Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Itty Bitty Bit Tsunami

I have a new secret love.

When I switched from Windows to Linux about six months ago I needed a way to set up my Ruby on Rails environment. It's possible to do natively, twiddling this and that, configuring here and there, crossing and uncrossing multiple fingers. But I didn't want to do that.

I now have enough information to try, because it's something I need to do. It will be good to know, and doing things that way will be better in the long run. I will be more in charge of my development environment. It is simply necessary. No way around that.

But not just yet.

I had been using Instant Rails: "Instant Rails is a one-stop Rails runtime solution containing Ruby, Rails, Apache, and MySQL, all pre-configured and ready to run. No installer, you simply drop it into the directory of your choice and run it. It does not modify your system environment."

True. And it worked fine.

But it was a product for Windows, and, um, I wasn't there any more. And the original maintainer, Curt Hibbs, had decided to move on. So it became a bit iffy. And then again, Rails was moving faster, and going to new versions. I began to get dizzy.

So I decided to try the BitNami Ruby Stack.

Sounded a little iffy in itself. Download a whole environment, complete with Apache, Mongrel, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Webrick, MySQL, unpack it, and then run it. Oya.

But it worked.

It isn't as slick as Instant Rails, which truly is not amazingly slick. I have to manually start services and switch directories and use the command line to fire things up and shut them down again. But it works. Works fine.

Now I have a spare computer with a fresh copy of Kubuntu on it, and I can play there with setting up my own environment from the ground up. Meanwhile, I have BitNami. And in case you wonder about whether it isolates the development environment the way it says it does, I recently switched computers.

One I had been using mostly for writing, and the other for development. But the development box needs more memory. It's dead slow, while the computer I have been using for writing is new, has lots of RAM, and a faster processor. So I swapped them.

Moving my whole BitNami environment and two live development web sites plus a couple of test sites (along with the Radiant CMS system) was a matter of copying the directory tree from one computer to the other.

Bing. That's all.

BitNami is clunky in that the documentation is about as sparse as it can be without disappearing entirely, and it's awkward to doink with the command line every time I want to do something, but it works. Every time.

And for the price -- free -- who am I to complain?

BitNami stacks make it incredibly easy to install your favorite open source software. Application stacks include an open source application and all the dependencies necessary to run it, such as Apache, MySQL and PHP or Ruby. All you need to do is download the Stack, provide a few pieces of information when prompted by the installation wizard, and that's it. By the time you click 'finish', your new application will be ready to run. All stacks have been packaged using BitRock's multiplatform installer.

Easy to install: In just a few clicks, you can have your favorite open source applications up and running.

Multiplatform: BitNami Stacks are available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X.

Integrated: By the time you click 'finish', the software will be integrated, configured and ready to go.

Independent: BitNami Stacks won't interfere with any software already installed on your system.

Run Natively: The stacks install directly on your system - no virtual machine required.

Open Source: All BitNami Stacks are free to download and use under the terms of the Apache License 2.0


BitNami blog
Instant Rails


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