Rapid adoption of Rails as documented by ML and IRC

If you should have any doubts that Rails is experiencing rapid adoption, consider this graph plotting the number of messages per day (as a raising average, high mark was 141 messages in a single day) on the mailing list:

On IRC, we’ve high-marked at 225 people and have more people than the #ruby-lang channel on most evenings.

Welcome all who’ve recently joined us!

IE5/5.5 compatibility wizard wanted

Do you know how to make Javascript work for IE5/5.5? We’d love to get some help making the new Javascript helpers as compatible as possible. So if you got the chops, please take a look at making sure that the prototype.js library and the associated helpers work on IE5/5.5. For more information, get in touch with me (nextangle) on #rubyonrails.

Another pair of ThoughtWorkers pick up Rails

Obie Fernandez and Carlos Villela are ThoughtWorkers following the lead of other company programmers, like Aslak (who’s getting DamageControl on Rails) and John Wilkers, in exploring Rails further.

And while the first hit was free, the addiction is now setting in. Carlos writes:

…more often than not it’s hard to stop coding; more than once I’ve looked at the taskbar and gasped in disbelief – over the past month, I’ve coded way past 2 AM after having worked the whole day, and even though I needed to wake up early the next morning, I was not tired at all. So, to put it in another words, careful – this thing is addictive.

Obie takes a slightly more bullish approach and compares it with the woes of his day job in Java:

At work, as of this monday I started work on a project that would have most Java open-source fanatics salivating. Custom web app running on Java 5, Tomcat 5.5, Hibernate 3, Webwork… Cutting edge stuff, right? Right?

No way. Web development with Ruby leaves Java far, far behind.

Overall, the productivity loss is giving me withdrawal symptoms. I can’t wait to get back to my beloved Ruby this weekend.

ThoughtWorks is the company that employs Martin Fowler as their chief scientist. I asked him for an opinion on it all and got: “At the moment what I’m waiting for is to see if some us can use Rails on an actual project.” Very much looking forward to hear his and the rest of the firm’s evaluation once ThoughtWorks is able to land its first Ruby on Rails contract.

Maybe the client Obie Fernandez is working with would be a good prospect. In the comments to Obie’s withdrawal posting, Hank Roark writes:

I just happen to be the customer of the project Obie is working on. And I’m pretty happy with the team’s progress. I’m afraid that my expectations have been lowered by years and years of experience in the Java realm. Obie may convince me to use Ruby Rails, yet.

It’s great to see so many ThoughtWorkers getting into Rails. I had the good fortunes to hang with their JAOO 2003 delegation shortly after I had picked up Ruby, while Rails was still a mere twinkle in my eye, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Rock on.

Obfuscated Ruby Code Contest

While Ruby is usually praised as being one of the most readable programming languages around, it’s certainly also possibly to make it obfuscated. It just takes a good dose of dedication to cause. And if that kind of dedication is flowing through your veins, consider signing up of the Obfuscated Ruby Code Contest. A competition on doing something useful with unreadable code and to win prices in the process.

Craig Walls: 'Honestly, I'm quite impressed'

Craig Walls is the coauthor of both Spring in Action and XDoclet in Action. Recently, he had “…come to the conclusion that I could not ignore Rails any longer”. This is what he found:

Honestly, I’m quite impressed. I found that the productivity claims surrounding Rails to be quite accurate. After writing only a single line of code, I had a reasonably functional application. Adding a couple of more lines, I had a one-to-many relationship between two model objects. The biggest chunk of work comes in customizing the view, but that’s to be expected because there’s no way that Rails can anticipate your desired look-and-feel. All in all, I spent 15 minutes putting together a simple application that might have taken me several hours with any of the other frameworks that I’m familiar with.

My emphasis. This is the same conclusion that Bruce Tate has been talking about. It actually does rapidly improve your ability to deliver working software. Is the factor 2, 5, or 10 times? Who knows (and cares?). How about we just settle it at it’s enough of an improvement that you ought to try it out for size.

Patching Ruby-FastCGI for leaks and exceptions

Apparently, Ruby-FastCGI is one leaky pipe. It’s currently happily disposing of up to 16K per request. Not particularly helpful for the long-running processes like FastCGIs. But have no fear, Kirk Haines is near. And plugged the holes, he has.

Read all about the patch and get it from Kirk’s FCGI Patch for Ruby FCGI 0.8.5 page.

Additionally, 0.8.5 isn’t raising the original exception when it dies, which makes it pretty hard to debug. But luckily, Aredridel made a patch to get the original exception bubbled up a while back. Apply that while you’re at it.

