Coding in Ruby

June 16, 2005, [MD]

This last week I have been working unusually hard. After fighting for a while with EZPublish, which is what Politics of Health is published with, I have decided to try to migrate the whole system to a wiki. The article structure is very simple, we hardly use any of the CMS features of EZPublish, and it’s a beast. I know a lot of people use it, but personally there are fare too many files, php templates and directories for me to even begin to root around with. I spent a lot of time with a Norwegian CMS called InfoLab (not opensource), which was quite nice. It lacked documentation, but at least all the modifications were done inside the program. With EZ, you have a bunch of stuff that is edited within the web-app, and other things (especially layout - but for changing anything except adding another identical article, you need to muck around with php). And it seems poorly documented at that level as well.

So I am trying to migrate us over to DokuWiki (just a test, if it doesn’t do what we want, it should be easy to port it to another wiki). I am using Ruby, and after looking at the SQL database of EZPublish, I decided to go straight to the HTML - which, since it is all outputted by a computer, is wonderfully predictable. I am using a combination of wget, Tidy (with -asxhtml), REXML (which is absurdly undocumented - it seems to work, but I don’t know why), and a bunch of regexps. The work is going slowly, mostly because it has been ages since I programmed in Ruby, and even then I never properly learnt it, so I have to look up most functions. But I learn quickly, Google is my friend, and I love Ruby. (If you are interested, and don’t know much about programming, may I suggest the Poignant Guide to Ruby?)

Ruby on Rails has garnered a lot of interest lately, with the first major book selling over a 1000 copies of the prerelase PDF. I didn’t know much about this before, but I read up on it a bit (a nice tutorial), and I must say I am impressed. This is quite different from mucking around with php and MySql. In general, although I’ve been working long days lately (including some network installing down in Mazatlan), I’ve enjoyed getting back into coding (after many years). I might continue doing it, if I can keep it at a regular but not overpowering level. There are some pretty neat ruby opensource projects, for example instiki - a wiki with its own webserver - maybe I’ll try contributing to some of those (I could use these wiki ideasas a starter).


Stian Håklev June 16, 2005 Toronto, Canada
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