My first application in Ruby On Rails

It's time to get serious with RoR! I finally decided that I would do some useful application to really learn how it works, and as I'm quite bored of doing applications for managing text (whether they are intranets, cms's, etc), I opted for recreating my old gallery script (which I did in php) in RoR. So I'm playing with images instead of just text.

This will give me the opportunity to test lots of extra functionalities of the framework, such as the famous integrated javascript effects, ajax, etc, as I want to improve my old gallery script, not simply redo it as it was in php. So first thing I did was to make sure that I had a working updated version of ruby and rails. The best tutorial I have found which worked perfectly for me is this one: Building Ruby, Rails, LightTPD, and MySQL on Tiger, by Hivelogic. (Although I simply used it to update Ruby and Rails, but didn't build Lighttpd or Mysql).

With that I could be able to follow the recent tutorials and techniques, specially because I wanted to learn how to use a Login Generator, and there was something in the version of Ruby that I had which prevented me to install it (some lib error was thrown each time).

So my app has two parts, a public and an admin one (which was quite easy to anticipate). Once I managed to create the basic structure of controllers and models for the admin, I added the login functionality, as I don't want everybody to get into my app and modify pictures in there.

I used the Acts As Authenticated plugin, although I couldn't manage to get all the functionality that I expected so I took a look at the code of the Sudoku On Rails v5 tutorial at SobreRailes (sorry, spanish only!) and completed it with the missing functionality (basically, it was the activation stuff which was not generated, don't know why). It was sweet and smooth. If I had had to write it manually I would have spent at least three days.

Then I wanted to have support for uploading images. At all, this is about pictures! So after some researching I found a little plugin called FileColumn which allows to get picture uploads working quite quickly, including resizing and automatic deletion if the associated record gets deleted (no more orphan files in the filesystem because of a poor integration between the models and their associated data! hooray!). But for the resizing stuff and thumbnails generation, I needed to have RMagick installed in my system, which I didn't have. So I found a nice tutorial in the RMagick site, which explained how to compile and install RMagick and GraphicsMagick on mac os x, as well as all the libraries on which they depend, as RMagick is like a bridge between ruby and GraphicsMagick. This step took me a bit of time, specially the step of compiling ghostscript, but as I followed the instructions exactly as specified, I had everything working at the end and I could generate thumbnails and a resized version when uploading images. If I had had to do this in php even using the best helpers that I could, I would have spent at least one week.

Then I prepared a draft version of the public interface. Now I can navigate between pictures and albums, using thumbnails and the big images as well, it shows the descriptions for the album or picture, where available. The code is so simple and beatiful that I could get it tattooed. Or maybe do a t-shirt with it, see an example for getting the data of one album:

def album
@album = Album.find(params[:id])
unless @album.nil?
@pictures =

No more embedded SQL in the middle of the code, no need for manually loading classes which abstract the DB information for the rest of the php code and try to provide a way of artificial modelling of the data, no need to spend time reinventing the wheel!! :D

As I specified in the models that one album has pictures (has_many : pictures), and that each picture belongs to one album (belongs_to :album), RoR is intelligent enough to deduct things from the database and save me that precious time (as it sees an album_id column in a picture row... it obviously is pointing to an album row!).

Unfortunately by the moment the front end is extremely basic, it's pure html with little css applied to it. In the next iteration I will do tasks such as find out how to redefine part of the behaviour of the FileColumn to make it update the associated images too if I upload another image when editing a picture, beautify the front end, and maybe start with those nice ajax capabilities which are supposedly quite easy to use with RoR. It will also be nice to learn how to do the fantastic unit tests with the support that this framework provides, so all in all this promises to be very exciting.

Conclussion: I absolutely love Ruby on Rails.

Stay tuned for a next release - as I already got a port for installing it on my host, it can be whenever I get a decent working version!.

UPDATE: As some people want to take a look (miguev ;) ) I have uploaded the relevant code of the current version. It just has the important things i.e. the models definition, etc. If you want to have a working application you will need to create it first with the usual rails name_of_your_app, configure the database, etc, and then use this code where appropiate. It won't work by itself :P This is just for showing how things are linked between them: cl1ck version 0.1