to_json vs as_json in Rails API

Bookmark and Share

Recently we have been working on Rails API. During that time, we were curious about the difference between as_json and to_json. In this article, we are sharing the difference we learned.

to_json in Rails API

Let’s discuss how we started out building our APIs using ‘to_json’. to_json will return JSON string representing the hash. Option are passed to each element.

In to_json without any option,  the returned JSON string will include all the model attributes

to_json had some great options of ActiveRecord objects. We could just tell the method to only render certain attributes, or to include association or method calls. We had:

  • only – Only show column names in the output as specified in the list
  • except – Show all column names except the ones specified in the list

to_json works fine and seamlessly ok, as long as the database schema is deeply coupled with the API output.When it takes the next level where we want to render a certain attribute in json it start to break.

This will start to generate a bit load to controllers. Such methods of generating json don’t feel quite right and begin to break down. This is because the to_json is interested in ‘serializing’ a …

Read More

Setup your rails application with one command

Bookmark and Share

Generally setting up a rails app is running some same set of commands, for example installing gem, creating database, loading schema and start rails server.

We can create a script and run it to setup our application since Rails 4.2 a bin/setup file is generated by default.

Here is the example of setup script.

Setup script sets your rails application for development environment instantly.  This is helpful when a new developer trying to set up your application or when setting up an application on a new machine. We should keep the setup script updated.

Let’s understand the setup script step by step and modify according to our requirements.

First setup basic required library and path of our application in APP_ROOT

Now system! method here execute the commands passed to it and shows the backtrace of error in case of command fails.

system will execute the given rails command and abort will stop script execution and will show us the backtrace of failed command, we can modify it if we don’t want to stop the execution of the script and get some custom error messages.

In the below snippet of the script, we are going to our application root and performing operations.

To create config file …

Read More

Authorization with Pundit gem

Bookmark and Share

Security is an important aspect of application development. Two main components of security are Authentication (Who are you?) and Authorization (are you supposed to be here?). Authentication verifies the user’s identity while authorization verifies whether that user has access rights on certain resources to perform actions on them.

Two popular gems for authorization in the rails world are CanCanCan and Pundit, we at Red Panthers prefers pundit over CanCanCan we get to write Pure Ruby Objects and keep the logic for each part separate.

The gem CanCanCan isolates (encourages) all authorization logic into a single class. It is a drawback when the complexity of application increases. Pundit gem provides object oriented design patterns to build our own authorization system that meets project’s requirements. It enables us to keep the models and controllers free from authorization code and allows to keep the resource logic separately. This flexibility and simplicity of Pundit gem help to use it with ease.

To start with Pundit

Add Pundit gem to your gem file and run bundle install.

Integrate Pundit to Rails application by adding the following line to ApplicationController.

If you run the Pundit’s generator as below, it will generate app/policies folder which contains …

Read More

Taking screenshots of webpages using Ruby

Bookmark and Share

Recently we have been working on taking screenshots for web page while generating reports based on that website. During this endeavor, we came across some tools to achieve that. We are sharing the information we gathered here.

The tools that we will discuss for screencapture, in  Ruby,  are:

  • PhantomJS
  • Screencap gem
  • Webshot gem

Screencap and webshot are gems in Ruby that depends on a tool called PhantomJS. It is basically a web browser without a user interface, primarily used for testing websites. Such type of browsers are generally referred to as headless browsers,

Screenshots with PhantomJS

PhantomJS is quite easy to install and is multiplatform, available on major operating systems.

To start, our script must require a reference to the webpage module then use it to create an instance:

Use the method and pass it the arguments, the url of the webpage that we want to capture screenshot.

instance.render() method captures the screenshot and saves it to the file specified in the argument.
Run the script as,

Screenshot is saved in the  directory where we run the script.

Now what we have above is all JavaScript, but to use the phantom JS in our rails application we have gems that provide us with an easy interface to acheive the …

Read More

Difference between Date, Time and DateTime

Bookmark and Share

Date and time are one of the most important aspects which every coder has to deal with in Ruby. Well, let’s get to know how we keep it up alive and functional.
There are 3 different classes in Ruby that handles date and time. They are Date, Time and DateTime. Date and DateTime classes are both from date library. And Time class from its own time library.

In this article we’ll see how Date and Time works. Let’s have a look at each one of them.


When you need a string format of year, month and day, you have to go through Date class.

  • Has date attributes only (year, month, day)
  • Based on integer whole-day intervals from an arbitrary “day zero”
  • Can handle date arithmetic in units of whole days
  • Date object is created with ::new, ::jd, ::ordinal, ::commercial, ::parse, ::strptime, ::today, Time#to_date etc.
  • Takes 4 bytes to store.



If you need both date and time values, we can make use of Time class.

  • Has date and time attributes (year, month, day, hour, min, sec, subsec)
  • Can handle negative times before unix time
  • Can handle time arithmetic in units of seconds


Also rails provide a really good time class called ActiveSupport::TimeWithZone. It contains all the features the Time

Read More

Enumerator: When to Use and Why are they so special?

