Posts Tagged ruby

When did you start writing clean code?

I was asked this question this week: “When did you start writing clean code?”. I hadn’t thought of that before. Pondering on the question, I remembered when I started paying more attention to writing better code. It also made me think when I do not write clean code. Here’s what I came up with…

When did I start writing clean code?

Going back in time some 25 years, I was working with good old Clipper. Some of the files I was working with had thousands and thousands of lines of code. I had to print out pages of code on a dot-matrix printer and then draw lines to connect if-blocks and things like that in order to make some sense out of it.

Eventually, I figured out I could move some blocks of code out to separate functions, so instead of reading 5k lines of code, I’d need to read only 2k. As time went by, that codebase was way easier to understand.

When I do not write clean code

For me, it isn’t possible to write clean code all the time. For example:

  • When I’m implementing some new feature and writing tests first
    • In a case like this, once I have a failing test, I’ll write whatever code it takes to make the test pass. That could mean having one class with a lot of ugly code. I don’t care. Once my test is passing, then I’ll look back at the nasty code and will do my best to make it better, given what I currently have available (my skill with the programming language, my knowledge of the framework or libraries used, my understanding of the requirements, the time I have available, etc.);
  • When I’m new to the programming language, framework, libraries, business domain, project…
    • In cases like this, there’s really so much I can do. In the beginning, things will come out a little (or a lot) ugly. As I learn, things will get better.

I remember moving from FoxPro to C#. As much as I though I was a good FoxPro developer and wrote good code, I just know my C# code was terrible. It took a while to learn how to write better C#.

When I moved from C# to Ruby, things were slightly different: I already knew my Ruby code would look bad initially, so I first learned how to write tests! I didn’t even worry about writing clean tests; I only cared about writing some test so I could “write Ruby code with a C# accent”, and once the tests were passing, I’d get help from somebody who knew a lot of Ruby to show me “The Ruby Way” (or more specifically, the Rails Way) for doing certain things.

Summing up

For me, at the end of the day I just want to make sure I wrote the best code I could, once again, given what I currently have available:

  • My skillset in the programming language, framework, libraries, etc.;
  • My understanding of the business domain;
  • My time available


Leave a comment

New posts on testing for the RubySource

In case you haven’t been following my posts for the RubySource, just a few days ago I published Part 1 and Part 2 on a small series about testing. Check it out!

Some of my other posts include:

If you’ve been following my blog and my adventures on Rails land and would like me to write about anything in specific, please let me know!


Leave a comment

So much easier when there are TESTS!

I’m bruised after fighting my own Ruby/Mac noobness in the last couple of days, but I think I’ve learned a bunch of things after this.

I was a nobody…

When attending to Houston TechFest last week, my buddies told me that if I’m not using RVM I’m a nobody. 🙂

I hadn’t had a reason to use RVM, to be honest. I’ve been mostly working on projects running Ruby 1.8.7, and haven’t really had time to look into the new features/fixes introduced to the language. Ben mentioned improved performance, which is a very good reason, but I felt I wasn’t ready to migrate just yet (I had heard of people having some issues, so I thought I was going to save that “fun” for later). 

Well, little did I know what was coming up the very next day…

It all started with some weird errors in Heroku

I pushed some changes to Heroku, and when I went about testing the application, it started to crash in points unrelated to my changes. 

After analyzing the logs, the core problem seemed to be related to the allowed quota on my database being reached (I’m running the free account right now). I thought, “well, let me just reset the database, since this is all junk data anyway“. Apparently, db:reset isn’t available for MongoDB on Heroku. I tried to clean up my local database and push it up, but something went wrong there.

I then decided to just ‘destroy’ the app on Heroku, and recreate it. That’s easy enough…

Off to new errors…

Once the application was redeployed to Heroku, I started to see new errors in the log: they were Ruby syntax errors that I didn’t use to have before. After giving it some thought, I’ve guessed that Heroku’s default for new apps is currently Ruby 1.9.2, whereas my app used to be running on 1.8.7. My guess turned out to be correct as confirmed by Heroku’s tech support a couple of hours later.

Time to upgrade Ruby version? RVM!

My first reaction was to upgrade to Ruby 1.9.2, as that should address my Heroku problem (later, their tech support told me I could specify what version I wanted my app to run on in their stack… but at that point, it was too late, as I had gone quite far down into the upgrade path).

