Bézier moi

I've been reading up on SVG and Bézier curves for a side project that involves a custom-made chart (blog post about that later!). Funnily enough, this article on Bézier curves popped up on Hacker News earlier this week.

One little animation in the article totally stands out, and helped me make sense of what the control points of a Bézier curve actually do.

Taken from cormullion.github.io

While you’re waiting, have a look at another animation; this is my artist’s impression of the De Casteljau algorithm dividing the control polygons around a Bézier curve as the parameter n moves from 0 to 1. The idea is that as p1 divides A to A1, p2 divides A1 to B1 and p3 divides B1 to B. So, pp1 divides p1 to p2, and pp2 divides p2 to p3. And you keep doing this until you can’t divide any more, and eventually the point P plots the course of the final Bézier curve. The red and blue parts of the curve show that this technique is also a good way to split a single Bézier curve into two separate ones, and the red and blue parts are separate control polygons.

Read the full article on cormullion.github.io.

Readability is relative

When I write a library that's going to be used by others, I strive for a gentle learning curve. When someone reads code that uses my library, I want them to understand what's happening without reading a bunch of documentation first. I tend to keep my API's as explicit as possible, and try to stay away from odd or foreign notations.

My colleague Brent is writing a library to deal with date & time periods in PHP. There was a discussion whether a period's boundaries should be included in the range or not.

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Chris Ferdinandi's CSS methodology

There are a few fleshed-out articles about why utility-first CSS is a good thing. However, if you're just a little curious and want a brief introduction, Chris Ferdinandi has your back.

In JavaScript, we create small, modular functions that can be reused throughout the code base to keep our code DRY. In CSS, for some reason, it’s not seen as weird in the slightest to repeat yourself a lot.

Utility classes help keep CSS DRY.

The stylesheet for my website is so small that I can inline all of my CSS still send most of the page in a single HTTP request.

Read the rest of Chris' article on gomakethings.com.

Hungry for more? Check out In Defense of Utility-First CSS by Sarah Dayan or CSS Utility Classes and "Separation of Concerns" by Adam Wathan.

Highlighting code blocks with league/commonmark

Since the first iteration of my blog—some time around 2016—I've used highlight.js to highlight code blocks. With highlight.js being so popular, I never really second guessed the idea. It was a given to use JavaScript.

A few weeks ago, TJ Miller introduced me to highlight.php by writing a Parsedown extension for it. Highlight.php does the exact same thing as highlight.js: they both add tags and classes to your code blocks, which enables them to be highlighted with CSS. The difference is, highlight.php does this on the server.

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Mo' models mo' problems

One of the best things about Vue templates is the special v-model prop. v-model allows you two quickly map prop getters and setters without breaking unidirectional data flow. Props down, events up. But v-model has it's limitations. When dealing with more complex components, the sync modifier might be a better fit.

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Distraction-less user interfaces: Delayed transient states

I have a specific pet peeve with user interfaces: things that draw my attention when they don't need to. In any graphical interface, movement is distraction. Our eyes are naturally drawn to anything in motion.

Motion is a powerful tool. We can abuse this distraction to attract our users to a certain place: a notification, an added list item after a background refresh, etc. Let's look into the movement behind a form submission. Below are three dummy forms, each with a different server response time.

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A good issue

Maintaining a number of open source projects comes with a number of issues. Reporting a good issue will result in a more engaged approach from project maintainers. Don't forget: there's a human behind every project.

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Design Details: Incremental Correctness with Guillermo Rauch

In a recent Design Details podcast, Guillermo Rauch (@rauchg) shares his thoughts on the web, design, the value of code, type systems, cryptocurrencies and much much more.

I have a lot of respect for Guillermo's philosophies, and what he's building with Zeit. An early quote from the interview (paraphrased):

I've always had this passion for the hyperlink. My whole thesis is everything that has not yet been hyperlinked, will be hyperlinked. If we step back and take that thesis a little further—you look at GitHub and they but a hyperlink on everything. They put a hyperlink on every per-character diff of your codebase. Every line of code. Every changeset. Everything.

Listen to the full podcast on Spec.fm.

Server side rendering JavaScript from PHP

Server side rendering is a hot topic when it comes to client side applications. Unfortunately, it's not an easy thing to do, especially if you're not building things in a Node.js environment.

I published two libraries to enable server side rendering JavaScript from PHP: spatie/server-side-rendering and spatie/laravel-server-side-rendering for Laravel apps.

Let's review some server side rendering concepts, benefits and tradeoffs, and build a server renderer in PHP from first principles.

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A pair of helping hands when naming things

One of the hardest (and sometimes frustrating) tasks in a programmer's day-to-day workload is naming things. When I have a hard time finding that perfect word, I generally wind up in one of two situations:

  • I have a plausible name in mind, but I'm not entirely satisfied with it
  • I have no idea what I could possibly name it

Luckily, there are tools out there that can be of help.

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Debugging the dreaded "Class log does not exist" error in Laravel

Every now and then I come accross a Class log does not exist exception in Laravel. This particular exception is thrown when something goes wrong really early in the application, before the exception handler is instantiated.

Whenever I come across this issue I'm stumped. Mostly it's related to an invalid configuration issue or an early service provider that throws an exception. I always forget how to debug this, so it's time to document my solution for tracking down the underlying error.

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Diving into requestAnimationFrame with Benjamin De Cock

I love this post! requestAnimationFrame is a primitive browser API that doesn’t sound too interesting at first, but once you've grasped some basic concepts, it becomes an extremely powerful tool for dealing with animations in JavaScript.

