OmbuLabs Blog

The Lean Software Boutique

Articles by Mauro Otonelli

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'Flaky' tests: a short story

One of the hardest failing tests to debug are those which fail randomly, also known as "flaky" tests. You write your test cases, you run the tests in your environment (in random order), and see them all pass. Afterwards, you push your code, your CI server runs them and one test fails.

This is not an uncommon scenario, and one too common when using integration tests which use JS, with Capybara-Webkit or Selenium. But if your failing test doesn't communicate with an external API, doesn't use JS, and passes locally, it can be a bit nerve-wracking.

After you have identified the failing test, and it still passes after running it locally, one way to figure out why it's failing is running its context multiple times.

To automate this process a bit, I like to use the following command:

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How to test a React app using capybara-webkit

I have been using the capybara-webkit gem for a while now since I first tried it out after making the switch from Capybara + Selenium.

Using capybara-webkit speeds up my Selenium tests due to its headless nature, and it's very straightforward. However, I had some trouble testing a Rails based React app.

In this post, I will explain how I worked around the issues that came up when trying to use capybara-webkit with React.

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How to use any gem in the Rails production console

How many times did you come across a great gem you wanted to try out in a production console, like benchmark-ips or awesome-print?

Be it for performance or for readability, sometimes it's nice to be able to try out something new quickly without going through a pull request + deployment process. This is possible by modifying the $LOAD_PATH Ruby global variable and requiring the gem manually.

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Present? vs Any? vs Exists?

When working on a Rails project, you may have seen present? calls on ActiveRecord relationships. This might feel natural, mostly because present? exists on all objects via ActiveSupport, so you expect the relationship to respond to it, but it's actually not a very good idea. If all we want to do is check if the scope returns any results from the database, there are better ways than using present?.

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Brief look at RSpec's formatting options

A few weeks ago, I noticed weird output in the RSpec test suite (~4000 tests) for a Rails application:

.............................................................................................unknown OID 353414: failed to recognize type of '<field>'. It will be treated as String  ...........................................................................................................................................

This Rails app uses a PostgreSQL database. After some Googling, it turns out that this is a warning from PostgreSQL. When the database doesn't recognize the type to use for a column, it casts to string by default.

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Spy vs Double vs Instance Double

When writing tests for services, you may sometimes want to use mock objects instead of real objects. In case you're using ActiveRecord and real objects, your tests may hit the database and slow down your suite. The latest release of the rspec-mocks library bundled with RSpec 3 includes at least three different ways to implement a mock object.

Let's discuss some of the differences between a spy, a double and an instance_double. First, the spy:

[1] pry(main)> require 'rspec/mocks/standalone'
=> true
[2] pry(main)> user_spy = spy(User)
=> #<Double User>
[3] pry(main)> spy.whatever_method
=> #<Double (anonymous)>
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Tips for upgrading from Rails 3.2 to 4.0

There are already quite a few guides in the wild to help with the upgrade of Rails 3.2 to Rails 4.0. The official Rails guide for upgrading from Rails 3.2 to 4.0 is very thorough. With the recent release of Rails 5.0, apps currently in production running Rails 3.2 should probably be updated to any stable Rails 4 release as soon as possible.

There is even an e-book about upgrading from Rails 3 to 4, which serves as a useful guide to make this upgrade easier, and also helps understand the advantages & disadvantages of this new (soon to be old) version.

However, if you're using any non-standard gems, you're mostly on your own. Some gems stopped being maintained before Rails 4 was released, as was the case with CanCan, a well known authorization library. After many open pull requests were left unmerged, CanCanCan was released. It is a community driven effort to have a semi-official fork of CanCan. It serves as a drop-in replacement for people who want to use CanCan after upgrading to Rails 4.

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A comprehensive guide to interacting with IMAP using Ruby

A few times in the past I've had to interact with IMAP via Ruby, and wrapping your head around its API is not so easy. Not only is the IMAP API a bit obscure and cryptic, but Ruby's IMAP documentation is not so great either.

Searching the internet for examples doesn't yield too many results, so I'll try to write down some of the things I've learned. The examples I'll show use Gmail as the target IMAP server.

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Hunting Down a Slow Rails Request

Recently, we started using Skylight in production for one of our clients' Rails applications, in an attempt to try to improve the performance of some of the more critical API endpoints.

Skylight reports on:

  • Time taken per request
  • Breakdown of time taken per SQL query
  • Object allocations per request

I noticed an unusually large amount of allocated objects for one request:

Skylight report

This request would take anywhere from 400ms to 3000ms to respond, which is WAY too long.

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Set up and run Hubot without using Heroku

Hubot makes it incredibly easy to setup on a Heroku server, by taking advantage of its Procfile support. Simply running git push heroku master deploys the app and starts it.

When it comes to deploying to your own Linux server, given that foreman doesn't really like background processes (see: ddollar/foreman#65), you need to use something like monit, systemd or tmux to better manage your Hubot process.

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