Installing RVM was easy by simply following the installation instructions on the website. After that, however, my environment didn’t have bundler, so I installed it with gem install bundler.

Next, time for bundle install. I started to get errors related to certain gems, which were actually easy to fix by upgrading gems, changing versions, etc. But there was one that seems to always be the worst nightmare: RMagick. I remember last time Ben and I had to hack something to make it work. This time I found out this Magick-Installer script, which worked like a charm (it took like an hour to download and install everything, though).

Installing stuff from Bash

I’m still pretty much a Bash noob. When I looked at the section of how to install Magick-Installer script, it was kind of cryptic to me:

“Download and run this simple script and watch your ImageMagick support go from 0 to 1 without MacPorts.”

Download and run. Hmm… *how* do I do that? I’m kind of used to download a zip file and double-click on whatever comes out of it, but I couldn’t find anything similar there. But then, I recalled the instructions I used to install RVM just a little earlier, so after clicking a link to the file on Github and clicking on the “Raw” link in there, I found out the direct link to the actual script file. Then it was easy:

bash < <(curl -s

Use curl to download the file, and bash to run it. I shall not forget that.

Yeah, yeah, you bash badasses out there are laughing at me right now… well, I’ll give you one more reason to laugh: I’ve run the command above inside of one of my project’s folder, instead of running it inside of a temp folder, as I came to find out when I looked at the status of my Hg repository and it showed me hundreds of files had been added to it…

Mercurial cleaning up my mess

…well, good thing I’m using a version control system, right? Once I figured out the mess I created, reverting it was just a matter of running hg revert –all. No more harm done.

Me messing Mercurial up

At one point, I committed a “gemfile” to my repository, without realizing it wasn’t the same “Gemfile” I already had in there; no idea where the new, all lowercase file came from. Whenever it was time for me to merge my branch into the trunk I get a nasty surprise: some “case-folding collision” on “gemfile”.

I’ve tried what seemed like a million things, including the steps outlined here, but none of it worked. Eventually I realized I had a good copy of my project on Heroku, so I pulled it down, dropped into the project’s folder where the Hg repository is, and managed to merge it that way, and I was back in business.

Swapping Gems due to versioning issues

I was using HTTParty in order to make a post call to a service that returns an XML fragment. For whatever reason, after the upgrade, HTTParty (or rather Nokogiri, which is used internally to parse out the responses) couldn’t handle the XML fragment in the response I get from the service.

Fortunately, my dependency on HTTParty was encapsulated in a single spot, so I was able to quickly swap it and use Patron instead. Looked like it was going to work fine, but when I deployed to Heroku I got errors when compiling the native extensions. I look it up, and I find out I’m supposed to use an older version of Patron. I try out the older version, and it doesn’t work on my local environment (WebMock had trouble mocking calls to Patron).

I then look *that* up, and somebody recommends RestClient, which worked like a charm.

Tests helped. A lot!!

I have a bunch of Cucumber and RSpec tests. They were VERY helpful pointing out things I needed to fix after upgrading to Ruby 1.9.2. 

Besides certain syntax errors I had here and there, I got quite a bunch of errors related to Mongoid relations; I was using “reference_many” and “referenced_in”, instead of “has_many” and “belongs_to”, respectively. 

After fixing most of those issues, I got stuck in a case where I had some metaprogramming magic going due to a misunderstood requirement. I had gotten clarification on the requirement with the client a month ago and added an item to my tracker in order to come back and clean that up later. Well now was the time to do it.

Thanks to my tests, I was able to fix my upgrading issues *and* clean up my code, refactoring parts that were written when I knew much less about both Ruby and the domain I’m working on.

Not bad…

Everyday I can feel my noobness on Ruby, Rails, Bash, Mac, etc. I’m working by myself, so there’s nobody sitting by my side I can turn to when I get stuck with stupid stuff. I have a couple of buddies who I ping on Skype or Twitter, and who are *very* helpful, but I try to keep that to a minimum, since everybody’s always busy with their own stuff. 

Considering all of that, I’m feeling very good after the struggles I’ve had in the last couple of days, as I managed to get stuff done, and learn a bunch of stuff while doing it. 

