Getting Started with Docker on Azure

Intro & Prereqs
We’re seeing a pretty significant uptick in the use of Azure as the cloud provider of choice among clients. As organizations move to hybrid and/or multi-provider clouds, Docker plays a key role in abstracting underlying platform configuration details away from implementations, allowing developers to build consistently-functioning solutions that can be tested and run in identical configurations, and that can be reliably deployed to disparate environments. In this post we’ll cover running Docker containers on Azure using Docker Machine and using Docker storage volumes for persistent storage.

Since Azure doesn’t yet have a dedicated container service like AWS and GCP, we’ll need to rely on Docker Machine to get the job done. Docker Machine lets us install and control the Docker service on local and remote VMs. We’ll configure a Docker host and use the same Dockerfile we’ve used in previous posts to test our solution. Before we jump in, we’ll need to have the following items installed:



  • (the mongod command should be available from your CLI) Yeoman Generator:

  • (the yo command should be available from your CLI, and you should have a generator named

Setting up the project
To get started, navigate to an empty directory and generate a new MEAN-stack app using the Yeoman generator and the following command and options:


yo meanjs


You're using the official MEAN.JS generator.
? What mean.js version would you like to generate? 0.4.2
? In which folder would you like the project to be generated? This can be changed later. mean
Cloning the MEAN repo.......
? What would you like to call your application? mean-test
? How would you describe your application? Full-Stack JavaScript with MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, and Node.js
? How would you describe your application in comma seperated key words? MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, Node.js
? What is your company/author name? Justin Rodenbostel
? Would you like to generate the article example CRUD module? Yes
? Would you like to generate the chat example module? No
Running npm install for you....
This may take a couple minutes.

Your MEAN.js application is ready!

To Get Started, run the following command:

cd mean && grunt

Happy Hacking!

Next, we need to create directories to house our Mongo data, and we need to start the Mongo server. Navigate to your project directory (using the names above, it should be in the ‘mean’ directory relative to where you ran the last command) and create directories so that your project contains the following folders:

  • <project dir>/data
  • <project dir>/data/db

While in your project directory, start the Mongo server using the following command:

mongod --dbpath data/db

To confirm your database has properly started, you should see output similar to the output below:

2016-08-24T22:03:19.039-0500 I JOURNAL  [initandlisten] journal dir=data/db/journal
2016-08-24T22:03:19.040-0500 I JOURNAL  [initandlisten] recover : no journal files present, no recovery needed
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I JOURNAL  [durability] Durability thread started
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I JOURNAL  [journal writer] Journal writer thread started
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] MongoDB starting : pid=7300 port=27017 dbpath=data/db 64-bit host=Justins-MacBook-Pro.local
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten]
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] ** WARNING: soft rlimits too low. Number of files is 256, should be at least 1000
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] db version v3.0.7
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] git version: nogitversion
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] build info: Darwin elcapitanvm.local 15.0.0 Darwin Kernel Version 15.0.0: Wed Aug 26 16:57:32 PDT 2015; root:xnu-3247.1.106~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64 BOOST_LIB_VERSION=1_49
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] allocator: system
2016-08-24T22:03:19.054-0500 I CONTROL  [initandlisten] options: { storage: { dbPath: "data/db" } }
2016-08-24T22:03:19.060-0500 I INDEX    [initandlisten] allocating new ns file data/db/local.ns, filling with zeroes...
2016-08-24T22:03:19.093-0500 I STORAGE  [FileAllocator] allocating new datafile data/db/local.0, filling with zeroes...
2016-08-24T22:03:19.093-0500 I STORAGE  [FileAllocator] creating directory data/db/_tmp
2016-08-24T22:03:19.190-0500 I STORAGE  [FileAllocator] done allocating datafile data/db/local.0, size: 64MB,  took 0.096 secs
2016-08-24T22:03:19.215-0500 I NETWORK  [initandlisten] waiting for connections on port 27017

Now that the database server is running we can start our new application using the following command (again from the project directory):


To confirm the application is up and running, open a browser window and navigate to http://localhost:3000, where you should see something similar to the screenshot below:

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.06.04 PM

Now that we have a running application, we can start to build out the docker machine we’ll deploy it to.

Provisioning the Azure VM
To start using Azure with Docker, we need to create a Docker Machine configuration that uses a virtual machine in Azure. Using the docker-machine command line tools, we’ll create an Azure Resource Group (complete with a virtual machine, NIC, Firewall, Public IP, Virtual Network, Storage Account and availability set) using the “Azure driver”. It’s pretty simple. Just use the command below:

docker-machine create -d azure \
  --azure-ssh-user ops \
  --azure-subscription-id <azure subscription id> \
  --azure-open-port 3000 \
  --azure-image canonical:UbuntuServer:14.04.3-LTS:latest \

This will take a few minutes!

