Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Talking TypeScript on the .NET Rocks! Podcast

I appeared on the .NET Rocks podcast show #1149 this week.  I had a blast talking about TypeScript, the new ES6 features coming in TypeScript 1.5, and grunt-ts, our TypeScript compiler task for Grunt.

I wanted to add a few things.

Firstly, here are a number of additional links that are relevant to our discussion:

My Pluralsight Course: Practical TypeScript Migration
Great review of what it's been like working with TypeScript over 24 months:  http://tedpatrick.com/2014/10/16/24-months-with-typescript/
Destructuring in ES6: https://hacks.mozilla.org/2015/05/es6-in-depth-destructuring/
Get started with grunt-ts if you've never used Grunt: https://github.com/TypeStrong/grunt-ts/blob/master/docs/DetailedGettingStartedInstructions.md
Node Inspector - debug Node.js code in the Chrome Dev Tools - works great with TypeScript also: https://github.com/node-inspector/node-inspector
Download TypeScript 1.5 beta for Visual Studio 2013 (transpiles much of ES6): https://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/107f89a0-a542-4264-b0a9-eb91037cf7af
Download TypeScript 1.4 for Visual Studio 2013 (current official release with minimal ES6 transpilation support): https://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/2d42d8dc-e085-45eb-a30b-3f7d50d55304

Around the 10 minute mark, I said that you should put type annotations on function calls.  That would be awful – I meant to say you should put type annotations on function declarations.

Around the 20 minute mark, I said that you can use ES6 features today with TypeScript 1.5 because it offers some transpilation features.  Richard then said transpilation was interesting because (paraphrasing) "when browsers come out with finished ES6 implementations, your page should go faster", and I sort of disagreed.  The reason is that transpiling actually changes your code from using one pattern to code using a different pattern.  Richard's statement was correct with regards to polyfills which is something that a dynamic language like JavaScript makes possible.  Developers who create polyfills attempt to implement future features in legacy environments.  For example, in ES6, there is a new `hypot` method on the JavaScript Math object, so Math.hypot(3,4) === 5.  A polyfill could be created for that feature to work in ES5 fairly easily.  A well-written polyfill would check to see if there was already a hypot property on the Math object; if so, it would just fall back to the native implementation which would (theoretically) be faster (though for something simple like a hypotenuse calculation it'd likely be no different).

Features that there's no way to polyfill require transpilation.  For example: class MyClass { }.  There is no (usable) class keyword in ES5, and so there is no way to create something in ES5 at runtime that would allow that code to run and do something reasonable; the syntax just doesn't exist.  That's why the transpilers have to change that code into a function declaration.  Since it becomes a function declaration, there's no way to natively optimize it as a class (beyond general optimizations for constructor function patterns that the engines would already have).  So for transpiled features, if you want to let the engine act natively, you'd have to dynamically serve the right code to the right engines - or (more practically) just serve the lowest common denominator like ES5 to all, which generally works great in today's browsers.

// Here's a cool destructuring example:
// This is valid TypeScript (in 1.5) and JavaScript (ES6)
// TypeScript will compile it down to work correctly with ES5
//  by creating a "normal" parameter in the signature of doSomething
//  and add code in the body to pull out its baz property.

var myObject = {
  foo: 1,
  bar: false,
  baz: "hello"

function doSomething({ baz }) {

doSomething(myObject); // hello

I said something silly around the 36 minute mark: "convert the inside of a tight loop first"; that's a very bad idea and doesn't even really make sense. :-(  What I should have said is "convert something central to your application first - like a common utilities library or a configuration file".  The reason for converting "from the inside out" as I recommend is that each new thing you convert will infer many types from the things that have already been typed.  As you grow the scope of TypeScript in your application, you will begin to find that you need to annotate less and less (other than function signatures) - and the things you do need to annotate may even be errors.  I feel that annotating function signatures is something that ultimately helps you write better code since it leads to compiler-enforced documentation, and it's usually necessary if you've activated --noImplicitAny.

Around the 51 minute mark, I was talking about how TypeScript doesn't help people enough with regards to componentizing projects of medium complexity and I misspoke a few times by using the word Solution (meaning a Visual Studio Solution) when I meant to say Project (meaning a Visual Studio Project).  TypeScript works great within a single Visual Studio project - the trouble comes when you want to use TypeScript across projects (like in a large/complex solution).  There are many hacky workarounds to this, but I still don't know of a great "this is the obviously right way to do it" story; I hope that the TypeScript team and the community will eventually put together a great solution for this.

I had a great time appearing on the podcast – thanks for the opportunity!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Excel 2013 Conditional Formatting for Columns

If you have two columns in an Excel sheet, and you want to conditionally format fields in the second column when the values are not equal, do this:
Our starting point – we want Grape to be highlighted because it is not the same as Cherry.
Select all of column B by clicking the header.  On the Home tab, click Conditional Formatting… New Rule.
Choose “Format only cells that contain”, and “Cell Value” “not equal to” “=A1”.  Note that putting the “=” is very important because otherwise Excel will think you’re comparing it to the string literal “A1”.
Then click “Format…” and select the appropriate formatting (such as setting a fill color).
Then click OK and OK.
Note: If you don’t want the header to be highlighted, you can apply the conditional formatting to only the cells with actual data, but you will have to adjust the corresponding comparison row in the formula.  In our example, we might apply the conditional formatting to cells B$2$:B$5$ (which starts at row 2), but we’d have to set the formula to “not equal to” “=A2” (also starts at row 2).  If you want to select down to the end of the sheet, your selection formula would be something like =$B$2:$B$1048576 on the Excel 2007+ “big grid”.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Enabling Portable Git in Node.js command prompt on Windows

GitHub for Windows doesn't put Git in the PATH by default.  If you'd like your Node.js command prompt to have the git command available by default, simply edit your nodevars.bat file.  By default, this is in C:\Program Files\nodejs\.  You will have to run your text editor in an administrative context for this to work.

