Category: Activities

Weekly Wrap Up – Live updates

October 28th, 2020 — 11:32am

On websites with tight budgets, and no development staff, it’s fairly common to make code updates directly on the live code. The thought of this gives many coders the chills, but I’ve been doing this for 20 years. When a client can’t afford a development environment, doesn’t have a code repository, and there’s no time / budget for a lengthly QA process, this is what you do.

There are a few relatively easy ways to handle live changes:

  • Be careful and test immediately. For small changes, this works well. If something doesn’t work, you can quickly revert with little to no downtime. If it does, then you are finished and the code is live.
  • Save old code / edits – make sure you have a quick “restore” plan in case something really gets messed up.
  • Work with parallel code – for larger changes, make a copy of the affected code, and use that for testing until you are confident it’s working. Then swap it in place.

Obviously, these tips only work for relatively minor updates to the code – changes that require structural database or code changes will most likely require some kind of development environment to be set up. However, many day-to-day changes can be accomplished without the overhead of a full blown development cycle.

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Weekly Wrap Up – API updates

September 25th, 2020 — 5:08pm

This week a long-time client called with an issue – people were trying to buy items from his website, but the transactions were not being processed correctly. Credit cards were being charged, but the site was not seeing the successful purchase.

After some investigation, it turned out the payment processor had ever so slightly modified the return value for transactions, adding in a newline to the beginning of the value. This broke the code that was looking for the success code, thus causing the problems.

The key to identifying this issue was good logging, and reviewing the code carefully. Once fixed, new transactions worked as normal. It’s not clear to me that the payment processor communicated this change at all, and perhaps it was an unintended side-effect of another change they made.

When troubleshooting new issues to code that has been working for a long time, my first question is “what changed?” – if I can figure out where the change occurred, it’s then easier to rectify the problem.

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Weekly Wrap Up – Time to learn python?

August 21st, 2020 — 4:17pm

Well, I’ve resisted this for a while, but I think it’s high time to add “python” to the list of languages in which I have proficiency. I did some basic work with python a while back, but was turned off by the need to “indent” properly for loops and conditionals. As a side rant, this seems preposterous to me, as if the language author wanted to do something different from the standard curly braces {} of most other languages. Anyway, rant over.

I started going through some “Linked In Learning” courses on python, and will probably try to basic projects. I don’t currently have any client work using python, but want to have a decent competency built up when it comes. I also have taken an interest in data science, and python seems to be a favorite language for that crowd. Learning a new (programming) language is a bit daunting and frustrating, but I’ve found that to be a necessary struggle to get to some level of proficiency. So, I start the learning!

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Weekly Wrap Up – Data Science

August 7th, 2020 — 11:40am

I’ve been spending more and more time researching (via online courses and tutorials) the exploding field of “data science”. This is been a long time coming – as data collection and storage has exploded over the years, it only follows that there’s a need for people to analyze it. Of course, the goal is for specific actions / recommendations that improve some aspect of the business.

While I haven’t done much “concrete” in this area, I could see a possible transition in my career focus to that. I’ve got a lot of technical experience in scripting and processing data, however my statistical understanding is lacking. Luckily, there is no shortage of sample data and courses out there to start learning!

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Weekly Wrap Up – Shopify

June 12th, 2020 — 12:18pm

I spent some time this week reviewing’s offerings. It’s been a while since I have used it for a client, and wanted to refamiliarize myself with it. The platform is a “SAAS” ecommerce application, with different paid tiers based on features and volume.

Generally I recommend these types of platforms to my clients, as the security and upgrades are handled by the hosting platform. Shopify can be customized and fine tuned to the needs of the particular store, with new features and options released regularly.

Overall, it’s a solid platform for building or extending your ecommerce business.

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