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JS NICE: Statistical renaming, Type inference and Deobfuscation

Jun 3, 9:36

JS NICE | Software Reliability Lab in ETH

JS NICE has indexed over 10,000 JavaScript projects from GitHub and then probabilistically infers newly suggested names and types for all of the local variables and function parameters of new JS.

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Cloud Share - New App

May 23, 4:06

I've put a new app on the Windows Store: Cloud Share. It connects the web to your Windows 8 share charm.

I did the development on GitHub and quite enjoyed myself. I wasn't sure I liked the game-ification of development in GitHub's dashboard showing you your longest development streak in days. However I realized that it encourages me to do work on my personal project and anything that aids in holding my attention on and helping me finish these projects is a good thing.

PermalinkCommentsdevelopment github javascript JS technical windows

Debugging anecdote - the color transparent black breaks accessibility

May 22, 10:36

Some time back while I was working on getting the Javascript Windows Store app platform running on Windows Phone (now available on the last Windows Phone release!) I had an interesting bug that in retrospect is amusing.

I had just finished a work item to get accessibility working for JS WinPhone apps when I got a new bug: With some set of JS apps, accessibility appeared to be totally broken. At that time in development the only mechanism we had to test accessibility was a test tool that runs on the PC, connects to the phone, and dumps out the accessibility tree of whatever app is running on the phone. In this bug, the tool would spin for a while and then timeout with an error and no accessibility information.

My first thought was this was an issue in my new accessibility code. However, debugging with breakpoints on my code I could see none of my code was run nor the code that should call it. The code that called that code was a more generic messaging system that hit my breakpoints constantly.

Rather than trying to work backward from the failure point, I decided to try and narrow down the repro and work forwards from there. One thing all the apps with the bug had in common was their usage of WinJS, but not all WinJS apps demonstrated the issue. Using a binary search approach on one such app I removed unrelated app code until all that was left was the app's usage of the WinJS AppBar and the bug still occurred. I replaced the WinJS AppBar usage with direct usage of the underlying AppBar WinRT APIs and continued.

Only some calls to the AppBar WinRT object produced the issue:

        var appBar = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBar.getForCurrentView(); 
// appBar.opacity = 1;
// appBar.closeDisplayMode = Windows.UI.WebUI.Core.WebUICommandBarClosedDisplayMode.default;
appBar.backgroundColor = Windows.UI.Colors.white; // Bug!
Just setting the background color appeared to cause the issue and I didn't even have to display the AppBar. Through additional trial and error I was blown away to discover that some colors I would set caused the issue and other colors did not. Black wouldn't cause the issue but transparent black would. So would aqua but not white.

I eventually realized that predefined WinRT color values like Windows.UI.Colors.aqua would cause the issue while JS literal based colors didn't cause the issue (Windows.UI.Color is a WinRT struct which projects in JS as a JS literal object with the struct members as JS object properties so its easy to write something like {r: 0, g: 0, b: 0, a: 0} to make a color) and I had been mixing both in my tests without realizing there would be a difference. I debugged into the backgroundColor property setter that consumed the WinRT color struct to see what was different between Windows.UI.Colors.black and {a: 1, r: 0, g: 0, b: 0} and found the two structs to be byte wise exactly the same.

On a hunch I tried my test app with only a reference to the color and otherwise no interaction with the AppBar and not doing anything with the actual reference to the color: Windows.UI.Colors.black;. This too caused the issue. I knew that the implementation for these WinRT const values live in a DLL and guessed that something in the code to create these predefined colors was causing the issue. I debugged in and no luck. Now I also have experienced crusty code that would do exciting things in its DllMain, the function that's called when a DLL is loaded into the process so I tried modifying my C++ code to simply LoadLibrary the DLL containing the WinRT color definition, windows.ui.xaml.dll and found the bug still occurred! A short lived moment of relief as the world seemed to make sense again.

Debugging into DllMain nothing interesting happened. There were interesting calls in there to be sure, but all of them behind conditions that were false. I was again stumped. On another hunch I tried renaming the DLL and only LoadLibrary'ing it and the bug went away. I took a different DLL renamed it windows.ui.xaml.dll and tried LoadLibrary'ing that and the bug came back. Just the name of the DLL was causing the issue.

