Musings on RailsConf 2014

This is a bit late, but I wanted to ramble for a bit on RailsConf 2014. I have a few main points that can be summarized as:

  1. TDD isn’t dead, but we’ve opened up a conversation about how useful it is.
  2. RailsConf is less and less about Rails each year and that’s ok.
  3. The Rails/Ruby community is awesome!

TDD isn’t dead

Some people say that DHH declared TDD dead. I disagree. What he did was to open a discussion about testing that we’ve been lacking in the community. The TDD “fad diet” has always troubled me. When TDD proponents quiz a room and ask people how many are using TDD lots of hands go up. Then when they ask if you write your tests first, the hands go down. It makes a point, but it also is a form of shaming. I believe in testing, but I have yet to see a test suite for an app or a gem that I thought was an outstanding example of great code. If it’s out there and I’m just missing it, please let me know. The tools we have now seem to be just barely scratching the surface of what we can do to teach effective testing. I’m thirsty for more testing tips and frameworks that take the confusion out of testing and give us a better way to talk about it and DHH opened the way for that conversation.

RailsConf is less and less about Rails

I’ve been to 3 RailsConfs now. Each one was well worth it. Austin was great as it opened my eyes to the Ruby community and what it has to offer. I learned it’s not possible to ruby without twitter, and that lightning talks rock. There were talks on nearly all aspects of a Rails application, and people even commented on how many were not really about Rails. Even so, talks on coffeescript, backbone, sass and others still seemed dominated the standard Rails talks.

RailsConf 2013 in Portland had Rails as well. But this time it seemed like something was shifting. There were testing tricks, talks on Gotalks about what we can learn from python, and even talks on talks.

And now in 2014, we had a whole track on learning from designers. We also had a track on training and team building and one on playing nicely. There was a talk about saving the world by saving the bees using sinatra. One devoted to databases of all kinds (but just use Postrgre), and another on the tricks our minds play on us.

Overall, I think that signifies that our community is growing, and we have a place for everyone. Which leads to the next section… because…

The Community is Awesome!

Rails is a very open community. We welcome everyone. Yes, there’s always talk about how we get more women, GLBT, and minorities involved, but here’s the thing… we talk about how we can get more women, GLBT and minorities involved! We are not nearly where we need to be yet, but we’re working on it. The more Katrina Owen, Sandi Metz, and Coraline Ehmke get to speak and have a voice, the more women like them will join our community. The diversity of ideas, gender and race can only help us to grow and find new and interesting ways to solve problems.

Swype beta on a Google Nexus 7

I’m writing this post using the Swype beta on my new Google Nexus 7 tablet. At this point, I am completely spoiled. I’ll never be able to go back to using a normal keyboard on a tablet device. I got used to Swype on my Droid 2, but this beta is even better than the version on that device. The speed at which you can enter text is simply amazing, and the suggestions it gives are really good. I really love the way it automatically gives you the ability to split words if you make a mistake by just tapping them.

Comment on “There’s a hungry digital tiger waiting for us all . . .”

Interesting read. Being in technology, I see this problem too. I call it “code rot”. If a program we’ve written sits on the shelf unused, it slowly becomes incompatible with the inevitable upgrades to our systems.

Open source software seems to be an exception to this. As Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system once said, “Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it ;)”

Unfortunately, solutions to the problem are hard to find. Popular things are saved, because they are useful, entertaining or valuable to people. Copyright and DRM (digital rights management) also get in the way of successful archiving as well. If someone is willing to save something digitally, or convert it into another format, many times it is actually illegal for them to do so.

I want… iOS vs. Android revisited

I wrote this post about my wishlist for iOS and Android over a year ago, and it’s due for a refresh.


  • Swype – it’s still missing. The keyboard on iOS is still much the same. The split keyboard showed up in iOS 5, but really nothing for my iPod touch. There is a
    hidden auto-complete suggestion feature as well, but it requires some crazy hackery to get it working.
  • Flash – ditto here. Although I’ve noticed the problem less and less. Sites seem to be more aware of iOS and it is driving them to use less flash. And honestly, that is a good thing.
  • Google Reader App – While there still is no native reader app for iOS, I don’t care anymore. The Google Reader mobile web experience has greatly improved over the last year.
  • Sync over Wifi – This one was a long time coming, but iOS 5 added it and I have no complaints. It works as advertised.


