Toptal Engineering Blog

The Toptal Engineering Blog is a hub for in-depth development tutorials and new technology announcements created by professional freelance software engineers in the Toptal network.
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Radek Ostrowski
Introduction to Apache Spark with Examples and Use Cases

In this post, Toptal engineer Radek Ostrowski introduces Apache Spark – fast, easy-to-use, and flexible big data processing. Billed as offering “lightning fast cluster computing”, the Spark technology stack incorporates a comprehensive set of capabilities, including SparkSQL, Spark Streaming, MLlib (for machine learning), and GraphX. Spark may very well be the “child prodigy of big data”, rapidly gaining a dominant position in the complex world of big data processing.

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Tino Tkalec
JSON Web Token Tutorial: An Example in Laravel and AngularJS

Authentication is one of the most important parts of any web application. For decades, cookies and server-based authentication was the easiest solution. However, handling authentication in modern Mobile and Single Page Applications can be tricky and demand a better approach. One of the best known solutions to authentication problems for APIs is the JSON Web Token (JWT).

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Amaury Andres Peniche Gonzalez
Meet Volt, A Promising Ruby Framework For Dynamic Applications

In an attempt to make web applications a lot more dynamic, front-end Javascript frameworks like Angular.js, Backbone.js and Ember.js have gained a lot of popularity. However, these frameworks often require a back-end application to be useful, so they are used in conjunction with web frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Django.

On the other hand, Volt is capable of managing the back-end and a dynamic front-end; since both functionalities are tightly integrated into its core.

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Nermin Hajdarbegovic
Nvidia Shield - A Different Take On Android Gaming Consoles

Describing Nvidia Shield as a mere Android console would not do it justice. The console relies heavily on streaming and cloud computing, so it shouldn’t not be viewed as another standalone device.

Nvidia sees Shield as Netflix for games, as a comprehensive Gaming-as-a-Service (GaaS) platform. While it’s still part of the Android ecosystem, Shield could be bad news for some Android game developers, but it also creates a range of new and exciting opportunities.

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Pavel Tiunov
Application Development with Rapid Application Development Framework AllcountJS

AllcountJS is an emerging open source framework built with rapid application development in mind. It is based on the idea of declarative application development using JSON-like configuration code that describes the structure and behavior of the application.

In this article, we walk through a step-by-step tutorial for prototyping a data oriented web application using AllcountJS.

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Nermin Hajdarbegovic
Are We Creating An Insecure Internet of Things (IoT)? Security Challenges and Concerns

After a couple of years of bullish forecasts and big promises, security seems to be the biggest IoT concern. The first few weeks of 2015 were not kind to this emerging industry, and most of the negative press revolved around security.

Was it justified? Was it just “fear, uncertainty and doubt” (FUD), brought about by years of hype? It was bit of both; although some issues may have been overblown, the problems are very real, indeed.

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Nilson Souto
Video Game Physics Tutorial - Part II: Collision Detection for Solid Objects

In Part I of this three-part series on game physics, we explored rigid bodies and their motions. In that discussion, however, objects did not interact with each other. Without some additional work, the simulated rigid bodies can go right through each other.

In Part II, we will cover the collision detection step, which consists of finding pairs of bodies that are colliding among a possibly large number of bodies scattered around a 2D or 3D world.

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Phillip Brennan
Best Programming Editors? A Never Ending Battle With No Clear Winner

Since programmers spend so much time using their favorite editor, they become extremely good at it, and are reluctant to learn to use any other. Even if offered a better editor for some specific task, the skilled programmer can get their existing editor to do the task just well enough, and therefore sees no need to learn how to use a new one.

This is what compelled me to try out a number of different editors and make the transition as easy as possible; I hope my experience saves you time and effort if you find yourself in the same situation.

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Senad Biser
How Not To Manage Your Remote Team of Developers

When entering the remote developers’ world, the biggest obstacle that managers must overcome is to change their mindset by accepting that the developer will not be in plain sight, and where they can manage and follow the work being done.

This new paradigm requires businesses to implement a number of mechanisms to track progress and avoid a redundant workload. Such mechanisms will help both manager and developer be more productive, which is in everyone’s best interest.

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Tomislav Bacinger
Survey of the Best Online Mapping Tools for Web Developers: The Roadmap to Roadmaps

Making your own maps is not a big undertaking anymore, but for developers not familiar with web mapping, the agony of choice might be intimidating. You want to make maps, but don’t know where to start nor which tools to use. I am here to help.

Here, I’ll discuss several of the best available tools, providing a brief overview of each, along with code examples, and weighing the pros and cons.

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Filip Petkovski
Apache Cordova Tutorial: Developing Mobile Applications with Cordova

Mobile applications are creeping in. Developing for each mobile platform can be an exhaustive task, especially if resources are limited. This is where Apache Cordova comes in handy by providing a way to develop mobile applications using standard web technologies - HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. This article explores how one can get started with Apache Cordova and build mobile applications targeted at a wide range of mobile devices.

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Mikhail Selivanov
Buggy Java Code: The Top 10 Most Common Mistakes That Java Developers Make

Java, a sophisticated programming language, has been dominating a number of ecosystems for quite a while. Portability, automated garbage collection, and its gentle learning curve are some of the things that make it a great choice in software development. However, like any other programming language, it is still susceptible to developer mistakes.

This article explores the top 10 common mistakes Java developers make and some ways of avoiding them.

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Oleksii Rytov
Why I Decided To Embrace Laravel

Laravel designers didn’t spend too much time reinventing the wheel. A lot of solutions and practices are transferred from other frameworks.

The decision to embrace a new PHP framework should not be taken lightly, so let’s examine why considering Laravel may be worth your time and effort. Toptal freelance software engineer Alex Rytov explains what made him take the plunge and why he believes Laravel has a bright future.

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Ivan Voras
Installing Django on IIS: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Although the most wide-spread and supported way of running Django is on a Linux system (e.g., with uwsgi and nginx), it actually doesn’t take much work to get it to run on IIS. In this article, Toptal Engineer Ivan Voras walks you through a step-by-step tutorial, clearly explaining how to install Django on IIS.

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Mahmud Ridwan
Predicting Likes: Inside A Simple Recommendation Engine's Algorithms

The Internet is becoming “smarter” every day. The video-sharing website that you frequently visit seems to know exactly what you will like, even before you have seen it. The online shopping cart holding your items almost magically figures out the one thing that you may have missed or intended to add before checking out. It’s as if these web services are reading your mind - or are they?

Turns out, predicting a user’s likes involves more math than magic. In this article we will explore one of the many ways of building a recommendation engine that is both simple to implement and understand.

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