Archive for the ‘geekery’ Category

Ruby is awesome–lazy scripting

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Sometimes I find myself doing tedious things like trying to grab the dollar amounts from text copied from the web. More and more often I turn to irb for these sort of things. For example, a few minutes ago, when I wanted to analyze my spending habits I copied the data into a file and manipulated it.

I grabbed the lines from the file

irb(main):001:0> lines = File.readlines 'transactions'

And selected those with dollar signs (with a little effort–sometimes I forget whether it is =~ or ~=).

irb(main):002:0> monies = {|l| l ~=  /\$(.*)/}
SyntaxError: compile error
(irb):2: syntax error, unexpected '='
monies = {|l| l ~=  /\$(.*)/}
	from (irb):2
	from :0
irb(main):003:0> monies = {|l| l =~  /\$(.*)/}

Then I grabbed the numbers using map.

irb(main):008:0> nums {|m| m.sub( /\$(.*)/,$1).to_f}

From there, I could do all sorts of things.

I could sum numbers.

 total =nums.inject(0){|sum,i|sum+i}

I could get the average.


I could even see how much of the total was due to transactions under $20.

nums.reject {|i|i>20}.inject{|s,i|s+i}

In short, I like ruby.

Ruby in Practice is Good

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

I have been reading Ruby in Practice over the past week or so as you know. Currently, I am on page 114 which talks about using active resource to consume RESTful webservices( you could use RESTClient, but thats another story) and has a box about the ever awesome BlankSlate class.

I haven’t really learned many “whoah, ruby does what?? Sweet” things from it, most of those are behind me. Now, I get more “Whoah, X project really abstracts that annoying thing into a nice interface.” kind of feelings, which are more satisfying in some ways and less in others. I guess what I am saying is that I have grown to know ruby much better over the past six months or so using it at work every day, than the past, uh, five? years. Which is sweet.

But back to the book( I ramble when I feel braindead):

The things I have learned from reading this book remind me of ruby itself. It has glued together various bits of ruby that I know, in the same way you can use ruby to glue together other technologies. Most of my ruby smarts have been picked up through hacking at things and reading blog posts by knowledgeable people, but that sometimes leaves some gaps in my knowledge. This book has helped me to tie some of the things I have learned together(w00t Hebbian Learning).

For instance, spec tasks

While I know that rspec has a set of extensions for rake, I had not used them outside rails, in fact in the project I was working on I just wrote the following.

task :spec do
  sh "spec --colour --reverse #{FileList['spec/**/*_spec.rb']}"

The problem with this is that when any of the specs fail, I get a huge trace from the ran shell script that I have to scroll past before I can see the failed specs.

But, if I included the spec tasks I could do stuff more like this.

require 'spec/rake/spectask''spec') do |task|
  task.spec_files =FileList['spec/**/*_spec.rb']
  task.spec_opts = ['--colour','--reverse']

Now things work like they do when you generate the tasks from within rails. I had read the lib/tasks/rspec.rake file when I was looking over the generated code in one of my rails apps, but it was a little too complicated to grok easily.

The other things I am looking for are cool projects that I should be more aware of. Sometimes, they are only mentioned but that doesn’t mean they are not awesome. Some that I would like to play with include:

  • Chronic a date string parser that tries to be able to handle stuff like: “next tuesday” and “summer”
  • FasterCSV I saw this at Mountain West Ruby Conf and made a mental note to read it at some point(so much for mental notes)
  • Heckle runs tests. Breaks your code. Sees if the tests fail like they should.


Merb in Action: Ch 1 Thoughts

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Last night I read the first chapter of what will become Rails 3 in Action. So far, I really am enjoying it.

One of the things that frustrates me the most in my own projects is this feeling that things need to be big and get abstracted before they can be useful. I guess it might be a hold over from being a student and wanting to over achieve, or maybe just the classic problem of the hobbyist who tinkers but never manages to really build anything.

It is a gumption trap, to use a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-ism; a thought that sort of stalls my work on a project.

“How will this be useful to anybody?”

“How can I get this to a usable state?”

I think I am getting better at this problem, but sometimes I feel like I have this irresistible urge to over-architect things that gets me into trouble.

What this has to do with Merb in Action?

Well, the thing I thought was really cool was where the authors linked to the pastie that started it all, clocking in at ~120 lines.

I look at that and I think two things.

  1. I usually over think things
  2. I can do this.

The beginning of merb is completely grokable. It reminds me that something doesn’t need to be fully designed. It just needs to be useful enough.

or you could just say:


You Ain’t Gonna Need It.

YAGNI is part of the reason why I have been trying to use BDD in a more disciplined way. By using the Feature->Spec->Implementation workflow, there is less temptation to add neat features on the backend that are never used. I have worked on a number of projects where I ended up writing more code than I needed, than was used.

Writing from the outside in helps to manage that some. After all “no code is faster than no code.”

New Books

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

I just ordered Ruby in Practice and Rails 3 in Action from Manning(they had a one day only 45% off promo).

