Archive pour la catégorie ‘web development’

Cross-domain events in Javascript

Lundi 30 juillet 2012

As I was telling you in my previous post, we’re currently rewriting most of our Javascript code at PunchTab. As it’s now stable and released for some of our publishers (including this blog), I’m gonna take time to explain the awesome features we’ve built.

The context

As I was saying earlier, we’re dealing with the same technical challenges as Facebook or Google. Our publishers install our Javascript code snippet on their websites, as you would do for a Like button, and it loads our code which then opens some iframes. For many reasons (like connecting the user through Facebook), we have to communicate between the publisher site and our iframes. To achieve this, we’ve been using easyXdm, a cross-domain messaging library. But even so, every time we’ve needed to add a feature using cross-domain communication, it has been painful. That’s why we’ve decided that cross-domain should be one of the core features of our new framework when we started to talk about it.


Our basic usage of easyXdm was the following:

var socket = new easyXDM.Socket({
    remote: 'iframe_you_want_to_open.html',
    onReady: function(){
        socket.postMessage('first message to the iframe');
    onMessage: function(message, origin){
On the other side (in the iframe), the loaded page had quite the same code except the remote.
After several months, we’ve faced some difficulties. First, everybody was defining their own format for the messages, making it harder to understand and to treat. Then we had some sockets created multiple times in different places for the same iframe, with different treatments making hard to track where a message was coming from and who was receiving it. We didn’t want to deal with this communication layer anymore, which was not part of our business logic. So one day, someone said: « what if we could use events everywhere? »


Before coming back to cross-domain, I will have to explain our event layer. If you’ve used jQuery, you probably know how to use events like $(‘.button’).click(callback);. Since the beginning, we’ve wanted our new framework to be event driven, it makes it far easier to write independent modules which can interact with each other by triggering and binding on events. So the first piece was to be able to do this:

PT.event.trigger('myEvent', message) // send an event of type 'myEvent' with a message object

PT.event.bind('myEvent', function(message){ alert(message) }); // when an event of type 'myEvent' is triggered, execute the callback

That part was easily done – it’s a few lines of code. As we were dealing with events, we also decided to solve the most annoying problem of events: their volatility.

Indeed, in the previous example, if I execute the code in this order, nothing will happen because we bind the callback after the event has been triggered so we miss it. In some cases, it doesn’t matter. Like for a click, if the user clicks before we are ready to bind on a click event, it doesn’t matter if we miss it, since the user may click again. But if you take a look back at my previous post, imagine we replace our Facebook init code with this (what we’ve actually done):

var previous_fbAsyncInit = window.fbAsyncInit;
if ((window.fbAsyncInit && window.fbAsyncInit.hasRun) ||
    (!window.fbAsyncInit &&
    window.FB !== undefined &&
    FB.Event !== undefined)) {
} else {
    window.fbAsyncInit = function () {
        if (previous_fbAsyncInit) {

It becomes better since we can just bind on the facebook.ready event for all our features relying on Facebook. But it means they all have to be bound to this event before this piece of code is executed to be safe. What we really want is to execute our callback when facebook.ready happens or execute it directly if facebook.ready has happened in the past.

That’s why we introduced PT.event.persistent(‘facebook.ready’). This triggers and stores the event. Then on a PT.event.bind(), if the event has already happened, it executes the callback directly. We’re typically using it for some events like dom.ready, user.connected, twitter.ready, google.ready, … No need to pay attention in which order you bind on one-time events now.

Propagating events

Ok, now we have an awesome event system. What if we could send all events through easyXdm to the other iframes? That’s what we’ve build by default in the PT.event.trigger function. Whenever we trigger an event, we loop on every iframe we’ve opened through easyXdm and we send them the event serialized in JSON. Then you can trigger and bind on events anywhere and consider all the iframes as the whole and single place. Even if you open an iframe later, we send it the history of persistent events which have already been triggered to make it work the same way.

So now, we just open sockets for cross domain communication and that’s it. All the work is then done with events which makes our life infinitely easier.

To sum up, have a look at this example which sends a message to an iframe through an event:

The code on this side (for explaination about ptReady, see previous post):

<input type="text" id="example" value="Example" />
<input type="submit" id="send" value="Send" />
<div id="iframe-container"></div>
<script type="text/javascript">
window.ptReady = window.ptReady || [];
    document.getElementById('send').onclick = function(){
        return false;
    PT.xdm.socket('iframe', {
        remote: '',
        container: 'iframe-container',

The code in the iframe:

<script type="text/javascript">
        function(message){ document.body.innerHTML = message}

Redis, far more than a cache engine

Mercredi 13 juin 2012

So many changes since the last post, and maybe the best one is that my English should improve slightly since I’m in San Francisco for more than one year, working at PunchTab.

