Dr Nic

Future proofing your Ruby code. Ruby 1.9.1 is coming.


I’m a Ruby monogamist. I use the Ruby that comes with Leopard (ruby 1.8.6 (2008-03-03 patchlevel 114) [universal-darwin9.0]). Oh sure I’ve cheated on my Ruby a couple of times. It was just sex, I didn’t fall in love, I promise.

My machine has had various versions of jRuby, Rubinius and MacRuby installed at various times, but I don’t think it’s ever had two working copies of Ruby MRI (Matz Ruby Implementation) at a time.

Ok, that’s a lie. On Christmas Day 2007, Matz released Ruby 1.9. Yes I was a deviant. I installed it. But I didn’t inhale. ruby19 sat on my filesystem outside the $PATH. It was a trophy not a tool.

My Ruby monogamy was working out perfectly for me, whilst I collected futurist and novelty Ruby implementations as a passive hobby, until yesterday when I saw the above tweet.

That’s a bit of a bugger. I mean, why was he playing with Ruby 1.9.1 anyway?

Or perhaps having multiple version of Ruby on one computer isn’t some illicit activity. Everyone else is doing it, Your Honour.

I still didn’t care for having multiple ruby versions lying around in my path; but I had to fix rubigen. I just wanted a way to fix bugs against ruby 1.9+ and move on with my life. I didn’t want to have to do any manual work in order to set this up. Surely someone else has solved this problem already?


My RubyGems development tools and workflow

The Open Source Developers Conference (osdc) is a nifty conference – people from different language communities, who all do open source, come together in harmony. They simultaneously snigger at each other and then proceed to steal each others ideas when they aren’t looking.

Miscellaneous idea possibly worth stealing from Perl: when you install Perl modules from CPAN it runs the module’s tests locally to confirm everything is oaky-dokey. You can manually do this via gem install --test rails, but its not the default. Nor have I ever used the --test flag. I just looked it up via gem help install. I like it.

Another CPAN thing to steal: For any RubyGem or perhaps Rails project on rubyforge/github/whatever, show the aggregate status of tests. Here’s a sample from CPAN. Lots of green lines but the aggregate change of this project working? 11%. I like the chart, and perhaps runcoderun or some other hosted CI service to generate a sexy graph of test outputs for dependencies.

Anyway, Ruby. I did a talk. I have slides.

Over time I’ve written a few RubyGems and am pretty happy with my basic tools and workflow for getting new gems out the door or maintaining existing projects. I use newgem + a patched version of hoe, I use git + github, and recently I started using runcoderun for hosted continuous integration.

If you’re new to creating your own RubyGems, perhaps my workflow and tools are a useful starting point to follow.

If you want an account with runcoderun, and I reckon you do, then hassle Rob Sanheim (twitter). For what its worth, tell him I said it was urgent.

There is now a sexy blog badge to show off the current pass/fail state of each of your projects, by Glenn Vanderburg. Badges are fun. It seems to clash with having github-badge in the same page, and there are other bugs with these badges. Probably my fault. I should investigate that soon.

newjs = newgem for JavaScript projects; free TDD suite

Want to start a new JavaScript project for a library or widget/badge for your website?

You know you should do TDD but wouldn’t know how to get started, what support libraries you need and where to get them from?

You need tools to deploy your library, your website etc?

You’d like a consistent structure to your project so that IDEs could provide support (toggle btw src/person.js and test/unit/person_test.html) [I haven’t done this bit yet, I’m sure I’ll add it to the JavaScipt Unit testing textmate bundle one day soon].

I couldn’t find anything helpful like this, so I created newjs – the JavaScript Project Generator.


But first, an brief history of everything…

I fell instantly in love with Rails for a couple reasons:

  • rails & script/generate commands – they teach you what files you need
    and where they should go
  • Ajax support – the marketing phrase “its as easy to use Ajax as not to” took me
    away from ASP.NET where the new Ajax.NET library was non-trivial to use; RJS
    didn’t exist at this stage, but Rails’ JavaScript support was still awesome
  • TextMate – though I didn’t get to use it for 18 mths til I bought a Mac

Later I fell in love with Ruby, for its meta-programming, syntactical possibilities
and free TDD support within Rails.

Then I fell out of love with JavaScript. Partly because Rails started generating JavaScript for me, and ultimately because I didn’t have test support. Whether you use Rails JavaScript helpers, or write your own unobtrusive JavaScript libraries you’re still living in an unhappy world without tests; let alone without TDD.

