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Function Overwriting in JavaScript

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Whether intentional, or simply a by-product of it’s design, Javascript, being a dynamic language, allows for a level of expressiveness which most any seasoned programmer would come to appreciate. Javascript naturally provides the ability to implement some rather intriguing and quite unique patterns; one of which is the ability to overwrite a function at runtime.

Function Overwriting

Function Overwriting (also known as “Self-Defining Functions” or “Lazy Defining Functions”) provides a pattern which, as stated above, allows for overwriting a function’s definition at runtime. This can be accomplished from outside of the function, but also from within the function’s implementation itself.

For example, on occasion a function may need to perform some initial piece of work, after which, all subsequent invocations would result in unnecessarily re-executing the initialization code. Typically, this issue is addressed by storing initialization flags or refactoring the initialization code to another function. While such a design solves this problem, it does result in unnecessary code which will need to be maintained. In JavaScript, perhaps a different approach is in order: we can simply redefine the function after the initialization work has been completed.

A possible candidate use-case for Function Overwriting is Feature Detection as, detecting for specific feature support in the Browser typically only needs to be tested once, at which point subsequent tests are unnecessary.

Below is a basic example of implementing Function Overwritting in the context of an abstraction of the HTML5 Geolocation API.

Considerations

Since functions are objects in Javascript, it is important to keep in mind that if you add a property or method to a function (either statically or via the function’s prototype), and then overwrite the function, you will have effectively removed those properties or methods as well. Also, if the function is referenced by another variable, or by a method of another object, the initially defined implementation will be preserved and the overwriting process will not occur. As such, be mindful when implementing this pattern. As a general rule of thumb, I typically only implement Function Overwriting when the function being redefined is in a private scope.

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, Function Overwriting provides a convenient facility for optimizing code execution at runtime. There are many use-cases for dynamically overwriting functions and, where appropriate, they can certainly provide value in terms of performance and code maintainability.

Below you can find an example which demonstrates two basic Function Overwriting implementations. Simply load the page and add some breakpoints in Firebug to test the execution paths; both before and after overwriting each function occurs, or you can simply view the source.
Example

jQuery Mobile 1.0 Released

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

, the jQuery Mobile Team announced the official release of jQuery Mobile 1.0.

Having worked with jQuery Mobile since Alpha 1, in the time since, the framework has certainly evolved into a mature, premier platform on which Mobile Web Applications can be built.

On a personal note, as I am currently in the process of working towards the release of a multi form-factor Mobile Web Application built on jQuery Mobile, the 1.0 release couldn’t have come at a better time.

Be sure to check out the updated API Docs, especially the new Data Attributes section.

jQuery Mobile 1.0 represents a significant milestone in the Mobile Web Space. I am certainly excited to see what is on the roadmap next.

CSS3 Combinators

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

In my previous article on CSS3 Selectors, I discussed the two Attribute Selector classifications; Attribute Presence and Value Selectors, and, Attribute Substring Matching Selectors.

In addition to the new Attribute Selectors, the CSS3 Selectors Module defines a new Combinator called the General sibling combinator, which is described below, succeeding a review of each CSS3 Combinator.

Combinators

Combinators provide a means for describing relationships between elements in order to “combine” them to form specific rules based on a simple syntax. There are four Combinators in CSS3, below is description and example of each:

Descendant combinator
The most familiar of all Combinators, the Descendant combinator allows for selecting any element f which is a descendant (child, grandchild, great-grandchild and so on) of an element e. The combinator syntax for a Descendant combinator is a single “white-space” character.

8.1. Descendant combinator
Child combinators
Child combinators allow for selecting any element f which is a direct child of an element e. The combinator syntax for a Child combinator is a single “greater-than” (>) sign.

8.2. Child combinator
Adjacent sibling combinator
The Adjacent sibling combinator is a Sibling combinator which allows for selecting an element f which is adjacent to an element e; that is, element f immediately follows element e in the document tree. The combinator syntax for an Adjacent sibling combinator is a single “plus” (+) sign.

8.3.1. Adjacent sibling combinator
General sibling combinator
New in CSS3, the General sibling combinator is similar to the Adjacent sibling combinator in that it matches an element f which follows an element e in the document tree; however, whereas in the Adjacent sibling combinator element f must immediately follow element e, the General sibling combinator allows for selecting an element f which is preceded by an element e, but not necessarily immediately preceded by an element e. The combinator syntax for a General sibling combinator is a single “tilde” (~) sign.

