Prepping for @MadisonRuby with RVM JRuby and Rails

@MadisonRuby is finally here. I’m excited to attend the conference at my home state’s capital. It will be a unique opportunity to meet up with many of the contributors and characters known in the Ruby community, and to finally put a voice and face to the name. There will be plenty to learn and do at the conference, and lots of kick-ass people to meet while we’re there.

Before we get to the conference, I figured it would be wise to get my local environment prepped and ready for some mid-conference hacking sessions so I’m not scrambling to install stuff I need while I’m at the conference.

I find that searching through a ton of different blogs to find the right steps to complete can be a pain, especially when under a time crunch at a conference, when you just want to Get Things Done.

If you don’t have a jruby environment installed yet, hopefully you will find my bash script reusable for your environment. The goal is to simply install RVM, JRuby and Rails with one simple step. In addition, I have added the installation of essential Ruby gems that you will need to use in order to develop rails apps in JRuby, like the jdbc activerecord sqlite3 adapter, and even deployment/debugging gems.

This script is intended to be used from your user/home directory. If you encounter any issues using the script, please let me know as soon as possible and we can work towards fixing it before the conference this week. Enjoy! I welcome any kind of feedback. I’ll see you on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Mad Town!

# Install RVM

curl -s;

# Place RVM in .bash_profile so that it's recognized as a command
echo "[[ -s "/Users/`echo $USER`/.rvm/scripts/rvm" ]] && source "/Users/`echo $USER`/.rvm/scripts/rvm"  # This loads RVM into a shell session." >> .bash_profile

source ~/.bash_profile;

# Install JRuby
rvm install jruby-1.6.5;

# Set JRuby paths in your .bash_profile
echo "export JRUBY_HOME=/Users/`echo $USER`/.rvm/src/jruby-1.6.5" >> .bash_profile
echo "export PATH=$JRUBY_HOME/bin:$PATH" >> .bash_profile

source ~/.bash_profile;

# Activate JRuby
rvm jruby-1.6.5;
rvm use jruby-1.6.5;

# Update the core gem system
gem update --system

# Install core gems needed for rails / jruby development
gem install rails;
gem install jruby-openssl;
gem install activerecord-jdbcsqlite3-adapter;

# Deploy with Capistrano
gem install 'capistrano'

# To use debugger (ruby-debug for Ruby 1.8.7+, ruby-debug19 for Ruby 1.9.2+)
gem install 'ruby-debug'
gem install 'ruby-debug19', :require => 'ruby-debug'

# Bundle the extra gems:
gem install 'bj'
gem install 'nokogiri'


Avoid Dependency Whack-a-mole with Bundler

We’ve all been there. At one time or another, we’ve installed a gem that has other dependencies that conflict with other gems on our system, and we end up playing dependency whack-a-mole or monkey-patching our way to a working environment. Along comes Bundler, a tool with a goal to be the solution to this problem.

Bundler assumes you have a Gemfile at the root of your project; this applies not only rails projects, but to other Ruby projects or gems as well. Entries in the Gemfile look like the following:

#Gemfile format: gem , (, :require => ) (, :git=>repo)
gem ‘activemerchant’, ‘1.4.2’
gem ‘nokogiri’
gem ‘faker’, ‘> 0.3’
gem ‘decent_exposure’, ‘~> 1.0.0.rc1’
gem ‘rspec’, ‘2.0.0.beta.20’
gem ‘sqlite3-ruby’, :require => ‘sqlite3’
gam ‘paperclip’, :git => ‘git://’
gem ‘deep_merge’, ‘1.0’, :git => ‘git://’

# specify a git repo should use a particular branch as options to git directive
git ‘git://’, :branch => ‘2-3-stable’

# install from a specific branch when installing a gem inline
gem ‘nokogiri’, :igt => ‘git://’, :ref => ‘0eec4’

#install from local code
gem ‘nokogiri’, :path => ‘~/code/nokogiri’

Once you have your Gemfile ready to go and all dependencies listed, you can run:
bundle install
to ensure all dependencies will be installed and available to your application. You may notice that this will start to install more gems than you’ve listed in your Gemfile. This is because it ensures that any dependencies of your listed dependencies are installed, and so on. Bundler is as conservative in its installation as possible, only installing dependencies with versions that do not conflict with other dependencies.

If you have listed libraries that should only be installed in certain environments, you may run:
bundle install –without development test

The default location for bundler installations is ~/.bundler. To change this, use:
bundle install

To force installation and not use previously installed gems, use:
bundle install –disable-shared-gems

Once you’ve installed gems or used bundle update, the dependency tree is stored in Gemfile.lock.
It is good practice to check in your lock file into the repository so that everyone who gets your project can be sure to also install the same exact versions of dependencies that worked most recently.

