Random Thoughts by Fabien Penso

2016

TL;DR — I joined Stuart in 2015 as a CTO, and the first big decision I had to take was moving away from the legacy codebase. How do you do that live, while growing business? This is some of the ideas we had allowing us to successfully transition from a PHP codebase to our new Ruby Stack. This post follows a talk I did at Kikk (video available) and 50Partners.

This is not a comparaison between PHP and Ruby, and I see nothing wrong in using any of those. We’re actually looking at adding other languages to our stack like Elixir, Go or more Node.js as they all have very good use cases.

Stuart is always hiring coders and you should talk to me if you’d like to be part of it. We offer competitive salaries, a good environment and allow remotes.

I am also available if you need a speaker at a conference.

TL;DR — I’ve decided to sunset Faast, the Push app I’ve been running for years. Expect it to stop working within weeks, probably by the end of April. I’ll switch to using Reeder myself for my RSS feeds, I didn’t find anything for push.

Faast is a push application I’ve created years ago, with its previous version Push4 back to 2009. The Appstore has changed a lot since, and you’ve probably already read many blog posts from indie developers saying they can’t make a living from it. That’s true now more than ever, and the only sustainable way to be an iOS developer full time is to freelance for other bigger brands (I’m glad I don’t have to do that, I’ve been a CTO for various projects for years).

I’ve been running Faast at my loss for years, mostly because I use it daily. The difference between Faast and most other mobile apps is it required servers, and those are very expensive to run. They gathered RSS feeds, tweets and emails for you, and sent pushes through Apple Push Notification servers. Faast had a specific case: it required high server-wise skills, and high frontend-wise skills as well. I know both sides, but it still involves way too much work and Apple makes it hard for developers. You have to spend time every year to update your app, add features and make sure new iOS releases don’t break your app.

AppStore users aren’t willing to pay for products any more, unless it includes candies and expensive in-app purchases for skipping levels. They don’t understand how difficult it is to write an application like Faast, and they complain very easily without remembering the app developer is a real Human, who they don’t need to threat. I’m happy to be out of the Apple Appstore too.

I’d like to publicly thanks K. Payandeh who designed the Application icon and helped so much about the design. I love this icon and I’m sad to see it go, it felt like part of my iPhone for so long.

2015

TL;DR — If you think paying more at DigitalOcean gets you more CPU or IO, think again. The 512M instance gets you the most bang for your bucks, and is the best virtual server price/performance wise within multiple providers as long as you can manage the RAM limitation and the disk size.

I’ve recently joined Cloudscreener as the CTO. We benchmark public cloud providers, look at what CPU/RAM/IO performance you get from each instance types, and what ratio (bang for your buck) you get for each of them. We do this on 12 public providers, on multiple regions and most instance types. Our product isn’t publicly available yet, but you can get early access visiting our product page and registering for free. At the time of this blog post, this is not fully optimized and you may experience slow page loading. I suggest trying later or waiting we optimize it within the next week.

TL;DR — I started writing this article a long time ago while I was working for @mickael at ProcessOne. I never finished this article and a few things changed since but it might still help you to do realtime analytics for your service.

Just looking for the code? Check this github repository.

I’ve just acquired two new screens, one for work: The 34” LG 34UC97 and one for home: the 4k 27” DELL P2715Q. If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested by one of them. Here is my feedback after a few months of use on each. I kept both, for different purpose.

While reading forums about those, I’ve changed my mind and I’m glad I did. At first I was looking for a larger screen for my new office and my MacBook 13” retina, and I had already selected the DELL 4k. That laptop can drive it at 60Hz, and I thought retina would be a nice feature. But watching reviews I ended up watching this video and I changed my mind.

Retina is a nice feature, but it doesn’t change the way you work. It doesn’t improve productivity. I remember the day I switched from a 24” to a Dell 30” in 2008, and the wow effect when I put that new screen on my desk. At first I actually thought I got too big, but a few days later and I was converted. I remember gaining productivity, and a few researches tend to prove it (google for more).

TL;DR — I spent years running this blog, and if you look at my page rank or search for any subject I blogged about, you’ll find out I’ve achieved a pretty good score. This is a list of tricks I did to achieve this.

Recently I moved my Blog from WordPress to Jekyll, and got the feeling to blog again. I’ve always blogged for years, but Facebook, Twitter and other social networks kind of took over for short thoughts1. And I only had short thoughts the past years.

Improving your blog visibility can be summarized in 6 steps:

  1. Make your website load as fast as possible
  2. Generate clean HTML, include meta description tags and clear title
  3. Integrate social networks metas for Twitter and Facebook
  4. Sitemaps, to help search Engines
  5. Microformats
  6. RSS Feeds and ping the oustide World once you wrote new content
  1. I do read blogs a lot through my Faast iOS app, actually I follow about 600 feeds realtime. 

I used to use VMWare with a Debian guest for all my Rails development. It allowed me to have a similar configuration than on my servers, and contained my code so I could update my MacOS laptop or move my development computer without losing any time reinstalling anything except VMware.

However a coworker would have to install VMWare and his own Linux to start coding (or use anything else of his choice). Vagrant allows you to commit your Vagrantfile inside your git repository, making sure everyone use the same environment and allowing your new coworker to start coding right away after a simple vagrant up.

The following Vagrantfile for Rails allows just that. It sets a root password for MySQL without the need to use the ncurses interface, installs rvm and runs bundler. If you want to reuse this you should:

2014

TL;DR — I bought standard PC hardware components and I’m waiting for its delivery to install MacOSX and use this hackintosh as my daily development setup.

My currently daily computer is a a Mac mini mid-2011 I bought as I was waiting for a new MacPro. At the time no one knew Apple would release the new trash can MacPro and since I really wanted thunderbolt I didn’t want to invest into the existing MacPro who had not seen updates for a long time.

I got a Mac mini waiting for a new powerful computer, and an external raid5 FW800 disks for my photos (currently using about 3TB). That was a temporary setup, but the temporary did last 4 years. A Dell 30” screen died on the way (I fixed it myself later on) and I got the 27” Thunderbolt Display. Going from 30” to 27” was actually harder than I thought.

TL;DR — I reduced deploy times from 5 minutes to less than 15 seconds by replacing the standard Capistrano deploy tasks with a simpler, Git-based workflow and avoiding slow, unnecessary work.1

I worked on this deploy recipes while working for @mickael from ProcessOne. If you enjoy challenges and look for a Ruby job, you should talk to us.

I’ve recently went from 5 minutes to about 15 seconds for my deploys. That feels much better… Spending minutes (or longer) for deploying a regular Rails application was pissing me off, I want to deploy within seconds. This great article from Code Climate convinced me I should just change the way capistrano works, and do it my own way.

What I thought would take me a few hours work ended up taking me days of full time work, and a lot of hassles. I first looked at recap, but it’s based on capistrano2, looked at mina but it’s single host based. Fabric seems nice but I didn’t feel like it either.

  1. This quote is stolen from this great article from Code Climate. It’s also the article who convinced me to do the same way they did, except they used capistrano2 and I used capistrano3