The single most important factor that allowed me to be brave and knock down every single hurdle in front of me? TESTS, TESTS, and TESTS!!


Leave a comment

What people who switched to Ruby from .NET have to say

In preparation to write my next post to RubySource (here is the post), I’ve asked a couple of people the following questions:

  • What made you look into RoR?
  • Why did you switch over to RoR?
  • What do you like about it? What don’t you?
  • What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

Here’s the full, unedited answers I got from them…

Ben Scheirman (ChaiOne)

What made you look into RoR?

I kept hearing buzz around 2005 about Rails.  I looked into it but initially didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand MVC (I was a WebForms guy at the time) and Ruby was totally different than C#.  I couldn’t imagine it taking off like it did.

Fast forward 3 years later, after watching more & more people start using it, I decided to start giving it a serious try.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

I found that I was able to build applications very quickly and host them just as easily (on Heroku).  When projects came up at work that needed similar agility, I recommended Rails.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

I like command-line driven stuff.  I type pretty fast and it fits in with my workflow.  I literally *love* Ruby.  It’s crazy, flexible, concise, and beautiful.  Gems make application componentization not only possible, but so easy that EVERYONE does it.  Usually when you have a problem there is somebody that has already had that problem, solved it, and packaged it in a gem for you to use.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where something went wrong, because there’s a lot of convention & magic going on.  Especially when living on the edge.  Gems don’t always stay in sync, Rails is changing constantly, so you have to have a lot of patience if you’re going to be working on the latest & greatest.

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

I miss the forward thinking .NET developers, mostly from the ALT.NET crowd.  I still hang out with them on occasion, but unless they are at a Ruby or iOS conference, it’s doubtful I’ll get to interact much with them in the future.  C# is still a pretty cool language, but I don’t miss the .NET framework really at all.

I don’t miss TFS, Architects who think you should pass around datasets, enterprises stuck on old technologies, Microsoft-slavery, developers who can’t be bothered to read a book & get a little outside their comfort zone to learn something new & amazing.

Derick Bailey

What made you look into RoR?

For me, it was a way to learn something new – to explore new communities and technologies – and hopefully learn something that I could bring back to my .net development (which I did).

A coworker first showed me the “build a blog in 15 minutes” video in 2007, and wanted to use rails on a client’s project. I had never heard of ruby or rails at the time, so I said no. Fast forward 2 years – we had Scott Bellware come in to do some training on automated web testing for my team. We decided to go ahead and have Scott teach a little ruby and rails in the process. I was amazed at how easy ruby was, during the training (this is also where the idea for ‘albacore’ was born).

At the time, I was a Webforms guy, still. I had looked at mvc beta and version 1, but didn’t understand it. But after the ruby training from Scott, I started looking more and more into ruby, including rails. I was immediately impressed with how quickly I could get a rails website up and running with basic CRUD screens, using the scaffolding. It wasn’t until I learned rails, that mvc in a web application made sense.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

The opportunity to do something new and exciting, with a fast paced and well organized community was exactly what I was looking for after 9+ years of .net development. I built several small sites to play with rails and learn, at first. The more I played with it, the more I wanted to play and learn and build something significant. In the 2nd half of 2010, I was given an opportunity to not only jump into rails work, full-time, but also go out on my own as an independent contractor/consultant.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

Rails is generally wonderful to work with. It’s easy to get a site up and running and build real value into the site, quickly. More importantly, though, it gets out of my way. I don’t have time or patience to deal with tools and technology that continuously get in my way. Tools should not dictate how we work, but should be formed to work in a manner that supports us. Rails and the community around it, do exactly that. It’s very easy to change the way rails behaves and how you work with it. This points to the two things that I love the most: the ruby language and the ruby community. It’s the ruby language and the community surrounding it that really give rails it’s power.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. The rate of change in the ruby and rails communities is staggering, and there’s a very large “shiny new toy” syndrome in the community. People have a tendency to jump onto the latest flavor of the month simply because some celebrity rock star ruby developer said it’s the way to go, today. This has the benefit of constantly moving the technology forward, but often results in days of headache trying to figure out incompatibility issues between different versions of different gems. Even when you are keeping a project stable in terms of gems used, patches and fixes are released on such a frequent basis that the issue of incompatibility is still a problem. Tools like Bundler are meant to help address this issue, and largely do. However, the are often part of the problem, as well.

