Projects so far

Projects so far

Documenting what I’ve built so far. I don’t have the $$ to host these yet, so, I’ll post pics for now.

The Nomurica Constant International Film Fest

I built this web app to counter the winner-takes-all effect in popular culture. American culture saturates every last bit of our environment, and I felt this buried great works from the rest of the world six feet under. So, I took the IMDB database, banned all films from America and most of the West, and let my algorithm randomly pick ten films from around the world, scrape YouTube for their trailers, and post them on a webpage.

I built this in Flask, and the code is shoddy because I made this before I learnt more about MVC. I know better now, and I’ll rebuild it in Django when I have the time. This experience also let me understand how much faster it is to use PostgreSQL over SQLite3.

I think, even considering its many faults right now, it looks like significantly effective proof-of-concept that it is more than possible to remedy the winner-takes-all effect, and consequently, cultural hegemony.

nomurica constant international film fest page 1


I built this app as an exercise in both language and code. Essentially, I constructed a way to randomly concatenate several lists of strings so that they always turn out grammatically correct. The background slowly segues from one colour to another, and the text also changes every so often.

It’s also built in Flask.


A social media site

I’ve also built, in Flask, a social media site where people log in and out and share events. It’s not time to show it publicly yet but, working on user accounts gave me an idea of how insecure a site can be when built by a beginner without any knowledge of SQL sanitisation.

It was this site that made me finally pick up Django, which I hoped would solve my security issues for me. While learning Django, I found out about Django-allauth, and the way it uses ORMs, which was heartening.

Last bit

I’ve learnt a lot. I can make web apps/websites in Flask, and I’m beginning to feel my way into Django.

I read that a lot of compsci grads can’t even code fizzbuzz. Does this mean I’m good enough for a job? I don’t know. I still don’t have the confidence to apply. I wish someone would tell me. It’s easy to say, hey, you can just ask. But more often than not, people tell me, yeah, ask me any time, and then they are way too busy to reply to me every time I ask. And online forums can be untowardly harsh to beginners, which is hardly good for anyone with anxiety issues.

I also wish I’d had teachers who guided me. But, I suppose, I go it alone as usual, and hope for the best. It’s really slow. But I guess, I’m getting somewhere?

I’ve started on JavaScript too. ūüôā

Deployment: The Next Big Batch of Knowledge After Flask

Deployment: The Next Big Batch of Knowledge After Flask

I’ve begun thinking about how to deploy my app. It would have been easy as a one-pager, but my app has a PostgreSQL database, and it is a social networking site, which means I should prepare for lots and lots of users (assuming people pick it up at all).

Rooting around in this direction turned up this helpful video that tells you about different ways to host your app. It also turned up the idea of “workers”. Heroku and DigitalOcean use workers. What are these? I don’t know yet. Of course there are definitions, as usual. But definitions try to be one-stop shops and catch-all solutions, and in catering to everyone, they cater to no one at all. Ok, I exaggerate. They cater to some. Dictionaries do a pretty decent job although they don’t tell you about nuances, connotations, and other baggage that comes with words.

While researching workers and deployment, I realised that I have to look at sharding, and possibly logical sharding in particular. Also connection pools, database caching, clustering, cloud formation, load balancing, docker/virtualisation, and batching writes to the database. In short, it seems, I have to learn some devops.

We meet again, prong of epistemology. To go from Flask to deployment means learning a whole critical bunch of things.

The bad thing is, I don’t know how much I should know about devops, so I’m groping around in the dark, and groping around for all kinds of different things. To mix two idioms, I’m a drowning man in the dark clutching at straws. The good thing, I suppose, is that I think I know the primary question here: how many requests can a worker handle? It’s a surprisingly hard question to answer, and I have to answer it so I know if the cheapest plan on DigitalOcean is suitable for a starting social networking web app. I’ll root around some more.

Deployment also made me think about marketing, which led me to this video, which reminded me that I have to cite open source code, which means I have to review all my code and try to remember where each part of it came from if I didn’t write it myself.

At the same time, I’ve learnt and exercised enough Flask to know that I should pick up Django and rebuild the entire app in it, and that I should also learn JavaScript, because a lot of interactions, like socketio, depends on it.

Does the prong of epistemology become larger and larger as knowledge increments? At this point, I should be working in a team with proper front end and back end developers and designers, right? But with only basic Python, Flask, and SQL under my belt, what team roughing it out in the savage wilderness of live business operations would want me? “Not good enough”, that old refrain.

But, hey, the only way forward is forward.

What is Model-View-Controller (MVC)

What is Model-View-Controller (MVC)

I was totally confused over how to use flask-security, and researching that made me super confused about sessions vs. cookies vs. tokens, and researching that brought me to the topic of the model-view-controller (MVC). Long story short, I found a pretty good video that introduces the paradigm:

After watching it, I realised I could reduce my code by maybe 90% if I abstracted away huge repetitive bunches of it. I knew this in the back of my mind before but was too caught up learning the basic basics to think about it clearly. Anyway, after watching a few more videos, I think this is one of the better introductions. It provides a brief enough history that segues smoothly into contemporary practice.

