Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Apache Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, AppDynamics Blog, Carmen Gonzalez

Blog Feed Post

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Node.js

An absolute Beginner's Guide to node.js – by Brandon Cannaday

This is a republished blog post by Brandon Cannaday. Brandon is the CTO of Modulus, a Node.js application hosting platform. Brandon organizes the Indianapolis Node.js meetup and enjoys speaking at conferences about Node’s horizontal scalability. Prior to Modulus, Brandon worked in the chemical detection and telecommunications industries.

Modulus is the first company in the industry to offer a dedicated enterprise solution called Curvature. Curvature allows you to take advantage of rapid deployments, easy scaling, and real-time analytics in the environment of your choosing, on-premises, in the cloud, or a hybrid of the two.


There’s no shortage of Node.js tutorials out there, but most of them cover specific use cases or topics that only apply when you’ve already got Node up and running. I see comments every once and awhile that sound something like, “I’ve downloaded Node, now what?” This tutorial answers that question and explains how to get started from the very beginning.

What is Node.js?

A lot of the confusion for newcomers to Node is misunderstanding exactly what it is. The description on nodejs.org definitely doesn’t help.

An important thing to realize is that Node is not a webserver. By itself it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t work like Apache. There is no config file where you point it to you HTML files. If you want it to be a HTTP server, you have to write an HTTP server (with the help of its built-in libraries). Node.js is just another way to execute code on your computer. It is simply a JavaScript runtime.

Installing Node

Node.js is very easy to install. If you’re using Windows or Mac, installers are available on the download page.

I’ve Installed Node, now what?

Once installed you’ll have access to a new command called “node”. You can use the node command in two different ways. The first is with no arguments. This will open an interactive shell (REPL: read-eval-print-loop) where you can execute raw JavaScript code.

$ node
> console.log('Hello World');
Hello World
undefined

An absolute Beginner's Guide to node.js – Hello World

In the above example I typed “console.log(‘Hello World’)” into the shell and hit enter. Node will then execute that code and we can see our logged message. It also prints “undefined” because it displays the return value of each command and console.log doesn’t return anything.

The other way to run Node is by providing it a JavaScript file to execute. This is almost always how you’ll be using it.

hello.js

console.log('Hello World');
$ node hello.js
Hello World

An absolute Beginner's Guide to node.js – console

In this example, I moved the console.log message into a file then passed that file to the node command as an argument. Node then runs the JavaScript in that file and prints “Hello World”.

File I/O with node.js

Running plain JavaScript is fun and all, but not very useful. This is why Node.js also includes a powerful set of libraries (modules) for doing real things. In this first example I’m going to open a log file and parse it.

example_log.txt

2013-08-09T13:50:33.166Z A 2
2013-08-09T13:51:33.166Z B 1
2013-08-09T13:52:33.166Z C 6
2013-08-09T13:53:33.166Z B 8
2013-08-09T13:54:33.166Z B 5

What this log data means is not important, but basically each message contains a date, a letter, and a value. I want to add up the values for each letter.

The first thing we need to do it read the contents of the file.

my_parser.js

// Load the fs (filesystem) module
var fs = require('fs');

// Read the contents of the file into memory.
fs.readFile('example_log.txt', function (err, logData) {

// If an error occurred, throwing it will
  // display the exception and end our app.
  if (err) throw err;

// logData is a Buffer, convert to string.
  var text = logData.toString();
});

Fortunately Node.js makes file I/O really easy with the built-in filesystem (fs) module. The fs module has a function named readFile that takes a file path and a callback. The callback will be invoked when the file is done being read. The file data comes in the form of a Buffer, which is basically a byte array. We can convert it to a string using the toString() function.

Now let’s add in the parsing. This is pretty much normal JavaScript so I won’t go into any details.

my_parser.js

// Load the fs (filesystem) module.
var fs = require('fs');// 

Read the contents of the file into memory.
fs.readFile('example_log.txt', function (err, logData) {

// If an error occurred, throwing it will
  // display the exception and kill our app.
  if (err) throw err;

// logData is a Buffer, convert to string.
  var text = logData.toString();

var results = {};

// Break up the file into lines.
  var lines = text.split('\n');

lines.forEach(function(line) {
    var parts = line.split(' ');
    var letter = parts[1];
    var count = parseInt(parts[2]);

if(!results[letter]) {
      results[letter] = 0;
    }

results[letter] += parseInt(count);
  });

console.log(results);
  // { A: 2, B: 14, C: 6 }
});

Now when you pass this file as the argument to the node command it will print the result and exit.

