.

Too bad it doesn't work with Basic Auth.

I've got a service at http://db-import that listens on 8080. It requires valid credentials. I want to get some type data from it and parse it with Hpricot. Normally I would do this like so:

doc = open("http://db-import:8080/rest/entityTypes.xml) { |f| Hpricot(f) }

however, the requirement of basic auth makes me do this:

ENTITY_TYPES_REQUEST = "http://db-import:8080/importapi/rest/entityTypes.xml"
Net::HTTP.start(,uri.port) do |http|
req =
req.basic_auth user,pass
response = http.request(req)

doc = Hpricot(response.body)

A couple of things to note (that got me):
  1. I needed to specify the hostname w/o the transport. Instead of "http://db-import", specify "db-import". Yeah, that's kind of obvious after the fact :). I URI
  2. HTTP.start only opens the connection, the user then makes all requests/process all responses within the connection block. So in the code above I first configure the request object with basic auth and then use it to make the request.

Not terribly hard, but I do tend to trip up on details and wanted to spare some pain the next time around.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I dont like running (data) naked

Yesterday morning, at 6:45, I was on semi autopilot, stepping out the door for my morning run. I grabbed my trusty Garmin 305, walked out the door, and hit the on button. And waited. And tried again. I figured my gloves were a little too thick, so I took one off and then pressed again. And pressed harder. Nothing.
After almost 2 years of pretty much day in day out use, in rain, wind, and snow, through heat and cold, thick and thin, my little friend had left the building. Operating on pure reflex, I plugged it back into the recharging cradle and went back outside, bereft.

This was a truly sad moment for me. There I was, in the dark and cold, trying to get excited about going running without second by second updates on heart rate, pace, altitude, and distance covered. At that moment I realized that I was being ridiculous, even diva-like. I mean, wasn't running for running's sake not enough? Would I have even had this mental conversation 2 years ago? Not at 0-dark-45 in the morning. When I'd rather be in bed, warm and comfortable, dozing in and out of consciousness. Instead, I'm standing in a slight drizzle with my headlight strapped on, bundled up from head to toe in waterproof yet breathable and oh-so-reflective winter running gear. It would be different if, say, I was running on the beach at Kauai, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I dont think I would need motivation coming from my wrist-top computer.

Then again, maybe I would. I mean the coolest thing about the GPS/HRM is that it tells a story, of where I've been and - literally - what I've done. It tells a story and then persists it, for later recall. When I upload my run to the computer, I get to see how slow fast I went, the hills on the route, the overall distance, and I get to remember how I felt at specific points in the run. And if I don't remember, my heart rate tells me. It's sort of like a data photo album, where the mix of lat/long, altitude, and heart rate combine to give me a snapshot of how I felt at every point in the run.

I took off on the run anyway, shamed by my dependence on data, determined to experience 'pure' running without instrumentation. And I actually did. I couldn't refer to my data feed, so I started to pay attention to my form, my breathing, my stride, my forward lean. I knew the mileage of the route I was running (6.23 to be exact), but didn't know exactly how far I had gone, or how far I had left. And although I knew that I was somewhere between 125 and 145 bpm, I had to pace myself by how I felt at that moment, not how my watch was telling me how I felt.

So, yeah, I enjoyed it, a little. And I was actually resigned to a month of 'naked' running while I sent my little buddy back to Garmin to be refurbed. It is, after all, the middle of winter, and I'm not training for anything in particular, more doing long runs to justify eating all those XMas sugar cookies.

I had just convinced myself that this whole zen running thing was good, really good. But when I went down to the garage to pack the HRM up so I could ship it back to Garmin for refurb I noticed that it was on, telling me that it was fully charged. Slowly, disbelieving, I turned it back on, and watched it search fruitlessly for a satellite connection. "Are you indoors?" it asked me. It seemed a little irritated. I turned it off, put it back in the cradle, and went back upstairs -- all of a sudden tomorrows early morning run is looking a lot more fun.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Notes from the (Javascript) Noob: conditionally enable console debugging

Today I ran into a problem when the primary user of my monitoring app wanted to know why graphs werent rendering for him. I checked the site from my machine and all looked good. I checked the site from another devs machine, and again, everything was rendering. At this point I was confused.

I knew it had to be something in the javascript rendering, so I had the user install firebug. Instead of a JS error (or 10), the page loaded fine. Hmmm. I then wanted to see if the requests I was firing from the page to the Google Charts API were actually going through. We tabbed to the FB net tab, which was disabled. When I had him enable that, plus the console, the graphs rendered.

