Sinatra is a powerful and easy to use ruby based DSL to create web applications and powerful APIs.

In this first Hack for fun category post I will show you a simple real life rubygem project implemented in a couple of afternoons while I’m rerecovering from a surgery.

Palco: a simple way to create sinatra based directory layouts.

You know, I’m lazy and I don’t have too much memory, so starting everytime from scratch with a new Sinatra project is something so boring.

So, why don’t automate the process? I’m also a ruby hacker so why don’t write a simple gem acting as template generator?

That’s why I started palco, that is the Italian word for stage, but let’s cross all the project steps.

Finding a killing name

Trust me, you will work with more enthusiasm if you find a killing name for your project. What about if I chose sinatradircreator or sinatragenerator ?

I bet I would stop coding after 5 minutes.

Is palco a killing name? Well, it’s Italian so most of people may find it amusing. Definitely it’s on music, Frank Sinatra world related. And it’s finally short and easy to pronunce.

I like it.

Creates a skeleton and feed a repo

As described in this blog post I’ll use bundler to manage the whole process.

First of all, I’ll create the gemset. I’m going to use ruby version 1.9.2 but this should not affect your fork if you want to use a different interpreter version.

rvm --create use 1.9.2@palco

Next, I’ll create the skeleton using previously installed bundler tool.

bundle gem palco

Bundle also initialize a git repository for you. So you may choose the git service you like most (self hosted, gitorious or github. I love the latter so I setup a repository for palco and saved the remote address so I can push my commits into it.

git remote add origin
git commit -m 'first import'
git push -u origin master

The repository is in place, ready to receive our commits.

Documenting the code

Documentation is most than important for a project. That’s why I started two different README files for palco (I never do this, but I do think it’s important… and since the effort is risible, I guess I’ll start writing more than a single README for a project):

  • a main README file
  • a README file for API

In the source code, I used Tom Werner documentation format.

Some toughts on architecture

Since I want to be able to create directories and files that are different from a Sinatra application and a Sinatra extension, it’s clear that I must move all the business logic in a core class.

This core class must be generic enough to take the list of items from being created and than with a generate method it must be able to do all the dirty work.

What I need is a Palco::Base class.

The tests are the pathway

Test driven and behavior driven development strategies repeat this as a mantra: start writing test cases and expectation, you must define first of all what’s the expected output and then you start implementing to reach your desiderata.

So I started mocking up Palco::Base after I had defined some test using rspec.

Don’t overmelt your rspec

This is the Palco::Base implementation at the time I took an hard lesson.

First hard lesson. If your test cases is too dense, it won’t work and you don’t know why. You must keep also the test case as simple as possible.

Look at this:

The skeleton project was created but testing code went into a loop… there is a bug in the Palco::Base and you have 5 minutes starting from now to spot it.

Do you?

Kytss - keep your tests simple, stupid

Look at this method:

def generate?
  return self.generate

Do you notice something strange? Well, this method was designed to answer the question did I called the generate method? using the class attribute generated.

But, for a typo I return the generate method, not the generated attribute and so, the bug is served.

So I break the rspec in smaller tests in the test case file that is online.

Get ready to deploy

Using the close test and then code loop, I solved the extension skeleton creation with a binary script ready to be distributed as rubygem.

Before hitting the Internet, some touches to the gemspec must be done. Make sure to fill the summary and the description so people can have a tip on what your gem does and if it can be useful to them.

``` ruby palco.gemspec

-- encoding: utf-8 --

$:.push File.expand_path(“../lib”, FILE) require “palco/version” do |s| = “palco” s.version = Palco::VERSION s.authors = [“Paolo Perego”] = [“”] s.homepage = “” s.summary = %q{Creates Sinatra application and extension directory layout} s.description = %q{Creates Sinatra application and extension directory layout}

s.rubyforge_project = “palco”

s.files = git ls-files.split(“\n”) s.test_files = git ls-files -- {test,spec,features}/*.split(“\n”) s.executables = git ls-files -- bin/*.split(“\n”).map{ |f| File.basename(f) } s.require_paths = [“lib”]

# specify any dependencies here; for example: # s.add_development_dependency “rspec” s.add_runtime_dependency “rainwbow” end

Tune the version to make sure that you set it to 1.0.0 and then go ahead and
rule the world.

## Launch

I added some code to autofill some files with stub content. I choose New BSD
license for LICENSE file and the basic code for version.rb or extension code
and class code initialization is pretty standard so palco can help in init the
work for the developer.

Launching the project is easy. Rakefile has an install task that pushes the gem
in []( website.

Get excited? Do you want to try [palco](

gem install palco ```

Have fun!

Isn’t this post completely off topic, is it?

Well, true to be told building a tool to automate some tasks and that it is useful to your work is a common hackish way of life and it’s fun. So “Hack for fun” series will be about building tools. Next post will be “Understanding your risk - Error messages” and it will about information an attacker can gain when applications don’t care enough about information disclosed in error or status messages.