Sunday, May 13, 2007

Book Review: Build Your Own Ruby On Rails Web Applications by Patrick Lenz

by T. Michael Testi ( , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

In the past two years, Ruby on Rails has shaken up the web development industry by providing an application framework whose goal is to increase the speed and ease of web development. Computerworld named it number one of the "Five Hot Technologies of 2007." Ruby on Rails, often shortened to RoR or just Rails, is an open source project that is written in the Ruby language.

The goal of Build Your Own Ruby On Rails Web Applications is to shorten the learning curve for your ramp up to Rails. The platform is well suited to design-oriented people looking to build web applications as well as to those who are unhappy with the languages and/or frameworks they are currently using. The author clearly states "I don't expect you to be an expert programmer - this isn’t a pro-level book"

The book is divided into twelve chapters that guide you methodically toward developing a social website application. In fact, the application that you develop is based on the popular story-sharing web site

The first four chapters get you started in understanding what Rails is and how to install it; there are instructions for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. You then get introduced to Ruby, a scripting language that you will use to develop your Rails application before you get into the Rails framework.

In chapter five you actually begin to develop the application, called Shovell. Here, Lenz describes using the Rails model generator to create a "story" model so that everything else can be built around it. He also discusses views and you then build a controller to handle communications between models and views.

Chapter six adds functionality via form helpers as well as building unit and functional test cases. Chapter seven looks at Ajax to add voting functionality and Web 2.0 for good looking effects. Chapter eight covers protective measures, or how to manage users and user's rights.

Throughout the core portion of the text, as well as the remaining chapters, the author is also, indirectly, teaching you about dynamic website development. You have HTML, CSS, XML as well as databases and both server and client code. I believe that by using Rails and the features of both Ruby and Rails, it makes this integrated learning almost seamless.

The remaining chapters cover more advance topics such as writing your own helpers, using callbacks, and creating complex associations. There is also more on unit and functional testing. The author describes the use of plug-ins and how they can add functionality to your site. He also describes benchmarking and debugging your site and then finishes up with deployment.

What you will learn from Build Your Own Ruby On Rails Web Applications:

• Build and deploy a complete Rails web application
• Use Rails' Ajax features to create slick interfaces.
• Reap the benefits of a best-practice MVC architecture.
• Work with databases easily using ActiveRecord.
• Create a user authentication system.
• Use object-oriented concepts like inheritance and polymorphism.
• Use migrations to manage your database schema without data loss.
• Achieve maximum code reuse with filters and helper functions.
• Analyze your application's performance using the Rails logging infrastructure.
• Benchmark your application to determine performance bottlenecks.
• Much, much more…

This is a perfect book if you are looking to get into Web 2.0 development and want a step-by-step guide to bring you up to speed. It does a good job of introducing Model-View-Controller architecture as well as laying out testing methods as being important with the implementation of unit and functional testing. Finally, I like the clear, concise and entertaining style that the author uses in presenting his material.

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