Doh! I was using console.log to check a value, and forgot that not everyone in the known universe runs with FB enabled. In order to continue to log, I've done this:

function log(str) {
var c = window.console; if (c) {

I'm kind of surprised that (a) I wasn't getting a 'console object not defined' in the naive install of FB (which evaluated JS, but had console/net logging turned off), and that (b) if console was present as implied by (a), that logging would degrade gracefully. But the code above works, and I'll take that over sheer speculation.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kiran and Leela and Pork n Beans

This morning, hopped up on (whole wheat) pancakes and (lite) syrup, the kids and I rocked out to Weezer. In this age of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, it might seem lame to jam with tennis rackets, but we're old school. Kiran, Leela, consider yourselves blackmailed :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

I think I've got a Soccer Problem

When I was seven, all I liked to do was read. Read read read. My mom was and is a very wise woman and decided that being a wimpy, nerdy bookworm was the fast track to many beatdowns, and signed me up for AYSO soccer.

I hated the first season, didn't really understand what the hell was going on, and wanted to quit. I'm not sure why I didn't, but by the end of the second season I really loved the game. I loved the smell of the field, the oranges at halftime, and the feeling of being part of something bigger than just me. I loved playing, touching the ball, and would dribble and shoot on an imaginary goal framed by trees for hours and hours after school.

Note that love doesn't imply ability. I'm not overly coordinated, and that, coupled with a serious vision problem (brought on by all that reading), and my reluctance to wear glasses on the field, washed me out of soccer by high school. I really missed playing and got back into it when I turned 30.

People that play soccer when they're older tend to fall into two camps. There are the ex college/high school studs/studettes, who have amazing touch and vision and ability. They know exactly where they are, where everyone else is, and what is going to happen next. Then there are the rest of us, hacks who occasionally get a good touch or light up a good run and feel that all too brief moment of being connected to the worlds most amazing game.

I'm a spaz, occasionally doing something nice, sometimes having great games, sometimes having terrible games, most of the time having randomly great and terrible moments in the same game. My only real gifts are speed and endurance, both of which are slowly disappearing as I get older. I can pass OK, and have decent field vision at times, but my first touch is more accidental than deliberate, I have no air game, and I have a pathetically wimpy shot.

I've been on the same team for about six years. It's a great group of men and women, most of whom are much better than I am, and very patient. One thing I've noticed over the years is that we've started to focus less on the actual games and more on the beers after the game. Its just as fun to give each other crap after the game as it is to play. Sometimes more fun.

Every season I swear it will be my last. In tonights game I was trying to move the ball across the field with a defender at my hip. I tried to reverse on him when all of a sudden I found myself flat on the ground with a really bad calf cramp. I made it clear to the ref that the defender had nothing to do with me ending up on the ground, and limped off the field to enjoy the rest of the game as a spectator. I don't know why my body chose that moment to betray me, but it was enough to end my night.

I'm not sure why I keep coming back. As mentioned above, my speed is no longer keeping me in the game. Seattles dirt fields play havoc on my knees and ankles. Pacific Northwest weather in the late fall/early spring is the opposite of warm and dry. Guys in their 20s are starting to burn by me, making me feel like a slow old man. And lately, more often than not, I find myself in the middle of the game with no anticipation, consistently a 1/2 second too late to the ball, and (even though I now see 20/15 thanks to lasik), completely tunnel visioned.

But there are those moments, really brief ones, where occasionally I get a glimpse of what it is like to really play the beautiful game. Tonight I got a pass, touched it to my inside, and moved the ball up the field. I could see everything, and it felt like I had all the time in the world. I drew a defender to me and flicked the ball to an open space right in front of my wing, who touched it once and lofted a beautiful high shot over the goalies outstretched arms. It was textbook, it was beautiful, and for that brief moment I was not a spaz, I was a player. It's an elusive high that keeps me coming back looking for more.

I'll take 400mg of ibu and walk off that leg cramp now. It hurts, but I think not playing would hurt worse. Maybe I'll quit next season.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crontarded (sigh)

Note to self: sometimes mistakes are painful. Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are both, and sometimes they are painful, but funny in retrospect. In any case, the best approach is to document it, so that it _never_happens_again. Here is an email I sent earlier today:

Subject: HI! I'm an idiot!

Hey Adam, you know when you came up to me and told me db-import was getting pegged every 6 hours? And Gil, you know when you were asking me one day around noon why you were handling requests every 1 minute?

well, in the crontab I was running a job like this:

* */6 * * *
which is really a great way of saying: every 6 hours, run this task every 1 minute. You see, I knew that, I just didn't _know_ that.

I've amended the offending crontab entry to :

00 */6 * * *

so that the job can run once and only once, every 6 hours, like God intended.

So, I'm sorry. You both can join the long list of people that (a) should punch me or (b) should get a free beer from me. The way I'm f*cking up today, that line will shortly be stretching around the block.

-- Arun

Those of you keeping score at home will know that the score now reads:
Compilers and OS's (not including windoze): 12,000
Arun: 0