Rails, getting started without the hassle

I just changed jobs and am now a Rails developer at tolingo.com, which is an online translation broker. When I started out working on my new desk, I had to setup my iMac development environment. There are tons of articles of how to compile/install/run stuff like MySQL, to get you started on OS X, but I think all one really needs is Homebrew and RVM.

Homebrew

Homebrew is a Ruby based packaging tool for Mac and once you start using it, you immediately hate yourself for having wasted time on MacPorts

“Homebrew is the easiest and most flexible way to install the UNIX tools Apple didn’t include with OS X.”

This quote is from the official website and I guess they are absolutely right!

Formula

Homebrew is build around formulas. They describe how a package should be loaded from the web and installed on your system. It also cares about package dependencies, paths and all the other ugly stuff:

require 'formula'

class Wget < Formula
  homepage 'http://www.gnu.org/wget/'
  url 'http://ftp.gnu.org/wget-1.12.tar.gz'
  md5 '308a5476fc096a8a525d07279a6f6aa3'

  def install
    system "./configure --prefix=#{prefix}"
    system 'make install'
  end
end

You can easily install packages from the shell with brew:

brew install wget

Homebrew puts all the packages into ‘/usr/local’, so that it won’t interfer with other components of your system. To get your packages working, you need to include it into your $PATH. If you have any problems running something, Homebrew comes with the doctor command, that scans for problems in your setup!

Installation

Just download Homebrew to your system and update once a while:

# install homebrew via curl
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local && sudo chown -R $USER /usr/local && curl -Lsf http://bit.ly/9H4NXH | tar xvz -C/usr/local --strip 1

# update homebrew
brew update

Git, MySQL, Sphinx and more

What else do you need? Just search for it or get more infos with info!

These are the packages that I needed for development:

# install mysql and set it up
brew install mysql
mysql_install_db
# add mysqld as launch agent
cp /usr/local/Cellar/mysql/#{MYSQL_VERSION}/com.mysql.mysqld.plist ~/Library/LaunchAgents
launchctl load -w ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.mysql.mysqld.plist

# install git
brew install git git-flow

# add git bash completion (find path to your git with 'brew info git')
ln -s /usr/local/Cellar/git/#{GIT_VERSION}/etc/bash_completion.d/git-completion.bash ~/.git-completion.bash
source .git-completion.bash

# install sphinx search-deamon
brew install sphinx

# aspell with all spellings
brew install aspell --all

# libxml and imagemagick for sprites
brew install libxml2 imagemagick

RVM the Ruby Version Manager

RVM is a command line tool for managing your local Ruby environments, you can get some more information on the RVM homepage and in earlier articles.

Quick start with installing RVM to your machine:

# install rvm via curl !!! FOLLOW RVM INSTRUCTIONS !!!
bash < <( curl http://rvm.beginrescueend.com/releases/rvm-install-head )

# download and compile latest 1.8.7
rvm install 1.8.7

# create a .rvmrc file in your app's base directory
echo "rvm use 1.8.7@#{YOUR_APP} --create" > #{YOUR_APP}/.rvmrc
# execute it by cd-ing to your app's directory
cd #{YOUR_APP}

Now you can work on your app with a custom gem environment. Unless you are using Bundler, this is probably what you want for installing and removing gems painlessly.

Cucumber with Celerity

Behavior driven development with Cucumber works nicely with Celerity, a JRuby implementation of a headless browser using HtmlUnit and it’s companion a Ruby wrapper called Culerity. Culerity has recently been updated with some configuration points for registering your local JRuby environment:

# jruby config für culerity (from http://rvm.beginrescueend.com/integration/culerity/)
rvm install jruby
rvm use jruby@celerity --create
gem install celerity
rvm wrapper jruby@celerity celerity jruby
# add to .profile
export JRUBY_INVOCATION="$(readlink "$(which celerity_jruby)")"

If you are experiencing any weird Broken Pipe errors (like me), have a look at this issue.

This is just an example of how you can setup your Rails development environment. Comments on this topic are appreciated!

DZone API and iPhone app

As I already mentioned, I am currently getting my hands dirty with Objective-C and iPhone application development.

The biggest problem with getting started was that I had no idea what application I could write for that device that could become somewhat usable. As I am a passionate tech reader, I consume a lot of articles posted on DZone. Usually I use a feed reader like NetNewsWire for that, which works very well for my MacBook but is nearly useless on the iPhone, because the DZone site is not very mobile friendly…

Problems

Since there was no DZone iPhone application on the marked I started working on it. Parsing DZone feeds was easy, even though the buildin XML support on iOS sucks. There were some nice libraries that made my life easier.

No deeplink

The DZone RSS feed does not provide a deeplink to the actual linked article, so one would still land on the DZone page… Since DZone does not provide an API currently, I started working on my own Rails application hosted on Heroku. Spidering the RSS, calling the page and extracting the link to the article is fragile, but it works (currently).

No voting

One of my goals was to let the iPhone user vote for the article while reading it. The lack of an API forced me to do some more fragile login and posting stuff to the DZone page, but it works too (currently)!

You can read more about the API I created on the actual page.

iPhone app

The first version of the “dzone mobile” app has passed the iTunes store review process and is available through the app store. A version with some minor bugfixes is currently beeing reviewed. Have a look at updates and documentation here or here.

voting

You have got to provide your DZone login credentials if you want to use the voting feature. Go to the iPhone Settings > DZone and add your username and password. I want you to know that there is NO SSL, so your credentials will be submitted UNSECURE!

more Features

If you are interested in pushing this further, you can add bug reports or feature requests on GitHub.

screenshots

DZone iPhone sugar!