Today I upgraded to rails 2.3.5 on a server that had an old version of Ubuntu. This is with an old version of ruby 1.9 that was installed using the Ubuntu packages rather than rvm. Here’s what I had to do:

1. Change the rails version

I changed the version in config/environment.rb to 2.3.15.

RAILS_GEM_VERSION = '2.3.15' unless defined? RAILS_GEM_VERSION

More information here.

2. Turn off yaml and symbol deserialization

Add this to config/environment.rb, just before the last end statement (at the end of the configuration block):


More information here. This is apparently also solved by the rails update above, but since this flaw is so harmful I’m glad to have it fixed in more than one place.

3. Require thread

I got this from a StackOverflow post. I added this to the top of config/boot.rb:

require 'thread'

# Don't change this file!
# Configure your app in config/environment.rb and config/environments/*.rb

It says not to change the file, but in this case I am not changing the file to customize my rails app but to make it work with a newer version. I’m not sure this step was necessary.

3. Upgrade rubygems

I had an old version of rubygems. It was installed with apt-get, so I couldn’t upgrade it with gem update --system. Furthermore, since I was running an old version of Ubuntu, apt-get upgrades weren’t working for me. So instead I uninstalled rubygems and installed it from source.

5. Install the gems

I installed the gems for rails with gem install rails --version 2.3.15 and also installed thin and mysql.

6. Restart the web server

Finally I restarted the web server.

Now, this is just one system configuration and chances are most are different so this may not help you. The uninstalling of rubygems and reinstallation from source took quite a while to figure out so I thought I’d share. If this doesn’t solve your problem, you may leave a comment and if I have time I’ll try to help you figure out what went wrong with yours.

In the last couple of years I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend: developers adopting free Heroku as their only means of hosting side projects. More disturbingly, I operated this way myself for a couple of years. (Yes, freemium can be a trap for customers just like it can be a trap for businesses.)

Heroku has five megabytes for database space, which often sounds like it ought to be enough when it isn’t. Want auditing and comments? Nah, that’ll take up too much space. Its single dyno free plan serves one request at a time. The next steps up are twenty dollars a month and five cents an hour for databases and dynos, respectively. These aren’t that expensive for a major project, but for several side projects it quickly adds up.

I realized this and switched back to running a VPS, this time on Zerigo, which I pay for annually. There is no limit to the number of apps I have. Concurrent requests are supported. They can use the same databases. Database backups are free and uncomplicated. I’m also happy to be outside of the cloud oligopoly that seems to be forming.

Besides that, it’s fun! I get to try niche language platforms. Node.js was building steam long before Heroku supported it, and it still doesn’t support websockets. It’s not hard to find, with a little thinking, other interesting platforms to try. How about Racket or Factor? Or setting up your own Lucene server, or a web server that uses the git command line tool? Those can’t (easily) be run with Heroku.

I find anecdotally that most developers don’t have their own websites or non-trivial side projects. I only have the first, but I can sense that my personal website is helping me prepare to launch non-trivial side projects. I’ve done very little work to set up this server, yet despite tweeting about it and having visitors and occasional commenters, it stays up. That gives me the confidence I need to launch something bigger.

My plea to other developers (and aspiring developers) out there is to draw parallels between programming and other creative works and find out how much you could responsibly be spending for hosting side projects, and then realize that there’s no reason you shouldn’t have at least a VPS.