How not to create a stupid Rails extension that screams at you

Hello dear nonexistent readers, it’s story time again! This time, as last time, we’ll talk about how computers make our lives harder when we try to make them do stuff.

TL/DR of actually useful bits of info in this rant:

  • Spammers ruin everything. They suck.
  • Modern browsers make it impossible to just up and play sound at the user. Some kind of interaction is necessary beforehand (there are exceptions for sites that repeatedly use sound, like a video site), usually a button press etc. This actually makes a lot of sense and seems to be implemented pretty neatly.
  • Before fiddling endlessly with stuff and reading messy Stack Overflow answers, it makes super duper sense to take some minutes to read the actual browser docs…

Ok back to ranting

What I wanted to make was really stupid: An extension to the Rails active record framework, which would allow anyone to add a long-missed feature to validations: That when an error occurs, the page would not only display an error message but would also play a sound file really loudly that screams at you for being so stupid to cause errors.

Yeah yeah. One of those ideas that seemed hilarious at 2 am in the morning on the way home from the pub. Although this video, which is the inspiration, still cracks me up…

But I wanted to go at it really professionally. I had everything lined up – a list of requirements, possible bonus features (I18n for sound files? Try to play them in the Rails console as well?), plans for seeing how to create and publish a rubygem in 2019 (I made some gems before but the helpers around that kept changing), etc.

And so I spent quite some time on writing up lists of that. But I should have listened to a nagging feeling – that I should check first on how to actually play sound files in a browser on a page load. Because that sounded a bit like it might be misused and therefore be a bit tricky.

So I finally started on doing that. Some googling led to this SO question … which leads to a sinking feeling in my gut. There’s a whole lot of answers, all quite different, more or less contradicting, and lots of comments saying “doesn’t work in Browser x”…this seems like one of those browser-support-morasses where there’s a lot of history around a feature, everything evolved differently in different browsers, and lots of more or less smart people created workarounds and libraries and left a lot of deprecated info flying around online…i.e. the bad kind of web development. Been there. Not fun.

I also found something a bit more professional: but it’s about videos? So I didn’t really read it.

But oh well, let’s actually do something. The first SO answer had something simple looking, so let’s make a test page:

<!doctype html>
<html lang=en>
    <meta charset=utf-8>
    <title>Audio test</title>
    <p>Blah blah</p>
      var audio = new Audio("aaa.ogg");;

Saving this as a .html file, and opened in a browser, it should directly play that “aaa.ogg” sound file. Easy peasy.

Right, we need a sound snippet, right? Let’s just record a quick soundbite (well, a scream, in keeping with the idea) with the Laptop microphone.

Another aside; On the joys and sorrows of using Ubuntu

I’m one of those freaks in web development that does not use a Mac. Sue me, I never got used to them – I was a Windows kid, then switched to Ubuntu when using Ruby/Rails on Windows was way, way too painful (never say the word “cygwin” to me…)

Ubuntu the good bit: Using the “home” button and typing “record” shows there are no programs installed that would help me, but asks if I want to install “Sound Recorder”. I say yes. Bam, it installs, and opens, and I can record sound. Takes like 20 seconds. Ain’t that something?

Buuut…ok where is my recording? Hello? Mr. Sound Recorder Program?

Not shown: A sensible UI

There is absolutely no way of actually interacting with your recordings – you can only play or delete them. After some educated guessing, it turns out the files end up in ~/Recordings. And they are in .ogg 😦

Ok back to playing .ogg files in the browser

Now we can put the aaa.ogg file in the same folder as the test html file, open it again, and….nothing.

Well except for this helpful error message (in the dev tools console): “Uncaught (in promise) DOMException” . Well fuck you too, Chrome. Googling reveals that this means “Autoplaying is not allowed, fool”.

Firefox has a much better error message: “NotAllowedError: The play method is not allowed by the user agent or the platform in the current context, possibly because the user denied permission.”

So now we get to the end of this little adventure. After actually reading this (which I skimmed over earlier): – well, it really makes sense, doesn’t it? If it’d be possible to just start playing sound/video files, all pages would be full of ads and other bits of junk that blared at you. Some more fiddling to actually see this in action:

<!doctype html>
<html lang=en>
    <meta charset=utf-8>
    <title>Audio test</title>
    <p id="hovercraft">Press play on tape</p>
    <button id="tape">Play</button>
      var audio = new Audio("aaa.ogg");
      document.getElementById("tape").addEventListener('click', function() {;
      document.getElementById("hovercraft").addEventListener('mouseover', function() {;

If you load this in a browser, and move the mouse pointer over the button, nothing happens. But if you click the button, the sound plays – and if you mouse over after that, it also plays. The button press is needed to demonstrate that the user actually wants something from the page, and after that it is allowed to play sounds directly.

