Noel Rappin Writes Here


Professional Rails Online?

In response to the commenter who asked if there was going to be a beta book. UPDATE: Clearly I should ask about these things before I post. Jim Minatel from Wrox added the following in comments: There will be a PDF about six weeks after the print book, meaning end of March or thereabouts. There will also be an Amazon Kindle version, eventually. Also after 6 weeks, the book will be available via Wrox’s online subscription service: http://wrox.

Another Publication Update

Just got the next version of the book chapters for my examination. I’m not 100% sure exactly where these fit in the process. It looks like they’ve had a good look-see from a copyeditor, largely for style, clarity, and consistency. (Any lingering “we” sentences seem to have been pruned, for example). They produced a book-specific style guide, which is a listing of canonical forms for things like plugin names, capitalization of commands or tools and the like.

Things I Learned

Some things I learned about Rails and writing while working on this book: The great benefit of working on a project like this book is that it enabled me to compress about two years worth of research into Ruby and Rails tools into six months. In my case, this was a great opportunity to really dig into some tools to find that I’ve only been using a fraction of their power and also really get a sense of how elegant and flexible the tools are.

Two Pathfinder Blog Posts

Two things on the Pathfinder blog. Agile Publishing, on publishing experiences and agile methods. Live Ruby: Testbed, an attempt to work through a small test and metaprogramming problem live and on the blog. Enjoy.s

We're In Production Now...

I turned in the last chapter of Author Review on Monday, and Professional Ruby On Rails is now in production. Target release date is still mid-February, final page count will be in the range of 450. I was able to keep the test-first nature of the code going through nearly all of it, which I’m really happy with. The table of contents looks something like this (in theory, still subject to change…)

Heads Up

Wow, I haven’t been here for a while. Sorry about that. Here’s the deal… The Rails book initial draft went in about a week ago, more or less on time. (Well, on time for a slightly revised schedule). My understanding of the current schedule is that the author review phase will continue through November. After that, it goes to production, where I get another crack at revising thing that have changed.

Quick Book Update

Couple quick things while I have a minute… Just turned in Chapter 10 (of 16) of the Rails book. Still mostly on schedule for a turn in on October 26, not quite sure what that implies for a print date As I write this, the wxPython book is at 11 thousand and change on Amazon, the highest I’ve seen in months, which is probably a fluke. Weirdly Amazon says it’s the #15 book on “Website Architecture & Usability”, which would be great if it was, you know, actually about website architecture usability…

Apple Fanboy Stuff

Naturally, I did have a thought or two about the new Apple products and the other announcements this week: While I certainly understand why somebody who had purchased an iPhone early would be annoyed by the price cut, I did find it kind of funny that many of the same analysts who said the iPhone would never sell at its original price were then jumping on Apple for dropping the price.

Boring Software Manifesto

Another blog post up on the Pathfinder site. This one is about Agile in general, and features what I think is the World Blog Premiere of the soon to be famous Boring Software Manifesto. Enjoy.

Pro Rails Book Related Things

A few things I forgot to put in the last book update: The Amazon listing has the book at 600 pages. That’s almost certainly optimistic. The contract calls for 400-500. As far as the schedule goes, I’m currently hoping to turn the complete draft in on October 26th, which is about ten days after the original date. The publisher says that pushes publication out to April, six to eight weeks after the original date.

The Rails Edge

I was fortunate enough to attend Pragmatic’s Rails Edge mini-conference here in Chicago last week. I have two blog posts up on this at Pathfinder, the first is made up of quotes from my notebook, and the second is some general thoughts. Enjoy.

More On Test-Driven Development

My first post to one of Pathfinder’s official blogs is up, it’s a companion piece to the blog post here on Test-Driven Development, and you can find it here.

Book Update

Here’s a couple notes on the current status of the Rails book and life in general. The Rails book is presently just about 30% done – first payment triggered (yay!). I’m reasonably happy about it so far, though definitely too close to it at the moment to have a clear sense of its quality. I do like the way the test integration is working out – it seems to help my descriptions of functionality to have the tests there.

And Now, A Special Announcement

Sorry for the radio silence for the last week or so, but I was waiting to be able to announce this: Today I started a new job at Pathfinder Associates, as a senior software engineer in charge of Ruby on Rails projects. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be back in the Web game professionally, and even more thrilled to be working on Rails projects. Everybody at Pathfinder has been super great so far, and I’m looking forward to doing exciting and fun things.

A Customer!

Well, that’s a pleasant surprise. Somebody named Stephen has left a comment. And not one of those spam thingies, but some actual relevant questions about tech publishing. Answering them seemed like it might be fun.. I noticed there is a pdf version available of your books. Is this something you or the publisher insisted on? Have people shown an interest for this version or are they still overwhelmingly favouring the hard copy?