I still wrote JavaScript because it still needed writing. But a lot of my JavaScript
became “write-once, modify-never” affairs. Not just because I had no tests,
but each project had a different structure, different deployment processes, etc.

Finally, this year I figured out “TDD for JavaScript”. For every 1000 blog articles about Rails or Ruby, there is 0-1 article on unit testing JavaScript. Or perhaps I just don’t know how to use Google. Soon, the “JavaScript Unit Testing” PeepCode will be finished, so hopefully it will add to this lacking body of knowledge.

What I needed now was one-line starter-kit for new JavaScript projects that included:

  • A standard structure for JavaScript libraries/projects
  • In-built testing support, with rake tasks and script/generate unit_test
  • Tasks for deploying distribution files (via version numbers)
  • Tasks for managing the project website

I don’t think there is one already, thus my hand was forced: newjs.

Installation & Getting Started

Installation and maintenance of generated JavaScript projects requires the installation of Ruby and RubyGems.

The command-line application newjs is installed as below, for any operating system (except the ‘sudo’ part – use as necessary):

sudo gem install newjs

You’ll note it uses RubiGen because I like to cheat when it comes to generating things.

To kick-off your new project/library, run the command-line app newjs:

$ newjs mylib -a "Dr Nic" -e "drnicwilliams@gmail.com" -u "http://mylib.rubyforge.org"
      create  config
      create  lib
      create  src
      create  script
      create  tasks
      create  test/assets
      create  test/assets/unittest.css
      create  test/assets/unittest.js
      create  test/assets/prototype.js
      create  tasks/javascript_test_autotest_tasks.rake
      create  tasks/environment.rake
      create  tasks/deploy.rake
      create  config/javascript_test_autotest.yml.sample
      create  lib/protodoc.rb
      create  lib/jstest.rb
      create  Rakefile
      create  README.txt
      create  History.txt
      create  License.txt
      create  src/HEADER
      create  src/mylib.js
      create  script/rstakeout
      create  script/js_autotest
  dependency  install_rubigen_scripts
      exists    script
      create    script/generate
      create    script/destroy

And you thought you wanted to create all that by hand…

TDD for JavaScript

Personally, I can never remember what basic HTML + JavaScript goes in the test HTML files. I quite like the javascript_test plugin for Rails, which allows you to generate a test HTML stub. So I’ve included a version of it

Two actually: one for unit tests and one for functional tests.

$ script/generate unit_test some_lib
  create  test/unit
  create  test/unit/some_lib_test.html

For functional tests, use functional_test generator. See the newjs site for more details.

Lifecycle of JavaScript files

You create JavaScript files in src/ and then when you run rake dist
they can compressed into dist/project_name.js.

To make this work, add new src/ files into src/project_name.js via
<%= include "file_name.js" %>.

This is the build mechanism used by prototypejs and I stole it. Actually, I stole nearly everything from the prototypejs source structure.

Other stuff

Like newgem you can create a simple website (via textile files):

script/generate install_website

BONUS: instead of the crap purple default theme for newgem, newjs websites have a nice yellow theme – see example.

Source for newjs

Get it via git: master branch


The generated structure, the unittest.js test suite, and its included help files mostly come from prototypejs and newgem.

The generator mechanism is from RubiGem which comes from the Rails Generator created by Jeremy “I made someone leave Rails for PHP” Kemper.

Actually, I stole nearly everything from the prototypejs source structure. They are much cleverer than I am.

Functional Testing using a Matrix to cover all edge cases [video]

I’ve been a fan of Ryan Davis‘ (zenspider) and Eric Hodel‘ ZenTest library (including its autotest CI tool for rails and gems), and their Hoe gem, the Rubyforge gem, etc ever since I figured out what they did. (Side note: how to setup rubyforge gem)

Over the last month, Ryan mentioned “functional testing by a matrix” in four great blog articles.

Ryan shows this off at RejectConf; its 16 minutes but definitely worth your time to investigate, as I think this will be awesome for ensuring basic edge cases are thoroughly tested. Can a guest create something? Can a member delete something?

It is hard to see the code on the screen, but look at the blog posts linked above to get the gist of what is being shown.

People were really interested this as you can tell by the huge number of questions, despite this being the last of many many presentations.

This stuff looks primed for a sweet generator to create the test file.