Sometime ago while using method_missing to implement some functionality I got the weird behavior that it would work only most of the time but not always.
In retrospect it's now pretty obvious but in the heat of the moment it took me about half a day of investigation and talking before I figured it out.

What happened is that I did only half of the work.
I defined method_missing but I forgot to define respond_to? accordingly.
The result is that it worked when I called it directly on the instance, but failed if an association was involved.

To give an example, say you have a class like this:

class A < ActiveRecord::Base
  def example

  def method_missing(method, *args)
    if method.to_s =~ /example/

Calling *example* directly on your instance works just fine.
=> true

>> A.create!.example_me?
=> true

All fine, but as soon as you get an association in the middle of things:

class B < ActiveRecord::Base
  belongs_to :a

It just doesn't go well anymore:

>> b =>
=> #<B id: nil, a_id: nil, created_at: nil, updated_at: nil>

>> b.a.example?
NoMethodError: undefined method `example?' for #<A id: nil, created_at: nil, updated_at: nil>
from /var/lib/gems/1.8/gems/activerecord-2.3.5/lib/active_record/associations/association_proxy.rb:220:in `method_missing'
from (irb):55

>> b = B.create!(:a=>A.create!)
=> #<B id: 4, a_id: 7, created_at: "2010-03-08 21:15:01", updated_at: "2010-03-08 21:15:01">
>> b.a.failing_example
NoMethodError: undefined method `failing_example' for #<ActiveRecord::Associations::BelongsToAssociation:0xb70491d0>
from /var/lib/gems/1.8/gems/activerecord-2.3.5/lib/active_record/associations/association_proxy.rb:220:in `method_missing'
from (irb):57

Now, this last error is a bit clearer but I don't remember running into it at the time.
If I had just followed the association_proxy:220 hint right away... ;)

What happens is that b.a doesn't return the instance but rather an AssociationProxy instance that provides ActiveRecord's extended functionality and this proxy relies on A#respond_to? to correctly forward method calls to the actual instance.

What I should have done is:

class A < ActiveRecord::Base
  def example

  def method_missing(method, *args)
    if method.to_s =~ /example/

  def respond_to?(method, include_private = false)
    if method.to_s =~ /example/

>> B.create!(:a=>A.create!).a.example?
=> true
=> true

There are some much better write-ups on this topic, if you want to read more:
Using method_missing and respond_to? to create dynamic methods
Solving the method_missing/respond_to? problem

Now, I must be honest here: what I was doing was a big code smell :)
It taught me the lesson to use method_missing properly and was even quite fun to debug and all that but what I really needed and end up doing in that case was a group of delegates here and there and voilĂ , it was all cool and clean.

Remote Pair Programming

A few weeks ago, Larry O'Brien and I set out to experiment with Remote Pair Programming.
He wrote about it on his SDTimes column: Windows & .NET Watch: Problematic pair programming

We both liked the experience and would be rather happy to be able to work on a long term project that way (anyone hiring a remote pair?), but since his column gives more emphasis to the down sides, I thought I could write my point of view which is more on the up side ;)

In general, I agree on the down sides but I got so excited with the advantages I saw that I would barely remember mentioning the problems if asked.

The focus

Working in pair forces you to focus on the work.
There is just no way you can be there and not be paying attention to whatever it is that you're supposed to do.
You get so focused in the work and the communication that the environmental noise that would otherwise annoy you just seem to disappear.
The speed in which you make progress can vary with a lot of factors but you are *guaranteed* to make some progress. All. The. Time.

The challenge

The fact that someone is watching your every step means that you keep challenging yourself to do things the best way you can.
You just can't look sloppy to your pair.
That means you avoid cutting corners or knowingly doing the wrong thing out of laziness or "to fix it later".
If you do something that feels wrong, you'll be called on it and have to defend your point, so, unless it's worth the trouble, you just work a bit harder and go for the right thing.

The safety feeling

You certainly feel more confident about every line of code you write.
Anything absurdly wrong will surely get catch by one or the other.
Even the small errors or typos get spotted really fast.
Sure, things can still be wrong, bugged or bad designed but the fact that the code was co-created and reviewed by at least one more person gives you a comforting feeling.

The learning

Working with someone else full time means you're continuously learning or at least exercising a different approach than your own.
You learn new tricks.
You get to defend your points.
And you question everything.
At the end of the day, you feel actively improving in many things.
Even your English, if you're not a native speaker ;)

The loneliness

Working remotely means you're almost always alone.
When your clients are in different countries, thousands of miles away, that's guaranteed.
It's just too expensive, time consuming and a tiresome task to travel for a meeting.
If there is something I miss every now and then it's having someone at close reach that I can share work stuff and work together.
Working in a pair was a comforting step in that direction.

The results

We shared the resulting project on Github.
If you'd like to poke around, it's available at

Overall, I consider it was a big win over the solo experience.
There is only one thing that could be much better and that's the IDE/Tools support.
While sharing a VM using VNC mostly worked, it didn't come close to the experience you get when you use Saros, Bespin or even Google Wave.
Being able to use all your monitors, drag windows around and organize it the way you like better would definitely improve the experience.

Have a different opinion or want to suggest a different tool?
Just drop me a comment!


A while ago I needed to find a good setup for backing up some machines.

I wanted to use RSync to do snapshots-like backups.

This setup is:
* Off-site
* Storage efficient (the bulk of my backup was unlikely to ever change)
* Network efficient (only transfer changed files)
* Keeps versions going back a few months

Now, DreamHost offers 50GB of free space for personal backups and that seemed a good fit for this particular situation.