Some items to note in the command above:

  • You must replace <azure subscription id> in the command below with your own Azure subscription key
  • We’ve chosen to leave port 3000 open for our application’s development mode
  • We’ve chosen to use the long term support version of Ubuntu 14.04 for our host machine
  • We’ve named the Docker Machine ‘azure-test’

When the machine creation is complete use the following command to verify the Docker Machine is available for configuration.

docker-machine ls

Also make sure your newly created machine is the one that’s currently running with the following command:

eval $(docker-machine env azure-test)

Before we go further with Docker, let’s a make a few changes to our app’s Dockerfile so we can run Mongo in our container, and start both the app and Mongo with one command. In your project’s Dockerfile, replace this line:

FROM node:0.12

which indicates which base image to start with, with these lines:

FROM node:0.12.14-wheezy

# Install Mongo
RUN apt-key adv --keyserver hkp:// --recv EA312927
RUN echo "deb wheezy/mongodb-org/3.2 main" | tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mongodb-org-3.2.list
RUN apt-get update

RUN apt-get install -y mongodb-org

# Install gem sass for  grunt-contrib-sass
RUN apt-get install -y supervisor

In this block, we’re performing the following activities:

  • Adding the apt-get repo and relevant keys for the Mongo binary repository.
  • Installing Mongo DB using apt-get
  • Installing Supervisord (a lightweight process control system that we’ll configure later) using apt-get

Near the middle of the same file, replace this line:

WORKDIR /home/mean

With these:

WORKDIR /home/mean

RUN mkdir -p /var/log/supervisor
RUN mkdir -p /data/db
RUN mkdir ./logs

COPY supervisord.conf /etc/supervisor/conf.d/supervisord.conf

In this block, we’re performing the following activities:

  • Creating the log directory for Supervisord
  • Creating the data directory for Mongo DB
  • Creating the logs directory for the application

Near the bottom of the same file, replace these lines:

# Port 3000 for server
# Port 35729 for livereload
EXPOSE 3000 35729
CMD ["grunt"]

With these:

CMD ["/usr/bin/supervisord"]

In this block, we’re performing the following activities:

  • Telling Docker to open port 3000 for this image
  • Running Supervisord to “start” the image

You may have noticed that one of the commands we added earlier is copying a file named supervisord.conf from the root of our local project directory to the docker container. Let’s create that file, and add the following content:


command=mongod --dbpath /data/db

command=grunt prod --force

Supervisord is a lightweight process control system commonly used in Linux environments. In this file, we’re instructing supervisord to start mongo and our MEANjs node app in background processes, redirecting their output to the stderr log file.

With a configured docker-machine, we’re ready to build and deploy our containers. Start by using the following command to build your docker image:

docker build -t mean-test .

Next, tag the current build with the following command, replacing <username> with your Docker hub user name. This will assign the image we just assembled the ‘latest’ tag.

docker tag mean-test <username>/mean-test:latest

Next, push the newly tagged image into your repo at Docker hub using the following command:

docker push <username>/mean-test:latest

Now, we can create our machine and storage volume. Use the following command to create a named storage volume using the image you’ve just pushed to Docker Hub, again replacing <username> with your Docker Hub username:

docker create -v /data --name mean-test-storage <username>/mean-test:latest /bin/true

Create the machine, linking to the previously created storage volume and mapping our previously-opened http port (3000), using the command below, again replacing <username> with your Docker Hub username:

docker run -d -p 3000:3000 --volumes-from mean-test-storage --name mean-test <username>/mean-test:latest

Test to see if your app is up and running by navigating to it on the web. If you are not sure what the public IP of your machine you can print the configuration details of your machine in the console by running the following command:

docker-machine env azure-test

Navigate to your site using the public IP and port 3000 and you should see the same screen we saw when you ran the app locally. Pretty easy!

I hope this post has provided a simple overview of how to get started with Docker Machine on Azure, and I hope the use of a full-stack application as an example provides insight beyond the basic tutorials available elsewhere on the web.

Code for this tutorial is available on Github at:

Time to wrap up some side projects and get back to learning more about using the ELK stack, Elm, and functional programming patterns! Stay tuned.



