Noel Rappin Writes Here


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.

April 13, 2010: iAd, youAd, weAll Ad

Agile, Apple, Bundler, JRuby, Ruby, Yehuda, iPad, standupNoel RappinComment

Top Story

iPads. Lots of them popping up in and around work. Probably some more coherent impressions coming later.

Wait, once again, Twitter has a big announcement after I start writing this. This time, they are going to start placing ads in the Twitter stream in various ways to be announced today. My quick reactions: a) I long suspected this day was coming, b) if the ads in clients are any guide, they aren't particularly burdensome, c) implementation details will decide how irritating this is.

Book Status

Still working on Webrat and Capybara. Still waiting for a cover. Somewhat doubtful that the beta will happen this week, but I haven't been told that for sure.

Tab Dump

Charles Nutter puts out an open call for help with the pure Java port of the Nokogiri XML parser for use with JRuby.

Confused by ==, equal?, and === in Ruby? You won't be after this article.

Hey, it's another big-time Agile founder: Ward Cunningham being interviewed. Pull quote: "When you're doing it well it feels a little plodding, you're not racing ahead like you might do on your own. But what happens is that it never slows down." Can I get that on a T-Shirt?

Yehuda Katz is turning his attention to more Bundler documentation, with two articles that went up as I started typing this. The first one lays out the problems bundler tries to solve, and the second talks a bit more about problems specifying the order of require statements.

Rails Rx Standup: April 12, 2010

Agile, Apple, Git, RSpec, This American Life, Twitter, standup, testingNoel RappinComment

Top Story

For a while, it looked like the top story was going to be Apple's new developer Rule 3.3.1, described here by John Gruber. More on that in a second.

But the real top story is the news that Twitter has bought Tweetie, intending to rebrand it as Twitter for iPhone, and dropping the price to a low, low, free. Eventually, it will be the core of Twitter for iPad. Wow.

Tweetie is probably the only case where I actually prefer the iPhone experience to the desktop experience, but I'd also be very sad if Tweetie for Mac was orphaned. (Not least because I just bought the MacHeist bundle in part as a way to get the Tweetie Mac beta sooner...). Later update: Tweetie developer Loren Brichter said on the MacHeist forum that the next Tweetie/Mac beta will come out.

I actually suspect that at least some of the existing iPhone Twitter clients will be able to continue -- there's clearly room in the ecosystem for apps that have much different opinions than Tweetie. It depends on how aggressive Twitter is planning to be. Dropping Tweetie's price to free strikes me as agressive, although it may just be that the Twitter team is averse to direct ways of making money.

As for the Apple story, it's a familiar space. Apple does something -- in this case, blocking apps not originally written in C, C++, or Objective-C -- that might have a reasonable user or branding component (keeping the iPhone platform free of least-common-denominator cross-platform apps) and taking it just too far for users or developers to be comfortable with it. That's, of course, an understatement, as a lot of developers are really angry. Gruber's point about the Kindle apps is good (and was later cited by Steve Jobs), but on the whole, I think this is a bit to far for Apple, or maybe I'm just upset that that the door seems to have been slammed on MacRuby apps for iPhone ever being feasible.

Book Update

Still working on the Webrat/Capybara chapter. Describing two tools that are so similar is really challenging for me -- when there's a difference, keeping it clear which tool is under discussion.

Also I've got the probability that I'll have an article in an upcoming issue of the Pragmatic Magazine. This will probably be based on material from the book, but edited to fit the magazine article format. Probably either factory tools or mocks. Or maybe Ajax testing. Haven't decided yet.

Tab Dump

Don't think I've mentioned this yet, but here is a cool presentation of RSpec tricks. Some of these don't work in RSpec 2, though.

While we're on the presentation kick, here's a nice intro to Git from James Edward Gray.

If you've ever tried to deploy Agile in a hostile environment, then the recent This American Life episode about the General Motors/Toyota NUMMI plant will resonate for you.

