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Rails Cookbook 59 59

honestpuck writes "When reading the foreword of Rails Cookbook I felt a strong kinship with Zed Shaw, I too have fond memories of the first edition of Perl Cookbook and the way I relied on it once I'd taken the training wheels off. Since that one I have relied on several of the O'Reilly Cookbook series. It is only when I discard the early tutorial and dive in the deep end with a "cookbook" on my desk that I really start to learn proficiency." Read the rest of honestpuck's review.
Rails Cookbook
author Rob Orsini
pages 514
publisher O'Reilly
rating 7
reviewer honestpuck
ISBN 0596527314
summary for programmers who know something about web development but are early in their use of Rails,


I felt timorous and unsure when I finished Agile Web Development with Rails, a marvelous tutorial that introduced me to my first real web development framework (I must have enjoyed it, I just bought the second edition). Since I have volunteered to develop a fairly large and complex web application in Rails I awaited the arrival of my copy of Rails Cookbook with hopeful anticipation and bated breath.

Rob Orsini, his fellow contributors (15 in all) and the team at O'Reilly have once again delivered. Compared to the previous titles in the series I've owned Rails Cookbook seems to have fewer recipes but as it is tackling an entire application framework and some serious issues, some of the solutions and discussions run a lot longer. The book is targeted at programmers who know something about web development but are early in their use of Rails, though it should be helpful to all Rails developers.

The book starts with tackling issues of installation and getting development tools installed in the first two chapters. Despite already deploying a couple of simple Rails apps I found that there was the odd useful tip in these chapters. The book then covers each of the three main sections of Rails; Active Record, Action View and Action Controller. The rest of the book goes on with large chapters on testing, Javascript, debugging, performance and hosting and deployment. Along the way it also covers REST, Action Mailer, security, plug-ins and graphics.

The extremely large section on Active Record was to me the most useful. I seem to spend an inordinate percentage of my Rails coding time with Active Record and it contains a large part of Rails power so I appreciated the size of this chapter. By contrast the chapter on graphics is almost entirely unread.

It seems obvious that this book should be compared to Pragmatic's Rails Recipes. The first point of difference is that Rails Cookbook covers installation and setup. The second point is that is 'Recipes' covers Rails 1.1 while 'Cookbook' targets the brand new Rails 1.2. As a project fairly new on the scene Rails is a fast moving target so the six months between the two books makes a difference. Both books have excellent coverage of the various aspects of Rails, with a great deal of overlap. 'Recipes' has more, shorter pieces while 'Cookbook' tends towards longer pieces with more discussion. 'Cookbook' is also more general, with more recipes more likely to be useful in every Rails project you write.

The style is different between the two. Here Cookbook comes off second best, it feels as though tightly edited by a number of hands and ends up lacking personality; functional but cold compared to Recipes. The writing, however, is good. It's easily read, at times it feels like a good textbook. The layout is clean, it is easy to find the information you need from each recipe when you want.

With almost all "cookbook" style books I seem to be left feeling that a number of the recipes are just a little too obvious and covered well in beginner tutorials. There is some of this in Rails Cookbook, most notably the first two chapters, but overall the book will be useful to any beginner to intermediate Rails programmer. Personally I had a couple of moments where I read a tip and wanted to scream as it demonstrated and explained in a few short sentences and half a page of code what had taken me hours to discover for myself.

The "Cookbook" series all seem to be books worth the price and shelf space. This one is no exception. I'd give it three out of five with an extra half for its timely information on Rails 1.2 and would recommend it for all Rails programmers from the absolute beginner through to all but the most experienced. If you already have a copy of 'Recipes' and are happy with it then you might want to stick with that till either volume is updated for the next major revision of Rails, otherwise you will almost certainly appreciate a copy of Rails Cookbook.


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Rails Cookbook

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  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday February 26, 2007 @05:52PM (#18159172) Homepage Journal
    I'm a geek who uses technology in the service of the arts, but I've never been a programmer. Can anyone recommend a language in which I can learn the basics of programming, but is still powerful enough for me to do useful things? I'm comfortable with a soldering iron and piano, but the mysteries of writing code have always been outside my ken.

    I don't want to become a professional, I'd just like to do know what to do when I have to write a script and make simple web apps. The only real programmers I know are hardcore types who snicker whenever I ask them this question and like to pretend that what they do is some sort of priesthood, whose secrets are not easily given up. Something tells me that they just don't want me to know how easy it is.

    So I'm asking you people: I don't have the time to go back to school for a CS degree, and I'm not looking to program databases for a living, but I've got the feeling that I can manipulate documents, sound files, midi a lot easier if I knew some programming. Help a brother out here. What language would be the easiest for a novice to learn and still be able to do something worthwhile?

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