Getting Started With Ionic & NgCordova

In my most recent engagement, I’ve been working on a hybrid mobile app built using Ionic and ngCordova. Functionality-wise, the app itself is fairly straightforward, but since this is my first project that directly targets mobile devices (as opposed to responsive web), I’ve learned a few things that I think are worth sharing. Like most posts, the information contained has been cobbled together from many different sources during my time on this project. The purpose of this post is to walk through how to configure a new, fully testable project using Ionic and ngCordova. Like always, the code for this post is in Github at (

Ionic ( Hybrid mobile app development frameworks have been around for quite some time now. The Ionic Framework is one of the better entries I’ve seen to date. Based on current web technologies and frameworks (HTML5, CSS3, AngularJs (, and leveraging a tried and true native container that runs on many devices (, Ionic provides a mostly-familiar starting point for folks new to mobile development. On top of that, Ionic is also packaged with a nice set of UI components and icons that help applications look nice as well as function smoothly.

ngCordova ( The ngCordova project basically wraps the Cordova API to make it more Angular-friendly by giving the developer the ability to inject Cordova components as dependencies in your Angular controllers, services, etc. This project is still new and changing rapidly, but simplifies development greatly, and makes code that calls Cordova from within Ionic more readable and more easily testable.

Others (Yeoman, Grunt, Bower, Karma, Protractor, Mocha, Chai) These are the tools we’ll use to build our app. They are used for a variety of things, all are introduced from the same source – Yeoman ( Remember how revolutionary the scaffolding features of Rails were when they first surfaced? Yeoman provides scaffolding like that, and anyone can write a generator. There happens to be a generator for Ionic, and in my opinion, it’s all but necessary to use. Out of the box, you get a working app shell, a robust Grunt ( script for app assembly, packaging, emulation, etc, dependency injection via Bower (, and example Mocha ( tests running via Karma ( The only item we’ll add is support for end to end integration tests with Protractor (

Prerequisites Before we start, you’ll need to have node.js ( and npm ( installed on your machine. Installation instructions can be found here ( and here (

Step 1 – Scaffold Install Yeoman using the following command:

npm install -g yo

Install the Ionic Generator for Yeoman using the following command:

npm install -g generator-ionic

Create a folder for your project and use the newly install generator to build the shell of an Ionic app. Be sure you’re executing these commands in the root of your project folder. You can play around and answer the questions however you’d like. If you’re interested in following along, I’ve included the answers I’ve used and the relevant output below:

Justins-MacBook-Pro:getting-started-with-ionic-and-ngcordova justin$ yo ionic
    _             _
   (_)           (_)
    _  ___  _ __  _  ___
   | |/ _ \| '_ \| |/ __|
   | | (_) | | | | | (__
   |_|\___/|_| |_|_|\___|

[?] Would you like to use Sass with Compass (requires Ruby)? Yes
Created a new Cordova project with name "GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova" and id "com.example.GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova"
[?] Which Cordova plugins would you like to include? org.apache.cordova.console, org.apache.cordova.device
[?] Which starter template [T] or example app [A] would you like to use? [T] Tabs

Install plugins registered at grunt plugin:add:org.apache.cordova.globalization
Or install plugins direct from source: grunt plugin:add:

Installing selected Cordova plugins, please wait.
Installing starter template. Please wait

     info ... Fetching ...
     info This might take a few moments

Step 2 – Run! Validate there weren’t any issues running the generator by starting the app. The Yeoman generator we’ve used includes a full-featured build script that includes a variety of ways to start up our app. We’ll use more features of the script later, but for a complete list of available commands visit the generator’s Github page ( now, we’ll serve the app with the simple http server included as part of our sample app (courtesy of the Yeoman generator) using the following command (from the root of your project folder:

grunt serve

This should have started the server and opened your default browser. In the browser, you should see something similar to the screenshot below:

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 2.39.34 PM

Step 3 – ngCordova We’re off to a nice start – a fully functional app, running in the browser, with automated chai tests (using Karma ( via grunt test) and some static code analysis (using jshint ( via grunt jshint) in place, all as a result of our Yeoman generator. If we explore the generated code, we notice that the app itself is very simple. As soon as we start writing code that depends on device APIs (checking for a network connection, identifying the current device, etc), we run into a problem: there’s only a global reference to Cordova, and there isn’t a nice way to inject Cordova into our Angular controllers, especially for testing. This is where ngCordova comes into play. Here, we’ll write some simple code that checks the device platform the app is currently running on, and display it on the opening screen. Let’s start by writing a test* that looks for an object in scope of the DashCtrl called ‘devicePlatform’. First, there are a few different ways to run the tests. One enables watching, but doesn’t run the tests immediately (you have to leave this on, and it runs tests as/when files in your project change), and the other just runs the tests on demand. With watching:

grunt test

On demand:

grunt karma

At the bottom of ‘/test/spec/controllers.js’, add a test for the DashCtrl with the following code:

describe('Controller: DashCtrl', function () {

  var should = chai.should();