And Finally

A comparison of a boatload of Ruby test frameworks, being used in Iron Ruby to test some .NET code. I admit that I was not familiar with all the frameworks used here.

Rails Rx Standup: April 9, 2010

Apple, standupNoel Rappin1 Comment

Book Update

Not much to report. Still messing with the integration test chapter. Also still waiting for cover possibilities.

Tab Dump

Continuing the RailsEnvy story from yesterday, today Jason Seifer posts some more details. This essay is more personal. I wish Jason nothing but good things.

In a somewhat ironic counterpoint to Gregg and Jason writing about Rails envy, it was widely reported today that Justin Long thinks the "I'm a Mac" ads, of which he is the right-hand half, are over and done.

In general Ruby news, we've got, a minimalist site that lists upcoming Ruby conferences, and, which is Gregory Brown's new site providing in-depth solutions to interesting domain problems.

TDD pioneer and RubyRx hero Kent Beck, has put up an unedited screencast about TDD. "Test Driven Development is intended to help programmers take more responsibility for the quality of their work". It's a little rough around the edges -- it's unedited, and it's in Java. But it's Kent Beck, talking about TDD, so go watch it (especially the first couple minutes, which are more general). Notice how small each of Kent's steps are.


You may have heard that Apple had another announcement yesterday, this time for iPhone OS 4.0. The big one is obviously the structured multitasking. I'd like to thank Apple for allowing the iPad to overshadow most of the pre-announcement speculation about iPhone OS, leaving us with only the months of post-announcement speculation. Some of which I plan on indulging in.

Rails Rx Standup: April 8, 2010

standupNoel Rappin1 Comment

Book Status

Did a read-through of the integration testing chapter, mostly for grammar and clarity, there haven't been any technical changes in the material that I have been able to discover. Next up is Webrat/Capybara, which will have some changes.


Got my RailsConf non-approval, which is disappointing but, you know, I also probably could have put a bit more effort into polishing my proposals.

Tab Dump

Gregg Pollack gives a brief history of RailsEnvy. RailsEnvy in general, and Gregg in particular, have been very helpful supports of me, and of the self-published version of this book, and I'm glad that things seem to be going well for him. I was at the Rails Edge conference where RailsEnvy premiered videos -- it was my first Rails community event, and what I remember is how big a part of that event their videos turned out to be.

Engine yard has a new blog at for "Rails news delivered fresh". The first post up is by Yehuda Katz (naturally), and is a nicely done summary of Rails 3 changes.

A few weeks ago, I was doing Rails/TDD training, and one of the issues the group had was the repetition of information in the routes file for Cucumber. It was confusing. This article from Solomon White has a quick workaround to automatically convert phrases to their named routes. I was thinking along similar lines, and I'm glad to see that somebody did this.

Finally, not a Rails, thing, but really cool: Dr. Horrible, imagined as an 8-bit Nintendo game.

Rails Rx Daily Standup: April 7, 2010

standupNoel RappinComment

Book Status

Phone call with Colleen (the book's editor) confirms what I had posted yesterday. We should know shortly when the beta actually will begin for real.

Started looking at the integration and Webrat chapters. I'll be adding Capybara to the mix as well. Also started putting together the Rails 3 version of the sample code, which quickly foundered because there isn't an official Rails 3 version of Authlogic. There are a couple of forks that claim compatibility, though, so I think one of them will serve as a shortcut.

Tab Dump

I was at the Chicago Ruby meetup, yesterday, featuring lightning talks from David Chelimsky, Jake Scruggs, Ryan Briones, and other people that I know less well. Full list here. A nicely done evening.

This is a few days old, but is now the go-to place for Bundler documentation. I definitely learned some things here.

Rails 3 beta 2 came out last week, and here's a quick guide to the relatively few important developer-facing changes.

Awesome print is very high on the list of things I'd like to start using on current projects. Looks pretty neat.

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.