Fran on Rails

A blog about Ruby, Rails and other things on my day to day work.

Introducing the Debugger-rails Gem

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I’m a big fan of debugging. I find it a good tool to help you while writing code and I use it a lot. However, it can be a bit annoying to debug rails applications when you are running them on a web server like Passenger or Pow.

That’s why most of the times I use the great rack-debug, which makes it possible to debug this kind of applications.

The only problem with rack-debug is that you need to set it up every time you want to use it on a new Rails application, thats why I created debugger-rails, to do all this for me.

The only thing debugger-rails does is to follow the instructions on the rack-debug README and uses a railtie to insert the middleware and the rake task in Rails.

If you want to know more about rack-debug (or debugging ruby code in general) you can see my small tutorial.

How to Use Twitter Bootstrap With Simple_form

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Edit 2012-07-03: As you can see in the comments, simple_form has build it support for bootstrap. And built in a much better way than this. Check the wiki to see how to make it work.

At Zorros we love Twitter’s bootstrap. It’s easy to use and perfect to start your new applications with a good result. It provides some basic CSS tools like a grid system together with some other fancy things.

However it has a small problem. You cannot make it work with a Rails application out of the box. Don’t worry, it’s not a big problem. You can make it work with just a bit of hacking here and there.

This are the minimum config options that I’ve found that you need on simple_form to have it working with bootstrap so that it applies the right classes. On fields and wrappers.

We’re almost there… there’s one more step needed. Bootstrap uses an extra div container around each input field. I’m afraid I couldn’t find any way to add this extra wrapper with simple_form, so I ended up with this patch.

So far it works well, we couldn’t find any caveats yet… but if you do, or if you find a better way to integrate these pieces of amazing soft, please let me know!

Zorros Has a Vacancy

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Update 2011-08-15: We finally covered the vacancy. If you want further info you can read it at the Zorros’ blog post.

Apparently our clients like our work a lot. They like our work so much that we are looking for a Zorro to join our team. Zorros is developing web applications and business software, and is looking for an extra developer. Do you recognize yourself in the following profile description?

  • Your passion is IT
  • You love the web and innovation
  • You like to solve problems using software
  • You know how to collaborate in a team
  • You can work from home
  • You can manage your own planning and freedom
  • You have been coding a lot (which language is not important)
  • You know some basics about UI and design
  • You are a problem solver
  • You love coding, but are not too proud to do other web agency related work.
  • English is not a problem for you.

We’d like to talk with you! Please contact us at hello[at]zorros[dot]be Note: if you know these words, you definitively have a plus:

  • Rails & Ruby
  • DRY & conventions
  • HAML & Sass & CSS
  • VIM & TextMate
  • JSON & XML
  • JQuery & prototype
  • Saas & Freemium
  • Git & Terminal
  • *nix (Linux, MacOSX, etc…)

You can find more info about us in our website:

Rails Debug With Passenger

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Edit 2012-07-05: You can now install rack-debug in a much more easy way by using my debugger-rails gem.

Without Passenger

In my last post we learned how to debug ruby scripts. It can be done as well with a rails application, you just have to start it with script/server -u. The -u means to start on debug mode. Just make sure you have the ruby-debug gem installed.

With Passenger

That works amazing… unless you use Passenger on development. If you do, then you’ll need a different way to run the debugger. Don’t panic, it’s quite easy, thanks to the rack-debug gem. Rack::Debug is a gem which provides an easy interface to ruby-debug for applications running on Passenger. And the good thing about it is that… it just works!

To use it, just add the ruby-debug gem to your Gemfile, make sure to use the 1.4.x version if you’re running ruby 1.8.x, since the new 2.x version is prepared for ruby 1.9.2.

Now that your gem is installed, add the middleware to Rails.

And the helper rake tasks.

Now you can just add a debugger statement on any line on your application, restart it and run rake debug so that the Rack::Debug gem connects to the debugger. Easy, eh?

Enjoy the debugging!

How to Debug a Ruby Script

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Debugging rules. Maybe you’re trying to find an elusive bug or how that spaghetti piece of code works, in any case is a quite powerful tool and you should add it to your day to day job.

Debugging in ruby is easy… and you don’t even need a GUI for it! Ruby has the amazing ruby-debug gem. That gem provides an executable to debug your ruby software. There’re versions for ruby 1.8.x and ruby 1.9.x. I will explain here how to install and use the version for ruby 1.8, but ruby 1.9 version is quite similar.

First install the gem with gem install ruby-debug. This will give you an executable called rdebug which executes the ruby interpreter in debug mode allowing you to debug your script.

I will use this small script to debug.

Now we can just run the debugger with rdebug small_script.rb. And… voila!

Here you can see the debugger.

Here’s the file in which you’ve stopped: [-4, 5] in /projects/889122/small_script.rb

This arrow indicates that you’re stopped there: => 1 dude = true

And this is the rdebug console where you can give commands to the debugger.: (rdb:1) _

Let’s give it a quick try to see how the commands work. Type help and press enter.

