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Rails: New Interesting Gems

To keep up with the quickly evolving Rails community I constantly read many blogs and watch podcasts. Here are some curious new gems I discovered recently.

Rack::Bug. A comprehensive debugging plugin for your Rails applications that sits on the Rack middleware level and captures a ton of curious info ranging from request parameters and Rails environment to the request processing timings, SQL execution details and much more. It’s not suitable for the older Rails-based projects as it needs the Rack which has become the part of Rails (or Rails was adapted to run in the Rack stack to be precise) just recently, but for new projects it can be a life saver.

FiveRuns TuneUp. While still in beta, this plugin and their server-side service may give a good quick insight into what’s going on under the hood of the request processing. It sits at the top of the page as a bar and gives a nice JavaScript popup with the response rendering tree and model schemas. I noticed a some quirks and wasn’t able to dig deep enough to nail a couple of problems I noticed, but it’s a great general-purpose tool to quickly see who’s the greediest of them all.

NewRelic RPM. Not new, but for the completeness sake. A great paid (with a free plan) service with the app-side agent plugin for performance data collection. Collects ALL possible data about your app down to the execution plans of your statements and error trace-backs, but costs a fortune. None of my clients went higher than a Bronze plan because of their cosmic prices. I’m sure they have their customers, it’s just not for everyone. Still, thanks for NewRelic guys (honest thanks), there’s a way to get access to all info if you have a head, hands and some time.

Metric_fu. All-in-one code analysis package grouping several other tools and providing a unified web interface with graphs and other niceties. Not much more to say here. Useful as hell if you on the quality side of the application development business.

Whenever. Quoting the author, “Whenever is a Ruby gem that provides a clear syntax for defining cron jobs”. This is one of an awesome piece of software. Rare Rails app these days needs no background / periodical processing. Even simple news e-mail delivery is done with cron + rake or similar solutions. This tool lets you keep your cron jobs definitions in ruby and with a tiny bit of an effort, you can add the crontab regeneration to your deployment process. No need to handle all these crontabs manually any more.

That’s all folks. However, this brings up an interesting question. How do you discover what new tools / gems emerge in the Rails realm these days? It develops insanely rapidly.