A Little Birdie Told Me

In the interests of being able to push out quick updates on the book’s progress, I’ve created a Twitter account for the book. You can follow that account on the sidebar of this here blog, or at – there’s also an RSS feed. Please remember that any and all information about the book is subject to change at whim. Enjoy.

Book Updates

It’s been about a week or so of continued radio silence, so I thought I’d pop in with an update. I’m in the middle of chapter three of the Rails book. I think it’s going well, but nobody other then me has read the chapters yet, so that’s easy to say. My first milestone date is the end of the month, and four chapters done – that’s about one-quarter of the entire book.

Announcing: Professional Ruby on Rails

I’m pleased to be able to say that I’ve contracted for a new book, Professional Ruby on Rails, scheduled to be available in “early 2008”, hopefully February or March. The publisher is Wiley, through the Wrox imprint – the ones with the red covers and the author’s picture on them. Wiley wanted me to be sure and mention that the ISBN number is 9780470223888, so you’ll be ready to pre-order it the second that becomes possible.

Another IBM Article

It’s not exactly part five of the four part GWT series, but it is closely related. Please check out my newest article on IBM Developerworks: Simplify Ajax development using Cypal Studio for GWT. I actually wrote this a few months ago, when the tool was still called Googlipse, and the final publication was delayed a bit while I rechecked all the code and instructions, and changed the name throughout. One note: it seems as though the GWT 1.

Didn't I Say I Wouldn't Compare Languages?

I posted a version of this to JJ Behrens’ Blog post about Ruby, and decided it was probably worth also posting here. I use and like both Ruby and Python, here’s why… Things I like about Ruby with respect to Python I think Ruby is the only language that gets accessors right. The thing you want to do 95% of the time – simple access – is trivial, and the thing you want to do 5% – something fancy in your accessor – of the time is a pretty easy override.

WWDC Keynote, 2007

I think I’ll have to join in the general chorus of the underwhelmed. Bullet points: The new desktop and finder sure look shiny. The dock stacks do look kind of useful, and having a dedicated downloads folder strikes me as a classic kind of Apple UI move. Having the finder be visually similar to iTunes strikes me as, on balance, a good idea. And, although I don’t find Cover Flow tremendously useful in iTunes, I can see a place for it in the Finder.

Programming Perl, Personal Edition

Due to circumstances somewhat beyond my control, I find myself working in the largest Perl project I’ve ever done. Now, I’m not in the least interested in a “my language is better than your language” deal because a) this strikes me as very well covered territory, and b) it seems particularly pointless as the Perl 6 team appears to be doing a nice job of taming Perl’s more rococo features.

iTunes Plus... A Fresh Lemony Scent, Perhaps?

Couple thoughts on Apple’s first foray into the brave world of non-DRM’d music: I think the most of the user experience in iTunes is handled nicely. There had been some worry about this – I seem to recall some speculation before the EMI announcement that Apple would only take out DRM if they could do it store-wide, and keep things simple. Anyway, the iTunes Plus branding and the simple option to either always or never see the plus songs seems to work just fine.

Text Auditor

I hate Microsoft Word. I feel that I came by this rightfully, after a whole book’s worth of numbered lists that refused to line up, images that refused to stay put, and the truly irritating indexing interface. For a long time I’d sort of rant about how word processing was this core user task and we still couldn’t figure out the right UI for it. I’m not totally backing off that, although I’ve also read people ranting that text editing was solved 20 years ago by Emacs and Vi, and there’s no point in looking at anything new, which achieves a level of crankiness that makes me look calm.

A Program Note

This is for the two or three of you that are subscribed to this blog via RSS feed – I’ve just added a FeedBurner feed, and if it’s not too much trouble, it’d be great if you could switch over to it at: The “Subscribe” link in the sidebar will also work. Thanks.

An Agile Musing

Of course, since I muse in an agile way, I reserve the right to change my mind based on future developments… Software development usually takes place in a complex environment where your goal can change quickly. In general, there are two ways to deal with a complex environment. One is to try to anticipate, in advance, every possible permutation you might need to deal with, and the other is to manage your environment with the flexibility to respond to new challenges with minimum effort.

