I’ve Got 99 Problems – but Deploying My Rails/Angular App to Heroku is No Longer One of Them:) PART 2

So where was I? Oh yeah, I left off at changing my problem js file extensions to ‘.es6’ so there would be no problem with new JS6 syntax. This definitely helped, but in it’s place sprung another problem. Only the images that were not hooked up to the database on my site were showing . So I used my noggin and realized that I never migrated my database to Heroku! DOH!

When I tried to run ‘heroku run rake db:migrate’, the migration kept aborting with this message:

PG::UndefinedTable: ERROR:  relation "users" does not exist

I definitely had a table called “users” so that didn’t make much sense. I did a little digging and found out that postgres (the database Heroku uses) does not like tables relating to other tables that have not been created yet. The table being created was referencing a table that was created on a later migration. I know it’s not a good idea to mess with the names of migration files, but I did anyway. Rails timestamps migration files, so I just had to change my “users” file timestamp to a date before the file in question.

So I tried the migrate command again and got the same error. Strange. My migration files had quite a few additions which later became subtractions. I decided that I only really needed three migrations for three tables. Since I had a good seed file which could recreate everything I needed, I decided to recreate only the migrations I needed. This would allow me to reset the database and start from scratch. I deleted the schema and development.sqlite3 files so there would be no references to the old migrations. Now I could recreate my database and schema file.

$ rails db:drop db:create db:migrate db:seed
// This will delete the entire database, losing all data
// recreate a new database and runs the migrations
// db:seed will seed the database from seeds.rb

I had a brand spanking new schema and database, ran my local server and everything was running smoothly. So I ran the heroku migration command again and got THE SAME ERROR!! WTF?!? After googling for a bit, it hit me. I didn’t push the new changes to heroku! Often times it is the simple tasks that one might forget to do that causes errors. Note to self: if you are banging your head against the wall, stop for a minute and think of the steps you would normally take. Save yourself some time and energy. The first change to the “users” migration file name probably would have worked if I just slowed down a little.

After trying to migrate to Heroku again, it worked! Now my site is up and running, and I’m feeling good! Hopefully this helps fellow programmers out there that get stuck – and have sore heads! As always, thanks for reading!

I’ve Got 99 Problems – but Deploying My Rails/Angular App to Heroku is No Longer One of Them:) PART 1

I’ve been trying to deploy my app Medidate to heroku for a while. I sort of let it go a couple of months ago, but I’m using the app on my portfolio site, so I wanted it to work. It works fine when deployed locally, but Heroku does not likey. I’ve deployed straight up Rails apps with no problem. Angular definitely made it a lot harder. This sort of thing can make a developer go crazy, perhaps contemplating throwing their laptop through the closest window. Of course I would never do that! But other less even keel people might:) I am using Rails 5, AngularJS 1.6, and Bower for dependencies.

I was actually able to deploy to Heroku, however, nothing was working. What I mean by working – none of my styles or javascript files were showing up. I just had a white page with a few non-styled links in the navbar. I assumed it was an issue with the Asset Pipeline in Rails and how it was compiling in Heroku. A friend had a similar issue (from what I hear, many people have trouble deploying Rails/Angular apps), and he said a great gem to try out was ‘ngannotate-rails’. This gem basically fixes any dependency injections issues in Angular files when minified. This helped a lot of other devs – not me though.

I needed to precompile my assets for Heroku. I found this little line of code to do that:

RAILS_ENV=production rake assets:precompile

That did not run and was aborted. The reason?

ExecJS::RuntimeError: SyntaxError: Unexpected character ‘`’

Hmmm. Since it’s a JS error and the character is a backtick, I thought it might have something to do with ES6 syntax, which I used a bunch in my code. After Googling around it looked like my assumption was correct. The answer? I needed more gems of course! Sprockets and babel-transpiler would take care of translating any new JS6 syntax that the Rails precompiler (Uglifier) was having trouble understanding. Unfortunately, that didn’t do the trick and I started to change my files error by error by converting any ES6 syntax to the old style. It’s all a learning process right. Ugh.

