Ruby on Rails

I’ve been watching Ruby on Rails for a while now. It seems to be gaining some momentum.

Ruby seems like a nice language, and the Rails framework appears to add some WebObjects-like functionality. It looks like it’s got some stuff that approaches Direct-to-web. It still doesn’t look quite as elegant as WebObjects, but it is definitely interesting, and tries to be pretty cleanly MVC, which is nice. It’s also just sitting there at /usr/bin/ruby begging to be dusted off and called into action…

Basecamp was the first “real” app that used Ruby on Rails (and it’s a beauty app, to be sure). I’m sure there will be some others going live Real Soon Now.

I’d be interested in developing an app using it, except I’d have to throw away all of the java libraries I’m using (including APOLLO and PXFoundation). When/if I get a chance, I’ll work up a simple app to act as an alternate front end to the Asset Management Database, to see how well it works.

I’ve also been rolling around the idea of building more stuff in PHP, but haven’t found a decent framework to use, and I really dread having to roll everything from scratch. To be fair, I haven’t really looked very hard, either…

Update: MacOSX 10.3 ships with Ruby v. 1.6.8. The latest version is 1.8.1 (downloadable here).

Update: ImageMagick is available in Ruby via RMagick – there’s one dependency I don’t have to worry about…

Update: A Slashdot article comparing Ruby on Rails to Java Spring/Hybernate – sounds promising for RoR

Ear infections suck

If it was my ear, it might not be so bad. But Evan’s been inflicted by a nasty pair of ear infections. Poor little guy didn’t sleep more than an hour last night (therefore, mom and dad didn’t sleep at all – no sir, no way in hell are we having another one – we had some serious colic flashbacks last night 🙂 )

We’ve pumped him full of Tylenol to control the fever, and now he’s on yummy banana-flavoured antibiotics to wipe out the little critters filling his eustachian tubes.

One thing that I realized today is just how much I love the health care system in Canada. Janice called the family doctor this morning, asked for an appointment, and we got fit right into their schedule. We had a nice visit with the doctor, without having to pay a cent. Then, we got the prescription filled at the local pharmacy, without having to pay a cent. Sure, we’ve technically already paid for it all thanks to higher taxes, but it’s nice when the system works. Not once did we even have to consider cost today – just on doing the right thing to get The Boy healthy again.

He’s passed out upstairs in his room right now. I hate seeing the little guy suffer – he was so out of it this morning that he didn’t want to have a bath. He normally goes ape shit when he gets a chance to get in the tub. Today, he just wanted to sink into mommy’s or daddy’s arms.

On Permanence (of content)

As we’re creating more content on and for the internet (and computers in general), we’re placing more of our culture into what is really an ephemeral medium. There is no 1000-year archive plan for the internet. The closest thing we have to that is The Internet Archive – but even that is subject to politics, business, and personal goodwill (of Brewster Kahle).

Backups of content are created, sure, but on formats like CD-ROM or DVD – which may have a lifespan ranging from 5-100 years depending on the specific media and storage conditions. They are also stored in (dozens? hundreds? thousands?) of unique storage formats (.Mac backup, proprietary backup tools, custom hacked tools, etc…) which may be difficult/interesting to interpret after the originators have shed their mortal coils.

Personally, I’ve got a stack of a couple hundred CD-ROM and DVD-R disks on a shelf in my office. Eventually, the media will start to degrade (or a fire will melt them into cool forms unreadable by any optical drive).

This is no way to preserve a culture. It struck me pretty hard earlier today when I was iChatting with Josh – we were joking that if something isn’t online (and more recently, if it doesn’t have an RSS feed), it doesn’t exist. But – the stuff that is online will not exist in 100 years, let alone 1000…

That may be a good thing for 99.9% of the cat blogs out there. But I’m hoping there is something worth preserving, that may be of interest to those who will follow.

Is the solution to trust in archive.org and hope it does not follow the same fate as the Library of Alexandria which inspired it? Sure – the petaboxes are mirrored eventually to 3 locations. But it’s not inconceivable that all copies could be wiped. An EMP would do that quite easily. Then what? We’re back to the 1950’s, before stuff started getting fed into punch cards.

Maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing. I just have trouble relaxing about this, when I can’t read the documents I wrote on my Vic20, nor the C-64, nor the Amiga, nor the Apple II, etc… Sure, I can emulate the software, but the media is lost…

Update: Looks like I’m not alone in thinking about this recently. ArsTechnica just posted a related article on the longevity of optical media.

Update: Hah! And now even Slashdot is getting onto the story…

Yahoo 360 Thoughts

Thanks to Stephen, I got hooked up with a Yahoo 360 invite. I wanted to kick the tires to see what they’ve come up with in their big fancy social networking system.

The coolest thing I see so far is the concept of friend-of-a-friend. I imagine it’s completely compatible with FOAF, but they expose preferences settings to let you restrict access to stuff (your blog, commenting on your blog, photos, etc…) to a list of options:

  • Everyone
  • Third Degree
  • Friends of friends
  • Private (just me)

I couldn’t find an Official Description of “Third Degree” – but I think that’s “Friends of friends’ friends” – which could be a really interesting way to build up a microcommunity based on people you know and/or trust. Either that, or it’s a bright spotlight being shone on an intimidated suspect sitting on a cold metal chair. Either way, it’s pretty cool to have that at your fingertips.

I have to agree with Joshua’s comment on this: “It’s funny it took [them] this long to release a blog service.” I wonder what they’re planning on doing with it. Between this and their recent acquisition of Flickr, they are sure trying hard to get some momentum back in the social software game.

Anyway, here’s my Y360 blog – with the icky GUID-inspired URL and all (the setting to generate friendlier URLs appears to be borked at the moment).

On time “off”

I’m taking this week to spend with the family. Janice is out of town for much of the week, so it’s just Evan and myself baching it. It’s been absolutely great being able to hang out with the boy – we spent the morning at the zoo, and it was fun watching him get all worked up about the efants and muhkees. He’s almost able to carry a conversation, and it’s so cool to be watching him progress. He keeps surprising me about what he understands, remembers, or figures out.

Obligatory photo from the zoo:

Elephant at Calgary Zoo

Of course, my infojunkie addiction is so bad that I’m probably online almost as much as when I’m in the office. And I’m getting “volunteered” to be doing stuff in meetings that I’m missing 😉