Node Summit 2016

Node Summit 2016

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Node Summit 2016 in San Francisco. I am eager to share some of the new cool technologies and concepts I learned about while I was there.

NodeSchool is a tool for learning node and javascript concepts. If you have node and npm installed, starting a lesson is as easy as installing a new node package; these lessons range from utilizing node tools, to the nuts and bolts of creating and publishing a node package.

The one hardware workshop at the conference proved to be perfect office hackathon fodder. is a platform for interacting with internet of things devices, and using node and their Photon microcontroller we were able to program a row of lights to act as a scoreboard for a game of tic-tac-toe. As someone who deals strictly with software, it was a welcome diversion to play around with breadboards and resistors for a few hours.

One of the most insightful and fun presentations I attended during my time at Node Summit was on security. This talk featured a lot of great examples of trying to hack into or disrupt a locally hosted web application. Of course, the main thrust wasn’t to teach people how to hack–though I can’t say I didn’t learn a thing or two–but to show how out-of-date node modules can bring security vulnerabilities to your codebase. The presentation concluded with a stern warning that actual hacking was illegal and an insight into a current company for those in need of a fix:”bugcrowd” a platform that lets companies pay bounties to hackers to break into their systems so that they can close any security gaps.

The main buzzword at the conference was micro-services. Every sponsor from NASA to Netflix gave talks on how they have transformed their entire systems over to use this architecture concept.

Micro-services are not specific to node, but node’s flexibility means that it lends itself well to the concept. The micro-service pattern refers to breaking out all of the functionality of your product into independent pieces, instead of housing them within a single unit–known as a “monolith”. This way, when you make changes to your app, you don’t have to redeploy your entire codebase. Instead you’re deploying just the parts of the app that were affected by changes. This works especially well in node because you to pull in only the modules you need for each individual micro-service, and there are tons of node modules out there designed with communication between micro-services in mind.

Looking back at the conference as a whole, I was inundated with the vastness of node itself. Every year for the past four years the numbers of new node users has doubled, and there are 300+ new modules published every day. This has inspired me to try them all out and bring cool new technologies back to Shockoe.

Node.js – Storing data with MongoDB

Node.js – Storing data with MongoDB

The last few weeks we have focused on web service design using Node.js with Express. So far we have covered getting started with express, using EJS to create web pages, and creating a push notification server. Today we will go over how to save data on your node project by using MongoDB.

This post will assume that you have MongoDB installed on your machine already. Check out the MongoDB Installation page if you do not have it setup.

First, let’s go over MongoDB a bit. MongoDB is a document oriented database. This allows you to just shove whatever JSON you want into it. You don’t have to declare a table structure like you do in SQL. You don’t even need to declare your collections at all. If you try to use a collection that doesn’t exist it just gets made for you immediately. Documents are stored in collections that you define, but documents within a collection don’t have to be similar at all. MongoDB also features an amazing query system. Imagine we want to store information about fruit. We could do the following:

db.fruit.insert({name : "apple", color : ["red", "yellow"], source : "tree"})

We now have a fruit collection containing one fruit: an apple. Let’s add a few more:

db.fruit.insert({name : "strawberry", color : ["red"], source : "bush"})
db.fruit.insert({name : "orange", color : ["orange"], source : "tree"})

Now we have a strawberry and an orange in our fruit collection. To get all fruits in our collection that come from trees we would do:

db.fruit.find({source : "tree"})

If we wanted to find all fruits that are red we would do:

db.fruit.find({color : "red"})

And to find all fruits that are yellow or orange we would do:

db.fruit.find({color : {$in : ["yellow", "orange"]}})

Now apples can be green too. Let’s modify our apple entry to reflect that:

db.fruit.update({name : "apple"}, {$push : {color : "green"}})

There are a few interesting things to be aware of when updating a document. By default, mongodb will only update the first entry it finds. You can set the multi option to force it to update every entry that matches the query. Also, note the $push operator I have included in the update object. That is telling mongo it will be adding an entry to an array on the document. If you left off push and just did:

db.fruit.update({name : "apple"}, {color : "green"})

You would be very disappointed. Setting no update operator will replace the document completely:

    "color" : "green"

So what if you wanted to update a field that isn’t an array? You use the $set update operator:

db.fruit.update({name : "apple"}, {$set : {name : "pear"}}

MongoDB is very powerful and an excellent document store, but it lacks the join power that SQL brings to the table. You can join documents together by their _id field using MonoDB’s populate, but it’s not nearly as fast as what you can do with a few SQL joins. I encourage you to explore MongoDB as an option for your databases, but it’s important to approach your database design differently with MongoDB than with SQL. Be sure to check out the documentation for all you can do with MongoDB.

