12 hours to rate a rails application

Posted in conference, rails, ruby by elisehuard on March 29, 2010

Here’s the presentation I did this weekend

Of course, just as I was about to start, my laptop died and refused to start again. Lost me some precious minutes, but fortunately I had a USB key with a backup, and my coworker Alain Ravet lent me his laptop (Julian Fischer also kindly offered, but his computer didn’t like my presentation). Murphy’s law in all its glory. After that, things went more or less smoothly.

If you had the opportunity to attend, I would really appreciate your feedback on speakerrate, as I’m going to give this talk another couple of times. I sensed when it worked, and when it didn’t, but the more input, the better I can fine-tune it.


Scottish Ruby Conference

Posted in conference, rails, ruby by elisehuard on March 20, 2010

Time flies, and next week already,
I'm speaking at the scottish ruby conference
I’m going to talk about how to evaluate a Rails application very quickly: the title of my talk is “12 hours to rate a Rails application”
This is useful in following situations:

  • in case of acquisitions (I’ve been asked to look over an application as an outside expert)
  • when you’re going to take over legacy codebase

I’m going the extra mile on metrics (or quantitative code analysis), which are excellent tools to judge a large-ish codebase.
Whoo ! Large and interesting subject, all compressed in 45 minutes. A day might come when I’ll be totally relaxed about giving talks, but I’m not there yet. Cross fingers.

FOSDEM 2010: all was well

Posted in conference, FOSDEM, open source by elisehuard on February 10, 2010

This weekend we had our 10th edition of FOSDEM. Fosdem is the Free Open Source Developers European Meeting. It’s the second year that I’m part of the staff – my reasons to join the team was that since I’m using a lot of open source, but contributing precious little (working on it), I might as well give something back in another way. Since then I found another reason to enjoy working on FOSDEM: it’s amazing to bring about such a mammoth event with just a dozen of people and a larger group of volunteers.

Since FOSDEM is entirely free and doesn’t require people to register, it’s always difficult to estimate the attendance. Judging from the numbers of t-shirts and the booklets, and the constant throngs of geeks in the hallways, the general impression is that we had even more participants than last year. To the point that we start wondering if we’re not going to grow too large.

The organization was a success. Kudos to the whole team for doing a good job.
Sponsoring and donations were crisis-insensitive. The network was up on friday night (respect to Gerry, Jerome, Peter, and all who made it happen), with a glass fiber gigabit uplink. During the conference the geeks didn’t even use 10% of the bandwidth. In one of the hacker rooms there was a sign ‘please use more bandwidth’. The devrooms were mostly packed, and the main tracks were (I think) interesting. It’s not always easy to get brainiacs who can speak in front of an audience, but I think we hit the spot most of the time.

Where last year I had to run around like a headless chicken, this year there were plenty of opportunities to sit down for 20 minutes at a time ! Which meant I got out of it feeling marginally less exhausted than last year.

I think we can say that the organization has now reached a nice plateau, and everything was ticking along very smoothly. The only danger is to grow complacent – it’s never a good idea to let your guard down.

Heart-warming: to have faithful volunteers who help us until the bitter (or should I say dirty) end. To have a great atmosphere, and to get heartfelt thanks from participants. If you’ve got any feedback of your own, tips you’d like to share, let us know.

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Rails Underground

Posted in conference, JRuby, rails, ruby by elisehuard on July 26, 2009

I really liked Rails Underground, for several reason. First, where some Rails conferences (like last Railsconf Europe) was a bit disappointing in the levels of the presentations, here all technical presentations were relatively advanced.

Secondly, the audience came in a wide range of ages. At the hight of the Rails hype, conferences were attended by a majority of 20-year olds – which is fine, but it’s reassuring when a community contains a good percentage of software veterans, who’ve been around the block and judged that Ruby and Rails is Good Stuff.

And lastly, it was medium-scale – about 200 people. Seems to be an ideal number: there is enough weight to get some big names, and it’s still small enough to have a good atmosphere. You can approach people much more easily. Met lots of interesting people, amongst them some interesting women (!) like Desi McAdam from Devchix, Eleanor McHugh (who always does strange but interesting things with Ruby), Lena from Berlin, Allison Beckwith from Portland.


Posted in conference, FOSDEM, open source by elisehuard on February 9, 2009

This weekend, finally, came FOSDEM. In the shape of a tornado, sweeping us up from friday at noon to deposit us, dazed and exhausted, at the end of the week-end.

On friday afternoon, build-up. You go from A (the trash-littered rooms of the university) to B (reasonably clean set of conference rooms with the makings of a decent network).

