What I learned in 2018

A year in review

Thu, 17 Jan 2019

What I learned in 2018

This is inspired from Dan Abromov’s recent blog post on knowing what you don’t know. 2018 was a big year for my career as a developer and I wanted to jot down some highlights about what I did learn.

Docker

At the start of the year, I was part of a project that used docker for many different services to be consumed by their UI. There were probably 7 or 8 different container images (the project is long over and I don’t remember) and this was the first foray into the docker and architecture of micro-services. I learned a lot about running images locally, debugging problems with a service, and developing the UI locally against a local docker server. I came away thinking the architecture of micro-services could be very powerful and (probably more importantly) highly maintainable by separating the concerns of different services.

Saga testing

This last year I also took a good solid week to find some solutions to testing our redux-saga functions. If you aren’t familiar with redux-saga yet, you can find more info on their site. This was a fun challenge because I had to question my understanding of how we use redux-saga and be sure that we cover all scenarios. I ended up deciding on a library called redux-saga-test-plan. This library seemed to be flexible enough to cover many different scenarios and usages for our needs. I then helped the team adopt the library and provided support.

CI Configurations

Configuring continuous integration pipelines was actually a highlight for me. I have a couple personal projects that use CI (gitlab and buddy) and get some kind of odd pleasure out of setting these up. I had the pleasure of seting up a pipeline for a client project that inevitably deepened my knowledge of configurations, containers, environments, and security. CircleCI has been the go to for my team. Personally, I’ve been really liking a service called Buddy that provides a very clean and intuitive interface for debugging different failures in your build and deploy pipelines.

Electron

Desktop applications with javascript! This was SO much fun getting to learn. By proxy, I learned more about file streams, buffers, and asynchronous operations using node and I really loved the experience. Getting a deeper understanding for the types problems faced when developing desktop applications was truly fascinating. The client project was an adaptation of an existing javascript application that needed to be converted to electron, so much of the UI was already built. In a personal project, I used React and got my feet wet with Apollo client to build out a UI and must say, it was a very pleasurable experience. There’s a lot of great documentation on Electron and plenty of community support.

Typescript

I hated typescript for the first few months. I had gotten so used to just hammering out javascript that it felt like my productivity was just stunted. I had actually started using typescript in 2017 but I feel like the real growth happened in 2018. After a few projects and plenty of struggling, I am now “drinking the koolaid,” as they say. Understanding type safety took a while but now I find it kind of hard to read javascript without the type definitions! It ultimately makes writing code faster because I understand the data types quickly and can reason about solutions without having to trace back through the code to understand the type of something.

Node

Prior to 2018 I had only built some express servers with Node but this year I got to dig a lot deeper into node and some other features of it’s API. Most notably would be the file system API and handling buffers. Having started as a purely front-end dev, learning this quite fun and very enlightening. With the help of my team, I was better able to understand the value of using buffers versus holding all information in memory and handling creating, updating, and editing files with the filesystem API. Node seems like a powerful technology and with the newer async/await (via transpiler for time being) it could really be awesome to work with. I’m eager to get some more experience with this. I recently built a GraphQL server with Node for a personal project which was kind of awesome. I’ll continue hacking on it when I have the time.

Unity

Learning Unity has been for our company’s investment into the AR/VR landscape. Unity is really a different beast but I’m beginning to realize the potential. The community support is vast and plentiful, and the docs and tutorials are great. I’ve only dabbled a bit but I plan really dive deep as we start developing for the Magic Leap and our in house Oculus projects.

C++

Learning C++ was inspired by my interest in web assembly, the Magic Leap api, and the JUCE Api. I’ve been a musician for most of my life, so JUCE was my first interest. If you’re not familiar, its a C++ library that allows you to create audio applications or plugins. I have dreamed of creating a software synth with it, but for the time being my knowledge of C++ has yet to get me there. Soon though! Web assembly is something I’m very interested in since most of my knowledge is in the domain of the web. I think once it has matured a bit and people have created useful patterns to develop with, it’s really going to improve our experience using the web.

VIM

I have to mention Vim! I forced myself to use vim in my VSCode environment and now I love it! After I got used to some key commands, with the help of the internet, I set up my local vim environment to be fairly productive and it is certainly awesome. I know there is some kind of rivalry from within the emacs community regarding which is better, but it’s really a “to each their own” situation. I can’t imagine trying to code without it now.

Fastlane

Fastlane is a service to quickly code sign and deploy your iOS apps to test flight and the app store. I had gone through the process of deploying an app manually last year and discovering the ease of Fastlane was a serious relief. A really great tool! If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it.

Jon Walz

Just a tall guy in small city.