I woke up at the crack of dawn and drove to the Wyndham in Rosemont for railsconf 2006. I registered and got some free crap, grabbed some food and found a seat in the ballroom. Dave Thomas gave a keynote presentation about the big three things that he thinks Rails needs to become better.

For my first session I opted for Introduction to Capistrano by Mike Clark, just because the other two didn't really look very interesting. Mike's presentation was pretty good and I picked up a few ideas for using cap that I hadn't thought of before (namely for basic system administration tasks not related to Rails).

After lunch, I sat in Jim Freeze's Rails and Asterisk Get a Dental Office Talking which was about 50 minutes of him talking about Asterisk and misinforming about a few VoIP concepts. The actual Rails part of his presentation was almost non-existent and was basically just one module that talked to Asterisk's Manager API to generate a call. A member of the audience kept asking to see the code behind what he was doing, since this is a Rails conference after all, but he was reluctant to show how the thing worked. Finally someone asked him why he used Rails for the application and the presenter (jokingly?) replied, "so I could present at this conference."

For my third session I attended Stefan Kaes' Rails Application Optimization Techniques & Tools which was a very in-depth talk about where most Rails apps slow down and what to avoid (namely things like link_to and other expensive utility functions). An interesting comment in Stefan's talk was that in his experience of reviewing lots of 3rd party Rails applications, the database is rarely ever the slow point in the equation.

For my last session, Geoffrey Grosenbach's Rails Deployment on Shared Hosts, I hoped to learn what is involved in deploying Rails apps on 3rd party hosting providers and virtual private server providers so I could gauge whether it would be practical to provide this hosting to others. After all of the horror stories he mentioned and all of the workarounds and cron job monitors required to keep things working, I decided that it's not worth the hassle to get into this market. Textdrive and the others can keep their majority market share.

I didn't want to stick around for the two keynotes from Martin Fowler and Paul Graham so I went back home for the evening. Traffic on 62 between 25 and 31 is ridiculous.

An overall theme I've seen at this conference that I thought was interesting was how technical Ruby on Rails programmers are, say, in contrast to PHP developers. For a Rails programmer to develop a web app and deploy it, he usually needs to install Rails and all of its dependencies on his development machine, use a command-line interface to initialize the Rails app and work with the console and other Rails utilities, and know how to use and setup things like SSH, SVN/CVS, Apache, lighttpd, and cron to deploy it on a hosting provider's server. Most PHP "developers" I know don't know what the hell any of that is and just upload PHP files to a server through FTP and see if they work.

In Geoffrey's presentation I was a bit surprised and delighted to hear him talking about using cron and sudo and other Unix utilities, mostly because so many in the audience actually knew what he was talking about. I think most of the people I work with at DLS don't even know how to use cron and they're paid to maintain systems.

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