Noel Rappin Writes Here


May 27, 2010: Random stuff today

Chicago Ruby, Cory Doctorow, Merlin Mann, RailsRx, Ruby, Superman, TextMateNoel RappinComment
I think we're going to be even more random then usual today. Here goes:

If you downloaded the epub version of Rails Test Prescriptins beta 3, then you may have noticed that the promised Cucumber chapter isn't there. The PDF is fine, and I have no idea about the mobi version one way or another. If you were affected by this, please go back to the Prags site and grab the file again, it appears to have been fixed.

I'll be at Chicago Ruby on June 1 at 6 PM -- see link for details. Free pizza!

Matt Aimonetti claims that this tweet from Matz says that Perlisms like $/ might be removed from Ruby 2.0. Okay...

Merlin Mann weighs in with his favorite TextMate themes and a couple of cool bundles. I'm not normally a fan of light text on dark, but I give it a try every now and again.

Brief review of Cory Doctorow's For The Win: Interesting setup, Cory does a good job explaining the economics and setting up the characters. He's really trying to change the world here. Ending of the book is interesting, not completely satisfying. If I get time, a longer review coming somewhere.

My friend Mark Tyler Nobleman, author of Boys of Steel, which is an awesome kids biography of Superman's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, announced that he has a contract for his next book about longtime Batman writer Bill Finger. Yay Mark!

May 17: The Happy Streets of Wilmette

Agile, Consulting, Gems, Onion, RailsRx, RubiniusNoel RappinComment

Book Status

The Cucumber chapter is nearing final edit for beta. I cleared up a handful of errata, of which probably the most serious was a mistake on how to get the fixture data to pass the first test in the book. I'm hoping to get Beta 3 out later this week, and then I have to decide which direction for beta 4.

Oh, and the book: still on sale.

Agile Working

A few links about being a Rails Developer:

Jake Scruggs asks if you are really doing Agile development.

Mike Gunderloy makes a list of the services and tools that he finds useful in his development business. A great post if you are a small consulting firm.

Harri Kauhanen posts about how to sell Ruby on Rails projects. I've heard most of these in sales meetings over the last few years, though my impression was that it was getting better.

And Then...

The Rubinius Ruby interpreter reached a 1.0 milestone on Friday, as noted by nearly every Ruby person on Twitter. So far, I haven't used it, and my RVM install of it failed.

In a less interesting story, Ruby Gems 1.3.7 was also released.

And Finally...

This Onion article about David Simon doing a series in Wilmette, IL, cracked me up, but mostly because I grew up there.

May 14: Moving To Beta 3

Cucumber, Git, HTML5, Rails 3, RailsRx, YehudaNoel RappinComment

Top Story

Just a quick update here.

Cucumber chapter newest draft is complete, and I'm hoping it will be beta 3 early next week. Not sure what to do next, I need to look around and see what's relatively stable with respect to Rails 3.

The book is still on sale. Tell all your friends.

And then

Rails Dispatch this week is about the new routing in Rails 3.

Yehuda Katz has a really nice article on workflow with git.

A brief rant on Ruby 1.9 and encodings.


The excellent Dive Into HTML 5 book/site has a quick reference on how to detect all kinds of HTML 5 related browser behavior. I'm pretty sure I'll be coming back to this page again.

May 12, 2010: The Raffle is Done

Cucumber, RailsRxNoel Rappin2 Comments

Top Story

I ran the Lulu raffle last night, and all five winners have responded. For what it's worth, I took a list of users from my database, generated a random series of numbers from, and the users corresponding to the first five numbers in the sequence were picked.

Congratulations to Peter Bosse, Tim Harvey, Cameron Pope, Joshua Ball, and Christian Knappskog. You'll be contacted shortly with information about receiving your prize.

Thanks to everybody for being supportive of this process. I appreciate it.

Book Status

Still working on Cucumber chapter, still expecting it to be Beta 3 next week.

And Then

Not a lot of links today, for some reason. Portal is coming out for the Mac today, that should be cool.

