Ruby on Rails – Enterprise Application Development by Elliot Smith and Rob Nichols targets a new niche in the Rails world of published books. Its goal is to connect all of the dots that make up typical Rails development for developers who have been through the tutorials, but wonder ‘what do I do next?’
<p>The focus of this book is breadth and not depth. The authors do a good job of balancing the explanation of essential Rails concepts while letting the reader know when they are approaching a more advanced topic that won’t be covered in depth.</p> <p>Throughout the book the authors follow a fictional, yet realistic scenario in which Rory the IT guy implements a simple web-based contacts management application. Each chapter builds on the previous walking the reader through the whole process of development to production deployment.</p> <p>There is no Rails development until Chapter 4, pg 91. The emphasis of the first 90 pages is understanding what Rails is and why you would use it, as well as introducing the problem scenario that will be used throughout the book. This would be a bigger turn off then it was, but the authors made up for this a little walking the reader through installing everything required for Rails development on multiple operating systems.</p> <p>Rather then focus on a single platform for development or production the authors use a mixed environment of Ubuntu Linux, <span class="caps">OSX</span> and Windows and a cross platform Eclipse <span class="caps">IDE</span>. They also take the time to walk the reader through installation and setup of each platform as it pertains to Rails development.</p> <p>The majority of the development in this book sticks to the functionality included in Rails itself. When it comes to core components of Rails the authors do a great job of covering them: migrations, models, validations, associations, controllers, filters, views and view helpers.</p> <p>Plugins are not covered except for acts_as_attachment, which is now deprecated in favor of attachment_fu.</p> <p>The only issue I had with the book was with the sections on testing. The authors cover unit and functional testing with the built-in Rails testing framework. Unfortunately, the example tests are horrible and should not appear in production quality code. The sections on testing should only be used to understand how the built-in testing framework works in Rails and not as an example for writing tests. It is too bad that the authors didn’t cover integration testing either.</p> <p>A good thing that did come out of the testing sections in this book is the encouragement for developers to write tests which expose bugs before fixing them. It’s the only way to ensure you really fixed it.</p> <p>Rails 1.2.3 is used throughout the book so any changes, improvements or deprecations in Rails 2.0 aren’t covered. If the reader follows the book with Rails 1.2.3 they should have no issues walking through and developing the code themselves. If the reader follows the book with Rails 2.0 they should be aware of some of the changes, those can be found at <a href="http://weblog.rubyonrails.org/2007/12/7/rails-2-0-it-s-done">http://weblog.rubyonrails.org/2007/12/7/rails-2-0-it-s-done</a></p> <p>The things that stuck out to me were:</p> <ul> <li>view template file naming conventions</li> <li>the verbosity of not having named routes</li> <li>the lack of the db:rollback rake task</li> </ul> <p>The authors take the time to walk the reader through setting up and using Subversion as an integral part of Rails software development. It also includes setting up and using Apache and Mongrel to serve Rails. As the book moves from development to production deployment the user is shown how to deploy automatically from Subversion to their production server using Capistrano.</p> <p>There were a few minor typos and one redundant sentence on page 52. This is considerably lower then other technical books that I’ve read.</p> <p>The only giant red sections marked in my copy are the ones on testing. Take those examples with a grain of salt.</p> <p>Overall, the majority of the book is filled with good advice for novice Rails developers like, “do not wait until your application is built before you create and test the production environment” and “involve the end users throughout the process”.</p> <p>If you are a novice Rails developer who understand bits and pieces of Rails this book does a good job of connecting the other dots because the authors take the time to go through the full process of development to production. On the other hand if you have a good grasp on the whole Rails development process you can skip this book.</p> <p>A good chapter outline of this book can be found at PACKT's <a href="http://www.packtpub.com/Ruby-on-Rails-Enterprise-Application-Open-Source/book">web site</a></p>.
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