I searched for the DLL name in our source code index and found hits in the accessibility tool. Grinning I opened the source to find that the accessibility tool's phone side service was trying to determine if a process belonged to a XAML app or not because XAML apps had a different accessibility contract. It did this by checking to see if windows.ui.xaml.dll was loaded in the target process.

At this point I got to fix my main issue and open several new bugs for the variety of problems I had just run into. This is a how to on writing software that is difficult to debug.

PermalinkCommentsbug debug javascript JS technical windows winrt

Creating type-safe properties with ECMAScript 6 proxies | NCZOnline

Apr 30, 9:12

Clearly the one JS feature we all agree on is ubiquity.

After some experimentation, I discovered that it’s possible to add type safety to JavaScript objects [via ES6 proxies] with just a few lines of code.

PermalinkCommentstechnical javascript es6 proxies

Internet Archive lets you play one of the earliest computer...

Apr 28, 9:39


Internet Archive lets you play one of the earliest computer games Space War! emulated in JavaScript in the browser.

This entry covers the historical context of Space War!, and instructions for working with our in-browser emulator. The system doesn’t require installed plugins (although a more powerful machine and recent browser version is suggested).

The JSMESS emulator (a conversion of the larger MESS project) also contains a real-time portrayal of the lights and switches of a Digital PDP-1, as well as links to documentation and manuals for this $800,000 (2014 dollars) minicomputer.

PermalinkCommentscomputer-game game video-game history internet-archive

Untrusted - a user javascript adventure game

Apr 8, 6:53

The game is to figure out what constrained modifications you must make to beat the game.

PermalinkCommentstechnical programming javascript game

Promises/A+

2013 Dec 17, 9:03

What is good and common of all JS promise designs collected as Promises/A+

Promises/A+

An open standard for sound, interoperable JavaScript promises—by implementers, for implementers.

PermalinkCommentstechnical javascript

JavaScript Promises: There and back again - HTML5 Rocks

2013 Dec 17, 9:02

The ES6 form of Promises.

PermalinkCommentstechnical javascript

harmony:generators [ES Wiki]

2013 Dec 17, 9:01

Adds the yield keyword enabling you to write JS code that sort of looks like C# await.

Overview

First-class coroutines, represented as objects encapsulating suspended execution contexts (i.e., function activations). Prior art: Python, Icon, Lua, Scheme, Smalltalk.

PermalinkCommentstechnical javascript

FitBit and WebOC Application Compatibility Errors

2013 Aug 29, 7:17
I just got a FitBit One from my wife. Unfortunately I had issues running their app on my Windows 8.1 Preview machine. But I recognized the errors as IE compatibility issues, for instance an IE dialog popup from the FitBit app telling me about an error in the app's JavaScript. Given my previous post on WebOC versioning you may guess what I tried next. I went into the registry and tried out different browser mode and document mode versions until I got the FitBit software running without error. Ultimately I found the following registry value to work well ('FitBit connect.exe' set to DWORD decimal 8888).
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_BROWSER_EMULATION]
"Fitbit Connect.exe"=dword:000022b8

For those familiar with the Windows registry the above should be enough. For those not familiar, copy and paste the above into notepad, save as a file named "fitbit.reg", and then double click the reg file and say 'Yes' to the prompt. Hopefully in the final release of Windows 8.1 this won't be an issue.
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Serializing JavaScript Promise Execution

2013 Aug 10, 3:07
Occasionally I have need to run a set of unrelated promises in series, for instance an object dealing with a WinRT camera API that can only execute one async operation at a time, or an object handling postMessage message events and must resolve associated async operations in the same order it received the requests. The solution is very simply to keep track of the last promise and when adding a new promise in serial add a continuation of the last promise to execute the new promise and point the last promise at the result. I encapsulate the simple solution in a�simple constructor:

    function PromiseExecutionSerializer() {
var lastPromise = WinJS.Promise.wrap(); // Start with an empty fulfilled promise.

this.addPromiseForSerializedExecution = function(promiseFunction) {
lastPromise = lastPromise.then(function () {
// Don't call directly so next promise doesn't get previous result parameter.
return promiseFunction();
});
}
}