May 11, 2010: Beta 2 Is Out

ActiveRecord, Cory Doctorow, HTML5, NoSql, RailsRx, Seaside, UXD, iPadNoel RappinComment

Top Story / Book Update

Beta 2 of Rails Test Prescriptions is out. The biggest addition is the chapters on integration testing and Webrat/Capybara. Beta 3 will be coming next week and will include all or most of the Cucumber chapter.

Please do post to the forum, there's not any discussion there, and I'm interested to hear any questions or comments you might have.

Other People's Books

A lot of book links today.

SF writer Charles Stross has been writing some brilliant stuff about publishing, including making a great deal of sense about ebooks. One big takeaway, in case you haven't noticed, just because they are digital, doesn't mean the price of books is going to drop dramatically.

Speaking of ebooks. Cory Doctorow's new book, For The Win, is out today. Say what you will about Cory, he's become a fantastic novelist, and he walks the walk. For The Win is available for free download on Cory's site.

And, hey, speaking of ebooks, Lulu announced that they will allow their books to be published to the Apple iBooks store, which is great, because the iBooks store could use the stuff on the shelves.

Twitteriffic developer Craig Hockenberry asked for some books for people to get started with programming, specifically for people hoping to get started in on the iPhone.

And Then

This page is based on a stack overflow question for new programming jargon. You may recognize your team here...

Here's one Rails developer who has moved to the Smalltalk Seaside framework, and why. Seaside was commonly mentioned in the Rails community a year or so ago, but I haven't heard much about it since.

Mathias Meyer says that ActiveRecord callbacks ruined his life.

And, NoSql is apparently here to stay. If only we could get rid of the name.

This looks like a good reference to possible XSS attack vectors in HTML 5.


Jakob Nielsen has come out with the first serious user testing of iPad apps. The executive summary is basically that individual apps are inconsistent, and that is frustrating. Also, many content apps are too wedded to a print mentality. This research seems to have largely been based on content-heavy apps and websites, so I'm not sure it generalizes to, say, Omnigraffle, but it's worth looking at.

May 5, 2010: Aaiieeee

Craftsmanship, Languages, Neil deGrasse Tyson, REST, RailsRx, Teaching, This American Life, UsersNoel RappinComment

Book Status

Working toward beta 2, which will probably come out early next week. It'll include chapters on integration testing, and webrat/capybara, and maybe the Cucumber chapter, depending on if I finish the redo. Also, the setup appendix with at least partial Rails 3 info -- still sticking on how best to integrate the user plugin.

Thanks to Dan Benjamin and Jason Seifer for mentioning Rails Test Prescriptions (still on sale) on The Ruby Show episode 115.

Lulu raffle will be tonight.

And then...

Interesting article by Michael Bleigh on the divergence between the popular definition of REST with the technical definition. Bleigh argues that the popular definition is popular for good reason, but that the technical definition can still be useful.

If you are a web developer, then you probably hate Internet Explorer, or as I always pronounce it, "Aaiieeee". (Drives the people I pair with crazy, I think.) So it's kind of nice to see that IE's market share continues to drop. Though, of course, your milage probably varies -- the site I work on these days is still about 75-80% IE.

The first story in episode 406 of This American Life is interesting for it's discussion of Steve Poizner's experience teaching in a public high school. Leaving aside the details of Poizner's claims, which I'm not really competent to discuss, what came across to me was the common misconception about what teachers do. Thinking "I know stuff and I'm just going to to go into a classroom and be all knowledgeable and the students will learn" followed by "it's the student's fault if they aren't engaged" is such a sad and depressing view of what teachers do and what it means to teach. For a more contrasting, inspiring view, here's Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Two posts inspired by presentations at this year's Chicago Code Camp:

The similarity and difference between programming languages and human language fascinates me. This blog post talks about how programming might change if Chinese language grammar components were used to build the programming language constructs. Reminds me of Damian Conway's old Perl Latin paper.

Michael Norton has posted his slides from a talk on technical debt from the idea that most of the time when we say "I'm building technical debt" we really mean "I'm writing bad code". Love the slides, wish I had seen the talk.


