SwitchTower: Automating Application Deployment

As the 37signals applications have scaled up to run on multiple servers, we needed a better way to manage the deployment phase. We wanted to automate that all six servers got the newest version, that the database server ran the migrations, that the FastCGI processes were restarted on the application servers, and possibly that the web servers showed a “down for maintenance screen”.

SwitchTower is the extraction of that need and its going to be a new part of Rails in the next release. It’s the work of Jamis Buck and you can preview it right now by playing with the beta gems/subversion trunk.

You won’t even be going in blind-folded. Jamis has already created an incredibly extensive manual that teaches you all about how to use SwitchTower. Get on the band-wagon and reduce your deployment pains to “rake deploy”.

VitalSource: Book store with native app in Rails

James Duncan Davidson and Mike Clark has delivered on their first large, commercial Rails project together: VitalSource Bookshelf. It’s a book store that aims to make it as easy to buy your ebooks as your music. What’s special is that it includes a native application, ala iTunes, that works together with the Rails-powered store.

On James’ announcement, there’s also a note from Willie Abrams of VitalSource. He writes about using Rails: “As for Ruby on Rails? Wow. A lot of things would have to change for us to consider doing a web application any other way. It is that good.”.

Thanks, Willie. And congratulations to both Mike, James, and VitalSource for shipping!

What are symbols all about?

In case you’re wondering with it’s :controller => "weblog" and not just "controller" => "weblog", you want to read Kevin Clark’s Understanding Ruby Symbols. It gives a number of angles on why symbols exist and why they make sense to use.

Geary makes the Java jaws drop on Rails demo

David Geary has moved into the Rails café and is now spending a considerable amount of time telling others about this place. Most recently, he did just that again at the No Fluff, Just Stuff symposium in Salt Lake City. His presentation left more than a few jaws hanging:

Near the end of that demo, I looked into the audience and saw something that I’d never seen at a NFJS symposium: a woman sitting at a table near the front of the room was looking at me with her mouth wide open and the most incredulous look on her face. It was almost like I could read her mind: “This can’t be real!”, she must’ve been thinking. I pointed at her and said “That’s pretty amazing, huh?” She nodded a reply, but the look of astonishment never left her face.

The language and environment you choose to work with those make a large difference on productivity. Smart people can succeed with nearly anything, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look for that edge whenever they can find it.

Rails jobs aplenty: Six new open positions!

The Rails job market continues to pick up pace. Here are a total of six new positions open for developers ready to leave the old world behind and join the hundreds of people working with Ruby on Rails professionally:

  • Site5 is looking for two senior Rails developers and one Rails designer/developer to join their already sizable Rails development team. The latter is specified as the “…ideal developer/designer candidate has a complete understanding of both user interface design and object-oriented programming”. Contact Matt Lightner to apply.
  • Money Management Group are looking for a Quantitative Systems Developer (whatever that means exactly) to help them use Ruby on Rails to develop, manage, and test trading systems for their dealings in the financial sector.
  • Vespa is looking for preferably a Denver-native (but could be telecommuting) developer to help them finish a Ruby on Rails system and be “…comfortable with complex database design and relations”. Write Dale Hawkins to apply.
  • Aasman Design Inc. in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada is seeking a full-time web developer with strong knowledge of Ruby on Rails and who also places great value in an excellent user experience.

Strongspace: Secure file storage by TextDrive

Strongspace is a smashing new Rails-powered service from TextDrive. Their pick-up line goes as follows:

Strongspace is a secure place to gather, store, back-up and share any type of file with your co-workers, friends and family. You can upload, download and manage your files over SFTP (Secure FTP) or with any modern web browser.

It’s a place in the sky without all the overhead of maintaining a real hosting environment for it. Just targeted space at great prices. They start at $8/month for 4 gigabytes of space. It’s a perfect fit for Basecamp space too. They even have a movie showing how easy it is to setup your Basecamp account to use Strongspace.

The application itself is also wonderfully designed and delivered by the Rails’ team at TextDrive consisting of Michael Koziarski, Marten Veldthuis, Johan Sörensen, and Justin French. Congratulations on the launch, guys.

Apple makes note of Ruby on Rails

On the Apple Developer site, there’s a new article about open-source scripting languages and how you can use Xcode to work with them. On Ruby, they note:

Ruby is gaining popularity as a language to write web-based applications. Ruby scripts can easily be executed with CGI, and Ruby contains a class called CGI that is used specifically for creating CGI scripts. The CGI class has methods for generating HTML and dealing with cookies, among many other capabilities. If you are considering using Ruby to write web-based applications, you won’t want to miss the Ruby on Rails project. Rails is an open source web programming framework that is rapidly gaining mindshare due to its simplicity and clean design.

Thanks, guys.

Sparklines for Ruby on Rails

Geoff Grosenbach has implemented a really cool Sparklines library for Ruby that even ships with helpers for Rails. A few examples:

Pie—Shows a single percentage
Smooth—Shows continuous data
Area—Highlights data with a colored threshold
Discrete—Uses vertical lines