The only thing to watch out for is to ensure you don't pass the result of a previous promise onto a subsequent promise that is unrelated.
PermalinkCommentsasync javascript promise technical

Pixel Perfect Timing Attacks with HTML5 - Context » Information Security

2013 Aug 7, 8:25PermalinkCommentssecurity html html5 svg javascript requestAnimationFrame iframe

Considerate MessagePort Usage

2013 Aug 7, 7:14
Sharing by leezie5. Two squirrels sharing food hanging from a bird feeder. Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.When writing a JavaScript library that uses postMessage and the message event, I must be considerate of other JS code that will be running along side my library. I shouldn't assume I'm the only sender and receiver on a caller provided MessagePort object. This means obviously I should use addEventListener("message" rather than the onmessage property (see related What if two programs did this?). But considering the actual messages traveling over the message channel I have the issue of accidentally processing another libraries messages and having another library accidentally process my own message. I have a few options for playing nice in this regard:
Require a caller provided unique MessagePort
This solves the problem but puts a lot of work on the caller who may not notice nor follow this requirement.
Uniquely mark my messages
To ensure I'm acting upon my own messages and not messages that happen to have similar properties as my own, I place a 'type' property on my postMessage data with a value of a URN unique to me and my JS library. Usually because its easy I use a UUID URN. There's no way someone will coincidentally produce this same URN. With this I can be sure I'm not processing someone else's messages. Of course there's no way to modify my postMessage data to prevent another library from accidentally processing my messages as their own. I can only hope they take similar steps as this and see that my messages are not their own.
Use caller provided MessagePort only to upgrade to new unique MessagePort
I can also make my own unique MessagePort for which only my library will have the end points. This does still require the caller to provide an initial message channel over which I can communicate my new unique MessagePort which means I still have the problems above. However it clearly reduces the surface area of the problem since I only need once message to communicate the new MessagePort.
The best solution is likely all of the above.
Photo is Sharing by leezie5. Two squirrels sharing food hanging from a bird feeder. Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.
PermalinkCommentsDOM html javascript messagechannel postMessage programming technical

Inside The Tech Stack Digg Used To Replace Google Reader ⚙ Co.Labs ⚙ code + community

2013 Jul 26, 7:21PermalinkCommentstechnical digg javascript js library

URI functions in Windows Store Applications

2013 Jul 25, 1:00

Summary

The Modern SDK contains some URI related functionality as do libraries available in particular projection languages. Unfortunately, collectively these APIs do not cover all scenarios in all languages. Specifically, JavaScript and C++ have no URI building APIs, and C++ additionally has no percent-encoding/decoding APIs.
WinRT (JS and C++)
JS Only
C++ Only
.NET Only
Parse
Build
Normalize
Equality
Relative resolution
Encode data for including in URI property
Decode data extracted from URI property
Build Query
Parse Query
The Windows.Foudnation.Uri type is not projected into .NET modern applications. Instead those applications use System.Uri and the platform ensures that it is correctly converted back and forth between Windows.Foundation.Uri as appropriate. Accordingly the column marked WinRT above is applicable to JS and C++ modern applications but not .NET modern applications. The only entries above applicable to .NET are the .NET Only column and the WwwFormUrlDecoder in the bottom left which is available to .NET.

Scenarios

Parse

This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS, and by System.Uri in .NET.
Parsing a URI pulls it apart into its basic components without decoding or otherwise modifying the contents.
var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com/path%20segment1/path%20segment2?key1=value1&key2=value2");
console.log(uri.path);// /path%20segment1/path%20segment2

WsDecodeUrl (C++)

WsDecodeUrl is not suitable for general purpose URI parsing. Use Windows.Foundation.Uri instead.