So, in the past, I asked the Kathy Sierra question, "How can we help our users Kick Ass" so often that people began to think we were a martial arts studio. Here's Kathy Sierra from Business of Software '09, expanding on the point -- I've only watched some of this so far, but she's one of the best on building a passionate and awesome user base.

May 4, 2010: MacRuby and more

Cucumber, Dave Hoover, Dropbox, MacRuby, Rails, RailsRx, Ruby5, Watir, iPadNoel RappinComment

Top Story

MacRuby 0.6 is out. Big new features include a debugger, a new interface to Cocoa's Grand Central Dispatch, and a rewrite of the internals of basic Ruby classes.

In a related story, the early text of Matt Aimonetti's MacRuby book from O'Reilly is available for free online. Nice job all around.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but I use MacRuby and its ability to manipulate AppleScriptable programs to power my crazy-obsessive iTunes random playlist generator, so speed improvements are hoped for.

Book Update

Still in the Cucumber chapter. Had to go back to the beginning to make sure everything still made sense with Cuke 0.7. The end of proofing what I had is near, but I also need to write about newer features, most notably tags, and I need to make sure I still agree with all the ideas about when to use Cucumber that I had a year ago.

I changed the Cucumber in the chapter to use Capybara instead of Webrat, but it broke on test (having to do with a checkbox being checked). Not sure if it's an issue in Capybara, the Cucumber web steps, or me.

The book, of course, is still on sale.

Lulu raffle tomorrow, so get those address changes in if you need to.

And Then...

Big day for O'Reilly releasing stuff. Obtiva's Own Dave Hoover's book Apprenticeship Patterns was also released for free -- the whole book this time.

Gregg Pollack put together a big list of links on the official Ruby on Rails blog. All of these were originally covered on Gregg's podcast, Ruby5.

Brian Hogan has a set of matchers for using Cucumber with Watir, looks like it gives you in browser tests using a syntax similar to the existing Cucumber web steps, but more detailed.


Dropbox for iPad is out as of last night. If you care about that, it's really nice.

May 3, 2010: Hi, I'm Back

Cucumber, JavaScript, Obtiva, Peanuts, Podcasts, Rails 3, RailsRx, Teaching, cheat sheets, testingNoel RappinComment

Hey, where were you?

Sorry about that, I spent most of last week running the Obtiva Ruby/Rails/TDD 4-day boot camp training, and I didn't have time to do this daily catchup. Hey, if you think you need me or somebody like me to come to your company and blather about Ruby and Rails for a few days, contact us at It's fun.

Book Status

Rails test prescriptions: still on sale. Please do go to the forum to talk about what's there and what's not there.

Lulu raffle: still open, I think for another day or two.

Meantime, I've been working through the Cucumber chapter, and also proofing the mock article that will be in the May Pragazine.

Tab Dump

Several days worth of stuff.

Cucumber 7 is out of beta and in the wild. I'm hoping this doesn't mean too much updating of the chapter I'm in the middle of editing. The big change is a new parser advertised as 50-100 times faster. Which sounds like an outstanding change.

This week in Rails Dispatch, an article outlining the new ActiveRelation/Arel implementation of ActiveRecord for Rails 3

Thinking in Rails has a nice list of Ruby and Rails podcasts.

This is exactly what I want from a Rails plugin in: short, sweet, and solves a problem. In this case, from Ryan Bigg, finding database records by partial date.

I think I'll probably use this one: a detailed cheat sheet for all things Rails Migration.

A very detailed article on unobtrusive JavaScript that I really need to read more carefully.

The Thoughtbot team shows a nice design retrospective, walking through their process.

A couple of test links:

José Valim gives out some awards for best test suite features.

Will Leinweber tells you what the winning integration test stack looks like.

Bryan Liles at the Smarticus blog also responds to the question of whether you need unit tests and provides a good overview of the TDD process. I think he's got this right.


Apparently the Peanuts brand is still worth something, even without daily content, as an 80% stake in the brand rights for Peanuts just sold for $175 million. And if you want a sense of exactly where the pecking order is here, the article casually mentions in the next-to-last paragraph that the rights to Dilbert are also included...

