Using RequireJS exports with CoffeeScript

If you are using the “exports” object in your RequireJS module definition and happen to also be using CoffeeScript then be careful to either return the exports object at the end of the function or explicitly return nothing from the function by typing “return” on the last line. Like so:

define((require, exports, module) -> = 'bar'

If you don’t return nothing or the exports object CoffeeScript will compile this:

define((require, exports, module) -> = 'bar'

…to the following javascript:

define(function(require, exports, module) {
    return = 'bar';

Where the return value will be the string ‘bar’. This is no good because if you return a value from your module definition function, RequireJs uses it instead of the exports object. So when you come to require your module, you’ll be passed a String, rather than an object with a “foo” property as you’d expect.

Stringly Typed Booleans

I’m getting rather hacked off seeing boolean properties typed as strings. Stringly typed is a phrase I learnt off a post from the excellent Coding Horror blog and it describes a phenomena whereby properties that are of a specific type, e.g. Boolean, Date, int, are stored needlessly as strings.

I’m working on a website that communicates with a money laundering service to check whether an individual is “bad” or not. Individuals can pass the test, but importantly it is possible to pass the test with some warning flags raised. If any of the warning flags are raised then an email should be sent off to compliance for them to do…whatever it is they do. Fair enough right?

The warning flags are obviously booleans. There was either a warning raised or there wasn’t – there are no two ways about it (no pun intended). In the serialized response, the warning flags are encoded as “Yes” or “No”…which is understandable. Now, upon receiving the response, it is parsed and turned into an internal representation. This is where things get really weird. The programmer that coded the object that stores the response from the service has decided to encode the warnings as strings, initialised to “”. Which is totally fucking bonkers.


Well, now our boolean warnings aren’t really booleans – they have WAY more than two possible values and the meaning of these values is subjective. One may consider “”, null, “No” as false, but could conceivably also consider “false” or “0″. We get the same sort of problem with true – “Yes”, “1″, “true” and then we get a whole load of unknown values which is every other possible string in the world. Which might be considered to be true.

So how the hell can any number of programmers work on this piece of code without introducing errors because of differing definitions of truthy and falsey values? Well, they can’t. To illustrate the problem further, even loosely typed languages differ in their boolean coercion, for example JavaScript and PHP:

if("0") alert('Opposite day!');

if("0") echo 'Opposite day!';

JavaScript considers “0″ true but PHP considers it false. Personally I think JavaScript is “right” here, but as I said before, it is totally subjective.

The icing on the cake is of course the extra code you have to write to check the truthy or falsey string values. Something along the lines of “if x is not null and not empty and not the word No then it is probably true…probably”, which would otherwise have been coded as “if x then true” if x was a boolean – which is orders of magnitude shorter.

Of course, there are some bat shit crazy strongly typed languages that allow you to assign null to a Boolean, but that is a different story altogether.

Can’t access MySQL because there are no records in mysql.user? This is how you fix that.

I don’t know if it is a problem with the OSX distro of MySQL 5.1.54, but when I installed it recently I found I couldn’t login at all. Nor could I set or reset the root password. The underlying problem was that there were no records in the users table…yeah, exactly, WTF?

I found this out because I eventually got to the end of the MySQL reference for resetting the root password where it tells you to perform a lobotomy on your mysqld and start it up using the –skip-grant-tables option. Nothing else had worked, and when I finally did then get in and SELECT * FROM mysql.user, I got no results, nadda.

The reference manual for resetting permissions starts by telling you to update the mysql.user table and set the password for the root user – but that doesn’t work if you’ve got no users in there. What to do? Well, you need to get all down and dirty and bypass CREATE USER and GRANT PRIVILEGES and simply INSERT a new user and their privileges into the mysql.user table. Simple really, and also described in the reference for adding users.