XHR is not JSON

When a Rails controller action should handle both HTML and JSON responses, do not use request.xhr? to decide that. Use respond_to.

I've too often seen code like this:

def show
  # ...
  if request.xhr?
    render json: @user.as_json
     # renders default HTML view

This is just plain wrong. Web browsers often fetch JSON via XHR, but they (should) also send the correct Accept HTTP header to tell the server the data they expect to receive.

If you say request.xhr? as a means for "…

Think twice before using application names in your variables and methods

I recently had fun with replacing a custom video plattform ("mycustomtv") in one of our applications. I learned a lot about naming stuff.

youtube_mycustomtv_chooser is a bad name for a directive.


  • if you add, for example, other video systems like vimeo, the name of the method either lies or will get longer.
  • if you replace one system, you will have to change the method and all of its occurrences (and you're very lucky if it is only one poorly named thing in your application)

What would be a better solution?

Abstract fro…


Configuring RubyGems to not install documentation by default

When installing gems, a lot of time is spent building locally installed documentation that you probably never use.

We recommend you disable documentation generation for gem install by default.
Note that Bundler won't install documentation, so this advice applies only when installing gems manually.

If you don't already have it, create a ~/.gemrc file. The gemrc is a Yaml file, so add the following line to add default switches to the gem command.

gem: --no-document

(If you do n…

Ruby: Using all? with empty collection

Enumerable#all? returns true for an empty collection. This totally makes sense but you have to think about it when making assumptions on relations which might be empty.

[].all?(&:will_never_be_called_here) => true

Example with empty collection

class Researcher < ActiveRecord::Base
  has_many :papers

class Paper
  validates :topic, inclusion: { in: ['computer_science', 'mathematics', 'economy'] }

Easy goal: Delete all researches who write onl…


VCR: Alternative way of mocking remote APIs

If you need to test interaction with a remote API, check out the VCR gem as an alternative to Webmock or stubbing hell.

The idea behind VCR is that is performs real HTTP requests and logs the interaction in a .yml file. When you run the test again, requests and responses are stubbed from the log and the test can run offline.

It's a great way to mock network requests to an external service without going through the pain of logg…

How to debug Rails autoloading

ActiveSupport::Dependencies takes care of auto-loading any classes in development. This is usually useful, but when you run into issues with the Rails autoloader, you should take a look at what it's doing.

For me this was useful in an "exciting" case of auto-loading classes inside a thread which caused the application to stop responding.

Rails 4.x

ActiveSupport::Dependencies includes logging support. It is easy to use:

ActiveSupport::Dependencies.logger = Rails.logger

Rails 5+

[Logging support was removed](https://github…

Heads up! Years are always floats in Rails < 4

Watch out when saying something like 1.year in Rails. The result is not a Fixnum and can cause unexpected errors when the receiving end expects a Fixnum.

While anything from seconds to months are Fixnums, a year is a Float in Rails – when called on a Fixnum itself:

>> 10.seconds.class
=> Fixnum
>> 2.minutes.class
=> Fixnum
>> 24.hours.class
=> Fixnum
>> 28.days.class
=> Fixnum
>> 9.months.class
=> Fixnum
>> 1.year.class
=> Float # Boom.

While they are [technically correct](http:…

Katapult 0.4.0 released


  • Generating a project README
  • Finally: Support for modelling associations between models in your application model! Example:
# lib/katapult/application_model.rb

model 'Cart' do |cart|
  cart.belongs_to 'User'

crud 'User' do |user|
  user.attr :fullname

Cucumber: How to avoid VCR errors for unused requests in pending tests

When you have a pending Cucumber step (or feature) that also uses an existing VCR cassette, your pending test may fail at the very end with an error like this:

There are unused HTTP interactions left in the cassette:
  - [get ...] => [200 ...]
  - [get ...] => [200 ...] (VCR::Errors::UnusedHTTPInteractionError)

The error happens because your VCR is configured to complain about cassettes that contain extra requests which your test did not use. This is often a good configuration.
If you do not want to change your whole test suite…

How to mirror a git repo to a new remote

Say you want to move a git repository from one remote (perhaps Github) to another (perhaps Gitlab).

If you have the repo checked out, you still should make sure to mirror all branches of the old remote, not only those you happen to have checked our. Otherwise the target repo will become a copy of your current repo, and not the source repo, potentially missing commits. You can use this:

git rename origin old-origin
git remote add origin git fetch old-origin --prune git push --prune origin +refs/remotes/old-origin/*:refs/hea...


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
  • 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 …

PostgreSQL: How to UPDATE multiple attributes with multiple joins

This is an extension to PostgreSQL vs MySQL: How to UPDATE using a JOIN.

UPDATE employees
SET department_name =,
  department_area =
FROM departments, areas
WHERE employees.department_id =
AND = areas.department_id

Centering with CSS vertically and horizontally (all options overview)

There are a million ways to center <div>s or text in CSS, horizontally or vertically. All the ways are unsatisfying in their own unique way, or have restrictions regarding browser support, element sizes, etc.

Here are two great resources for finding the best way of aligning something given your use case and browser support requirements:

How to center in CSS
A long form that lets you define your use case and browser support requirements, then shows you the preferred way of aligning.

[Centering CSS: A com…


Decide whether cronjobs should run on one or all servers

Understanding your type of cronjob

Some cronjobs must only run on a single server. E.g. when you run nightly batch operations on the database, it should probably run on a single server. Running it on multiple servers would likely result in deadlocks or corrupt data.

Some cronjobs must always run on all servers. E.g. starting a sidekiq process on reboot.

Configuring whenever

If not configured otherwise, cronjobs defined in whenever's `s…

Katapult 0.3.0 released

Katapult 0.3.0 brings Rails 5 and Ruby 2.5 support with a new design, plus a ton of smaller features, fixes and improvements.


  • Generating a Rails 5.1.4 app on Ruby 2.5.0
  • Dropped asset pipeline in favor of Webpacker
  • The generated application now has a sleek, simple design based on Bootstrap
  • Employing Unpoly
  • New application model DSL shortcut crud for "create a model and a web UI with crud actions"
  • The generated application model is now a transformable e…

How to: Run webpack dev server with

If your Rails application is using Webpack you need to serve assets on the same host as you application runs, otherwise you will see the following errors in your browser console:

[WDS] Disconnected!
Invalid Host header

So if you are using you need to start the webpack-dev-server with a different host than localhost (

bin/webpack-dev-server --host

Capybara: A step for finding images with filename and extension

This cucumber step is useful for testing an image (looking at the src of the image).

Then(/^I should see the image "([^"]*)"$/) do |filename_with_extension|
  expect(page).to have_css("img[src*='#{filename_with_extension}']")
Then I should see the image "placeholder.png"

Outline: Read more about how to test a uploaded file here, e.g. file downloads.

External content

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