April 27, 2010, Now Writing About Cucumbers

Cucumber, Git, Kent Beck, RailsRx, RubyMine, Webrat, iPad, testingNoel Rappin1 Comment

Top Story

For me, the top story is still Rails Test Prescriptions on sale, and my discussion yesterday of the raffle for the old Lulu customers.

Book Status

Now re-doing the Cucumber chapter, which was written long enough ago that it didn't consider tags. Cucumber has had approximately seventy-million releases in the interim, so there's some writing to do. This is the first chapter where I'm adding Rails 3 setup instructions, which will eventually go everywhere in the book, of course.

Tab Dump

Have to say, RVM support in RubyMine is potentially really cool.

Kent Beck would like to analogize goat farming and software development. I've heard worse.

I know you all have been following this story closely, so you'll be pleased to know that you can now bring your iPad into Israel with impunity. Again, carrying two of them with the roman numerals I to X as wallpaper.

Macworld has released an epub-formatted, iBooks compatible, user guide to the iPad.

Webrat bumped it's version to 0.7.1.

I frequently complain that there's no good visualizer for git repositories. This fork of GitX looks like it comes pretty close, though.


I'm pretty sure I disagree with some of this article by Josh Clayton talking about integration tests being more useful than unit tests. He's probably right about integration tests being more useful for ultimate correctness, but that's not everything that TDD is about. Unit tests are critical for the development process, and writing great code in the moment of development, and for supporting design changes and refactoring. Unit and integration tests have two complementary functions, just because they cover the same code doesn't mean they are redundant.

April 26, 2010: For all you Lulu Customers

RailsRxNoel RappinComment

Only Story

Special post today, then we'll get back to the relatively normal format tomorrow.

If there's one question I've been asked more than any other since signing Rails Test Prescriptions with Pragmatic, it's whether something would be done for those of you who bought and supported the original self-published version. We all really wanted to recognize those of you who bought the first version of this book, but there are practical constraints.

The Thing

Pragmatic is giving me five copies of the beta package -- ebook now plus print book later -- to raffle off in any way I see fit.

How I See Fit

Here's how it will work. One week from today, I'm going to take the list of known RTP purchasers from the registration database at the old, and I'm going to pick five of them at random. I'll contact those people via email. If they don't get back to me in a reasonable amount of time, I'll pick more people until all five copies are taken.

Now, I know that some of you registered at with one-time email address, and that some of you may not have registered at all. That's why we have the one-week waiting period.

If you registered at with an email address that will still reach you:

You're golden, nothing further needed.

If you think you registered at with an email address that is no longer valid:

Send an email to railsprescriptions at with the subject line "Raffle email change", include the email you registered with and the email you would like to be contacted with.

If you never registered at, or if you have no idea what email you registered with:

Send an email to railsprescriptions at with the subject line "Raffle new email". Include the email you would like to be contacted with, and some proof of purchase, like the Lulu receipt.

If you don't have the Lulu receipt, but still think you have a purchase

Contact me at railsprescriptions at with the subject line "Raffle Me Too", and I'll give you an alternate way of verifying your purchase.


I should say that I was not directly involved in whatever discussion happened inside Pragmatic's marketing, so some of this is an educated guess.

Keep in mind that everybody involved wants to do something to recognize the early supporters of this book. However, it became clear (at least to me) that the logistics of any kind of general coupon code were probably not feasible. To see why, look at all the hoops I jumped through last section to verify existing users, and I'm only validating five of them. To do this for real on the whole batch would take a lot of time and effort.

Another way of looking at this: the Pragmatic version of this book is, in many ways, version two of this book. It's going to be 30-40% longer, it'll cover the latest and greatest libraries, everything has been edited and rearranged... there's a lot of differences. It's not unusual for a second version of a technical book to be sold as it's own thing, separate from the previous version.

Thanks to all of you that have asked for your interest and your support.

