Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Levelling up in Ruby/Rails - for free.

So, I've recently found myself back on the job market... at least I will be, but I first want to re-sharpen my skills. I've been working in legacy Rails for a while now, and I want to make sure I'm au fait with the latest and greatest the ruby+rails world has to offer.

But when I went looking for courses - there's not a lot on offer for experienced rails devs. Most rails courses are pitched at complete beginners wanting to become a rails dev. Fair enough, but what can I do to polish my existing skills?

Thankfully, some more digging produced a nice set of related online tutorials and screencasts that will get me ship-shape in no time, and for far less than I expected

NewRelic CodeSchool offer

NewRelic currently has an offer whereby if you deploy a new site with NewRelic installed, you can get a free month of CodeSchool. Now, NewRelic is an awesomely useful tool for giving you extremely useful metrics for your site. They even have a free account - and to set this all up, you can roll out a simple site to heroku (also for free) with the new_relic gem installed and away you go.

You can then sign up for a free CodeSchool account (which will give you access to the basic level free courses), and sometime in the near future - you'll get an email from NewRelic with a special promotion code to give you your free month at CodeSchool.

CodeSchool = Rails for Zombies!

So once you've got a month of code school - you can start to work your way through the courses. Starting with the simple "Try ruby" course and through their funny "Rails for Zombies" courses all the way through Rails testing and best practices and some advanced topics of Ruby.

I was happy to discover that even in the simplest ruby course there was one or two things I'd never seen before - so they're all worth the time (but you can skip ahead to the challenges if they're too simple for you).

But the courses don't just cover Ruby/Rails, they also have a series for Javascript, HTML5, CSS3 and even iOS development. Which I'll be availing myself of for the next month - and will almost certainly spring for longer until I've done them all!

From zombies to RailsCasts

I was even happier to discover, that as a "prize" for finishing the "Rails for zombies 2" course, you get one month of a Railscasts Pro account.

Now RailsCasts was where I was planning on heading next anyway - I followed RailsCasts religiously in my early years of developing Rails, and learned a hell of a lot thereby. The number of screencasts that Ryan Bates has done by now is simply staggering. They cover a huge range of topics from detailed aspects of developing Rails (eg tagging or nested forms), to most of the commonly-used tools, and it's great place to go if you want help on a particular topic. To get access to a free month of these on a pro account is wonderful icing on top of the CodeSchool month.

Other CodeSchool courses give you other freebies, and discounts on books etc too, along with lots of links to other amazingly useful resources - so my reading list has suffered a cambrian-explosion this week. I'll keep you tuned if I dig out any further fabulous free offers.

Update: you can now get 3 months of code school for free

It's a limited offer... here's a link: 3 months of codeschool

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Putting a price on your technical debt

Ben Orenstein has written an interesting article: How much should global variables cost?.

It's basically a price-list for different kinds of technical debt, and you can use it to calculate the "cost" that each of your commits adds to your codebase. By actually putting a dollar amount on each "violation" - you can get a good, visceral feel for what you're doing.

As he points out - you can still choose whether or not to keep something (sometimes you really do need to do something that would otherwise be considered a no-no), as long as you can "afford" it.

I think it's an interesting way of looking at the problem. I'd like to see you regaining points for fixing/refactoring similar code-violations out of the project too :)