First of all, to set the context, PunchTab provides a loyalty program for website publishers. After installing a code snippet on their website, their users earn points for their visits, likes, tweets, +1’s and comments. Then these points can be redeemed toward prizes like Starbucks coupons. Long story short, I’ve installed the PunchTab loyalty program on this blog to let you see.

As a company, PunchTab explicitly focuses on building great product, and performance of the product is a big part of the experience. Redis has always helped improve the performance of part of our loyalty program.

But after having used it as a basic cache engine, our needs have made us use it more extensively. Also this post will present the main features of Redis and our use cases. The power of Redis is its data structures. You can find all the documentation for them in the command documentation.


To follow the Redis documentation, I’m gonna starts with key commands. All the data you store are referenced by a key. You can set or remove an expiration time on each key, search for them using basic regex, delete them, etc. All the classic stuff for a cache engine.


The first data structure we have used is the string. That’s what Django uses when you set Redis as the cache backend. It’s what is commonly used in cache engines. We are using it to cache Django views, to store some results which are heavy to compute. Nothing new on this side.

Where it starts to be interesting is that a string can be considered as an integer or a float. Redis provides INCR and INCRBY commands to increment these values (and respectively DECR and DECRBY). Even more interesting, it returns the new value. You can then define really efficient counters and that’s what we are using to synchronize parallel tasks while building our leaderboard.


If you want to store an object or dictionary that you will access entirely at once, you will use a hash. It will be more efficient than storing each attribute to a different key. You can consider a hash as a dictionary of strings (so you can increment a particular field for instance). You can get the whole stored dictionary for a key with HGETALL or just a particular field with HGET. That’s what we use for our leaderboard to store the last activity of each user (the field) for each publisher (the key) as a JSON serialized string (the value). We could have used the pair publisher/user as a key and avoid the serialization, but the purpose was to avoid making grow the number of keys.


A set is an unordered list where each value is unique. You can blindly add an element with SADD, if it already exists, it will not be duplicated. Then you can get the content of a set with SMEMBERS, but even better, you can check if a element is in a set with SISMEMBER. Finally you have the usual set operations like union, intersection and diff. We’re using this to store the list of opted out users. Indeed a publisher can remove some users from his loyalty program by opting them out. We needed a really fast way to check if a user is opted out or not while storing an activity. So instead of checking a SQL database or getting a cached list entirely to then make something like « if user in opted_out_users » on the django side, we save time by directly asking redis if the user is opted out with SISMEMBER.

Sorted sets

They’re called ZSET in Redis. We started to use this when we needed to optimize the leaderboard. And actually ZSETs are leaderboards. A ZSET contains unique members like a SET with a score associated to each member. For each member, you can set (ZADD) or increment their score (ZINCRBY). And then, you can retrieve the score (ZSCORE) and the rank of a member (ZRANK), or get a range of members with their score and relative rank (ZRANGE). It becomes easy to get a TOP 10  or get the surrounding members of a particular user. Everything we needed for our leaderboard.


I was about to forget a really useful command to see what’s happening: monitor. Type this in your redis client and you will see all commands run on your server. Perfect while developing or to see what’s happening in production for a short time.


I have only talked about what we are using inside PunchTab but there are some other interesting features like the Publisher/Subscriber pattern which I’ve tested really quickly to implement a chat system with and GEvent during a tutorial at Pycon this year.

The last two important things I would want to highlight are the in-memory model and complexity. As I’m used to say, the complexity may be the most important thing I’ve learned at school because the biggest problems I’ve encountered so far were related to this. Fortunately, each Redis command is documented with its complexity. To me, it shows that the developers really know their business and you can have a good idea how your Redis will scale or how to architecture it (like splitting logically your data on different servers). Concerning the in-memory model, you have to know that Redis stores everything in memory, syncing to disk for restarts or crashes. To keep it efficient you obviously cannot let it swap, so always be careful to use the best suited data structure to be fast and consume the less memory. For instance, a hash with 20 fields will be more efficient than 20 keys in terms of memory. Just have a look to the documentation to see that it’s far more than a cache engine. It’s an in-memory database which is really well suited for specific purposes, like leaderboards.

Les coulisses de Ma Petite Auto Entreprise

Samedi 19 février 2011

Comme je l’avais annoncé, cet article, qui fait référence au lancement de la bêta, va plus traiter de la genèse de Ma Petite Auto Entreprise et de l’aspect technique.

Naissance de l’application

Dès que j’ai commencé mon activité d’auto-entrepreneur, en avril 2010, j’ai voulu géré rigoureusement mon activité. J’ai commencé avec une feuille de calcul sous Open Office et des modèles de document éditables pour les contrats. Les informations qui m’importaient étaient mon chiffre d’affaire, les charges à provisionner, les factures à éditer ou en attente de paiement, le reste à faire avant d’atteindre le plafond, etc … cela a bien marché quelques temps, mais j’ai vite été limité par la simplicité du système. En tant qu’informaticien, c’était aussi simple pour moi de réaliser rapidement un prototype d’application web en Django pour faire la même chose et surtout faire bien plus.

