Monospaced Thoughts

creativity in machine calligraphy

A quick rundown on Rails asset pipeline internals


I was trying to understand how Rails’ asset pipeline works internally, so I had a quick code reading, annotating with bullet points each important step, then I thought about sharing it, may be helpful to others.

Note that this is for Rails 3.2.8, all links point to 3.2.8 tagged code. Sprockets integration with Rails 4.x is extracted to the sprockets-rails gem.

  • Rails sets the default asset paths, setting config.assets.paths (here). config.assets.paths is the array that’s gonna be appended to the Sprockets environment load path.
  • Rails sets the default accepted assets paths (rules in fact), setting config.assets.precompile (here). config.assets.precompile is the array that stores all rules that will be used to judge whether a asset is to be compiled or not.
  • [ User can configure in config/application.rb or config/environments/<env>.rb more rules to add to config.assets.precompile ]
  • Rails instantiates and configures a Sprockets environment via railties using the configuration above (here)
  • Rails will postpone configuring the Sprockets environment paths because other gems could add more paths to the config.assets.paths. Instead, it runs a Sprockets::Bootstrap after Rails is initialized (here)
  • Sprockets::Bootstrap will then append config.assets.paths to the sprockets env paths (here)
  • Now assets are configured, assets will be compiled when rake assets:precompile is called, which will in turn instantiate a Sprockets::StaticCompiler (provided by action_pack, not sprockets itself) instance and run (here)
  • The compiler iterates over every single path inside the load paths, recursively, and tests each entry against the rules defined in config.assets.precompile, if any returns positively, it then compiles the asset and writes to the target directory (all that is here)

Are Ruby predicates confusing?


This repository was sitting on my GitHub account for a while and I didn’t really announced anything related to it, partially because I had to polish it and because at that time I was already late to the party, but as the saying goes: “better late than never”.

Such a long disclaimer to introduce a repository, right? It’s nothing really. We know the Ruby (mostly Rails) community has periodical dramas, this was about yet another one.

This one happened quite some time ago (it’s from March 2012), and it involved bikesheding (doesn’t all of them somehow involve bikesheding?) about what a Ruby predicate (a method ending in “?”) should return. Not a freaking big deal, is it? I am of the opinion that clear code is priority and for the sake of clarity, returning boolean values on predicates is always good practice. A rails core member doesn’t think so and states that because truthy values are truthy, it’s ok to return them on predicates, even if this value is completetly counter-intuitive like the number zero. Yeah, you can try it:

puts "yes" if 0 # => "yes"

So I wrote Are Ruby Predicates Confusing? in an attempt to make fun of it.

"I hope you enjoy it!" unless 0.nonzero?

On-demand social sharing buttons


Today is very common to see social sharing buttons right beside to some content. Most common ones are Facebook’s Like, Twitter’s Tweet and Google’s +1. They are virtually everywhere, even on their own documentation pages. Product owners and managers love them. Common people use them a lot. So they are, in fact, unavoidable. They are so omnipresent that some even think they are annoying enough to make browser extensions to block them. So, in the end, everyone is writing code because of them.

Of course, I was one of them too.

As a content consumer, I do not hate them. They make my life easier by putting me one click away from telling the whole world what I like and why (ok, that’s sarcastic). But they actually do help.

As a developer, I do hate them. They suck. They are some little freaking wild embedded pieces of code that you cannot expect to control. Not on edge cases, specially those your PO or manager put you into (when they want you to make the buttons dance with perfect lip-sync to Lady Gaga’s latest hit). I hate them when they don’t have every possible option to customize their style, positioning or behavior. And lastly I hate when you use them in a page with 10 items that I want the user to be able to share, and they perform two hundred requests.

Now, no one likes hundreds of requests. Not my mom, you, your ISP or your cheap 10 buck wireless router (even it not being totally aware of his own existence).

So a really smart thing to do is do not perform hundreds of requests. Right?

Q: You cutie, but how?
A: Ok, here is a story that will explain all things: in the early 2000’s, IBM pioneered something called on-demand computing… no, I’m just kidding. What you do is: don’t show them bugger buttons. It’s simple.