As you can see there’re plenty of commands in the debugger, those ones you will use them a lot.

  • next (you can use it shortened as n as well) will make the script go one step forward.
  • continue (shortened as c) will make the script continue until it finds a breakpoint.
  • step (shortened as s) will step into a method.
  • break (shortened as b) sets a breakpoint with the format b file_name.rb:XX where XX is the line number.

For everything else… I encourage you to spend 15 minutes reading each command help 1 by 1. Special mention to irb, where, up and down commands.

Enjoy your debugging!!

PayPal on Rails

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After many searches in Google I found many explanations on how to use PayPal, however any of them did what I exactly needed. So here’s what I did step by step last time I needed it.

How PayPal works

Take a look at this flow diagram:

  1. The buyer goes to PayPal and performs the needed payment. (This is steps 1 and 2 in the diagram)
  2. PayPal takes the payment and redirects your buyer back to your application. (steps 3 and 4)
  3. Some time after that, PayPal will send you a callback response with the details of the received payment. Your application will use those details to make sure the payment was OK and mark the order as paid. (Steps 5 and 6)

Set up your PayPal sandbox

  1. Sign up here To get a sandbox account. This account will allow you to handle your development tools:

    • Seller and buyer mock accounts: That way you can test your payments without need to use a real account/bank account/credit card.
    • IPN (Instant Payment Notification) testing: This is the way that PayPal informs your application when the payment is done.
  2. Create a seller and buyer mock accounts. Preconfigured seller accounts failed for me, they always failed for me 100% of times in a period of many months. I’m quite sure it’s my fault, but I just couldn’t find enough info to know what I did wrong.

Set up your application

Install ActiveMerchant.

Here it came my second big problem. Just couldn’t figure out how to make it work in the form of a gem. So I finally had to install it as a plugin. rails plugin install git://

From the above diagram you application will need to:

  • Be able to send payment details to PayPal.
  • Receive a callback from PayPal to acknowledge the received payment.

And here’s where ActiveMerchant enters. It provides a helper to craft a form with the needed hidden fields which you will send to PayPal and a class with the needed logic to receive and validate the callback from PayPal.

Configure Active Merchant

Set up an initializer file like config/initializers/active_merchant.rb with the following content (it explains itself… isn’t it?):

Set up the PayPal button

Use something like that to generate the button that your user has to push so that he makes the payment.

If you need to send more info to PayPal take a look at the ActiveMerchant’s doc or even at its code, to see which options are accepted by the payment_service_for helper. Just FYI, the helper doesn’t support multiple items. In case you need it you’ll need to craft your own helper… and maybe send a pull request to ActiveMerchant ^^.

Gather and acknowledge the PayPal response

PayPal will send you a notification so you can know when the order is paid. This following code is a sample of how this can be done.

That’s all folks!

This is the most simple way I found to make PayPal work with ActiveMerchant. However it’s very limited and lacks support for things like multiple items and data encryption between your app and PayPal. Unluckly ActiveMerchant lacks support for these two things on its PayPal integration. However you can achieve this by using something like that.

If you find some stupid thing or some bug here, just let me know so that I can fix it :)

Paperclip as a Gem

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Edit 2012-07-04: You won’t have those problems with latest rails and paperclip. As far as I know this only happens with rails 2.

I love paperclip. To be clear it just works. It makes what it has been designed for and makes it easy and flexible enough to do some other things.

However, there’s something with paperclip that always disappoints me, it have some problems when you want to install it as a gem, and, in my case, when you want to use it with bundler.

The problem is that it doesn’t load the rake tasks nor the should macros. Shoulda macros are loaded without problem if the gem is vendored in the project dir, since shoulda will look for it. But to load the macros when not vendored you need the following code on your test_helper.rb just before class ActiveSupport::TestCase.

That way the macros are properly load and you can use them on your tests.

To load the rake tasks you need a similar approach. Just include this line in your Rakefile. If you’re using Rails 3 it will properly load automatically the rake tasks for you so no need for this trick.

One Step Further

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The last week I dropped my job at Nuatt and started a new professional adventure as a freelance developer together with the excellent guys from Zorros.

My main role will be developing Ruby on Rails applications to boost others’ business as well as helping with improving Fikket which is an excellent solution to publish your events online and sell the tickets without effort.

I’m quite sure that this new adventure will be really interesting and will bring lots of fun.

BTW, just in case you don’t know “zorro” means “fox” in Spanish.

You can find Zorros on Facebook and Twitter


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I’ve just put my dotfiles in a GitHub repository. It’s just s simple collection of configuration files and a rake task to install them together with oh-my-zsh.

It includes as well some nice tools taken from other dotfiles I’ve found searching on GitHub. If you like it just fork it change it and use it :)

Do you’ve some good tools in your dotfiles? Share it!