I used some great advice via Stack Overflow on how to track down bugs when compiling – run the rails console, then type:

JS_PATH = "app/assets/javascripts/**/*.js"; 
Dir[JS_PATH].each do |file_name|
  puts "\n#{file_name}"
  puts Uglifier.compile(File.read(file_name))

This will show you which files are causing the errors. After going through one file, I thought I might be missing something in regards to babel. Luckily I was! I had to add the .es6 extension to my problem js files. After I did this, everything was good. But not for long:( Stay tuned next week for the continuation. Flashbacks of watching an episode of Scooby Doo and seeing ‘to be continued’. I hated that!

Adding a Gradient to a Background Image with CSS

I’ve been building a portfolio site for myself and came across a small problem. I wanted the navbar to be transparent on the hero part of the page, however, the text in the navbar wasn’t showing up very well with the background image that I was using. Take a look…

Portfolio-site screengrab

Background image without gradient at top

Notice the navbar text. Not very clear if you ask me. What to do? If I had a bit of gradient at the top, that would let the text pop more. Of course I could use Photoshop to transform the image, but being a developer, I wanted to do it with code. It turned out I could accomplish what I wanted with CSS. I have to admit, even though I’m a Full Stack Developer, CSS has never been my thing. But I have to say it’s been growing on me lately. The CSS for my background image looked like this:

.background {
  background-position:50% 50%;
  background-image: url('../images/road-trees.jpg');

Pretty simple. The color of gradient at the top of the image should be within the image that I was working with. I found a cool extension for Chrome called ColorPick Eye Dropper that gives you a color picker that you can use for whatever website you’re on. I used this to find a nice dark green in my image. The CSS is quite simple. You just have to add a linear gradient to the background image styling like so.

.background {
  background-position:50% 50%;
  background-image: linear-gradient(
      rgba(18, 39, 32, 0.9),
      rgba(255, 255, 255, 0)

The first value of the linear-gradient represents the top of the image and the second, you guessed it, is the bottom. The last value of the rgba is the opacity. As you can see, the second value is white with an opacity of 0, which makes it transparent. This gives us the final product.

TJ portfolio hero

Image with CSS gradient at top

I’m not a designer, but I know that looks better. Everything is popping nicely. Happy coding:)

Make Navbar Links Active With jQuery

I am working on a single page portfolio site for myself and wanted some functionality with the navbar. In particular, when a link on the navbar was clicked, to not only to navigate to that portion of the page (duh), but also to make that link active. Other than HTML5 and CSS3, I’m using Bootstrap and a neat little jQuery plugin called scrollTo for smooth scrolling, you know, so the page doesn’t jump around on each click.

The first thing we’ll do is setup the navbar.

<div class="navbar-wrapper">
    <div class="navbar navbar-default navbar-fixed-top">
      <div class="container-fluid">
        <div class="navbar-header">
          <button type="button" class="navbar-toggle" data-toggle="collapse" data-target="#main-nav">
            <span class="sr-only">Menu</span>
            <span class="icon-bar"></span>
            <span class="icon-bar"></span>
            <span class="icon-bar"></span>
          <a href="#top" class="navbar-header">
            <h1 class="brand">TJ Hill</h1>
        <nav class="navbar-collapse navbar-default collapse" id="main-nav" role="navigation">
          <ul class="nav navbar-nav navbar-right nav-margin">
            <li class="active"><a href="#top">HOME</a></li>
            <li><a href="#about">ABOUT ME</a></li>
            <li><a href="#skills">SKILLS</a></li>
            <li><a href="#projects">PROJECTS</a></li>
            <li><a href="#contact">CONTACT ME</a></li>

