About Me

Curriculum Vitae

A brief list of my current skill set


Gosh This Site Is Old
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 22:08

I might update this one day, but until I do take a lot of it with a pinch of salt!

Automatically Cropping Images is Hard
Monday, 21st October 2013, 19:00

But maybe we can use face detection?

The Git Cheat Sheet
Friday, 6th September 2013, 11:30

for github, bitbucket, that kinda stuff

CoffeeScript and TypeScript are a Burden
Saturday, 17th August 2013, 11:21

Be sure you understand the cons as well as the pros

Changing the Order of the jQuery Event Queue
Wednesday, 3rd July 2013, 20:27

It's just a push to the left

How Do Spammers Get My Email Address?
Wednesday, 15th May 2013, 18:03

I think these days I have a pretty good idea

XSLT, node.js 0.10 and a Fun Two Days of Native Modules and Memory Leaks
Thursday, 25th April 2013, 17:14

documentation makes things less cryptic, so lets not write much of it

Fixing CentOS high cpu usage when running as a virtual machine under VirtualBox
Sunday, 21st April 2013, 20:28

innotek rocks! I mean Sun... I mean Oracle...

Repairing a dK'Tronics Keyboard and Scoping Out a ZX Spectrum 48k - Part One
Sunday, 17th March 2013, 23:51

What signals inside of it actually look like

Tabs vs Spaces and Why You Should Always Use Tabs
Monday, 4th March 2013, 19:51

Spaces are bad, just real bad

Why you should ban Amazon's Cloud IPs
Thursday, 27th December 2012, 14:50

And how to do it in nginx, Merry Christmas Amazon

Projects and Sillyness

MAME Cabinet Diary

How I built my own arcade cabinet

Loading Screen Simulator

I don't miss the ZX Spectrum, I still use it!

The Little Guy Chat Room

It's a Pitfall inspired chat room


A fully featured MP3 player what I wrote

GP Space Invaders

My first little emulator

GP32 Development Page

Some info and links about this cute little handheld

Disney Nasties

Uncensored images, you must be 18 to view them

Diary of a Hamster

Learn about how hamsters think, first hand


Time Calculator

A simple little online utility for working out how many hours to bill a client

A Few Links

CoffeeScript and TypeScript are a Burden
Saturday, 17th August 2013, 11:21

I try to keep up on new developments in the coding world, or at least the areas I'm most involved with, on a daily basis. Sometimes I read about interesting new libraries and think, hmmm, one day that could be useful. Other times I'll see something and think, hmmm, that may well be the alternative to AngularJS I was looking for, you know the thing that gives me the bits about it I like whilst not forcing me to deal with all the bits I hate.

I think basically what I'm saying here is, I try my best to not be a backward looking stick-in-the-mud who refuses to evaluate new technology fairly and change my ways just because it requires learning new things. I'm all for learning new things.

Just because I have a light-box plug-in that works, doesn't mean I'm not looking at new alternatives. Even though I think jQuery is a great library which is hard to match for functionality, doesn't mean if something else pops up that is better, I wouldn't give it a go immediately if it provided enough support for the browsers I have to target.

I'm all for progress.

What is CoffeeScript?

Simply put, CoffeeScript is, as ridiculous as it sounds, a simplified scripting language that has to be compiled into another scripting language, that being JavaScript.

I'm not exactly sure what it aims to do primarily, but what it does do is take something as simple as this...

    alert "I knew it!" if elvis?

...and compile it into this...

    if (typeof elvis !== "undefined" && elvis !== null) {
alert("I knew it!");

So you can look at it as a whole new scripting language, which standardises and simplifies a number of things in JavaScript, but that compiles into JavaScript.

The website also claims something which is so obviously stupid, so obviously impossibly untrue, that I have to call them up on it at this point. They claim that CoffeeScript:

"tends to run as fast or faster than the equivalent handwritten JavaScript."

This cannot be true for three reasons, firstly CoffeeScript compiles into JavaScript, and therefore can only be as fast as equivalent JavaScript. It's not magic, if the resulting code runs faster than something, then it can't be the equivalent of it. It might be similar, but it can't be the same.

