Posts tagged "Ruby"

Don't obsess over code DRYness

Being clever is a good thing for a developer. Ingenuity allows us to write software that solves complex real-world problems. However, 鈥渃lever鈥 code is not always a good thing. In many cases鈥娾斺奍 dare say in most cases鈥娾斺奿t is a very bad thing. I consciously try to avoid writing code that might be seen as 鈥渃lever鈥. The smart thing to do is trying hard not to be smart (yes, very 1984).

Developers tend to see themselves (quite indulgently) as smart people. Not many people understand what we do, and society sees a developer as a kind of modern wizard, writing unreadable magic spells in a small metal box. In reality, though, we are not half as smart as we think: for instance, if you are a developer, you are certainly familiar with the frustration of trying to understand some cryptic piece of code that seemed perfectly reasonable and straightforward when you wrote it a couple of months earlier.

When Postgres is not enough

What happens when your project鈥檚 RDBMS is just not enough to deal with unexpectedly huge amounts of data?

You could try to de-normalize some tables here and there to avoid unnecessary JOINs, create a few indexes, implement some kind of pagination or even pre-process the data into a more palatable format. However, if you did all that and it still was not enough, the 鈥渘atural impulse鈥 is to give up on the RDBMS altogether and just use Elasticsearch. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Improving spec speed in a huge, old Rails app

We got a 6-year-old Rails app with ~370k LOC and a ~6k-test suite which took 24 minutes to complete. Not good! We took a few days off of the main project to see if we could make things better.

More often than not, test suites are the nasty underbelly of a Rails app. Size and age just aggravate the problem. Tests are seldom a high priority in any project, and speed might not be an issue at all in smaller apps where the whole test suite might take just a few seconds to complete. As the project grows and the CI takes increasingly longer to complete, spec speed suddenly becomes more of an issue.

鈥淪mall鈥 and 鈥渘ew鈥 are not exactly the case for a certain Rails project we鈥檙e working on here at Guava. We鈥檙e talking about a 6-year-old e-commerce portal with ~370k LOC, a couple million customers and a ~6k-test, 300-spec suite which took, on average, a whopping 24 minutes to complete in our CI. Not good! So we took a couple of days off the main project to see if we could make things better鈥娾斺妎r less worse.

Ruby DSL & metaprogramming, part II

In the previous installment we built a simple text generator using some Ruby meta-programming tricks. It was still far from being our desired context-free grammar (CFG) generator, though, since it lacked many CFG prerequisites. Most flagrantly, we had no rule recursion and only one production (rule definition) per rule. Here鈥檚 the what a script that would use both features:

  noun 'dog', 'bus'
  verb 'barked', 'parked'
  preposition 'at'

rule 'phrase'
  opt 'The', noun, verb, preposition, 'a', noun
  opt 'Here goes some', phrase, 'recursion.'
  opt 'Meet me', preposition, 'the station.'

grammar phrase: 10

The dictionary section is just as we left it. Let鈥檚 see what changed in the rule section.

Ruby DSL & metaprogramming, part I

I鈥檝e been working with Ruby for nearly a year now, which means I鈥檓 starting to feel the urge to tell people how awesome the language is. One of the most interesting aspects of Ruby to me is metaprogramming, which it seems to have quite a vocation for.

Since college I have a fondness for automata and formal languages theory. One of the topics I particularly like is text generation (if you haven鈥檛 already, check out the excellent SCIgen and the Dada engine), so I thought that building a Context-free grammar (CFG)-like text generator in Ruby would be a nice little exercise and an opportunity to use some of the language鈥檚 coolest features. Also I鈥檝e implemented one of those using Java several years ago, and it was a mess, so I was curious as to how much of an improvement would Ruby offer.

Suppose the following script:

dictionary 'noun', 'dog', 'bus'
dictionary 'verb', 'barked', 'parked'
dictionary 'preposition', 'at'

rule 'phrase', 'noun', 'verb', 'preposition', 'noun'

codex 'phrase'

We鈥檇 like dictionary to store some words according to their classes, and rule to define a specific ordering of words. For now let鈥檚 not worry about codex (it鈥檚 just a collection of rules).

At this point the seasoned programmer is mentally sketching some kind of text parser. It鈥檚 an okay solution, but isn鈥檛 there something nicer we can do? Well, there is: DSLs! In fact, Ruby is quite an excellent tool to build a DSL, and many famed Ruby-powered applications such as Rspec (and many others) define some kind of DSL.

Speeding Up the Backend with Graph Theory

Here at Sensor Tower we handle large volumes of data, so to keep things snappy for our customers we need to think carefully about how we process and serve that data.

Understanding the data we鈥檙e handling is a fundamental part of improving the way we serve it, and by analyzing how an important backend service worked, we were able to speed it up by a factor of four.