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Booked Tips: Tablet Display

Booked includes a lot of features that you may not know about. In this article we’ll talk about the tablet display, which is perfect for showing reservation information next to a resource. A good example is a tablet mounted outside a conference room, but this can be used for any type of resources.

Here’s an example of what this looks like.

You can quickly see if a resource is currently in use, what the schedule for the day looks like, and create ad-hoc reservations. If there is a reservation that is pending check in, a button to check in will be shown instead.

Great, so how can this be enabled, you ask? It’s simple.

On your tablet, open a browser and navigate to https://your-booked-url/resource-display.php. You’ll be greeted with a sign in screen. Sign in with an administrator account, then pick the resource you want to show.

That’s it. You can leave this up and it will continuously refresh with the latest information.

Hosting and Support

Did you know that I offer professional hosting and support for Booked? You can set up a free trial in minutes and get unlimited support.

This post was written on November 4, 2019. Check your documentation for the latest options.

Learning how to modern web dev

I’m neck deep in learning ES6, React, Typescript, Node and all the billions of pieces that are a part of this “ecosystem”. I think I’m going to post some of the things that I learn along the way here.

Most of it will probably be obvious if you’ve been working with these technologies for a while, though I assumed a lot of what I was trying to do would be easily discoverable online. Maybe I just need to take some Google lessons.

My Lessons

Lessons to write about…

  • Using Sequelize CLI (and probably a rant about all ORMs, but especially this one)
  • Avoiding Redux and test driving React apps using hooks
  • Dockerizing a dev database
  • Writing integration tests with Sequelize without losing my mind

Packaging a Node Express App

I’m not sure how most of the JavaScript world is building, packaging, and deploying their applications. We’re using Yarn instead of npm, but neither tool provides a simple way to zip up and version your app (unless you’re publishing to npm, that is).

Here’s what worked for me (based on Yarn 1.15.2). As with everything I post, If there are better ways, please tell me.

Install cross-var to support consistent variable usage in package.json across Windows and Mac.

yarn add cross-var

Install bestzip to support cross-platform packaging.

yarn add bestzip

Install copyfiles to support cross-platform, configurable file copying.

yarn add copyfiles

Create a script in package.json for compiling TypeScript to JavaScript

"build:ts": "tsc"

Create a script in package.json for copying the compiled files to a /dist directory

"copy": "copyfiles -a -e \"**/*.ts\" -u 1 \"src/**/*.*\" dist"

Create a script in package.json for packing up the source and dependent node_modules

"package": "cross-var bestzip $npm_package_name-$npm_package_version.zip dist/* node_modules/* package.json"

Notice the $npm_* variables? Apparently you can use any variable defined in package.json within package.json. You just need cross-var to consistently access them.

That ended up being it. Here is a redacted package.json that I’m using:

{
"name": "Nick Korbel Demo",
"version": "0.1.0",
"description": "The demo for packaging",
"private": true,
"main": "dist/index.js",
"scripts": {
"build:ts": "tsc",
"copy": "copyfiles -a -e \"/.ts\" -e \"/.spec.js\" -e \"/.log\" -u 1 \"src//.\" dist", "start": "node ./dist/index.js", "package": "cross-var bestzip $npm_package_name-$npm_package_version.zip dist/ node_modules/* package.json"
},
… more stuff here like dependencies

This post is part of a series I’m writing to share what I’m learning

Oh no… GitFlow

It seems like every team I’ve worked with in the past few years follows some form of GitFlow. At the very least, they use feature branches and pull requests to perform code reviews.

How we got here

The creation of distributed source control systems made the pull request model possible. Distributed source control systems emerged from the open source community, where there is typically a group of independent people working on a shared system and there is a need for trusted reviewers to gate changes to the code. With previous tools like CVS or Subversion, the cost of accepting a contribution to open source projects was high. Unless the author was already a trusted contributor, it usually involved submitting a patch.

Context is king

I view code as the end result of a series of decisions made by the code’s author. When the author was writing the code, they likely evaluated a series of approaches, tried a few of them, and found one to be the best solution to the problem. The final code can’t possibly capture the all decisions that were made or all of the trade-offs that were considered, though.

