I’ve been working with Ruby on Rails intensively for several months, and I’ve finally found a place where Rails can’t readily be extended to do what I want. It’s ActiveRecord, which is probably the most controversial part of Rails.
I’m reminded of a James Gosling quote disparaging Microsoft tools, particularly Visual Basic: “The easy stuff is easy, but the hard stuff is impossible.” There’s a parallel between VB and Rails in this instance, in that if you only let yourself use the high level tools, the hard stuff is impossible, but the designers specifically tell you to do the hard stuff using a lower level toolset. The controversy that surrounds “X can’t do everything, therefore it sucks” should really be focusing on the feasibility of going through that trapdoor to do things “the hard way”. This is what Delphi did, which is why so many folks chose it over VB; it made the hard stuff easier.
Continue reading “ActiveRecord: the Visual Basic of Object Relational Mappers”
Derek Sivers of CDBaby kicks ass. He got a sophisticated and very very user-friendly, efficient, straightforward e-commerce system (including the back-end systems) written in PHP. Based on what I’ve read, he’s up there with Phil Greenspun in my opinion; that is, he’s among those who understand strategy and customer service and low-level technology and are able to build systems that don’t suck, resisting the temptation to be distracted by technological panaceas and fads. I may disagree with their individual technology decisions, but their higher-level thinking is excellent, so they’re definitely in the class of people who I’ll give the benefit of the doubt.
So when I read 7 reasons I switched back to PHP after 2 years on Rails I was a bit surprised, but not much. He’s experienced with PHP (he says he’s written 90,000 lines of code for CDBaby!), and has a huge installed base of code he wrote and understands intimately. He tried Rails, it didn’t work the way he wanted, and he went back to PHP. It was immediately obvious to him that this was what he should continue using.
The most shrill and arrogant among the Rails community have been rather unkind, partly due to this rather poorly written Slashdot headline that misrepresents what Derek says in his article.
Continue reading “Immature developer attitudes revealed in flames regarding CDBaby”
We developers and other nerdy folk are used to using strange and klunky applications that do something special, and we’re used to that trade-off.
Eclipse is an IDE so it’s hard to imagine it not being baroque and difficult to use, requiring weeks of effort to become productive. JBidWatcher has saved me a lot of money on eBay so I could probably put a dollar value on how much it’s worth to endure its bizarre UI. Azureus is fairly fugly also but it does a very good job and has a deep, sophisticated UI that’s fairly easy to understand, so despite the eyesore, it’s at least fairly clear. The common thread among all of these is that they are all written in Java, and that they are so valuable that it’s worthwhile to overlook the ugly UIs.
Now imagine those sorts of trade-offs, but on already difficult to use mobile devices, and aimed at consumers. Are you making a strategically wise choice by sacrificing usability and control over the user interface, and probably access to platform-specific features such as dialing the phone, in order to save money on development? Adam Breindel talks about this in When Building a Smartphone App, Resist the Siren Song of J2ME.
Continue reading “J2ME: Write Once, Be Disappointed Everywhere”
From what I’ve seen, Rails’ weakest features lie in the way it prepares the test database and test data, and Ruby’s Test::Unit isn’t much better than the awful but ubuiquitous JUnit that Java developers are accustomed to. I set out this week to impose my preferences on Rails in this area, and that took some effort. Here’s what I did.
Continue reading “Rails, Fixtures, the Test DB, and Test::Unit”
For the last few days I’ve been struggling to bend Rails to my will regarding the proper way to assure data consistency. Today I made some progress. This builds upon some research I did a few months ago, and hopefully this is a more or less complete solution to the problem of making Rails work the way I want it to regarding test databases.
Continue reading “Rails and the notion of Stupid Databases Being a Good Idea”