Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:59:00 GMT)

Installing Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL on OS X, Second Edition

Posted by Tue, 19 Jun 2007 18:54:00 GMT

It’s been just over a year since I posted the article, Install Ruby, Rails, and PostgreSQL on OSX and it still gets quite a bit of traffic. Unfortunately, there have been a few changes in the install process that have caught people.

Today, I am leaving my PowerBook G4. It’s being replaced with a MacBook because the logic board is on the fritz. So, guess what that means? I get to install Ruby, Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL on OS X again! I figured that I would post a revised version of my previous article for those who may go through this same process in the near future.

WARNING: This post contains some outdated instructions. Please read Installing Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL on OS X, Third Edition, which is focused on Installing Ruby on Rails on Leopard.

Step Zero: Install iTerm (optional)

You’ll spend a lot of time in your terminal as a Rails developer. I’m not a big fan of as it lacks tabbed windows1 and you’ll often find me with around ten tabs open. I’ve been using iTerm for a few years and it’s definitely improved in the past year and doesn’t seem to crash nearly as often as it used to.

Once installed, I always change the default color scheme as I prefer the white on black schema. The menus in iTerm are lacking some thoughtful interaction design, but I’ve figured out the right way to do it (after a long time of stumbling on it by accident). In iTerm, you’ll want to edit the Default bookmark, which you can access by going to Manage Bookmarks under the Bookmarks Menu.

Set the Display value to classic iTerm and you’re golden.

Now… let’s get to business…

Step 1: Install Xcode Tools

Without installing Xcode tools from Apple, we’re not going to get very far. First, you’ll need to grab a copy of Xcode, which you can download on Apple’s Developer Connection site. It’s almost a 1GB download, so you’ll want to start your download and use your multi-tasking skills and grab a Viso, read some blog posts.

I’m going to make the assumption here that you know how to install a dmg on osx. Once this is installed, you can move on to the next step!

Step 2: All Your MacPorts are Belong to Us

MacPorts (formerly known as DarwinPorts) is a package management system for OS X. This is what we’ll use to install most of the necessary programs to develop and run your Ruby on Rails applications. If you’re from the Linux or BSD world, you are likely familiar with similar tools… such as: apt-get, port, and yum.

You’ll want to download MacPorts and install the dmg file.

Now that this is installed, we should test it.

With a new terminal, run the following:

$ port version
Version: 1.442

Success! Let’s get going…

Step 3: Installing the Ruby on Rails development stack

We’re going to go through a series of small steps, which may take some time depending on how fast your internet connection and computer is.

Install Ruby and RubyGems

In order to install Ruby, we’re going to use MacPorts with the port command, which is now available for installing various packages on our OS X machines.

$ sudo port install ruby rb-rubygems

It’ll probably take a while to download and install Ruby and all of it’s known dependencies. In the meantime, check out some funny code. KTHXBYE!

Still waiting for it to install, perhaps you could do something like… begin writing a comment on this post, writing your own blog post, watch a funny video, or recommend me. I walked to Backspace with Gary to get an Americano… and it’s still not done. :-p

(minutes/hours/weeks later)

Okay… I trust that it finished installing Ruby and RubyGems without any hiccups. Let’s test them from our terminal to make sure.

Let’s check the version…

$ ruby -v
ruby 1.8.6 (2007-03-13 patchlevel 0) [i686-darwin8.9.1]

Now, let’s make sure that Ruby is working properly…

$ irb
irb(main):001:0> x = 1     
=> 1
irb(main):002:0> puts "wee!!!" if x == 1

Great, we’re on a roll. Let’s get the rest of the stack installed.

Install Ruby on Rails

We’re going to install Ruby on Rails with the gem command that installing RubyGems provided.

$ sudo gem install -y rails

This command should produce an output similar to the following.

Successfully installed rails-1.2.3
Successfully installed rake-0.7.3
Successfully installed activesupport-1.4.2
Successfully installed activerecord-1.15.3
Successfully installed actionpack-1.13.3
Successfully installed actionmailer-1.3.3
Successfully installed actionwebservice-1.2.3
Installing ri documentation for rake-0.7.3...
Installing ri documentation for activesupport-1.4.2...
Installing ri documentation for activerecord-1.15.3...
Installing ri documentation for actionpack-1.13.3...
Installing ri documentation for actionmailer-1.3.3...
Installing ri documentation for actionwebservice-1.2.3...
Installing RDoc documentation for rake-0.7.3...
Installing RDoc documentation for activesupport-1.4.2...
Installing RDoc documentation for activerecord-1.15.3...
Installing RDoc documentation for actionpack-1.13.3...
Installing RDoc documentation for actionmailer-1.3.3...
Installing RDoc documentation for actionwebservice-1.2.3...    

Install Rails-friendly gems


If you’re developing with Rails, it’s highly recommended that you use install and use Mongrel for your development and production environments. The following command will install the mongrel and mongrel_cluster gems (including their dependencies).