The Rails 3 book won’t actually be coming out for a while, but in what I think is an ingenious publishing move, people who preorder can look at drafts of chapters as the book is worked on. It reminds me a little of how Lawrence Lessig is doing the next edition of his books. Except of course totally different.

The thing that makes them similar is the added participation of future readers. It isn’t that this is a new idea. People have been soliciting comments on publications for as long as they have been around. Technology just changes the timescale and the scale of the projects.

Anyway, cool.

Right now, I have Ruby in Practice and through the fourth chapter of Merb–Rails 3 in Action. More later.


Mountain West Ruby Conf Day 2

Monday, March 16th, 2009

After yesterday, I have a lot of grokking to do. And, some projects to start.

The talks, like the day before were great. And having the opportunity to talk with so many people about what they do with ruby was enlightening.

I wanted to write up my thoughts about yesterday, but they haven’t really congealed yet.

Short summary:

  • Ruby is awesome.(of course)
  • I need to be more aware of my metaworkflow
  • Rhodes looks really slick.
  • Adhearsion would be fun to build something with(eg a podcast engine)
  • Destroy is a funny word to users(rails)
  • Of the bicycle gears of software development,cucumber is the outmost one
  • Suite.add(test) if test.value > test.cost
  • be extremely pedantic when you first start trying to use a new methodology–even if it sucks(in the ‘man, why all this typing’ sort of suckage you know makes you want to be lazy).
  • don’t confuse concise with terse.
  • maybe I should try to make a theramin sim with the wiimote
  • energy not time is the most precious resource

Silly Simple Twitter Search App with Javascript

Friday, March 13th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to spend some time playing with twitter’s API. So, I decided to build a really simple js app on top of the search api.

Essentially, I want to show a list of statuses from a search, say ‘baroquebobcat’ and do it in the least amount of effort possible.

There are more complicated ways to do it, but I wanted to see how easy it was.

First, I thought I would do what the API docs suggest and poke around with curl.

Since all I want is to do a search, like you would using a browser, why not try that, only with json, for extra awesomeness.

$ curl ''

Running that gets me a long string of json:

{"results":[{"text":"Talkin' 'bout sandwiches", ...

Breaking that down with structurally looks like

  "results": [
    { "text":"Talkin' 'bout sandwiches",
      "source":"<a href="http:\/\/\/">web<\/a>",
      "created_at":"Tue, 10 Mar 2009 22:04:12 +0000"

Results contains the statuses that match the search, the other 1st level attributes are metadata about the search.

For my silly simple js app, all I really need is a subset of this vertiable bevy of infos.

I am not even going to bother with the search metadata and am going to throw away most of the statuses data too.

For now, I only care about the text, and the user who tweeted it.

  "results": [
    { "text":"Talkin' 'bout sandwiches",

So, I have this list and a url to get stuff. How does that go into the javascript?

we need a callback. Because of all that cross site scripting etc stuff, you can’t do ajax requests for data like this
(well you can as long as you proxy it through your host somehow like this guy ).
So, the way to get all this stuff so it can be executable is to add a callback parameter to the request. It wraps the json with a function call so you can use it in a script tag.

$ curl ''
awesome({"results":[{"text":"Talkin' 'bout sandwiches", ...})

so in html file can do

<script src=''></script>

and awesome will be executed with the response from the search.

cut to the chase

So, we need a callback.

because we lack imagination, lets call it twitter_callback.

  <head><title>Super Silly Twitter App</title></head>
    var twitter_callback = function(search){
    for(var i = 0;i<search.results.length;i++)
      document.write(search.results[i].from_user+': '+search.results[i].text+'<br>')
  <script src=''></script>

Pretty cool, huh?

What that does is define a call back that just writes each status in the search with the user’s name: their tweet on each line.

Actually, that is a bit boring.

All we have is the list, and it’s not very portable but it demonstrates how it works.

You could make it more robust by using a javascript function to insert the script tag, thereby allowing you to dynamically set the query.

There are problems with using js to do all the work here. It can be slower and it also can be a security risk–if you don’t trust twitter.


JoCo Woah

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Went up to Chicago and saw Jonathan Coulton on Saturday. It was pretty awesome. Paul and Storm opened for him, as well as singing backup for a number of his songs. What would have been more awesome?

The night before apparently. Two of my fandoms collided in what must have been a sweet explosion of goodness.

Chicago was fun though. We went up on Friday and spent Saturday afternoon wandering. We walked around downtown, and got internet at the library, after trying starbucks–forgetting that they changed wifi carriers and you need a special card now or something. Grr, corporate greed, grr. The library was this big, new building that felt like a WPA project but according to wikipedia was built in ’91.

A small culture shock was seeing several people watching porn on the lab computers. It was a little surprising. And distracting.

I didn’t have a Chicago pizza, but I did have a ridiculously dressed hot dog.

Hot Dog with everything

Hot Dog with everything

The show was excellent. Chicago can be very expensive, but the hot dogs are delicious.