Archive for the 'OBRA' Category

Google Group for Racing on Rails

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

There was a burst of interest in WSBA website development on their mailing list—enough to annoy a few non-coders at any rate. So Racing on Rails has its own Google Group for development. Here’s hoping it’s the tip of the volunteer Rails coder cyclist iceberg.

For those late to the party or too lazy to click the link above, Racing on Rails is the Ruby on Rails application behind several bike racing association websites like the WSBA and OBRA. It’s all open source (except for the association-specific parts), and it pretty much works OK at this point.

I’ve put a lot of time into this code in the last few years. Plenty of cool ideas abound for these sites—it would be great to have more developers to make those ideas happen.

Ruby on Rails as Mailman External Archiver

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

I set up a Mailman mailing list. I want archives. I want these archives to look like other dynamic parts of the site (brought to you by Ruby on Rails). And I want to integrate a couple years’ worth of Topica messages.

At I first, I figured I’d use MHonArc or something similar. Mailman’s external interface is lightly documented, but simple and capable once you figure it out. Looking at the Python code helps in /usr/mailman/Mailman.

I decided to use Rails in the end. Maybe not the best choice, but I like keeping all my UI code in once place as much as possible.

I have an ActionMailer subclass with a delivery method:

class MailingListMailer < ActionMailer::Base
  def receive(email)
    post =
    post.subject = email.subject
    post.body = email.body
    post.sender = email.friendly_from =!

class Post << ActionRecord::Base ....

I added an entry to PUBLIC_EXTERNAL_ARCHIVER in Mailman's file. On Suse 10, it's in /usr/lib/mailman/Mailman. I've add backslash line breaks for legibility here.
PUBLIC_EXTERNAL_ARCHIVER = '/srv/www/rails/obra/current/script/runner \
-e "production" "MailingListMailer.receive(" \
>> /srv/www/rails/obra/shared/log/production.log'

I made several mistakes:

  • You need to restart Mailman for it to pickup your changes: /usr/lib/mailman/bin/mailmanctl restart
  • The apostrophes need to be around your command: '/srv/www ... production.log' Otherwise, you are trying to execute Python code, not assign a string variable.
  • Leave out -e "production" and Rails will execute in its development environment.
  • Ensure your logs are writeable by the mailman user, or nothing will work very well.

A typical Mailman error message in /var/lib/mailman/logs/error is "external archiver non-zero exit status: 127." Not very helpful. My shell foo isn't up to the task of redirecting standard error and standard out from the PUBLIC_EXTERNAL_ARCHIVER command. I got better info with Mailman calling a Bash script that then called the Rails runner. I validated that things worked at each small step, and I had to take baby steps because I kept putting a single quote where I needed a double quote, etc.:

  • Unit test for the ActionMailer
  • Run the ActionMailer in irb
  • Run the runner: sudo -u mailman /srv/www/rails/obra/current/script/runner -e "production" "MailingListMailer.receive("
  • Write a shell script to call the runner

Of course, it's helpful the public Mailman pages point to my new Rails-based archive. Here's how I do it. In Mailman/
PUBLIC_ARCHIVE_URL = 'http://%(hostname)s/mailing_lists/%(listname)s/posts'

I like the end result, and it's easy to do once you know how to do it. Next step is to see if Rails can sew a header and footer onto the Mailman list info pages. I am keeping the gnu, of course.