Good notes posted to Ruby on Rails

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April 6, 2009
5 thanks

HTML entities in options

Unfortunately everything is escaped with ERB::Util#html_escape. Your only option is either manually construct options or compeletely overwrite this method.

April 6, 2009
6 thanks

Array clustering

Sometimes you don’t want to mangle sequence of an array and just want to group adjacent values. Here’s a nice method to do so (drop it in your initializers directory or something):

module Enumerable
  # clumps adjacent elements together
  # >> [2,2,2,3,3,4,2,2,1].cluster{|x| x}
  # => [[2, 2, 2], [3, 3], [4], [2, 2], [1]]
  def cluster
    cluster = []
    each do |element|
      if cluster.last && yield(cluster.last.last) == yield(element)
        cluster.last << element
        cluster << [element]

Similarly you can do the clustering on more complex items. For instance you want to cluster Documents on creation date and their type:

Document.all.cluster{|document| [document.created_on, document.type]}
April 6, 2009
3 thanks

Take care when writing regex

When you want to validate a field for a continuous string you’d probably write something like this (if it’s really early in the morning and you didn’t have your coffee yet):

validates_format_of :something => /\w/

At the first sight it looks like it’s working because something = “blahblahblah” is valid. However, so is this: something = “blah meh 55”. It’s just that your regex matched a substring of the value and not the whole thing. The proper regex you’re looking for is actually:

validates_format_of :something => /^\w$/
April 6, 2009
3 thanks

Assets hosts

You can also setup assets hosts in enviroments:

config.action_controller.asset_host = "http://your-assets-server.com"
April 3, 2009
13 thanks

The docs are in AR::Base

The docs you’re looking for are in ActiveRecord::Base

April 1, 2009
6 thanks

Ordering of format blocks is important

The order in which your format blocks appear, like:

format.html { } format.js { }

are used to infer priority in cases where the appropriate format is ambiguous.

March 31, 2009 - (v2.0.0 - v2.3.2)
3 thanks

Override fieldWithErrors markup in Rails > v2

The code posted by @hosiawak will still work in recent versions of Rails, but maybe a more current, idiomatic way to do it is to stick this inside the Rails::Initializer block in environment.rb (obviously you’ll also need to restart your server to pick up the config change):

config.action_view.field_error_proc = Proc.new {|html_tag, instance| 
  %(<span class="fieldWithErrors">#{html_tag}</span>)}
March 27, 2009
4 thanks


Here’s how to use it, just so it’s perfectly clear:

skip_before_filter :method_to_skip, :only => [:method_name]
March 27, 2009
4 thanks

multiple filter example

actually you can have it even shorter with:

before_filter :authorize, :set_locale, :except => :login
March 23, 2009 - (v2.3.2)
4 thanks

So, how do you enable db sessions?

First, run:

rake db:sessions:create

Then, run your pending migrations. This will create the migration you need to run in order to create the sessions table.

Second, go into config/environment.rb and uncomment or put in:

config.action_controller.session_store = :active_record_store
config.action_controller.session = {
   :session_key => '_your_session_name_here',

Third, get yourself a secure key with:

rake secret

And finally, paste your new key into the :secret above.

March 21, 2009
4 thanks

Passing optional arguments with defaults to a named_scope

An easy way to do this. (This also shows how you can use joins in a named_scope as well.)

Class User << ActiveRecord::Base
belongs_to :semester 

named_scope :year, lambda { |*year|
  if year.empty? || year.first.nil?
    { :joins => :semester, :conditions => ["year = #{CURRENT_SEMESTER}"]}
    { :joins => :semester, :conditions => ["year = #{year}"]}


You can then call:

User.year     # defaults to CURRENT_SEMESTER constant
User.year()  # same as above
User.year(nil)  # same as above; useful if passing a param value that may or may not exist, ie, param[:year]
March 21, 2009
7 thanks

Use helpers in your ActionMailer views

It’s very easy to give your mailer access to helpers:

# Let your mailer user the ApplicationHelper methods
class MyMailer < ActionMailer::Base
  helper :application
March 20, 2009 - (>= v2.0.0)
9 thanks

Use the current URL, with changes

You can use the current URL, whatever it is, with changes, as in:

# Create a link to the current page in RSS form
url_for(:overwrite_params => {:format => :rss})

This can be super-helpful because it preserves any GET params (like search parameters)

March 12, 2009
3 thanks
March 12, 2009
12 thanks

User a block to extend your associations

You can use blocks to extend your associations with extra methods.

code sample

has_many :children, :dependent => :destroy do
  def at(time)
    proxy_owner.children.find_with_deleted :all, :conditions => [
      "created_at <= :time AND (deleted_at > :time OR deleted_at IS NULL)", { :time => time }

Model.children.each # do stuff
Model.children.at( 1.week.ago ).each # do old stuff

you must use ‘proxy_owner’ to link back to your model.

