Noel Rappin Writes Here

Alan Kay

July 13, 2010: I Guess It Isn't A Dynabook Yet

Alan Kay, RSpec, Ruby, iPhoneNoel RappinComment


Back to link posts today. The book is still lurching forward on the legacy chapter. Thanks to those couple of you that asked questions on the forum and made it look a little less lonely over there.

Quick Review

Quick iPhone 4 impressions, but understand that I haven't actually, you know, used it yet, just took it home and set it up.

  • The screen sharpness really is notice able. It's amazing how small text can get and still be basically readable. Apple's also updated the system font and a couple of the dingbats, and it looks really nice.

  • My first FaceTime call froze five seconds in. It was cool for that five seconds, though.

  • I like the physical look of it, but haven't yet gotten over the "hey, it's glass, be careful reaction". I haven't seen the antenna issue, but then I haven't been on 3G much yet, and I'm not lefty.

  • I have to get used to the multitasking and the idea that I can sometimes switch between apps without going back to the home screen. I wonder how hard that'll take. I was also very used to my first page, and as much as I'm glad I can organize things, not used to it yet.

  • Weirdest design decision I've seen so far: iBooks for epub has really too wide margins and as far as I can tell, now way to fix.


John Petersen has a brief comparison of some .NET and Ruby code. It's interesting especially for how much he's eventually able to clean up the .NET code. That suggests to me that at least some of Ruby's power is in the community standards for clean code. (Note to self: make a list of favorite Ruby features some day)

Dave Chelimsky has two more posts on RSpec 2, this time some changes in how the generators work. Part 1 and Part 2. At this rate, I'll be able to update the RSpec chapter soon.

Envy Labs has a new screencast up about LiveReload, which lets you update JavaScript and CSS during development without updating an entire page.

Jeff Kreftmeijer has a nice example of cleaning up a test base with Timecop.

Mark Guzdial writes a little bit about the iPad as a paper replacement versus something that goes beyond paper. Be sure and scroll down for Alan Kay's comment about whether the iPad is his Dynabook (Spoiler alert: He thinks it's too consumer package software oriented and doesn't let people write code on it.) I wish that Apple had let Scratch in to iOS, that would be really cool.

July 7, 2010: Dylan Goes Electric (Probably Not True)

Alan Kay, Apple, Kent Beck, RSpec, Ruby Tracker, RubyMineNoel RappinComment

Book Status

Beta 4 should be available this week, or at the latest Monday, apparently we're working around people's vacation schedules. It will have two new chapters, and some error fixes and tweaks around the book.

Next is on to Beta 5.

In status news that shouldn't interest you much, the end of the quarter meant the end of my first Pragmatic pay period. And apparently Pragmatic pays as soon as possible, rather than waiting 30 or 90 days after the end of the pay cycle. That's pretty great, from my point of view. Again, no reason why you should care.


Envy Labs is announcing Ruby Tracker, the Ruby Dependency Manager. Basically, you give Ruby Tracker your code repository, and it analyzes your gem dependencies and notifies you when any of them are updated. Sounds interesting. I wonder if it might be most useful when first taking over a legacy project to see just how out of date it is. (Not that I would necessarily recommend updating a legacy project first thing, but it's good to see exactly what you are up against...)

A new beta of RubyMine 2.5 is now available. The big Rails feature is support for LESS CSS. Also, Mac users now have a native file directory, which is nice in that the old one was a pain in the neck, as well as a couple of other Mac-ish tweaks.

Mark Guzdial, over at the Computing Education blog links to some older articles by the one-and-only Alan Kay about the promise of spreadsheets and the like. Reading the kinds of things Kay was doing and speculating on 25 years ago or more is humbling -- the rest of the world hasn't quite caught up.

I linked to the first two parts of this yesterday, here's part 3 of Kent Beck's survey data on testing. This one is how often those surveyed run unit tests, with just over half running them on every code change.

I like this pattern -- here's Bogdan Gusiev with a custom RSpec matcher to test validation for ActiveRecord. (The code is here) The matcher lets you say things like it { should accept_values_for(:name, "Fred", "Jim") } and it {should_not accept_values_for(:name, "23", "M&Y". That's nice because it makes the test independent of the validation code being used.

Jay Fields has a post talking about what keeps Java developers from adopting Ruby or Clojure, and how they don't yet realize that the power of the languages and of command-line interactive terminals will overcome the relative lack of IDE support, which matches my experience pretty much exactly.


This article summarizes some rumor chatter going around that Apple is planning on either replacing Objective-C or offering another language as a full alternative for the creation of say, iOS applications. Just a couple of points. I suspect that this is at least something that Apple is researching -- they'd be crazy not to. Apple already supports MacRuby, so the idea that MacRuby could target iOS isn't completely insane. Still, wouldn't it be wonderful if they went back to the future and started supporting Dylan? Nothing would cement the "iPad is evolutionary Newton" theory more...