Posts in category development - page 2

WordPress to Jekyll part 1 - My history and reasoning

Part of my series on migrating from WordPress to Jekyll.

  1. My history & reasoning
  2. Comments & commenting
  3. Site search
  4. Categories & tags
  5. Hosting & building

It’s hard to believe it was 13 years ago back in a cold December on the little island of Guernsey when I decided to start blogging. I’d had a static site with a few odd musings on it since 2000 but this was to be conversational, regularly updated and with more technical content. Blogspot seemed the easiest way to get started.

Briefly hosted at home

Within 18 months of regular blogging I’d moved over to Subtext which being a .NET app required Windows hosting so threw it on a small Shuttle PC on my home DSL. This is where I started using it as an experiment for CSS and web techniques but within a year I’d had my 1MB DSL brought to it’s knees twice through articles being featured on Boing Boing.

I did however contribute a little to the project and started chatting with the maintainer - Phil Haack - who I’d end up meeting when we both joined Microsoft years later and is a friend to this day.

Landing on WordPress

DamienG theme in 2008 In 2007 I migrated to a PHP based CMS that was making a name for itself called WordPress. My blog would remain on WordPress for 10 years across shared hosting, VMs and dedicated servers.

One server was caught in an explosion at the ISP, another time my site got pwned through a WordPress vulnerability. I switched themes several times before creating my own super-light MootStrap theme based around the BootStrap 2 layout and nav bar. I messed with wp-SuperCache trying to improve performance and scalability before switching out the PHP engine for HHVM as well as using NGINX instead of Apache and MariaDB instead of MySQL all in an attempt to eek out a bit of extra performance.

While my theme lives on today - for now at least - MootStrap and PHP are no more as I switched over to the Jekyll static site generator earlier this month after a long meandering journey to get there.

Why Jekyll?

I’ve had a lot of success with Jekyll on some other sites I run. Hosting it on GitHub pages or S3 with a CloudFront brings a lot of benefit:

  1. Cost - S3 and CloudFront cost pennies rather than $40+ a month
  2. Security - there’s no code running to be exploited, no WordPress plug-in back-doors
  3. Speed - CloudFront is a geo-distributed CDN and S3 is no slouch either
  4. Editing - text files are easier to process, find, manipulate and markdown much easier to write

The price aspect is definitely worth mentioning again. With the occasional bursts in traffic my site hosting generally worked out around $40 a month for a decent VM. On AWS I’m expecting it to max out at $3 despite these improvements and benefits.

Of course part of the other reason is static site generators are interesting and I like to play.

Some challenges

Jekyll is a static site generator. That is you run the tool somewhere and it produces plain html files with zero server-side code left in them. By its very nature is going to not have support for:

  • Comments - No way to accept or render them
  • Search - No site search facility
  • URL control - Difficult to match the paging/tags/categories with default plugins

Surprisingly however there are blog-friendly facilities where static generation can support it, specifically:


Comma-separated parameter values in WebAPI

The model binding mechanism in ASP.NET is pretty slick - it’s clever and highly extensible and built on TypeDescriptor system for all sorts of re-use that lets you get out of having to write boilerplate code to map between CLR objects and their web representations.

One surprising thing however is that out of the box neither WebAPI or MVC support comma-separated parameter values when bound to an array, e.g.

public class MyController : Controller {
    public string Page([FromUri]int[] ids) {
        return String.Join(" ; ", ids);

Will only return 1 ; 2 ; 3 when supplied with /my/page?ids=1&ids=2&ids=3 and if you instead give it /my/page?ids=1,2,3 it will fail.

The reason for this was likely because there isn’t a standard for this at all and that the former - supported - scenario maps to what forms do when they post multiple value selections such as that in a select list box. The latter however is much more readable and is expected by some client frameworks and supported by some other web frameworks such as the Java Spring MVC framework.

Of course that extensible system lets us easily extend this behavior so that we can support both transparently - and interestingly enough - even mix-and-match on the same URL. So for example;

/my/page?ids=1,2&ids=3 will now return 1 ; 2 ; 3 in our example.

Although this supports both types if you are currently using commas in your number format this would break your app. e.g. ?ids=1,200&ids=3,500 would have been correctly received as 1200, 500 but now would be incorrectly received as 1, 200, 3, 500

CommaSeparatedArrayModelBinder class

The source is available in the DamienGKit project but also here.

