Posted on November 2nd, 2008 in Programming, Reviews, Ruby On Rails | 4 Comments »
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short post about the first Envycast released by the guys over at Rails Envy. I really enjoyed their first foray in the world of screencasting, so I was looking forward to see what else they would offer us in the future.
With the imminent release of Rails 2.2 (Release Candidate 1 was announced last week), it makes complete sense that the new Envycast would focus on Rails 2.2. In the Ruby on Rails 2.2 Screencast, Gregg Pollack and Jason Seifer talk about all the goodies that have been included in Rails for our use. Even if you’re currently subscribed to Ryan Daigle’s blog and follow the Rails commit history, it’s still nice to have everything in one easily accessible place. While an Envycast in itself should be awesome, they decided to also have a PDF available, detailing all of these changes.
Clocking in at 44 minutes, this screencast takes you through the changes in Rails, divided by component (ActiveRecord, ActiveSupport, ActionPack, ActionController, Railties) and specific topics (Internationalization and Performance). Like the first Envycast, all the action (well, as much ‘action’ as you can get in a Rails screencast) is done in front of a green screen, with either Gregg or Jason explaining what’s on the screen. As I mentioned previously, this gives the screencast a nice, personal feel, making the learning (and retaining the information) experience enjoyable and much easier – at least to me – than other screencasts. The infused humor also helps a lot with the learning process, making you feel comfortable and in a relaxed setting, which is key for learning new stuff.
Considering all the changes that have occurred in the six months between Rails 2.1 and Rails 2.2, this screencast does a good job in explaining all the new stuff. Although it doesn’t go too much into detail with some new features (thankfully so – I prefer short and simple, just like my Ruby and my Rails), my major gripe with this screencast is the lack of more detailed explanation on one major feature I (and I’m sure hordes of other Rails developers) was looking forward to: Internationalization. While I do understand this would need sufficient time to explain this new feature properly, I thought this was too big of a feature to just briefly touch on. They do encourage viewers who want to learn more to download and play with the Internationalization Demo App that was created just for this purpose.
Besides that, Gregg and Jason do an awesome job with this screencast. They explain these new features really well, make good use of the green screen (well, besides dodging pigeons and running away from Godzilla – trust me, you’ll see when you get this screencast) There were many “Whoa, I’m so going to use that in my next project!” moments for me, which for some reason didn’t happen when I read about these changes in Ryan Daigle’s blog.
After my short review of the first Envycast and liking it a lot, I was anxious to see if the Rails Envy crew would continue along these lines. I’m glad to see that they still produced a great screencast that’s easy to learn from and fun to watch.
Like I mentioned, they not only released a screencast on Rails 2.2, they also released a PDF to complement the screencast. The Ruby on Rails 2.2 PDF was written by Carlos Brando, a Portuguese Rails Core contributor who also wrote a similar (and excellent) e-book on Rails 2.1.
While the screencast goes over the new features in Rails 2.2 briefly, the PDF goes more into detail, with explanations and code examples throughout the book. There’s even an entire chapter on Internationalization, compensating for the lack of explanation in the screencast. At 118 pages (of which 86 are in-depth explanations of the Rails 2.2 features, 9 pages detailing the bug fixes in this release and 14 pages of the entire changelogs by component), it gives you all the new details in Rails 2.2, perhaps much more than what you need.
While the content is rock-solid, the formatting of the guide wasn’t too much to my liking. The PDF is in landscape orientation, which usually isn’t a big deal for me. However, the author didn’t seem to take advantage of this fact, as I think it could’ve been printed in portrait orientation without much formatting changes. Also, the PDF is just straight text (well, not counting the cover page, for those who like to nit-pick). There are no diagrams or anything similar – just explanations and code samples. Some diagrams or other illustrations wouldn’t have hurt to be included.
As a matter of example, if you see any of the Peepcode PDF’s (like the one on Unobtrusive Prototype.js), you’ll see they took advantage of the page sizes, filling it up without making the pages feel too loaded. These make reading less boring, while still keeping the core information there. It’s a nice combination.
Aside from some very minor gripes, these are quality products that will further your knowledge of everything Rails. I definitely recommend them to any Rails developer who is interested in keeping up to date with the rapidly-changing Rails world. Kudos to the Rails Envy crew for putting up another great product. I’ll be looking forward with what they come up next.