Build (C#)

URI building is only available in C# via System.UriBuilder.
URI building is the inverse of URI parsing: URI building allows the developer to specify the value of basic components of a URI and the API assembles them into a URI.
To work around the lack of a URI building API developers will likely concatenate strings to form their URIs. This can lead to injection bugs if they don’t validate or encode their input properly, but if based on trusted or known input is unlikely to have issues.
����������� Uri originalUri = new Uri("http://example.com/path1/?query");
����������� UriBuilder uriBuilder = new UriBuilder(originalUri);
����������� uriBuilder.Path = "/path2/";
����������� Uri newUri = uriBuilder.Uri; // http://example.com/path2/?query

WsEncodeUrl (C++)

WsEncodeUrl, in addition to building a URI from components also does some encoding. It encodes non-US-ASCII characters as UTF8, the percent, and a subset of gen-delims based on the URI property: all :/?#[]@ are percent-encoded except :/@ in the path and :/?@ in query and fragment.
Accordingly, WsEncodeUrl is not suitable for general purpose URI building. It is acceptable to use in the following cases:
- You’re building a URI out of non-encoded URI properties and don’t care about the difference between encoded and decoded characters. For instance you’re the only one consuming the URI and you uniformly decode URI properties when consuming – for instance using WsDecodeUrl to consume the URI.
- You’re building a URI with URI properties that don’t contain any of the characters that WsEncodeUrl encodes.

Normalize

This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS and by System.Uri in .NET. Normalization is applied during construction of the Uri object.
URI normalization is the application of URI normalization rules (including DNS normalization, IDN normalization, percent-encoding normalization, etc.) to the input URI.
������� var normalizedUri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("HTTP://EXAMPLE.COM/p%61th foo/");
������� console.log(normalizedUri.absoluteUri); // http://example.com/path%20foo/
This is modulo Win8 812823 in which the Windows.Foundation.Uri.AbsoluteUri property returns a normalized IRI not a normalized URI. This bug does not affect System.Uri.AbsoluteUri which returns a normalized URI.

Equality

This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS and by System.Uri in .NET.
URI equality determines if two URIs are equal or not necessarily equal.
����������� var uri1 = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("HTTP://EXAMPLE.COM/p%61th foo/"),
��������������� uri2 = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com/path%20foo/");
����������� console.log(uri1.equals(uri2)); // true

Relative resolution

This functionality is provided by the WinRT API Windows.Foundation.Uri in C++ and JS and by System.Uri in .NET
Relative resolution is a function that given an absolute URI A and a relative URI B, produces a new absolute URI C. C is the combination of A and B in which the basic components specified in B override or combine with those in A under rules specified in RFC 3986.
������� var baseUri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com/index.html"),
��� ��������relativeUri = "/path?query#fragment",
��� ��������absoluteUri = baseUri.combineUri(relativeUri);
������� console.log(baseUri.absoluteUri);������ // http://example.com/index.html
������� console.log(absoluteUri.absoluteUri);�� // http://example.com/path?query#fragment

Encode data for including in URI property

This functionality is available in JavaScript via encodeURIComponent and in C# via System.Uri.EscapeDataString. Although the two methods mentioned above will suffice for this purpose, they do not perform exactly the same operation.
Additionally we now have Windows.Foundation.Uri.EscapeComponent in WinRT, which is available in JavaScript and C++ (not C# since it doesn’t have access to Windows.Foundation.Uri). This is also slightly different from the previously mentioned mechanisms but works best for this purpose.
Encoding data for inclusion in a URI property is necessary when constructing a URI from data. In all the above cases the developer is dealing with a URI or substrings of a URI and so the strings are all encoded as appropriate. For instance, in the parsing example the path contains “path%20segment1” and not “path segment1”. To construct a URI one must first construct the basic components of the URI which involves encoding the data. For example, if one wanted to include “path segment / example” in the path of a URI, one must percent-encode the ‘ ‘ since it is not allowed in a URI, as well as the ‘/’ since although it is allowed, it is a delimiter and won’t be interpreted as data unless encoded.
If a developer does not have this API provided they can write it themselves. Percent-encoding methods appear simple to write, but the difficult part is getting the set of characters to encode correct, as well as handling non-US-ASCII characters.
������� var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com" +
����������� "/" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("path segment / example") +
����������� "?key=" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("=&?#"));
������� console.log(uri.absoluteUri); // http://example.com/path%20segment%20%2F%20example?key=%3D%26%3F%23

WsEncodeUrl (C++)

In addition to building a URI from components, WsEncodeUrl also percent-encodes some characters. However the API is not recommend for this scenario given the particular set of characters that are encoded and the convoluted nature in which a developer would have to use this API in order to use it for this purpose.
There are no general purpose scenarios for which the characters WsEncodeUrl encodes make sense: encode the %, encode a subset of gen-delims but not also encode the sub-delims. For instance this could not replace encodeURIComponent in a C++ version of the following code snippet since if ‘value’ contained ‘&’ or ‘=’ (both sub-delims) they wouldn’t be encoded and would be confused for delimiters in the name value pairs in the query:
"http://example.com/?key=" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent(value)
Since WsEncodeUrl produces a string URI, to obtain the property they want to encode they’d need to parse the resulting URI. WsDecodeUrl won’t work because it decodes the property but Windows.Foundation.Uri doesn’t decode. Accordingly the developer could run their string through WsEncodeUrl then Windows.Foundation.Uri to extract the property.

Decode data extracted from URI property

This functionality is available in JavaScript via decodeURIComponent and in C# via System.Uri.UnescapeDataString. Although the two methods mentioned above will suffice for this purpose, they do not perform exactly the same operation.
Additionally we now also have Windows.Foundation.Uri.UnescapeComponent in WinRT, which is available in JavaScript and C++ (not C# since it doesn’t have access to Windows.Foundation.Uri). This is also slightly different from the previously mentioned mechanisms but works best for this purpose.
Decoding is necessary when extracting data from a parsed URI property. For example, if a URI query contains a series of name and value pairs delimited by ‘=’ between names and values, and by ‘&’ between pairs, one must first parse the query into name and value entries and then decode the values. It is necessary to make this an extra step separate from parsing the URI property so that sub-delimiters (in this case ‘&’ and ‘=’) that are encoded will be interpreted as data, and those that are decoded will be interpreted as delimiters.
If a developer does not have this API provided they can write it themselves. Percent-decoding methods appear simple to write, but have some tricky parts including correctly handling non-US-ASCII, and remembering not to decode .
In the following example, note that if unescapeComponent were called first, the encoded ‘&’ and ‘=’ would be decoded and interfere with the parsing of the name value pairs in the query.
����������� var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com/?foo=bar&array=%5B%27%E3%84%93%27%2C%27%26%27%2C%27%3D%27%2C%27%23%27%5D");
����������� uri.query.substr(1).split("&").forEach(
��������������� function (keyValueString) {
������������������� var keyValue = keyValueString.split("=");
������������������� console.log(Windows.Foundation.Uri.unescapeComponent(keyValue[0]) + ": " + Windows.Foundation.Uri.unescapeComponent(keyValue[1]));
������������������� // foo: bar
������������������� // array: ['','&','=','#']
��������������� });

WsDecodeUrl (C++)

Since WsDecodeUrl decodes all percent-encoded octets it could be used for general purpose percent-decoding but it takes a URI so would require the dev to construct a stub URI around the string they want to decode. For example they could prefix “http:///#” to their string, run it through WsDecodeUrl and then extract the fragment property. It is convoluted but will work correctly.

Parse Query

The query of a URI is often encoded as application/x-www-form-urlencoded which is percent-encoded name value pairs delimited by ‘&’ between pairs and ‘=’ between corresponding names and values.
In WinRT we have a class to parse this form of encoding using Windows.Foundation.WwwFormUrlDecoder. The queryParsed property on the Windows.Foundation.Uri class is of this type and created with the query of its Uri:
��� var uri = Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com/?foo=bar&array=%5B%27%E3%84%93%27%2C%27%26%27%2C%27%3D%27%2C%27%23%27%5D");
��� uri.queryParsed.forEach(
������� function (pair) {
����������� console.log("name: " + pair.name + ", value: " + pair.value);
����������� // name: foo, value: bar
����������� // name: array, value: ['','&','=','#']
������� });
��� console.log(uri.queryParsed.getFirstValueByName("array")); // ['','&','=','#']
The QueryParsed property is only on Windows.Foundation.Uri and not System.Uri and accordingly is not available in .NET. However the Windows.Foundation.WwwFormUrlDecoder class is available in C# and can be used manually:
����������� Uri uri = new Uri("http://example.com/?foo=bar&array=%5B%27%E3%84%93%27%2C%27%26%27%2C%27%3D%27%2C%27%23%27%5D");
����������� WwwFormUrlDecoder decoder = new WwwFormUrlDecoder(uri.Query);
���� �������foreach (IWwwFormUrlDecoderEntry entry in decoder)
����������� {
��������������� System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine("name: " + entry.Name + ", value: " + entry.Value);
��������������� // name: foo, value: bar
��������������� // name: array, value: ['','&','=','#']
����������� }