  // load the controller's module

  var DashCtrl,

  // Initialize the controller and a mock scope
  beforeEach(inject(function ($controller, $rootScope) {
    scope = $rootScope.$new();
    DashCtrl = $controller('DashCtrl', {
      $scope: scope

  it('should inspect the current devicePlatform', function () {


Immediately after adding that code to our test file (if you’re using ‘grunt test’) or running the tests on demand (using ‘grunt karma’), we should see results in our terminal window, and we should see that this test has failed because ‘devicePlatform’ is undefined in the DashCtrl’s scope.

PhantomJS 1.9.8 (Mac OS X) Controller: DashCtrl should inspect the current devicePlatform FAILED
TypeError: 'undefined' is not an object (evaluating 'scope.devicePlatform.should')

Next, we’ll install ngCordova and implement the logic this test is exercising. Detailed instructions on installing ngCordova can be found here ( simplest install is via Bower using the following command:

bower install ngCordova

Add a reference to the newly installed ngCordova to your app/index.html file, above the reference to cordova, such that:

    <script src="lib/ngCordova/dist/ng-cordova.js"></script>
    <!-- cordova script (this will be a 404 during development) -->
    <script src="cordova.js"></script>

To get the device OS, we’ll need to use Cordova’s Device plugin. If you haven’t already, we’ll need to make sure that it’s installed. Use the following command to install it:

cordova plugin add org.apache.cordova.device

Next, we’ll add ngCordova to our project as a module. In app/scripts/app.js, change this line:

angular.module('GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova', ['ionic', 'config', 'GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova.controllers', ‘’])


angular.module('GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova', ['ionic', 'config', 'GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova.controllers', '', 'ngCordova'])

Next, let’s write the code that adds the device platform to the DashCtrl scope. Start by injecting the device plugin into the DashCtrl using the code below:

.controller('DashCtrl', function($scope, $cordovaDevice) {

Then create the devicePlatform scope variable and set it’s value to the device’s actual platform using the following code:

.controller('DashCtrl', function($scope, $cordovaDevice) {
     $scope.devicePlatform = $cordovaDevice.getPlatform();

Finally, add a reference to the device plugin to templates/tab-dash.html:

<ion-view title="Dashboard">
  <ion-content class="has-header padding">

You’ll notice that when we run our test again, they still fail. This is because karma tests run in the browser – the browser doesn’t interact with Cordova plugins – there’s no platform for the browser, there’s no ‘model’, there’s no device for Cordova to plug in to. We’ll need to add a few more things to get this working. At this point, if you’re interested in continuing on under the assumption that you’ll only be unit testing and never testing in the browser (which includes automated end to end testing) prior to testing on the device, you can simply mock any calls to Cordova using spies/doubles. I think there’s value in automated end to end testing and manual browser testing prior to testing on devices. I think it’s an easy and efficient way to troubleshoot your code in an environment isolated from platform dependencies. In that case, we’ll use ngCordovaMocks (and some grunt scripting) to make our unit tests pass in our development environment, we’ll add Protractor so we can test our app end-to-end prior to running on the device, and finally, we’ll run the app in the iOS emulator to complete our validation.

ngCordovaMocks You might notice in the ngCordova Bower package that there are an additional set of files named ‘ng-cordova-mocks’. These compliment ngCordova by providing empty implementations of the services that ngCordova wraps, which can be injected in place of the standard ngCordova implementations for testing purposes. First, we’ll need to add references in two places – our application config, and our test config. For the application configuration, update our app’s module definition in /scripts/app.js:

angular.module('GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova', ['ionic', 'config', 'GettingStartedWithIonicAndNgcordova.controllers', '', 'ngCordovaMocks'])

The test config can be found in our Grunt script. In /Gruntfile.js, find the karma task. In the karma task, you should see a configuration option named ‘files’. Add a line to update it to the following:

        files: [
          '<%= %>/lib/angular/angular.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/angular-animate/angular-animate.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/angular-sanitize/angular-sanitize.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/angular-ui-router/release/angular-ui-router.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/ionic/release/js/ionic.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/ionic/release/js/ionic-angular.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/angular-mocks/angular-mocks.js',
          '<%= %>/lib/ngCordova/dist/ng-cordova-mocks.js',
          '<%= %>/<%= yeoman.scripts %>/**/*.js',

