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Notes from NH Ruby/Rails, 15-July-2008: Jeremy Durham and merb

Ten people attended the July meeting of the New Hampshire Ruby / Rails group, an affiliate of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group (but it’s okay if you don’t run Linux – there were lots of MacBooks at the meeting last night!). Thanks to Scott Garman and Nick Plante for organizing the meeting and to Tim Golden and RMC Research for providing the excellent facilities.

We started with a good round of introductions where everyone got to state who they were, what they were doing and their level of expertise.

Jeremy Durham was our guest speaker and the topic was merb. Jeremy explained that the 20-second answer for what’s merb is that Merb = Mongrel + erb. Merb is a very small and simple web framework that is ideal for quick small projects that demand few resources, while still providing a thread-safe environment in which to run Ruby. While not intended purely as a Rails replacement/competitor, much of what’s run in Rails can be moved to merb and vice versa with minimal effort. Jeremy offered that he often did a coding session in merb for the speed of the development cycle, and could then share the models he’d created with his team running Rails with minimum changes. Jeremy did a compare/contrast with Rails v. merb where merb is ahead in small memory models and threading, while Rails has the larger community and richer documentation. Jeremy mentioned a new community site: merbunity.

Along with the main topic, there were lots of tangential conversations on the joys of TextMate, vi vs. emacs, Apple shell defaults, JavaScript libraries (did you know there is an entire JavaScript MVC framework in SproutCore? That paperclip is a cool replacement for attachment_fu for uploading files?) which always enrich the presentation.

After the great presentation, there was sufficient time for networking and socializing, where folks got to follow up on interesting developments. Thanks to Jeremy for the presentation, and to Scott and Nick and Tim for organizing the event and to all for attending and participating! Topic for the August meeting hasn’t been nailed down yet. Stay tuned to the announcement mailing list whose links you can find at nhruby.org

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.

Is ZFS Apple’s secret weapon? | InfoWorld | News | 2007-06-08 | By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld

Gregg Keizer asks “Is ZFS Apple’s secret weapon?? Sun’s CEO Jonathan Schwartz said Apple’s upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard would rely on a file system that engineers at his company have spent years creating: ZFS.”

Very cool! GNHLUGgers saw ZFS presented at the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Linux User Group meeting in April when Todd Underwood mentioned the OS X rumors. An XServe running as the front-end to a whole mess of disks could mean a very easy-to-use, near-infinite scaling of storage devices, ideal for any SME with delusions of grandeur. Looking forward to seeing what Apple does with ZFS!

PySIG Notes, 26 April 2007

Thirteen attendees made it to the April meeting of the Python Special Interest Group, held as usual at the Amoskeag Business Incubator, Commercial Street, Manchester, NH on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 PM.

Bill Sconce lead off the meeting with a printed agenda and a round of introductions. Several new people were welcomed to the group; a range of levels of experience with computers and specifically Python made for a good mixed crowd.

Martin LeDoux showed off homemade bookbinding of the Python tutorial. Using an HP laser and Adobe Acrobat, Martin printed duplex 2-up folded, cut, glued and bound a pretty handy homemade book. Very cool.

Shawn K. O’Shea showed off the tarfile module which allows creation, querying, extraction and manipulation of tar files (with gz or bz2 compression) from within Python. This can be a real handy way to create cross-platform installable packages that would run on OS X, Linux or Windows.

Shawn also mentioned that there was a Google API for the Google Calendar with examples in Python scripting. Someone asked what that might be used for, and I offered the LUG coordinator Nag-O-Matic as a great example of using automation with calendars.

Bill attempted an introduction to Python datatypes by creating a hierarchy from primitive to complex objects. Kent had an objection to the terminology, and countered with chapter 3 of the _library_ reference (not chapter 3 of the Python reference which Bill was using) and a vigorous discussion ensued. That’s the point of the meeting, after all. And it’s far less likely to erupt into a flamewar in person. All sides had some good points, examples and counterexamples, and most of us learned more about Python internals. Good stuff.

Kent started Kent’s Korner 4: Iterators and Generators at 9 PM, when the milk and cookies were starting to kick in, The crowd was a bit more subdued, having spent their energy harassing Bill (and heckling Ben, in abstentia). Iterators went quite quickly. Generators woke the crowd up. Bill Sconce came up with a great example of greenbar color code generator, where the boss decides there should be two reds, three greens, alternating and repeating, though he may change his mind once he sees it. Off-script, Kent took off with this example, and followed it with a discussion of parameter passing to a generator.

Kent really has a gift for shedding light on these sometimes obuse topics; his examples really helped make the functionality clear, and working through the real-world example proposed at the meeting gave us all some idea of what was involved.

Kent also mentioned that he’s using IPython (note the capitalization; guess it’s not an Apple product!) an improved interactive shell.

Meeting called at 9:44. Wow. Long meeting, but a very productive one. One of the attendees wrote to me this morning that he went home and altered some of his scripts based on what he learned at the meeting. No greater praise could we ask for.

Thanks to Bill Sconce for running the meeting, the Amoskeag Business Incubator for the facilities, Alex Hewitt for wrestling with the network, to Martin, Shawn and Kent for presenting, and to all for attending and participating.

Next meeting May 24th, topic TBA.

Postscript: Like the previous meetings, we saw examples running in Python on OS X, Windows (VMWare on the Mac, I think) and Linux. It Just Works.

Ernie The Attorney: Avoid penalty for switching cellphone carriers

Ernie The Attorney blogs about how to Avoid penalty for switching cellphone carriers when you’re signing up for the new Apple iPhone. He points to Mike Arrington’s TechCrunch where Mike suggests, “My recommendation is to simply throw out the PC and switch to Mac. You’ll do it eventually anyway. Might as well do it now.” Wow! Will the iPhone be the new driver for Switchers?

It's all about … choice

LXer points to a page with logos of 352 Linux distributions. So little time, so many possibilities.

Choice is good, and choice is bad. Edubuntu, for example is a distribution designed specifically for young children, with approachable games, education and entertainment. TrixBox is a distribution focused on small- and medium-sized business phone management (PBX).

So how can choice be bad? David Pogue reviews Vista in last Thursday's New York Times. Vista will be available in 5 different versions, and it's not so much about what's added as what's taken away in the lower priced versions. That's not a feature. Pogue goes on to say:

So after five years, how is Windows Vista? Microsoft's
description, which you"ll soon be seeing in millions of dollars' worth
of advertising, is “Clear, Confident, Connected.” But a more truthful
motto would be “Looks, Locks, Lacks.”

So, choice can be bad when it's between evils. A better choice if you're facing Vista? Mac OS X? Stay the course with Win2K or XP? 352 Flavors of Linux?

It's your choice.

Apple releases 7th major security update of 2006.

Over at InfoWorld, Robert McMillan is reporting that Apple patches AirPort wireless bug. “Apple Computer Inc. has fixed a number of flaws in the software that ships with its personal computers, including a bug in its AirPort wireless drivers that was disclosed earlier this month… Apple's Tuesday update also fixes several issues in products that ship with OS X, including flaws in the ClamAV antivirus software, Perl, PHP (PHP Hypertext Preprocessor) and Samba… In total, 22 patches were released in this update, named 2007-007 by Apple.” Double-oh-seven, eh? Get patching!

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