Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Riding An Old Rail.

I keep fighting to get back to things. Whether it's the books I'm writing or walking to stay in shape, or backpacking (which is what I'd do all the time if no one was watching), learning Linux (now that it's in a place where I can handle it), or sprucing up the bicycle to stay in shape without walking. Or photography, building web sites, writing blogs, or continuing to learn Ruby on Rails, I keep fighting.

Time is wiggly and slips away.

Ruby on Rails 2.0 recently came out, and before I could turn around 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 came and went, and now I suddenly find that we're up to version 2.1 as of May 31, 2008.

I thought I had a good web host, until things started getting squirrely and I found that there was no support any more. In fact, "support" seemed to have changed into something more like a pack of rats who could sort of type but not think. But that's the past, and I've written about it and moved on.

If you're looking for a Rails host, try "Rails Hosting Info". My current host is OCS Solutions. My former one has a name that ends in the number "5". Someone, and I can't tell you who, did a review of them and gave them the lowest possible score because there were no lower options.

OK, I had some problems moving to OCS. Partly because their setup was different, and partly because I was also moving from Rails 1.2 to 2.0.1. I had thought I was there, but the Rails setup I had on my desktop wasn't quite where it should have been. I'm not sure if the gem updates I ran were not quite making it or if I muffed it somehow, but tests would not run.

Everything else seemed OK, but that worried me.

I eventually downloaded a new installation of Instant Rails and moved my files over. After that the only problems I had were due to my own ignorance and incompetence. Luckily I have lots of both.

Those problems are out of the way now, but that wasn't all. "A short time ago Curt Hibbs, the founder of the Instant Rails project on Rubyforge, decided he didn't have the time to continue the project to the level it deserved. He announced the project would not longer be updated and users should look to another Ruby stack on Windows, named BitNami RubyStack." So said Rob Bazinet (his blog is "Accidental Technologist").

We can only hope that Mr. Bazinet continues Instant Rails as promised. He could probably use help too. BitNami RubyStack, which he mentioned, looks like an alternate. I haven't tried it, but it's there, and being developed actively.

I'm currently looking into getting Ruby on Rails working on my new Linux Kubuntu box, and eventually (soon) moving off Windows altogether, and permanently, which would leave Instant Rails behind anyway.

One Windows computer has had odd problems, due I think to the ZoneAlarm firewall. It also developed the habit of suddenly rebooting without warning, plus a lot of other odd things. In between it's been stable, but I can see the clouds gathering. Some things no longer work right. I think the registry is hosed. Reinstalling applications does no good.

My other Windows box is fine, sort of. It gives me the same error message when shutting down, but that's it. Or has been it. Now since I've applied the third XP service pack I have lost the ability to change the desktop or remove programs or get to a command prompt all the time. Looks ugly there.

My main candidate for replacing Windows looks like Ubuntu Studio. I found some really good instructions on HowtoForge about download and setup, how to modify it with additional tools, and install a Windows instance using free versions of VMWare tools.

Ubuntu Studio is basically Ubuntu with extra emphasis on graphics, audio, and video. The last two aren't so interesting to me, but the author (Falko Timme) makes a point of getting the system set up with OpenOffice.org, Scribus, and Inkscape and some supporting tools like Opera. I use the first two, and would like to have them easily integrated with graphics tools. I'm also nuts about Opera and would like to retain access to some Windows applications for a while.

This is all a few weeks off. My Windows systems are still running and I'm not yet confident enough in what I'm doing to switch over to Linux and hope for the best. Still too many things to do every day. I can't stop for a month and try to figure it all out.

Which brings us back to the moving target that is Ruby on Rails.

I managed to get my two sites updated to Rails 2.0.1, and running, and uploaded to OCS, but I haven't frozen Rails on either one (yes, I'm a butthead). Too many things going on. Part of it is that I want to completely redo my personal site, to focus it around the books I'm writing. This will be a complete redesign although I'll still have all of what I have there now, but more. This is about the lamest excuse I could have but I still don't do it.