Now, we’ll update our test to use the new ngCordovaMocks library. We’ll add a reference to the ngCordovaMocks module, we’ll inject a decorated version of our $cordovaDevice plugin into our DashCtrl, and we’ll update our test condition accordingly.

describe('Controller: DashCtrl', function () {

  var should = chai.should(), $cordovaDevice = null, $httpBackend, DashCtrl, scope;


     beforeEach(inject(function (_$cordovaDevice_) {
          $cordovaDevice = _$cordovaDevice_;

  // Initialize the controller and a mock scope
  beforeEach(inject(function ($controller, $rootScope, _$httpBackend_) {
          $httpBackend = _$httpBackend_;
          $httpBackend.when('GET', /templates\S/).respond("");
          $cordovaDevice.platform = 'TEST VALUE';
    scope = $rootScope.$new();
    DashCtrl = $controller('DashCtrl', {
      $scope: scope

  it('should inspect the current deviceType', function () {
    scope.devicePlatform.should.equal('TEST VALUE');


You can see now we’re decorating $cordovaDevice, supplying it with a value for it’s platform property, and we’re asserting that the $cordovaDevice.getPlatform() method is returning the correct value via our $scope.devicePlatform variable. We’ve also added a mock $httpBackend (and subsequent flush) that will listen to and ignore any page requests triggered by our controller initializing. In this way, we can simulate a specific platform and exercise our code in unit tests, AND our app still runs in the browser. At this point, running in the browser without ngCordovaMocks would cause failures. To really see the value of ngCordovaMocks, we’ll add support for Protractor tests.

Protractor ( First, we’ll need to install two node modules that give us new grunt tasks: one to control a Selenium Webdriver (, and one to run our protractor tests.

npm install grunt-protractor-webdriver --save-dev
npm install grunt-protractor-runner --save-dev

While grunt-protractor-runner installs a controller for Selenium Webdriver, we still need a Selenium server. We can install a standalone Selenium server by running the following the root of our project:

node_modules/protractor/bin/webdriver-manager update

Next, we’ll update our grunt script to include configurations for the new tasks, and add a new task of our own. Include these new tasks somewhere in your grunt.initConfig object:

    protractor_webdriver: {
      all: {
        command: 'webdriver-manager start'
    protractor: {
      options: {
        keepAlive: true, // If false, the grunt process stops when the test fails.
        noColor: false // If true, protractor will not use colors in its output.
      all: {
        options: {
          configFile: 'test/protractor-conf.js'

Then register our custom task somewhere after grunt.initConfig:

  grunt.registerTask('test_e2e', [

We’re not doing anything special in this config – we’re basically using a grunt task to control the Selenium server we could otherwise control from the CLI, and we’re offloading much of our protractor config to a properties file. Next, create the properties file at the path listed above (test/protractor-conf.js):

exports.config = {
    seleniumAddress: 'http://localhost:4444/wd/hub',

    specs: [

    framework: 'mocha',

    capabilities: {
        'browserName': 'chrome',
        'chromeOptions': {
          args: ['--args','--disable-web-security']

     * This should point to your running app instance, for relative path resolution in tests.
    baseUrl: 'http://localhost:8100',

Last, we’ll write a new end to end test case and execute it. Create a file at /test/e2e (which is the directory we included in our protractor configuration above). I named mine ‘tabs.js’. Add the content below to the file:

var chai = require('chai');
var chaiAsPromised = require('chai-as-promised');

var expect = chai.expect;

describe('Ionic Dash Tab', function() {

  var decoratedModule = function() {
          var ngCordovaMocks = angular.module('ngCordovaMocks');
          var injector = angular.injector(['ngCordovaMocks', 'ng']);
    ngCordovaMocks.service('$cordovaDevice', function() {
               var cordovaDevice = injector.get('$cordovaDevice');
               cordovaDevice.platform = 'ios';
      return cordovaDevice;

  it('should have the correct heading', function() {
          browser.addMockModule('ngCordovaMocks', decoratedModule);

          var heading = element(by.css('h2'));