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

I really miss the sense of architecture and best practices that abound in the forward thinking .net communities. There’s a fountain of knowledge – books, blog posts, videos, speakers at events, and more – all centered around good architectural practices and scaling from the “toy” apps out to the enterprise scale. While this information and knowledge exists in ruby and rails, it seems to be immature and closely guarded (contrary to the open nature of the community). Sites like Github and other large scale systems are the prime examples of how to do things right, but I don’t see the Github people out there talking about the architecture and scalability as much as in the .net world.

I don’t miss the boilerplate of everything that you have to know to even be considered an “intermedidate” developer in .net, these days. If you don’t know IoC, TDD, SOLID, and a dozen other principles and patterns, you’re not staying up to date with what it takes to create good architecture in .net. Many of these patterns and practices are still necessary in ruby and rails, but the language and the frameworks tend to bake this knowledge in as first class citizens instead of requiring you to bolt it on, as an after thought.

I don’t miss is the “Microsoft said …” mentality of most .net developers. I can’t stand it and I don’t understand it. It’s as if people are afraid to learn or question anything, which flies in the face of everything that I’ve ever been taught. People need to look outside of what they are currently doing to understand what else is out there, if for no other reason than to understand why they are doing what they are doing.

And lastly, I don’t miss the all-in-one tooling that Microsoft technologies and teams tend to gravitate towards. Tools like TFS and Visual Studio may have great business appeal because of the tight integration between them all, but the reality of day to day work is a different story. These tools lead to very rigid processes, where the tools are dictating how people work and interact. They solve larger business issues to an extent, but create significantly more issues than they solve by preventing change and hampering a team’s ability to handle special cases and needs that don’t fall within the standard guidelines of these tightly integrated tools.

Jak Charlton

What made you look into RoR?

As you start to push a statically typed language like C#, you start finding yourself writing more and more code that really has no purpose other than to support the type system.

To say this is frustrating is putting it mildly. Huge amounts of ‘redundant’ code like interfaces, casting, perverse dependency injection purely for testing

Ruby (and Rails) offered a chance to avoid writing all that code, and focus on real functionality.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

See above … although I haven’t switched – I just took a new position with a digital agency who are a strong .NET shop. I use Rails for my own stuff, and it is a welcome relief.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

I love the simplicity. I love that convention over configuration is deeply ingrained into everything. I love that things ‘just work’. I love that it keeps out of my way, and lets me write code that has business value.

I love that testing is just what you do – not an optional afterthought.

I dislike, very little. The ‘worst’ part of Rails and Ruby generally is that without Intellisense you need good documentation or to know the conventions. Sometimes this documentation is weak or fragmented. Things like RelishApp make this a whole bunch simpler, and the community helps massively.

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

Pretty much LINQis all I could miss really.

Jonathan Birkholz (JB) (CodeMav)

What made you look into RoR?

Beyond the buzz, it was the migration of people whose opinions I respect telling me I needed to take a look. Having spent most of my career creating smart client applications I knew very little about web frameworks. The only web experience I had to speak of was WebForms and really that doesn’t count. So when I had a small volunteer web project for a local charity I decided to take a look at rails.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

My rails moment happened on the first night. I sat down to learn rails and in a few hours I created an application and had it hosted on Heroku for free. My mind was blown away. I didn’t need to spend time figuring out data migrations, test frameworks, hosting plans, etc. I immediately could focus on what I wanted to focus on… what I wanted my application to do.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

Gems. I’ve saved hours of my time by searching for gems that can help deliver a feature before I just sat down and coded it myself. Why reinvent the wheel?

Another important part of the gems is they normally come with great documentation and cheat sheets. So I can gem install and in a short period of time get the gem performing the work I need. And if the documentation is lacking, I can just open the gem up and dive through the code myself.

What can be frustrating to others is the speed of upgrades with rails. Rails can move fast and if you have a Rails 2.0 application, finding help on the basics and tutorials can be difficult because the Internet has already moved on to Rails 3 or 3.1.

Although the speed is fast, the changes are great. When working with rails I often think, man why do I need to do X, shouldn’t rails do this for me? Then a few months later I see that the next version of rails will include those features.