March 10, 2009 - (>= v2.1.0)
8 thanks

Use lambda to avoid caching of generated query

If you’re using a named_scope that includes a changing variable you need to wrap it in a lambda to avoid the query being cached and thus becoming unaffected by future changes to the variable, example:

named_scope :translated, :conditions => { :locale => I18n.locale }

Will always return the same locale after the first hit even though I18n.locale might change. So do this instead:

named_scope :translated, lambda { { :conditions => { :locale => I18n.locale } } }

Ugly, but at least it’s working as we expect it…

March 4, 2009
10 thanks

Differences between normal or-assign operator

Differences between this method and normal memoization with ||=:

  • memoize works with false/nil values

  • Potential arguments are memoized

Take the following example:

def allowed?
  @allowed ||= begin
    # Big calculation
    puts "Worked"

allowed? # Outputs "Worked"
allowed? # Outputs "Worked" again

Since @allowed is set to false (this is also applicable with nil), the ||= operator will move on the the next statement and will not be short-circuited.

When you use memoize you will not have this problem.

def allowed?
  # Big calculation
  puts "Worked"
memoize :allowed?

allowed? # Outputs "Worked"
allowed? # No output

Now, look at the case where we have parameters:

def random(max=10)
  @random ||= rand(max)

random     # => 4
random     # => 4 -- Yay!
random(20) # => 4 -- Oops!

Better use memoize again!

def random(max=10)
memoize :random

random     # => 6
random     # => 6 -- Yay!
random(20) # => 12 -- Double-Yay!
random     # => 6 -- Head a'splode
March 4, 2009
5 thanks


This defines attr_accessors at a class level instead of instance level.

class Foo
  cattr_accessor :greeting

Foo.greeting = "Hello"

This could be compared to, but is not the same as doing this:

class Bar
  class << self
    attr_accessor :greeting

Bar.greeting = "Hello"

The difference might not be apparent at first, but cattr_accessor will make the accessor inherited to the instances:

Foo.new.greeting #=> "Hello"
Bar.new.greeting # NoMethodError: undefined method `greeting' for #<Bar:0x18e4d78>

This inheritance is also not copy-on-write in case you assumed that:

Foo.greeting  #=> "Hello"
foo1, foo2 = Foo.new, Foo.new

foo1.greeting = "Hi!"

Foo.greeting  #=> "Hi!"
foo2.greeting #=> "Hi!"

This makes it possible to share common state (queues, semaphores, etc.), configuration (max value, etc.) or temporary values through this.

February 27, 2009
6 thanks

Extend with an anonymous module

You can extend with an anonymous module for one-off cases that won’t be repeated:

belongs_to :container, :polymorphic => true, :extend => ( Module.new do
    def find_target
  end )

The parentheses are important, will fail silently without them.

February 24, 2009
9 thanks

Specialized versions of find with method_missing

Check ActiveRecord::Base.method_missing for documentation on the family of “magic” find methods (find_by_x, find_all_by_x, find_or_create_by_x, etc.).

February 24, 2009 - (>= v2.2.1)
5 thanks

ATM does not work in Rails 2.3 Edge

add to test/spec_helper to make it work again…

#spec_helper / test_helper
include ActionController::TestProcess
February 23, 2009 - (>= v2.0.0)
6 thanks

Nested with_options

You can nest with_options blocks, and you can even use the same name for the block parameter each time. E.g.:

class Product
  with_options :dependent => :destroy do |product|
    product.with_options :class_name => 'Media' do |product|
      product.has_many :images, :conditions => {:content_type => 'image'}
      product.has_many :videos, :conditions => {:content_type => 'video'}

    product.has_many :comments
February 22, 2009
3 thanks

CAUTION! :frequency option description is misleading

To use event-based observer, don’t supply :frequency param at all. :frequency => 0 causes JS error.

Use this option only if time-based observer is what you need.

February 20, 2009
5 thanks

Static and dynamic attachments

You can attach static files directly:

attachment :content_type => "image/jpeg", :body => File.read("someimage.jpg")

and you can also define attachments dynamically by using a block:

attachment "text/csv" do |a|
  a.body = my_data.to_csv
February 18, 2009
4 thanks

Turn off for individual controllers/actions

To disable protection for all actions in your controller use skip_before_filter:

skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token

You can also pass :only and :except to disable protection for specific actions, e.g:

skip_before_filter :verify_authenticity_token, :only => :index
February 17, 2009
4 thanks

Date_select with assert_valid_keys

If you are using date_select with assert_valid_keys you have to allow 3 parameters named field(1i), field(2i) and field(3i).

For example with field

date_select("post", "written_on")

You have to allow following fields:

  'written_on(1i)', 'written_on(2i)', 'written_on(3i)'
February 17, 2009
9 thanks

Empty elements

If you want to output an empty element (self-closed) like “br”, “img” or “input”, use the tag method instead.

February 13, 2009
3 thanks

New test syntax

You can use either one and even mix in the same test case if you want:

class Test < Test::Unit::TestCase
  # old way to define a test method (prefix with test_)
  def test_should_be_valid_without_content
    assert Comment.new.valid?

  # new way to define a test
  test "should be valid without content" do
    assert Comment.new.valid?
February 10, 2009
8 thanks

Security issue with non-HTML formats

Please note that using default to_xml or to_json methods can lead to security holes, as these method expose all attributes of your model by default, including salt, crypted_password, permissions, status or whatever you might have.

You might want to override these methods in your models, e.g.:

def to_xml
  super( :only => [ :login, :first_name, :last_name ] )

Or consider not using responds_to at all, if you only want to provide HTML.