Out of the box it supports integer types and Guid’s although you could extend it to floats and decimals – again just be careful with that formatting!

public class CommaSeparatedArrayModelBinder : IModelBinder {
    private static readonly Type[] supportedElementTypes = {
        typeof(int), typeof(long), typeof(short), typeof(byte),
        typeof(uint), typeof(ulong), typeof(ushort), typeof(Guid)

    public bool BindModel(HttpActionContext actionContext, ModelBindingContext bindingContext) {
        if (!IsSupportedModelType(bindingContext.ModelType)) return false;
        var valueProviderResult = bindingContext.ValueProvider.GetValue(bindingContext.ModelName);
        var stringArray = valueProviderResult?.AttemptedValue
            ?.Split(new[] { ',' }, StringSplitOptions.RemoveEmptyEntries);
        if (stringArray == null) return false;
        var elementType = bindingContext.ModelType.GetElementType();
        if (elementType == null) return false;

        bindingContext.Model = CopyAndConvertArray(stringArray, elementType);
        return true;

    private static Array CopyAndConvertArray(IReadOnlyList<string> sourceArray, Type elementType) {
        var targetArray = Array.CreateInstance(elementType, sourceArray.Count);
        if (sourceArray.Count > 0) {
            var converter = TypeDescriptor.GetConverter(elementType);
            for (var i = 0; i < sourceArray.Count; i++)
                targetArray.SetValue(converter.ConvertFromString(sourceArray[i]), i);
        return targetArray;

    internal static bool IsSupportedModelType(Type modelType) {
        return modelType.IsArray && modelType.GetArrayRank() == 1
                && modelType.HasElementType
                && supportedElementTypes.Contains(modelType.GetElementType());


public class CommaSeparatedArrayModelBinderProvider : ModelBinderProvider {
    public override IModelBinder GetBinder(HttpConfiguration configuration, Type modelType) {
        return CommaSeparatedArrayModelBinder.IsSupportedModelType(modelType)
            ? new CommaSeparatedArrayModelBinder() : null;

To register

It’s necessary to register ModelBinderProviders with your ASP.NET application at start-up - usually in the WebApiConfig.cs file.

public static class WebApiConfig {
    public static void Register(HttpConfiguration config) {
        // All your usual configuration up here
        config.Services.Insert(typeof(ModelBinderProvider), 0, new CommaSeparatedArrayModelBinderProvider());


Download files with progress in Electron via window.fetch

Working on Atom lately I need to be able to download files to disk. We have a couple of ways to do this today but they do not show download progress which leads to confusion and sometimes frustration on larger downloads such as updates or big packages.

There are many npm libraries out there but they either don’t expose a progress indicator or they bypass Chrome (thus not using proxy settings, caching and network inspector) by using node directly.

I’m also not a fan of sprawling dependencies to achieve what can be done simply in a function or two.

Hello window.fetch

window.fetch is a replacement for XMLHttpRequest currently shipping in Chrome (and therefore Electron) as well as a whatWG living standard. While there is some documentation around most of it relies on grabbing the entire content as JSON, a blob or text. This is not advised for streaming where the files might be large and you want to not only minimize memory impact but also display a progress indicator to your users.

Thankfully window.fetch has a getReader() function that will give you a ReadableStreamReader although this reads in chunks (32KB on my machine) and isn’t compatible with Node’s streams, pipes and data events.

Download function

With a little work though we can wire these two things up to get us a file downloader that has no extra dependencies outside of Electron, honors the Chrome cache, proxy and network inspector and best of all is incredibly easy to use;

import fs from 'fs';

export default async function download(sourceUrl, targetFile, progressCallback, length) {
  const request = new Request(sourceUrl, {
    headers: new Headers({'Content-Type': 'application/octet-stream'})

  const response = await fetch(request);
  if (!response.ok) {
    throw Error(`Unable to download, server returned ${response.status} ${response.statusText}`);

  const body = response.body;
  if (body == null) {
    throw Error('No response body');

  const finalLength = length || parseInt(response.headers.get('Content-Length' || '0'), 10);
  const reader = body.getReader();
  const writer = fs.createWriteStream(targetFile);

  await streamWithProgress(finalLength, reader, writer, progressCallback);

async function streamWithProgress(length, reader, writer, progressCallback) {
  let bytesDone = 0;

  while (true) {
    const result = await;
    if (result.done) {
      if (progressCallback != null) {
        progressCallback(length, 100);
    const chunk = result.value;
    if (chunk == null) {
      throw Error('Empty chunk received during download');
    } else {
      if (progressCallback != null) {
        bytesDone += chunk.byteLength;
        const percent = length === 0 ? null : Math.floor(bytesDone / length * 100);
        progressCallback(bytesDone, percent);

A FlowType annotated version is also available.