I had fun laying reams of ethernet cables (total1,6km) under the expert direction of Gerry, the networking specialist of our team. The idea was to provide most of the rooms with good wifi, and the approach was different from other years – partly because we had the loan of some nice Cisco equipment.

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FOSDEM: volunteers

Posted in conference by elisehuard on January 27, 2009

… we’re still looking for volunteers to help us out during the weekend ! If you’re planning to come, consider helping us out for half a day (or a day if you want).
You’ll get a staff t-shirt and the feeling to have contributed to the worthy cause of Open Source !

So let’s see, we need:
12-14h, 14-16h network*
18-22h set up stands and booths
18-22h signalisation (arrows etc)
18-22h set up infodesk

5-8h, 8-10h network*
8-13h, 12h45-19h infodesk
10-12h, 12-14h, 14h-16h, 16-18h help and moderate speakers of main track

8h30-13h, 12h45-18h30 infodesk
10-12h, 12-14h, 14-16h, 16-18h help and moderate speakers of main track
17-20h network*
16-18h, 18-20h breakdown and cleanup

Let me know if you’re interested, and for which slots.

* we ask that you know your way around networks, preferably

Railsconf Europe day 3

Posted in conference, rails by elisehuard on September 12, 2008

The sunny morning found me schlepping my luggage to the conference building. Last day of the conf, always slightly less relaxed, with the flight to catch and the check-outs to manage.

First keynote was by David Black of RubyCentral, one of the main organizers of the conference. He talked about Ruby’s version. It sounded slightly ad hoc (fibers ? mh, i knew about that 3 months ago, but can’t say now), but interesting anyhow.

Jeremy Kemper was helping out on the trickier details. Seems Rails is actively being ported to 1.9, so it might be worth it to start checking out the change logs.

Then i attended a talk by Matt Wood from the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute, which was involved in the Human Genome Project. The human genome was sequenced and open-data’ed (beating a team that wanted to patent it), but they continue sequencing different species to map evolution, and to research diseases and genetic conditions. This involved the handling of massive amounts of data. They do some of it with Rails, because of its flexibility (talk here).

Then Rany Keddo talked about background scheduling of jobs. Obviously you don’t want to block any of your web servers/threads with a lenghty process. There are many tools to offload this to background processes. Rany demo’ed and talked about some of them – and also his plugin Workling, which is a kind of wrapper making them pluggable in Rails.

Lunch was spent talking to several really interesting people (who i’ll probably never meet again), as wont in such a conference. DHH and Koz spottings.

After lunch: Justin Gehtland talking about modular architecture (monolithic software = the Death Star, modular agile stuff = the rebel fleet) talks. Some people are just great speakers. Then i had to leave to catch my flight. Easyjet waits for no woman.

What was up with the Star Wars meme ? It popped up every few slides with the US speakers. Certainly added to the comical effect. I suppose that there’s only a few common denominators between Geeks International United, and Star Wars is certainly one of them.

My conclusion about the conference is this: spotless organization, but the talks themselves (with exceptions !) were not stellar, nor particularly useful. I still hope to see the ones i missed released on the net.

The main point of being there, for me, would be to meet professionals in the same branche, and to be able to exchange views with them. Is that worth the price ? Actually, it might be. I had a good time.

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Railsconf Europe day 2

Posted in conference, rails by elisehuard on September 12, 2008

Grayer skies for day 2. Also a bit the worse for wear from the night before. Caffeine for the soul.

DHH did the keynote – and while he didn’t say that much (information content), what he said was interesting, and well developed: legacy code makes us better programmers. We learn by seeing our past mistakes, and correcting them. Rewriting from scratch will be way less instructive than actually giving love to the old code.

Next talk i attended was about jQuery by Yehuda Katz (maintainer and co-author of jQuery in action amongst other things). Let’s say that it was a good talk for absolute beginners, but while not being an expert at all, i didn’t learn anything new.

At some point during the day, we got what was for me THE news of the conference: localization in Rails 2.2 ! Finally ! A language by a japanese person, a platform by a (former) danish citizen, so i’m happy that finally they correct the US-centric approach.

Start of the afternoon: talk about combining different apps seamlessly to improve scalability by 2 guys from Texperts. They do this by using javascript widgets pointing to different apps.

I then moved on to a talk about Rubinius by Wilson Bilkovich. Completely lost there, since he seemed to assume in-depth knowledge of how this kind of compiler-VM works, and mine is sketchy at most. They now use LLVM as a virtual machine, that they have a lot of primitives in C that are platform-specific but most of the core classes are now written in Ruby. The Ruby parser is the same as for MRI, and then *mumble Kernel mumble compiler C++*. Sounded cool in an incomprehensible kind of way.