State of the Art

O’Reilly Radar has been analyzing the state of the computer book market on a quarterly basis for a couple of years now. This link is to a drill-down into the Q1 2007 results for programming languages. The information is of some passing interest to me, both as an author and as language geek. Things that jumped out at me. Ruby is up a ton, and is now selling more than Perl and Python combined.

from internet import *

Three posts that caught my eye today. Ruby School Gregory Brown over on O’Reilly net has an article about using Ruby in Computer Science courses, at least in later algorithm classes. It’s not a bad argument, but I think it’d be more convincing if the Ruby example was a little cleaner and easier to read compared to the pseudo-code. Let’s see… The last time I had to care about this issue was about eight years ago when my grad institution was going through a somewhat controversial revamp of the CS curriculum.

Comment On This

So the other day I’m looking over some code, and I see this… (slightly paraphrased to protect the innocent – in the original, the declaration and the getter were, of course, separated.) /\*\* \* The name of the user \*/ private String m\_userName; /\*\* \* @return The name of the user \*/ public String getUserName() { return m\_userName; } And I thought, “I really hope some of that was generated by the editor”

Fame and Fortune 2

To continue on the fame and fortune theme, I just got the first part of the statement wrapping up the first year of the wxPython book. (Since the book came out at the end of March, we got a first quarter statement which covered the first 10 days of the release). Anyway, I’m pleased. The fourth quarter statement was only about 5% down from the third quarter (I don’t have the exact numbers).

Fame And Fortune

Well, the Jython Book celebrated it’s fifth anniversary with a royalty statement showing that it had sold the grand total of two copies over the previous quarter. I think it might be played out. O’Reilly’s statements don’t give total accumulated sales count, just total accumulated royalties. I think it sold just on the low side of 6,000 copies, and is something like 500 short of earning out. Meantime the wxPython book still seems to be holding it’s Amazon rank, so I’m very curious what the next sales total is going to be.

Posting to Blogger via Ruby

TextMate has what seems to be a very nice blogging bundle for programmatically sending posts to your blogging engine of choice. Except that it doesn’t work for the new Blogger API. Or at least it didn’t the last time I checked. Mostly I just wanted to see if I could write my own script to send to Blogger. This is a Ruby script based on the Python script located at http://djcraven.

Rubies in My Coffee

Now two of the big Java IDE’s are promoting Ruby language tools as a big thing. IntelliJ has a plugin in early beta, and NetBeans is also making a big deal of their new early beta support. Eclipse has had a Ruby/Rails plugin for about a year or so. This is weird, weird, weird, that suddenly all the Java tools would feel the need to grow into somewhat ill-fitting Ruby IDE’s (Eclipse has always styled itself as more of a meta-IDE, so that’s a little less strange).

Wow, There Are Comments

It’s true – the way to get comments on your blog is to mention Apple… I do something like one substantive post in three months, and then two apple posts in 48 hours, and bang! Four comments within a day. I’m surprised, not least because I really wasn’t sure anybody was out there. Anyway, interesting points have been made, and I thought I’d pull them up to either agree, or whine defensively.

Apple Dot Net

What is it about us tech fanboys and Apple… I’ve always found them interesting, even when I wasn’t a regular Mac user. Infuriating, sometimes. But interesting. So here’s another thing about Apple, circa 1995… That was right about the end of something like a two-year period where Apple was way ahead on internet integration and didn’t really make anything out of it. By the time the internet really started to escape out of academia, the Windows world was well on it’s way to catching up, and by the time it all really went mainstream, Macs would be a fading memory.

Apple Summer of 95

As I may have mentioned here, back in 1995 I spent three months as a summer intern at Apple HQ in Cupertino. I was buried deep in the educational technology research group so, trust me, I didn’t work on anything you’ve heard of. It was a fun summer, though. They stuffed about 15 of us, a mix of grad students and contractors, in a room that was really long and narrow.

GWT part 3 and 4

Sorry for not mentioning this earlier, but part three of the GWT series is now up on the IBM site at: This one is about remote procedure calls, and I’m pleased with how it turned out. I just got the proofs for the fourth and final article in this series, about deployment. I expect it to be online Tuesday, Feb 27th at:

Clearing The Decks

A collection of small things, half-finished posts, and pure whatnot that hopefully will lead to more posts in the future: Got my first Amazon affiliate statement with no less than $1.55 heading my way. Thanks to the person who clicked through… There’s a new sidebar, for small links, via The sidebar has it’s own RSS feed, on the off chance somebody is interested. UPDATE: It doesn’t appear to work on Safari, which is a problem… Weird, because I did the preview using Safari, and it showed up fine, but not in the actual blog.

GWT Article Now Online, Part Two

The second part of my IBM Developerworks series on Google Web Toolkit is now online at This one focuses mostly on the Derby database, and features a really quick and dirty database-to-Java conversion tool. Enjoy.

Copyright 2021 Noel Rappin