Which is all well and good but it kinda makes the original idea moot – because the fun bit is the immediate screaming after you submit a form. No fun if you have to allow it first 😦

The moral of the story

Well, one learning is that browsers are really quite sophisticated – I never thought about the implications of having an Audio API and dealing with malicious websites. I think the approach taken is pretty neat here.

Also, I could have saved a whole lot of time by looking at that doc in the first place. This is something I thought I wasn’t bad at, but I went ahead and made a castle in the sky before checking for the obvious cloud zoning laws and stratospheric building construction permits 😉

Keeping Ruby weird with emojis

Have a look at this:

Isn’t that just grand? 😀 It’s been quite a while (it might be 15 years or so) since I stumbled upon this little unusual programming language from Japan, which I soon fell in love with. Matchmaker was the weird, quirky, clever code-art that _why the lucky stiff made. Sadly he just up and info-suicided all his online stuff and was gone. This reminds me of his stuff 🙂

Bloody bloody computers (TODO #1 update)

This is the update to TODO #1 – pointing my old domain to this blog (which is the hosted “free” plan from, i.e. no bells and whistles).

A bit of history: I’ve been using hosteurope to host my mailboxes and to register some domain names for years (I get a warm and fuzzy feeling by actually owning my email address and my mails – I’m hoping of course that hosteurope, compared to say, Google, is not interested in scanning my emails and selling my habits…). But I only bought the “email” package from hosteurope, and not anything else like servers or webspace hosting.

Naturally I’d like to point to this blog. As I’ve written last time, you have to have a webspace package booked in order to set that up, so I bought the cheapest plan.

First hurdle: It turns out they make that available quite fast (<15min) after ordering – but you have to log out and back in to see the new package in KIS. Groan.

Next hurdle: As I now had two packages (one email-only, one webspace which also includes a mailbox as well as webspace, php hosting, etc.), I had to “transfer” the domain from the email package. With some trepidation, I did so, as it seemed like the “redirect” setting would only be available on the webspace package, and I assumed I could still have the email addresses themselves point to the actual inbox I’ve been using for years.

Well that worked alright, and could immediately set up the redirect under the webspace package. However…the redirect didn’t work. Knowing things sometimes take a while to start working at hosteurope, I waited a while, but still nothing. Then, being suspicious, I sent myself an email from a different address/provider, and – it bounced o.O . I had managed to break my primary email address.

Photo Credit: Kalle Gustafsson

Half a panicky hour later I had everything back to as it was before (including setting back up the various email aliases to the actual mailbox, which the “move” had severed) – and here’s two tips for anyone in this situation, and for myself in the future:

  • Every package in KIS has its own block of menu entries – and especially the “Domain settings”. Also there is a general one. So in my case there were three places to look for when trying to move the domain back from the webspace package to the email package (the correct one is the “general” area)
  • Many changes in KIS take ~15min to take effect (they say that in the interface, actually, but you usually assume this is only a general “yeah yeah mostly immediately but let’s cover our asses” policy – it’s not with hosteurope. Needless to say that this makes trying out things extremely cumbersome and error-prone…

And fun fact: After all that, the damn redirect still didn’t work…until next morning, after I had given up, and it suddenly worked just perfectly. Groan.

In summary: Mission accomplished but with too much panicky clicking around…

TODO #1 – my own damn domain

TODO for next time (update: here it is) : Make show this blog. I own the domain, I’ve registered it at a long time ago – but it appears you can’t add any sort of redirect etc. except editing the DNS settings, and it’s probably quite useless to have point to WordPress’s server(s). After getting lost for many a year in KIS, the ever-so-confusing admin interface from hosteurope, I ordered the smallest “Web Pack”, which hopefully then lets me add redirects…you also get classic shared managed hosting – maybe I’ll also play around with that. Should be strange after years of administrating proper servers from scratch…

puts “hello world”

Title says it all, really…

If any old junk novel is allowed to start with a quote from Shakespeare, wouldn’t it be fair that actually good novels would be required to start with a paragraph from Tom Clancy describing an attack helicopter?

— Jay Pinkterton, probably, can’t really remember and his site has been down for yonks

By the way, Jay Pinkerton was one of the funniest internet writers I’ve ever read. Whatever happened to him? Here’s an link to his defunkt site: