Updated: openssl-xcode and billymeltdown-choctop

2010-05-19 20:00:00 -0400

Stephen has updated the openssl-xcode project to support building OpenSSL 1.0.0. We’re not entirely sure why, but the make process was attempting to use x86 assembler on non-x86 architectures (ppc, armv6, etc), so we updated the build script in the Xcode project to do the right thing by setting certain flags based on architectures. Works like a charm, now.

This was tested with Xcode 3.2 and OpenSSL 1.1.0 only, results may vary with different versions of either. You can grab the latest by pulling from the master branch.

I’ve updated our fork of the fantastic choctop Ruby gem, which we use to automate release builds for Mac OS X apps. The recent change adds a “codesign_identity” accessor. Set this to the name of your code signing identity and the gem will sign the target app bundle right before it builds the DMG. My fork can be found and forked here on Github, but to install you can pull it from Gemcutter, the name of the gem is billymeltdown-choctop, e.g.:

gem install billymeltdown-choctop

Then you can require it in your Rakefile like so:

gem 'billymeltdown-choctop'
require "choctop"

Example Rakefile:

ChocTop.new do |s|
s.build_opts = '-sdk macosx10.5'
s.codesign_identity = 'Zetetic LLC'
s.remote_dir = '/www/zetetic.net/current/public/files/strip-sync'
s.base_url = "http://www.zetetic.net/files/strip-sync"
s.build_products = "/Users/wgray/Documents/Sources/xcode-build/Release"
s.transport = :rsync
s.rsync_args = '-vazxS --delete -e "/usr/bin/ssh -p 11122" '
# ...

My fork has been modified from the original in numerous small ways because I had to get it working on OS X 10.5, and then 10.6. Caveat emptor.

Pretty Page Title in Rails 3

2010-05-17 20:00:00 -0400

Ryan Bates has an incredible video tutorial series called Railscasts. They’re really fantastic, and the recent ones focusing on Rails 3 development are invaluable to someone like me who’s playing catch-up, having been in iPhone SDK land for what seems like the last six months.

In any event, he posted this nice trick a while back, called Pretty Page Title. You can watch the railscast for all the details, but the basics of it are a means to set a default bit of content in your layout, and override it from a particular page view. The most obvious example is the HTML title element, but we also need it for things like page description, keywords, other meta content. Here’s what the code looks like:

# application_helper.rb
def title(page_title)
content_for(:title) { page_title }

<!-- layouts/application.rhtml -->
<title>Shoppery - <%= yield(:title) || "The Place to Buy Stuff" %></title>

The crux of the trick is the || operator. If yield returns some value evaluating to false (such as nil), “The Place to Buy Stuff” becomes the content. This is important because it means in a particular view page file, you could over-ride this. Pretty handy for product pages or individual blog posts!

<!-- show.html.haml -->
- page_title(@article.title)
= render @article

This trick no longer works, because content_for returns a blank string when no content has been supplied. I’m not sure when it stopped returning nil, but that’s the case, and I suspect it’s a Rails 3 thing.

In the spirit of giving back (and because I needed it), I hacked up an alternative that’s working pretty nicely for us on a new project (replacing our blog in Radiant with a custom Rails 3 blog). The idea is to check content_for for any content in a helper method and return default content if it’s blank. Here it is as a Github gist, hopefully this loads nicely:

This works because content_for acts as a kind of accessor (both get and set) for the content you pass to it. No need for yield! Which is good, because if you try to call yield inside the helper method, you’ll be treated to the actual Ruby yield, which won’t look kindly on your symbol ;-)

Strip Sync beta Update / Strip v1.4

2010-05-07 20:00:00 -0400

Updated: 6/6/2012 This blog post is out of date, and the software referenced in it, Strip Sync, has been discontinued in favor of Strip for Windows and Strip for OS X.

The beta test is moving along pretty nicely. If you haven’t been sent any files or updates just yet, but you’ve already opted to participate, don’t worry, we’ll hook you up soon! At the moment we’ve got a loose target date of June 1st for general release, although we don’t really know exactly how long it will take for the newest version of Strip to appear in the App Store after we submit it.

The most recent update to Strip Sync is that we’re now supporting bulk updating of existing Entries during the CSV Import process. Simply use the Export feature to dump out a CSV of all your entries, and you’ll see a new column called “EntryID”. This contains what is basically a GUID for each entry, and if you include these rows in an import, the data in the row will cause the entry to be updated. Original CSV spec post has been updated to reflect this.

We’ve also made numerous improvements to the display, work-flow, responsiveness, and memory usage of Strip running on iPhone OS. Even if you don’t want the new Sync features, the improved layout of field labels and data values is so much better, and much easier to read. We’ve finally added a much easier to utilize Copy function for each field on display (no need to drop into edit mode anymore just to copy a password), and similarly for launching applications with a particular piece of data stored in Strip, and this really makes the program a lot easier to use for everyday look-ups.

For instance, you might want to log into your insurance website account. You open up the insurance entry, you see the password row, you just tap it, and a Copy menu comes up, allowing you to copy the password to the system’s “Pasteboard:”

Strip Copy Field

From here, you just want to go to the website so you can use that password:

Strip Launch Url

And if you’re a sysadmin, with perhaps Touch Term installed on your iPhone or iPad (or some other SSH terminal program), you can just use the ssh:// URL scheme (or any other URL scheme) to do your thing. Here’s a similar scenario, involving some system credentials:

Strip Example db

Copy the password for use in the next program:

Strip Copy Example

Now fire up an SSH application:

Strip Example Launch

And the password textfield in this other app (not Strip) allows us to paste the secret password from our clipboard.

Strip Example SSH

An ironic twist: something I did in the most recent beta build of Strip causes this to dial the Phone instead of launching the SSH app, will have a fixed build out early next week, I expect.

SQLCipher Performance and SQLCipherSpeed

2010-05-06 20:00:00 -0400

Recently, we had a query on the the SQLCipher Users’ mailing list inquiring about the performance of a LIKE query, where the user was wondering if SQLCipher’s encryption engine was responsible for poor performance he was seeing in his code. “It depends,” is the cheapest and most accurate answer we could give without seeing his query and the EXPLAIN plan generated by SQLite (no index, for instance, could lead to a full table scan, thus requiring every page to be decrypted). What we do know is that performance of SQLCipher compared to SQLite is really pretty good, and certainly good enough for our needs as application developers.

If you’ve been wondering what kind of performance hit you can expect using SQLCipher as compared to vanilla-SQLite, we’ve published a new tool to help you get an idea. In the end, EXPLAIN and EXPLAIN QUERY PLAN cannot be replaced, but for a quick side-by-side reference to see that we’ve done a half-decent job, check out Stephen’s SQLCipherSpeed. It’s an iPhone OS project that rips through the various SQLite speed tests. I ran it on my crunky iPhone 3G and the results were about what I expected, and pretty interesting:

SQLCipher Speed 1

In this next one, note that there is no performance impact for 2500 selects on an index.

SQLCipher Speed 2

You’re highly encourage to check out the code yourself, and to fork it. It would be really cool if someone added an action button to the results screen to email the data off-device. More tests wouldn’t hurt either.

Some Quick Notes from Virginia

2010-04-09 20:00:00 -0400

I’m still at the RubyNation conference, and it’s going really well. Fantastic conference, really, with a huge presence and backing from Engine Yard. Kudos to all involved, my brain is Chock full of Goodness. Dave Thomas’ keynote was excellent, and all the talks I’ve attended have been exceptional. I’ve also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of many of the speakers and numerous Ruby and Rails Ur-hackers.

In any event, it’s the break just after lunch on day two and I’m giving my brain a code break. Sitting in the sunshine, just inside the lobby, I’m listening to my friends’ new and unreleased album, tapping out a review on my iPhone. Specifically, iPod app is on in the background and I’m tapping away in our new app Codebook, because I like to keep my stupider/unrefined writings really private, and it beats the pants off using Apple’s Notes app.

I think that’s a good measure of whether or not your software is any good! If you don’t use it, why should anybody else?

Active development continues unabated here at Team Z, for those keeping track. An update to Strip Sync for Mac beta will be pushed soon, allows for bulk loading/editing of existing entries via CSV. I think this is the last thing currently missing piece for this utility app.

I’m finding that certain network / sleep events are causing Strip Sync to dump core. Still working out what’s going on there.

Strip Sync for Windows is on the way! Sit tight, we’ll be in touch soon.

Back to the conference. Enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend, temperatures should be up tomorrow ;-)