$ node my_parser.js
{ A: 2, B: 14, C: 6 }

An absolute Beginner's Guide to node.js – my_parser.js

I use Node.js a lot for scripting like this. It’s much easier and a more powerful alternative to bash scripts.

Asynchronous Callbacks in node.js

As you saw in the previous example, the typical pattern in Node.js is to use asynchronous callbacks. Basically you’re telling it to do something and when it’s done it will call your function (callback). This is because Node is single-threaded. While you’re waiting on the callback to fire, Node can go off and do other things instead of blocking until the request is finished.

This is especially important for web servers. It’s pretty common in modern web applications to access databases. While you’re waiting for the database to return results Node can process more requests. This allows you to handle thousands of concurrent connections with very little overhead, compared to creating a separate thread for each connection.

Create a HTTP Server with node.js

Like I said before Node doesn’t do anything out of the box. One of the built-in modules makes it pretty easy to create a basic HTTP server, which is the example on the Node.js homepage.

my_web_server.js

var http = require('http');

http.createServer(function (req, res) {
  res.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain'});
  res.end('Hello World\n');
}).listen(8080);

console.log('Server running on port 8080.');

When I say basic, I mean basic. This is not a full-featured HTTP server. It can’t serve any HTML file or images. In fact, no matter what you request, it will return ‘Hello World’. However, you can run this and hit http://localhost:8080 in your browser and you’ll see the text.

$ node my_web_server.js

You might notice something a little different now. Your Node.js application no longer exits. This is because you created a server and your Node.js application will continue to run and respond to requests until you kill it yourself.

If you want this to be a full-featured web server, then you have to do that work. You have to check what was requested, read the appropriate files, and send the content back. There’s good news, though. People have already done this hard work for you.

Express for node.js

Express is a framework that makes creating most normal websites very simple. The first thing you have to do it install it. Along with the node command you also have access to a command called “npm”. This tool gives you access to an enormous collection of modules created by the community, and one of them is Express.

$ cd /my/app/location
$ npm install express

When you install a module, it will put it in a node_modules folder inside your application directory. You can now require it like any built-in module. Let’s create a basic static file server using Express.

my_static_file_server.js

var express = require('express'),
    app = express();

app.use(express.static(__dirname + '/public'));

app.listen(8080);
$ node my_static_file_server.js

You now have a pretty capable static file server. Anything you put in the /public folder can now be requested by your browser and displayed. HTML, images, almost anything. So for example, if you put an image called “my_image.png” inside the public folder, you can access it using your browser by going to http://localhost:8080/my_image.png. Of course Express has many many more features, but you can look those up as you continue developing.

NPM

We touched on npm a little in the previous section, but I want to emphasize how important this tool will be to normal Node.js development. There are thousands of modules available that solve almost all typical problems that you’re likely to encounter. Remember to check npm before re-inventing the wheel. It’s not unheard of for a typical Node.js application to have dozens of dependencies.

In the previous example we manually installed Express. If you have a lot of dependencies, that’s not going to be a very good way to install them. That’s why npm makes use of a package.json file.

package.json

{
  "name" : "MyStaticServer",
  "version" : "0.0.1",
  "dependencies" : {
    "express" : "3.3.x"
  }
}

A package.json file contains an overview of your application. There are a lot of available fields, but this is pretty much the minimum. The dependencies section describes the name and version of the modules you’d like to install. In this case I’ll accept any version of Express 3.3. You can list as many dependencies as you want in this section.

Now instead of installing each dependency separately, we can run a single command and install all of them.

$ npm install

When you run this command npm will look in the current folder for a package.json file. If it finds one, it will install every dependency listed.

Code Organization in node.js

So far we’ve only been using a single file, which isn’t very maintainable. In most applications your code will be split into several files. There’s no standard or enforced organization to what files go where. This isn’t Rails. There’s no concept of views go here and controllers go there. You can do whatever you want.

Let’s re-factor the log parsing script. It’s much more testable and more maintainable if we separate out the parsing logic into its own file.

parser.js

// Parser constructor.
var Parser = function() {

};

// Parses the specified text.
Parser.prototype.parse = function(text) {

var results = {};

// Break up the file into lines.
  var lines = text.split('\n');

lines.forEach(function(line) {
    var parts = line.split(' ');
    var letter = parts[1];
    var count = parseInt(parts[2]);

if(!results[letter]) {
      results[letter] = 0;
    }

results[letter] += parseInt(count);
  });

return results;
};

// Export the Parser constructor from this module.
module.exports = Parser;

What I did was create a new file to hold the logic for parsing logs. This is just standard JavaScript and there are many ways to encapsulate this code. I chose to define a new JavaScript object because it’s easy to unit test.

