It’s very clear from posts on the rails email list that there’s space for books that take the novice developer beyond what they learn in beginners’ books like Agile Web Development With Ruby on Rails. Those books will help you build your first app and get a sense of the structure of Rails but before long you’ll want to write code that needs to be reusable between models, or across projects, or to interface with services other than databases. The beginners’ books, by definition, don’t deal with intermediate topics. That’s the niche Ruby on Rails Enterprise Application Development sets out to fill, but sadly it doesn’t offer much beyond those beginners’ guides.
Based on the title, I had expected going in that the book would be mostly focussed on cross-systems integration such as the use of LDAP, web services (particularly SOAP), connecting to multiple and/or legacy databases and other topics often lumped together as “enterprisey” which push at the rails conventions or require them to be abandoned. In fact the book would be better titled along the lines of “Up and running on Ruby on Rails in a small business” as the application developed through the course of its chapters is very simple and doesn’t demonstrate much about Rails itself that couldn’t be gleaned from AWDwRoR or one of its competitors.
Where some may find this book most useful is in the attention paid to windows-based development and to deployment (where it focusses on unix-based systems). Most of the books currently on the market do touch on using windows, but the authors of this one clearly use it themselves and actually advocate the use of an IDE for windows development. If your tastes run to Eclipse on Windows, that may draw you to this.
Though the book references Rails 1.2.3, the application built inside could just as easily have been built on Rails 1.1. The app is CRUD-based, but there is no mention of REST or map.resources, despite the fact that they could have simplified it. Authors don’t have to buy into the prevailing wisdom in the rails community, but it’s a shame when strategies that can simplify apps aren’t covered.
Perhaps more worrying given that Rails 2.0 is now out the door and will be the default for anyone starting out with this book now is the use of deprecated techniques such as dynamic scaffolds (the scaffold keyword was removed 10 months ago in changeset 6306) and old-style pagination (which left in changeset 6992 back in June)
There certainly aren’t as many books out there for newcomers to Rails as there are for some other languages/frameworks, so its inevitable that more are to come. It’s a shame that already at least two such books have been pitched at intermediate developers rather than their more correct audience, and hopefully that trend won’t continue. It would also be very helpful if packt would publish an addendum to this volume detailing the aspects that no longer work in Rails 2.0. Missing some great new feature in Edge Rails is one thing, but it’s quite another to rely on features that were scheduled for removal over six months before a book goes to press.