In the code above, we’re decorating the $cordovaDevice service (much like we were in the unit tests), by first getting a reference to the ngCordovaMocks module, then getting a handle on the injector instance from the ngCordovaMocks module, then getting the $cordovaDevice service itself, and finally decorating the service by setting the platform to our desired value. In the test itself, we’re adding our newly decorated ngCordovaMocks module to Protractor’s browser instance. At this point, running the tests should yield positive results. You can run them using the custom task we registered (assuming your server is already running), by using the following command (be sure your server is running with ‘grunt serve’:

grunt test_e2e

Dynamic Configuration Since we’ve updated our app to only use ngCordovaMocks instead of ngCordova, we need the ability to switch between using the two seamlessly. Inspiration from this portion of the post comes from this post ( To do this, we’ll use the grunt-text-replace grunt task. Install the grunt-text-replace node package using the following statement:

npm install grunt-text-replace --save-dev

Next, add the following config to Gruntfile.js somewhere in your grunt.initConfig object:

 replace: {
            production: {
              src: [
                '<%= %>/index.html',
                '<%= %>/<%= yeoman.scripts %>/app.js'
              overwrite: true,
                { from: 'lib/ngCordova/dist/ng-cordova-mocks.js', to: 'lib/ngCordova/dist/ng-cordova.js' },
                { from: '\'ngCordovaMocks\'', to: '\'ngCordova\'' }
            development: {
              src: [
                '<%= %>/index.html',
                '<%= %>/<%= yeoman.scripts %>/app.js'
              overwrite: true,
                { from: 'lib/ngCordova/dist/ng-cordova.js', to: 'lib/ngCordova/dist/ng-cordova-mocks.js' },
                { from: '\'ngCordova\'', to: '\'ngCordovaMocks\'' }

Now we’ll add calls to these tasks to our existing Grunt tasks, as well as create a new init-development task, as seen below:

  grunt.registerTask('test', [

  grunt.registerTask('serve', function (target) {
    if (target === 'compress') {
      return['compress', 'ionic:serve']);

    grunt.config('concurrent.ionic.tasks', ['ionic:serve', 'watch']);['init-development', 'concurrent:ionic']);

  grunt.registerTask('init', [

  grunt.registerTask('init-development', [

  grunt.registerTask('test_e2e', [

When we run ‘grunt serve’, the application will start in the web server, and will be running with ngCordovaMocks. From here, we can run our automated end to end tests using ‘grunt test_e2e’. We can also simply run the unit tests standalone using ‘grunt test’. You can see the way the tasks above changed to make that possible – calls to ‘replace:development’ prior to the tasks executing. In the case of the ‘test’ task, it was altered slightly to also include the ‘karma’ task to run the tests through after initial invocation, then followed by a test watcher. At this point, we can also run in our emulator without issue. To do that, we’ll quickly add the iOS platform to our project, and kick off the emulator to see the ‘real’ platform displayed on the screen.

grunt platform:add:ios

…followed by:

grunt emulate:ios

At this point, we’ll start to see a slight divergence from the way the app is functioning on the web versus in our emulator. In some cases, the device is available before all of the Cordova plugins are loaded. Furthermore, the way the screen refreshes as a result of this is also slightly different. To counter this, we’ll have to add a bit of logic to our controller to wait for the device to be ready. Update the DashCtrl with the following code:

.controller('DashCtrl', function($scope, $cordovaDevice, $ionicPlatform) {
     $ionicPlatform.ready(function() {
          $scope.devicePlatform = $cordovaDevice.getPlatform();

Run the emulator again, and we should see the app functioning properly:

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 1.51.16 PM

That’s it! We should now be able to run in the browser, in the emulator, and through our automated tests with consistency. This setup has paid efficiency dividends for me on my current project, and I hope it helps folks get started on the right foot. It was a lot longer than I thought it would be. *As previously stated, I ran the Yeoman generator with the ‘Tabs’ example project option. Turns out it came with a broken test. I added a question to an open issue on this at the ngCordova project’s Github ( page You can find the fixed test below:

'use strict';

describe('Controller: FriendsCtrl', function () {

  var should = chai.should();

  // load the controller's module

  var FriendsCtrl,

  // Initialize the controller and a mock scope
  beforeEach(inject(function ($controller, $rootScope) {
    scope = $rootScope.$new();
    FriendsCtrl = $controller('FriendsCtrl', {
      $scope: scope

  it('should attach a list of pets to the scope', function () {

Upcoming in 2015

Over the course of the last 3 months, I’ve been involved in a hybrid mobile project using the Ionic framework and Node.js, which has allowed me to apply prior knowledge and learn more about AngularJS, latest-generation javascript features, Yeoman, Bower, Grunt, Crashlytics, and Apache Cordova. I’ve also been spending time learning how to interact with an Arduino using Node.js for a personal project. Stay tuned for posts on those topics in the coming months. Happy New Year!

