Flex on Rails by Tony Hillerson and Daniel Wanja

Finding myself with all this free time and aside from working on the house and playing with the kids; I have been working my way thru this recently released book.

Similarly to Flexible Rails, Flex on Rails illustrates how to create and integrate applications where the client tier is written in Flex and the back end is written in Rails. While Flexible Rails provides you with a roadmap to creating a full blown application, Flex on Rails is a bit looser on the guidance it provides. Instead doing a lot of hand holding thru every step of the application(s) it encompasses to create, it dives right into many of the most desirable integration problems a developer would encounter or wants to tackle. In this fashion, it reads a little bit like a cookbook.

Most of the integration exercises are well known and recurring in any developer’s career like CRUD thru RESTful services, xml data manipulation, debugging multi tier applications, test driven development, working with hierarchical data and nested sets.

I still haven’t done the most exciting chapters (I am still on Chapter 5, Passing Data with AMF), but I find the material and approach novel and interesting.

Ironically, I find some of the topics covered in this book to be second nature because of my last job.  Life is funny life that. For example, the chapters on debugging, test driven development and authentication would have been a lot more enlightening in a Flex context if I hadn’t spent last year soaking in these from my colleagues.

If you decide to check book out at your local bookstore, do yourself a favor and print a coupon for decent savings. I was able to save 40% last week.

Lastly, if you buy it with the intention of working thru the whole book; I recommend matching the version of Rails the book uses as the authors use some interesting features that are buggy in the latest release of Rails. So far, this bug in Rails 2.3.2 will prevent you from fully implementing some of the features the authors use. Downgrading my Rails version to match book’s allowed me to proceed without slowing me down much.

I am happy more resources are coming out on this topic (Flex and Rails) for I think it is one of the most fun, affordable and exciting combinations available to us. I commend the author’s as well from answering my emails promptly when (easily) stumped. If you find this technology combination interesting and feel comfortable working in either Flex or Rails, I highly recommend this book.

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