This is a pleasant surprise from my .Net experience where often the upgrades would solve problems I wasn’t having. To quote Ricky Gervais, ‘the best non-solution to a problem that doesn’t exist’

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

I loved C# so I miss that. I guess I should look into RubyMine more, but I do miss Resharper. I just need my refactoring goodness mixed into vim.

I don’t miss the culture. The never ending fights against architects and managers when trying to bring in tests, open-source tools, and agile practices. I lived with a crippling despair born from frustration. This lead to me being a complete ass. I didn’t like who I was and what I was doing.

Rails isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I think the difference is the matching on culture and direction. Every new announcement from Microsoft always had me scratching my head going.. WTF?! I have more in common with the rails and ruby community. I understand the direction they are heading and feel the questions they are asking are the same questions I am asking myself. When is it right to test? When isn’t it? Where do we need opinions in our framework, and where don’t we?

And on that point, when I have a problem, I see people not only having the same problem but creating solutions! I can read their blogs, install gems, and find solutions. There is a contagious empowering culture of getting things done and continual self-improvement.

To me, the alt-net community always felt like a clique of people who didn’t feel at home in the normal Microsoft community. I don’t feel like I need to be in an alt-ruby community because I feel like I am part of the ruby community.

Michael Koby (Just for Bands)

What made you look into RoR?

I had heard about both Ruby and Rails for a while before I decided to look into it more thoroughly.  I had gone through the “Learn Ruby in 20 Minutes” that’s on the Ruby language’s homepage, and liked it.  The conciseness of the language is what really got me excited.  Still it took while (about a year or so) before I did anything in Ruby/Rails seriously.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

I switched over to Ruby on Rails because I had been doing .NET development in some form for close to a decade and I decided it was time to learn something new.  The final leap was when my friend and I came up with the plan for Just for Bands.  I didn’t really wanna do it in .NET (even using .NET MVC) mainly because I did .NET all day at work and really wanted to learn something new.  The Just for Bands project gave me an excuse to build something from the ground up in a different language and framework, and let me bring my friend along for the ride.

What sold me on RoR was the community, gems, and the Ruby language itself.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

I like the conciseness of Ruby.  I like the “convention of configuration” aspect of Rails. It gives me less to think about when building applications.  I also like how testing is so woven in to both the Ruby and Rails communities.  Also, being a guy who likes Linux, Ruby and Rails work great in that environment.  Using Linux tools to do my development, without having to install things like Cywin was huge.  Using free and open source tools to me was just icing on the cake.

What I don’t like is the speed at which the community moves.  As good a developer as I like to think I am, some things still take me a while to grasp and sometimes I feel that once I have a grasp on something it’s changed in the latest version. I also tend to dislike the egocentric stuff, more specifically the idea that if you’re not using a certain gem/tool/whatever that you’re doing it wrong (I saw a lot of this when interviewing for RoR jobs and using my JFB code as a “code resume”).  That being said, it’s probably the tradeoff for being a part of a community that will actually try new things rather than stagnate.

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

I don’t really miss anything, as I still do bits of .NET development at home and on my Mac using Mono.  In fact, I’m giving a talk on cross platform development using Mono at Houston Techfest.  While I do primarily Ruby, Objective-C (current employer wants an iPhone app), and non-.NET things I still like .NET.

Something that would be nice is a good IDE for doing Ruby/Rails development as that seems to be the biggest hurdle for .NET folks coming over to Ruby/Rails. The lack of a Visual Studio like IDE seems to case pain for some people, and as a dev tool Visual Studio is pretty good.

Tim Tyrrell

What made you look into RoR?

Working in a soul crushing corporate IT department really got me looking in a “less enterprisey” direction. Since I was enamored with the unit testing culture of software, Ruby and Rails seemed like the obvious direction to take.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

After attending my first Austin On Rails meeting I thought to myself, “These are my people; I have come home.” I mentally switched a year and a half ago when I thought about my future and realized that I could not think of a single .NET job that would have any appeal to me. I literally was able to switch because the job market is ridiculously good right now in Austin so the opportunities were available for developers with little or no Rails experience.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

Switching from a GUI-centric development environment of Visual Studio tools to an extremely lightweight and mostly command-line focused environment has just been a breath of fresh air. Rails is truly is a framework that gets out of your way and allows you to get work done in a very low ceremony fashion. One difficult part is since getting a project going usually relies on a multitude of other “gems”, getting them all to work together is not always going to happen easily.  I would also say that the culture of backwards comparability is definitely not as strong, which makes staying on an older version for too long a frightening prospect.

