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

Switch to Passenger (mod_rails) in development on OSX in less than 7 minutes or your money back!

Posted by Wed, 11 Feb 2009 22:52:00 GMT

We recently switched our default builds of Rails Boxcar to leverage the benefits of using Passenger (mod_rails) for deployment of your Ruby on Rails applications and it’s been working out great for our customers. Several of our customers and colleagues mentioned that they also began using Passenger in development, which was intriguing.

But… Mongrel has been working great for us for the past few years. Why switch?

It’s true, I’ve been happily using mongrel since it came out as a replacement to webrick back in early 2006, which makes it about 28 in dog years.

Nigel and I
Nigel and I.. 2 1/2 years ago back when Mongrel was just a puppy

But… over the next few weeks, I’m going to evaluate Passenger in my development workflow. There’s no better way to try something then to jump head first. So… here goes.

this guy was a passenger…and I recently started to watch the show

Our team will be evaluating Passenger in our development work flow with a forthcoming blog post but if you want to get your feet wet right away, here are some instructions for setting up Passenger on OSX with PrefPane, which were inspired by Manfred’s posts.

Installing Passenger via RubyGems

To install Passenger on your OSX machine, just run the following with root credentials.

sudo gem install passenger

This will install the passenger gem on your machine. Now we need to go ahead and run a script that is provided with this gem (also with root credentials).

sudo passenger-install-apache2-module

You’ll want to follow the instructions that appear. When you see something similar to the following output from the command, you’ll want to copy/paste that into an apache configuration file. I just created a file at /etc/apache2/other/passenger.conf.

Edit this file with your editor of choice

mate /etc/apache2/other/passenger.conf

Mine looks like:


  # Passenger modules and configuration
  LoadModule passenger_module /opt/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/passenger-2.0.6/ext/apache2/
  PassengerRoot /opt/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/passenger-2.0.6
  PassengerRuby /opt/local/bin/ruby

  # Set the default environment to development
  RailsEnv development

  # Which directory do you want Apache to be able to look into for projects?
  <Directory "/Users/robbyrussell/Projects/development">
      Order allow,deny
      Allow from all

Once you finish running through sudo passenger-install-apache2-module, you’ll need to restart Apache on your workstation. This can be done by simply turning off/on Web Sharing in your Sharing Preference Pane.


Alright, we got through the hard part. Now, in order for you to begin using Passenger, we need to setup Apache to point to your individual Ruby on Rails application(s). You can hack on Apache configuration files more, but there is an easier way thanks to the Passenger Preference Pane.

This will manage your VHost files for you!

Setting up Preference Pane

If you followed my post on installing Ruby on Rails via MacPorts, you’re going to need to install Ruby Cocoa, which can be done with the following. If you’re using the Ruby provided from Apple, you can skip this step.

sudo port install rb-cocoa

Once that is done, go ahead and move on and download Passenger Preference Pane. Once downloaded, you can install the preference pane, by double-clicking on the following file.


The next part is really simple as well. Just begin to add your various Ruby on Rails projects into the Preference Pane… and when you’re done, you should be able to run your applications over port 80 without any problems.

As you can see, I’ve already setup a handful of projects and we don’t have to start/stop mongrels for each one or worry about port numbers when running multiple projects. (time savings!)


Voila. Simple enough. You might need to stop/start Apache, couldn’t remember if I needed to or not.

For each host that you add into this panel, it’ll automatically be added so that you can immediately browse to http://yourhost.local and it should just work. :-)

Things to still figure out…

Debugging. If you’re used to doing --debugger, it appears that you can do something similar with the socket-debugger plugin. Not tried it myself, but worth looking into.

Browser testing via VMWare/Parallels/VirtualBox. Does anybody have any tips on how to best appraoch this? Our designers are curious…

As I mentioned, this is day one of trying it out and managed to motivate our entire design and development team to try it with me so that we can all learn about issues together and find solutions quicker. If you’ve been using this approach for a while, I’d be interested in hearing your story and if there are any issues that we should be aware of.

Rolling out new updates for Rails Boxcar

Posted by Thu, 29 Jan 2009 05:30:00 GMT

Alex, Director of Deployment Services, has been hard at work helping us get our new suite of hosting plans out for Rails Boxcar, a deployment environment that we’ve designed to help you get your Ruby on Rails applications running as painless and quickly as possible. With this new announcement, we’ve rebuilt the Boxcar image based on the feedback of our existing customers.

Additionally, we’ve been looking over some of early results from the Ruby on Rails Hosting in 2009 Survey that we’ve been running the past few weeks, which has further boosted our confidence that we’re on the right track with this big change.

What are some of the changes?

This means that with a Rails Boxcar, you can now get a pre-configured deployment environment using some of the most efficient platforms for hosting your Ruby on Rails applications. (REE has shown to increase performance by 33% in some cases)

We’re really excited about this new setup and would like to invite you all to check out our new plans and send us any questions that you might have.

Rails Hosting Survey - 5 days left...

