Alex Payne

Writer, backer, erstwhile technologist.

Getting Started with Scala and Liftweb

I’ve had an ongoing dilemma when sitting down to work on Peeramour. I could write the site in Rails in an afternoon, which is tempting. Thing is, I write Ruby/Rails code all day. I’m burnt out on it. Plus, I’d like to learn something new if I’m going to be programming in my off-hours.

Looking around the landscape of web application development, only one technology has really caught my eye: Liftweb, a framework built with the Scala language, which in turn runs on the JVM. I like that both Lift and Scala borrow successful ideas where appropriate. I like that both are built with performance, scalability, and ease of deployment in mind. Most of all, though, I like that neither Lift nor Scala is particularly sexy. It’s just ugly enough to work.

Getting started with Scala on Mac OS X 10.4 is pretty straightforward:Download either the Gzip or Bz2 Unix tarballs from the Scala downloads page.

Unpack your tarball of choice and put it somewhere sensible like ~/src/scala.

Add the path to the bin directory to your shell’s PATH.You should now be able to run scala, type in some arithmetic expressions, that sort of thing. Hunky-dory. Now let’s get Lift-ed.

  1. If you’ve got MacPorts (and you should), do a sudo port install maven2. Maven is a build system for big honkin’ Java projects, and it takes care of grabbing dependencies and all sorts of junk.
  2. Now, grab the actual liftweb source from Subversion. The packaged versions are old.
  3. Pop into your new liftweb directory and do a mvn install. It’ll take a few minutes while Maven grabs and builds this and that, but at the end you’ll have built all the examples and whatnot.
  4. A basic blog built in liftweb can be found in sites/hellolift. Head over there, run maven jetty:run and you can poke around at a real actual Lift app.Instructions for starting your own liftweb project can be found at the developer’s blog. Though that post was written in June, the invocations therein still work.

I’m used to working in TextMate, but the only Scala bundle out there is pretty immature. I’m not after a bunch of IDE fanciness, but good syntax highlighting is a must. I imagine things are more hospitable in Eclipse, but that way perdition lies. My next step is to check out the vim support.

Now that I’ve got a reasonable working environment, tomorrow I’m going to take a stab at some actual code.