As a reviewer…

One of the other things I spent time on last year was acting as a reviewer for a book that was recently published by Packt Publishing. I was approached by Packt early in the summer to volunteer to help review a work in progress called Enterprise Application Development with Spring and ExtJs. I was skeptical at first, so I did some research. Easily the majority of blog and message board content on the subject of being an unpaid reviewer, especially for Packt for some reason, was negative. This was an obvious red flag. However, I read a fair number of technical books, and I do enjoy writing, so I thought it might be an interesting thing to participate in, especially if I ever wanted to be an author in the future. In the back of my head I knew that if it became too much, especially given that it was volunteer time, that I could simply back out. I agreed to participate and off we went.

Here’s the basic deal: you get a couple of chapters to go through every 4 days. They give you a questionnaire to fill out with your comments. The publisher encourages feedback on many different levels – sentence structure and grammar, chapter-level organization and content, even the order of the chapters and higher level things. All fairly reasonable.

In all, I didn’t have a problem with the process. It was very interesting to see a book as a work in progress. By the time I was involved, it was clear the tools, table of contents and topics covered were fairly well set. Obviously, getting paid would have been nice, but I knew I was volunteering (well, I was getting a free ebook). I also knew the subject matter, which made things much easier. I was able to bypass the learning part of reading the book and focus on the content, how it was organized, and what type of an experience a reader would have with it.

On the book itself – it’s not bad, it’s just presented in a way that would be hard for me, personally, to digest. For a topic like this, I like to start with a clear goal – working through a project to learn a new technology. Additionally, I prefer consuming new information in small pieces and repeating that consumption, reinforcing foundational concepts while slowly increasing complexity, all the while verifying my progress with test cases. Some examples of books written in this fashion that I enjoyed: Agile Web Development with Rails, Grails in Action. This book is presented in a very waterfall-ish way in the name of Enterprise Application Development, and I think this is where I had the hardest time. Developing apps in the Enterprise does not require big up-front design or a waterfall development methodology. The reader is consuming huge new pieces of knowledge in each chapter, and we’re not doing anything to verify them as we go. The book has the reader waiting for a few layers of the application to be developed before performing integration tests. My concern here is that a reader will be trying to troubleshoot something they wrote two chapters ago, and that they just learned within the last few hours. That sounds frustrating!

Side note: I wasn’t a huge fan of the tools used in the book either. I feel like they are complex enough to be a distraction, that there are more modern/simple choices (Ivy, Eclipse, Spring Data) that would have possibly let the reader focus more on learning Spring and ExtJs.

In short, it was a great experience, I’m glad I did it, and I learned a lot, but if I ever do this again, I’ll make sure my own views and development/learning style are in better alignment with the author’s goals for the book.

On resolutions…

2013 came and went, and I definitely did not get around to learning much of what I planned to learn/write about.  I still have the books, and they’re electronic, so they’re not collecting dust, but instead of continuing to dig into new languages and frameworks for the JVM, I spent much of 2013 learning new technology based on client demand.  Not bad things, just unexpected.  I sharpened my javascript skills, and spent a few months in the .NET world. (pro tip – INSTALL ReSharper ON THE FIRST DAY)

This year I’d like to get through that Play/Scala exploration and check out the Reactor (the asynchronous app toolkit by the Spring team).

When will I stop thinking that putting it in writing will be motivation enough to actually do this stuff?

Tips For The ExtJS Beginner

If you haven’t already, learn more about Javascript before you start
I wrote a decent amount of Javascript before I started using ExtJS. I’ve used Prototype, jQuery, & Dojo, but I’ve never written as much Javascript as I have on this project, and I’ve never unit tested any Javascript I’ve written until now. The learning curve for ExtJS is not steep, but first learning the basics of Javascript – best practices, common mistakes, design patterns – will drastically improve the quality of your code. You can write a fully-functioning and beautiful ExtJS app in messy and error-prone Javascript. I recommend Javascript: The Good Parts ( and Javascript Patterns ( for reading. I also use a JSHint plugin in my IDE, and I use Jasmine and Phantom for unit testing. I also recommend rolling the execution of each of these into your project’s CI process.

Read the License Agreement
The license agreement changed a few times early in the life of ExtJS, and can be restrictive depending on how you intend to use the product. The Sencha licensing FAQ site does a good job explaining the specifics.

