Well, it's been so long since I was working in Rails, that I've decided to start over again with a new-to-Rails system. I'm re-commissioning an old laptop running WinXP, so I used the Ubuntu WUBI installer (google it) and then I chose to load Lubuntu into a 20GB partition. [Yes, I defragged first, using Defraggler.] (If you're not a super geek and you want a lightweight Linux variant that is specifically built for older computers, I recommend Lubuntu.)
With summer on its way, it was time for me to decide where to spend some extra time. It's great having a daytime gig, but I needed to learn something new.
To my horror, I discovered that I'd lost almost all of my Rails skills. But then I received an email from Michael Hartl that his 2nd Edition of the Ruby on Rails Tutorial (PDF & videos) were now available! Talk about good timing!
So, I'm off to start the new installation with the latest version of Rails, and we'll see where it goes.
What's different this time? Only that I'm developing on an older laptop (2.5GHz AMD64 with <1GB RAM), so I'm running LXDE on Ubuntu. Here we go!
(ps. I didn't realize Ubuntu's defaults would run so slowly on my old laptop, otherwise I would have done a proper Lubuntu install from the start. Instead, I now have this hard drive chock full of desktop managers: Unity, Gnome Fallback, XFCE and now LXDE! They all work, but I'm definitely impressed with the speed of LXDE. And, after all, I'm just using this system for web development! Let's see how it handles. :-)
So, after starting a number of Rails projects, I thought I'd make a quick list of commands and system changes that I use with almost every install. (I'll also include some common commands at the bottom.)
Celebration time! I've finally finished the 12 chapters of the RailsTutorial.
Of course, he finishes off the video series with 2 things:
As a Rails newbie, trying to wrap my head around JQuery (the new default on Rails 3.1) has been a bit of a chore. This isn't because it's hard to use, or because the RailsTutorial.org is hard to follow. Actually, the opposite is true: because it's so easy to use, that means it is harder (for me) to figure out what is going wrong if (aka "when") something does go wrong.
Enter FireBug. It's not entirely intuitive, but at least it gives some pointers and displays the error messages that would otherwise fail to be displayed. At first, I thought FireBug would just start spitting out the error messages, but I needed to configure it first. Again, it wasn't much, but it did take me an hour of searching the web to just give up and try poking around. The "Console" button was what I wanted. Displayed nice error messages so that I could track down the bugs. (Not that they're all fixed yet, but at least I have a direction to look!)
Very valuable! Thanks so much.
Yes, I'm an old fuddy-duddy. I started programming back in the 80's and learned Turbo Pascal and Modula-2.
I still remember that making code readable was about using helpful names for variables and functions... and ALWAYS make sure those names were visually different so that you wouldn't confuse them. (e.g. $user, $users, $Users)
Well, welcome to the world of Ruby on Rails.
if Michael Hartl's tutorial is any indication, then this world is chock full of references to things that all look the same. So far, I've discovered that the following are very VERY different, yet they look so similar. These are all variables, instances or classes. (I get so confused!)
And yes, I do find all this hard on my tired old eyes. While it might "read more like English" I have to wonder at what cost. I'm sure someday I'll lose hours trying to find a bug that was more about a missing (or extra) "s" than anything else.
If being readable means that my code is hardly debugable, then maybe we've "swung the pendulum" too far!
Sure, we all have to learn something new at some point. But what I hate the most is the solution that you can't learn from.
So, I spent yesterday working on Chapter 11 of the Rails Tutorial. It's been great, but there was a "re-factoring" section in the middle that I knew was going to haunt me. There were too many changes, too many RSpec test added and and the development was just too much. My code "blew up" on me. I had at least 14 tests go red, and the solution that should have been obvious was completely hidden behind all my attempted fixes that only made things worse.
So, I blew away all my Chapter 11 work ("git reset --hard" takes you back to your last commit). I started again, and when I got to the "too busy" part, I broke it down into smaller chunks and went by baby steps (with a complete RSpec run after every step).
Did I find my problem? NO!!!!!
Every RSpec test passes now with flying colours.
The big step (I had thought) was to move "def authenticate ..." from the users_controller to the sessions_helper. I moved the code, ran the test, held my breath, ... and it ran green! For once, I really wanted my code to blow up (so it would justify all my pain from yesterday). What I had spent an hour researching and 2 hours repairing... was not a problem ... at all. (groan)
So, I have no idea where my code went wrong yesterday, so I have nothing to learn from my mistake.
However, maybe my biggest mistake was to "follow the instructions" when my gut said, "Take it slow or you'll get lost!"
So, that's the lesson of the day. Take your TDD in baby steps (and don't worry if it feels slow, because the alternative is ... ARGGG!)
[TDD = Test Driven Development]
What is happening when your code runs fine, the tutorial shows that your code should be "RSpec green", but it isn't?
For me, it's time to go to StackOverflow.com again. The hardest part was searching for the right answer. But once it was found, it just works!
So, for those of you stuck in (Michael Hartl's awesome Rails Tutorial) chapter 10 and wondering why you now have RSpec giving you 7-10 errors, don't worry!
I had suspected all along that this was just one of the differences between Rails 3.0 and Rails 3.1, and it appears that I was right! When searching for "test_sign_in" the 4th hit took me here, and the answer redirected me here, where I received the bizarre but efficient changes that needed to be made.
In sessions_helper, find def sign_in
[TDD = Test Driven Development]
When I first sat down to learn Rails, I thought, "A week, maybe two... ."
I've now learned that watching a 1hr 20min tutorial video from Michael Hartl will take me about a day. That's including:
... that and keeping a window to StackOverflow.com open for any weirdness that creeps up!
RSpec seems to make such intuitive sense, and now that I've started to wrap my head around TDD, I am starting to see the benefit. Sure, initial development may be slower, but the overall development approach should help over the long-term maintenance of your code.
But then, RSpec completely stumped me.
Thanks to the folks at StackOverflow, because this post, explains my problem exactly. After multiple tries, my test just wouldn't work. But with this explanation, I started wondering how the "click_link ...." test was working. Then it hit me: each "click_link" represents a user click, so the following test is now looking at the new page (just "clicked") and not the path I had specified above. AHA!
Very interesting (and, sadly, unintuitive for the newbie).
Author: Graham Rich
Contact Mr. Rich
Currently employed with
New Brunswick's Department of Education (also known as EECD)
- IT/BBT/Graphics (10 years)
- Visual Arts (2 years)
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