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Nick Plante

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Railsconf Highlights Part I

May 30, 2008

I'm in Portland today, attending the second day of Railsconf. So far things have been good; the crowds are a bit large this year but the talks have been, for the most part, much more in-depth than last year. I figured I would take a few minutes out of the hectic conference schedule to fill DDJ Code Talk readers in on a few of the highlights...

The Business of Rails: Dan Benjamin of Corkd and Hivelogic fame gave a great talk about entrepreneurialism and Rails development to a packed room. He noted that the Ruby and Rails community seems to attract a higher ratio of freelancers and tech entrepreneurs than your average platform and offered useful tips to those who were hoping to strike out on their own.

Hosting Woes & Scalability: A hot topic this year for obvious reasons, there have been a number of sessions on high-volume Rails applications and how to properly handle deployments for a variety of scenarios. Typical pain points were brought up and helpful solutions were discussed. Topics ranged from hardware and architecture to database indexes and clustering to mongrel alternatives, virtualization, and asynchronous processing. In addition, Adam Wiggins of Heroku gave a great talk about building custom Nginx modules, and illustrated why Nginx is the web frontend of choice for most large Rails installations (it's also used by Engine Yard, who didn't feel the need to discuss it during the Hosting Woes talk "because they've had absolutely no problems with it").

Git: The Rails core recently moved to the Git distributed version control system, which has a number of advantages over Subversion. However, a large number of developers are still relatively unfamiliar with it. Scott Chacon gave a great (albeit somewhat rushed) talk explaining typical Git development workflows and system internals. I'm hoping his slides will be available online with annotations.

DataMapper: I'm a bit biased here because I'm a contributor and advocate, but I'm sure that Yehuda Katz's DataMapper ORM talk was one of the best of the conference. However, it was so overcrowded that a number of us were denied entrance by the fire marshall. Fortunately, conference organizers have added it (as well as a number of other popular talks which were overfilled on Friday) back to the schedule as an additional offering on Sunday. The Merb BoF session was also excellent and got a lot of people excited about Rails alternatives.

Rails 2.1: Lots of brand new features and improvements on the existing codebase. Gem dependencies, dirty attribute tracking and partial updates, built-in timezone support, caching improvements, and named_scope. Jeremy Kemper gave a morning keynote today discussing the new features in depth.

MagLev: Perhaps the most surprising announcement of the conference, and one that I was unfortunately not present for. Gemstone announced and demonstated their upcoming MagLev Ruby VM. Aside from having impressive benchmarks, it also includes caching and a persistence storage layer. Very exciting and wholly unexpected. InfoQ has more information, as well as an interview with Gemstone. Jeremy Durham and Obie Fernandez also have coverage on their blogs.

Lots of other great sessions as well of course. Blogger Drew Blas has extensive coverage if you're looking for other tidbit. Definitely worth checking out.

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