April 23, 2010: Still Alive

Fractal, Git, Lame Repetition Jokes, RailsRx, Real Genius, Ruby, testingNoel Rappin4 Comments

Top Story

If you think the top story is going to be anything other than the continued launch of Rails Test Prescriptions, well, you probably don't know me very well. I may not be a marketing genius, but I do know the value of repetition. I mean, if there's one thing I know, it's the value of repetition.

Thanks to everybody who made yesterday fun: those of you who bought the book, those of you who blogged or tweeted about the announcement, and anybody who read this. And if you haven't bought the book yet, well, I'll repeat myself.

Tab Dump

A couple of quick ones here:

A ruby Mandlebrot set generator short enough to fit in a tweet.

Here's a Ruby library to the TextCaptcha humane and accessible Captcha library. I really hate twisted image Captcha's -- the Wrox book even has a minimal implementation of this kind of problem-solving Captcha idea.

Git bisect is one of those things you'll use about once every six months, but when you do, it'll be totally amazing.

Sarah Allen has some comments on Shannon JJ Behrens testing talk. JJ and I worked together about -- oy -- ten years ago now, where he tried (and temporarily failed) to talk me into switching Python from Java. I find the idea that both of us are now talking about Ruby testing to be wildly funny.

Also, nobody seems to know exactly why Israel has banned the iPad, but Time magazine sees corruption.


Things that make me happy: Noted character actor William Atherton is interviewed in the Onion AV club, and had two great things to say about one of my favorite movies, Real Genius.

Anywhere I go in the world now, that movie is as popular most anywhere as Ghostbusters or the Die Hards. It’s amazing, and it has a constant following in college kids. It isn’t something that seems to age.


They popped the popcorn for three months. There was a machine in the studio that did nothing all day long but pop popcorn...Then they took it way out to canyon country and a subdivision that was just being built, and they threw it into this house that they pulled down. It was real old-fashioned stuff. Now they’d do it digitally, I guess, but in those days, you had to pop the dang popcorn and put it in a truck and schlep it out to the valley.

And now I'm smiling.

April 22, 2010: Annnd We're Live. Really. I mean it this time.

Bundler, Cucumber, Pragmatic, RailsRx, YehudaNoel RappinComment

Top Story

So, about yesterday... Funny story.

Some of you may have gone to the Rails Test Prescriptions book site hoping to buy the book only to see a conspicuous lack of an "Add to Cart" button.

The book was for sale for about ten minutes, just long enough for me to start jumping up and down about it, then was pulled due to some issues with the ebook files. I heard that the famous PragProg ebook generating gerbils went on strike, but that's just a rumor.

Anyway, the book did go back on sale somewhat latish Wednesday evening, (although a lucky few of you may have gotten more chapters than we originally intended to be a part of this beta, all the chapters will get there soon enough). Thanks to Colleen Toporek, my editor, for helping work through the process.

Also thanks to Matt Polito, whose been saying for weeks that he'd be the first in line to buy the book when it came out. And I can prove he was -- only one person managed to buy the book in the brief window it was online in the morning.

Now, though, I can tell you for sure: the book is up, I like it, I hope you like it, too. Buy early, and buy often.

Book Status

Finished up a draft of the article for the PragMag, hopefully that'll be in the May issue.

Tab Dump

Continuing the Pragmatic theme, here's an interview with Dave Thomas, that I haven't listened to yet. Looks like that'll be a two-part interview when all is done.

Yehuda Katz has another great bundler article, this one on named gem environments.

Cucumber released a beta of version 0.7 promising much, much faster parsing of feature files. Among other things, that makes using tags much more practical. Time to revisit that chapter, I think.


Jason Seifer and Peter Cooper talk about ugly old programming book covers, then create their own. If you've followed Jason for a while, I think you'll agree that his book contains all of his received wisdom on how well Rails can scale. But, guys, I don't think it gets worse than my face on the cover.

April 21, 2010: Annnndd... We're live

ActionMailer, Podcasts, Pragmatic, Rails 3, RailsRx, TeachingNoel Rappin1 Comment

Top Story

What else, but the actual live sale page for Rails Test Prescriptions, which is You should be able to see the cover off to the right sidebar. (As I write this, they haven't turned on the "Buy" link, sometime today, I think).