Q: But kid wants to share my content with his friends!
A: You display a handle that will trigger the actual rendering of the buttons, on-demand.

Attaboy! There is my IT jargon shining on my blog post. Inside a pointless Questions & meaningless Answers list. Double score, yes.

Now, you want code, I know. Then take it!

So, after all that shitstorm of non optimized code entangled by all that commenting, you and me will agree, there’s one question that will be left forever unanswered:

Will this code compile?

Good night, and good luck.

Rebasing Mono-T


Sadly, we’re saying good bye to the awesome toto blog engine and we are moving to, the more awesome still, Octopress. The reason is that while toto is simple and efficient, it takes too much time to get some things done, like syntax highlighting of source code and besides I eventually get it done writing some really simple and elegant stuff (using Rack middlewares and pygments), also learning many things in the process, I think I didn’t actually want to spend my time doing that, because I’d rather spend it writing actual content (which is much more difficult for us).

Octopress has also some third party plugins (sidebar is filled with those) and the most important is possibility to create our own custom plugins, so we decided to give it a try.

Of course this layout isn’t the original, but we’ll eventually get it ported to Octopress, or even come up with something new. But for now it is what it is.

Nonetheless, nothing better than to start fresh with a fresh new year. Happy new year to everyone!

Encoding utilities


Very short post, just a tip on encoding/charset utilities to use with files.


The holy grail of encoding, if you didn’t know it before, just follow the link on the title and read about it. Every other thing in universe uses it to perform encoding conversion.


This one is my favorite, it will rename files and make them “safe” (this pretty much depends on the filesystem you’re using. You put a unicode char in a filename on a FAT32 partition and the universe collapses in a singularity). It supports sequences of filters that you can create and pass the filenames through. Very handy.


man page

convmv also renames files, but deals specifically with encoding, so it’s more powerful and supports a wide range of encodings, very good too.


I couldn’t find its home page, Debian package is “recode”

“recode converts files between character sets and usages.” It supports sequences like detox, is powerful but a little cumbersome. Note that it converts file contents, not filenames.


Converts file contents from unicode to ascii-encoded formats, like HTML encoding. Very nice to put in source code, pages, etc.


Not exactly an encoding utility, but useful to get rid of \r\n in files created on lesser OSes.

Bash regexp trick


Yesterday I was playing with my bash prompt and for a long-explanation reason, I ended up needing to strip non-printing sequences from a string (the actual reason is that I was up to learn and do some advanced bash scripting. I didn’t need all the complex stuff before). From section PROMPTING of bash(1) man page, non-printing escape sequences are:

\[     begin  a sequence of non-printing characters, which could
       be used to embed a terminal  control  sequence  into  the
\]     end a sequence of non-printing characters

So it seems pretty easy to match those, isn’t? If done with Ruby, it would be simply:

"[np1]text1-[np2]text2".gsub /\[.*?\]/, "" # => "text1-text2"

then you’d think you could use the awesome pattern substitution in parameter expansion, like this simple example:

text="hello world"
echo "${text//hello/adios}" # "adios world"

but bash’s regexp has no greediness modifiers (like the question mark in Ruby or PCRE) to be used in the “inside part” of the pattern (the “anything” between \[ and \]). The usual trick to workaround this is to use a negated pattern of the right end of the enclosing pattern:

echo "${text//<*([^>])>/}" # "aaabbbccc"

This works with patterns that use single characters to enclose the content, but what I want is to replace patterns matching content enclosed by pairs of 2 chars, so I would need to use the negation operator !(...). But boy… have I tried to make it work? Hell, for hours. It’s completely counter-intuitive. This won’t work:

echo "${text//<<!(>>)>>/}" # "aaaccc", since /!(>>)/ matches all the "skipme ... skipmetoo" part

and this, plus all variations, won’t work too:

echo "${text//<<*([^>][^>])>>/}" # "aaabbb<<skipmetoo>>ccc"

so here’s my deal: screw with it. A nice alternate solution seems obvious now: replace all double-char enclosing sequences with a (very easily distinctive) single char, then use the solution above.