The main part of the navbar we’re looking at is the unordered list section with the links. Notice the home link is set to active already. To access the clicked link with jQuery we’re going to use a click event and we need to specify what our event handler is looking for. With the code from above we can see it’s a list element that is a child of an unordered list. Just in case we have other unordered lists in our html, let’s make it super specific. It will look something like this: $(“ul.nav li”). This can be written many ways but this is the current standard. Next we need a click function and the callback function. Here’s the full event handler:

$(function() {
$("ul.nav li").click(function() {
    var anchor = $(this).find('a').attr('href')

    $.scrollTo(anchor, 800)
    // remove classes from all
    $("nav ul li").removeClass("active");
    // add class to the one we clicked

$(this) is the link that was clicked. We want to access the href of the anchor tag of the link that was clicked. To do this, we’re setting a variable called anchor to the closest anchor elements’ href attribute. This variable be used in the scrollTo function, which takes two arguments. The first is the id where we want to scroll to, and the second is the speed in milliseconds. Next, we’re removing the active class from all nav links, basically resetting them. Then we use jQuery’s addClass method to add an active class to the clicked link.

In our css file we can set the active rule to anything we want. We can change the color, underline, make it bigger, you name it. Although jQuery is declining in use, it still is the most used JavaScript library and very useful.

On a side note, if you’re used to using ECMAScripts 6 arrow functions, don’t use them with jQuery yet. They are not supported with all browsers and didn’t even work in Chrome. I found out the hard way and wasted a few hours. Don’t make the same mistake;)

The Big O

First off, this is a technical blog. My apologies if you came here looking for something a little sexier. Not that Big O Notation can’t be sexy. Depends on what floats your boat or sinks your battleship. Anywho, the following is a little teaser on Big O.


When you take your first few steps learning how to program, something like Big O Notation is the furthest thing from your mind. Learning to code is hard. Period. There is so much to know, and quite frankly, it is daunting. Imagine looking up at the highest peaks of Mt. Everest from the bottom of the mountain. Now imagine that the mountain is always shifting and getting bigger. That’s what it feels like when you start learning. Somewhere along the way (hopefully), your footing will become more secure on the shifting ground and you’ll gain some comfortability in the place of not knowing. Because nobody knows it all. Keep one foot in front of the other and keep climbing. Try to enjoy the ride.

If you went to a bootcamp, there was so much knowledge being pushed into your brain in a few short months. Bootcamps are great, but they just focus on web development. When you graduate and start to prepare for interviews, you begin to hear scary terms that you never heard before. Things like Linked Lists, Big O Notation, Bitwise Operators, Binary Trees, Stacks, Queues, etc. These are all computer science topics and good to know, but unless you are working on high level stuff, you probably don’t have to know all of them. But those pesky interviewers will probably test you on them because they know most bootcamps don’t teach it and because they had to learn it when they got their BS in CS.

Heavy Petting

One of those terms, Big O Notation, is actually very useful to know. When you begin to program, you’re not thinking about how your program will scale if a few thousand or perhaps a million people start to use it. You just learn what a for loop is, then learn you can have nested for loops, and you think everything is grand! Not so fast Kemosabe. This is where Big O Notation and scaling come in. Let’s take a look at how you might write a function to double each element in an array of arrays.

function doubleMe(arrayOfArrays) {
  const doubledArrayOfArrays = [];

  for (let i = 0; i < arrayOfArrays.length; i++) {
    let placeholderArray = []
    for (let j = 0; j < arrayOfArrays[i].length; j++) {
      placeholderArray.push(arrayOfArrays[i][j] * 2);

 return doubledArrayOfArrays;

doubleMe([[1,2,3], [4,5,6], [7,8,9]];  // [[2,4,6], [8,10,12], [14,16,18]]

This might look all fine and dandy, and when you first learn about nested for loops they might seem like the best thing since sliced bread! But let’s take a look at how this will scale.

