Virtualised Ruby on Rails development environment for dummies

Ruby, Software, Virtualisation Add comments

Ruby development was always meant to be done on a *nix platform. For a while now I’ve been putting up with the Windows XP / Cygwin combination on my laptop to give me a pseudo-*nix environment. While this is a workable compromise, it is far from ideal. A lot of the Ruby tools don’t work well on Cygwin: crashes and mysterious hangings are common, execution times are slow and frustration is high.

The common solution to this problem is a walk to the closest Apple shop to get a shiny new Mac, but I’m not cool enough for a Mac so I decided to try something more befitting my coolness level: A Linux virtual machine running on my Dell laptop.

These are the steps you need to get a Ubuntu Virtual Machine running Rails over MySQL on your Windows machine.

Step 1: Setup a Virtual Machine (VM)

First we need to get a virtual machine configured and running with a *nix Operating System. I’ve chosen Ubuntu Server because all I need is shell access. You can use Ubuntu Desktop if you plan to use the VM as your development desktop.

  1. Download the latest version of VMware Server or VMware Player. VMware Player is a lighter download but can only operate VMs, VMware server can operate and create VMs. Either will work for our purposes, I used VMware Server.
  2. Download and unzip the latest Ubuntu Server VMware image. I used version 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon.
  3. Start VMware Server, point it at the downloaded image and start it.
  4. The virtual machine will start up and should come up with a login prompt. Hit Enter a couple of times on the console if it doesn’t.

Step 2: Get access

In this step we create a user on the VM and configure it for external shell access through SSH.

  1. Login using the username “notroot” and the password “thoughtpolice”.
  2. Install OpenSSH.
  3. > sudo apt-get install ssh

  4. Create yourself a user.
  5. > sudo adduser –shell /bin/bash <user_name>

  6. Add the user to the admin group (so they can do sudo, you can play around with sudoedit instead if you like).
  7. > sudo usermod -g admin <user_name>

  8. Get the IP address of the virtual machine.
  9. > sudo ifconfig eth0

  10. Fire up your favourite terminal program (I use PuTTY) and SSH to the VM using the user you created above.

Step 3: Install Ruby, Ruby on Rails and MySQL

Now we install some core development packages.

  1. Update the package index.
  2. > sudo apt-get update

  3. Install Ruby and related tools.
  4. > sudo apt-get install ruby rubygems irb ri rdoc ruby1.8-dev build-essential

  5. Install Ruby on Rails.
  6. > sudo apt-get install rails

  7. Install MySQL.
  8. > sudo apt-get install mysql-server

Step 4: Create a Rails project and fire it up

We have everything we need, let’s create a Rails project and access it from Windows.

  1. Create a Rails project in your home directory.
  2. > cd ~/projects
    > rails killerapp
    > cd killerapp

  3. Create a database.
  4. > mysqladmin -u root -p create killerapp_development

  5. Configure the database in your Rail application config/database.yml.
  6. Start the WEBrick server. You have to bind it to the external IP address (not localhost) to make it available though windows.
  7. > ./scripts/server -b <vm_ip_address> &

  8. On your favourite Windows browser, navigate to: http://<vm_ip_address>:3000/.The default Rails landing page should come up! You can add this IP address to the Windows hosts file to avoid having to remember it.

Step 5: Set up Samba (optional)

It’s useful to be able to share files between the VM and Windows, especially if you plan to use a Windows based IDE like Eclipse to craft your code. VMware has a “Shared Folders” feature but I gave up trying to get it to work after several hours of bashing my head against Google. I reverted back to Samba, which is trivial to configure.

  1. Install Samba.
  2. > sudo apt-get install samba

  3. Add the user to the smbpasswd file.
  4. > sudo smbpasswd -a <user_name>

  5. Open the Samba configuration file for editing.
  6. > sudo vi /etc/samba/smb.conf

  7. Remove the ‘;’ from the line that says “security = user,”.
  8. Add the following to the end of the file.
  9. [<user_name>]
    path = /home/<user_name>
    valid users = <user_name>
    read only = No
    create mask = 0777
    directory mask = 0777

  10. Save and close the file.
  11. Restart Samba.
  12. > sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

  13. On Windows Explorer, Map Network Drive \\<vm_ip_address>\<user_name>, login using “<user_name>”.

That’s it! I haven’t used this environment in anger yet so there are bound to be some holes, let me know if you fall into any.

3 Responses to “Virtualised Ruby on Rails development environment for dummies”

  1. Richard Durnall Says:

    Buy a mac! You know you want to.

  2. uvt Says:

    Cool Tomas, Though I figured out all this myself and am using it since long, it was good to find that you have documented it quite well here. Thx!

  3. Jan Kaas Says:

    @Richard Durnall

    Don’t make stupid comments, you know you want to!

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