I was using Subversion for version control for Booked for many years. When other people had changes they wanted to contribute I asked them to commit directly to trunk or to create a branch. I’d often have to revert commits or make non-trivial changes to ensure the commit didn’t break the application. I moved to Git a couple of years back and being able to review/accept pull requests has certainly made it easier to incorporate contributions to the source from external developers.

Unfortunately, I still don’t have the author’s context which led to the decision to change or write a certain line of code. Collaboration tools make the discussion easier by being able to point to specific changes. Pull requests certainly enable a technically simpler process for accepting changes to the source, but they do not provide any other benefits over methods like patch submission.

Wait, what are we doing?

Using pull requests on a team all working on the same project is so strange to me. It’s a process designed for highly-distributed, loosely-coupled developers to contribute to the same codebase. If the team is co-located, there is no physical separation that forces an asynchronous process. There is very rarely a risk of a change being submitted that isn’t part of an agreed upon team strategy.

Yet, I see pull request comments and iterations of changes fly back and forth over the course of hours, days, or even weeks. Often, the resulting changes only take a few hours of hands-on work in culmination, but take orders of magnitude longer due to the asynchronous nature of the pull request process. During each passing minute the author’s memory of their decision making process fades. This is compounded if the author moves on to work on something new – but work in progress abuse is a topic for another blog post.

At my first real job in the early 2000s we did side by side code reviews. I would sit down with another developer (there was only one other person, so I guess I should say that I’d sit down with THE other developer) and talk through the changes I made to enable a new feature.

Unless the review was happening within a few minutes of finishing the feature, it’s very likely that I didn’t remember the specific context which led to the decision to write a specific line of code. Side by side code reviews encourage discussion and are a drastic improvement over pull requests, but I think we can do better.

We can do better

The most productive team I’ve ever been a part of adopted pair-programming for all production code. Two people, two monitors, two keyboards, one computer. There is no way to lose the context of each line of code being written when practicing pair-programming. This is a real-time collaborative decision making and code review process.

Our team had no need for a separate review step, because we already had the multiplicative brain power of two people involved in the creation of the code. Even without the “formal” review and merge process, we had incredibly high quality with almost zero knowledge gaps throughout the team.

One more gripe, that’s it, I promise

Here’s my last gripe with code reviews and pull requests as commonly practiced – they defer continuous integration.

Continuous integration is the process of continually integrating the whole team’s set of changes at a regular cadence. The purpose is simple – regularly integrating, compiling, and testing outstanding changes minimizes the time between the code working on one person’s machine and validation that it works once combined with the rest of the team’s changes.

Pull requests (more specifically feature branches, I suppose) defer integration. Sure, if you’re a diligent developer you may pull master into your branch a few times a day. But since everyone on the team is committing to their own branch, master is missing the majority of the outstanding changes and full integration is being deferred.

When I talk to teams about this, I regularly hear the opinion that it’s a good thing.

There is an impression that feature branching and pull requests help keep master stable. I agree with the spirit of this approach. I agree with always-releaseable code. But let’s be honest, if a team can’t keep trunk stable, why would maintaining X number of branches will be stable?

Branches are a security blanket. Sure, they make you feel safe, but provide little to actually provide safety. It’s just an illusion.

Always-releasable doesn’t mean change should be avoided or isolated. While it is true that not changing the code is the easiest way to keep it from breaking, building up large batches of changes that all get merged once “complete” is far more risky than committing small changes to a single branch daily. When the time between writing a line of code and knowing if it causes unexpected issues is short, it becomes very simple to identify and correct it.

Issues have nowhere to hide in a small change set.

The sales pitch

So I guess my pitch here is to try different approaches.

Try trunk based development as an alternative to feature branches. Try pair-programming as an alternative to pull requests.

If you’re absolutely not going to budge from feature branches, impose a rule that a branch cannot live longer than 24 hours. If you’re absolutely not going to budge from pull requests, impose a rule that all reviews must be complete within a few hours.

Tighten the feedback loop and see what good comes from it.

These things may not be for every team, but it may work for your team.