Monday, November 24, 2008

great article on merb-auth

angryamoeba has written up a nice explanation and tutorial of merb-auth over at his blog. If you've been curious about how the pieces fit together, or just want to get merb-auth up and running, take a moment and head over.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I launched a site today

It takes a number and divides it by 86,400. The next iteration will include functionality to take a number and multiply by 86,400. Amazing right?

The site has no design. I don't have a business plan. I don't have sales, marketing, QA, or anyone else. And I couldn't care less.

I realized today that I agree with "release early, release often", that I try to live by those words when I can, but as a developer you only have so much control over what your boss thinks, plans, schedules, and so on. At night you're perfectly free to release any sort of crap you want, when you want to, and similar to my recent post on testing, I've realized I need to just get over my desire to perfect things and refactor ad infinitum, and just ship something.

So the site is simple. It basically does nothing right now but convert the number of requests per day into what it'd be in requests per second. This came out of a discussion with Topfunky who was wondering what 8 million requests a day would be in RPS. It was a perfect example feature to spawn the launch of

The idea is simple--GitHub brings you "Social Code Hosting" right? Well, think of this as Social Site Building. Users can submit feature requests at, vote for other's ideas, and take part in building a site like never before, because not only do the users drive development, the code is completely open:

People often say "I'd love to learn Merb, but am tired of building blogs. What should I build?" Well, now you have something else to try out. I imagine, at least I hope, that over time some great ideas will come out of the ether. The possibilities are endless. The 'goal' in my mind is less about what the end result is, and more about the process and the features along the way. I don't think this will ever be finished. Maybe in a few weeks it'll fall flat on its face and oh no, I'm out a $9.95 domain name. But at least I'll have tried...and if all that comes of this is another example of some Merb code, that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

rspec macro methods in Merb

While working on spec'ing out this merb-service-example app I came to a point where I had a lot of repetitive code, enough that I really wanted to DRY it up a bit. Long story short, after talking with David Chelimsky for a bit, I ended up with this: gists_spec.rb

I think the it_should_respond_with and it_should_return methods work well for adding clarity, reducing repetition, and making the specs even stronger. Still, I'm a bit unhappy with the method names. Some other possibilities thrown out there are:

Nothing feels perfect yet...and maybe it doesn't need to be...but, that's never stopped me from trying. What name(s) do you like? Any better suggestions?

Get over yourself and write that test

I've had to tell myself this a bit recently...and it wasn't the medium you'd expect.

I'd been working on a particularly tricky Sudoku know the kind where you've got lots of squares completely solved, and yet some are mostly blank? No matter what I did, I couldn't find a damn 7,8, or 9 to set off a finishing chain of selections. I also have this stubbornness that forces me to try and solve the hard puzzles without using notes. I almost always can, and yet this particular puzzle was besting me.

Its ok, I just have to try harder, right? Focus more, go over the various possibilities, what could this being here mean, and so on. Another 20 minutes pass and no progress. With a sigh I finally gave up, and started sketching out all of the possibilities. Within 3 seconds of doing so, I saw an obvious selection I had missed. This set off another, and another. 2 minutes later I was done.

Part of me felt like I "cheated"--any great Sudoku solver wouldn't need such help, right? At the same time, there's a point where the challenge of solving the puzzle degrades into frustration and really a waste of my time, and in this case I had long overshot that mark.

Feel familiar yet?

I couldn't help smiling as I thought about this on the metro in this morning. It reminded me of every time I'd sit down to write some code, get it wrong, redo some things, get it right...and then find out I really didn't...and repeat this process until I'd finally write a few tests and voila, be done with it.

I remember back in college hearing these epic stories of masters who could code in C, top to bottom, and at the end magically compile things without error. I think of people I know who can jump into a presentation, test, interview, or module, and just get what they need done without a moment's hesitation or need of 'backup' or notes.

I used to be one of those people...but I think lots of us were, back in 5th grade, just excited to learn the next set of formulas or geometric equations. I'm not anymore, and I'm ok with that. There's a certain peace of mind, a certain relaxation I feel, when I have code that's spec'ed, tested, and banged on to the point where I own it, and not the reverse.

Something I think people don't say enough, even with the tons of discussions about tests: even if your tests suck, even if they mock too much, are too brittle, and perhaps miss some important cases, the knowledge of the code that you receive while writing those tests is extremely valuable. The investment in your own ability to write those tests is extremely valuable. Testing really is like working out, and I've slipped as of late (in both areas), and can feel it.

I made the decision recently to change both of these things, and just like getting back into the gym has given me more energy and I just feel better, getting back into writing some tests has reminded me just why we should do it in the first place.

I've been flexing this rebirth with a simple merb 1.0 service example app located at and you'll see its using the new request helper. I'd talk more about that, but wycats has done so already, so I'll just say: you really, really want to test this way as opposed to mocking everything out. It allows for a very fluid and flexible inner workings of your controller, while verifying things come back as they should.

PS: I even TDD'ed this post via a friend checking it. As you'd expect, I was shown several 'bugs' and issues. Thanks again Doug

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Installing Merb 1.0 on Debian

This has come up a few times in #merb: as a result of the webrat and nokogiri dependencies, if you're looking to install 1.0 on a Debian box, make sure you have the following packages installed:

libxml-ruby libxslt-ruby libxml2 libxslt1-dev

Thanks to mr-interweb and maxbaroi for some late night detective work. The relevant ticket is located at

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Recently I've been looking over my various github projects, and am trying to give some love to things I haven't touched in a while. First up: acts_as_commentable.

A small amount of history first: the plugin was originally developed at

There've been many comments on it since then. My original intention was to port it over to something we could use in Merb. Turns out that actually didn't require much...actually, it was basically just an extra require in the library. I've touched things up a bit and have updated the repo at

I've sent an email to the original author as I'm not trying to pirate his/her stuff...we'll see what comes of that, but I noticed the other day that there were 54 or so watchers (and on a tangent--I mentioned that in #github and this might have sparked some ideas along the line of being able to easily see who's watching your repos), so hopefully those who're interested can play with things, and finally have a vehicle to contribute if desired.

Please feel free to send me comments, patches, etc. Something this widely used is just being for community support and feedback.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

useful snippets

I rely on a number of aliases, shell scripts, and whatever time savers I can come up with. You never know what you might learn by seeing someone elses, so here's a few of my favorites:

I've mentioned the cdargs stuff before, and there's a great post talking about git bash completionfor those interested.

k, now it's your turn.