Archive | June, 2009

LESS, HAML, HTML Structure

A quick follow-up on the weekend posting about the Ruby group: there was mention of another package, LESS, that generates CSS as well. This might be worth checking out as well. I appreciate the feature that the CSS is static on the server and only generated when the plugin notes that the source file (with .less extension, of course) has changed. This speeds up serving the file, and speeds the responsiveness on the client, since nothing needs to be parsed, interpreted and applied.

In “It’s the Headings, Stupid!” Jon Udell points out that pretty visually-structured HTML still shouldn’t lose the structural power built into HTML: seven levels of headings, paragraphs, ordered and unordered list, definition lists, anchor tags, captions, titles and alt attributes. A sober reminder that not all the readers of our web sites are “ooh!” and “aah!” over our choice of colors or silly javascript animations, but are searching for content!

In a follow-up on Twitter, Pat Allen points to a SlideShare presentation with excellent audio of the Melbourne Ruby User Group and a presentation by Ben Schwarz “Why HAML Sucks or Why You Should Think Before Choosing HAML for Your Next Project” The long-winded title, Ben explains, is from an initially controversial title that got the conversation going, but was a bit too extreme. He makes some very good points in the presentation. I like the idea of audio synched with the slideshow; that works well. Obviously, hards-on presentations would have other challenges, but for a slide-heavy presentation, this works well.

Notes from New Hampshire Ruby User Group, 25 June 2009: Pat Allen, Thinking Sphinx and Casey Rosenthal SASSiJS

Twelve people attended the June meeting of the New Hampshire Ruby / Rails User Group , held on the 4th Thursday of the month ( we usually meet on the 3rd Thursday) at RMC Research in Portsmouth (Thanks to RMC and to John for hosting the meeting!)

Nick Plante was our master of ceremonies. As is the custom, we made a round of introductions to find out the most of the folks were “from away.”

Pat Allen put on the first presentation, on Thinking Sphinx. Thinking Sphinx is a Ruby library (not just for Rails) that allows Ruby applications to work with the Sphinx full-text search engine. Pat presented a slightly shortened version of the presentation he gave at RailsConf, and the presentation was clear, engaging and interesting. Participants had lots of questions to ask on search technology, word stemming, project status, what it’s like to be a Freelancing God, what being the lead on a popular Open Source project is like, what’s a kilometer, and more, and Pat’s answers were insightful. Check out (pun intended) the source on github, the support on Google Groups and Pat’s guide to using Thinking Sphinx on Peepcode.

Pat also took a moment out to plug his upcoming Rails Camp, a not-going-to-make-a-profit weekend get-together in BarCamp/Unconference format for 30-ish people at Bryant Pond, Maine. It sounds like a great event and a nice location and a price that can’t be beat: $120 for 3-nights, 3-days food, lodging and conference. Get details and consider signing up at

Casey Rosenthal asked us, “What are style sheets for?” a number of times during his presentation, for good reason. Casey talked about SASS, Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets, a part of HAML and his reimplementation of SASS in Javascript, SASSiJS, sounds like “sausages” leading to all kinds of predictable jokes. But the topic was thoughtful, intriguing, interesting, and controversial. SASSiJS actually allows a .sass file to be downloaded as part of the HTML file, with similar syntax to a stylesheet link, and a JavaScript file that interprets the .sass file into CSS and applies it to the HTML document. Discussion was far-ranging and insightful: “What’s this good for?” “Would designers use this to make their CSS DRY?” View the source on GitHub at

Thanks to Pat and Casey for their great presentations, to Nick for organizing, and to John and RMC for the facilities.

CentraLUG, 6 July 2009: Philip Sbrogna, WINE

WINE may or may not stand for “WINE Is Not an Emulator;” you might consider coming to the meeting to find out.

The July meeting of the Central New Hampshire Linux User Group, CentraLUG, will happen on the usual first Monday of the month, starting at 7 PM at the Hopkinton Public Library’s Community Room. Gather for Q&A and informal chat at 6:30.

Philip Sbrogna, an activist with the Monadnock Linux User Group, MonadLUG, will be presenting WINE. Philip got his start in the field of computers programming games for early microcomputers in ’79 after which he spent some time on mini’s at DEC. After an intermission on submarines he returned to the world of corporate computing where his daily fare at a small southern NH company provides him some opportunity to do the DB & Web dev thing. Personal interests include optimizing algorithms & innovative datastructures; particularly NXDs. He’s been a Linux enthusiast since switching from Coherent to Slackware in ’94.

Learn more about running Windows programs under Linux natively (Ubuntu Jaunty for presentation). Talk will include architectural overview & practical demonstration of what works and what doesn’t. Bring your favorite Window program along to see how it fares.

Note this meeting is at the Hopkinton Public Library 61 Houston Drive, Hopkinton/Contoocook, NH. Google map here. (Also, if you are coming from the southwest on route 202/9, the route 127 road over the Hopkinton Dam is once again open after a long repair closure.)

LUG Happenings, June 2009

There’s a couple more LUG meetings this month.

The Monadnock Linux User Group, MonadLUG, will be back at their usual location this Thursday, June 11th, and will feature Ed Lawson talking about Scribus, the desktop publishing software. I’ve used Scribus to create newsletters, posters and banners, and recommend it. Ed puts on a good presentation, too! You’ll find directions to the meeting here.

The NH Ruby / Rails group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month, June 25th, and will have two awesome presentations: Pat Allan will talk about Sphinx, and Casey Rosenthal will speak on SASSIJS. Details here. It promises to be a great meeting!

No CentraLUG meeting tonight

I had no luck in securing an alternate location in time to advertise the Central NH Linux User Group meeting that usually meets the first Monday of the month, and so have canceled the meeting. Please join us in July on July 6th at the Hopkinton Public Library when Philip Sbrogna will make a presentation on Wine, the Windows runtime environment for Linux.

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