Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:59:00 GMT)

PGCon 2008 - Call for Papers

Posted by Fri, 28 Dec 2007 15:58:00 GMT

Are you using PostgreSQL (the world’s most awesome open-source database server) with Ruby on Rails? Do you have any interesting experiences that you might want to share with an audience? Well, you might consider submitting a talk proposal for PGCon 2008, which is taking place in Ottawa, Canada.

Details follow…

PGCon 2008

PGCon 2008 will be held 22-23 May 2008, in Ottawa at the University of Ottawa. It will be preceded by two days of tutorials on 20-21 May 2008.

We are now requesting proposals for presentations.

If you are doing something interesting with PostgreSQL, please submit a proposal. You might be one of the backend hackers or work on a PostgreSQL related project and want to share your know-how with others. You might be developing an interesting system using PostgreSQL as the foundation. Perhaps you migrated from another database to PostgreSQL and would like to share details. These, and other stories are welcome. Both users and developers are encouraged to share their experiences.

Here are a few ideas to jump start your proposal process:

  • novel, unique or complex ways in which PostgreSQL are used
  • migration of production systems to PostgreSQL
  • data warehousing with PostgreSQL
  • tuning PostgreSQL for different work loads
  • replicating data on top of PostgreSQL

Both users and developers are encouraged to share their experiences.

The schedule is:

  • 19 Dec 2007 Proposal acceptance begins
  • 19 Jan 2008 Proposal acceptance ends
  • 19 Feb 2008 Confirmation of accepted proposals
  • 19 Apr 2008 Final papers/slides must arrive no later than this date

See also

Instructions for submitting a proposal to PGCon 2008 are available from:


Get to Know a Gem: Rak

Posted by Tue, 11 Dec 2007 16:10:00 GMT

A few months ago, I posted about an article that showed you how to colorize your grep search results. Since then, I’ve heard people talking about ack, which describes itself as…

“a tool like grep, aimed at programmers with large trees of heterogeneous source code.”

It’s written in Perl, which is fine and dandy… but before I installed it, I heard that there was a Ruby version named rak, which describes itself as…

“a grep replacement in pure Ruby. It accepts Ruby syntax regular expressions and automatically recurses directories, skipping .svn/, .cvs/, pkg/ and more things you don’t care about. “

Sounds great. Let’s see what this thing can do.

Installing rak

Daniel Lucraft, the author of rak, was kind enough to package it up as a Rubygem. So, all we have to do is install it via gem install rak.

   > sudo gem install rak                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  Bulk updating Gem source index for:
  Successfully installed rak-0.8.0
  Installing ri documentation for rak-0.8.0...
  Installing RDoc documentation for rak-0.8.0...
  ~ >

Great, let’s move on.

Using rak

Now that it’s installed, we can use Rak by typing rak from the command line. You’d typically want to run this from within the root of your application.

For example, basic usage would look like the following.

$ rak search-pattern

In my first test, I ran rak README.

Immediately, I see a greater advantage to rak over using grep and that’s because it’s giving me line numbers for free, which takes remembering a few extra options with grep.

Like grep, we can specify a specific path to search with. For example, we use a view helper named link_to_unimplemented to help us track actions that aren’t implemented yet. Looking at a current project, I can run rak link_to_unimplemented app/views and produce the following results.

I’m going to keep playing with it, but wanted to help get the word out. If you have any tips on using it, please share them in the comments. :-)

Using MacPorts Ruby and Rails after Upgrading to OS X Leopard

Posted by Sat, 27 Oct 2007 09:43:00 GMT

If you previously followed my article, Installing Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL on OS X, second edition and are now upgrading to OS X Leopard, you’ll want to make a few adjustments to your setup.

First of all, it’s great that Apple has decided to provide Ruby on Rails out of the box.

~ > gem list rails                                                                                                                                                                   
  *** LOCAL GEMS ***

  rails (1.2.3)
      Web-application framework with template engine, control-flow layer,
      and ORM.
How many gems does it come with?

~ > gem list|grep '^[a-z]'|wc -l                                                                                                                                                     

It’s really great that Apple shipped Leopard pre-installed with 29 gems, especially if you don’t have your entire Rails stack setup already. In my case and for those that have followed my installation process, you don’t need to switch over to this new development stack (yet). I have a lot of time invested in my fully-functionaly MacPorts installation process (PostgreSQL, MySQL, RMagick, Subversion, Git, etc. Since this all working fine on my machine, I’m not ready to make the switch to Apple’s installation.

Don’t Fix it… if it’s not broken!

So, the the first thing that I did was modify my PATH environment variable, which has /usr/bin as the first path that it’ll look at when you try to run commands like ruby, mongrel_rails, gem, etc. You’ll want to modify this and prepend /opt/local/bin: to the front of PATH in your shell configuration. If you’re using bash, this would be… ~/.bashrc. If you’re using zshell like me, ~/.zshrc.

Now, when you start a new Terminal and run gem list, you’ll see all of the gems that you already have installed.

~ > gem list rails                                                                                                                                   < new-host

*** LOCAL GEMS ***

rails (1.2.5, 1.2.4, 1.2.3, 1.1.6)
    Web-application framework with template engine, control-flow layer,
    and ORM.

Back to my happy gems…

~ > gem list|grep '^[a-z]'|wc -l                                                                                                                                                              < new-host

Great! Now I can get back to work and spend time playing with the new features in Finder,, and iChat instead of installing all of the software dependencies that our development projects have. :-)

Rails Development Performance Tip - dev_mode_performance_fixes

Posted by Wed, 29 Aug 2007 01:57:00 GMT

When you’re running a Rails application in development mode, you might notice that it takes a little longer for requests to get processed and this is somewhat intentional as the framework is was designed to allow you to run the application and make live changes to it. This way you can do some basic functional tests from your web browser, work on HTML/CSS changes, or anything else that might need to be done in development mode.

Anyhow, this can be slow from time to time and if you’ve done much Ajax work, you might be familiar with how slow this can feel when performing some basic tasks. Well, thanks to Josh Goebel, we can speed up things with a new plugin he just released.

To install via piston:

cd vendor/plugins; piston import

To install via script/plugin:

./script/plugin install

Josh has posted some benchmarks and in my totally basic tests… shows about four times (4x) speed improvement for reqs/sec!

How does it work? From what I can tell, it works somewhat like autotest, in that keeps things cached and when it sees files modified, it re-caches the changes. He’s made it so that the stack doesn’t need to reload for each request, which is quite slow.

Since it’s development-mode only, I’d encourage you to install it and give it a whirl.

Have Fun!

RubyURL bookmarklet 2.0

Posted by Tue, 28 Aug 2007 14:51:00 GMT

If you’re using the bookmarklet for RubyURL, you will want to update it with the latest version as there was apparently a bug in the JavaScript and some URLs would fail to redirect properly. Thanks to the help of Jerome, this is now fixed.

So, head over to RubyURL and update your bookmarket. Not sure what I’m talking about? Watch the video.

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

Posted by Tue, 19 Jun 2007 17:54:00 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)

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