Thursday, November 02, 2006

A RoR-ing Good Time

Minute By Minute Log of the Very First RoR Exploration

8:00 PM
Dinner's done; Top Chef on Tivo skimmed. Ready to dive in.

Laptop finally Loads. I hate XP. Where's my old Fedora laptop anyway?

Seems like a good place to start.
Tutorials...hmm, ok.
OK, download stuff. No problem.

58.1Kb/sec! Comcast is blowie.
Ruby One Click still downloading...
Sure, it's about time I get a good UI for MySQL...why not

Ruby *finally* installing. Select all options. Disks are cheap.
meanwhile...reading on... metaphors...well, coincidentally I love to cook, but as with food, I never follow recipes to the let's change this one as we go.

Ah! Ruby install finished. Pop the stack and install the MySql GUI.

Cannot watch installer any longer...back to tutorial...
gem install rails --remote

OK, got me a Heidi GUI....create connection to my'SQL

Heidi looks good. Nothing fancy, nothing too complex. Brilliant. OK, back to the main thread...rails still installing...Y, Y, Y all dependencies...sheesh! Note to RoR maintainers...add an All option to gem.
...sigh...still installing rails...

Yikes, I thought I had apache on this machine. Hmmm...Tomcat....JBoss....hmmm, Java anyone? Well, time to download...Apache or something else. Let's see...
Too funny!
OK, well good enuf for YouTube billions, good 'nuf for me.

Hey, I cannot find a valid link to a Windows lighttpd! What gives. OK OK, right, so I shouldn't be using Windows ;) Well, back to Apache for now.

Apache installing. Sheesh, this is why software development is in the stone takes an hour to just get your tools ready. Imagine if it took an hour for your doctor to get productive and ready to work...but I digress!

Dammit Jim! Skype uses port 80, too. Fine fine fine.

Hmmm...the tutorial assumes WEBrick...need the HOWTO for Apache integration.

Yikes. not only do I need to venture out from my happy Java (ok and PHP) world, now I've gotta ditch my ol' feathery friend?! Sigh..times they are a changin'.
Well, then I see
OK, so now 2 people mention a "proxy rails requests" approach. Hmm...gotta say, so far, installing Tomcat and deploying WARs seems like fun compared to this stuff...or better yet, PHP...still, remain calm and take a deep cleansing breath.

Let's try Mongrel. Why? Well I like the name better.
Hey, and it uses that nify gem thingy:
gem install mongrel
I dig it! Now I remember why I like consoles and not GUIs...well until my fingers cramp.

C:\temp\rails>gem install mongrel
Bulk updating Gem source index for:
Select which gem to install for your platform (i386-mswin32)
1. mongrel (ruby)
2. mongrel (mswin32)
3. mongrel (ruby)
4. mongrel (ruby)
5. mongrel (mswin32)
6. mongrel (ruby)
Huh? I guess what's behind door #1?

Uh, guess I chose poorly:
Building native extensions. This could take a while...
ERROR: While executing gem ... (RuntimeError) ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.Gem files will remain installed in c:/ruby/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/mongrel- for inspection.

Let's try door #2...
OK, now we're cooking! Install as service.
Done! Beautiful.

Uh oh. Lot's of mongrel errors.
Hmm..where did I go wrong....Aha! a little further down the page...
Well, ok this then points back to where I was. Does anyone ever proof read these!? C'mon guys. Well, I'll figure it out.

OK, mongrel_service installed.

Now where was I...oh yes, the tutorial. I should have been a doctor. Over an hour and still no progress.

C:\temp\rails>mongrel_rails service::install -N activation -c C:\temp\rails -p 4444 -e development!!! The path you specified isn't a valid Rails application.service::install reported an error. Use mongrel_rails service::install -h to get help.

Well, I'll admit that installing an empty project seems silly. But that's what the tutorial said to do (well ok, but not using mongrel, so I'm on my own at this point.) Fine. Deep breath. Think happy thoughts.

Let's just carry on and assume that the empty project installed and ran. After all, what is the sound of one hand clapping?

"Rails knows where to find things it needs within this structure, so you don't have to tell it. Remember, no configuration files!"
Laudable...until of course you need to change something...but let's not go there for now.
Back to the tutorial...

"First, it's important to understand how controllers work in Rails and how URLs map into (and execute) controller methods."
Uh, ok. First --- I *do* understand what these frameworks should do, shouldn't do, can do, cannot do, MVC, MVC2, AJAX (when it was just called Javascript and XML!), patterns, etc. etc....
BUT...WHY should I NEED to know? To me, the entire point of a framework is to get up and running and focus on the problem domain and solution space. Period. If I *need* to understand the evolution of flyweights, adapters, and mix-in classes, then the barrier to entry is high. Forget sending this off to junior programmers...god forbid that an MBA with an idea tries to prototype it on their own!

Of course, I suspect that to follow recipes, you don't really need to know this, well, insofar as you can shoot yourself in the foot. Still, I dislike already that I need to know so much about software to make this all work...but I digress.