$ sudo gem install -y mongrel mongrel_cluster

* Note: Be sure to select the proper platform for mongrel. (hint: OS X is NOT mswin32)

My terminal output:

$ sudo gem install -y mongrel mongrel_cluster
Bulk updating Gem source index for:
Select which gem to install for your platform (i686-darwin8.9.1)
 1. mongrel 1.0.1 (mswin32)
 2. mongrel 1.0.1 (ruby)
 3. mongrel 1.0 (mswin32)
 4. mongrel 1.0 (ruby)
 5. Skip this gem
 6. Cancel installation
> 2
Select which gem to install for your platform (i686-darwin8.9.1)
 1. fastthread 1.0 (ruby)
 2. fastthread 1.0 (mswin32)
 3. fastthread (mswin32)
 4. fastthread (ruby)
 5. Skip this gem
 6. Cancel installation
> 1
Building native extensions.  This could take a while...
Building native extensions.  This could take a while...
Successfully installed mongrel-1.0.1
Successfully installed daemons-1.0.6
Successfully installed fastthread-1.0
Successfully installed gem_plugin-0.2.2
Successfully installed cgi_multipart_eof_fix-2.1
Installing ri documentation for mongrel-1.0.1...
Installing ri documentation for daemons-1.0.6...
Installing ri documentation for gem_plugin-0.2.2...
Installing ri documentation for cgi_multipart_eof_fix-2.1...
Installing RDoc documentation for mongrel-1.0.1...
Installing RDoc documentation for daemons-1.0.6...
Installing RDoc documentation for gem_plugin-0.2.2...
Installing RDoc documentation for cgi_multipart_eof_fix-2.1...
Successfully installed mongrel_cluster-0.2.1    

Step 4: Installing the World’s Most Advanced Database Server… PostgreSQL!

At PLANET ARGON, we develop our applications on top of PostgreSQL. I’ve long been advocating the adoption of this awesome open source database in the Rails community. Just over a year ago, Jeremy Voorhis (PLANET ARGON alumnus) and I were interviewed on the Ruby on Rails podcast and had the opportunity to discuss our preference of PostgreSQL over the alternatives (mysql, sqlite, firebird, etc.).

We’re going to install PostgreSQL 8.2 from MacPorts by running the following command.

$ sudo port install postgresql82 postgresql82-server

While this is installing, you might take a moment to check out some space shuttles.

Setting up PostgreSQL

You may have noticed the output of the previous port installation of PostgreSQL 8.2, suggested that you do the following. Let’s do that now…

$ sudo mkdir -p /opt/local/var/db/postgresql82/defaultdb
$ sudo chown postgres:postgres /opt/local/var/db/postgresql82/defaultdb
$ sudo su postgres -c '/opt/local/lib/postgresql82/bin/initdb -D /opt/local/var/db/postgresql82/defaultdb'    

Have PostgreSQL start automatically on system start-ups

Unless you’re concerned about extra applications running in the background, I’d encourage you to add PostgreSQL to launchd, which will start it automatically after system reboots.

$ sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.postgresql82-server.plist

Adding PostgreSQL commands to your $PATH

For some reason, MacPorts doesn’t add the PostgreSQL programs to the default bash PATH, which means that you can’t run psql, pg_dump, or createdb/dropdb without specifying the full path to where they were installed. What we’ll do is add them to our default terminal profile.

sudo vi /etc/profile
(you can use mate, emacs, joe or any other preferred editor to do this)

This file gets loaded every time a new terminal session is started.

Let’s add /opt/local/lib/postgresql82/bin to the end of the value for PATH.


Save the file and then open a new terminal. To test this, you should get the following output when you run which psql.

$ which psql

Creating a new PostgreSQL user

When I’m working on Rails applications in my development environment, I really don’t want to have to specify a username and password in every config/database.yml file for each of our ongoing client projects. When PostgreSQL was installed, it created a superuser named postgres, which is great, but I’d like one that matches my system username, so that I’m not prompted at all for a username or password to connect to PostgreSQL.

To do this, we’ll use the createuser command, which comes with PostgreSQL. As you can see, I’m creating a new user with superuser privileges (and will hopefully be the last time I have to do a -U postgres).

$ createuser --superuser robbyrussell -U postgres

Let’s take a quick moment to test this out.

# create a new database
$ createdb my_test_db

# drop the database
$ dropdb my_test_db

Great, everything looks good here.

We now have a running installation of PostgreSQL with a new user account. All we need to do now is install the appropriate RubyGem to allow our Ruby applications to connect to it.

Installing the Ruby Postgres gem

UPDATE: Hydro posted a commented, which lead me to the ruby-postgres gem.

You can install ruby-postgres gem by running the following command.

$ sudo gem install -y ruby-postgres

Let’s take a moment to test that this installed properly.

$ irb
irb(main):001:0> require 'rubygems'
=> true
irb(main):002:0> require 'postgres'
=> true

If this returns true, than we should be good to go. We’ve now built a professional development environment for working with Ruby on Rails. Doesn’t that feel great?

Test your install

You can look back at my older post to walk through the process of testing out your setup with a new Rails application.

Closing thoughts

I hope that this post has been useful for you. It took me a few hours to walk through this process and it’s how all of our designers and developers at PLANET ARGON installs and configures their development environment.

We also install the following programs on new machines.

  • TextMate
  • Subversion: sudo port install subversion
  • RSpec: sudo gem install -y rspec
  • ...amongst other gems that are needed on specific projects

Until next time… have fun!

1 Rumor: Mac OS X Leopard will give tabs! (see screenshot)