Category Archives: Linux

Tools for Rails Development on Linux

Hello again! Lately I’ve been learning to use the Ruby language as well as the Rails framework for building web apps. Ruby/Rails are a lot of fun, as are the tools I’ve been using throughout my projects. I’d like to share a few of these tools/tips.

For Rails work, either a simple text editor or a full-blown IDE will do. I’m usually doing something in between. I noticed all over the web in photos and screencasts that many who work on Rails use a Mac-only text editor called TextMate. TextMate seems like a great app–and it’s also enormously popular for that–but I’m just fine using gEdit, the GNOME text editor. That is, after a little tweaking. If you’re able to use gEdit (and that’s anybody now that there are Windows and Mac binaries), try these out:

gEdit Tweaks/Plugins

  • You might want to start by getting all the low-hanging fruit out of the way, like Line Numbering and the dark theme. Context coloring of code will happen on its own when you open/edit a file with the proper extension. Don’t forget about Find & Replace right on your main toolbar.
  • The default set of plugins that come with gEdit are a great start for making the editor work harder for you. Among these defaults (toggled in the Preferences > Plugins menu) are External Tools, which adds to your standard Tools menu, allowing the user to pipe output to a shell command or script, as well as the “Open a Terminal Here” feature and so on. This tool is easily extensible by you.
  • A very essential default plugin is the File Browser panel. When you enable it in the plugins menu and make the left panel visible, this makes navigating the file tree of your Rails project effortless. This tool is huge for productivity. I also think having the file browser open at the left provides a very useful mental reference as you move through your Rails project and focus on making adjustments in the Model, View, Controller framework. The ubiquitous TextMate also offers the same.
  • The Indent tool allows you to quickly indent/un-indent lines of code with either <Ctrl>T  or  <Ctrl><Shift>T. Quite useful.
  • Another tweak that adds TextMate-like functionality is the Snippets plugin. After entering a short tag you specify and using Tab completion (like bash tab-completion), gEdit will insert lines of code you often enter, saving you time and your hands the typing. Even higher productivity, less carpal tunnel.
  • Session Saver helps you be more productive and efficient in editing your Rails project, by saving all open files as a session. You can even name the sessions and keep track of many, as your workload increases.
  • And finally, the indispensable Terminal. This tool sits at the bottom of your gEdit window, completing your Ruby on Rails work environment. The terminal is great for running Ruby scripts, generating app components, debugging, and starting the application server–all without moving away from the file tree on your left and any open text files.

You will find all of the plugins I mentioned in gEdit by default, or with the addition of the “gedit-plugins” package from the repositories.

Firefox Add-Ons

Of course, no web developer’s arsenal would be complete without a few very effective Firefox Add-ons. Here’s what I’m using…

  • Firebug (but you probably have this already) to edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page. ‘Right-click > Inspect Element’ is probably the fastest way to find out what I’m working with in unfamiliar code.
  • YSlow for diagnosing performance problems in your web apps. Note that this requires the Firebug Add-on.
  • SQLite Manager for working with the SQLite databases created and used by my Rails apps. This is an excellent tool for quickly examining data you are working with on pages in your browser. You can view and update records in a snap with the SQLite Manager.
  • Screengrab lets you take screen shots of entire web pages or just a certain section, and save it to a file or your clipboard. This is nice for storing and sharing a snapshot of your Rails App, without worrying about cutting off the bottom as with a regular screenshot.

I hope you find some or all of these tools to be helpful in your Ruby on Rails development. They only add to the fun and ease of use that Rails provides. If you have any questions or something to add, please leave a comment or use other methods. Good luck!

BackTrack 4 is Debian/Ubuntu-based!

Of course, while I’m in the middle of writing about nUbuntu and singing its praises for being based on Ubuntu (I discovered this fact using methods of rocket science), I find out the beta release of BackTrack 4 comes along with some fantastic changes.

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OpenOffice Easter Egg: Space Invaders


While reading an article on, I came across a fun feature hidden in OpenOffice. Unfortunately this feature isn’t a button you press to make it as fast as Gnumeric

Run’s Calc (found here), and enter =GAME(“StarWars”) exactly that way into any cell in your blank worksheet. When you  do, a window pops up with a simple space invaders game, for the wasting of your time.

True, a much better version of the classic Space Invaders could be found elsewhere on the web as a flash game. But on a network where these types of sites are blocked content, it could… come in handy? Personally I’ve always preferred  Galaga.

Then again, OOo most likely would not be implemented in a corporate/education environment. Not to generalize. 😀

Palm SSH: Secure Shell for Palm OS


My Palm T|X just got a new lease on life thanks to my servers. Why, you ask? Continue reading

Countdown to Ubuntu 8.10

Here I am, 5:30AM, awake and sitting at my computer waiting for the upgrade to Ubuntu 8.10. What is wrong with me. Continue reading

Linux in the Funnies

Here are some of my favorite comic strips that mention Linux. Plenty of Foxtrot, and some Dilbert at the end. Click to enlarge for best results. I hope you like them!

For more comics like these and some laughs on Linux, go to my source, LinuxToons.

Banshee Let’s You See the Future!

It’s true–and what this young gun media player can do, I have yet to see with any other FOSS equivalent on the Linux desktop.

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