>Rails3 and The Inevitable Fragmentation


I remember one of the early talks at the Canada On Rails in 2006 had a slide showing how many books one needs to read to be able to write web applications in Rails, versus Java.

Of course Java side had about 10 books: Java SE, Java EE, Hibernate, Struts/Tiles/JSF, WebServices, Ant, Maven, Eclipse, JUnit, etc, etc.

The Rails slide proudly showed the now hopelessly outdated “Agile Web Development With Ruby on Rails”, 1st edition.

Those were the times. Back then, during my work for myself and three other engineers managed to learn ruby, rails and build a fully functional e-commerce site in about 3 months. I was blown away by the productivity gains compared to Java, where months could be spent laying out the project, and creating all necessary infrastructure for builds, deployment, automated testing with or without the database, etc.

Fast-forward to 2010. We are on a brink of Rails3 release, and oh boy, has the landscape changed since back then. I would argue that in some ways, you may be better off with Java than with Rails today for a couple of reasons:

  • Rails moves very fast. Books published in 2009 are already outdated. That pretty much leaves blog posts and online documentation as the main source of information.
  • Blog posts are not written as well as books are, they are not edited and are often heavily biased. They are also often outdated, and they are also often hard to find.
  • Rails now supports swapping out view renderers (from Erb, to Haml for example), Javascript libraries (from Prototype to jQuery, etc), ORM layers.
  • Testing frameworks are now (I think) approaching on a dozen. Forget Test::Unit, now it’s all about RSpec, RSpec-Rails, Shoulda, Cucumber, WebRat, Selenium, TDD, BDD, ShmoDD. Hot Damn.
  • Finally, to make the matters “worse”, it’s become very trendy to replace RDBMS with a document-based databases such as MongoDB, CouchDB, or even a step further — with distributed data stores like Cassandra or Riak. As with any trend, people are doing this regardless of whether or not they actually need it. Although this part clearly has nothing to do with Rails.

As someone who is trying to “quickly” catch up on all the recent changes that happened in the last 18 months during which I did not do any major rails development, it feels like I have to learn a lot of things from scratch, and unlearn a lot of things too. Even though I had three-four years of production Rails experience building and That makes me wonder, how the newbies feel now joining the “new” Rails ecosystem. I am very curious to find out. I am guessing there is a lot of frustration and a steep learning curve required to master all the frameworks in isolation, and then bring them all together into the project. And that brings us back to where Java was exactly four years ago, and still is today.

I am not at all advocating for you all to go back to coding Java or COBOL :=) And I am absolutely not against Rails. But it’s about time we pull the curtain of naiveté and realize that RoR has become the complex multifaceted enterprise framework it was claiming to replace back in 2006, and to become proficient in it may take just as long, if not longer, then with Java EE.

Ironic? I’ll let you decide.


Posted by on July 8, 2010 in java, Ruby on Rails, Technology


>Learning Git, And Should You Switch from SVN

>If you are just learning to use git, or you have been using it for a while without too much thinking, this introduction to Git principles provides a fantastic overview into the concepts behind git, using a very simple and natural examples.

Do you need to switch to git from svn? My personal take on this is as follows:

  • If you have several developers far away with bad internet connection, then YES.
  • If you have more than several developers (say hundreds) then YES.
  • If your developers often work on long multi-day features, where they want to commit often, but commits may result in instability of their branch, then YES. Git allows much easier branching than SVN.
  • If you want to leverage GitHub’s infrastructure for hosting your project privately or publicly, then YES.
To balance this and not to appear as I am advocating everyone to switch, here is the reverse:
  • If you have a small team who works locally and uses a local SVN server then NO.
  • If your team does not need branching, or prefers to check-in complete features instead of incremental check-ins then NO.
  • If your team is used to SVN and there are no major issues, then NO.
  • If your team is using SVN authorization module to create groups and grant them special access per subdirectory then NO. I am unaware of Git providing this level of access control.

Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Uncategorized


>Integer Division with Modulus in Ruby, using Linear and Binary Search


I was recently chatting with someone about algorithms, and we were talking about efficient algorithm for implementing integer division with modulus, and how to make it efficient for large integers.

The following code snippet shows a class that implements two division methods, linear and binary. I wonder if there is a more elegant way to implement binary, please feel free to post to comments if there are. Also, any other faster methods are welcome.

# divide.rb
# Integer Divider Class that implements two algorithms for finding the 
# division result and modulus of two integers.
class IntegerDivider
  def self.linear n, d
     raise 'Cant divide by zero!' if (d == 0)
     multiplier = n * d = n)
     i -= 1 if (i*d > n)
     return multiplier * i, n - i*d, i

  def self.binary n, d
     raise 'Cant divide by zero!' if (d == 0) 
     multiplier = n * d = n) 
     return multiplier * i, 0 if (i*d == n) 
     i /= 2; j = i; cnt = 0
       j /= 2; cnt += 1
       sign = ((i + j)*d > n) ? 0 : 1
       i = i + sign * j 
     end until (i*d  n) 
     return multiplier * i, n - i*d, cnt
  def self.divide(how, numerator, denominator)
    before =
    (result, remainder, iterations) = self.send(how, numerator, denominator)
    after =
    puts "#{sprintf('%8.3f',(after - before)*1000)}ms #{how}" + 
         " (#{sprintf '%10d', iterations} iterations):  #{numerator} / " +
         " #{denominator} = #{result}, mod #{remainder}"
    return [result, remainder]

[:linear, :binary].each do |method|
  ARGV.each do |numerator|
    IntegerDivider.divide(method, numerator.to_i, 3)    

And some results of running it. Of course for large number like 100000000, binary search takes 24 iterations to get the answer, while linear … well 100000000. The total speed difference at such large number is big: 1524ms/0.012ms = 127,000.

