Notes from NH Ruby group, 15-April-2008

Eight people attended the April meeting of the Ruby Special Interest Group, http://www.nhruby.org, held as usual on the second Tuesday of the month in the meeting room at RMC Research.

We lead the night off with a brief video on Passenger from Phusion.nl, a new Apache module that host rails, like a mod_rails (not _ruby) module. Nick reported he’s been running it on one of his sites for a while and is pleased with the performance and the marked decrease in load. Having a mod_rails option available is likely to get hosting companies offering fractional horsepower shared virtual machines to be able to host Rails apps, bringing Rails onto the $7-a-month commodity hosting sites. Cool!

I asked for recommendations on the right way of parsing incoming XML and SOAP packets and was referred to Hpricot and soap4r. Another attendee asked for recommendations on Content Management Systems. Nick mentioned Radiant (which we got to see later in the presentation). comatose and railfrog. We got into a couple discussions during the evening on the stability and applicability of Ruby and Rails for many situations, citing high traffic web sites and the several runtime engines/VMs like JRuby in which Ruby code can run.

Finally, we arrived a the Live Hacking session where we got to watch Scott and then Nick show how to add new functionality to an existing app. Actually getting to see another craftsman at work brings out all sorts of good questions. Scott added chronic to his To-Do application. Chronic is a “natural language datetime parser,” according to the web site, and Scott showed how it could easily be integrated into an existing app, and accept values like “Next Tuesday” or “Thursday last week” and return sane datetime values. We also looked at what would be involved and set up a unit test to check our changes.

Nick showed us a little more of the Radiant application, and his work on making the Radiant CMS support multiple sites. The source he’s working on is stored at github.com, and the networking graph is a thing to behold. Nick spent a little time getting us familiar with the different philosophy of git (branching is inexpensive, merging is very smart, branches can interact in many ways including pushing to and pulling from each other) and then grabbed the most recent code and hopped right into to refactor a code snippet that was an inelegant hack using a deprecated technique into one that was more proper, running our unit tests before and after to confirm the refactoring didn’t break anything.

An excellent evening as usual! Thanks to all for their attendance and participation, to Scott and Nick for organizing, announcing and presenting, and to RMC Research for providing the nice facilities.

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