Walking With Rails 1 - Setup On Ubuntu

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One of my goals for 2010 is to gain a decent understanding of the Ruby On Rails framework.  I don't think that this knowledge will directly help me with my current job (as a FileNet P8 administrator), but I do think that it will provide some good benefits.

First, learning about something that's a little bit outside of your comfort zone can often help you with your day-to-day tasks.  For example, if you teach yourself the basics of Java development, then you will know how to read a stack trace.  Having this knowledge is very important if you want to administer software written in Java.

Also, it's just fun. Creating something useful out of a few lines of text never ceases to amaze me.  Also, I find that learning new technical skills is good for your brain.

Finally, who knows what the future may bring?  It never hurts to know as much as you can about popular technologies in general when you work in IT.

So to get started, I purchased a copy of Agile Web Development with Rails, Third Edition from the Pragmatic Programmers' web site.  This book seems to be one of the best for beginners, and I really love that you can buy DRM-free ebooks from the Pragmatic Programmers' web site.

Installing Ubuntu Packages

So enough background information.  Here's how I set up my system to get started with Rails development.  First, I installed all of the necessary software on my Ubuntu 9.10 machine that was  available as an Ubuntu package:

sudo apt-get install rails ruby-full rubygems rake mongrel git-core sqlite3

Here's why I installed more than just the rails and ruby pacakges.  When you install Ruby from source on a Linux machine, you get a lot of software.  In addition to the Ruby runtime, you get fun tools like irb, rubygems, rdoc, ri,and rake.  However, when you install the ruby package on Ubuntu and Debian, you just get the Ruby runtime along with a a couple of libraries. 

Since I'm lazy efficient guy, I decided to install the ruby-full package instead to save a few keustrokes.  Unfortunately, the ruby-full package still doesn't include rake*or *rubygems, so I installed those manually.

Mongrel is a developer's web server that is designed to work very well with Ruby on Rails development.  Since I am also impatient, I wanted a web server that would work a little faster than WEBrick.

Finally, I installed git because I wanted to share code between two different computers.  Git is a version control system that is very popular with Ruby developers, so I figured that I would use the most popular Ruby-related tools while I'm learning about Ruby.

Installing Software Without apt-get

Natrually, you can't install everything that you need with apt-get.  For starters, the version of rails that is used in Agile Web Development with Rails, Third Edition is 2.2.2, so let's install that using rubygems:

sudo gem install rails --version 2.2.2

This operation took a little while (~ 7 minutes) on my machine for some reason.

Next, I'm a Vim user, so I would like to see if the rails.vim plugin would help me at all.  There is an official Ubuntu package for this plugin called vim-rails, but when I try to install it using apt-get, I get the following error:

Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
or been moved out of Incoming. The following information may help
to resolve the situation: 

The following packages have unmet dependencies: vim-rails: Depends:
vim-full but it is not installable 
E: Broken packages

When I tried to install the vim-full package on my machine, I got this error:

Package vim-full is not available, but is referred to by another
package. This may mean that the package is missing, has been
obsoleted, or is only available from another source 
E: Package vim-full has no installation candidate

Ok, so after all of that, let's just install it the easy way. After you install the latest version of rails.zip, do the following:

$ cp rails.zip ~/.vim
$ cd ~/.vim
$ unzip rails.zip

Finally, open vim or gvim and execute the following command:

:helptags ~/.vim/doc

In case your interested, here are the other Vim-related packages that I have installed on my machine:

  • vim-common
  • vim-gnome
  • vim-gui-commom
  • vim-runtime
  • vim-tiny


And that's it!  I now appear to have everything that I need to complete the beginning examples in Agile Web Development with Rails using Ubuntu 9.10 and Vim.

Update (1/20/10) - I added the sqlite3 package to the apt-get line above.  This package is necessary if you want to query your database manually.

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