8.3.2. General sibling combinator

The following demonstrates a very basic example of each of the above Combinators:
View Example

CSS3 Attribute Selectors

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

The power of CSS Selectors can not be understated; for, without them, there would be no simple means by which developers could target specific elements for styling in a manner abstracted from, or external to, the actual markup to which the styles will bind.

In addition to some of the more common Simple Selectors, such as Type Selectors, Class Selectors and Id Selectors, we have have Attribute Selectors, which, as the name implies, allow us to match elements based on their attributes.

Attribute Presence and Value Selectors

CSS2 introduced four Attribute Selectors; referred to as Attribute Presence and Value Selectors, which allow for coarse grained matching of specific elements based on their attributes and / or attribute values. These include the following:

e[attr]
Where e is an element and [attr] is an attribute of element e. For example, p[title] would match all p tags with a title, regardless of the value of the title.
e[attr=val]
Where e is an element and [attr=val] represent an attribute of element e which contains the exact value of val. For example, p[title="Example 1"] would match all p tags with a title which equals “Example 1” exactly.
e[attr~=val]
Where e is an element and [attr~=val] is an attribute of element e which has a value containing a whitespace-separated list of words, one of which equals val exactly. For example, p[title~="Example-1a"] would match all p tags with a title containing the word “Example-1a” in a list of whitespace delimited words.
e[attr|=val]
Where e is an element and [attr|=val] is an attribute of element e that has a value of val exactly, or begins with val immediately followed by a hyphen “-“. For example, p[title!="Example"] would match all p tags with a title containing the word “Example-“, followed by any other value, such as “Example-1”, “Example-A”, etc..

View Example

Substring Matching Attribute Selectors

In addition to the above Attribute Presence and Value Selectors, CSS3 expands on this by defining three additional Attribute Selectors; referred to as Substring Matching Attribute Selectors. These additions allow for fine grained matching of specific elements based on their attribute values.

In simplest terms, the new Attribute Selectors in CSS3 can be used to match an element with a given attribute whose value begins, ends or contains a certain value. The following is a basic description and example of each new Attribute Selector:

e[attr^=val]
Where e is an element and [attr^=val] is an attribute of element e which contains a value that begins with val.
e[attr$=val]
Where e is an element and [attr$=val] represent an attribute of element e which contains a value that ends with val.
e[attr*=val]
Where e is an element and [attr*=val] is an attribute of element e which has a value that contains val.

View Example

To summarize, there are a total of seven Attribute Selectors in CSS3, three of which are new. Whether used for general matches, such as global Attributes; e.g. *[hreflang|=en] or more specific matches, such as chaining; e.g, a[href^="https"][target="_blank"], Attribute Selectors provide a powerful mechanism for selecting both general and specific content within a page.

Interconnectivity in JavaScript with Peerbind

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The ability to facilitate interconnectivity between multiple clients has always presented some rather interesting possibilities for both simple and complex Web Applications alike. More often than not, such interconnected applications would require complex server-side configurations (often proprietary in nature) in addition to numerous infrastructure considerations.

Peerbind, a new JavaScript API, remedies many of these complications by providing a very simple client-side API built on jQuery.

Peerbind is quite unique in that it provides an event binding API (on top of jQuery) that is shared amongst all connected clients of the same interest. Essentially this allows for binding something as common as a “click” event (or any event for that matter, including custom events) such that each active instance of the same application across the web will be notified of the event. As one might imagine, this allows for some rather compelling possibilities.

To demonstrate just how quickly and easily interconnectivity can be plugged into a web application using Peerbind (and the Peerbind public server), below is a simple example which displays a new item each time a new “peer” views the example page since loaded (hint: try opening a few instances, either in tabs or separate browsers).

Example (run)

Simple enough!

Of course, for most applications there are obvious security concerns which would need to be addressed as well as issues of scale and availability to take into consideration. That being said, if you haven’t checked out Peerbind yet and would like to quickly and easily add interconnectivity to your application or leverage it’s simplicity to prototype such features, it is certainly worth taking for a test drive.

Tracking HTML5 Support in Chrome

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Google has now made it easy to track the current implementation status of HTML5 in Chrome via The Chromium Projects’ new Web Platform Status page.

Many of the sections have links to their html5rocks site, which provide further details and more in-depth tutorials of implemented specifications.

The current sections include:

This is certainly something to keep an eye on as, Chrome is setting the standard in terms of HTML5 support by desktop browser vendors.