Build Query

To build a query of name value pairs encoded as application/x-www-form-urlencoded there is no WinRT API to do this directly. Instead a developer must do this manually making use of the code described in “Encode data for including in URI property”.
In terms of public releases, this property is only in the RC and later builds.
For example in JavaScript a developer may write:
������� ����var uri = new Windows.Foundation.Uri("http://example.com/"),
��������������� query = "?" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("array") + "=" + Windows.Foundation.Uri.escapeComponent("['','&','=','#']");
����������� console.log(uri.combine(new Windows.Foundation.Uri(query)).absoluteUri); // http://example.com/?array=%5B'%E3%84%93'%2C'%26'%2C'%3D'%2C'%23'%5D
PermalinkCommentsc# c++ javascript technical uri windows windows-runtime windows-store

Subtleties of postMessage

2013 Jul 15, 1:00

In IE10 and other new browsers one may create MessageChannel objects that have two MessagePorts each connected (w3c spec calls it entangled) to one another such that postMessage on one port results in the message event firing on the other. You can pass an array of ports as the last parameter to postMessage and they show up in the ports property of the message event arg.

Origin

The postMessage here is like the worker postMessage and unlike the window and iframe postMessage in that it applies no origin checking:

  1. No origin postMessage in workers and MessagePorts: postMessage(messageData, ports)
  2. Origin postMessage in windows and iframes: postMessage(messageData, targetOrigin, ports)

Unfortunately the origin isn't an optional parameter at the end to make the two postMessages have the same signature.

On the event handler side, the event arg always has an origin property. But in the no origin case it is always the empty string.

Source

There is also a source property on the message event arg which if set is an object that has a postMessage property allowing you to post back to your caller. It is set for the origin case, however, in the no origin case this property is null. This is somewhat reasonable because in the case of MessagePort and Workers there are only two endpoints so you always know the source of a message implicitly. Unlike the origin case in which any iframe or window can be calling postMessage on any other iframe or window and the caller is unknown. So not unreasonable but it would be nice if the source property was always set for consistency.

MessageChannel start

When a MessageChannel is created it has two MessagePorts, but until those ports are started they will queue up any messages they receive. Once started they will dispatch all queued messages. Ports don't have to be started to send messages.

A port may be started in two ways, either by explicitly calling the start method on the port, or by setting the onmessage callback property on the port. However, adding an event listener via addEventListener("message", does not start the port. It works this way in IE and Chrome and the spec states this as well.

The justification is that since you can have only one callback via onmessage that once set you must implicitly be ready to receive messages and its fine to start the port. As opposed to the addEventListener in which case the user agent cannot start implicitly because it doesn't know how many event listeners will be added.� I found Hixie stating this justification in geoloc meeting notes.

Links

W3C Spec

Opera introduction

PermalinkCommentsDOM html javascript postMessage technical web-worker worker

Percent Clcok Windows Store App Development Notes

2013 Jul 11, 1:00

My third completed Windows Store app is Percent Clock which displays portions of a time span like the time of the day or time until your next birthday, as a percentage. This was a small project I had previously started as a webpage and converted and finished as an HTML JavaScript Windows Store app.

The only somewhat interesting aspect of this app is that its the first app for which I tried charging. I picked the minimum amount for price 1.49 USD as it is a simple app and unsurprisingly it has sold very poorly. I'm considering releasing new instances of the app for specific scenarios:

  • Death Clock: viewing your current age with respect to your life expectancy as a percentage.
  • New Year Countdown: percentage of the year until New Years.
PermalinkCommentsdevelopment javascript technical windows windows-store

Words with Hints Windows 8 App Development Notes

2013 Jul 4, 1:00

My second completed app for the Windows Store was Words with Hints a companion to Words with Friends or other Scrabble like games that gives you *ahem* hints. You provide your tiles and optionally letters placed in a line on the board and Words with Hints gives you word options.