Note: As Ruby-FastCGI has temporarily disappeared from the RAA listing, you might like to know that the direct link is http://www.moonwolf.com/ruby/archive/ruby-fcgi-0.8.5.tar.gz

Rails 0.11.0: Ajax, Pagination, Non-vhost, Incoming mail

With the inclusion of Ajax helpers in Rails 0.11.0, we’ve addressed the most important concern holding back large scale Ajax use: Writing DHTML by hand. Manipulating the DOM by hand is a labor-intensive and error-prone process rife with frustration and cross-browser compatibility. With the Ajax support in Rails, writing manual Javascript/DHTML is (almost) a thing of the past.

Through a handful of helper tags, we’ve exposed an approach that relies on a bare minimum of support on the client-side (XMLHttpRequest and innerHTML) while offloading the generation of page fragments to familiar constructs like ERb and Builder templates. This means that you’ll build your Ajax integration using all the tools you’re familiar with and safely let the Javascript/DOM magic be off-loaded to the Rails helper and library.

Sam Stephenson (hire this guy!) has been the architect behind transforming my meager Javascript attempts into a fully object-oriented library that the Rails helper calls to do its dirty work. He has also done a video demonstrating how he can turn a create form into Ajax in just a few minutes. While this may appear a bit complicated, its mostly because the application Sam’s integrating with lets the controller generate the URL, which normally isn’t the case.

While the Ajax support is certainly the star of this release, we have much more. Another Sam Stephenson goodie is Pagination support, which lets you seamlessly spread the results of a list across multiple pages by combining controller-side and view-side support for pages and navigation.

Also of note is that Rails applications no longer require their own virtual host to be easy to setup. It’s now possible to symlink the public directory from underneath an existing hierarchy, so your application can live under hieraki in /community/hieraki. This should make it considerably easier to install and distribute applications that need to live on shared servers. If you want to make your own application vhost agnostic, have a look at the AssetTagHelper that’ll automatically create the proper paths for images, stylesheets, and the likes.

The Action Mailer gained inbound capabilities in this release. By implementing the receive(email) method, you can target your Action Mailer from fx postfix and have it process incoming emails. We’ve even enhanced TMail to make it easy to process international emails (auto converting to UTF-8) and handling file attachments. See the example in the README and checkout the Howto.

On top of all that there’s a new script/runner for making it easy to call your Rails domain model from CRON, there’s a new Flash module, there’s database indifferent limit/offset, and a truckload of fixes, enhancements, and tweaks.

See all the changes in the changelogs for Rails, Active Record, Action Pack, Active Support, Action Mailer, and Action Web Service.

Updating: If you’re coming from Rails 0.10.1, just run rails . --skip in the root of your application to get the new files. You shouldn’t need to change any code. You will need to clear out all your sessions, though, because of the Flash module upgrade!

RubyConf 2005 preregistration is open

Let me tell you where you’re going to be on October 14th through 16th. You’re going to be in San Diego, California. That’s right. RubyConf just opened the doors for the preregistration (which incidentally is a Rails app by David Black) and I managed to grab the entry with ID = 1 in the database. So you know I’m going to be there. Are you?

4th book coming: Rails Developer Notebook

O’Reilly is getting on board the Rails too. Their first book is going to be the Rails Developer Notebook, which as the name suggests is part of their Developer’s Notebooks series:

The Developer’s Notebook series is for early adopters of leading-edge technologies who want to get up to speed quickly on what they can do now with emerging technologies. If you’re a coder down to your core, and just want to get on with the job, then you want a Developer’s Notebook. Coffee stains and all, these books are from the minds of developers to yours, barely cleaned up enough for print.

The book is being coauthored by Bruce Tate (Bitter Java, Bitter EJB, more) and David Geary (Core JavaServer Faces, Core JSTL, more). The writing is supposed to start in April and the book should be out by June. So the focus is definitely to get something short out early and quickly.

If you’ve been following Rails advocacy, you may remember the name David Geary. I ripped into him fiercely about a month ago as he quickly dismissed Rails as being nothing but a CRUD scaffolder and declared “…you take this ROR koolaid. I’ll stick with the JSF flavor”.

Luckily, it didn’t take much more than two weeks for Geary to reconsider the dismissal and commit to looking closer at Rails. And now just a month later, he has signed on with Bruce Tate and O’Reilly to write a book about Rails!

What a fantastic and inspiring transformation. Hopefully Geary can serve as a role model for other Java developers who are feeling “…a bit nervous about this ROR thing”. Despite being heavily vested with Struts, Tiles, JSF, and Shale, he was able to see that there was amble room for a competing stack and jumped on to it.

My warmest welcomes to the Rails world, Geary! I wish Bruce Tate and you the best of luck with the Rails Developer Notebook and can’t wait to read it.