For my business site there is no excuse at all except that I really have only the site and no business. But if it gets mucked up I'll look even more like an idiot, so I guess I should get at it. Like maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow sounds good. Does tomorrow work for you too?

Anyway, Rails.

There are lots of resources available for me and anyone else wanting to move from Rails 1.0+ to 2+. For a while it looked like the second edition of "Agile Web Development with Rails" would be the end of the road, but Sam Ruby is replacing Dave Thomas as principal author and there will be a third edition of "Agile Web Development with Rails". I can't wait. The target publication date is October 15, 2008.

Until then, here is a list of resources that might help someone else as much as they've helped me.

Web sites:

RubyFlow
Rails Inside
Ruby Inside

A PDF book (free): Ruby on Rails 2.1: What's new by Carlos Brando and Marcos Tapajos.

Articles:

Rails 2.0: It's done!, by David H. Hansson
Talking Rails 2.0 with David Heinemeier Hansson, by Robert Bazinet
Check for deprecations before you upgrade, by Ben Smith
Deprecated Parts of Ruby on Rails
Moving to Rails 2.0, by Marc-Andre Cournoyer
Preparing for Rails 2.0, by Myles Eftos
Rails 2.0 - What's a Newbie to Do?, by Rick DeNatale
Rails 2.0 step by step., by Sean Lynch
Rails 2.0 cookies-updated, by Ruby on Rails Security Project
Rails 2: The Top Five Features List, By Jason Gilmore
Rolling with Rails 2.0 - The First Full Tutorial - Parts 1 and 2, by Fabio Akita
Rolling with Rails 2.1 - The First Full Tutorial - Parts 1 and 2, by Fabio Akita
Upgrading to Rails 2.0. A Recipe, by Myles Eftos
Migrating from Rails 1.2 to Rails 2.0 (Rails Forum)
Migrating to Rails 2.0 (RailsRocket)
r2check.rb by Mislav Marohnic (Checks pre-Rails 2.0 apps for compatibility)
Rails 2.0 Final Released! - Summary of Features, by Ryan Daigle
- Major Rails 2 Features and Changes:
  • ActionMailer::Base.server_settings Deprecated
  • 1.month.from_now.no_longer.effed
  • Source Code Annotations
  • A Better Way to Access Your Helpers
  • Stop Littering In Your Environment File
  • ActiveRecord Caching Provided in Actions
  • Cookie Based Sessions are the New Default
  • Expanded Caching Scope
  • .rhtml and .rxml to Die a Slow and Painful Death
  • Mime::Type Convenience Methods
  • ActiveRecord Explicit Caching
  • RESTful Routes Get a New Custom Delimiter
  • Object Transactions Are Out
  • ActiveResource Gets Custom Methods
  • render Now 70% More Betterer
  • A More Flexible to_xml
  • New Database Rake Tasks
  • validates_numericality_of Gets Pimped
  • ActiveResource Finder Update and Custom Headers
  • RESTful Routing Updates
  • Bringin' Sexy Back
  • No More (conventional) Pagination
  • Collection Fixtures
  • Use Rake to List Your Routes
  • Partials Get Layouts
  • Your DB Adapter May Have Left the Building
  • Logging Gets a Little Snappier
  • Better Cross-Site Request Forging Prevention
  • Better Exception Handling
  • Specify Plugin Load Ordering
  • Validations Now :allow_blank
  • Fixtures Just Got a Whole Lot Easier
  • Filters get Tweaked
  • Pre-Environment Load Hook


References:

Accidental Technologist: Instant Rails Lives On
Agile Web Development with Rails, second edition, by Dave Thomas
Agile Web Development with Rails, third edition, by Sam Ruby
BitNami RubyStack
HowtoForge - Linux Howtos and Tutorials
Instant Rails
OCS Solutions home
OCS Solutions review at Rails Hosting Info
Rails Hosting Info
The Perfect Desktop - Ubuntu Studio 8.04
Ubuntu Studio
My book, Fire In Your Hand (at Amazon)

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