Notes from NH Ruby, 21-May-2009: Brian Turnbull on Monit, Tim, Nick and the other Nick Lightning Talks

The New Hampshire Ruby / Rails Group met on the 3rd Thursday of the month at RMC Research. (Third-Thursday is the new standard, but June’s meeting is likely to be on a different night; see below.) Ten people attended. Nick Plante started off the meeting, noting that David Berube had to back out due to emergency, but we’d fill in with ad-hoc Lightning talks.

Brian Turnbull talked about Monit (see his slides here), a small-memory and resource-consuming application for monitoring key performance metrics, and launch scripts and/or alerts when alarm levels are met. Brian talked about early days of managing Mongrel and the necessity to restart the services on failure. While that’s mostly been resolved with later versions (and new options like Passenger), this is still a handy utility for keeping services going, especially if you’re troubleshooting some balky applications. Brian included some clear examples in his slides. We talked about how this wasn’t a solution for remote monitoring (your network could be down, even if you’ve restarted Apache), there were solutions, like running Monit on a couple of machines “watching the watchers” and other solutions, but that Monit was a simple and relatively lightweight solution. Other tools, such as Nagios, are available for more complex problems and the need for customization. Excellent presentation!

Tim Golden, our host, announced he had finally gotten to “Hello World” (a long running joke within the group) and described some of the challenges of setting up a Ruby development environment in Windows. He used the Ruby one-click-installer, and installed many gems. He’s trying out NetBeans as his IDE, and sticking with SQLite as the development database.

Nick Quaranto spoke on his work with gemcutter, developing a new scheme for a gem repository with a simple and scriptable API and a more scaleable and responsive repository architecture. This could grow to be a worthy replacement to RubyForge.

Nick Plante showed off the cool stuff he’s developed at RDoc.info – a web site that displays Ruby documentation generated with Yard . Noting that GitHub hosts your web pages and repositories if you name your repo as yourname.github.com and provide an index.html, he and fellow troublemaker Jeff Rafter came up with the righteous hack of creating the user and repo of http://docs.github.com and hosting the documentation for the thousands of projects hosted at github, fashioning their Yard template to closely duplicate the GitHub interface. For all practical purposes, they added a new feature to GitHub. The GitHub owners were… disturbed. But we hope they’ll come around, as this is a pretty elegant solution.

Nick Quaranto took the podium again to show off the use of Metric-Fu at ThoughtBot for their public projects. Metric-Fu is a rake task that automates other metrics tools (like Flog and Flay) to generate a number of interesting statistics that will point out excessive churn or suspicious smells in a project. Nick showed off the Sinatra front end to the package. This could be another very interesting set of pages on any repository offering software, although Nick noted that it would be resource-intensive, as the test runs and coverage processing can be pretty extensive.

Nick Plante announced a possibility of getting a special speaker in June, although the meeting would need to be on an alternate night. All present agreed that shouldn’t be a problem. Stay tuned for the announcement.

An excellent meeting, well worth the cost of admission. And that’s not even counting the free pizza! Thanks to Nick Plante for organizing the meeting, to Brian, Tim and the two Nicks for their presentations, RMC Research for the great facilities, and all for attending and participating!

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