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3/08/2015

[Book Review] MEAN Web Development

After my review of Getting Started With Grunt and Lodash essentials this time Packt Publishing contacted me to review MEAN Web Development. Since Redsmin was first built over the ME(A)N stack and a lot of our applications at Bringr are built using NodeJS/AngularJS I happily accepted the offer, below is the review I posted on amazon.


Chapter 1 Introduction to MEAN


This chapter begins with a brief introduction to the MEAN stack and is then a deep step by step guide on how to install and run MongoDB, NodeJS, NPM both on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It's the perfect starting point for newcomers. I will simply add that it's a better practice ? to install NodeJS using Node Version Manager (nvm) that with the official installation software.

Chapter 2 - Getting Started with NodeJS


After a brief history of why Ryan Dahl created NodeJS the author dives into explaining event-driven programming. You will learn how work an event loop and how a webserver with a non-blocking event-loop (nginx) differs from a blocking web-server (apache) in terms of concurrent access performance and memory consumption. Then you'll take a look at closures and why they are useful in callbacks. Finally you'll learn how to write your first NodeJS http server along with your first connect middleware.

Chapter 3 - Building an Express Web App

Time to go to the next step : writing your first Express application, managing sessions, using a template engine (EJS) and a routing scheme. This chapter takes the reader by the hand and is really descriptive on how to organize your application folder architecture and write your first application.
However instead of using configuration files by environments (e.g. production, staging and development) I would recommend the reader to use environment variables (using a module like common-env + autoenv) since it's a way more flexible approach. Another missing point is to warn the reader to add a "private:true" inside its package.json file otherwise it could publish its application on npm by mistake.

Chapter 4 - Introduction to Mongodb


Even if this chapter explains to new comers what MongoDB is, the author is clearly using too much superlative about MongoDB. It's important to recall that MongoDB is not a replacement for relational storage and that it must be used with care.

Chapter 5 - Introduction to Mongoose


Just like the previous chapter, this one is also well written. It explains each Mongoose features starting with schema, validation, virtuals, getter/setter and even DbRef. I would simply note that some conditionals in the code examples could be greatly simplified.

Chapter 6 - Managing User Auth Using Passport


Learn how to handle user creation/connection with PassportJS, using local auth or Facebook/Twitter/Google OAuth. The OAuth user creation mechanism described in the book does not allow a user to connect via multiple OAuth provider and is thus limited. The access_token refreshing mechanism, even if it's not implemented, should be at least given as an exercise for the reader.

Chapter 7 - Introduction AngularJS


Another really well written chapter, this time about AngularJS. From the history to the state of the art, you'll learn everything you need to know to build your first application with AngularJS from routing to services. Note that the authentication service code example does not respect the Inversion Of Control principle and should be rewritten to ask for $window.

Chapter 8 - Creating a MEAN CRUD Module


In this chapter, learn how to set CRUD (Create-Retrieve-Update-Delete) modules up from back (using mongoose) to front (using angularjs $ressource). The middleware approach to retrieve an article is subject to race-conditions. I will just add that a much more powerful alternative than ngressource is Restangular. Also I would advise the reader to prefer ui-router (built over a finite-state-machine with support for sub-views) over angular own router module.

Chapter 9 - Adding Real-time func. Using Socket.io


Next, learn how to communicate in real-time between the browser and the server using websocket. In order to do that you'll learn how to set socket.io up. Be careful about the socket.io session configuration example, the error management should really be improved.

Chapter 10 - Testing MEAN apps


Nice overview of what unit-testing and end-to-end (E2E) testing is about. You'll learn how to unit-test a MEAN application with Mocha and Karma using Jasmine as well as E2E testing with protactor.

Chapter 11 - Automating & Debugging MEAN Apps


The last chapter demonstrates how to configure grunt to automate code quality checking and testing. You will learn grunt, node-inspector (for nodejs debugging) and batarang (a browser extension for angularjs debugging).

Conclusion

MEAN Web Web Development is clearly a well written book that will be the perfect match for beginners in AngularJS and NodeJS!
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