Found my happy spot. Trouble running script\generate, but after some contemplation, realized I was off by one dir. Now I remember why I hate console UIs :)
Continuing with tutorial....
Oh wait! That's probably the reason Mongrel couldn't install the app before! Aha! Neurons are still firing and axons continue to myelinate! Neurotransmitters all 'round!

Recognition errors....what!? What's this underscore nonsense??? Uh, ok. Well, now I get some syntax error...oh yes, a typo. How surprising. Gee, and we wonder why static typing and a compiler is useful...but hey, as some article said, just write unit tests. Uh, sure. Unit test Hello World. Whatever.
Now I am getting really cranky. 2 hours, I FINALLY have Hello World. So far, I cannot understand why anyone likes this RoR stuff unless they never bothered to learn real programming. OK, well, let's go get some tea and calm down. After all, all these kids can't be completely wrong...there must be SOMETHING useful here. Remember, you also hate PHP for the same reason and you use that for some things. Relax. Deep breath....tea.


OK, so I checked on something tangential:
By complete coincidence, it's tomorrow night! Spooky. Maybe fate?
And forgot my tea.

OK, back online. Create the database and configure rails:
"Rails lets you run in development mode, test mode, or production mode, using different databases. This application uses the same database for each."
Well, now that IS useful. So my persnickety diatribe was perhaps a bit premature.
OK, well since I am deviating from the recipe and actually trying to create a useful service (much as I enjoy cookbooks), I need to pause and sketch out the data model. Ignoring all sorts of analysis and architecture, so it seems. Hmmm...well I don't presume that ANY framework that exists today is an ARCHITECTURAL framework. But I digress...

Today, in a StartupCamp session, the problem of viral user acquisition and "critical mass" was discussed. So I figure one nifty service would be to connect service providers with service consumers who can help them reach the necessary "activation" energy. So, why not create a site that tracks the viral "energy" for a site - both in terms of individual energy and group kinematics. I guess this would be like trackbacks, but rather than links, the "energy" is determined by ratings. The site allows services to embed a tool on their sites that let users anonymously or (for fun and profit) identifiably rate the service across one or more dimensions (some standard, some created by the service provider, some created by the users). Then the site also connects the users by allowing them to refer a friend in the embedded tool.

The idea is meant as a means, not an end, so don't tell me why it's a bad idea. I don't care. I just want something potentially interesting and more importantly, real enough and complex enough to put RoR through its paces. Mmmmm, tea.

OK, that will suffice for "business modeling" and "use case analysis". Skip ahead to data design.
I'll need a SQL database of the following (NOTE: I AM NOT A DBA OR DB DEVELOPER OF ANY SKILL):

users : id(primary key), uid(string) - ignoring security for now
assets: id(pk), content(string)
targets: id(pk), name(string)
ratings: id(pk), score(integer) here's where it gets tricky...
graph: id(pk), edgetype(choice:directed, undirected)
nodes: id(pk) , color(string), data(string)
edges: id(pk), weight(float), source(int), target(int)

OK, try my new Heidi GUI...

enough GUI nonsense; I'll script it later! Taking too long. Let's get back to the tutorial with our new database.

Now I have a db, a model class, a controller class...and HTML written, and I get a form for all the basic CRUD! Pretty cool. Still, it's pretty brain dead simple at this point. Let's see how we continue.
"We now have an amazing amount of functionality, by merely building a database table and typing in a single line of code. It may not be pretty yet, but we'll fix that soon enough."
Well, I'm a bit more prosaic, but yes, I always like a free lunch.

I always like to look under the covers...

"Rails tries very hard to present the user with pretty URLs. Rails URLs are simple and straightforward, not long and cryptic."
Hmmm, laudable perhaps, but not really important. I think users are trained to pretty much cut and paste or use the browser or tools to pass around links.

"Let's create our own view template for the list action that only shows each recipe's title and date."
Oh, boo! Now I am crotchety again.
" If you have worked with JSP or ASP pages, this will look familiar."
Yeah! But that's what I hoped to avoid! Sigh.

Have finished the tutorial. Skipped all that template code for now; I don't need a fancy LnF for now. Reading:
Hmmm, I wonder what ActiveRecord does with table Cacti, or Fungi?

Well, I completed skimming of partII of the tutorial, looked at some supplementary sites and have my very simple scaffold-y rails app. Overall, it shows promise. Where to go from here? Ruby syntax? Code recipes? HOWTOs? Hmmmm....let's get some sleep and see what the StartupCamp session 9.5 hours...reveals! Can't wait to get some feedback from real RoR users tomorrow. G'night!


Robert A. Ficcaglia said...

Well, the session today went well enough. You can see the notes at their wiki. We didn't get a chance to discuss implementation or architecture. Maybe next time, or there's always SHDH!

Robert A. Ficcaglia said...

Here's one observation: why should an application developer start with a SQL schema?

One answer is they can rely on the "architect" and the "designer" to break down usage scenarios into a data model. Of course, for those of us who don't work at NASA, we are THE architect, THE designer, and THE developer (and QA, tech support, sales, and secretary!).

Even rails IMHO fails to hide the data layer from the application "designer". Wouldn't it be nice to simply specify the scenarios, and somehow magically the data schema appeared!

(The quote about sufficently complex technology and magic comes to mind!)