Getting started with Node.js, NodeJitsu, Flatiron, Winston, Plates and Co

While I haven't been a fan of dynamic languages in the past, there is something to be said for Node.js.
It's lean, fast, lightweight, allows to use only one language for client and server side.
Also it's easy to make it scale and host it in the cloud.

There are many cloud services that allow deployment of Node.js apps, notably Heroku and NodeJitsu. I picked NodeJitsu because they specialize on Node.js so it's there central interest. Also they provide many other OSS tools for the Node.js stack, which is a huge plus (read nice integration)

Since I use NodeJitsu as the cloud platform I decided to also use their "framework" as well, called Flatiron.
It's a nice framework, that is loosely coupled. In fact it feels more like a collection of tools than a monolithic framework, which is a huge plus. You may use only what what you want and keep it lean.
I also like their templating system (plates) which keeps completely pure HTML, no weird tags or logic in the page at all.

Installing Node.js and Npm

node.js/npm from the standard ubuntu repos (as of 12.04) did NOT work with nodejitsu because it requires 0.6.20+ and ubuntu has 0.6.12 .. or you can/should install it from sources

Building node.js from sources:

  git clone
  cd node
  // Note: You could use 0.8.x but some projects/modules don't support that yet, so up to you
  git checkout v0.6.20
  sudo make install

Installing Jitsu

We install the jitsu toolbelt globally
And then go through the signup process for NodeJitsu

Then we login

  sudo npm install jitsu -g
  jitsu signup
  jitsu login

Installing the flatiron "framework"

Installing flatiron globally:

sudo npm install flatiron -g

Installing union (flatiron dependency)

npm install union

Creating a Flatiron project

First I created a "workspace" for all my node project

  mkdir ~/DEV/node/
  cd ~/DEV/node/

The flatiron create command is formatted flatiron create <project_name> <type> where type can be either "http" or "cli", that is not documented well.

  flatiron create myapp http

Then we need to run npm install to updatepull the project dependencies:

  cd myapp
  npm install

Hello world!

We can now start the app

  node app.js

Browse to http://localhost:3000/ in the browser,
You will get hello world , in Json format :) {"hello":"world"}

Let's change it to a normal hello world (not Json)
Open app.js in your favorite editor and change the code for the / route to this:

app.router.get('/', function () {
  this.res.writeHead(200, { 'content-type': 'text/plain'});

Now stop and start node.js again node app.js and reload the page, you will see hello world.

Code hot swap / auto reload using supervisor

Ok, stopping and restarting node,js manually gets old fast, what's next compiling ? :)

So we will install supervisor to help with that (it auto detects/reloads items that changed in your project)

sudo npm install supervisor -g

Now run the project with supervisor instead of node:

supervisor app.js

Load the hello world page in the browser, you see hello world
Edit app.js and change "hello world" to "hello me" and save

Reload the browser, supervisor will server you with the latest code (hello me) ... better !

Deploying to the NodeJitsu cloud

To deploy, we just do:
  jitsu deploy

The first time it will ask you to pick a subdomain, for example myapp so you will get your app at

It will also ask which Node.js version you want to use, ie: 0.6.x

Ok, once deploy, we can try our live app at : .... that was easy !

You can Manage the app at

Here is a useful jitsu command cheat sheet:

Logging at NodeJitsu is currently not working right and they are working on it (8/10/12)

Adding a new route

In app.js, we can add a new route, for example:

Adding a route: (app.js)
app.router.get('/version', function () {
    this.res.writeHead(200, { 'Content-Type': 'text/plain' })
    this.res.end('flatiron ' + flatiron.version);

Then we can pull http://localhost:3000/version in the browser.

Logging with Winston

Winston is part Flatiron and is a distributed logging API.

Edit package.json file and in the dependencies section, add winston

"winston" : "*",

then run npm install to fetch it

Now in app.js we can add a log variable to make use of it:
  log = require('winston');

Now we can use it to log stuff:'Got a request for / ');

We can now see it in the console/shell when the page is pulled up

Winston can also log to a file (or even a database), for example let's log to a file:
Add this after defining log, but before doing any logging:
  log.add(log.transports.File, { filename: 'logfile.log' });

Now after reloading the page, we will see a new file called logfile.log with cntent like this:
  {"level":"info","message":"Got a request for / ","timestamp":"2012-08-09T23:50:55.718Z"}

After we deploy the app (jitsu deploy), and load the page on the deployed server(, we can use jtsu to view the log:
  jitsu logs  # Note: This currently does not work, they are working on it

Utile : Utility methods

Flatiron also has a module called utile:

Javascript does not come with muhc in term of utilities, so this provides a bunch, in the same vain as the JQuery $.whatever functions

So in package.json let's add the dependency "utile" : "*" and run npm install as ususal.

Now for example lets' use it in app.js, first we create the variable:

  u = require('utile')

Then we use it (here we demo the .each method)
  var obj = { 1 : "hello", 2: "world"};
  u.each(obj, function(value, key) { + ': ' + value);});

Of course it comes with many more useful methods.

Installing SublimeText IDE

Well you can use whatever editor/IDE you want, whether as ligtweight as VI or as full feature as Netbeans.

Here I juts took note on installing SublimeText and using it with Node.js

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/sublime-text-2 
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install sublime-text

Then run sublime-text-2

Paste this in the console to get the package installer:
import urllib2,os; pf='Package Control.sublime-package'; ipp=sublime.installed_packages_path(); os.makedirs(ipp) if not os.path.exists(ipp) else None; urllib2.install_opener(urllib2.build_opener(urllib2.ProxyHandler())); open(os.path.join(ipp,pf),'wb').write(urllib2.urlopen(''+pf.replace(' ','%20')).read()); print 'Please restart Sublime Text to finish installation'

Press enter to run it, then restart sublime

Go to references/package control/install package
then search and install the node.js package

Cloud9 IDE

Anther good IDE for Node.js is Cloud9, written in Node.js itself.
It has very good feature and/but is browser based.

We can still install it locally:
// needed that dependency to build on Ubuntu
sudo apt-get install libxml2-dev
sudo npm install -g sm
git clone cloud9
cd cloud9
sm install

Then we can run it ./bin/ -w ../myapp/ then pull up http://localhost:3131/ in Google chrome.

................ TO BE CONTINUED...................
log to mongo/resourcefull, test with wovs, util(.each), templating(plates)
More modules i flatiron, see:

sudo npm install vows -g


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