Bret McGowen is a software developer at Rackspace, designing and building RackConnect, which lets customers have the best of both traditional and cloud hosting.
For most of my professional programming career I have worked with the .NET framework. However, a recent side project prompted me to learn the open source Ruby on Rails framework. As you might imagine, there are some major differences between Ruby and .NET, but there are some compelling reasons to learn Ruby on Rails. Through my journey, I found some great resources for learning Ruby on Rails, and whether you are a seasoned developer or simply taking the first step into learning the framework, here are some of the ones that I found extremely helpful.
Your first stop in learning Ruby should be TryRuby.org. This website teaches some of the basic commands in the Ruby language, with the added benefit that you can do everything in your browser without having to install anything. If you have 15 minutes and a curiosity about Ruby, this is the site to visit first.
After going through TryRuby.org, check out Code School’s Rails for Zombies. In this web-based tutorial (once again there is nothing to install!) you create a Twitter-esque web app for zombies to communicate with each other. There are several lessons, and each one begins with a video that walks through new Ruby on Rails concepts. At the end of the video, you get to apply your newfound knowledge by writing code in your web browser.
The folks at Code School do an excellent job of creating an interactive and informative experience to learn a programming language. You can take the first Rails for Zombies online course for free, and upon completion you will receive $5 in Code School credit. You have to enroll ($25/month with no contract) in order to take Rails for Zombies 2, which I highly recommend doing before proceeding to the next step.
At this point in time, you will need to install Ruby on Rails on your personal computer. If you don’t have much prior software development experience, you will want to check out Learn Ruby the Hard Way. You can read through all the documentation online for free, but have the opportunity to purchase an eBook for $2.99.
There are over 50 exercises that start with the basic commands and become more difficult as your progress. One that is particularly helpful for newbies is the comments section at the bottom of each exercise where you can ask questions and look for answers from previous participants.
However, if you come from a strong development background, you will find many of the exercises in Learn Ruby the Hard Way fairly simple, and may choose to skip through some of them. While I sometimes would skip over an exercise, I tried to complete as many of them as possible to get a lot of reps under my belt. I feel that this repetition helped me develop my Ruby chops a lot faster.
The final place that I found extremely helpful to learn Ruby on Rails was RailsTutorial.org. This tutorial provides good depth into the framework and tries to create an application with real-world chops: unit testing, secure authentication and a visual design using the Twitter Bootstrap framework. The book is free to read online and the eBook costs $26; however, I would also suggest purchasing the screencasts for an additional $125; doing so will give you over 15 hours of instruction to hone your Ruby on Rails skillset. And it includes a 60-day money back guarantee. After doing these steps, I was able to dive into working on an application without having any hang-ups with the Ruby on Rails framework.
Curious about connecting to the Rackspace Cloud API? Be sure to visit docs.rackspace.com to read about the REST-based API, or use the Ruby gem fog in your app to easily connect to the Rackspace Cloud API. You can spin up new servers, upload files to Cloud Files and more.