At its core, requestAnimationFrame doesn’t do much: it’s basically just a method that executes a callback. In fact, there are very few differences between doing requestAnimationFrame(doSomething) and doSomething(). So, what’s so special about it? I’m glad you asked! In short:

  • requestAnimationFrame schedules the callback call on the next repaint
  • requestAnimationFrame passes the callback the current time

There are a few other distinctions, but these are the main benefits. Now, requestAnimationFrame doesn’t create an animation on its own, it’s the sequence of successive callbacks that will make things move on the screen.

My favorite part: since a large part of animating with requestAnimationFrame consists of composing small mathematical expressions, you can apply all sorts of functional programming tricks to your code.

Learn all about it on Benjamin De Cock’s blog.

Theme-based views in Laravel using vendor namespaces

I'm building a multi-tenant Laravel application. One of the requirements of the project is that every client can have their own theme based on their corporate guidelines. By default a few css adjustments will suffice, but some clients request a completely different template.

Conditionally loading a different stylesheet per client is pretty trivial, but in order to use a completely different view per theme you quickly end up typing the same thing over and over across various parts of your application.

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Introducing our company guidelines site

We just open sourced our company guidelines site! We previously kept the contents in a private wiki on GitHub, but I'm glad we finally put the time in giving the contents a real home.

Like our docs site, the content is stored in markdown files, which can directly be edited on GitHub. The site deploys whenever something's pushed to the master branch.

As for why we decided to open source it all...

This site contains a set of guidelines we use to bring our projects to a good end. We decided to document our workflow because consistency is one of the most valuable traits of maintainable software.

The contents of this site exist for ourselves—more importantly, our future selves—and for giving future collegues a reference to our way of doing things and their quirks. The guidelines cover workflow, code style, and other little things we consider worth documenting.

The guidelines are available on guidelines.spatie.be.

What's in our .babelrc?

A lot has been going in in JavaScript the past few years. One of my favorite things has been the usage of babel, which allows us to write future JavaScript syntax today. The babel ecosystem has tons of plugins and configuration options, I'd like to elaborate on our usage at Spatie.

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Generate pdfs with Google Chrome on a Forge provisioned server

This week I needed to export some charts generated with HTML & JavaScript as a pdf file. I already had implemented the charts on a webpage so I wanted a solution that allowed me to use my existing code for the pdfs.

Headless Chrome to the rescue! Chrome can run as a cli tool, and print a pdf file from a url. All I had to do was make some layout tweaks to make everything printer-friendly.

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Is snapshot testing viable in PHP?

Christopher Pitt wrote a pretty comprehensive article on one of our latest packages, which is one of my favorite packages I've written at Spatie to date, phpunit-snapshot-assertions.

Ah-ha moments are beautiful and rare in programming. Every so often, we’re fortunate enough to discover some trick or facet of a system that forever changes how we think of it. For me, that’s what snapshot testing is.

Read the full article on SitePoint, or check out phpunit-snapshot-assertions on GitHub.

Fragmentation is fabulous

In a recent Twitter thread, Sebastian McKenzie (Yarn and Babel author) shared his thoughts on the current state of open source. This tweet stood out for me (and he later ironically dubbed it his "most thoughtleader tweet ever"):

Revel in fragmentation and duplication because without it there's stagnation and it stifles innovation.

When someone shares their latest pet project library, it's often met with responses like "What a waste of time, you can already do this with library X!".

There's no need for justification here. Maybe the author wants something that fully matches their use case instead of the 80% that library X does, maybe they want a different internal architecture. Maybe they have bigger future plans in mind, or most importantly, maybe they just want to experiment, learn, and have fun.

Read the entire thread on @sebmck's Twitter.

A package for snapshot testing in PHPUnit

The gist of snapshot testing is asserting that a set of data hasn't changed compared to a previous version, which is a snapshot of the data, to prevent regressions. The difference between a classic and an is that you don't write the expectation yourself when snapshot testing.

When a snapshot assertion happens for the first time, it creates a snapshot file with the actual output, and marks the test as incomplete. Every subsequent run will compare the output with the existing snapshot file to check for regressions.

Snapshot testing is most useful larger datasets that can change over time, like serializing an object for an XML export or a JSON API endpoint.

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Non-breaking, SEO friendly urls in Laravel

When admins create or update a news item—or any other entity—in our homegrown CMS, a url slug is generated based on it's title. The downside here is that when the title changes, the old url would break. If we wouldn't regenerate the url on updates, edited titles would still have an old slug in the url, which isn't an ideal situation either.

Our solution: add a unique identifier to the url that will never change, while keeping the slug intact. This creates links that are both readable and unbreakable.

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Using a database for localization in Laravel

When building a website for a client that wants to be able to manage content, Laravel's language files aren't ideal since you can't edit them without diving into a bundle of text files. We recently decided to drop all the lang files in our custom CMS in favor of persisting translations in the database, which allows us to build a custom interface for managing them.

This post is a quick overview on overwriting Laravel's default translation loader, which means you can keep using the lang method while fetching the translations from a database. Writing a custom loader is easier than it sounds. First we'll set up our translation models, then we'll write our loader, and finally register it in our application.

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Normalize your values on input

Dynamic languages allow us to pass anything as a parameter without requiring a specific type. In turn, this means we often need to handle some extra validation for the data that comes in to our objects.

This is a lightweight post on handling your incoming values effectively by normalizing them as soon as possible. It's a simple guideline worth keeping in mind which will help you keep your code easier to reason about.

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Adventure Time with Webpack

Over the past few weeks I've been migrating our asset pipeline at Spatie from Laravel Elixir (a gulp wrapper) to webpack. Between having endless possibilities, the occasional incomplete section in the docs, and the fact that everyone has slightly different needs for their asset pipeline (which makes examples hard), it has surely been an adventure.

I'm going to do a quick summary of my goals, and how I achieved them with webpack. Hopefully there will be some useful snippets in here for when you're setting up your own webpack configuration.

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