So how to we start using Mongo with Node? There are several libraries available on npm for connecting to Mongo, but I will be focusing on Mongoskin and Mongoose.

Let’s go ahead and get Mongoskin out of the way. Mongoskin is what you want if you just want to run basic MongoDB commands and nothing more. To get started add Mongoskin as a dependency:

npm install mongoskin --save

And then in node:

var mongo = require('mongoskin');
var db = mongo.db("mongodb://localhost:27017/integration_tests", {native_parser:true});
db.collection('fruit).find({name : "orange"}).toArray(function(err, fruits){
    console.log("I have "+fruits.length+" fruits in my collection:");
    for(var i=0; i<fruits.length; i++){

Mongoskin is very easy to use and most MongoDB commands are supported. It has its issues, but if you want something simple to connect to a mongo database look no further. If you want the best MongoDB experience you can find with Node, keep reading!

On to Mongoose. As they say on their website: “Mongoose provides a straight-forward, schema-based solution to modeling your application data and includes built-in type casting, validation, query building, business logic hooks and more, out of the box.” Mongoose is a delight. To get started add Mongoose as a dependency:

npm install mongoose --save

It’s nice that MongoDB doesn’t need to have schemas, but it’s great that Mongoose gives them to you. Let’s put together a schema for our fruit collection:

var mongoose = require('mongoose');

var FruitSchema = new mongoose.Schema({
    name : String,
    color : [String],
    source : {
        type : String,
        default : 'tree'

    return this.color.length;

mongoose.model('Fruit', EventSchema);

Most of the schema above should be straight forward. Name must be a string or Mongoose will remove the property from the object before using it as a model. Color must be an array of strings. Source must be a string, and if it’s not present Mongoose will automatically set it to “tree”. Default values will not get stored in the actual database, but they will be applied when Mongoose pulls them out. The virtual “numberOfColors” will add a property automatically. Virtuals are great for properties that can be calculated based on the existing data on the model.

To use the fruits model:

mongoose.model('Fruit').find({name : "orange"}, function(err, fruits){
    console.log("I have "+fruits.length+" fruits in my collection:");
    for(var i=0; i<fruits.length; i++){
        console.log( + " comes in " + fruit.numberOfColors + " colors");

The examples above barely scrape the surface of what you can do with MongoDB and Mongoose. Do yourself a favor and explore the possibilities of a document oriented database backed by MongoDB.

Node.js – A JavaScript Developer’s Dream

Node.js – A JavaScript Developer’s Dream

Node.js – A JavaScript Developer’s Dream

Here at Shockoe, we are happiest when working with JavaScript. There are plenty of projects that call for other languages, like Objective-C, Java, or PHP, but the goal is to work with JavaScript whenever possible. For a decade I thought of JavaScript as this insecure toy language used to do miscellaneous effects on the web. I gave JavaScript another look when AJAX came into the vogue but again dismissed it as a toy language with no real use. Then I started working at Shockoe, where I was very surprised to learn that JavaScript could be used for writing mobile applications.

Despite working for a company that primarily deals with mobile applications, I consider myself a web developer. I’ve been using PHP for a very long time and mostly just tolerated its inconsistencies and occasional strange syntax. PHP was just the way you did server side code for the web. Then I discovered Node.js. Now the goal is to write everything in JavaScript.

Node.js is advertised as being “for easily building fast, scalable network applications.” By default, Node.js performs very little I/O so blocking is not a concern. There’s an absurd amount of Node.js modules available from Node Package Manager (npm) that allow you to connect to almost anything imaginable. Most, if not all, modules for connecting to I/O provide async methods so that blocking remains of little to no concern.

To get started with Node, head on over to There are builds available for Windows, OSX, and Linux. Then head over to to see what modules Node Package Manager has to offer. There’s web frameworks, build harnesses, database drivers, and much more. Any developer who loves JavaScript owes it to themselves to explore the world of Node.js.

I’m at the point where I use Node.js for anything from giant web projects to minor fun tasks. At Shockoe, we have taken an initiative to improve our health. One concern is that we spend all day looking at monitors which puts a lot of strain on our eyes. To combat this we have implemented a system known as the twenty twenty twenty rule. Every twenty minutes we take a twenty second break while looking at something twenty feet away. To alert everyone of the time we have a node server, running on our continuous integration machine in the corner, that turns a hue light purple for twenty seconds every twenty minutes. It’s enough to catch everyone’s attention without being extremely interrupting. This task could have been accomplished with cron, but I don’t want to schedule cron jobs. The goal is to write JavaScript.

In the upcoming weeks we at Shockoe will be expanding upon this post and, step by step, creating a project using Node.js.