Doing small projects with Ruby, there are two databases I find myself coming back to again and again, so I wanted to mention them here.
The first is YAML::Store, which is built into Ruby. You’ve had it this whole time! For me, a characteristic use of YAML::Store looks something like this:
require "yaml/store" db = YAML::Store.new("zine-orders.yaml") db.transaction do unless db[some_order_id]["printed"] print_order(some_order_id) db[some_order_id]["printed"] = true end end
In addition to its overall simplicity, YAML::Store has two really nice properties.
First, the database is, as advertised, just a YAML file, which means you can view its contents in a text editor and even make changes if you like! Most people reading this post will be familiar with YAML; it’s totally simple, even minimal:
--- order_00001: recipient_name: Sherlock Holmes shipping_address: 221B Baker Street printed: false
I have found the ability to easily spot-check and edit the database in this way extremely useful.
Second, even though it’s so simple, YAML::Store still gives you the superpower of wrapping changes in a “transaction,” so if something fails midway through—as it, uh, often does in these little scripts I write, especially as I’m developing them—the changes won’t be committed. In the example above, if my call to
print_order(some_order_id) fails because, say, I forgot to plug in the label printer, the transaction will bomb out and the order’s
"printed" field will not be marked
true. It’s all very basic, but/and that’s often exactly the level of complexity that I need.
I’m not going to explain this one in detail, because it is very well-explained on its own home page, but I feel like not enough people know about Daybreak, the “simple and very fast key value store” created by programmers at ProPublica. YAML::Store’s one great weakness is that it’s very slow; for my purposes, that’s usually fine, but/and when I need something faster, I turn to Daybreak.
The downside is: you can’t open the database and view its contents manually.
The upside is: it is very fast.
Daybreak and YAML::Store are both single-file databases, so there’s none of the hassle of setting up a database server, connecting to it, etc., etc. For a certain scale of project—which includes basically all of mine—they are really much better choices than MySQL, Redis, or anything like them.
May 2020, Oakland
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