I like the mortar and pestle in the cover, it has a nice resonance with "prescriptions" and also, at least for me, a little bit of a tinkering kind of vibe.

Anyway, I'm excited and nervous about this -- of the books I've written, this is the one that is most clearly my project from the beginning. I hope you like it, and I hope that your comments will help this be an even better book, and that we can get the physical book in your hands soon.

Buy early, buy often.

Book Status

I've been working on an article for the next issue of the Pragazine. I think I might be doing a better job of justifying a mock style than I have in the current book text, which means I'll need to copy some of those arguments back into the book.

Tab Dump

Nice Rails Dispatch post by Mikel Lindsaar detailing the changes for Rails 3 ActionMailer. The ActionMailer API is much more consistent with the rest of Rails, giving me a fighting chance of remembering how it works without looking it up every time.

The CoderPath podcast popped up on RubyFlow -- it's a weekly interview podcast with Ruby and Rails programmers, that has so far included DHH, Ryan Bates, and others. I haven't actually listened yet, I just saw the link, so you can consider this a transparent plea for them to interview me. Since you may have heard I have a book out.

Since I do a fair amount of Rails Training (interested?), I liked this Sarah Allen slide show about Test First Teaching. Some ideas here that I need to think about incorporating better in the training sessions that I run.


Do not adjust your web browser. The rubyonrails domains are all still down as I write this. And it has nothing to do with the volcano. Hopefully it'll all get straightened out soonish.

April 20, 2010: One Day More

Dave Hoover, Obitva, RailsRx, ResqueNoel RappinComment

Top Story / Book Status

As far as I know, everything is still good for the book to go on sale tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll post all the info -- url, cover, pricing. I don't plan to be subtle about it.

As for the writing itself, I finished the next drafts of the chapters on integration testing, webrat and capybara, the capybara bit probably still needs some more research. Right now I'm working on an article on mock testing for the Pragmatic Magazine, next up after that is probably a look through the Cucumber chapter, which I originally wrote about a year and umpteen skillion Cucumber releases ago.

Tab Dump

Not a lot today. Yehuda must be on vacation...

Video interview with Obtiva's Own Dave Hoover about his book Apprenticeship Patterns. The interview is conducted by Obie Fernandez. The book is full of useful things to do for anybody who is interested in learning. Which should be everybody.

Continuing the Dave Hoover theme, Dave is the person who first told me about Resque, and here's a nice blog post explaining why you should use Resque for background processing.

A sadder note, the Devver and the Caliper service will be shutting down on April 30. Too bad, they looked like interesting and useful services.

April 19, 2010: The Week Begins

Bundler, HTML5, Rails, Rails 3, RailsRx, Ruby, Yehuda, iPadNoel Rappin1 Comment

Top Story/Book Status

This is the week -- Rails Test Prescriptions should go on beta sale on Wednesday.

In a related story, now points to here, also will shortly. I'll be adding some basic about information and static pages here. At some point, I'll probably bring over any blog content from the previous site that still seems relevant. I'm not sure if the original free version of Rails Test prescriptions will still be available (it's becoming out of date, and there will be free samples available at Pragmatic), but I will make it available if anybody is still interested.

Tab Dump

Reg "raganwald" Braithwaite has a brief article on why Ruby needs blocks separately from lambdas, how blocks differ, and when that difference is useful.

A double dose from Yehuda Katz: A slideshow titled "Making your OSS project more like Rails", with some interesting insight on what makes Rails work as a project. And another Bundler article addressing the issue of why Bundler appears to work differently based on the ordering of gems within it. (Short answer: it's exposing dependency issues in the gems themselves.)

Over at Envylabs, they announced a new gem called Census, which allows you to gather demographic-style data on your users and then search for data based on their answers.

Another Rails 3 intro, this one at IBM Developer Works. I've written Rails stuff for them in the past, but I didn't write this one.

