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Ruby for Rails: Ruby Techniques for Rails Developers Paperback – May 11, 2006
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So, the first book I picked up was the PickAxe book, and read it pretty much from start to finish. It turns into a reference about 2/3 in, but the first part of the book is worth a straight-out read. That book gives you everything you need to get up and running with Rails, and has some brief coverage of the Ruby language, semantics, etc - enough to get you by.
Between that book and some Ruby language-related websites, I could build a decently complex web app. I discovered the various helpers from ActionView and got better at building good models with ActiveRecord, and understood the overall flow of the application. I was hooked on Ruby on Rails.
But, if you're like me, you eventually find some of the mystery frustrating. How does inheritence really work? Why do I see modules in some places and classes in others? How do you you make them aware of one another? When I generate a Rails app, what code is it building and where does it go? How come I can use the logger object in my controller, but my helpers can't see it? How does active record know about my database fields?
The mysteries pile up and you eventually need more, but I found the general purpose Ruby book "Programming Ruby" wasn't sticking with me. It covered a ton of topics I didn't care about, and the ones I did care about I didn't realize I was supposed to, because it wasn't obvious how the Ruby in the book related to Rails.
Then I picked up this book - and it was *exactly* what I was looking for. It has answered every question I've listed above, and I'm only halfway through it. I'm finding that I'm actually *understanding* what's going on with Rails under the hood.
Admittedly, if I'd started into this book as a primer for Rails, or a Ruby reference, I probably would have been disappointed. But, that's not what this book is all about. This book has a very important place in the process of one's learning about Ruby and Rails. At this point in my learning, I've found it to be perfect.
There are four parts to the book. The first part is an introduction which explained how Ruby works, how Rails works, and why it's important for Rails developers to have a good handle on the Ruby programming language. This was more detail than I had gotten in my online reading, and not so much detail that my head blew up immediately. A real plus. Also in the first section, we walked through the beginning of the development process for a simple "music store" web application. This defined a context for the pieces of the Ruby puzzle that were about to be dumped on the table.
The second part of the book really delved into the guts of Ruby programming. It defined objects, variables, classes, instances, constants, modules, methods, inheritance, scope, and control flow techniques. It had been 8 years since I'd done work in Java, and that was my only experience with object oriented programming. Ruby is kind of the same, but not really.
The third part of the book is all about the classes and modules that are built in to Ruby. This is very important stuff, necessary in order to get a feel for what you can do (manipulations and comparisons) with different data types. And there is a lot you can do. This part also describes how arrays, hashes, and regular expressions work in Ruby.
The fourth and final part of this book re-focuses on the music store application from earlier in the book. Once you've gotten a tour of Ruby, you see Rails development in a different light. Controller and model files look different when you have a feel for what you're actually looking at. With your new perspective, the author walks you through several improvements, bringing the online music store closer to reality.
As a kind of a bonus, the final chapter of the book gives some techniques for learning more about Rails (and really, Ruby, too.) This is very good stuff! How do you search through the Rails code to find the section that pertains to your question? How can you more effectively search online documentation? Answers to these kinds of questions can really help a person grow, because once you become an intelligent troubleshooter, the only thing holding you back is your own level of motivation.
I've never seen a tech book that just thinks you know how to do something and mentions nothing about how to do it. No specific URLs, nothing.
As for any allegations of verbosity on the book (as seen in other reviews), I did not find that to be the case (up to how much I read, which was only midway of chapter 2.)
With many other resources on rails, I will read any of the more well-explained one, rather than slog on with this one, with no help from the author (even on the book's official website.)
The book covers a lot of ground, some of which is only relevant to those new to OO programming, but these section can be easily skimmed. For the experienced programmer it also covers a number of Ruby features that are not basic such as singleton methods, method rebinding plus some meta tasks e.g., using 'method_missing', trapping inheritance etc.
I've read two other Ruby/Rails books and they were very helpful in coding my first Ruby app last year, but they left me with many questions about how things really work.
This book answered most of those questions and opened up a couple of new doors that I didn't even realize were closed.
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The book reads like it was written for, either somebody completely new to programming, or somebody who can't...Read more