Category: Development
Loops plugin for rails and merb released
17 Feb2009

loops is a small and lightweight framework for Ruby on Rails and Merb created to support simple background loops in your application which are usually used to do some background data processing on your servers (queue workers, batch tasks processors, etc).

Originally loops plugin was created to make our (Scribd.com) own loops code more organized. We used to have tens of different modules with methods that were called with script/runner and then used with nohup and other not so convenient backgrounding techniques. When you have such a number of loops/workers to run in background it becomes a nightmare to manage them on a regular basis (restarts, code upgrades, status/health checking, etc).

After a short time of writing our loops in more organized ways we were able to generalize most of the loops code so now our loops look like a classes with a single mandatory public method called run. Everything else (spawning many workers, managing them, logging, backgrounding, pid-files management, etc) is handled by the plugin itself.

The major idea behind this small project was to create a deadly simple and yet robust framework to be able to run some tasks in background and do not think about spawning many workers, restarting them when they die, etc. So, if you need to be able to run either one or many copies of your worker or you do not want to think about re-spawning dead workers and do not want to spend megabytes of RAM on separate copies of Ruby interpreter (when you run each copy of your loop as a separate process controlled by monit/god/etc), then I’d recommend you to try this framework — you’ll like it.

For more information, visit the project site and, of course, read the sources 🙂


Rails Developer for a Large Startup: My Vision of an Ideal Candidate
7 Feb2009

Few days ago we were chatting in our corporate Campfire room and one of the guys asked me what do I think about our hiring process for Rails developers, what questions I’d ask a candidate if I was interviewing and so on. Those questions sparkled a really long and interesting discussion and I would like to share my thoughts on the topic in this post.

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ActiveMQ Tips: Flow Control and Stalled Producers Problem
23 Jan2009

It’s been a few months since we‘ve started actively using ActiveMQ queue server in our project. For some time we had pretty weird problems with it and even started thinking about switching to something else or even writing our own queue server which would comply with our requirements. The most annoying problem was the following: some time after activemq restart everything worked really well and then activemq started lagging, queue started growing and all producer processes were stalling on push() operations. We rewrote our producers from Ruby to JRuby, then to Java and still – after some time everything was in a bad shape until we restarted the queue server.

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ActiveMQ + Ruby Stomp Client: How to process elements one by one
30 Oct2008

Few months ago I’ve switched one of our internal projects from doing synchronous database saves of analytics data to an asynchronous processing using starling + a pool of workers. This was the day when I really understood the power of specialized queue servers. I was using database (mostly, MySQL) for this kind of tasks for years and sometimes (especially under a highly concurrent load) it worked not so fast… Few times I worked with some queue servers, but those were either some small tasks or I didn’t have a time to really get the idea, that specialized queue servers were created just to do these tasks quickly and efficiently.

All this time (few months now) I was using starling noticed really bad thing in how it works: if workers die (really die, or lock on something for a long time, or just start lagging) and queue start growing, the thing could kill your server and you won’t be able to do something about it – it just eats all your memory and this is it. Since then I’ve started looking for a better solution for our queuing, the technology was too cool to give up. I’ve tried 5 or 6 different popular solutions and all of them sucked… They ALL had the same problem – if your queue grows, this is your problem and not queue broker’s :-/ The last solution I’ve tested was ActiveMQ and either I wasn’t able to push it to its limits or it is really so cool, but looks like it does not have this memory problem. So, we’ve started using it recently.

In this small post I’d like to describe a few things that took me pretty long to figure out in ruby Stomp client: how to make queues persistent (really!) and how to process elements one by one with clients’ acknowledgments.
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Advanced Squid Caching for Rails Applications: Preface
25 Oct2008

Since the day one when I joined Scribd, I was thinking about the fact that 90+% of our traffic is going to the document view pages, which is a single action in our documents controller. I was wondering how could we improve this action responsiveness and make our users happier.

Few times I was creating a git branches and hacking this action trying to implement some sort of page-level caching to make things faster. But all the time results weren’t as good as I’d like them to be. So, branches were sitting there and waiting for a better idea.
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