Scoping in JavaScript

I do a lot of programming in Perl, not because I like it, but because the company I work for uses it as its main language. In fact, I hate Perl (it tries to be overly implicit), but I do like how it handles scoping. Any variable declared inside a block (anything surrounded by {} brackets) will be local to that inner-most block. This means that variables declared inside loops, conditionals or even stand-alone {} will not be seen from the outside.

JavaScript will not localize variables like this. Any var declaration will simply be scoped to the inner-most function. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t use (function() {})(); same way you would use the brackets in Perl. In fact, you’re probably already familiar with wrapping chunks of code in the above pattern. Many developers do it to prevent leaking variables into global scope, including Facebook’s Like button:

(function(d, s, id) {
  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1";
  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Similar pattern, however, can also be applied anywhere else in your code. Consider a page, for example, with multiple elements sharing similar element ID structure, varying only by the index used within the ID. We then want to iterate through these elements, giving them all a click-handler. The following jQuery-based code seems like it will do the job:

for (var i=0; i<n; i++) {
    var cachedi = i;
    $('#' + i + '-element').click(function() {
        $('#' + cachedi + '-popup').show();
    })
}

At first glance, this code looks fine. We made sure to cache the index so that cachedi gets the value of i at the time of the function creation rather than using i directly, which would use i at the time of function call (after the loop terminates and i is set to n). However, running the above code we still get all elements attempting to trigger the popup with [n]-popup ID. The problem is that our declaration of cachedi gets moved outside the for loop and the same instance of the variable gets used in every single closure we generate inside the loop. There is an easy work-around, however:

for (var i=0; i<n; i++) {
    (function() {
        var cachedi = i;
        $('#' + i + '-element').click(function() {
            $('#' + cachedi + '-popup').show();
        })
    })();
}

Now our code works as expected. This is a handy trick for anyone wishing saner scoping in JavaScript. In fact, I’d prefer that RapydScript would scope things this way too, but that would contradict Python’s loop scoping. An alternative to this trick (and probably a more orthodox solution in JavaScript) would be to move the cachedi declaration inside the function making use of this closure.

Erlang & Ejabberd on OpenShift

I’m mixing it up a little here – this post is about the backend for our GrafPad site and not related to Python or RapydScript. We will probably be using an XMPP for some new GrafPad features. Sure, there are Python XMPP servers, but we won’t touch the XMPP server code, we’ll only talk to it, so language doesn’t matter. We’re going to use the most proven XMPP server, ejabberd, which happens to written in Erlang. Unfortunately, setting up ejabberd, or any Erlang application for that matter, is a nontrivial task on OpenShift. In most places Erlang likes to automatically bind to 0.0.0.0 and/or 127.0.0.1, which is something not accessible on OpenShift. Even when you provide an IP list to serve on, Erlang interally adds 127.0.0.1. On top of that, Erlang likes to use ports that are not allowed on OpenShift.

ejabberd on OpenShift After messing around for a day or 2, I discovered that these issues cannot be overcome by configs – the changes had to be made in the original Erlang source. Also, fair warning – my goal was to get something working. The solution I have works, but it’s not production ready. I have a repo with the modified Erlang/OTP source, so feel free to make this better!

There are 2 core problems that need to be solved. It turns out the issues all come from 2 things:

  • You cannot bind to 0.0.0.0 or 127.0.0.1
  • The only usuable ports are 8080, and 15000-30000.

Solving these problems is tricky. I originally set out to find everywhere where something binded to 0.0.0.0 or 127.0.0.1 and change where they bind to, but there were still issues starting it up even after changing the values everywhere obvious in the sources (grepping for {0,0,0,0} and 0.0.0.0). I ended up chaging the binding code to change the IP to the $OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP if the address is 0.0.0.0 or 127.0.0.1. I liked this solution a lot better since it accomplishes exactly what I want, and I won’t have to make changes to libraries that try to bind to 0.0.0.0.

So how can you get this setup? It should be pretty easy using my Erlang source. I thought about putting this in a repo that would build when the repo was pushed, but the build takes more than 1 hr so it always gets stopped midway though. I saw messages like Shell command '.../.openshift/action_hooks/build' exceeded timeout of 3516. Instead you have to SSH onto the machine and run the following script manually:

cd $OPENSHIFT_TMP_DIR
wget https://github.com/charleslaw/otp/archive/openshift.zip -O openshift.zip
unzip openshift.zip
cd $OPENSHIFT_TMP_DIR/otp-openshift
sed -i 's/{0,0,0,0}/'"{${OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP//[.]/,}}"'/g'  ./lib/erl_interface/src/connect/eirecv.c
ERL_ROOT=$OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home
./otp_build autoconf
./configure --prefix=$ERL_ROOT --without-termcap
make
make install

After it is done, you can test it by starting epmd and seeing that it works:

$OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home/bin/epmd -address $OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP -debug

Next, you have to install ejabberd. You can do this running this script:

ERL_ROOT=$OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home

cd $OPENSHIFT_TMP_DIR
wget http://downloads.sourceforge.net/expat/expat-2.1.0.tar.gz
tar xzvf expat-2.1.0.tar.gz
cd expat-2.1.0
./configure --prefix=$ERL_ROOT
make
make install

cd $OPENSHIFT_TMP_DIR
wget http://github.com/processone/ejabberd/archive/v2.1.13.tar.gz -O v2.1.13.tar.gz
tar xvf v2.1.13.tar.gz
cd ejabberd-2.1.13/src/
export PATH=$ERL_ROOT/bin:$PATH
./configure --prefix=$ERL_ROOT
make
make install

sed -i 's/localhost/$OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP/g' $ERL_ROOT/sbin/ejabberdctl
sed -i 's/localhost/'"$HOSTNAME"'/g' $ERL_ROOT/etc/ejabberd/inetrc
sed -i 's/127,0,0,1/'"${OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP//[.]/,}"'/g' $ERL_ROOT/etc/ejabberd/inetrc
sed -i 's/127,0,0,1/'"${OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP//[.]/,}"'/g' $ERL_ROOT/etc/ejabberd/ejabberdctl.cfg
sed -i 's/5280/8080/g' $ERL_ROOT/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg

EDIT: (added based on feedback) Make sure port 8080 is free. If you run ps -ef and see a ruby app running, you’ll need to kill it (If you really want to make sure it’s running on port 8080 run netstat -tulpn | grep $OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP).

Next you can start ejabberd running the following 2 commands, which you’ll want to put in your .openshift/action_hooks/start script:

$OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home/bin/epmd -address $OPENSHIFT_DIY_IP &
$OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home/sbin/ejabberdctl start

If there are no errors, you should be all set! At this point you’ll want to configure ejabberd to your own liking. You will need a user to login to the admin interface. If you don’t want to keep localhost as an XMPP host, change it in $OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home/etc/ejabberd.cfg. You’ll need an admin user on one of your hosts, so run the following command (using your host instead of localhost):

$OPENSHIFT_DATA_DIR/erl_home/sbin/ejabberdctl register admin localhost password1234

Connect to OpenShift My app was at http://erl-jabberserver.rhcloud.com so I went to http://erl-jabberserver.rhcloud.com/admin and logged in using username [email protected] / password1234. Success! I can also connect to it using any XMPP software that supports BOSH. The default setup does not have encryption, so make sure not to require it for testing.

So this works for us since we’re only experimenting with this at this point. But it could be better. Specifically, right now when port 0 is specified, I pick a random port between 20001 & 30000. This should probably instead pick a port that is not used in that range. There may be other issues that I just haven’t run into, but this is a good start.