Secondly, there are ways of coding JavaScript which will run faster under one engine but slower under another, so the whole "faster" thing is always going to be relative. And thirdly, it claims it creates "readable" code, and there are a few tricks in JS that make things go faster, but definitely do not produce readable code.

What is TypeScript?

In some ways, TypeScript has more valid aspirations than CoffeeScript, because it seems more aimed at fixing issues with JavaScript than overly simplifying it into a language that looks more like LUA. It seems much more interested in allowing you to define proper classes (rather than pseudo-classes) in a cleaner way, and attempts to offer more C-like type checking.

Languages Are a Compromise

Some people think that the ultimate goal for coding should be the following one line program source:

    create application Photoshop;

And then the compiler would make you a complete version of Photoshop that does everything you wanted. Other people look at the following code and think the world went downhill the moment most coders couldn't understand what it did:

    mov eax, 4
mov ebx, 1
mov ecx, str
mov edx, str_len
int 80h

Of course we need to do things closer to the former for people who don't get any closer to programming than whatever Excel lets them do, and we need things closer to the latter because without which we wouldn't have any software on our Intel computers at all to even run Excel.

But the web world is a slightly special case, because we need languages which are quick and easy to develop complicated web applications in, that can run very fast on the server side in things like Node.js, and be responsive enough on the client side in the browser.

That requirement makes whatever language we use an almost unique compromise between speed and ease of use, which is why JavaScript is such a good language for it. Google's V8 has proved it can do a very good job of compiling JavaScript into machine code on the fly, clearly this cannot be as fast as compiled C code, which in turn can never quite match hand coded ASM, but it's good enough.

So Why Are CoffeeScript and TypeScript bad?

JavaScript isn't that hard a language. Really it isn't, if you struggle with it then maybe coding isn't for you. The point of a language is to control a computer, and the best languages give you complete control.

Using machine code gives you all the control over the computer that the CPU has. Using C/C++ gives you almost the same level of control, at the expense of a bit of speed, since C/C++ compiles into machine code and most compilers let you add assembly inline if you need to.

JavaScript is nowhere near that low level, so it isn't anywhere near as complicated. There is no reason to simplify it even further with something like CoffeeScript, especially as when it comes to debugging things you have to look at the generated JavaScript anyway.

That point alone makes CoffeeScript just plain stupid, because everybody spends a significant portion of their time debugging. Of course you might be way smarter than me, and happy to keep two sets of visualisations of your code in your head at the same time as you debug. I will admit tho, I'm not that smart.

So why are you using it? Because you like the code it outputs? Just write your own JavaScript that way then, what's the point in adding this extra step? To save you typing? Just get a decent text editor which supports templates then, or copy and paste your patterns.

Anytime you spend with CoffeeScript is time better spent learning more about JavaScript, and if you think you already know everything about JavaScript and are simply using CoffeeScript to save typing, then you probably don't. Good coders use the best tool for the job, not the one that requires the least typing.

And the whole debugging point also applies to TypeScript. Sure the type checking it adds is very nice, but just bear in mind that is a substitute for knowledge about how your code is working and how JavaScript deals with things. You might be crying out that using TypeScript means you don't have to worry about a number of normal JavaScript things.

The thing is, you do, even if you don't think you do, you really do. The only exception to this is possibly where you have reinvented the entire wheel and not used a single JS library from any other source. Any other time, you need to be thinking clearly in one language, not two. Not having to worry about something stops you worrying about it, but using third party libraries means you should still be worrying about it.

I've lost count of how many times documentation for a library I'm using has been inconsistent, or thin on the ground. I know from releasing my own libraries the amount of time it takes to add information on how it works, people mostly do this sort of thing for free in their spare time, so you can never rely on the fact they added the extra overhead to list how stuff works properly or well.

What I'm saying here is if you use other people's code, stuff won't always work, or work how you expect, and you need to go poking around in there to find out why or how. If you spend your time in a different language, and both TypeScript and CoffeeScript are essentially different languages, then switching between the two is going to slow you down.

Yes But...?

