Big Nerd Ranch: RoR Camp: Day 1

Last time I was at a BNR class, I meant to keep a blog history so that I could:

  1. Shill for my friends
  2. Have a travelogue

Regrettably, my best intentions fell to lack of discipline and I did not keep my story together. As such, I’m going to try to work day-by-day with sharing my experience. At the end I’ll provide a summary as well as some specifics about “what to do / what not to do if you’re taking the Rails class”.

Last night, after my bitching about ATL, we were picked up by our contacts Emily and Jaye who were holding a great big BNR poster-board to help myself about about 8 other people congregate.

We boarded a shuttle and began heading out to Callaway Gardens. The Gardens facility is about 1.5 hours outside of Atlanta, so for all intents and purposes I’m somewhere in the Georgia hinterlands. I can’t say I saw much of these hinterlands because it was DARK outside, and I mean real country dark ( in the words of my droog, little Alex ).

Eventually, after miles of interstate, there were a bunch of twists and turns and we arrived at main building and were able to check in. I’ve yet to explore much of the facilities because after an initial cleaning out of my suitcase, I headed straight to the bar.

The bar facility was full of a few lively patrons and I had a chance to talk with them as I drained a beer or two. I was joined by my new classmate Hector and we had a chance to talk. Eventually a larger group of students invited us over to chat and assassinate a few more drinks.

Representatives from all over the US tech geography are represented. Hector hails form Puerto Rico, two Montanans, a Bayarean ( prounounced: bay-yair-ən ), Orange county in da house, a Research Trianglian, and a PacNorWester. We talked a bit until the bar closed and we headed off to bed.

I made a quick call to Lauren and then finished unpacking while listening to the “Prime Minister’s Questions” on CSPAN.

I apparently failed to master the alarm and woke up with 20 minutes to spare before class. I made a hurried effort at cleaning up and then headed up the trail to the training center.

The center is set up in 9 tables, with each of us sharing a table with a peer that we can harass. Bo, my table-mate (not to be confused with a Textmate ), is one of the Montanans and has a very slinky black MacBook.

Another fun part about all these Macs is the ability to use Bonjour to chat across the room ( “What did he say” or “Yes why_’s guide is totally irritating”).

The class started out getting everyone up and running with Rails and Ruby. We then proceeded to get a basic application of Rails going on. We took a look at the code and we ran a few executes. We’ve just covered an introduction to Ruby.

As far as I can tell, there’s no real requirement that you understand Ruby to do Rails. It helps if you do, but maybe reading the first 3 chapters of the Pickaxe would be sufficient.

Lunch was some fine Suthun’ Cookin: Friend Chicken, Mashed potatoes, salad, and carrots with brown sugar. With a glass of sweet tea, it was a fine repast.

After a covering MVC, we took a walk around the beautiful grounds. This helped us wander off the post-lunch sleepies. The area around the facility seems to comprise a lake, several bungalows, and many tall pine trees. It’s a really tranquil setting.

After the peripatetic it was back into Rails. We learned ActionView / ActionController and some more of the basic tools of the Rails stack.

I even went a bit further than some of the exercises and tried adding a few tweaks, adding some CSS, adding a few blurbs. It was pretty fun. After dinner, I’m going to review the notes and maybe try putting together an app-ito or two.