By Matthew Magain

Rails 1.2: No More Excuses!

By Matthew Magain

In case you’ve been living on another planet and missed it, this month saw the release of Rails 1.2, a major milestone for the framework.

To coincide with this release, SitePoint this week announced the availability of our own Ruby on Rails book, Build Your Own Ruby On Rails Web Applications by Patrick Lenz. This is a terrific addition to the SitePoint library, written specifically for Rails 1.2. If you’ve yet to discover what the fuss is all about (and why Rails has web developers so excited), then you’ve got no more excuses not to take the plunge!

Build Your Own Ruby On Rails Web ApplicationsFor all its strengths, though, Rails can be daunting for beginners, as coming to grips with the framework requires also learning a set of skills and concepts associated with best practice web development.

Beginning programmers will therefore appreciate the attention that Patrick gives to core topics such as the model-view-controller pattern, migrations, and continuous testing, as well as his explanations of object oriented concepts and in-depth coverage of Ruby syntax.

As technical editor of the book, I’m also very proud of the attention to detail applied to the book–in particular the installation process; depending on your platform, installing Rails can be either a no-brainer or a frustrating nightmare.

For example, I haven’t seen any other Rails books on the market mention the fact that Ruby 1.8.5 is incompatible with the Rails breakpoint client (despite the fact that the Rails core team recommends using 1.8.5, and that the latest versions of MacPorts and InstantRails also both install 1.8.5). In my opinion, the ability to use this indispensable tool makes sticking with Ruby 1.8.4 well worth it–having cut my teeth in the Java world, I can’t imagine trying to track down a bug in my code without being able to set breakpoints.

The best part, however, is definitely the example application that you’ll have built by the end of the book–a clone of the popular social news site digg (just to be cheeky, we’ve called the application Shovell), complete with Ajax-voting, tagging, a per-user voting history and more. Yeah baby, it’s all Web 2.0 from here!

We’ve published a couple of chapters as a Ruby on Rails tutorial, and, as always, the first few chapters are available to download as a PDF.

So if you’ve been sitting on an idea for the Next Big Thing™ for a while now, this book might just be the one that shows you how to turn that idea into a reality.

  • webbie

    The fix for the breakpointer issue is actually in the error message in the codebase. See:

    You might check out ruby-debug (, which will allow you to run a Rails app under a debugger including stepping, inspection, and breakpointing along the way.

  • Good point webbie, you are correct. However we decided that for a beginner’s book it was less confusing to advocate that the reader install Ruby 1.8.4, rather than introduce using plugins and passing parameters to script/server early on in the book (these are covered in a later chapter).

    Thanks for mentioning the link!

  • Defiantly will be buying this book. Nice to see a simple step by step guide for Ruby on Rails.

  • mwmitchell

    I’ve spent the last few weeks porting a php app to rails. Sadly, I’m out of time and have to go back to the PHP version. Now I’m coding PHP differently/better, but really miss Ruby. Ruby is just, well plain great!

    One thing that got me, was how are people creating back-end sites (the admin app) using REST and Rails? I tried doing it following the convention of using one controller per resource, but it ended up getting weird and too complicated. All for a much needed back-end. Finally decided to use 2 controllers for each resource, and things worked out OK. Anyway, I highly recommend Rails and Ruby to any PHP programmer out there. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  • mpdesigns

    Where is the writer for this blog? Lots of things are happening in the Rails community and not a bit of it would be known via Sitepoint. Come back please! :(

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