The important piece to this is the “module.exports” line. This tells Node what you’re exporting from this file. In this case I’m exporting the constructor, so users can create instances of my Parser object. You can export whatever you want.

Now let’s look at how to import this file and make use of my new Parser object.

my_parser.js

// Require my new parser.js file.
var Parser = require('./parser');

// Load the fs (filesystem) module.
var fs = require('fs');

// Read the contents of the file into memory.
fs.readFile('example_log.txt', function (err, logData) {

// If an error occurred, throwing it will
  // display the exception and kill our app.
  if (err) throw err;

// logData is a Buffer, convert to string.
  var text = logData.toString();

// Create an instance of the Parser object.
  var parser = new Parser();

// Call the parse function.
  console.log(parser.parse(text));
  // { A: 2, B: 14, C: 6 }
});

Files are included exactly like modules, except you provide a path instead of a name. The .js extension is implied so you can leave it off if you want.

Since I exported the constructor that is what will be returned from the require statement. I can now create instances of my Parser object and use it.

Summary

Hopefully this tutorial can bridge the gap between downloading Node.js and building your first widget. Node.js is an extremely powerful and flexible technology that can solve a wide variety of problems.

I want everyone to remember that Node.js is only bound by your imagination. The core libraries are very carefully designed to provide the puzzle pieces needed to build any picture. Combine those with the modules available in npm and it’s amazing how quickly you can begin building very complex and compelling applications.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below.

Codeship – A hosted Continuous Deployment platform for web applications

Now you know how to get started with node.js why don’t you head over to Codeship and set up Continuous Deployment your first node.js project?

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Manuel Weiss

I am the cofounder of Codeship – a hosted Continuous Integration and Deployment platform for web applications. On the Codeship blog we love to write about Software Testing, Continuos Integration and Deployment. Also check out our weekly screencast series 'Testing Tuesday'!

@ThingsExpo Stories
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
2015 predictions circa 1970: houses anticipate our needs and adapt, city infrastructure is citizen and situation aware, office buildings identify and preprocess you. Today smart buildings have no such collective conscience, no shared set of fundamental services to identify, predict and synchronize around us. LiveSpace and M2Mi are changing that. LiveSpace Smart Environment devices deliver over the M2Mi IoT Platform real time presence, awareness and intent analytics as a service to local connected devices. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sarah Cooper, VP Business of Development at M2Mi, will d...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In this session, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, will describe how to revolutionize your architecture and...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
We’re entering a new era of computing technology that many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). Machine to machine, machine to infrastructure, machine to environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, intelligent systems – call it what you want, but it’s happening, and its potential is huge. IoT is comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures. As a result, huge volumes of data are being generated, and that data is being processed into useful actions that can “command and control” thi...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
Thanks to widespread Internet adoption and more than 10 billion connected devices around the world, companies became more excited than ever about the Internet of Things in 2014. Add in the hype around Google Glass and the Nest Thermostat, and nearly every business, including those from traditionally low-tech industries, wanted in. But despite the buzz, some very real business questions emerged – mainly, not if a device can be connected, or even when, but why? Why does connecting to the cloud create greater value for the user? Why do connected features improve the overall experience? And why do...
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participa...
Imagine a world where targeting, attribution, and analytics are just as intrinsic to the physical world as they currently are to display advertising. Advances in technologies and changes in consumer behavior have opened the door to a whole new category of personalized marketing experience based on direct interactions with products. The products themselves now have a voice. What will they say? Who will control it? And what does it take for brands to win in this new world? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zack Bennett, Vice President of Customer Success at EVRYTHNG, will answer these questions a...
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
The multi-trillion economic opportunity around the "Internet of Things" (IoT) is emerging as the hottest topic for investors in 2015. As we connect the physical world with information technology, data from actions, processes and the environment can increase sales, improve efficiencies, automate daily activities and minimize risk. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ed Maguire, Senior Analyst at CLSA Americas, will describe what is new and different about IoT, explore financial, technological and real-world impact across consumer and business use cases. Why now? Significant corporate and venture...
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...