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

I am a recent full-time convert so I am having great difficultly thinking of things that I miss. I obviously miss friends that I won’t be interacting with much anymore. I miss being able to show off techniques or .NET open source libraries to a crowd and see their minds get blown. I would also like to say that I really don’t miss intellisense and ReSharper as much as I anticipated. I don’t miss going to four user group meetings about Silverlight every year. I don’t miss being fed Microsoft’s new round of tools that look almost like the last round and are equally as unexciting. I don’t miss working with a technology where a majority of developers don’t think outside a tiny little box. I definitely do not missing working in Visual Studio or Windows on a daily basis.

Corey Haines

What made you look into RoR?

From 2004, I started seeing a lot more Ruby showing up as the language of choice at the annual Agile conference, along with other smaller conferences. I would spend time pairing with people in it and really enjoyed it.

Why did you switch over to RoR?

In 2007, I was really getting fed up with the development experience in C#. I would spend time writing Ruby, then come back to C#, and it was like night and day with the flexibility. I had been doing pretty heavy test-driven development since 2004, and it felt like I was constantly fighting C#. I got tired of the compiler and the language screaming at me about things I would be getting to, such as unimplemented methods. Whenever I had a chance to work in Ruby, the experience was much more smooth. So, I decided to get out of that world. I was learning Ruby, so I took a few months and built a couple application in RoR. I then got approached to take a job at a startup doing RoR.

What do you like about it? What don’t you?

Among other things, I particularly like the innovation in the testing and tdd realms in the Ruby and Rails communities. There is a lot of discussion around different practices and techniques. I don’t really see the same level of discussion in other communities. I don’t agree with all the design idioms that are present in Ruby on Rails. However, I have recently started talking about alternate design approaches that are still compatible with using Rails and add more
maintainability options.

What do you miss from .NET? What don’t you?

To be honest, there isn’t really anything I miss from .Net.

Scott Bellware

Feel free to quote me on the move of .NET’ers to Ruby: Too little too
late – yet again!

What about you, dear reader? Care to share your experiences as a comment either here or on RubySource? 🙂

, ,


Back from Lone Star Ruby Conf 2011

This last weekend I drove up to Austin for the Lone Star Ruby Conf 2011 (LSRC). This has been my first Ruby conference, and I was really looking forward to it. I’ve enjoyed the conference, and I’m likely to come back next year. 


Compared to overpriced conferences such as TechEd and PDC (now “BUILD”), paying $250 for the 2-day LSRC conference was not a problem. There are several conferences that are either free, or that just charge a very small fee, and I guess “free” is usually good, but I don’t mind paying 250 bucks for good content. 

It was also interesting that there was no “sponsors booth” (I think there was only one sponsor’s desk in there, and that was it). It made walking around the conference much better (it wasn’t crowded with booths and people).


The keynote was not about pushing whatever “the latest integrated product that will solve the world’s hunger problem” down everybody’s throat. Instead, we heard about things such as the importance of testing, and when it may not make sense, bringing the “science” back to “computer science”, and being a culture that *reasons* together (well, that’s a very different tone from most conferences I’ve been to).

In another note, we heard that “Agile hasn’t been proven to be the best way to do software, but it is the better way we know of today“.

And the closing keynote was about serving customers. Great stuff! Not products… not languages… not geekness… just people! Yes, there’s a bigger reason why we write software: people! Chad Fowler‘s talk was really inspiring. 

45-minute session slots

As a presenter I’ve never liked the 45-minute session slots; it always feels like I can barely touch on the surface of whatever I’m presenting on. It’s been a while since I’ve actually sat through sessions, so it was good for me to get an idea of what it feels like to the attendee. 

Right now I have mixed feeling about session length. Depending on the session’s content and presenter’s style, 45 minutes seemed good enough for me, as an attendee, to get the gist of what the thing is all about, take some notes, and understand whether or not I want to look deeper into the topic on my own. In certain cases, 45 minutes seemed to short: when I was really grokking the topic, the session ended, and I’ve ended up with that “dang, gimme more of that!” feeling.

