FlexibleRails Book – Part One

The book Flexible Rails, by Peter Armstrong, is a guide into building Rich Internet Applications using Flex as the front end to a Ruby on Rails Application. It started out as a PDF download at Lulu.com. Eventually, it became a Manning book.

Since its inception, the author wrote the book as, us, the readers, worked thru the exercises. One important aspect of these technologies worht pointing out is that Flex has gone thru one major revision and Rails has gone through at least one minor revision. For each of these updates to the technologies used in the book, Peter has completely reworked the book. Even more peculiar is that Peter explains the code in Mac, Linux AND Windows version… Remember these three platforms differ ever so slightly on syntax at the command prompt for rails. Most of everything else is the same across these three. He even went as far as to refactor the code into Cairngorm and RubyAMF. These were not even part of his original version of the book. Lastly, he keeps google groups for the readers which he actively participates in AND Manning has a forum for the book which Peter frequents as well. How cool is that?

I had worked throu most of book in PDF form with Flex 2 Builder back in September and found the merging of Flex and Rails very intriguing. Having spent most of my professional time writing database-driven Coldfusion applications, Rails is both easy to pick up and a bit more agile to boot! I’ve been trying to get my colleagues exited about both Flex and Rails separately for the longest time with little success.

This book is a great example of how to use both these technologies to create applications that beat the pants out of the usual html gui we see everyday. Likewise, if you can get your colleagues to read it, I think this book would be very valuable persuading them to give either Flex or rails a chance… Why do some people need so much convincing?!

Anyways, as soon as the paper print came out, I ordered from Manning and put in shelf for when I had time to do again, now with Flex 3 and Rails 2.x goodness. I even archived old codebase anxiously anticipating doing the paper version.

Well, with growing frustrations trying to wrap up chapter Four of Programming Collective Intelligence so I can put a search engine here, I decided the time was right to revisit Flexible Rails book. I just finished Part one of Flexible Rails last night and I am up and running with a Flex and Rials app I can both join and log into. Yipee!

The print version gives me the impression that the author is having a conversation with the reader while the reader works thru the code. This is most likely becuase I’ve been doing this book for longer than usual by now. Still, the commentary is great and should not be skipped; it contains the whys and the hows on the way the application is being developed. More than once, I’ve followed his code exactly and it does not work… Each time I’ve gone back and re-read his commentary to find an ‘I told you it wasn’t gonna work if you do that’.

As soon as Peter gets his next book writen; I’ll be sending my money!


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