Archive | November, 2009

Ted Roche named ACM Senior Member

Senior Member Certificate

Ted Roche named Senior Member of the Association of Computing Machinery

The Association of Computing Machinery, the oldest computer user group, named me a Senior Member. It’s a new designation, and I’m not sure the ACM knows what they will be doing with this designation. The process was simple: get nominated (or self-nominate), get 3 ACM members to endorse you, and wait for the committee to review the application. I was promised a special member card as well as a certificate, but this is all I’ve seen so far.

Notes from Python Special Interest Group, 20-Nov-2009

Eight people attended the Python Special Interest Group, held a week early to avoid the Thanksgiving holiday. Anticipate a reschedule December meeting as well.

Last night’s meeting was a vigorous and far-reaching discussion of MySQL, Oracle, the future of MySQL, Maria DB, automation using Python, automation using Visual FoxPro, Twisted, IE6, Zope, Plone, Django, MS SQL Server, pyodbc, SQLAlchemy, Cascading Style Sheets, IE6, FireFox and FireBug, User Agents, IE6, how not to insulate a bungalow roof, the (Python!) cssparse module (, Fortune’s selection of Steve Jobs as “CEO  of the Decade”, Lenovo netbooks and Ubuntu, the Millennium, why calendar years are one-based and not zero-based, distributed version control systems, master-slave and master-master replication using MySQL and Postgres, svn and git, and more! Whew! You should have been there!

Thanks to Bill for organizing the meeting, to all for attending and participating, and to the Amoskeag Business Incubator for providing the great facilities!

Stay tuned for an announcement of the December meeting, and hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving!

Notes from NH Ruby/Rails group, 17-Nov-2009, rvm and EC2

Brian Turnbull and Nick Plante each had excellent presentations for the New Hampshire Ruby Rails Group’s first meeting on the third Monday of the month, our new “regular meeting day.” (We won’t be having a December meeting, however; have a happy Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice or non-denominational generic shopping holiday of your choice.)

Brian was up first, and talked about rvm, the Ruby Version Manager (slides here: RVM doesn’t just allow you to have multiple versions of ruby on your machine; you’ve always been able to do that with side-by-side installs or linking or aliases or other kludges. RVM can be found at and can be installed as a Gem, from the Git repository or as a tarball. It’s not Ruby code, actually, but shell scripts, and it allows not just switching of the current active version of ruby, but much more interestingly, the entire set of gems associated with a version! Multiple gemsets can be assigned an alias that lets you group your gems by function or project or client. RVM also provides a facility to dump the list of gems from one version or gemset and load it into another, allowing you to test out the migration of an existing system to a new version with much less hassle. Finally, rvm also lets you invoke multiple versions serially, passing them a command like “rvm 1.86, 1.8.7, 1.9.1 rake spec” where rvm will run all your tests on multiple versions and report results, even in JSON if specified. This could be the core of a really simple Continuous Integration (CI) server in a single line of code!

Brian cautioned that rvm is early in its development cycle (current as of last night was 0.0.79) and changes are coming fast and furious, but it’s worth taking some time to keep track of this very interesting development!

Brian also mentioned that rvm has some extensions to work with Bundler. Nick mentioned that Bundler, a project from Yehuda Katz (core contributor to both Ruby and jQuery) , is slated to become the default means of managing gems in Rails 3.0. Here’s a good link to learn more:

Nick Plante was up next, with his presentation on EC2 for Rails Development ( Nick talked about the evolution of deployment of Rails (or Rack) solutions, moving from very painful to much easier with the introduction of Capistrano ( He reviewed how simple it was to deploy an application with Capistrano, and then talked about the power of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Cloud Computing in general. Capistrano is focused on general deployment to a server, but the new add-on, Rubber (,  extends that to work with elastic computing resources like AWS’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). We walked through the basics of the install-configure-deploy scenario and then “Insert Demo Here.” – he did it. Defying the Demo Gods (who had already tortured Brian a bit), Nick grabbed a copy of RedMine ( from GitHub, did the couple of minor configuration items needed to make it work locally (creating the session key, copying the sample database config to the live one, setting it to use SQLite3 locally and running db:migrate) and then set it up for deployment: first invoking Capistrano (doing some configuring) and then Vulcanizing (how else would you make rubber) the installation, then deploying it to a brand-new AWS instance. The steps flew by lightening-fast: the Amazon instance was up and running a minute after being invoked, then took a couple of minutes to install and configure Apache, Passenger, MySQL, the Redmine application, and sftp the development directory files to the instance. Within a few minutes, Nick could browse the machine and see the running application as well as ssh into the box and make any changes. There are innumerable options, of course, but they are all accessible by reviewing the configuration files and the source to tune it to your particular needs.

While we waited for the installation to complete, I brought up some of the customer’s concerns and practitioner’s insights from last Thursday’s MonadLUG meeting on Cloud Computing and we talked about how those applied. I expressed concerns about how persistent data storage worked, since the cloud images were considered ephemeral. Nick pointed out that the instance, while running could have a local database and it could be in a master-slave replication arrangement with either another instance (within the AWS, there aren’t bandwidth charges) or a hosted or local machine. Also mentioned was the Amazon Relation Database Service (RDS), which can provide a MySQL database instance with backups. So, there are lots of options.

Thanks to Brian and Nick for excellent presentations as well as organizing the meeting and bringing the pizza, to Tim and the folks at RMC Research for providing the excellent facilites and to all eleven who attended and participated in the meeting.

Remember, no Ruby meeting meeting in December. Stay tuned for a January announcement.

New Hampshire Ruby / Rails Group, MONDAY, 16 November 2009

Reposting Nick’s announcement from

NHRuby is meeting for the last time this year on Monday the 16th at 7pm at RMC Research, 1000 Market Street, Building 2, Portsmouth, NH. Monday?! You say? Yes — due to scheduling conflicts, the regular meeting day for NHRuby is now to the third Monday of the month. Also, since next month’s meeting fell so close to the Christmas holiday, we decided to skip the December meetup and resume in January. So join us for the last meeting of 2009 for two presentations by NHRuby regulars, Nick Plante and Brian Turnbull.

Nick will present EC2, Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. EC2 is a web service which allows customers to rent virtual server instances by the hour. The real power of EC2 is that it allows you to auto-scale your web applications on demand. Expecting heavy load today? Fire up another web app server or two, with no wait time for procurement, while taking advantage of Amazon’s robust infrastructure.

Making EC2 even more attractive are tools like Matt Conway’s Rubber, a set of extensions to Capistrano that allows you to script procurement and provisioning of server instances as well as deployment of your application itself. Need to set up a staging server? Use Rubber to deploy a disk image, install the necessary stack and utilities, and deploy the appropriate version of your application — in moments — all automatically. In this talk, Nick will quickly discuss the basics you need to know and then dive right into a realtime demo.

Brian will introduce RVM, the Ruby Version Manager. RVM is a command line tool which allows us to easily install, manage, and work with multiple Ruby environments and sets of gems. Topics to be covered include:

  • Installation of RVM on Linux or OS X.
  • Day to day use of RVM to switch between Ruby interpreters
  • Managing sets of gems using Named Gem Sets

If you’ve ever been burned by differences between development and production, you should check out RVM — see how easy it is to take control of your Ruby environment.

So join us on Monday, 16 November at RMC Research for the last meeting of the year. Hope to see you there!

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.