I wrote this the first time by building a regular expression to check against my dictionary of words which made for a slow app on the Surface. In subsequent release of the app I now spawn four web workers (one for each of the Surface's cores) each with its own fourth of my dictionary. Each fourth of the dictionary is a trie which makes it easy for me to discard whole chunks of possible combinations of Scrabble letters as I walk the tree of possibilities.

The dictionaries are large and takes a noticeable amount of time to load on the Surface. The best performing mechanism I found to load them is as JavaScript source files that simply define their portion of the dictionary on the global object and synchronously (only on the worker so not blocking the UI thread). Putting them into .js files means they take advantage of bytecode caching making them load faster. However because the data is mostly strings and not code there is a dramatic size increase when the app is installed. The total size of the four dictionary .js files is about 44Mb. The bytecode cache for the dictionary files is about double that 88Mb meaning the dictionary plus the bytecode cache is 132Mb.

To handle the bother of postMessage communication and web workers this was the first app in which I used my promise MessagePort project which I'll discuss more in the future.

This is the first app in which I used the Microsoft Ad SDK. It was difficult to find the install for the SDK and difficult to use their website, but once setup, the Ad SDK was easy to import into VS and easy to use in my app.

PermalinkCommentsdevelopment technical windows windows-store words-with-hints

Shout Text Windows 8 App Development Notes

2013 Jun 27, 1:00

My first app for Windows 8 was Shout Text. You type into Shout Text, and your text is scaled up as large as possible while still fitting on the screen, as you type. It is the closest thing to a Hello World app as you'll find on the Windows Store that doesn't contain that phrase (by default) and I approached it as the simplest app I could make to learn about Windows modern app development and Windows Store app submission.

I rely on WinJS's default layout to use CSS transforms to scale up the user's text as they type. And they are typing into a simple content editable div.

The app was too simple for me to even consider using ads or charging for it which I learned more about in future apps.

The first interesting issue I ran into was that copying from and then pasting into the content editable div resulted in duplicates of the containing div with copied CSS appearing recursively inside of the content editable div. To fix this I had to catch the paste operation and remove the HTML data from the clipboard to ensure only the plain text data is pasted:

        function onPaste() {
var text;

if (window.clipboardData) {
text = window.clipboardData.getData("Text").toString();
window.clipboardData.clearData("Html");
window.clipboardData.setData("Text", util.normalizeContentEditableText(text));
}
}
shoutText.addEventListener("beforepaste", function () { return false; }, false);
shoutText.addEventListener("paste", onPaste, false);

I additionally found an issue in IE in which applying a CSS transform to a content editable div that has focus doesn't move the screen position of the user input caret - the text is scaled up or down but the caret remains the same size and in the same place on the screen. To fix this I made the following hack to reapply the current cursor position and text selection which resets the screen position of the user input caret.

        function resetCaret() {
setTimeout(function () {
var cursorPos = document.selection.createRange().duplicate();
cursorPos.select();
}, 200);
}

shoutText.attachEvent("onresize", function () { resetCaret(); }, true);
PermalinkCommentsdevelopment html javascript shout-text technical windows windows-store

Windows Store on Windows 8 Fun For Independent Developers

2013 Jun 24, 1:00
Having worked on Windows 8 I'm not in a neutral position to review aspects of it, however I'll say from a high level I love taking the following various positives from smart phone apps and app stores and applying it to the desktop:
  • Independent developers can easily publish apps.
  • One trusted place for a user to find apps.
  • User can trust apps are limited to a declared set of capabilities.
  • One common and easy way for users to buy and try apps.
  • Easy mechanism for independent developers to collect revenue.
Relieving the independent developer of software development overhead, in this case Windows taking care of distribution and sales infrastructure is wonderful for me with my third party developer hat on. This combined with my new found fun of developing in JavaScript and the new Windows Runtime APIs means I've been implementing and finishing various ideas I've had - some for fun and some for productivity on my Surface. Development notes to follow.
PermalinkCommentsstore technical windows windows-store
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