Replace this line in your nodevars.bat file:
set PATH=%APPDATA%\npm;%~dp0;%PATH%

With these two lines:

for /F %%A in ('"dir /s /b /OD %userprofile%\appdata\local\github\portableGit_*"') do set gitPath=%%A\bin
set PATH=%APPDATA%\npm;%~dp0;%PATH%;%gitPath%

See this gist for an easier-to-copy version:


That will set a variable called %gitPath% with the location of git.exe, and then append it at the end of your path in the Node.js command prompt.  Because of the /OD switch, it will use the version of Portable Git whose folder has the latest modified date.  If Portable Git is not found, you will get a harmless extra ; in the PATH.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Using an alternate TypeScript compiler inside Visual Studio

TypeScript team member Daniel Rosenwasser provided instructions for replacing the TypeScript compiler and language service used by Visual Studio here:


He also described how to update the lib.d.ts file later in the same issue:


These instructions are not guaranteed to work, so be sure to back up your original files.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gmail and Match.com are Conspiring to Breakup My Marriage

My wife and I are happily married.  Both of us were surprised the other day when she started getting Match.com personals results sent to her GMail account!  She was a bit freaked out that it was some creepy malicious person, but it seems that it was just some end-user carelessness (by someone we don’t know) combined with inconsistent email address parsing implementations between two big companies.  Here's what happened.

An "interesting" feature of consumer GMail is that it ignores dots in email addresses.  So if you send an email to homer.j.simpson@gmail.com, or hom.er.j.sim.ps.on@gmail.com, your message will be delivered to the same GMail inbox.  (documented here: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/10313?hl=en)  However, any messages that you send are always delivered as the "official" email address - whatever you actually typed in when you signed-up for GMail.

It seems that someone else with a similar email address to my wife signed-up for Match.com and entered an incorrect email account.  No big deal – I'm sure this happens all the time – but what's bad is that they used an email address that was the same as my wife's but with no dots.  So it's the “same” for incoming mail, but “different” than my wife’s email address when she sends mail.

We reported the problem, but sadly the robo-support at Match.com has been unhelpful so far.  When she tries to explain what is going on, she’s getting back messages from support saying that she’s not the owner of the account (because the email address is different), so there’s nothing that can be done.  But of course she is the owner of the account based on the way GMail handles dots – it’s just not an exact string match.  I can't imagine this is the first time this has ever happened, and you'd think a company as big as Match.com would account for an oddity like this for a big email provider like GMail.

My wife and I met on Match.com many years ago and we were very happy with their service at that time.  If a human from Match.com spots this, please take a closer look at Incident:141126-001205.  (I guess this was the 1205th ticket from November 26…)  We’d love it if you could close out the account that was recently mistakenly registered.  I’m sure that other person has opened a different account already and you could probably verify that by IP.

Email address as a unique identifier – what could possibly go wrong?

Let’s invent our own email standards – because reasons!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Setting up WebStorm to debug grunt with TypeScript

It’s possible to use the WebStorm editor to debug grunt tasks if you are using TypeScript and generating .map files.  Assuming that grunt is already launching from the command line, here’s how to step into the debugger:
  • Open your project’s folder in WebStorm.
  • Click Run… Edit Configurations…
  • Add a new configuration for Node.js (the green + sign)
  • Name it “Debug Grunt”
  • Set the JavaScript File to C:\Users\YOUR_USER_ID_GOES_HERE\AppData\Roaming\npm\node_modules\grunt-cli\bin\grunt (make sure you update this path with your user ID)
  • Set the application parameters to the grunt task you wish to debug, for example dev or just leave blank if it is default.
a screenshot of the Run... Edit Configuration window after following this procedure.

Now you should be able to hit breakpoints when running the Debug Grunt task.  WebStorm is also smart enough to notice if your JavaScript has a map file that points to a TypeScript file; if it does, you can even set breakpoints in the TypeScript code.

Thanks to Diego and everyone else who answered this question on Stack Overflow.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Add-on for SSMS: T-SQL Flex

Do you ever copy query results out of SQL Server Management Studio, paste them into your text editor, and then perform gold-medal find + replace gymnastics to create T-SQL scripts?

Do you ever need to copy a small amount of data from one SQL server to another, but don’t want to set up a linked server or take the time to create an SSIS package?

Do you ever need to create simple Excel sheets from SQL Server queries – preferably one tab per query result and with valid formatting (such as showing dates correctly and not truncating leading zeros)?

Have you ever wanted to quickly script a temp table that has the exact schema (including nullability and precision) of a query, stored procedure, or table-valued function?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there is a new add-on available for SQL Server Management Studio that you may like called T-SQL Flex.


T-SQL Flex is a free, open-source add-on for SQL Server Management Studio that does only two things:

  1. It scripts SQL query results to INSERT statements.
  2. It scripts SQL query results to Excel-compatible spreadsheets (specifically, XML Spreadsheet 2003 format).

Because T-SQL Flex does only these two things, it is very easy to use.  Simply paste in your query and click the “Run ‘n’ Rollback” button.  T-SQL Flex will create an ADO.NET transaction, run your query, collect the results, and then roll back the transaction.

You can check out the latest release here:


If you like T-SQL Flex, please let Steve know on Twitter:


Thanks to the team at Red-Gate that created the SIP framework used by T-SQL Flex.

Happy scripting!