Just a Theory

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Posts about Ruby

Execute SQL Code on Connect

I’ve been writing a fair bit of PL/Perl for a client, and one of the things I’ve been doing is eliminating a ton of duplicate code by creating utility functions in the %_SHARED hash. This is great, as long as the code that creates those functions gets executed at the beginning of every database connection. So I put the utility generation code into a single function, called prepare_perl_utils(). It looks something like this:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION prepare_perl_utils(
    # Don't bother if we've already loaded.
    return 1 if $_SHARED{escape_literal};

    $_SHARED{escape_literal} = sub {
        $_[0] =~ s/'/''/g; $_[0] =~ s/\\/\\\\/g; $_[0];

    # Create other code refs in %_SHARED…

So now all I have to do is make sure that all the client’s apps execute this function as soon as they connect, so that the utilities will all be loaded up and ready to go. Here’s how I did it.

First, for the Perl app, I just took advantage of the DBI’s callbacks to execute the SQL I need when the DBI connects to the database. That link might not work just yet, as the DBI’s callbacks have only just been documented and that documentation appears only in dev releases so far. Once 1.611 drops, the link should work. At any rate, the use of callbacks I’m exploiting here has been in the DBI since 1.49, which was released in November 2005.

The approach is the same as I’ve described before: Just specify the Callbacks parameter to DBI->connect, like so:

my $dbh = DBI->connect_cached($dsn, $user, $pass, {
    PrintError     => 0,
    RaiseError     => 1,
    AutoCommit     => 1,
    Callbacks      => {
        connected => sub { shift->do('SELECT prepare_perl_utils()' },

That’s it. The connected method is a no-op in the DBI that gets called to alert subclasses that they can do any post-connection initialization. Even without a subclass, we can take advantage of it to do our own initialization.

It was a bit trickier to make the same thing happen for the client’s Rails app. Rails, alas, provides no on-connection callbacks. So we instead have to monkey-patch Rails to do what we want. With some help from “dfr|mac” on #rubyonrails (I haven’t touched Rails in 3 years!), I got it worked down to this:

class ActiveRecord::ConnectionAdapters::PostgreSQLAdapter
    def initialize_with_perl_utils(*args)
    returning(initialize_without_perl_utils(*args)) do
        execute('SELECT prepare_perl_utils()')
    alias_method_chain :initialize, :perl_utils

Basically, we overpower the PostgreSQL adapter’s initialize method and have it call initialize_with_perl_utils before it returns. It’s a neat trick; if you’re going to practice fuck typing, alias_method_chain makes it about as clean as can be, albeit a little too magical for my tastes.

Anyway, recorded here for posterity (my blog is my other brain!).

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Use Rubyish Blocks with Test::XPath

Thanks to the slick Devel::Declare-powered PerlX::MethodCallWithBlock created by gugod, the latest version of Test::XPath supports Ruby-style blocks. The Ruby version of assert_select, as I mentioned previously, looks like this:

assert_select "ol" { |elements|
  elements.each { |element|
    assert_select element, "li", 4

I’ve switched to the brace syntax for greater parity with Perl. Test::XPath, meanwhile, looks like this:

my @css = qw(foo.css bar.css);
$tx->ok( '/html/head/style', sub {
    my $css = shift @css;
    shift->is( './@src', $css, "Style src should be $css");
}, 'Should have style' );

But as of Test::XPath 0.13, you can now just use PerlX::MethodCallWithBlock to pass blocks in the Rubyish way:

use PerlX::MethodCallWithBlock;
my @css = qw(foo.css bar.css);
$tx->ok( '/html/head/style', 'Should have style' ) {
    my $css = shift @css;
    shift->is( './@src', $css, "Style src should be $css");

Pretty slick, eh? It required a single-line change to the source code. I’m really happy with this sugar. Thanks for the great hack, gugod!

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Using sudo to Install the Postgres Gem on Leopard

Been getting this error with the latest postgres gem?

% sudo gem install postgres
Bulk updating Gem source index for: http://gems.rubyforge.org
Building native extensions.  This could take a while...
ERROR:  While executing gem ... (Gem::Installer::ExtensionBuildError)
   ERROR: Failed to build gem native extension.

ruby extconf.rb install postgres
checking for main() in -lpq... yes
checking for libpq-fe.h... yes
checking for libpq/libpq-fs.h... yes
checking for PQsetClientEncoding()... no
checking for pg_encoding_to_char()... no
checking for PQfreemem()... no
checking for PQserverVersion()... no
checking for PQescapeString()... no
creating Makefile

I have, too. I’ve known about the fix for a while, thanks to a post from maintainer Jeff Davis from last month. But I was unable to get it to work. But then I found this gem of a comment (pun not intended) from Gluttonous:

FYI, this does NOT work with sudo since sudo strips the env var out. You must ‘sudo -s’ or ‘sudo su’ and run the command straight up.

