git bandwagon

Well, I’ve officially joined the git bandwagon.  I’ve put metaform up on github (the open money projects will come soon, but I think probably on gitorious); I’ve been reading tons of articles about git; I installed it on Tiger (use MacPorts) and Leopard (install from source with these instructions but use 1.5.5); and now I’m blogging about it.  The most interesting article so far on git, has made me realize how closely related it is to the mesh and churn…  Quite interesting!

ubuntu gutsy on a xen virtual host

Hey googlers looking for tech-support:

I was trying to install various packages (emacs, etc) from universe on Ubuntu Gutsy (7.10), and I kept getting weird segmentation faults (Setting up emacsen-common (1.4.17) Segmentation fault). Turns out that the problem was that my server was being hosted on a VPS running XEN for virtualization, and you have to first install libc6-xen: apt-get install libc6-xen

Hope this saves someone the half day that it cost me…

rails capistrano deploy script OS X to Ubuntu

Ok, so in a previous post I described the rabit-hole which is switching to rails. Below’s my capistrano deploy script which solves a number of problems:

  1. The production server needs a mongrel cluster configuration file added.
  2. Deployment requires restarting the mongrel cluster.
  3. On Ubuntu the database.yaml spec has to be modified to because you need to specify a mysql socket path differently from OS X.

So here’s what I added to make it work:

desc "Restart the web server and mongrel cluster"
 
task :restart, :roles => :app do
  sudo "echo 'fish'" #bogus command to make sudo work in the run command
  run "cd #{current_path} && sudo mongrel_rails cluster::restart"
  sudo "/usr/local/apache/bin/apachectl graceful"
end
 
desc <<-DESC
configure the mongrel cluster
DESC
 
task :configure_mongrel do
  run "cd #{current_path} && mongrel_rails cluster::configure -e
  development -p 9000 -a 127.0.0.1 -P #{shared_path}/pids/mongrel.pid
    -c #{current_path} -N 2 --user om --group om"
end
 
desc <<-DESC
configure the mongrel cluster
DESC
 
task :configure_database do
  db_config = "#{shared_path}/config/database.yml"
  run "cp #{db_config} #{current_path}/config/database.yml"
end
 
desc <<-DESC
after updating we need to add back in the mongrel configuration file so that when restart is called
it will be appropriatly launched.  We also need to update the database config file
DESC
 
task :after_update, :roles => :app do
  configure_mongrel
  configure_database
end

A “list items won’t wrap” Firefox css fix!

The last few days working on the openmoney.info website, I’ve had a major hassle dealing with what appears to be a bug in the html renderer in Firefox.

The issue is that in Firefox, text in a list item won’t wrap around a right floated image; like this:

  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit,
  2. sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Code:

<ol style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; width: 300px">
  <img src="/images/eric.png" style="float: right" />
  <li>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit,</li>
  <li>sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
  Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi
  ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.</li>
</ol>

In Safari & Opera the text in the second list item wraps just fine. After an hour of searching the web and trying various things with clear, and in-line, I discovered that the solution was to set the list item width to 100%. In other words, list items take on the width that they start at by default! Crazy. The solution:

<ol style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; width: 300px">
  <img src="/images/eric.png" style="float: right" />
  <li>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit,</li>
  <li style="width:100%">sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et
  dolore magna aliqua.  Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation
  ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.</li>
</ol>

yields nice wrapping text for the second list item:

  1. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit,
  2. sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
    Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

If you aren’t viewing this on Firefox, the above two may look identical. That’s the whole point!

[tags]css,firefox,list item,wrap[/tags]

down the rails rabbit hole

The last month has been quite a trip down the rabbit hole into the new reality of ruby on rails! The promise of a powerful and well designed web application framework was just too much for me to resist, so I decided to leave my own yawaf framework behind (though it has certainly served me well).

So I’m posting this entry for those just starting down this path so you can see what might be on the path ahead of you and what I did to make my way over the learning curve.