We Have Lift Off

The length or size of our arrayOfArrays above is 3. However, since each element of the array is another array the function has to work that much more. Basically, for every item in the array (n for the input size), we have to do n more operations. So n * n == n^2 or O(n^2). The given example might be a little too on the nose being 3^2 is 9. It’s usually not that exact. You might ask, ‘So what’s the big deal? The function only has to run 9 times instead of 3’. Well, everything is groovy if the input is low, but what if it grows to 100 or 1,000 or 1,000,000. You start to get the point. With lower inputs, it’s not a big deal, but as the input grows, so does the time complexity of the function.



I’m Very Sensitive

Sorry if I got a little too excited. Let’s back up here a bit. Maybe I should start with O(1). Gayle Laakmann McDowell, author of a Cracking the Coding Interview, has a great video about Big O. It’s definitely worth a watch. She gives a great example about a problem South African programmers were having. Their internet connection was super slow and it was taking a long time to transfer data to team members in a different city. So they tried an experiment. They transferred the data to a usb drive and had a carrier pigeon (let’s call him Bob) deliver it to their work mates in the other city. At the same time they were transferring the data through their internet connection. The race between Bob and the internet. Guess who won?

If you said ‘BOB!’, then you are correct. So what does this have to do with Big O? Glad you asked! Bob’s flight in Big O terms is O(1). If it took Bob 30 minutes to get from one office to the other, then no matter what size the file is, it does not change the amount of time it takes him. Whether he’s flying with 10MB or 1TB, it still takes him 30 minutes. So O(1) is a program or function that takes the same amount of time to run no matter how large the input grows.


Bob is a low flying bird

Almost There

Revisiting our South African friends, as the size of the data they were transferring (over the internet) grew, the time it took to transfer grew by the same order. This would be O(n) and is linear in time and space. The green line in the graph above represents this. What would this look like as a function? Take my hand and let us find out.

function tripleMe(array) {
  const tripledArray = [];

  for (let i = 0; i < array.length; i++) {
    tripledArray.push(array[i] * 3);

  return tripledArray;

tripleMe([1,2,3,4,5]);   // [3,6,9,12,15]

Each element of the array gets worked on once. If our array had 1,000,000 elements, our for loop would run 1,000,000 times. From an input of an array of 1 element to an input of an array with 1,000,000 elements, the time complexity a straight line.

Pillow Talk

There are definitely other elements of Big O to talk about and understand, but I’m spent. I gave a pretty good (in my humble opinion) performance overview of the basics. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. Sweet dreams buttercup.

Cool Shortcuts in JS

After learning Ruby, getting stuff done in Javascript can seem much harder. Many methods in Ruby, such as sort, are just a dot notation away. However, in JS you have to write out the whole function. Check it…

# Ruby
numbers = [2, 5, 6, 11, 1, 23, 3]
# numbers = [1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 23] Not bad at all!
# That was so easy. Let's try it with names....

names = ['Martha', 'Tony', 'Sarah','Bob', 'Clara']
# names = ["Bob", "Clara", "Martha", "Sarah", "Tony"]
# Woah! It's the same!

// JS
let numbers = [2, 5, 6, 11, 1, 23, 3]
numbers = numbers.sort((a, b) => a - b)
// Well that's not so bad
// Let's try it with names

let names = ['Martha', 'Tony', 'Sarah','Bob', 'Clara']
names = names.sort((a, b) => {
  if (a < b) {
    return -1;
  } else if (a > b) {
    return 1;
  } else {
    return 0;
// Yuck. Quite a bit more verbose

Well, unfortunately there are just some things in JavaScript that are the way they are. Like my Scottish father-in-law says, “You cannot fart against thunder”. Some things you just have to accept. Sometimes, you (or people that make the thunder) can change it. ES6 has brought some cool changes that have made programming in JS much more fun. I’ve been messing around with some cool shortcuts that you can use to give your fingers a bit of a break. Some of these were already available pre-ES6.