Using it

Using it is simplicity - call it with a URL to download and a local file name to save it as along with an optional callback that will receive download progress.'', '', (bytes, percent) => console.log(`Downloaded ${bytes} (${percent})`));


Some servers do not send the Content-Length header. You have two options if this applies to you;

  1. Don’t display a percentage just the KB downloaded count (percentage will be null in the callback)
  2. Bake-in the file size if it’s a static URL - just pass in as final parameter to the download function



Random tips for PowerShell, Bash & AWS

Now freelance again I find myself solving a variety of unusual issues many of which I could find no online solutions for.

Given these no doubt plague other developers let’s share!

Pass quoted args from BAT/CMD files to PowerShell

Grabbing args from a batch/command files is easy – just use %* – but have you ever tried passing them to PowerShell like:

powershell "Something" "%*"

Unfortunately if one of your arguments has quotes around it (a filename with a space perhaps) then it becomes two separate arguments. e.g. "My File.txt" now becomes My and File.txt.

PowerShell will only preserve is if you use the -f option (to run a .PS1 file) but that requires a relaxed policy via Set-ExecutionPolicy and so is a no-go for many people.

Given you can’t make PowerShell do the right thing with the args the trick here is to not pass them as args at all!

powershell -ArgumentList "$env:MYPSARGS"

Get Bash script path as Windows path

While Cygwin ships with cygpath to convert /c/something to c:\Something etc. MSYS Bash shells do not have this. However you can get it another way there:

pushd "$(dirname "$0")" &gt; /dev/null
if command -v "cygpath" &gt; /dev/null; then
  WINPWD=""$(cygpath . -a -w)""
  WINPWD=""$(pwd -W)""
popd &gt; /dev/null
echo $WINPWD

This works by switching the working directory to the one the script is in "$(dirname "$0")" and then capturing the print-working-directory command output using the -W option that grabs it in Windows format. It then pops the working directory to make sure it goes back to where it was.

Note that this uses forward slashes as a directory separator still – a lot of stuff is okay with that but older apps and tools are not.

JSON encoding in API Gateway mapping templates

Using Amazon’s AWS Lambda you’ll also find yourself touching API Gateway and while most of it is great the mapping templates are quite deficient in that they do not encode output by default despite specifying the MIME types.

All of Amazon’s example templates are exploitable via JSON injection. Just put a double-quote in a field and start writing your own JSON payload.

Amazon must fix this – encode by default like other templating systems have done such as ASP.NET Razor. Until then some recommend the Amazon-provided $util.escapeJavaScript() however while it encodes " as \" it also produces illegal JSON by encoding ' as \' .

The mapping language is Apache Velocity Template Language (VTL) and while not extendable the fine-print reveals that it internally uses Java strings and does not sandbox us. This let’s us utilize Java’s replace functionality:

#set($i = $input.path('$'))
   "safeString": "$i.unsafeString.replaceAll("\""", "\\""")

Show active known IPs on local network

I’m surprised more people don’t know how useful arp -a is especially if you pipe it into ping…


arp -a | grep -o '[0-9]\{1,3\}\.[0-9]\{1,3\}\.[0-9]\{1,3\}\.[0-9]\{1,3\}' | xargs -L1 ping -c 1 -t 1 | sed -n -e 's/^.*bytes from //p'


(arp -a) -match "dynamic" | Foreach { ping -n 1 -w 1000 ($_ -split "\s+")[1] } | where { $_ -match "Reply from " } | % { $_.replace("Reply from ","") }

Wrapping up

I just want to mention that if you are doing anything on a command-line be it Bash, OS X, PowerShell or Command/Batch then SS64 is a site worth visiting as they have great docs on many of these things!