Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rails 2.3 with Ruby 1.9

After the longest time we decided to upgrade the rails version in our applications. The last upgrade was to 1.2.6 year and a half ago. As we have quite a number of applications I am quite reluctant to upgrade unless it's really really worth it. There was quite a number of positive changes in Rails 2.2 (like the database connection pooling, thread safety and built in internationalization) but it wasn't compatible with Ruby 1.9 and I really didn't feel like going through all the apps just to go through them again to upgrade it to Ruby 1.9.

After release of Rails 2.3 compatible with Ruby 1.9 I could finally go ahead with the upgrade. And it turned out to be quite easy - but unfortunately some things haven't been ported to 1.9 yet. One of the main advantages of 1.9 is supposed to be increase in performance. It can be easily demonstrated by running recursive Fibonacci test. Unfortunately not even one 
of my applications needs faster Fibonacci :-). Having run most of our apps on 1.9 for around 2 weeks now I don't really see any tremendous performance increase or lower memory requirements. Several of our systems require extensive calculations (especially bigger accounting systems) but the performance there is dependent on many other factors like database speed, array sorting and grouping and so on and I am still working out the optimizations here.

What really really really helped me during the migration was David Black's book The Well-Grounded Rubyist. I heard him speaking several times but I was quite surprised by how well written the book was. It's really sharp
 and to the point without useless 'technicalities'. At the same time it's very readable and not dry like API reference.

Okay back to Rails. As I said most of the things went smooth BUT here's the list of some that didn't :-)

1) Mongrel doesn't work - not so much of a problem for me as I don't use it in production and in development I switched to Thin. 

2) File upload on nginx doesn't work - it seems to be an issue with Rack that is bundled with Rails 2.3. This is a bit of an issue as I was just starting to like nginx and I used it for some my lighter applications. 

3) Problems with encoding - this a single issue that I didn't manage to resolve or find a workaround. We've done some projects in Europe and they have to support slavic languages with all their funny characters. As 1.9 supports so many encodings I really didn't expect any problems there but I didn't manage to get pass the
incompatible character encodings: UTF-8 and ASCII-8BIT
when data from database contain special characters. There are several patches available in lighthouse here and here but non of them really worked for me - safe for'utf-8')
4) send_data doesn't work on binary files with message
invalid byte sequence in UTF-8
. I used to use it for on the fly generated images but had to replace it with creating a temp file and then use

5) ruby zip hasn't been updated yet and still references ftools that have been replaced by fileutils. I had to change it manually along with File.move reference replaced with FileUtils.move

6) quite a number of plugins stopped working and as many are no longer supported I decided to ditch a few of them. I have never been a fan of the small rails plugins that only adding some syntactic sugar not just because they break on every update of Rails (even worse with Ruby upgrade) but mostly because of their obtrusiveness. Even though they make the code shorter it's usually much less readable as you have to learn and understand the plugin.

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