litany against fear

coding with spice ¤ by nick quaranto

Switching to Rails

published 18 Sep 2008

For a while now I’ve been obsessed working with Ruby on Rails. Rails has caused me to switch from doing .NET/ASP.NET development on my desktop PC using Windows XP to owning a Mac Mini and putting Ubuntu on Dell laptop. Obviously, this is a huge change, and I’m going to explain why I’ve switched.

Rails is a combination of software engineering principles and web programming best practices.

In this respect Rails is a dream: Active Record. RESTful architecture. Built-in xml/json/etc web services. TDD/BDD practices. I could go on and on, but all that matters is writing Rails applications is an enjoyable and fun process. You’re not writing scripts for pages, not having to worry about the nuts and bolts of creating a site, or dealing with painful XML files. Convention over configuration is a real path to productivity, and it’s going to take the other competing systems a long time to catch up to the headway that Rails is making on a daily basis. Rails isn’t the solution to everything, and it certainly has had it share of growing pains, but it’s being proven again and again as the most efficient way to create data-driven web applications that are very reliable and follow web standards.

Tools on *nix based systems are a lot better for Rails development.

DHH puts it best:

The stigma of being a Web programmer still using Windows will increase.

For me, it’s not that much of a stigma, but more of a practical issue. The power of the Unix command line combined with tools like Textmate makes development on OSX and Linux machines for Rails a LOT easier. The tools on the Windows side are there, but they’re usually not as powerful and not as easy to set up. Cygwin is piss slow. Most of the non-Visual Studio text editors suck. The command line sucks, and I tried really hard to make it not suck. Even Ruby is slower! All of this pain goes away on OSX/Ubuntu. Rails would be a lot different if it started on Windows, and I wonder if it would really be the same platform. For now though, I’m loving the productivity boost that I’m experencing and trying out different operating systems, and it serves my needs well.

Bleak future of .NET development.

This one will probably get me flamed the most. It’s not that I don’t like .NET, it’s just that I couldn’t see myself using it any more professionally. I’m really not a fan of VB.NET, especially compared to Ruby. It’s a cruft filled language that makes me feel like Mort when writing it. Great things are possible with the language, but the result is so unreadable and ugly that I don’t feel it’s worth it anymore to use, especially if I can choose not to. C# on the other hand I love and always will, especially over Java.

What scares me more about .NET is where’s it’s going: Silverlight and WPF. WPF is supposed to be an awesome new platform that makes it easier for both programmers and designers to collaborate and create great applications. Seriously though, where are the great WPF applications? Why haven’t we heard as much about them, as say, the newest iPhone apps? I could say the same for Silverlight. Oh wait, the Olympics. ooh, Yahoo Messenger! Whatever. Nothing is going to kill Flash’s market share.

I’m sure that things have changed since I was heavy into (bleeding edge) .NET development 6-9 months ago, but still there seems to be no killer app for WPF or Silverlight yet. Until that happens they’ll just suck like everything else. I’d love to be proven wrong on this point, so if you know of one please show me.

If you’ve switched away from Windows or even if you’ve become a Rubyist/Pythonista in recent times, let me know what your experiences have been. For now on my blog posts will hopefully be a bit more frequent, and will chronicle various quirks and fun things I’ve found during my Rails journeys.



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