Use Sencha CMD
Several tools that are packaged with ExtJS require the app to be organized in a specific way. It is possible to use a custom directory structure for your application, but it can be a maintenance concern in the long term as the framework matures and is upgraded. For instance, in the last two upgrades, 4.0->4.1 & 4.1->4.2, the expected structure of the app changed significantly as new tools and concepts are introduced. The example that comes to mind in the last upgrade was the introduction of packages. Starting your project by creating an app using the Sencha CMD tool, and then using it to upgrade the app (which then is responsible for changing the app’s directory structure, if necessary) can be a major time saver.

Use Refs
Not only do they give you conveniently named accessors for view elements to use in place of lengthy dom queries, but they give you a level of abstraction – limiting references to a potentially changing UI/DOM to one place, and saving the price of continual DOM queries by holding references to DOM elements.

Use the framework to build your UI, don’t build a UI and then try to use the framework
Don’t fight the framework. If you’re working with a UI/UX person, be sure they are at least familiar with ExtJS and have read through the examples. Building interfaces using ExtJS constructs as the building blocks instead of building an interface and forcing the framework behind it can save a lot of time and go far in managing the expectations of users.

Be sure you know which browsers you’re supporting and test in all of them
ExtJS is cross-platform, but like almost anything, there are performance differences and gotchas – mostly in IE8 and IE9 – that you need to watch for. The performance issues are expected, but there are some functional differences as well. The two that come to mind are animation issues and issues detecting native Javascript functionality. Test in all of your supported browsers early and often.

Extend base classes, do not edit them
Occasionally, there will be the need to tweak how base classes function to suit your needs or to make up for default functionality that changed between versions of the framework. To save yourself from upgrade pain in the future, use Ext.override (!/api/Ext-method-override) and change only what you need to change and only where need it. This will prevent any undesirable behavior in places where the out of the box functionality does suit your needs, and/or where it is used internally by the framework.

Do not be afraid to dig into the source
You will see cryptic error messages, and sometimes they’ll originate from Ext files rather than those of your app, especially if they happen while the app is starting up. Learning how to navigate the source while debugging and also from the API docs is a great help. The source is obviously the truth for what is happening in the framework, but also serves as a great location to find implementation examples that you can use in your app.

Grid performance
In our application, we have only one source of consistent performance issues in ExtJS – data grids. The main thing to keep in mind is the amount of time it takes to render the full width and height of the grid. If you need to load a lot of data in your grid, limit the amount of data that is rendered by using the buffered renderer plugin (!/api/Ext.grid.plugin.BufferedRenderer). Also, try to limit the number of columns in your grid either by not displaying them at all, or by allowing the user to configure what is displayed. Both of these will help prevent unnecessary rendering of off-screen elements when the grid is rendered and re-rendered (for instance, when the window is resized).

Learn to read the API docs
The ExtJS API is quite rich, and learning how to read the API will help you be productive every day. The docs are presented in a very slick way, and allow you to quickly search for classes, filter elements within a class, view the source from any listing in the API doc, and they include working examples.

Book Report: JavaScript Patterns

Before picking up what I actually had on my list to learn this year, and finding myself writing more JavaScript than ever at my current client, I thought it would be wise to take a deep dive into the language, it’s lesser-known features, and it’s best practices. I knew a fair amount, but I was not prepared for what was contained in JavaScript Patterns by Stoyan Stefanov.

The book started with an overview of general best practice patterns in javascript – things like using a cached length in for loops, single var declarations, equality checks, namespacing, and quickly moved to advanced object creation patterns, functional patterns like memoization and currying, and coverage of most of the Gang of Four patterns. At each step along the way, examples and detailed explanations drove individual points home and provide good future reference.

While all of the information in this book is well-written and valuable, much of it is good in theory but probably wouldn’t see the light of day in most projects (Module pattern, Constructor patterns, Inheritance strategies), unless you are not using an existing framework or are rolling your own. It is very valuable to learn how things operate behind the scenes, and some of these patterns are now recognizable for me even in the ExtJs source, but I’m not sure I’ll have opportunities to use many of them while writing new code. That said, the items that will see the light of day – implementing best practice patterns, some of the GOF patterns, and explaining scope and other common misconceptions developers have with the language are absolutely critical – good for newbies and good refreshers for veterans. I know tools like JSLint encourage you to leverage most of these practices/patterns, but having a deep understanding of why you should leverage them is even better.

This is next-level JavaScript understanding that I previously did not have. I highly recommend this book, and I recommend keeping it handy if you’re writing JavaScript regularly.