D’oh! I’ve been doing this all this time:

ARCHFLAGS='-arch i386' sudo gem install postgres

And getting the same failures. But this works beautifully:

sudo env ARCHFLAGS='-arch i386' gem install postgres

And away we go!

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Ruby Time Object Time Zone Bug

This is disappointing.

To summarize, Ruby’s Time class has a bug in its zone method. The example is simple:

tz = ENV['TZ']
ENV['TZ'] = 'Africa/Luanda'
t = Time.now
puts t.zone
ENV['TZ'] = 'Australia/Lord_Howe'
puts t.zone

This outputs:


So far so good. But look what happens when I add a single line to the program, foo = t.to_s:

tz = ENV['TZ']
ENV['TZ'] = 'Africa/Luanda'
t = Time.now
puts t.zone
ENV['TZ'] = 'Australia/Lord_Howe'
foo = t.to_s
puts t.zone

The result changes:


This is clearly wrong. Changing the $TZ environment variable and stringifying the object should not change the underlying value of any of the object’s attributes. The Time object should remember the value of the time zone when it is initialized, and should never change.

Unfortunately, The Ruby core developers (or at least the owner of the bug report) feel that, since Time relies on the system C API, and since time zones are a PITA, it’s not worth it to change this behavior. The downside, however, is that you cannot rely on Time zones to ever be correct unless you’re very, very careful.

Personally, in my subclass of Time, I took care of stashing the time zone at object instantiation as a workaround for this bug. It seemed reasonable to me, and I was just surprised that the idea was rejected by the Ruby developers.

What do you think?

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Array to Hash One-Liner

Programming in Ruby, I’ve badly missed Perl’s list syntax, which, among other things, makes converting between arrays and hashes really easy. In Ruby I have forever been converting an array to a hash like this:

a = [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ]
h = {}
a.each { |v| h[v] = v }

Of course, this is anything but concise. In Perl, I can just do this:

my @a = (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6);
my %h = map { $_ => $_ } @a;

Easy, huh? Well, I finally got fed up with the nasty hack in Ruby, did a little Googling, and figured out a way to do it in a single line:

a = [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ]
h = Hash[ *a.collect { |v| [ v, v ] }.flatten ]

Not quite as concise as the Perl version, and I have to construct a bunch of arrays that I then throw away with the call to flatten, but at least it’s concise and, I think, clearer what it’s doing. So I think I’ll go with that.

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PostgreSQL Warm Standby Using Ruby

The new PostgreSQL Warm Standby support is pretty nice. Since my app doesn’t currently require read access to a slave database, I’ve dumped Slony-I (and all of the headache that went with it), and now have a warm failover server being updated a least once per minute. W00t!

I used Charles Duffy’s example, as well as the documentation, to build my warm standby configuration, but unfortunately, our server OS does not have the usleep utility, so rather than have 1 second sleeps, I ported Charles’s shell script to Ruby. Here it is for your enjoyment:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

DELAY         = 0.01
FAILOVER_FILE = "/path/to/failover"

@@triggered = false

require 'ftools'

def move (from, to)
  # Do not overwrite! Throws an exception on failure, existing the script.
  File.copy( from, to ) unless @@triggered || File.exists?( to )

from, to = ARGV

# If PostgreSQL is asking for .history, just try to move it and exit.
if from =~ /\.history$/
  move from, to

# Sleep while waiting for the file.
while !File.exists?(from) && !@@triggered
  sleep DELAY
  @@triggered = true if File.exists?( FAILOVER_FILE )

# Move the file.
move from, to

Just change the DELAY value to the number of seconds you want to sleep, and the FAILOVER_FILE value to the location of a file that will trigger a failover.

This is all well and good, but I ultimately ended up using the pg_standby utility that’s a new contrib utility in PostgreSQL CVS (and will therefore ship with 8.3), as it has the nice feature of cleaning up old WAL log files. It also does not have subsecond precision, but hey, maybe we don’t really need it.

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