rod mclaughlin

How to Install Rails on Ubuntu (17 dec 08)

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Dec 17, 2008

The instructions at Ruby on Rails don't work (

There are a number of other things you have to do to make Rails 2.x work on Linux and any other platform - in this case, it was about thirty other things. I found most of this information by googling it. I have given attributions to the most important sources of information, but not all of them (thanks...).

This is what I had to do. Your mileage may vary.

First get Ubuntu Linux from
I got version 7.10. The latest is 8.04 at the time of writing.

At the top of the monitor after installing and logging in to Ubuntu, you will see Applications. Click on that, then select Accessories...Terminal. In the terminal, type these commands:


sudo apt-get install ruby 

(enter password and answer Y to all questions)

sudo apt-get install mysql-client-5.0

Then go to
and download the latest rubygems-xxx.tgz. Unzip it like this:

tar xvfz rubygems-xxx.tgz
cd rubygems-xxx
sudo apt-get install rdoc
sudo ruby setup.rb

Again, the instructions are wrong. Just doing 'ruby setup.rb' won't work.

sudo mv /usr/bin/gem1.8 /usr/bin/gem
cd ..
sudo gem install rails --include-dependencies
sudo apt-get install sqlite3
sudo apt-get install ruby1.8-dev
sudo apt-get install libmysql-ruby1.8
sudo apt-get install libmysqlclient15-dev

(that's a number fifteen in the middle)

sudo gem install mysql
sudo apt-get install mysql-server

It will ask for a MySQL password it should use for user 'root'. It's a good idea to enter one, rather than just hitting enter, like I did.


sudo apt-get install build-essential

Ubuntu then asked me to insert the Ubuntu CD!

Luckily, I still had it. I thought only Windows did that!


sudo gem install mongrel
sudo apt-get install sqlite3 swig libsqlite3-ruby libsqlite3-dev

A hat-tip to
for that last command. Next

sudo gem install sqlite3-ruby
sudo apt-get install openssl
sudo apt-get install libssl-dev
sudo apt-get install libopenssl-ruby
sudo apt-get install libssl0.9.8

Now I recommend going to for detailed instructions on how to create a simple Rails app. The old Agile Web Development with Rails 2nd edition is out of date, and Rails 2 is incompatible with it. By the time you read this, the 3rd edition may be out.

Ready? The next bit is more fun than the previous bit...

rails example
cd example
rake db:create:all
script/generate scaffold Movie title:string
rake db:migrate
script/server &

(The & makes the Ruby web server run in the background so you can carry on using the terminal). Now point your browser at localhost:3000/movies and you should be able to click on 'New movie' to create a new movie in the database.

Currently, Rails uses SQLITE for development. You probably want a grown-up database as well, so you might want to try MySQL.

mysql -u root
 (enter password)
mysql> create database movies_development;
mysql> create database movies_test;
mysql> create database movies_production;
mysql> quit;

Now edit the file database.yml in the config folder in your Rails app to look like this


login: &login
   adapter: mysql
   username: root 
   host: localhost 

   <<: *login
   database: movies_development 

   <<: *login
   database: movies_test 

   <<: *login
   database: movies_production

Thanks to
for this tip. Enter


then CONTROL-Cto stop the Rails server, restart it, and create the database in MySQL

script/server &
rake db:create:all
rake db:migrate

Got to localhost:3000/movies again and see if you can create a movie using MySQL.

It sucks, doesn't it? Rails should be a lot easier to install than this. Like Perl modules. It should be possible to get up and running in Rails without being a sysadmin. Ruby's own package-management system, GEM, is pretty good, but Linux packages are a cluster. This page will get out of date pretty quickly (Ubuntu has already overtaken me) but I'm not going to maintain an install script for numerous versions of Ubuntu, let alone other operating systems. Somewhere out there there must be a geek who likes doing this kind of thing...

Portland London