  1. I purchased both the Programming Ruby and Agile Web Development with Rails books, and read them cover to cover. Both books are good. Dave Thomas really can write a good programming book.
  2. I dove into finally wrapping my head around the REST approach, which I also knew I wanted to switch to and was part of the reason I choose rails in the first place. To this end I found this great tutorial: RESTful Rails Development which expands on and gives clarity to the REST chapters in Dave Thomas’s book.
  3. Then it was time to install the creature on my PowerBook. The instructions in Dave’s book are pretty good, but the real place to go is hivelogic
  4. Once I had rails up I got my feet wet by implementing the bare essentials of the two projects that are the reason for switching to rails: the MANA stats project and, of course, open money.
  5. Since another reason for switching to rails was to be using an open source framework that others are well familiar with, and because open money is an open source project, and I want to get it out sooner rather than later, it was time to figure out where it should live. I find source-forge unbearably ugly, and though there are some other nice FLOSS platforms (launchpad, freshmeat), I settled on rubyforge for obvious reasons. So I spent a number hours learning my way around rubyforge (an instance of gForge) and setting up the open money project there. I realized pretty quickly that rubyforge is the right place to put up the releases of the projects and I may even use their svn repositories for a while, but gForge doesn’t cut it as a project development environment.
  6. So there I was off into another tunnel of the rabbit hole, which project development tool. So many of them… I see that lots of people, including the rubyonrails folks themselves, use Trac. However, I read many accounts of how difficult it was to install and get running, plus, I really felt that I wanted my project management tool to be in rails, to thereby leverage all my learning curve. I knew also that I was going to be modifying it out the wazoo, so it didn’t make any sense to learn yet another whole system. Dittio for various php bug-trackers, etc. After more hours of research, my options were then down to three: collaboa, retrospectiva (which is a fork of collaboa), and devalot. The first two are much more feature rich. But I ended up choosing Devalot, after talking with it’s author, Peter Jones (who seems like a real great guy) mostly because it just feels better than the others, but also because I like where it’s headed.
  7. Then I started to scratch my head about how in the heck I was going to deploy these apps. Yawaf is Perl base and deployable as plain CGI and works quite well for small sites. I’ve always known that I could switch to mod_perl if traffic increased enough to warrant it. Rails is another matter. You need to start out understanding deployment.
  8. So I read all that I could find, and tagged the good stuff for your reading pleasure on delicious. Upshot for me is apache 2.2.4 + mongrel + mod_prox_balancer + monit (not mongrel_cluster). [Update, after many hassles with monit, I ended up going back to mongrel_cluster (though I may add monit in later to monitor the cluster). See this e-mail exchange on the mongrel-users mailing list for details.]
  9. Then I realized that getting this to happen on my current VPS was going to be a nightmare, because it’s a DirectAdmin box, and getting apache upgraded to 2.2.4 was hard enough, but adding mod_proxy, etc was just not going to be doable while at the same time keeping it stable with my current apps live.
  10. So, then it was deeper down the rabbit hole into investigating Rails Hosting companies! Finding a hosting company in general is a huge pain and it is so variable according to your needs. Mine are complete control, hence VPS. Upshot: the company I wanted to go with, slicehost, is only taking reservations, and can’t fulfill orders for a month. Yow. (By the way, here’s a great writeup on rails hosting, and more delicious tagging of rails hosting in general.)
  11. So, now I’ve decided to do all this installation and testing of my future deployment environment on my basement Ubuntu server until slicehost comes through, or I find something better. For Ubuntu installation I’m taking some hints from these instructions which were missing one dependency for apache to compile for me (sudo apt-get install openssl libssl-dev). You may also want to check out this peepcode screen cast for another take on how to install the rails stack onto Ubuntu using deprec. It turned
  12. Once all the components are installed, the next challenge is configuring them to work right for your particular rails app. Enter bowtie, also by Peter Jones. Though still in development, this little utility produces configuration files for apache to use mod_proxy_balancer, and also for monit to launch and keep your mongrel instances up and running.
  13. Ok, so server is up and running, and I have a basic app on my development box, now I how do I deploy to the production server. Enter capistrano. Yet another learning curve. The trick is getting your deploy.rb script right to handle all the various problems… That will wait for a future post.
  14. Then, back into coding, I’ve realized that I just have to bite the bullet and start to use all the goodies built into ruby and rails for doing test driven development. So I started doing some background reading on good TDD practices which led me to behavior driven development which of course is why I’ve been putting of using TDD for so long because it’s BDD that actually makes sense. Here’s a great article by Dave Astels on BDD in the Ruby context. And fortunately there is rspec, a great implementation of BDD that integrates well into rails. The tutorial in the rspec documentation is very good for understanding it, and here’s the tutorial I used to get started using rspec in the rails context. Which led me to another helpful post by Dave Astels.

SnapMail on Seth Godin’s Blog

So marketing blogger Seth Godin has a mention of SnapMail in the same breath as File Maker Pro on his blog. It’s nice that my humble little program is in such august company, though the context is a bit sad. What’s so odd is how SnapMail was created before the Internet was at all a house-hold word, back in 93, and it still has such a faithful following. I guess there is something valuable about having a little communication tool that’s not on the Internet! Who’da a thunk?

[tags]SnapMail[/tags]