If you’re developing a Rails application, you can go even one step further to make sure all of your dependencies are packaged up with your rails application structure under vendor/cache:
bundle package

This is especially useful at deploy time, or where you need to depend on private gems not in a public repo.
Bundler has become popular with the advent of Rails 3.0 and later, but you may also want to use this handy tool with a ‘legacy’ Rails 2.3 application. Luckily, the Bundler team has documented the steps you’ll need to take to make this happen for your project.

Debugging JRuby apps

Let me start off by saying that I love using vim and textmate for hacking sessions, however, when it comes to getting into the nitty gritty details of a running program to figure out what’s going on, it’s nice to have a debugger.

The ruby-debug gem does not work in jruby directly, as it depends on native APIs.
There is a Java-based JRuby implementation of the fast ruby debugger rdebug.

One of my favorite editors is IntelliJ IDEA, and now that it has a Ruby plugin, it’s even better. IDEA allows you to easily navigate classes, and it does a pretty good job with a dynamic language like jruby. One of the best parts about IDEA is being able to visually debug a jruby gem or jruby on rails application directly in the IDE, so that you can step in, over or though method calls, examine variables, evaluate expressions, etc.

In order to get your jruby installation set up correctly, however, there are a few simple steps you need to take first.

1. Manually download the ruby-debug-base-0.10.3-java.gem from debug-commons.

sudo jruby -S gem install ruby-debug-base-0.10.3-java.gem

2. Leave the directory and then do the following:

sudo jruby -S gem install –-ignore-dependencies ruby-debug –version 0.10.3
sudo jruby -S gem install –-ignore-dependencies ruby-debug-ide

3. Now install columnize

sudo jruby -S gem install columnize

You should be good to go. Having an excellent tool to debug your apps could boost your productivity as well.

Using Proprietary C libraries from JRuby

Let’s assume you work at big enterprise company X. Your company has assigned a new project to you, and one of its only requirements is to make sure you use this library… You have no control over the source code in the library, but you know you have to use it, because it contains some very valuable data to your users. You’ve got a ton of logic wrapped up in that library, and the company you work for already has some logic built around using that library. It is key to some department’s success. This means a couple things: (1) there’s great potential for you to provide great value to your users. It also means something else: (2) it’s probably written in C, and in general, C sucks for programmer happiness. That’s why most people programmers abandoned it — but the people who wrote that library haven’t, and it isn’t being replaced by java or ruby any day soon.

Now, before you search hotjobs or the 37signals job board for a new gig, realize that you still have some level of freedom in how you choose to go about satisfying your core requirement. This freedom includes building a user interface in a more agile-friendly language or framework. Let’s, for the sake of argument, pick some of our favorite tools to use from our development warchest. Is it possible? Could we be happy performing this task that includes a cryptic old C library? I think so. Let’s pick JRuby.

So how could you go about using JRuby to hit that old C library? You could try JRuby => C through FFI, but if the structures are quite complex and nested, you might end up debugging a lot of nasty mapping issues. JRuby can communicate with Java classes quite easily, and Java already has a way of communicating with native C code that’s well established and robust. Good old JNI. So how could we build a JRuby => Java => JNI => C connection?

It’s easier than you think. For the sake of simplicity, let’s send all data from JRuby to Java in hashes or arrays, and all data coming back from the JNI layer should be hash maps.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a JRuby process that is able to do the following?

require 'proprietary_api'
Proprietary::API.some_calculation( some, arguments, for, calculation )

It’s quite possible, and it’s not too difficult to achieve, if you know the proper steps involved.
You’ll need:
a jar (for convenience), which contains…
a java class to declare some native methods, which will be implemented in C…
and those C methods will call the library functions you want to use.

The Java Class

import java.util.*;
import org.jruby.runtime.builtin.IRubyObject;
import org.jruby.RubyString;

public class ProprietaryJavaAPI
  private IRubyObject rubyAPI;

  public static void init( String library ) {
    try {
      System.load( library );
    } catch ( Exception e ) {
      System.out.println( "Attempted to load " + library + ", but failed" );

  public ProprietaryJavaAPI(IRubyObject rubyAPI) {
    this.rubyAPI = rubyAPI;

  public native Collection some_calculation( String some, String arguments, String to_the, String calculation );

The C code in some_calculation.c

#include "string.h"
#include "ProprietaryJavaAPI.h"
#include "proprietary_c_lib.h"

JNIEXPORT jobject JNICALL Java_ProprietaryJavaAPI_some_calculation(JNIEnv * env, jobject this, jstring some, jstring arguments, jstring to_the, jstring calculation )
    // here's where you call the c library and return the results... 