Bookmark and Share

In this post, we’ll take a look at the basics of Enumerator, When to use it and Why they are so special. So let’s begin!

As the name implies Enumerator is used for iterating over a collection of items. It allows both internal and external iteration.

So how do we Create an Enumerator?

There are 3 different ways to create it. They are from,

  • A Block,
  • An Enumerable,
  • A Blockless Enumerable Method Call.

Let’s have a look on each of the method now.

From a Block

We can create an enum by passing a block to its constructor. A yielder object will be passed to this block. The yielder’s #<< method can be used to define the elements. Enumerator#next can then be used to provide iteration.


From an Enumerable

The most common way to create an Enumerator is from an Enumerable object, specifically, an object that defines a #each method. Object#to_enum is implemented to return a new Enumerator which will enumerate by sending #each to its receiver.


From a Blockless Enumerable Method Call

There are several Enumerable methods that take a block and returns an Enumerator when called without a block. For instance, calling Array#select without a block will return an Enumerator with an #each method that will filter like #select.These blockless calls …

Read More

ReactJS for Beginners | A Step by Step Approach

Bookmark and Share

There are many problems while building large applications with data that changes over time. To solve this ,I suggest checking out ReactJS. React lets you express how your app should look at any given point, and can automatically manage all UI updates when your underlying data changes.

React is one of the most popular JavaScript front end libraries which is developed by Facebook. It’s used for handling view layer for web and mobile apps. The main feature of ReactJS is that it allows us to create reusable UI components.  The syntax used in React is JSX which allows you to mix HTML with JavaScript. This is not a requirement – you can still write in plain JavaScript. But this is suggested because this makes writing your components a breeze.


To install React with Yarn, run:

To install React with npm, run:

The bundlers like webpack or Browserify is recommended. So you can write modular code and bundle it together into small packages to optimize load time.

Use React with Babel to let you use ES6 and JSX in your JavaScript code. ES6 is a set of modern JavaScript features that make …

Read More

PStore, a little known feature in the standard library

Bookmark and Share

PStore(persistent store) implements a file based persistence mechanism based on a Hash. It writes Ruby objects to an external file so it can access easily if needed. If an I/O error occurs while PStore is writing to its file, then the file will become corrupted.You can prevent this by setting pstore.ultra_safe = true. Also, it supports thread-safe and uses Marshal internally.

To use this library, you must require it and instantiate a new object.

Which would create a file that stores the content to be written.

To store or retrieve data from the data store, you must open a transaction. Here transaction is a protective wrapper around SQL statements to ensure changes to the database only occur when all actions succeed together. We can access the content of database only through this transaction.

At the end of the transaction, all changes are committed.

Public Instance methods

Instance methods are methods that are called on an instance of a class. We can use the below methods while using PStore instances.

  • p[name]=obj

Stores obj in the database under the key name. When the transaction is completed, all objects accessed reflexively by obj  are saved in a file.

  • p.root?(name)

Returns true if the key …

Read More

How to write your own Rack middleware

Bookmark and Share

How to write your own Rack middleware

Rack is a Ruby package which provides an interface for a web server to communicate with the application. It is very easy to add middleware components between the web server and the app to customize the way your request/response behaves. The middleware component sits between the client and the server, processing inbound requests and outbound responses. Rack Middleware is an implementation of the pipeline design pattern for web servers using Rack.

For example with Rack, we can have separate stages of the pipeline:

  • Authentication: Checks whether the login details are correct or not when the request arrives.
  • Authorization:  It performs role-based security. i.e. checks whether the user is authorized to perform the particular task.
  • Caching: Return a cached result if the request is already processed.
  • Decoration: Enhance the request to make downstream processing better.
  • Performance & Usage Monitoring: Status get from the request and response.
  • Execution: actually handle the request and provide a response.

Next, we will see how to build our own rack middleware.

Building your own …

Read More

Using gmail to send email in Ruby on Rails

Bookmark and Share

Emails can be sent from you Rails application through many services like mandril, sendgrid, amazon SES. In this article, we would be explaining how we can send email using a Gmail credentials. Even though we can’t use it in production scenario due to the 500 email per day limitation, it would help us in prototyping an application quickly and also for cases where you want to send actual email in your development environment. Action Mailer is the ruby library in rails that will help us to do this.

Action Mailer allows you to send emails from your application using mailer classes and views. Mailers work very similarly to controllers. They inherit from ActionMailer::Base and live in app/mailers, and they have associated views that appear in app/views.To setup action mailer, must do the following:

1. Configuring the mailer in your environment file
2. Generating the mailer
3. Defining mailer action
4. Generating the mailer view
5. Delivering the email

Action Mailer Configuration

To configure action mailer add the following to your appropriate config/environments/$RAILS_ENV.rb file:


Generating the mailer

As you generate a controller for your application, you can …

Read More