# Char 0x06 is the non-printable "ACK".
# What are the odds this char will happen inside a string?
# You need to use as $var because the regexp won't accept "\x06" in the pattern
ch=`echo -e '\x06'`
echo "${tmp//${ch}*([^${ch}])${ch}}" # "aaabbbccc"

… and it works. I wrapped it up and added some more stripping utils:

Now let me continue learning bizarre topics and finish my shell prompt.

Compiling Ruby on Debian testing/wheezy with no SSL2


Update: Ruby 1.9.2-p290 and Ruby 1.8.7-p352 fixes the issue in this post.

Debian openssl package now ships without SSL2 support, but it was only in experimental/unstable until 1.0.0d was migrated to testing that things got messed up for me, since I use testing and Ruby (both 1.8.7 and 1.9.2) have problems (1 and 2) compiling against a nossl2’ed OpenSSL lib.

While these problems are not fixed (the fix is in trunk, but not backported to 1.8 or 1.9 branches), I fetched the patches from the actual fix, formatted them and compiled the rubies with them.

Patches are:

And you can compile Ruby either applying them manually over the source tree with level 1 (patch -p1 < ruby187.patch) or if you use rvm (which is very likely), you can use custom patches when installing rubies. It is explained in rvm’s docs at It is simple as doing:

rvm install 1.8.7 --patch /path/to/ruby187.patch

Now Ruby happily compiles on my Debian testing :)

JavaScript Resources


Quick post. Just a (loosely gathered) compilation of JavaScript resources (framework collections, libraries, documentation, etc) that I ran into this weekend.

First Things First

Beware of w3schools. Here’s a very good explanation at

The Paperwork

JavaScript References

Framework Collections

  • EveryJS is a community maintened “index of modern JavaScript”.
  • MicroJS is also a list of frameworks but targets micro-frameworks (frameworks that would fit in 5 kbytes or less and serve a single purpose).

Best Practices

Dependency tricks when compiling Ruby


Just solved a few “obscure” problems and I’m posting them.


Optional (but you would really like to install them) dependencies are:

  • OpenSSL (Debian-based package: libssl-dev)
  • readline (Debian-based package: libreadline5-dev [ruby1.8] | libreadline6-dev [ruby1.9]. For Ruby1.8, you must install readline 5, otherwise you’ll get a damn slow prompt)
  • zlib (Debian-based package: zlib1g-dev)

Here are a few compeling motives on why you’d really like to get them:

  • No SSL means no ‘net/https’ and no HTTPs for ‘open-uri’
  • No readline means you can’t hit ‘up arrow’ on IRB and get the previous command (no command history)
  • No zlib means you can’t install a gem

Long story short, install ‘em. And get the right versions.

Rubber and whenever integration


If you are using rubber gem to deploy to Amazon’s EC2 infra-structure and also using whenever to manage cron jobs, you’ll probably find yourself thinking how to integrate both.

I myself too was wondering about this. The obvious first try was to add whenever’s capistrano tasks to config/deploy.rb by following its recommendation (see the “Capistrano integration” section). Long story short, it didn’t work. When I deployed with cap deploy, whenever would actually write to crontab, but only to be replaced by rubber’s own version later, as we can see in this log:

Last line shows when rubber transforms and runs the common crontab config and overwrites whenever’s cron jobs.

So, a second, and more successful, try was to avoid capistrano’s regular recipes and instead add a whenever crontab config to rubber.

One could “quick-and-dirty”-ly add the expected whenever output to config/rubber/common/crontab file, but a better approach is to create a config for the db role to install whenever output to crontab:

One note on the above is to pay attention to keep the @additive configuration so the crontab is appended with this section rather than overwritten. If you check the config/rubber/common/crontab file, it hasn’t this entry and effectively overwrites the previous crontab.

And that was it. One cap deploy and the crontab was filled with rubber’s jobs and whenever’s too.