No RailsConf this year

Last year I had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to attend the first RailsConf and had a great time. This year it's back with a much bigger venue and support from O'Reilly. Alas the timing is not so good as I'll be helping the folks at Savoy prepare for HMS Pinafore, but I'll be able to tune into many podcasts and whatnot. If you are thinking of attending and can't make up your mind I would thoroughly recommend attending RailsConf 2007. It'll give you a great op­por­tu­ni­ty to network with a great bunch of people who are highly skilled, yet open to newbies.

The second half of the year is open for con­fer­ences and the like so maybe OSCON would be fun. Microsoft are running their PDC, but I'm not sure I'd get as much from that as I have done previously. I'll have to have a think about it...

Tagged with rails and rubyonrails.

Running Rails with FastCGI on IIS

With a little help from Mike Volo­dark­sy's tutorial I'm up and running with Ruby­On­Rails using a native FastCGI im­ple­men­ta­tion. This is a big deal because it'll mean that Microsoft will provide a supported way of running Rails ap­pli­ca­tions. In addition, PHP ap­pli­ca­tions will be able to run with greater per­for­mance and re­li­a­bil­i­ty thanks to the work that Zend and other PHP devs have put into improving their Windows story.

This is a good job since I'm doing more work with these open source tech­nolo­gies at the moment since Microsoft have done little to improve the ASP.NET platform. For .NET developers, MonoRail is the only usable framework for de­vel­op­ment. Additions such as ASP.NET AJAX do little to make the platform better for the ap­pli­ca­tions I am working on. The problem with AJAX is that it's not an end in itself. You need to have a reason to use it and a design to match, or you end up on the road to poor per­for­mance and usability.

Tagged with iis, rails, ruby and rubyonrails.

RailsConf Review

My RailsConf photos on FlickrIt's just over a week since I returned from the First In­ter­na­tion­al Rails Conference in Chicago and I've had some time to reflect on my ex­pe­ri­ences and put a few photos online. This was the first open source conference I have attended and it was a truly en­light­en­ing experience. I had the pleasure of meeting some very in­ter­est­ing people from Mike Bailey to Dave Thomas and Martin Fowler.

The crowd at RailsConf was very different from that at Microsoft events which I have regularly attended in recent years. This was refreshing but also a challenge as I'm not a UNIX guru by any means. It's clear that there is little interest in the community to actively support Windows and provide a bridge for .NET developers to migrate. This schism is something that the veterans like Dave Thomas are looking to cross as there is a lot of time and effort invested in other tech­nolo­gies. DHH's keynote address railed against support of XML Web Services and legacy database schemas. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Thought­Works, or another vendor, will step up and provide more support for working with enterprise tech­nolo­gies.

Deployment seemed to be a hot topic for all users at the conference and it was in­ter­est­ing to see the ca­pa­bil­i­ties with Rails. Mike Clark's talk on Capistrano was won­der­ful­ly presented. The simplicity of being able to pull together a build system which integrates source control and remote deployment was amazing. This is something that is sorely missed in the .NET community and could probably be built on top of NAnt in a less elegant way than Capistrano.

Jan Kneschke provided an in­ter­est­ing insight into building a Web server to handle a massive number of con­nec­tions. His Web server, LightTPD, was popular with the Rails community due to its FastCGI im­ple­men­ta­tion but now has com­pe­ti­tion from Mongrel. He's planning on improving the mod_proxy support so that "Lighty" will work with Mongrel in a similar way to Apache.

On the final day of the conference, Stuart Holloway of Relevance, and former Java junkie at De­vel­op­Men­tor, provides an insight into some of the Ruby techniques used by the Rails team. Stuart has spent a lot of time going through the Rails internals to figure out what the Rails core team has done to provide such cool func­tion­al­i­ty. Since I haven't spent too much time with Ruby a lot of this was very deep, but the ex­pla­na­tion of analogues in the Java world helped a lot. This talk provided me with a lot of food for thought and is the reason I signed up for RailsConf.

If you are interested in other sessions I attended, I've posted my incomplete notes for download.

Regards the venue, facilities, and catering I think that the RailsConf organisers did a good job. Providing wireless internet access for 550 people is not an easy task, and the fact I could check mail from time to time was good enough for me.

Overall RailsConf was an excellent event, and I'm lucky to have attended the first conference. RailsConf II is likely to be a lot bigger next May, and the overall feeling will be different. It will be really in­ter­est­ing if Mike, Oliver and Dei come along and we can catch up on a year of Rails de­vel­op­ment.

Tagged with rails, railsconf and rubyonrails.

RailsConf - Day One

On Wednesday night I arrived in Chicago, IL for the first ever Ruby on Rails conference. My Southwest flight from Philly was delayed for two hours so I didn't get to my hotel till 2.30am on Thursday. After less sleep than I had planned for, I went along to the Rails Guidebook. This was a cut down version of the Pragmatic Pro­gram­mers course developed by Ruby legend Dave Thomas. Dave presented along with Mike Clark and they didn't disappoint. If you ever get a chance to see these guys present make an effort to go see them, they are very en­ter­tain­ing. Thanks to Chad Fowler for en­light­en­ing me on the Ruby Gems system during the 'in­stallfest'!

Day one of the real conference kicked off today with a keynote from Dave Thomas on what he feels are areas where Rails can improve. He didn't spend a long time covering it, but support for other data sources behind a model is an important addition. Having improved database key support would also be nice to have for those working with legacy systems.

The best sessions of the day were on Capistrano, a Rails deployment engine, and Asterisk. The in­te­gra­tion of VoIP with Web ap­pli­ca­tions is sur­pris­ing­ly simple with this open source platform. I felt the Open ID session was a miss because the in­for­ma­tion had been presented in a similar way to Dick Hardt's identity pre­sen­ta­tion, and there was little on the Rails specifics.

A very useful notion from the world of Rails are migrations. These help you update your database based on changes to your ap­pli­ca­tion, and are very much automated by the platform. Un­for­tu­nate­ly these are not fully trans­ac­tion­al since MySql and friends do not have support for trans­ac­tions around DDL. I wonder when they are going to catch up with SQL Server in this regard?

Tagged with rails and rubyonrails.