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How DECIMAL columns deal with numbers exceeding their precision or scale

When storing floating-point numbers such as prices or totals in an SQL database, always use a DECIMAL column. Never use FLOAT or kittens will die.

DECIMAL columns are parametrized with a precision and a scale. These parameters describe which numbers can be stored in that column. E.g. a decimal with a precision of 5 and a scale of 2 can store numbers from -999.99 to 999.99, but not 1000 or 1.234.

This card explains what various databases do when you try to store a number in a DECIMAL field, and that number exceeds that colum...


simple_format does not escape HTML tags

simple_format ignores Rails' XSS protection. Even when called with an unsafe string, HTML characters will not be escaped or stripped!

Instead simple_format has a whitelist of tags it allows. These are:

=> #<Set: {"small", "dfn", "sup", "sub", "pre", "blockquote", "ins", "ul", "var", "samp", "del", "h6", "h5", "h4", "h3", "h2", "h1", "span", "br", "hr", "em", "address", "img", "kbd", "tt", "a", "acronym", "ab...

Webpacker: Configuring browser compatibility

Webpacker uses Babel and Webpack to transpile modern JavaScript down to EcmaScript 5. Depending on what browser a project needs to support, the final Webpack output needs to be different. E.g. when we need to support IE11 we can rely on fewer JavaScript features. Hence our output will be more verbose than when we only need support modern browsers.

Rails 5.1+ projects often use Webpacker to preconfigure the Webpack pipeline for us. The default configuration works something like this:

  1. Webpack checks w...

Cucumber may complain about cucumber.yml being invalid when it is valid

Running Cucumber tests while your cucumber.yml is 100% valid may still produce the following error.

cucumber.yml was found, but could not be parsed. Please refer to cucumber's documentation on correct profile usage.

This may in fact be due to your rerun file (e.g. tmp/rerun.txt) being invalid. Delete it and try again.

CarrierWave: How to generate versions with different file extensions

We use CarrierWave in many of our projects to store and serve files of various formats - mostly images. A common use case of CarrierWave's DSL is to "process" the original file in order to create multiple "versions", for example different resolutions of the same image.

Now we could go one step further: What if we want to create versions that have a different file extension than the original file? For example, let's assume we'd like to create a ve...


Ruby: Referencing global variables with the built-in English library

With Ruby's build-in library English you can reference global variables with an english name. This makes you code easier to read and is also suggested by Rubocop's Style/GlobalVars cop.

Example before:

if 'foo' =~ /foo/
  puts $~[1] # => foo

Example after:

if 'foo' =~ /foo/
  puts $LAST_MATCH_INFO[1] # => foo

Require pitfall in Rails

The English library is not loaded by default in Rails. S...


How Rails and MySQL are handling time zones

When working with times and dates in Rails applications, you need to deal with the following problem:

  • In Rails, Time objects have a time zone. You can get the zone name by doing time_object.zone.
  • This zone is considered when doing time calculations, e.g. 10 AM CEST minus 8 AM UTC is zero.
  • A datetime in MySQL does not have a zone. It just stores the literal string "2010-05-01 12:00:00".
  • That means that Rails must make assumptions about timestamps loaded from and written to MySQL.

Rails has two completely different modes ...


You don't need each, collect or select in Coffeescript

Working with lists in Javascript is painful because the native Array class is so poorly designed.

One way to reduce the pain is to to use Underscore.js's functions like _.each, _.map or _.select, which unfortunately clutters your code with awkward calls to the _ helper.

Fortunately when you use CoffeeScript you don't need any of that. CoffeeScript has a very versatile for keyword that can do anything that each, collect or select can do. Enjoy!



Linux: Open a file with the default application

If you are on a Linux shell and want to open a file with whatever default application is configured for that type, this often works:

xdg-open Quote.odt
xdg-open invoice.pdf
xdg-open index.html

Make an alias so you have a simpler API (like Mac OS): alias open=xdg-open.

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PostgreSQL: WITH Queries (Common Table Expressions)

PostgreSQL's Common Table Expressions (CTEs) can be used to extract sub-queries from bulky SQL statements into a temporary table to be referenced instead.

This is most useful to avoid ugly joins or sub-selects. CTEs can be used for SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE or DELETE.

Example (from the PostgreSQL docs):

WITH regional_sales AS (
        SELECT region, SUM(amount) AS total_sales
        FROM orders
        GROUP BY region
     ), top_regions AS (
        SELECT region
        FROM regional_sales
        WHERE total_sales > (SELEC...
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count vs. size on ActiveRecord associations


  • When counting records in an association, you should use #size in most cases.
  • It will not work if the parent record has never been saved. Also there are finer distinctions between #size and #count. See below.


  • Always makes a COUNT(*) query if a counter cache is not set up.
  • If a counter cache is set up on the association, #count will return that cached value instead of executing a new query.

size, if the association has already been loaded

  • Counts elements in the already loaded array.
  • Does not ...
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Create and send any HTTP request using the Postman request builder

Talking with APIs makes more fun using Postman. As an alternative you can also use command line tools like cURL.


snap install postman

How does it helped me?

  • Editing multiline JSON bodies is much more comfortable than in the terminal
  • Saving named request in a collection
  • Syntax highlighting when writing JSON bodies
  • History with all my request
  • Multiple environments
  • Cookie manager
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Rspec: How to write better specs

betterspecs.org is a documentation on how to write better RSpec tests.

Note that there are also other approaches like The Self-Contained Test, which is complementary to the dry-approches in betterspecs. Like usual you need to weight the different recommendation and there is no rule of thumb for all specs.

How to reset a Mock

With Rspec you can mock objects or functions, for example like this:

expect(my_object).to receive(:my_function).and_return('hello world')

It's also easy to remove mocks for an object:


whenever: Installing cron jobs only for a given Rails environment or Capistrano stage

We use the whenever gem to automatically update the crontab of the servers we deploy to. By default, whenever will update all servers with a matching role (we use the :cron role ).

This card describes how to install some tasks only for a given Rails environment or for a given Capistrano stage.

Installing jobs only for a given Rails environment

In yo...


How Ruby method lookup works

When you call a method on an object, Ruby looks for the implementation of that method. It looks in the following places and uses the first implementation it finds:

  1. Methods from the object's singleton class (an unnamed class that only exists for that object)
  2. Methods from prepended modules (Ruby 2.0+ feature)
  3. Methods from the object's class
  4. Methods from included modules
  5. Methods from the class hierarchy (superclass and its ancestors)


Let's say we h...


Manipulate color with Sass functions

Sass comes with many built-in functions to manipulate color. Some of the more interesting functions include:

adjust-hue($color, $degrees)
Changes the hue of a color.

lighten($color, $amount)
Makes a color lighter.

darken($color, $amount)
Makes a color darker.

saturate($color, $amount)
Makes a color more saturated.

desaturate($color, $amount)
Makes a color less saturated.

Converts a color to grayscale.

Returns the compleme...

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The Self-Contained Test

One of the earliest pieces of wisdom we are given as programmers is to not write duplicate code: Don’t Repeat Yourself (or DRY if you prefer). Identical blocks of code to set up a test sure does look like repetition, so we extract it into a before block.

This is a mistake for tests.

The article explains about how sharing setup between examples make test files harder to read and evolve.

A related frustration I have is working on ultra-DRY & betterspecs-like ...

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