2015-02-20

Non-global learnyounode without much typing

For whatever reason, when you dive into node.js you come across lots of code that tells you to install command-line javascript programs "globally" into /usr/local. Lots of examples say to do this using the sudo command, eg `sudo npm install -g learnyounode` and others say they get messed up doing that so they suggest just changing the ownership of /usr/local to be you.... I get the feeling that most node.js creators and users are working off of Macbooks or something and have a very single-user view of their computer and perhaps play a little loose with security.

This was a big hurdle for me to get over when I first started playing with Node.js on my Ubuntu desktops and Debian servers. It was like the Ruby version thing all over again. Times a thousand. I didn't really want to commit to one-off programs like learnyounode to be stuck in my /usr/local forever. I thought the thing to do was to use node's prefix option but even then I wasn't sure I wanted the prefix/bin files to be in my $PATH all the time.

Fortunately once I learned a bit and got the search terms right I found that others were also trying to solve this dilemma. One of the solutions I liked was using npm run to run scripts in node_modules/.bin. It let me use those binaries locally when I was in the package's folder without committing to them any other time. This appeals to me more than any of the $PATH modifying ones. So, to use nodeschool.io's javascripting or learnyounode interactive modules it was as simple as this:

mkdir -p node/learn
cd node/learn
npm install javascripting
npm install learnyounode
edit package.json
>>> in packages.json
...
"scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1",
    "learnyounode": "learnyounode"
},
...
$ npm run learnyounode
I found it tedious after a while to type such a long command. Especially when adding program arguments. So I used a simple alias for that shell instance:

$ alias learnyounode='npm run learnyounode'
$ alias lyn='npm run learnyounode'
You can do one or the other or whatever you like. I decided that even learnyounode was annoying to keep typing so I used lyn.

I really like this solution for working with these interactive programs. I will see what challenges arise as I get more advanced in my node.js and npm usage. I can foresee wanting a "user local" install but still wanting to slip in and out of it. Maybe using a chroot or something.

One thing this method doesn't do is let these package installed binaries like learnyounode and javascripting work from any directory so their directions of "make and change into a new directory" don't work. Instead the "learn" directory with node_modules is where I create all my practice programs.
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