First let’s take a look at flattening an array of arrays.

# Just for fun I'll include the Ruby magic

arrays = [1, [2, 3], [4, [5, 6]], 7]
# [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] - Too easy

// Pre ES6
var arrays = [1, [2, 3], [4, [5, 6]], 7];
var flattenedArrays = [].concat.apply([], arrays);
// [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
// Not horrible, but the spread operator makes it even better...

const arrays = [1, [2, 3], [4, [5, 6]], 7];
const flattenedArrays = [].concat(...arrays)
// Not a huge difference, but - Less typing = Happier coder 

Ok that wasn’t a huge deal. Here are some examples using operands. Thanks to these wonderful humans for bringing them to my attention.

var number = 1,
  string = "1",

// How would you normally change number to a string? Personally, I'd use the  .toString() method

// "1" 
// But this is more fun...
number + ""  // "1"
// I like

// How bout changing that string to an integer?
// A little parseInt() shall we?

parseInt(string) // 1
// The following is much more succinct

+string // 1
// Shiiiiit. That's cool.

How bout finding the max/min from an array. Well the Math prototype does not accept an array as it’s arguments.

// Pre-JS6
const numbers = [8, 7, 55, 4];
Math.max.apply(null, numbers) // 55
Math.min.apply(null, numbers) // 4
// JS6
Math.max(...numbers)  // 55
Math.min(...numbers)  // 4
// Very nice!

# Just for S & G's - Ruby
numbers.max  # 55 - beautiful

The spread operator makes this possible by spreading the values in the array out into arguments of the math functions. Not quite the magical abstractness of Ruby, but cool nonetheless! There are of course libraries like lodash that fill in some of the cracks, but there are always new things to discover about a language. The never ending mountain is waiting to be climbed. She is forever shifting and you can never reach the top. You just have to learn to love climbing. And remember…you cannot fart against thunder (in a very broad Scottish accent). That man has some stories.

AngularJS: Filter – Behind the Scenes

AngularJS comes with a ton of built in features to help us out – meaning we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we want to do something. This makes it extremely easy to do things such as searching or filtering. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to check what’s going on under the hood, which can only help us in the end. These helpers are great, but if you’re knew to programming, they could stunt your growth as a developer. So let’s dive in.

I built an app called Medidate. It’s a simple (a lot of hours goes into simple!) single page app that keeps track of meditation sessions: the date, which kind of meditation, and the duration. It uses Rails as an API on the back-end and AngularJS on the front-end. I’m going to go over a sorting feature that could easily be implemented with Angular’s built in Filter helper. Here’s a Plunker with the easy way.

The Easy Way

Here’s some of the code…

    <div ng-controller="UsersController as vm">
      <div class="container">
        <div class="col-md-3 col-md-offset-9 dropdown-meditation">
          <div class="button-group">
            <select class="btn btn-default btn-md dropdown-toggle dropdown-text"
              <option value="" disabled selected>Sort Events By</option>
              <option value="date">By Date (Asc)</option>
              <option value="-date">By Date (Desc)</option>
              <option value="meditation.name">By Meditation</option>
              <option value="minutes">By Minutes</option>
        <div ng-repeat="event in vm.user.events | orderBy: vm.option">
          <p style="text-decoration: none">{{event.date | date: medium}} for {{event.minutes}} minutes &mdash;

To give a bit of background, the information that’s being sorted here is an array of user events. The user has many events, which have the date, minutes, and a nested association of meditation, with id and name. This was all produced from an $http call to the back-end which was serialized into JSON by active model serializer – a very helpful gem for Rails.

Notice the dropdown and how we’re listing the options. The values of the options are bound to vm.options. All we have to do is declare vm.option = ” in the controller and when the dropdown is selected, vm.option will now be bound to the selected option. This will in turn set the filter in the ng-repeat. Notice the orderBy : vm.option that is declared in the repeat. This is the aforementioned built in magic of Angular. Whichever option is selected in the dropdown will change the orderBy option and effect how the list is ordered.

