Setting up Ubuntu for Ruby on Rails development

NOTE: This is a work-in-progress. I’m publishing it early so that Sam can use it. If it doesn’t work for you exactly as expected, well, that’s to be expected.

Every time I setup a new Ubuntu machine, I have to search around to come up with a procedure for getting everything I need to develop Ruby on Rails apps. Here it is pre-packaged.

(The configuration below is based on my current preferences: Ubuntu 9.04, ruby 1.8, rails 2.3.2, mysql 5, subversion plugin for Eclipse (subclipse), Eclipse with Aptana and RadRails. Ruby 1.9 is starting to gain momentum, but I haven’t used it yet. Oh, and most of the instructions below are for command line users. Try it. You’ll like it.)

After installing Ubuntu 9.04 (which is not covered here), install Eclipse, subversion, ruby and mysql like so:

sudo apt-get install eclipse ruby libmysql-ruby mysql-client mysql-server irb
mongrel rdoc ri ruby-dev rubygems subversion

The first thing to note is that while Eclipse works with the out-of-the box java installed with Ubuntu 9.04, Aptana does not. So install the Sun Java JRE like so:

sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jre

Then, configure the system to use the new java by default:

sudo update-alternatives --config java

With Eclipse, you can’t rely on the command above to make it use the Sun Java. So, edit the Eclipse configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/eclipse/java_home

Comment out the java-gcj line and add a line for sun just after it:


Fire up Eclipse from the Applications menu. (Applications -> Programming -> Eclipse). Then, install the Aptana plugin. Within Eclipse, click on Help -> Software Updates -> Find and Install -> Search for New Features to Install. Add a new Remote Site for updates with the following URL:

Make sure it is checked, then click Finish. Eclipse should then walk through the Aptana installation. After restarting, you’ll see the Aptana welcome screen. Look for the link which will install RadRails. Once you’ve done that, it is time to install subclipse–the subversion plugin for Eclipse. Go to Help -> Software Updates -> Find and Install -> Search for New Features and create a new remote site with the following URL:

Go through the same steps from the previous step to add the SVN client.

That’s it for the installation. You’ll probably want to customize some settings in Eclipse. Make sure the settings for the ruby interpreter, rake, mongrel, etc.  are accurate. I like to turn line numbers on in the Text Editor preferences.

Your project may require one or more “gems” for ruby. Most can be installed with a command like this:

sudo gem install [gem-name]

Of course, you haven’t even installed rails yet. So do that:

sudo gem install rails

One gem you’ll need is rake. The rake package from the Ubuntu repository is old. Get the new one and then symlink it to make it more accessible:

sudo gem install rake
sudo ln -s /var/lib/gems/1.8/gems/rake-0.8.4/bin/rake /usr/bin/rake

And, it isn’t a bad idea to put the gems’ bin folder in the system path so things like autospec work correctly. To do so, create this file:

sudo nano /etc/profile.d/
# Here's the one-line for the file:
export PATH=$PATH:/var/lib/gems/1.8/bin

Reboot or just logout to trigger it. This wordpress editor is super annoying, so I’m done now.