I think basically what I'm trying to say is, there isn't any compelling reason I can think of to use CoffeeScript or TypeScript. There may be nice features in both, but none of them are remotely necessary. JavaScript really is not that hard a language, and it can do some really funky interesting things.

Any time you spend using pseudo-languages like the aforementioned, is time wasted. You could be learning about getters and setters, or interesting new usage patterns for objects, or just plain learning the basics that keep catching you out when simple logic statements don't quite work how you expected.

The better you get at JavaScript itself, the quicker you will develop code and the easier it will be to debug it. These alternatives might help you make less mistakes, but mistakes are how you learn, and the more you learn about JS the quicker you'll read it, and the quicker you read it the easier you will be able to understand other people's code.

And the faster you'll find your bugs, and the faster you'll find bugs in other people's code, and the better everything you do will be all round.


posted by patrick on Sunday, 10th November 2013, 15:29

I agree with your analysis. Typescript is a gimmick and another way to justify a salary of a substandard developer from somewhere in jungles.

posted by Robee on Sunday, 10th November 2013, 19:27

I'm not sure quite what you mean by "in jungles". :o

posted by adrian on Monday, 14th April 2014, 15:52

gheez. i use lattescript. coffeescript is so totally like lame and 2000-and-late.

it seems like coffeescript was invented because javascript makes your work life dead boring.

posted by Robee on Monday, 14th April 2014, 17:22

Oh my, there is a lattescript language too. :o I need to invent teascript to even things out.

posted by maximko on Thursday, 4th September 2014, 10:22

you just do not know how types work %)
go code something in assembly, lol

posted by uglycoyote on Tuesday, 7th October 2014, 23:56

it's obvious from your high quality website that you have truly mastered the craft of web development. Therefore i agree with your assessment of these technologies.

posted by Robee on Wednesday, 8th October 2014, 07:55

The trouble with sarcasm, is it works best when your experience doesn't limit you to misunderstandings like web development being the same as web design.

I guess you'd take me more seriously if I downloaded a bootstrap template and shoved it into wordpress, but who ever said I wanted to be taken seriously? :)

posted by djolord on Sunday, 8th February 2015, 22:20

Thank you for your post. You helped me put my feelings into words. They have been talking about wanting to start using TypeScript at work and I've been against it, but not for any reason that I could explain. I agree with you, it feels like one is better served learning and writing better Javascript than spending time with something that tries to distance you from it. I think people are sometimes too quick to hop on every technology out there regardless of its suitability.

posted by Robee on Sunday, 8th February 2015, 22:44

Aye, JavaScript isn't perfect, but obfuscating it doesn't help. Plus you'll have a larger pool to recruit from if you avoid TypeScript, etc, and I'd actually go so far as to say you'll have significantly weaker coders if you recruit TS/CS applicants.

posted by Yankovsky on Wednesday, 18th March 2015, 12:09

I use coffee on big projects because it is more expressive than plain js. Write less, do more. Learning curve is really low.

posted by doz on Monday, 7th December 2015, 22:51

Agree with this whole assessment. I am tired of silly developers reinventing the wheel then spending the rest of their life trying to impose their silly new approach on the rest of us.

However, while I much prefer to use jquery, Microsoft gave us c# in Silverlight, which many of us ignored in favour of jquery/javascript. I believe this is because everyone became anti Microsoft. Now we have a weekly typed interpretive language, javescript/jquery and every man and his dog trying to abstract from it. What a mess.

posted by Robee on Monday, 7th December 2015, 23:12

c# is kind of reinventing the wheel again too. :)

Silverlight was Microsoft's answer to Flash, neither of them was a good idea. Sure we got video (and the odd flash game) out of it, but look at all the awful advertising, security exploits and badly designed websites we got too.

I disagree with the need for typed interpreted languages, I think a lot of people have forgotten why typing was so important in the first place. A decent test suite removes most of the reasons for it, and shoving the data in a RDB removes most of the rest.

Yes, languages that compile into machine code, typing is important. But I've yet to see a decent reason for strong typing in interpreted languages beyond "it stops bad programmers doing stupid things." Maybe that's a good reason though, if you happen to be in a company that has bad coders. :)

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