> ruby divide.rb 10 100 1000 20000 100000000
   0.006ms linear (         3 iterations):  10 /  3 = 3, mod 1
   0.003ms binary (         1 iterations):  10 /  3 = 3, mod 1
   0.003ms linear (        33 iterations):  100 /  3 = 33, mod 1
   0.003ms binary (         5 iterations):  100 /  3 = 33, mod 1
   0.017ms linear (       333 iterations):  1000 /  3 = 333, mod 1
   0.004ms binary (         8 iterations):  1000 /  3 = 333, mod 1
   0.411ms linear (      6666 iterations):  20000 /  3 = 6666, mod 2
   0.006ms binary (        11 iterations):  20000 /  3 = 6666, mod 2
1524.712ms linear (  33333333 iterations):  100000000 /  3 = 33333333, mod 1
   0.012ms binary (        24 iterations):  100000000 /  3 = 33333333, mod 1
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Ruby on Rails, Technology


>Reviving Tektastic

>Things have been a bit quiet over here, but no fret, it’s not over yet!

Things have been very busy with Drop In Media, building an MMS content and technology company has been exciting and at times exhausting.

Going to SXSW? Check this out!.

More soon! Promise.

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Posted by on March 10, 2010 in Uncategorized


>Techtarget’s Java ServerSide Symposium 2009 Impressions


Just got back from Vegas where between Wednesday and Friday a small-ish java conference was taking place. This was my second one, the first being five years ago in 2004.

Of course it’s hard not to compare, and I find myself doing it anyway… I can’t help but feel that the excitement has left java server software. Remembering one of the very first java conferences in Sydney 1995, when it was still almost academic and less of an industry conference, I feel like we’ve come to an end of an era.

The tedious reality of maintaining enormous enterprise systems built over the the last decade has sinked in, and unfortunately there is nothing exciting about it, but everything difficult and complex. Those less fortune whose systems took advantage of EJB1 and EJB2s will suffer the most, as those are dying technologies and are rapidly being replaced by simpler more component friendly software.

The first set of simplification came with frameworks over the last five years – Spring and Hibernate being the most notable. Now the simplifications are being pushed out across language boundaries, because of the need to stay competitive against exploding Ruby on Rails community, and even smaller but still disproportionally more productive frameworks like Django, when compared to java.

Several talks focused on jRuby, and I think this is where the future power lies. Combining the two platforms, Ruby on Rails for web development, and server side java for multi-threaded, asynchronous, transactional behavior seems like a fantastic opportunity.

However nobody is yet talking about how this all works together in production. What does it mean to run a multi-app server distributed java application, with a RoR application hosted inside JVM and interacting with the service layer? What if service layer mixes ActiveRecord and Hibernate? Questions like this, while entirely logical in early evaluations of emerging technologies, were simply beyond the depth of TSSJS09.

But for what it’s worth, there was a decent overview of a multitude of scripting languages: javascript, ruby and scala, and a very impressive talk on Ruby meta programming.

There were several exciting news for me personally, the first having to do with Flex and BlazeDS integration in Spring 3.0. Basically what this means is that it’s now possible to build a typically modular and well understood server-side backend architecture in Spring, the client side in Flex, and have them directly converse over binary AMF protocol, which is highly compressed and optimized to send data back and force. I believe the entire stack is free, except Flex Builder Eclipse-based tool that’s not free. My exposure to Flex is minimal, but I love the ability to build beautiful application UIs that run consistently within the browser, and expose your backend in a way of clearly defined REST/XML api. And the load time in demos appeared significantly faster compared to java RMI applications I’ve had experience working with.

I’ll add part II in a couple of days.

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Posted by on March 22, 2009 in Ruby on Rails, Technology


>Binary PostgreSQL installer broken when used on RedHat EL5.3 / Dell PowerEdge 2950: Hangs server reboot.

>This is a very quick post that would hopefully save someone else hours of hitting the head on the wall like I did.

If you are installing RedHat Enterprise Server 5.2/5.2 x86_64 on Dell PowerEdge server, be aware of the following issue with PostgreSQL binary installer offered by EnterpriseDB.

After installation the server is unable to cleanly shutdown due to the fact that the binary installer does some voodoo with libtermcap – basically making this system library be used from inside postgres installation folder. Because of this, kernel can not umount /usr (or whenever your PostgreSQL is installed) and hangs the shutdown.


Build PostgreSQL from the sources. They are ahead in minor version number anyway.


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Posted by on February 6, 2009 in Uncategorized


>The Magic of Outdoor Raving


The campout happened, and it was an enormous success, everyone seemed to have had particularly special time this year, and I have to join the ranks. Check out just the insanely intricate lighting show put up by the Radiant Atmospheres crew.

I was involved in two music sets this year – a Friday evening downtempo set by PolyGroovers (with live appearance by Telene and briefly Fabienne), and then Sunday morning solo live set. The PolyGroovers stuff had many new tracks from the upcoming album, so that set won’t be available for download, but the morning set is below:

LeftCtrl Live at Friends and Family Music Campout XII @ Willits CA (109Mb, 74min)

The above set has two songs composed together with Kem (Filip Jach), and one with Joseph Lee of Progress/SF.

Please feel free to download and leave your feedback as comments!

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Posted by on August 19, 2008 in music