I’m still completely baffled with flask-security and slightly more clear about sessions-cookies-tokens. RTFM not working, especially for flask-security.

Quick Word on Jobs

Quick Word on Jobs

I picked code up in part to get a better paying job than anything on offer in the arts. Now I have Python, Flask, and SQL with me. However, after going through job sites for a few days, I’ve discovered that most jobs are for front end developers with HTML5, CSS, and Javascript.

There is a lot of demand for Javascript using AngularJS, React, NodeJS, etc. So, the fastest way to get a job is to pick up front end web dev/design skills.

If you stick with Python and want to do some back end work, you’ll need Django, and NoSQL, typically MongoDB. Not Flask. Exceedingly few¬†hiring companies use¬†Flask.

Ruby on Rails appears quite a bit too. Also a lot of demand for UI/UX. But that floats into a more distant skill set.

Attempting to Learn Flask, Part 3

Attempting to Learn Flask, Part 3

I should close the loop on this series. Part 1 and Part 2, if¬†you’re interested.

The conclusion is, I haven’t mastered it, but I’ve definitely figured out the basics. I thought I’d need to learn more¬†from CS350 for some time before getting here. Instead I found myself going back to just two of the videos in Charles Severance’s “Using Databases with Python” several times and jogging memory with code I’d worked with during that course. I’m forgetful so it was great to have his videos on hand. I also spent a lot of time googling, reading, and YouTubing tutorials.

Basically, I had to draw from everywhere at this point, and the range was really, really wide.

The happy news is, I can now:

  • Use Python to do magic on the back end
  • Use Flask to deliver magic to the front end
  • Use SQLite3 and/or PostgreSQL to handle data (Create, Read, Update, Delete)
  • Doll up my web app a little bit with Bootstrap

I’ve made a couple of apps already:

One uses Python to concatenate randomly selected strings from various lists to form grammatically correct English sentences and then displays a new one in the middle of a webpage at regular intervals.

The other draws from the IMDB database, banishes all USA and Western European films, randomly picks 10 from the rest of the world, and displays them along with their trailers from YouTube. This one was not so trivial for me. There was a lot of junk data in the IMDB database to clean up, and I had to work out how to scrape YouTube to embed the trailers on my site.

So, as of early 2017, I can verify that my proposed path of least resistance for learning how to build a web app from scratch is a pretty decent strategy.

I can’t say if it’ll continue this way. Already there are certain things that are falling into doubt. For instance, CS350 leverages AngularJS a little bit to do Flask stuff, and in the course of reading all the other sources I found out that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of AngularJS right now. That particular case is not terribly important. Just a small example.¬†We can use other JS frameworks¬†anyway.

What’s next for me? I’m going to build up that film site of mine. Add users to it, work on some formulae running in the back end. Get more familiar with PostgreSQL. Get a better handle on how to mash Flask up with Bootstrap. And then maybe learn¬†Cordova next year to build mobile apps.

Coding is great fun, especially since I use it to engage real world problems. For example, the winner-takes-all effect. Films from USA and Western Europe, and especially from Hollywood, saturate almost every single one of our media environments. My film site bans all USA and Western European films in order to allow the diversity of the rest of the world’s film heritage to come to the fore. Turns out, it’s wonderful. Using¬†it, I discovered amazing, beautiful films from Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and elsewhere. I think there was even one from Antigua and Barbados. It’s not ready for the public yet, but I hope to put it up somewhere just for show-and-tell soon.

Another big reason that drove my learning was the oppressive pecuniary pressures in the art world. I wonder if I’m ready for an entry level/junior position yet. I have no idea. Time to try looking around for a job now as well, I guess. At the very least, I’ll get¬†a better idea of what the world wants.

How and Where to Take a (PostgreSQL) Dump, or, When Documentation Lacks Detail

How and Where to Take a (PostgreSQL) Dump, or, When Documentation Lacks Detail

I’ve made crazy progress in the last couple of weeks. As a result of that, I’ve managed to get my grubby hands onto SQL and I’ve even wrestled with which database management system to use. I used Digital Oceans’ succinct article to settle on PostgreSQL.

Unfortunately, unlike the SQLite I’m a bit more familiar with, PostgreSQL databases (DB) don’t come in one handy portable file. I spent maybe a couple of hours poking around the PostgreSQL directory wondering where the DB was. Then I googled it and read some articles a bit more closely and figured out it’s more complicated than a single manifestation in a single locus.

So, using the vocabulary I had, I googled “how to export PostgreSQL database” and a couple of other variants related to it. Didn’t work. But at some point, I found out that you have to do a dump. That gets you a file you can move around. But not many were good at explaining it, or even the concept of it. Finally, I read the documentation here¬†and thought, this should be easy. But once I’d done a¬†pg_dump, I couldn’t find the file. I spent another couple of hours trying out various things.

Then, finally, finally, I YouTubed “postgresql dump” or something like that and found this silent video. I watched it carefully and realised that the dump is created in the directory from which I work in the command line. And that has not been mentioned in all the previous places I’d looked in, including the documentation. Maybe it’s obvious to experts. But beginners need something a bit more explicit.