Posted by Tue, 27 Jan 2009 16:52:00 GMT

Wow. Thanks to all of you who have helped get the word out about the Ruby on Rails Hosting 2009 Survey. We just passed 900 people and we have about five more days left to hit the 1500 milestone that I set for myself.

If you can spare five minutes to help us reach this goal, we’d really appreciate it.

Here is a quick sample of the questions that we’re asking the community.

  • Where is your source code hosted?
  • Which database do you typically use in production?
  • which performance monitoring tool do you use?
  • How much of your monthly budget is allocated for deployment and hosting expenses?
  • So, can Rails scale? ;)

Don’t hesitate… we only have a few days left!

For more information, read the original post, Take the Ruby on Rails Hosting in 2009 Survey.

Rails Hosting Survey (continued)

Posted by Thu, 15 Jan 2009 23:36:00 GMT

Thanks to everyone has taken the survey and mentioned it on twitter. We just passed 400 people. We have a ways to go before we hit our goal of at least 1500 people surveyed. (if we can get even more than that… great!)

The survey is taking most people less than 5 minutes to complete, so if you haven’t filled it out yet and have experience deploying Ruby on Rails applications, here’s a link. :-)

Any help that you can provide in getting the word out would be greatly appreciated.


Question: Plugins or Gems? (or both?)

Posted by Tue, 13 Jan 2009 19:56:00 GMT

1 comment Latest by Alex Stoneham Tue, 02 Feb 2010 18:20:27 GMT

Our development team likes to extract reusable pieces of code for our projects and have historically used plugins. However, we are finding more and more people releasing these sorts of modules/components/patterns as gems.

Which do you prefer and why?

If you use both, how do you decide to use plugins or gems?

Rails 3 and Merb

Posted by Tue, 23 Dec 2008 22:55:00 GMT

So… Rails and Merb are going to be merged into Rails 3. (link)

Has hell frozen over?

(it has in Portland the last week)

I’m curious about how the revised core team will incorporate the library-agnostic view points into Rails without increasing the complexity for configuration. For example, being able to use a different ORM is great, but at the same time, one of the things that I have really liked about Ruby on Rails was that it did make decisions ahead of time for you. Conventions over Configuration and all that jazz. While they intend to keep these defaults, I really wonder how much more configuration will be involved. Be that as it may, Rails and Merb are run by some of the best developers I’ve ever known… so I am sure these decisions will not be made without some deep consideration.

Rails application don’t all look and smell the same, but it’s nice to know that there is consistency across all of our client applications. What I’m concerned about (from an efficiency standpoint) is that this could lead to project-diversity at the cost of experimenting. Pre-Rails, the development teams that I was a part of was constantly trying out new libraries from client project to project, but this came at a huge cost. We weren’t able to leverage our experience with previous projects like our team does with Ruby on Rails currently. (hell, I even helped write two different ORMs in the two years before Rails for PHP… and still wasn’t satisfied)

But, this isn’t so much a technical problem as much as a people problem. The thing is… is that Rails helped solve a people problem with a technical answer. Having testing, consistency, and other best practices built-in did the world a huge favor. ...and all it took was someone like DHH to throw his opinion out there and stick to it. It took me nearly a full year to really embrace a lot of these conventions, but in the end.. it paid off.

While I do feel that it’s in developers best interests to try out new approaches, I just don’t think it should be on your clients dime. This was part of the reason why I quit my last job to start Planet Argon full-time. I really wanted to get away from that cycle.

Since we (Planet Argon) adopted Ruby on Rails four years ago, we’ve been able to build off of every project we had worked on before. We since adopted things like RSpec and JQuery, but our team decided on these changes after someone took the initiative to experiment with these on internal and personal projects. Having this foundation has freed up a lot of our time to focus on other issues as a team, like Interaction Design, Usability, and client collaboration.

As far as Merb itself, I honestly haven’t tried to do anything with it since about 0.2/0.3. I gave up quickly though because the documentation didn’t help me get anywhere and my time is valuable. I’ve since seen that documentation has improved drastically, but I haven’t been able to prioritize the time needed to really play with it. With Merb being merged into Rails 3, it means that I really should spend more time exploring it as we might be able to leverage some of it’s benefits without as much of an investment.

Much of the lack of great interest in Merb was because I felt Rails had consistently provided our team with a solid foundation for a majority of our internal and client applications. The old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Not to say that others haven’t expressed a lot of excitement about Merb and it’s benefits, I just didn’t see there being enough of a productivity gain to warrant the time investment required to really learn and use a new framework… and the one thing that I have had trouble with was that it didn’t sound like Merb encouraged a default set of libraries. I could be totally wrong, but that’s been the perception I’ve had based on how it was branded.

But… the best part about this for you, me, and the Rails community? Is that I don’t need to register anytime soon. ;-)

I hope that you’re all having a great end to 2008 and am excited to see all the energy in the Ruby/Rails/Merb community. I suspect that between these two (now-merged) teams, we’ll have an even better platform to develop web applications on. I believe this is great news and I’m all in favor of seeing the Ruby community conquer these challenges that lay ahead.

Anyhow, I’m just thinking out loud. What are your thoughts?

Older posts: 1 2 3 4 5 ... 27