La première raison est donc le besoin personnel, mais j’ai essayé de garder en tête que l’application pourrait servir à d’autres. Au fil des semaines, en parallèle de mes missions d’expertise technique, j’ai continué à faire évoluer le logiciel avec comme objectif de le publier. La deuxième raison qui m’a poussé à continuer est que cette application est, je l’espère, une belle démonstration de mes compétences (et une promotion pour python et Django, malheureusement bien trop rare en entreprise). En effet, on me demande souvent de montrer des références, et ayant principalement travaillé sur des intranets, c’est un peu compliqué … Finalement, la dernière raison est évidemment l’espoir d’en tirer un bénéfice financier et ainsi pouvoir concentrer une majeure partie de mon temps à l’édition de ce logiciel.

Aspect technique

Ma Petite Auto Entreprise est en fait le nom du site qui héberge l’application. L’application en elle-même se nomme « aemanager ». Elle est libre et placée sous licence GPLv3. Les sources sont disponibles sur Github.

Aemanager est développé à l’aide de Django, framework web écrit en python vraiment très pratique et jQuery, framework javascript. Les données sont stockées dans une base PostgreSQL. Les sources sont hébergées à l’aide de Git, gestionnaire de version décentralisé (DVCS) initié par Linus Torvald. A l’heure où j’écris cet article il y a plus de 150 tests unitaires pour s’assurer du bon fonctionnement de l’application et elle a été testée sous Chrome, Firefox et IE. Les évolutions effectuées tout au long du développement nécessitent parfois de casser le modèle de données, c’est pourquoi des migrations sont réalisées à l’aide de South, une extension Django dédiée à cela. Voila pour les grandes lignes.

Je peux également ajouter que pour la génération PDF j’utilise Reportlab, pour les graphiques un plugin jQuery : Flot, Elrte pour l’éditeur wysiwyg des devis et contrats et django-registration pour la création de compte utilisateur.

Même si l’application est a priori spécifique à la France, elle est internationalisée car j’ai pris l’habitude de toujours coder en anglais. Concernant les paiements, aemanager est interfacé avec Paypal. Et pour conclure, le tout est hébergé sur un serveur virtualisé en SSL (avec un certificat valide !).

Le tout a déjà représenté quelques semaines de boulot à plein temps et probablement beaucoup d’autres à venir ;-)

Lancement de la bêta de Ma Petite Auto Entreprise

Vendredi 18 février 2011

Après dix mois en tant qu’auto-entrepreneur et presque autant à travailler en parallèle sur un outil pour gérer mes affaires , je suis aujourd’hui fier d’annoncer la sortie de la première version de test de Ma Petite Auto Entreprise, un logiciel de gestion d’auto-entreprise.

Cette application web vous permet de :

  • Gérer votre carnet de clients
  • Définir des projets et établir vos devis
  • Gérer vos factures et vos relances
  • Suivre votre chiffre d’affaire payé et prévisionnel ainsi que vos dépenses et bénéfices
  • Savoir à tout moment combien il vous reste à faire pour atteindre le plafond
  • Prévoir vos cotisations
  • Exporter vos devis, factures, contrats et livre des recettes en pdf

C’est une version bêta, c’est pourquoi je compte sur vous pour la tester, me faire des retours sur les bugs à corriger, les améliorations à apporter et les fautes oubliées avant la sortie officielle de la version 1.0 dans environ un mois. Attention ! cette version est uniquement pour tester. Vous pouvez saisir vos données réelles, mais pour l’instant il n’est pas prévu de migrer les données sur la version finale, et vous serez donc obligé de tout ressaisir le moment venu.

Pour accéder à la bêta de Ma Petite Auto Entreprise : Pour toute question hors test, envoyez moi un mail à l’adresse indiquée sur la page contact.

Les 20 meilleurs testeurs qui rapporteront les anomalies les plus importantes au travers du formulaire de contact de l’application se verront offrir un an d’abonnement lors de la sortie de la version finale.

Je publierai également un billet plus technique sur l’application dans les jours prochains.

Merci d’avance à tous les testeurs.

Et pour ceux intéressés par les possibles futures fonctionnalités : (en anglais).

Sessions not working on IE6

Dimanche 2 mai 2010

I was working on integrating the Auth component of CakePHP with a legacy database and while it was working on Firefox, I noticed that it wasn’t on IE6, the customer target platform. By looking at the database log, I was sure that the authentication process was ok but Internet Explorer seemed to have a problem with the session cookie, disconnecting as soon as the redirect after authentication was done.

I quickly suspected a problem with cookie, and talking about cookie, I thought to a domain name issue. After googling a bit, I found that underscore « _ » in a host name was an invalid character. So if you need to define local host names while developing, use only [a-z0-9] and « - » to avoid troubles.

Reference :