Here's a nice slideshow in HTML5 that shows off the new features of HTML5.


NetNewsWire has quickly become one of my indispensable iPad apps. The developer, Brent Simmons, in an attempt to discuss software development, has posted a number of pictures from various stages in the design and implementation of NNW-iPad. Thanks!

April 16, 2010: The cover is uncovered, at least for me...

Apple, EdTech, Joss Whedon, Rails, RailsRx, Smalltalk, standupNoel RappinComment

Top Story and Book Update

I have sample cover designs. I don't think I can show them yet, but I've got 'em, I like them, and hopefully we'll have picked one to show shortly.

Tab dump

Not a whole lot today:

Here's a look at the current status of using a non-blocking MySQL driver with Rails. The promise here is for significantly faster database access.

Two stories that are related to projects that I worked on back in my EdTech days:

Version 1.0 of Pharo has been released. Pharo is a fork of Squeak smalltalk aimed at, as far as I can tell, a more modern UI and setup. Pharo is also the reference implementation for the Seaside web framework. A lot of Ruby and Agile ideas came out of the Smalltalk community. I'd definitely recommend trying Smalltalk if you are looking for a new language. For years, I've given impromptu Squeak demos to show off what's cool and what's hard about Smalltalk. Check it out.

On a less encouraging note: Scratch, which is the current MIT media lab project to teach programming ideas to kids, had their iPhone app pulled from the app store yesterday. (The link is to Mark Guzdial's compututing education blog -- Hi Mark!) This is probably collateral damage in Apple's war on interpreters, but there's no way to put a good face on -- it's a disappointing decision and I'm sad I didn't know Scratch was there to download before it was pulled.


Part Two of the 8-Bit Dr. Horrible is up -- when you start the flash player, you have the option of clicking into act two, which I mention because it took me too long to figure out on my own.

Standup for April 14, 2010: Whedon to direct Rails 3

Joss Whedon, Rails 3, RailsRx, standupNoel RappinComment

Book Status

Not much new to report. Still in the webrat and capybara space. It does look like April 21 will actually be the beta date really and for true.

Top Story

Well, it's got to be Joss Whedon possibly directing the Avengers movie, right? The Internet would never lie to me about Joss. It's not like there's a collective internet freakout any time some rumor about a Whedon project comes through. If this is true, though, the resulting nerdquake could topple Cleveland.

Oh, and Rails 3 beta 3 is out. The biggest change seems to be that some helpers have been rolled off into plugins.

Tab Dump

IronRuby went 1.0, if you are into that kind of thing.

This is a couple days old, but Jason Seifer has a nice intro to Rake.

RailsRx Daily Standup: April 6, 2010

RailsRx, standupNoel RappinComment

Book Status

The initial beta release of Rails Test Prescriptions has been pushed back at least a week. It's not anybody's fault, just a traffic jam of books all coming into the system at the same time (including, I assume, the new iPad book).

Hoping to see a cover and other details in time for next week. In the meantime, I'm continuing on as if we're in the beta, which means I'm now revisiting the section on integration testing.

Tab Dump

In honor of opening day, here's a Ruby library for accessing Major League Baseball's Gameday API, from Timothy Fisher.

Alex Pane tries to take a moderate position on the iPad openness question, at least relative to Cory Doctorow. I mostly agree with this take -- I'd love the platform to be more open, but am not personally much affected by the current state. (Well, I'm not affected at all by iPod openness, I don't have one. I mean the iPod/iPhone/iTunes products as a group). See below comment that longer blog rants are in progress...


Couple longer blog rants in progress. Also, I'm trying to figure out what I want to do with, which a) still has outdated info on the old version of the book and b) not on a server that I have ready access to anymore. Basically, I'm trying to decide how fancy I need to get for what will mostly just be a blog. Running my own blog instance in the past proved to be kind of a pain, though most of that was comment-spam related.