Then the organization broke down a little bit, because 2 talks were cancelled, and so the main common-interest one, about security, was absolutely mobbed (picture geeks squatting every square cm of the room). In a fit of claustrophobia, i decided to stay out and follow the talk as well as i could through IRC (which was not too bad actually).

Some highlights: the usual cross-site scripting, but also the reading of session info in the cookie, sql injection on some params in rails pre-2.1, and then a cross-site JSON attack i’ve got to read up about because didn’t quite get it in the flow of conversation.

Sun is one of the main sponsors of this convention (together with Engine Yard),
which was already obvious by the plugging of JRuby at every possible occasion.

Nick Sieger (Dr Nic ?) did his bit for Sun, and then there was a long, long keynote by Jeremy Kemper. Jeremy Kemper is one of those guys who may be great programmers and project managers, but may not be stage material.

He talked about the performance of rails, and how he found that most of it could be reduced by looking at the browser (basically this stuff), and some in the actual garbage collection of the Ruby virtual machine (MRI).

Then we adjourned, and those of us who had been lurking on IRC to counter the slight boredom gathered to have a nice indian meal, and then some drinks at the Irish pub. A good night amongst international geeks.

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Railsconf Europe Day 1

Posted in conference, rails by elisehuard on September 12, 2008

In Berlin they know what summer means, and how to taper off softly to winter. The day started sunny with a hint of freshness.

So i started off towards the Railsconf in a pretty good mood, despite the early hour. I ended up subscribing to the tutorials, because i’ve been told last night (at the Bratwurst on Rails) that they were worth it.

My morning tutorial was about hacking the Rails internals by two people of the company Intridea. About showing how you can minutely twist the default rails magic to make your life easier. Pradeep Elunkamaran in the first half was fairly interesting – except that it was a bit fast, especially since (gasp) i hadn’t had my coffee yet (and hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before).

The second half was by Michael Bleigh, who’s given us subdomain-fu and uberkit (didn’t know the last one). This was more applied, and more focused towards getting a result (without knowing all the details underneath). Different point of view.

Lunch was pleasantly spent with the belgian delegation: 4 of OpenMinds, Alain Ravet, and 2 guys of belighted (and me). And two start-up founders from resp. Germany and Austria.

I started the afternoon at a presentation about deploying and monitoring rails by people from Peritor, which was woefully basic. They started off by describing all the most common server setups, and then talking about capistrano. I gave up hoping when it appeared the level wouldn’t exponentially increase.

So i skipped talks to one by Thoughtworks people about meta-programming in Ruby. Pat Farley made a good job of taking something that could have been endlessly dull (Ruby C internals) and making it bearable, grabbing our attention with humor here and there.

After dinner break, there was a panel discussion by DHH, Jeremy Kemper and Michael Koziarsky.. All being Rails core people, there was not much debate, so it became a Q&A session. About future of web apps according to them, if other test frameworks were going to creep in (no), what they thought about the other frameworks (cute but not Rails) … not many surprises there, in other words.

Rejectconf took place at a bar a couple of kilometers away, and was one of the best parts of the day. The formula was that everyone had maximum 5 minutes to talk about a related subject, however wacky

Best_of: a ‘make_spec_better’ plugin that passes all specs, whatever happens. An application by leethal, who apparently gets pretty frustrated on IRC, to be able to tell people how exactly they fit the term ‘retard’ (unable to google etc). Braid was presented as the piston for git by a young dutch guy (whose name i didn’t catch, but surely will find again).

Geoffrey Grosenbach talked about Zshell – a bit surreal to actually see the guy after listening to his disembodied voice in a few Peepcode tutorials. He then was nice (and brave) enough to lend his Macbook air to increasingly drunk presenters.

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Railsconf Europe 2008

Posted in conference, rails by elisehuard on September 12, 2008

Time flies like a cheetah on speed, and here we are already: september.

Next week i’m going to Berlin to attend Railsconf Europe. Railsconf Europe is about the only big-time event around Ruby and Rails in Europe right now, so i have to attend it at least once, if only to see my colleagues’ demographics, and get a peek at the Rails A-listers for myself.

I’m going to try to be there for the Bratwurst on Rails thing, the informal meet-and-greet on the first of september – though my plane’s getting in a little late.

The next day i won’t be attending the tutorials, but rather see what i can do in the Community Code Drive, basically the local hackaton.

Then wednesday and thursday will be spent in the usual conference fashion. Hopefully i’ll also be able to look up with a couple of friends who live in town.

Let me know if you’re attending, maybe we’ll be able to hook up. Looking forward to it … maybe next time i’ll be able to present something, who knows (which might cut the total cost somewhat).

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