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How to integrate JS of the future today?

ReactiveConf Special Edition TechTalk

 

There are plenty of ways to get information on and access to the latest trends and technologies, but going to conferences is sure one with great benefits. You can not only get top experts giving you hints and tools to improve your workflow, but you can further build your network and get hands-on experience on the spot. Fortunately, there are numerous quality events within and beyond our borders and ReactiveConf is most certainly one of them. It takes place in the beautiful city of Prague and is the ultimate spot for the European tech community to get the latest global insights in web and mobile development through meaningful connections and shared experiences. We were among last year’s attendees and we even went backstage to interview dome of the speakers, so that we could share all the great information on their hands with you too. 

In this article we give you an insight into the world of Node.js development and the Microsoft Azure extension, Visual Studio Code, through the words of Brian Holt, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft

 

Brian had worked as Senior Software Engineer Team Lead at Reddit, as Senior UI Engineer at Netflix and as Staff Engineer at LinkedIn, before having settled down in Seattle about 2 years ago and started working as Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, over Visual Studio Code, Node.js on Azure and Azure SDKs. In his own words, his job is “to make working with JavaScript on Azure a world class developer experience and to make VSCode the best editor that developers want to work with”. As we all know, JS and the ecosystem around it is evolving at an incredibly rapid pace and it can indeed be difficult to keep up with it all. That’s why in his speech during last year’s ReactiveConf, Brian invited the audience to chat about what’s new and important in the ever moving JS system and tooling and how to get the most of using VSCode with futurist code bases.

 

Throughout the history of programming, we’ve seen it all progress into something more and more abstract. It all used to be manual, then it moved onto the binary, chips and assembling and more like system programming, and then there’s the future today, where scripted manuals like JS and Python and Ruby have garbage collection and very holdable constructs in general. According to Brian, “the future is now. Or then. Or it will soon be now, but now is then” and this type of change will prevail in the next years to come, programming will get even more abstract and we’ll reach an even higher level where it won’t be necessary anymore to know how to write beautifully constructed codes, and it’s important for today’s experts to welcome those new generation devs into ‘their club’ with an open mind. 

There are people today working at Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, writing C++ throughout these very complicated browser engines like SpiderMonkey to enable people like Brian to write JS, which is built on this whole other level. We can consider all these people to be like building blocks, making new things and enabling the next generations to build on top of that, reaching ever higher grounds. Developers can have different skills, more affinities to design for example, that’s why Brian believes it’s always best to focus on the things that we’re passionate about, so a deeper understanding can be reached and we can still work together with others when it comes to the parts that they might understand better than we do, creating something great.

He also describes Node.js as a new world for a lot of people, meaning that coming from the frontend community into this world, you have to be patient with yourself because there are a bunch of new concepts that are coming right at you. It’s not easy but there’s nothing wrong with it being difficult. “You should focus on the basics, learn and understand the basic building blocks of like response-request and those kinds of cycles and just build up from there” Brian adds.

 

Now, moving onto the topic of this futuristic code editor: Visual Studio Code. It’s entirely redefined and optimised for building and debugging modern web and cloud applications. It’s a lightweight but ever so powerful source code editor, which is free and available on Linux, macOS and Windows too. VSCode is still very much in development and it’s bound to change. However, the fundamental idea behind it is that maybe you’re somewhere where you don’t have your computer in front of you, so what you’re going to do is you’re going to hop on a browser, you don’t have to install anything, you just open VSCode online. Then you can run the code locally, you hit the end points, make sure that it works, you can also modify your code, you can install extensions, you can do a VS live share. “It all works like a companion” as Brian puts it. 

He also tells us that VSCode was never necessarily meant to be put in a browser, it’s written in JS or Typescript rather, but it was never written with the sole idea. The guys at Microsoft kind of had to go and separate it because there’s this strong Node layer, which is Electron JS and there’s a bunch of UI components, so they had to separate the two out, move the Electron layer to a server and the UI parts to the browser and then make those communicate, which as you can imagine is a complicated endeavour. This work is still ongoing, a hardworking team is making sure that all your favourite extensions still work right. “The bottom line is that we want it to work the way you expect it to” Brian sums it up. 

When asked about the future, Brian simply tells us that the thing he’s most excited about has to revolve around containers, he believes that they are going to play a big role in the future of Node.js development. Let’s see! 

 

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