I have to say that a couple of the sessions have flown way over my head, but I was kind of expecting that, given I’m new to most of this stuff.

Some numbers

  • There were 260+ attendees. Two people have attended 5 years in a row, and the vast majority was there for the first time.
  • Two concurrent tracks
  • The youngest developer there was 20 years ago
  • There was a guy who maintains a 17-year old application
  • I’ve counted two laptops running Windows; everything else was a Mac

Session notes

These are just some quick notes of things I wanted to remember to look more into:

  • Rails 3.1
    • Asset Pipeline
    • HTTP Streaming
    • CoffeeScript (default now). Ben mentioned the PeepCode video on it is really good.
  • 10 Things I hate about Ruby
    • Relieve to see some things that are confusing to me are also confusing to somebody who knows a lot more Ruby than I do. Things such as “many different ways to objectify code” (lambda, proc, etc.), or a notation such as “class << self”
  • Meta Programming
    • I definitely need to finish reading “the book” on it. I’ve been enjoying it, and what I’ve read so far has helped me keep up with a session on this subject.
  • Titanium
    • I had a note in my todo list to look into this tool for cross mobile device development, but I’m hearing lots of mixed feelings about it, so I’ll put it in the back burner until I heard a verdict from my buddies who are messing with it.
  • View layer
    • Right after getting into Rails, I wondered whether it was a common to write something like ViewModels for the Views, and I was told that wasn’t the norm. There was this session where the speaker talked about this very concept. I need to look more into his work (the Draper gem), and the feedback he is getting from Rails developers.
  • JavaScript
    • Despite the fact I need to start taking a serious look into CoffeeScript, I still need to get better at JavaScript. I need to check out the “JavaScript: The Good Parts” book that Jesse recommended.
  • Jasmine
    • As I get into JavaScript/CoffeeScript, I totally need to use Jasmine: it’s RSpec for JavaScript (and yeah, totally must use CoffeeScript for it). Totally dig it. Also need to look into “Rosie” (which is like “factory_girl” for Jasmine). “Try Jasmine” also looks promising.


Leave a comment

Breaking the Language Barrier

spiralA little over three years ago I wrote up my Learning in Spiral post.My recent move to a full time Ruby on Rails project got me to think over some of those things again. I’m always looking back to reflect on how I got to where I am the moment. I think about major road bumps, and how I got over them.

Starting with dBase III and Lotus 123 macros

My very first experience with software development was by creating a database in dBase III. That helped me understand spreadsheets, and next thing I know, I was writing some macros in Lotus 123 (so that was my first experience with writing code).

I knew something about database and something about writing code, and got into Clipper. Smooth transition. Improved my knowledge of writing code by learning an xBase language (hadn’t done much actual coding in dBase). 

From there, to FoxPro: another xBase language, very similar to Clipper, and very similar database. Smooth transition.

From there, to Visual FoxPro (VFP). Pretty much same language, same database, but with the added object-oriented features. This hybrid aspect of VFP was kind of interesting: a developer could write an entire procedural application in VFP, without using any of its object-oriented features. Smooth transition.

VFP was also hybrid in regards to working with data. One could use xBase commands like in the old days, and/or VFP’s implementation of the Structured Query Language (SQL). So at first I’d only use the xBase commands, and eventually I learned SQL. 

Object Oriented Programming

Then it was time to understand Object Oriented Programming (OOP), since VFP supported that. Learned a little bit on my own, and took a 1-week class where I’ve learned a lot more about code reuse through classes, inheritance, etc. That was huge for me at the time. Major road bump to go from my procedural world to the object-oriented one.

With FoxPro being a dynamic language, I also did do some meta-programming with it; lots of dynamic execution of code based on things (include code fragments) stored in the database.

Somewhere around that time, I looked into Visual Basic 3. The language wasn’t too different from xBase, certain things were similar to VFP regarding how to create the graphical user interface (GUI), but the thing didn’t have inheritance of implementation! Also, I had been building database-centric applications, and boy, doing data access in VB 3 sucked really bad! What was it at the time? Dynasets? Yuck. Gave up on VB real quick. The transition from using the powerful data language in VFP to the handicapped VB was too much for me to bear.

