Capistrano Hanging During .tgz Upload

I just spent an annoying amount of time troubleshooting a new cap-based deploy.rb for a Rails app to a new CentOS 6.4 server. The deploy.rb worked perfectly on other systems, but something about the configuration was causing `cap deploy’ to hang during the following:

servers: [“”]
** sftp upload /var/folders/0j/vmvt2by53m901wtmfv8xfjw40000gn/T/20130530225953.tar.gz -> /tmp/20130530225953.tar.gz

Long story short, when manually sftp’ing to the server, I’d get:

Received message too long 458961005

Ah ha! After taking a cue from this dude, I edited the .bashrc to redirect any output to /dev/null. I could then successufully sftp to the server manually, and `cap deploy’ magically worked as expected. The offending line was actually rvm, which of course insists on print a color-coded message when you `rvm use 2.0.0′ (or whatever). Changing the offending line to:

rvm use 2.0.0 >> /dev/null

..did the trick.

Proxy Authentication Against Devise-Based Ruby Applications

(Quick GitHub link!)

My team at TGen has a Rails application using a typical devise + cancan installation for authentication and authorization, respectively, and a related Apache HTTPD proxy server we needed to authenticate against active accounts in the webapp before passing traffic to their destination, which is a single host. We tried mod_authn_dbd for a while, but the combination of Devise’s default adapive bcrypt password encryption that is not supported by mod_authn_dbd by default, a complex set of SQL statements to process the authorization directly, and that none of the existing modules seem to be able to do what we want, made it a messy ordeal.

Instead, we created devise-proxy: a simple proxy server written as Rack Middleware that you can deploy using Passenger within Apache or nginx. You simply provide devise-proxy with a config.yml file defining the hostname and port of the devise webapp to use as an authentication web service, and hostname and port of a single server to use as a forwarding target.

Clients connecting to the proxy use the email/password for their proxy username/password credentials. All authenticated clients will be forwarded to your provided host/port, but using the path in the client’s original HTTP request. Clients failing to authenticate will receive a 403 and the forwarding host will never be hit.

gem install devise-proxy # to install

git clone git:// # to clone!

devise-proxy is released under a BSD license via the GitHub project, here. Good luck!

Spring 2011 ASU Webapp Course

In Spring 2011, the College of Technology and Innovation at the ASU Polytechnic campus will again be offering CST 533/494: Database-Centric Enterprise Application Development. The calendar is not yet out, but should soon be listed as a Thursday evening class: one night per week for the Spring semester. The course will be available at both undergraduate and graduate levels for 3 credit hours.
The course essentially teaches dynamic web application architecture concepts and development processes using Ruby (w/Rails), Java (w/Spring, Eclipse, and Tomcat), SQLite, MySQL, and other industry favorite technologies as a means to the learning process.
  • New technologists: If you’re looking for training and experience in this area, definitely check out the ASU Polytechnic campus.
  • Old hats: If you are an “old hat” software engineer just looking for the credit hours, this may provide a fun, project-oriented opportunity towards working on your degree.
  • Companies: I am always on the lookout for opportunities to expose students to industry perspectives. If you’re interested in any sort of corporate sponsorship or collaboration, please contact me directly.

Upgrading From Ruby 1.9.1 to Ruby 1.9.2

I’ve spent half the day so far inbeded in the furious stressful upgrade process of a handful of Ubuntu Linux 10.04 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard systems from Ruby 1.9.1 to Ruby 1.9.2. I haven’t even gotten to the Rails 3.0.0 stuff yet: just the baseline Ruby installation. I’ve gone through the upgrade process on both types of systems so far and the base issues have been the same. Here’s a common issue that many people are running into:

preston$ gem1.9

/opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems/source_index.rb:68:in `installed_spec_directories’: undefined method `path’ for Gem:Module (NoMethodError)
from /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems/source_index.rb:58:in `from_installed_gems’
from /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems.rb:883:in `source_index’
from /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems/gem_path_searcher.rb:81:in `init_gemspecs’
from /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems/gem_path_searcher.rb:13:in `initialize’
from /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems.rb:841:in `new’
from /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/1.9.1/rubygems.rb:841:in `block in searcher’
from <internal:prelude>:10:in `synchronize’
<…and so on…>

Assuming you’re upgrading from a previous Ruby installation, note that the “site_ruby” directories are no longer used, and will eff up your 1.9.2 installation if you fail to delete them after the install. On OS X, run:

sudo rm -rf /opt/local/lib/ruby1.9/site_ruby/

On Ubuntu Linux 10.04, run:

rm -rf /usr/local/lib/ruby/site_ruby/

…to correct this issue. All note that you may see errors such as this:

root@li92-132:~# rake –version

/usr/local/lib/ruby/1.9.1/rubygems.rb:340:in `bin_path’: can’t find executable rake for rake-0.8.7 (Gem::Exception)

from /usr/local/bin/rake:19:in `<main>’

