Why are keyboards built the way they are?

Most of us use computers on a daily basis. We are so used to them we take almost everything around them for granted. Even the shape of the keyboard.

Damn, we are so familiar with this shape we even use this keyboard on smartphones! The younger ones do not even know where this shape comes from (some of them are curious enough to wonder).

How was the QWERTY layout (and all others) created? And why are the columns shifted from a row to the next?

Continue reading Why are keyboards built the way they are?

Simple script to minify web resources

A couple of years ago, I blogged about a way to minify HTML with sed. Now, I streamlined this in a script.

How it works

The script will copy the original directory (or single file) and leave it untouched, while removing any useless space and comments from any .htm, .html, .php, .css and .js file in the copy.

Running the script

Easy one:

If the target already exists, it will be removed first (you will need to confirm).

The code

The basics

Much is transparent or commented. The minification is the only really interesting part. So let’s go at it!

The minification

I used the trick I wrote about yesterday.

Basically, the minification is all done here:

This code is commented and should not require more than is already said.

Now, the essential enhancement I made since the sed era is the removal of all comments and correction of my code to remove all new lines.

I abandoned sed and went to Perl because sed does not support the non-greedy operator, which greatly simplified my work when removing delimited patterns (typically multiline comments).

Getting the full script

It is available on Github. Don’t hesitate to fork and make it better.

Note: the competition

There is none: this is not a tool I would recommend in production environment (for lack of test, for instance).

Why this script is good

It is a quick fix for simple and mostly static websites. It removes potentially sensitive information (many website have their .git repository deployed, containing everything in it, and comments can be a source of leak too, be it only be advertising the technology behind the scenes).

Why this script is bad

And yet, many tools were specifically designed for this purpose. See Grunt or Gulp plugins for JavaScript projects, or wro4j for Java projects. I imagine tools exist also for ASP or PHP projects.

I needed something working quickly and without effort. This is it.

Combine it

You can use it on your server to automatically deploy the latest version of your website. Imagine:

How to make a regex pattern that matches except if…

Short answer

We will take an example: match all /* ... */-type comments except when in string (in our example: JavaScript, so both single and double quotes will have to be excluded).

  1. Write the regex for what you want to match (later called m; our example: /\*.*?\*/1).
  2. Write the regular expressions for matching your exclusions (later called e1, e2, e3; our example: '[^']+' and "[^"]+").

Regex #1

  1. Write your final regex: e1|e2|(m) (our example: '[^']+'|"[^"]+"|(/\*.*?\*/)).
  2. Match group 1 instead of matching group 0.

Note: This requires code to parse the result. If you need something simple (sed? Which you would replace with a Perl command? Or just something you can use with match), see below.

Regex #2: alternative for Perl and PCRE (PHP)

  1. Write your final regex: (?:e1|e2)(*SKIP)(?!)|m (our example: (?:'[^']+'|"[^"]+")(*SKIP)(?!)|/\*.*?\*/).
  2. Match group 0 as usual.

Note: You can execute this expression as a Perl command: perl -pe '(?:\'[^\']+\'|"[^"]+")(*SKIP)(?!)|/\*.*?\*/'

You can test the regex and have it explained at this link.

Something more detailed

Continue reading How to make a regex pattern that matches except if…

A new logo for KeyboardPlaying

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time and now the time has come: KeyboardPlaying has a new logo. Which means it will soon have a new website too.

You can find it on Github. Fork if you have any way to make it better (either better looking or just a better construction of the SVG).

Now, this lays the foundations of the future graphical style of the website. The colors were inspired from the Material Design Lite, which I’ll use for the next version of the homepage. It is also flat as I like the current trend to minimalism and flatness. I find it much more soothing than all the fashion of imitating reality, making things 3D like with shadows and so on (though I loved it in that time too, but I was a bit younger; time to be an adult… Or maybe not totally).

No, for the website, just a bit of patience, please.

Publishing the v2.0 of my Excel timesheet

The origins

Why, oh why?

I am a consultant developer. This means I move from client to client and share their time constraints. This includes deadlines, but also work time.

It so happens that some clients have a time clock, like in the old days.

Time clock in the Museum at Wookey Hole Caves (Source: Wikimedia)
Some have these time clocks…
Electronic clocking terminal (Source: Wikimedia, February 2009)
… but this is more likely.

My problem is: while most of my client’s employees can see what the clock stores, I, as an extern, cannot. I do not like to be blind, so each time I am in this situation, like many people I know, I make an Excel sheet where I log my check-ins and -outs.

Sharing my timesheet…

On my latest mission, we were several on the team from the same company. I spent some days without my usual timesheet and when I grew tired, I sent my first basic version, with some conditional formatting, to all members there.

Since they did not seem very interested if I asked whether something standard was available, I did not expect much. But instead, I quickly got some feedback: they asked new features, signalled some bugs, …

The team grew, the requests followed. The possibilities of the timesheet were ever greater, and therefore so was its complexity.

… with the whole world

Finally, using e-mails to track the feedback and release the changelog and user manual became too heavy. I thought of a bug tracker. This led me to create a Github repository. The wiki would come in handy for the user manual too.

Thus the work on version 2, which should make the sheet less specific to our context and more widely usable, began.

And now version 2.0 is here!.

The construct

Choosing the format for storing revisions of the timesheet

The choice of using Excel for the timesheet comes with a consequence: the file we edit is a binary. We know one thing about GIT (and most RCSs) is that it is not that efficient with binaries.

But we also know that a .xlsx file is just a zip of XML files, so we chose to save it as the exploded version of the .zip file.

The only thing we lacked was a way to easily switch to and fro between both forms.

Searching for the tool

I ambitioned at having one script that could be used with an argument to do this. It is easy in Unix. I even found a solution using PowerShell for Windows. But this required to maintain two scripts.

I looked at the build tools I know and some I did not: Maven, Gradle, CMake, …

But all these are oriented towards a specific technology and all of them require to install something on your computer.

Making the tool…

I am a developer after all, and this is within my area. So I went for an executable .jar. Only thing you need to have on your computer? An up-to-date version of Java.

And I came up with a basic Swing interface.

The construct
The construct

It may not look like much, but it does the job…

… and enhancing it

… and it will do more.

Do not hesitate to head over to the repository and fork it to tailor it to your own needs or make this one better.

In the end, it will make developing the xls-time-tracker timesheet and managing its versions easier.

Just wait and see…