Coming Soon To a PDF Store Near You

RailsRxNoel Rappin2 Comments
Actual public beta of Rails Test Prescriptions is finally getting close enough that I can see it. Unless I forgot something from my conversation earlier today, there are three things that need to be done before the book can be put on beta-sale:

  • Both myself and Colleen, the editor, need to do one more read through the chapters in question to make sure there aren't any gaping things missing. (For example, I need to fill in a few diagrams).

  • We need to get some marketing text written, the kind of copy that would go on the back cover or be sent to book buyers.

  • Various other marketing things need to be put in place, most notably a cover design.

We're targeting the end of March, and one reason I'm publicizing this is to give me extra incentive to hold up my end of the things that need to be done. Because otherwise I find writing marketing copy for my own work to be challenging and would tend not to do it. Instead, I might, say, write blog posts. (See, it's working already...)

A few quick questions that came up from my initial Twitter announcement.

What's in the initial beta?

The initial beta sale is roughly the first half of the book, ten chapters out of what will probably be a total of nineteen or twenty, depending on how we break it down. I'm told that once the book goes on sale, the expectation is that a new chapter or more will be added biweekly. In this case, at least half of the chapters to be added are already written, so things should come on board reasonably quickly.

What's not in the initial beta?

Rails 3 support is going to come in during the beta period, the first chapters of this section are going to start with it, but obviously that's a work in progress until Rails 3 is officially released.

I bought the self-published PDF. What's new here?

When I first started working on the Pragmatic version of the book, I said that it looked like the new text was going to be about 25% brand new stuff. That's a little low, as it turns out, it'll probably be somewhere in the 33% - 40% new stuff. New stuff includes (partial list, and I may have accidentally listed something that was in the original. Also, not all of this will be in the initial beta.

  • Comparisons of the most popular mock object and factory libraries.

  • Testing routes

  • Testing email

  • Javascript and Ajax testing with BlueRidge

  • Webrat/Capybara

  • Selenium

  • Performance (probably)

Plus everything will be updated, which is going to be especially big for things like RSpec and Cucumber that have evolved a lot in the past few months.

Plus even things that haven't strictly been updated have been improved and more information added.

Plus there's a real editor this time, and the order in which things are presented is less random. Overall, it's clearer and easier to read. It's a better book now.

I bought the self-published PDF. What happens to me?

This is a tough question to answer. I'm really grateful to the 400-some-odd of you who took a chance and spent your nine bucks on the original version of the book. At the same time, it's fairly unlikely that Pragmatic will do something institutional for you (among other reasons, the logistics of managing the signup would be a challenge for them).

On the one hand, I genuinely feel like those of you got good value for your $9 -- it certainly seems like a value as a really early beta book. On the other, I would like to do something to acknowledge you, but I'm not sure what is feasible. So I'm not sure how this is going to play out, but you'll be the first person I tell.

More Book Status

RailsRxNoel RappinComment
The book went out for 50% technical review this week, covering the first nine chapters, which is about 160 pages.

With the warning that I don't actually decide any of this stuff, it seems like if the reviews are basically positive, then the book will head into beta purchase while I work on the rest of it. I doubt that will happen in February, but I'm really hopeful for sometime in March.

I suspect that the final print version will come some time after the release of Rails 3.0 and RSpec 2.0, unless it looks like that's way too far off in the future.

For the record, the chapters that are part of the review are:

  • Goals -- a new intro chapter built out of some pieces of the original book, plus new writing.

  • Getting Started

  • TDD In Rails -- these two chapters come out of what was the free tutorial chapter and the beginning of the self-published version. They've been reorganized and polished.

  • Models

  • Model Data -- includes the original book small sections on fixtures, factories, and date/time data, plus a comparison of factory tools

  • Mocks -- the chapter in my original book plus a comparison of different mock frameworks.

  • Controllers -- original book chapter plus a section on route testing, plus some updated discussion of things

  • Views -- several chapters from the original bound together, views, and helpers (which got some updating), plus a new section on testing email

  • Ajax -- new chapter on testing Ajax, but RJS and regular

So that's about 30% completely new stuff, and all the rest of it has been polished, re-organized, and updated. It really feels like it's coming together well, can't wait for it to actually go on sale.