…despite have a rake gem installed. Apparently 1.9.2 comes with a version of rake internally, but is unable to find it for some reason relating to the rake.gemspec file. Remove the file to fix this issue. On Ubuntu Linux 10.04, run:
rm /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/specifications/rake.gemspec
Notice the “1.9.1” path of the PATH. Yeah.. it’s weird. But for compatibility reasons your 1.9.2 installation will continue to use a path with 1.9.1. To quote the Ruby 1.9.2 FAQ page:
The standard library is installed in /usr/local/lib/ruby/1.9.1
This version number is “library compatibility version”. Ruby 1.9.2 is mostly compatible with the 1.9.1, so its library is installed in the directory.
I’m sure there’s a wonderful technical reason for this, but it’s still misleading and confusing as hell. I ended up manually deleting a bunch of stuff I shouldn’t have because I thought I was innocently “cleaning up” after the old version. Whatever. Additional suggestions:
  • Just to keep things clean, you may also want to remove your old Ruby 1.8.x builds. (I recommend doing so unless you have older apps that haven’t moved to 1.9.x yet.)
  • Phusion Passenger seems to work fine on Ubuntu 10.04 with the latest version of Apache 2 as of this writing, though don’t forget to recompile, reinstall, reconfigure and restart apache2 when you do so.
  • Check if you still need rack v1.0.1 installed (for older Rails app) before nuking everything. 🙁
I need a beer!

The Truth About Integrating Rails In The Enterprise

Ruby on Rails is a great RAD framework. We use it all the time. But one place Rails loses its magic–while not the fault of the framework itself–is with external integrations to legacy systems.

First of all, soap4r sucks. Everyone I’ve seen try to pick it up has gotten frustrated and angry at how awkward it is to write a SOAP client in Ruby compared to Java and .Net tools, which can do the same thing in a matter of minutes. Since RoR IDEs aren’t exactly 1337 yet, we need to put some serious love here as a community to prevent larger companies with heavy SOA leanings from running away screaming.

For some reason, many people seem to think that pouring t3h Rails int3rn3ts into an infrastructure will suddenly trim 75%+ off all development and maintenance costs, complete with rounded corners and shrink-wrapped buttons. Wrong. Many of the development tasks will take significantly shorter times to develop under timeframe expectations relative to Java and .Net, yes, but you can’t avoid costs associated with migrating legacy data and integrating with retarded external systems such as your ghetto-ass SOAP services. Nor should you avoid design activities such as usability analysis or proper testing practices. 

So if you have a web project that lives in complete isolation and does not have any legacy issues with which to deal, OpenRain can bust out that web project in a heartbeat. But if you have unresolved data management and integration issues, there is no acts_as_silver_bullet plugin which can save you the burden of having to actually think about and address those problems. Rails isn’t the cold bucket of water for your data nightmares.

Asset Tracking Webapp Written In Ruby On Rails


Keeping track of company assets is important for insurance, warrantee and general informational purposes for purchased software licenses and hardware. I wanted a dirt-simple webapp written in Ruby on Rails, so I wrote one the other night and put the code on github. It’s a really simple Rails 2.2.2 app … no frills but does the job. If anyone would like to add some frills such as searching, sorting, pagination etc. I’d be happy to pull them back in. OpenRain would be very thankful 🙂
“A simple web-based asset tracking system for small businesses written in Ruby on Rails (RoR). New equipment is assigned to a specific location and the responsible person is notified of the assignment. You may optionally add serial numbers and an arbitrary amount of notes to each asset. Configured to run on top of PostgreSQL and sendmail by default, though both are reconfigurable.”

Speaking Twice At ABLEconf: Saturday, September 20th, 2008

I’ll be giving two sessions this Saturday, September 20th, 2008 at ABLEconf: Arizona Business and Liberty Experience hosted at the University of Advancing Technology. The first will be a ~50 minute getting-started-with-ruby-on-rails type session aimed at developers similar to the one I’m giving this Wednesday for Joe Developer. The second will be a plug-heavy talk over how OpenRain does F/OSS-friendly web development in the commercial space using F/OSS software and tools, targeted for a business-minded crowd.

ABLEconf is a new event so I’m not sure what to expect, though I’d put my money on a lot of systems-level event content since much of the participation seems to be from local Linux groups.

Speaking At Joe Developer: Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

This Wednesday evening, OpenRain will be hosting and providing food for Phoenix’s East-valley Joe Developer group. I’ll be giving a getting-started-with-ruby-on-rails type demo, after which I’m sure there’ll be good conversation and fun. Attendance and food are free. Food will be hot at 6PM. [Venue] [Google Group]

Installing The MySQL Ruby Gem When Using The Official MySQL .dmg

If you installed MySQL using the official .dmg package provided by MySQL AB/Sun and are trying to install the native MySQL gem, you’ll need to pass a bunch of flags to the gem install process to get the thing to compile. Try this..

sudo gem install mysql — –with-mysql-config=/usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql_config

..if you still have issues (check your /opt/local/lib/ruby/gems/<ruby_ver>/gems/mysql-<gem_ver>/mkmf.log file), try this instead..

sudo gem install mysql — –with-mysql-dir=/usr/local/mysql –with-mysql-include=/usr/local/mysql/include/ –with-mysql-lib=/usr/local/mysql/lib/ –with-mysql-config=/usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql_config

Run `sudo gem install mysql` and definitely recheck the log file again as the gem install process sometimes reports false positives even if native components fail to install.