Fluxus Frequency

How I Hacked The Mainframe

IdeaBox Retrospective

This week was a long haul. We were focused on building IdeaBox, an idea catching app. It’s kind of like Evernote. Mine turned out pretty well. Using some strict time management, I was able to complete all of the extenstions listed on the assignment.

Here’s a link to mine: My IdeaBox

And a screenshot:

Scheduling My Workflow

Here are three things I discovered along the way:

  1. Planning a project timeline is key.
  2. I have a hard time with design.
  3. It’s difficult to write Capybara tests when you don’t know the layout of your app.

This is the timeline I used to finish building the full app in a week. We were simultaneously learning how to build linked lists, write SQL statments, and use the Seqeul gem.

Wed: Setup Models, Tagging
Thu: Statistics, Search, Fuel
Fri: Revisions and Groups
Sat-Sun: Rest, catch up if needed
Mon: Users and Groups
Tue: Sound and Image
Wed: Front End, Mobile, and SMS

Trouble With Design

Following this plan, I was able to get the app up and running by Thursday. I spent Wednesday waffling between css layouts - Zurb Foundation, Semantic UI, and HTML Kickstart - trying for the life of me to make it look decent. Despite being a creative person and having read half a dozen web design books in the last year, I was having a lot of trouble feeling satisfied with my look. You can see what I came up with by visiting my IdeaBox.


I was surprised to find that I had a hard time practicing TDD for the views. Using Capybara early on, my tests were constantly blowing up when I got around to changing the layout. I don’t really think it matters, though. I was able to test my models with unit and integration tests easily enough. Then I added the important routes to my Capybara acceptance test after the web views were built, so if I want to tweak things later, I will have test coverage.


Here are some other parts of web development I learned from this project:

  • Using Sintra to send files to users from a dynamic URL exposes your computer to the web.
What Not To Do
get '/download/:filename' do |filename|
  send_file "./files/#{filename}", :filename => filename, :type => 'Application/octet-stream'
  • How to salt a password before encrypting.
  • How to use the RACK_ENV for testing vs. deployment.
  • How to use Twilio to set up texting to my app.
  • How to use ngrok to expose your local server to the web for testing. I needed this for Twilio.
  • Don’t try to switch from Yaml Store to Postgres with ActiveRecord when you only have 24 hours left before launch.
  • When trying to build a lot of features in a short time, code quality can suffer. I’d like to refactor this at some point.

If I Were to Start Over

At this point, if I could go back and start over, there are two things I’d do differently:

  1. Use an SQL database from the start.
  2. Design the view earlier on in the process, to facilitate a better testing process with Capybara.

In the end, I was pretty proud of my IdeaBox. I learned that I can actually build and deploy an entire web app on my own! Full-stack!-ish…

Code Retreat

On Friday, we left Galvinize and went to work in a different space - The Source in Rino - for our first code retreat. We spent the day pairing with different people in the class on two exercises: programming “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, and a robot instruction simulator. I had a great time getting to work with a wide variety of my classmates, including some I had not yet paired with. My favorite constraint is when we could only one line of code before switching off, and without talking. I was also trying to practice some vim skills, which my pairs were gracious enough to help me with. One thing I really disliked was the space at The Source itself. It was too loud and filled with echoes. For me, a space that was calmer and quieter would have been preferable. Aside from that, though, I hope the next code retreat will be similar - a chance to work with many peers on fun and challenging problems.