Then I found RSnapshot and it was exactly what I needed.
Unfortunately, RSnapshot doesn't backup to an external server.
It's meant to work in a setup where the server hosting the backups connects to your data sources and pull the files.
That totally makes sense and is probably the best setup but it wouldn't work for me.

DreamHost doesn't have RSnapshot installed on their backup servers and the only access users have to that machine is SFTP and RSync.
I needed something that would work with just that.

I came across a post about backing up DreamHost websites to DreamHost Backups that showed a workaround to the lack of SSH access to the backups service.

So I took the idea, mixed it up with the stuff I wanted from RSnapshot and wrote a small perl script to do it.

It's called dhsnapshot and is published at GitHub:

At this moment, it's not very flexible: it's hardwired to keep 7 daily, 4 weekly and 6 monthly backups and it's also limited to a single backup source (you can only point it to one source directory)
But it's not hard to change, or even make it configurable.
I might do it if I ever get the need or motivation :)

One way or the other, it should be reasonably simple to setup (instructions on GitHub).

I'd be glad to know if it helped anyone.
So, please, drop me a comment if you fnd it useful.

GIT on DreamHost

A few weeks ago I needed a private remote Git repository.
Since I already have a DreamHost account, I didn't want to pay for GitHub just to be able to set my repository as private.

DreamHost does not officially support Git on their Web Panel, so you must set things up manually.

There is a Git entry on their Wiki but it looked a bit messy, so I decided to write a cleaner tutorial.

Keep in mind that I'm using WebDAV.
It allows more than one user to push to the same repository, but it's also slower.

You can use SSH but it's a lot more complex to setup.
If that's what you want, read the DreamHost Wiki.

Setup a WebDAV folder

Login to DreamHost Web Panel
Go to Goodies -> Htaccess/WebDAV
Select the domain name you want to use
Click "Set Up A New Directory"

Create the remote repository

Git cannot create the remote repository, it only operates on existing ones, so we need to create an empty repository locally and manually upload it to DreamHost.

So, there we go, open a console and..

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ mkdir blank.git
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ cd blank.git/
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/blank.git$ git --bare init
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/carlos/dev/blank.git/
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/blank.git$ touch git-daemon-export-ok
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/blank.git$ git --bare update-server-info
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/blank.git$ mv hooks/post-update.sample hooks/post-update

Upload the blank repository and rename it

Use Nautilus or any other file manager that supports WebDAV to upload blank.git to Dreamhost and rename it to something meaningful. For the purpose of this example, let's call it project.git

On Ubuntu:

After it finishes uploading, rename the folder from blank.git to project.git

When I renamed the file, I got an error message saying it failed, but refreshing showed it actually worked.


If you're starting fresh and all you need is a blank repository, then you're set.
Just clone your repository and start working!

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ git clone
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/carlos/dev/project/.git/
warning: You appear to have cloned an empty repository.
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ cd project
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ (work, work, work)
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git add README
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git commit -m "your commit message"
[master (root-commit) 5bbe5f6] your commit message
0 files changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
create mode 100644 README
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git push origin master
Fetching remote heads...
updating 'refs/heads/master'
from 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000
to 5bbe5f6507fa39293bdc9674ca4ae2e0a1d2f15e
sending 3 objects
Updating remote server info
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git pull
* [new branch] master -> origin/master
Already up-to-date.
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project (master)$

Optional: Push your project repository to DreamHost

Otherwise, if you already have a project repository that you've been working locally, now is the time to push it to DreamHost.

Instead of cloning the new repository, push your project there first:

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ cd real_project/
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/real_project$ git config remote.upload.url

It is important to put the last '/'; Without it, the server will send a redirect which git-http-push does not (yet) understand, and git-http-push will repeat the request infinitely.

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/real_project$ git push upload master
Fetching remote heads...
updating 'refs/heads/master'
from 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000
to a10703d8e400ca9df1b19345975718935c083905
sending 107 objects
Updating remote server info

Then confirm it worked and start fresh by cloning it.

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/real_project$ cd ..
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ git clone
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/carlos/dev/project/.git/
got a10703d8e400ca9df1b19345975718935c083905
walk a10703d8e400ca9df1b19345975718935c083905
got 574596c4cc435461515aa1a4c3cdd0e93af947f3
got 067f993be7432ac27e8a6e9636dea53dcc3d8632
got 475be0881778acd2de7404175fa323823e4d1ac0
walk 067f993be7432ac27e8a6e9636dea53dcc3d8632
got b7b5d32db9dd30c9ea28434b125781eb4a3e95b2
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ cd project/
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git log --oneline
a10703d Adds a beautiful whitespace! :)
067f993 Adds project description.. or sort of
80c2e22 removes rerun.txt
07e3cd2 Initial commit
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git pull
Already up-to-date.
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git push origin master
Fetching remote heads...
'refs/heads/master': up-to-date

And you're good to resume working on your project :)

Bonus: saving your WebDAV password

Now, if you're thinking that typing the WebDAV password over and over again kind of suck, you can save it so that git won't ask you anymore.

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ echo "machine login bob password secret" >> ~/.netrc

There is only one thing to keep in mind.
When you save your password like this, you need to drop the
from the urls.
So, instead of referring to your repository as
you need to use just

If you do this after you finished everything and cloned your repository, then git will have already saved the "wrong" url into its config file and will keep asking you for the password.

To fix this you can either clone again using the correct url or fix git's config manually by doing:

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev/project$ git config remote.origin.url

Now, just for reference :)

carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ more /etc/
Ubuntu 9.10
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ git --version
git version
carlos@ubuntu:~/dev$ date
Thu Feb 25 08:55:18 BRT 2010