About a year ago, my curiosity was piqued by Ruby on Rails. I picked up a copy of Agile Web Development with Rails and built a quick sample site. But, I realized that more than a cursory knowledge of Ruby would help move things along faster and make Rails development more enjoyable. Unfortunately, I did not have the spare time to devote to a new language, so I set it aside.
A couple weeks ago, I decided the time was right, so I got a copy of the essential Pick Axe book and started in earnest. What I found was an elegant language that lives up to the excitement that emanates from Ruby developers. The tutorials in the pick axe are adequate, enough to demonstrate the points the authors are making, but not very exciting. It is impossible to really learn a programming language with tutorials alone anyway. As with spoken language, the only way to become fluent is to use it.
My first two little exercises were little indeed. First, I wanted to run through this site and update all the self referring URLs to they were correct as there had been some URL changes over the years. This was really simple and only required hooking in to the database that runs the site and changing some URLs. This was all accomplished with ActiveRecord, some regular expressions and very few lines of code. The second exercise was to check the integrity of all the external links on this site. This was also trivial in Ruby. Most of the work with this exercise was in fixing the bad links which had nothing to do with Ruby. One would hope that a fair amount of the link fixing could be done programmatically but, unfortunately, that wasn’t what I found.
Now, I feel like I’m ready to dive back into Rails. I’m also happy to be using an elegant language that has a passionate community behind it. If you are contemplating the use of Ruby, I suggest trying one or two tasks with it. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.