But what happens when you’re asked how it works. You know, like if someone asked you the what happens when you press the gas pedal in your car?  I don’t know, it just goes!

This is when it gets interesting. Getting your hands dirty.  Instead of using filter in the ng-repeat as above, we’re going to leave ng-repeat alone, with no orderBy filter! The hard work is going to be done in the controller. Check it.

The Hard Way

Here’s the  dropdown and ng-repeat…

    <div ng-controller="UsersController as vm">
      <div class="container">
        <div class="col-md-3 col-md-offset-9 dropdown-meditation">
          <div class="button-group">
            <select class="btn btn-default btn-lg dropdown-toggle dropdown-text"
                    ng-options="option for option in vm.options">
              <option value="" disabled="" selected="">Sort Events By</option>
        <div ng-repeat="event in vm.user.events">
          <p style="text-decoration: none">{{event.date | date: medium}} for {{event.minutes}} minutes &mdash;

In the dropdown above, ng-model is set to vm.selectedOption. Now whenever the user selects an option from the dropdown, the model is now bound to the option from ng-options. The options are declared in the controller which we’ll be taking a look at soon. The straw that stirs the drink is ng-change, which fires the vm.sortBy function in the controller. Let’s take a looksie.

.controller('UsersController', [function() {
      var vm = this;
      vm.sortBy = sortBy;
      vm.sortDate = sortDate;
      vm.sortMeditation = sortMeditation;
      vm.sortMinutes = sortMinutes;
      vm.options = ["Date (Asc)", "Date (Desc)", "Meditation", "Minutes (Asc)", "Minutes (Desc)"]

      function sortBy() {
        if (vm.selectedOption === vm.options[0]) {
        } else if (vm.selectedOption === vm.options[1]) {
        } else if (vm.selectedOption === vm.options[2]) {
        } else if (vm.selectedOption === vm.options[3]) {
        } else if (vm.selectedOption === vm.options[4]) {
// more code below

I like to bind my functions up top so I can see exactly what’s going on in the controller. This way I don’t have to search through hundreds of lines of code. Also, now we can just go ahead and write the functions as declarations, not expressions, which will save us from any hoisting headaches.

Like I said before, when the option is selected from the dropdown, that option is now assigned to vm.selectedOption and the vm.sortBy function fires. In the sortBy function, we’ll check to see which option was assigned to selectedOption and then fire a corresponding function to sort the user.events array. Here are the missing sort functions…

      function sortMinutes() {
        vm.user.events.sort((a, b) => parseInt(a.minutes) - parseInt(b.minutes))

      function sortDate() {
        vm.user.events.sort((a, b) => (new Date(a.date)) - (new Date(b.date)));

      function sortMeditation() {
        vm.user.events.sort((a, b) => {
          if (a.meditation.name < b.meditation.name) {
            return -1;
          } else if (a.meditation.name > b.meditation.name) {
            return 1;
          } else {
            let dateA = new Date(a.date);
            let dateB = new Date(b.date);

            if (dateA > dateB) {
              return 1;
            } else if (dateA < dateB) {
              return -1;
            } else {
              return 0;
// end of UsersController

Each function handles the data based on what the value is. Because the data in the user.events array are strings, we’ll have to convert them before sorting. The sortMinutes function is dealing with numbers which forces us to parseInt() the strings to integers. Same thing goes for the sortDate function, which we have to convert to a date before it can be sorted. Last is the sortMeditation function which takes the nested association – meditation – and sorts by name. Here we’re returning a negative 1 if the a is less, positive 1 if the b is less, and then instead of a zero if the names are the same, we’re using a sub-sort, which sorts by date.

Here’s a working plunker of the non-magic Angular filter. I think it’s cool to look under the hood sometimes and see what all the magic is about. You never know if you’re going to learn something new – I know I did! Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!