10/30/2013 § Leave a comment
I can’t think of a bigger reason to ditch a tool than because it doesn’t do what you want it to do, or because the user can’t get it to do what he needs it to do. I have no use for nonsense like that. But worse, I have no use for a tool that is pretentious. And that’s how I feel about RoR.
I mean, that the hell is this crap?? EVERYONE is doing RoR, everyone is adding “gems” (or ruby libraries) to its related repositories, every Tom, Dick, and Harvey is writing Tech Articles about the wonders of RoR. Its the new wonder widget for the Web, as far as I can see from the volume of articles on the web regarding it. But I didn’t find it so, and I’ll tell you why.
RoR is pretentious, and presents itself like the second coming. You can see this from the sheer volume and tone of the tech articles written about it. Its not difficult to find example code and how-tos using ruby to accomplish many different things on the web. Its a web language, there’s no doubt about it. But everyone using it seems to me to have a tone of “Well, to do that you just blah blah blah…”, and indeed, there does some to be a “thing” for every “thing” you need done on the web. But the actual application of the solution…
Ruby, in my opinion, is horribly fragmented. You can’t say it any plainer than that. Just following a simple step-by-step for newbs yielded different results for me on different machines, and I could have sworn I installed Ruby the same way on both machines, both the same linux distribution even. Logically speaking, repeating the same actions should yield the same results on the same versions of the platform. But in my case it didn’t. Clearly there were slight differences in *something* regarding the platform (Linux Mint 15 “Olivia”), but any differences in the tool chain or the clib or anything else I couldn’t say, and I shouldn’t have to. Yet on my successful platform I had a simple example web site working, and on the other I had stack traces after issuing “rails server”, or at least what looks like stack traces, I don’t know what they are called in RoR.
“Ok, never mind that.” I said, and proceeded to ask of Ruby a very essential, yet non-trivial, web problem.
Many websites need to be a portal, or a gateway, that protects it’s resources from as-hoc use, that is to say, it needs to recognize it’s registered users. Resource protection is not a trivial problem; how do you keep random Web surfers out of things you don’t want them messing with when the http protocol is stateless? You can access a page on the web by simply typing it’s URL into the browser, and the browser does it’s best to present the page (or resource) you’ve requested. Something else has to keep it from the browser’s request. That “something” is the heart of any web portal, and needs to be designed carefully. It’s inherent complexity makes it a common attack vector for hackers and exploiters.
The point is, that “thing” is very important, and not something you write off-the-cuff. So I proceeded to look for something that had already been written. I didn’t think this a would be a chore with all the add-ons and cruft that’s already been written for Ruby, this should have been a snap, right? And boom, a google search yielded a butt-load of urls with ready to go portal gems, gems that would use mySQL or PostgreSQL authentication, gems that used openID (yay!), and other stuff (radius, for example.) So with a song in my heart I downloaded one that seemed reasonable. *Boom*. Stack trace. Something about the version of ruby, or something in ruby. Or rails. Or a gem. I dunno. So I located another one, and deployed it. *Boom*, stack trace. I repeated this act several times until I finally landed on something that didn’t result in a stack trace. Since there were no instructions to speak of I navigated to the root of the system. I got the default red-trimmed rails server page. Great. After an hour of screwing around with how-tos I got to a point where I wanted to encrypt the user password input. “Just add the bcrypt gem and ta da da da day daaaa.” *Boom*, some kind of version issue with the bcrypt gem.
At that point I gave up. At least for now. Obviously this stuff works, I just don’t have the snuff to make it happen, but this absurd fragmentation in Ruby is for the birds. And I know that’s the problem, I can see from the stack traces. Every problem that comes up is due to something not liking the version of something else. Its plain from the errors. For all the issues I have with PHP at least I was able to get a basic web portal up and running in no time.
10/23/2013 § 2 Comments
The principals behind banks are something everyone can understand. They hold your money for you, and pay for the privilege, current interest rates not withstanding. The banks that service checking accounts for most people are retail banks, and they are strictly regulated and heavily insured, an important by-product of the disaster of the Great Depression. But how many really understand the Credit Default Swap scandal of the last 7 or so years?
Other less regulated banks are investment banks, these banks are a bit freer to take bigger risks with the potential for more profit. When retail banks start doing things like take those same risks things like the Great Depression happen, which is why the Glass–Steagall act was born. This legislation strictly separates the activities of investment banking from retail banking; when an investment bank sinks it hurts investors that had the money to blow anyway. When a retail bank goes down, it takes people like you and me with it.
Interestingly, starting from the ’60’s on legislators started chipping away at Glass-Steagall, culminating in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act of 1999, also known as the “Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999”, intended to address the cloudy “realities of modern finance”, and the most sweeping blow to the protection of Glass-Steagall to that time. Banks starting dabbing their collective kerchiefs into the risks and rewards of investment banking with plain account holders money. All three congressmen who introduced the bill were republicans by the way.
Because of the rendering of the Glass-Steagall act into a gutless cube of butter something interesting in the real estate market started happening; because banks were able to dabble in investment banking they were able to create “investment packages” that they could sell off to other institutions, and some of those packages started including real estate loans. There is no downside to this for the banks at all as the loans go completely out of their hands. Buyers of these “investment” vehicles don’t have a real issue with them; if the bundle contains a few bad loans, so what? Besides, these “bundles”, or Mortgage-Backed Securities could be re-sold, usually for a huge profit, and re-sold, and so on. As the immediate downside for the banks was none and the profits were many, there was little problem (as far as they saw it) to shoveling mortgages out the door by the truckloads masked in these so-called “Securities.” But to make mortgage-backed securities, you need real estate loans. Queue the Subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-08. “Give the people loans”, said representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, so the banks complied by giving anyone a real estate loan, and covering their asses by selling off the loans in these securities.
Its difficult to believe the officers, CEOs, CFOs, and other higher-ranking officials of the institutions didn’t know exactly what was going on. But the pure profits were too difficult to ignore, obviously. By the way, not one of these men and women have been indicted or made to feel any effects for causing the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression. Not one that I’m aware of by the way.
But the biggest insult came when Obama decided the thing to do was send truckloads of money to the very banks that initiated the crisis. Billions in bailout tax money, your money, was handed over to the banks that were most exposed to the credit default swap scandal, as its come to be known, with the understanding that these banks would start making loans again. But they didn’t, they sat on the money. Its your scandal, you paid for it, you enjoy it.