From there, got into web development through classic ASP. VBScript sucked, and I quickly turned to using VFP COM components to spit out the HTML served up by ASP (the middle-tier and data access components were also VFP). I did get some experience with JavaScript, but nothing hardcore. Still, it was a strange language to me, after so many years of xBase languages.

Eventually I got into SQL Server (v6, I believe). I knew databases well at the time, but not a RDBMS. I did know the SQL language (from VFP), so the transition into SQL Server was relatively smooth (considering I didn’t need to do DBA-stuff such as heavy performance running, setting up security, etc.).

At one point I *thought* I knew OOP well, then I started looking into Design Patterns, and realized there was a LOT I had to learn. At least at that point I was comfortable with the language, so I could focus on the patterns, architecture, and so on.

Strong Typing, Patterns, Functional

Then I started to look into C#. I had never done any C-like language. The closer to it had been JavaScript. So C# looked *really* odd to me. However, I did know objects, classes, methods, OOP, patterns, etc, so the transition into C# hadn’t been as hard as I thought it would. It was mostly learning a new syntax, and then adapting my previous knowledge acquired from practicing OOP in VFP. Ah, there was one major difference, though: strong typing and case sensitivity. Took me a little while to get used to that.

There was something that I didn’t have a quite good grasp on, though: interfaces and delegates. You see, VB 3 (or 6… I did do some VB 6 at some point) didn’t have inheritance of “implementation”, but it did have inheritance of “interfaces”. VFP was the other way around (it had inheritance of implementation, but no interfaces). And as far as delegates, VFP didn’t have anything like it (and remember: I didn’t know any C-like language, so “function pointers” didn’t mean anything to me). 

One day C# gets features normally present in “functional” languages, in the shape of LINQ. Well, I had never even seen a functional language. At that point, LINQ just looked like the SQL implementation I had in VFP, and that was enough to get me started using it. 

After some more exploration, I started to learn more about the things that enabled LINQ: generics, lambdas, extension methods, type inference. To be honest, I don’t think I quite understand the math behind lambdas and all of that, but I guess I learned those things in C# well enough to make some good use out of it. Interesting transition from using LINQ thinking of it as “SQL for C#” to “oh, I think I’m getting this functional stuff now…”.

Back to Dynamic, but also SOLID, TDD,…

Eventually C# then gets dynamic features. I used and abused of those features as soon as I got my hands on it. I figure how to do some interesting things with those features. Interesting transition back to the dynamic world I was used to in FoxPro. 

What other things did I learn while doing C#…? Hmm, SOLID. Unit testing and Test-Driven Development. Internal Domain Specific Languages (DSL’s) using extension methods… all those things only made more sense after I felt relatively comfortable with C#, though. Also, using dynamic features in C# has made me give even more importance to TDD.

…and today, Ruby…

Objects, check. DSL’s, check. Functional features, check. Meta-programming, check. TDD, check. For sure, all this knowledge accumulated over the years through all these languages have made it a lot easier for me to learn and enjoy Ruby. I’m still at a point where I “speak Ruby with a C# accent”, but hey, I still speak English with a Brazilian accent. 🙂 

It’s good to reflect upon all of this and realize how much I’ve evolved transitioning from one language to another, always bringing something in the baggage throughout the journey and learning new things as I go.

Now the weird thing is that I know I’ll eventually get into Objective C, and based on all the comments I hear, that’ll be like going 20 years back in time as far as a programming language is concerned. I really need to find me some good motivation to there. Any ideas (besides “that’s where the money is”)? 🙂

P.S.: I’ve left out HTML, XML, XAML, because, let’s be honest, does anybody truly enjoy working with those things? They just seem to be a necessary evil that we need to cope with.  🙂


1 Comment

Blog series for RubySource

I have now officially started a blog series for RubySource. The first post came out today: Switching to Ruby From .NET!

I’ll be posting there regularly every other week for several months. I’ll continue posting here to my personal blog, too. The main difference is that at RubySource each post will be more polished, and there’s also people editing it, whereas here on my blog it’ll continue to be a place where I dump ideas as I sketch them out.  Smile

I hope to continue seeing you here, and start seeing you at RubySource as well!


Leave a comment