  • Netflix – The Netflix app finally made it to my Droid 2 late last year. Again, it works as advertised and I have no complaints. One thing it did make me notice was the difference in quality of the screen. My iPod Touch’s screen is brighter and provides a more vivid colors.
  • Experience – I received an upgrade to Gingerbread late last year, and nearly all the experience issues have disappeared. On a rare occasion, the UI will seize, but at this point, my iPod does so as well, so it’s a draw.

Hard drive cleanup

I’ve been doing some hard drive cleanup at home. Yeah, I know, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Unfortunately, if I don’t clean things up from time to time, I end up with a mess. The main one being a desktop that has millions of files on it, and one folder called “Download” and another called “Backup” that take up half my hard drive.

I’ve been using two programs for some time, and I thought I’d share. In fact, it’s really just one program with two flavors. WinDirStat and KDirStat offer a great way to find files and folders that are taking up the most space on my hard drive.

It lists the worst offenders first, and offers an option to delete without sending to the Recycle Bin. However, you have to be *very* careful when deleting files in this way. Especially in Windows. A good rule of thumb is to not delete anything inside the C:\Windows folder, at all. Sure, there are probably things in there you can delete safely, but it’s a risk I’m generally not willing to take.

If you are brave and want to jump into the folder, please watch out for two things. The winsxs folder often is a tempting target. It can be huge. Leave it alone. There are ways to reduce it’s size, but deleting it outright is asking for trouble.

The other is the Installer Cache folder. Microsoft used to provide a utility for cleaning up these files, but it caused issues. So, even Microsoft themselves can get it right. They very quietly stopped supporting the utility.

I want… iOS vs. Android

UPDATE – This post is over a year old now. An updated version of this post can be found here.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now.  I own both an iPod Touch and a Droid 2.  I primarily use the Droid 2, but I still occasionally fall back to the Touch when I want to do specific things.  This is my short list of “I wants” for both platforms.


  • Swype – This is the main thing I miss when using iOS. Tap typing feels slow and clunky compared to dragging my fingers over the letters.
  • Adobe Flash – Yeah, yeah, I know… Flash can be annoying because so many ads use it, but when you are browsing news and there’s a video, or a nifty interactive graphic you just want to see it. You don’t care what technology it uses.
  • Google Reader App – Sure you can use the mobile web version of Reader, but the native version for Android is quick to load and quick to respond.
  • Sync over WiFi.  I want to subscribe to a podcast and have it update over wifi.


  • Netflix – I love watching TV shows or movies on the iPod Touch. It’s supposedly not available on Android yet because of DRM issues.  Boo.
  • Experience – I sometimes experience lock ups or jerky scrolling, or just plain weirdness.  I’ve had icons go missing, and applications disappear until I went back to the market and reinstalled them.  With iOS, I haven’t had any of those issues.

Shameless Self Promotion

Well, ok, maybe it’s not entirely shameless, but it’s certainly self promotion.  I recently set up a WordPress blog for my wife.  She’s an avid knitter, and she enjoys creating color-work charts.  Of course, getting the site to show up on “the Google” for the keywords we want isn’t exactly an easy task.  It takes the right content, the right keywords, popularity, links and probably quite a bit of dumb luck.  The experts call that stuff SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.  As a web developer, I call it a necessary pain in the neck.  Anyway, visit it here at Free Knitting, Crochet, Needlepoint and Cross-Stitch Charts for Charity, and help us out.  Thanks!

We’re also trying to be conscious of the fact that just taking any old picture and converting it into a chart is likely to infringe on the copyright of the original image, so all of the original images come from public-domain sources.  Since I gave myself a plug, I’ll do the same for the sites we got the images from because they are… well… plain awesome. and are both wonderful sources of public domain images.  They also both make a good faith effort to ensure the images are truly in the public domain.