The JRuby Code that uses the Java => C layer

require 'java'

 # The jar file containing java class ProprietaryJavaAPI
require File.join( File.expand_path( File.dirname(__FILE__) ), 'proprietary_c_library_java_support' ) 

# The Java class containing definitions for native methods, like proprietary_query
include_class 'ProprietaryJavaAPI'  

 # Calling the static init method on ProprietaryJavaAPI to load the native shared object library, containing C code.
ProprietaryJavaAPI.init( File.join( File.expand_path( File.dirname(__FILE__) ), "" ) ) 

module Proprietary
  class API
    class << self
      JAVA_API = Proprietary::API )

      def some_calculation( *args )
         JAVA_API.some_calculation( *args )

Putting it all together
Compiling Java

    javac -target 1.6 -cp #{ ENV['JRUBY_HOME'] }/lib/jruby.jar #{Dir.glob("*.java").join(" ")}
    javah -jni ProprietaryJavaAPI
    jar cvf proprietary_c_library_java_support.jar #{Dir.glob("*.class").join(" ")}

Compiling C (Makefile)

libProprietaryJavaAPI : some_calculation.c
        gcc -m32 -fPIC -I${JAVA_HOME}/include/ -I${JAVA_HOME}/include/linux -I.. --shared -o -L. -lproprietary_c ProprietaryJavaAPI.c some_calculation.c 
clean :

Using JRuby, Warbler & Rake to deploy Rails apps to JBoss

If you’re using JRuby, you’re likely going to need a way to automate your deployment to an enterprise-class application container, such as JBoss. As the Rails & JRuby community has evolved, so have the tools available to developers for everything from testing, to security, to deployment. We’ll cover some of the key tools that you can use to turn the mundane task of application deployment into a fully automated process that will be a joy to use. We’ll start with *warbler*.

Warbler is a jruby gem that can be used to make war (web archive) files with any Rails, Merb or Rack-based application. You might be thinking you’ll have to configure the deployment with some ugly xml file (the typical “java” way)… Fortunately, that’s not true! Consistent with the Ruby & Rails way, warbler allows us to use Ruby code to configure the process. That rocks. Lets start by installing warbler and configuring it to our liking.

# Installation is easy:
jruby -S gem install warbler

# Navigate to the top level folder in your Rails app
# Display the list of available actions warbler gives you:
warble -T

# NOTE: “rake” is printed out, but you should actually type “warble” instead.

rake config         # Generate a configuration file to customize your war assembly
rake pluginize      # Unpack warbler as a plugin in your Rails application
rake war            # Create trunk.war
rake war:app        # Copy all application files into the .war
rake war:clean      # Clean up the .war file and the staging area
rake war:gems       # Unpack all gems into WEB-INF/gems
rake war:jar        # Run the jar command to create the .war
rake war:java_libs  # Copy all java libraries into the .war
rake war:public     # Copy all public HTML files to the root of the .war
rake war:webxml     # Generate a web.xml file for the webapp

# Generate the base configuration file in config/warble.rb
warble config

# Generate a war file (so simple!)

If you have a Rails application, the rails gem will be packaged automatically for you. Other gems in Rails.configuration.gems will be packaged as well. If safe multi-threaded execution is detected, runtime pooling will be disabled. The app, lib, config, log, tmp and vendor directories will be placed under the .war file’s WEB-INF dirctory. The public files will be placed in the root of the .war file. Any .jar files will be placed in WEB-INF/lib. If you need to upgrade a java library that’s included in the warbler gem (for example jruby-complete-1.2.0.jar, etc…), then all you need to do is replace it in the WARBLER_HOME/lib directory.

# Let’s say you want to upgrade from JRuby 1.2 to 1.3.1.
# Find the full path to warbler:
jruby -S gem which warbler

# Let’s say the output was /Users/demmons/jruby/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/warbler-0.9.14/lib/warbler.rb
# Replace your old version of jruby with a newer version:
cd /Users/jrubyist/jruby/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/warbler-0.9.14/lib
cp /Users/jrubyist/downloads/jruby-complete-1.3.1.jar .
rm jruby-complete-1.2.0.jar

Now, warbler comes with some sane defaults for applications, however as soon as you introduce other gem dependencies into your application, you’ll likely need to do some basic configuration. It’s not hard — it just needs to be done. Here’s an example of a config/warble.rb I use in a production-ready application.

# Warbler web application assembly configuration file do |config|
  # Temporary directory where the application is staged
  # config.staging_dir = "tmp/war"

  # Application directories to be included in the webapp.
  config.dirs = %w(app config lib log script vendor tmp)

  # Additional files/directories to include, above those in config.dirs
  config.includes = FileList["Rakefile"]

  # Additional files/directories to exclude
  config.excludes = FileList["log/test.log"]

  # Additional Java .jar files to include.  Note that if .jar files are placed
  # in lib (and not otherwise excluded) then they need not be mentioned here.
  # JRuby and JRuby-Rack are pre-loaded in this list.  Be sure to include your
  # own versions if you directly set the value
  #config.java_libs += FileList["lib/java/*.jar"]

  # Loose Java classes and miscellaneous files to be placed in WEB-INF/classes.
  # config.java_classes = FileList["target/classes/**.*"]

  # One or more pathmaps defining how the java classes should be copied into
  # WEB-INF/classes. The example pathmap below accompanies the java_classes
  # configuration above. See
  # for details of how to specify a pathmap.
  # config.pathmaps.java_classes << "%{target/classes/,}"

  # Gems to be packaged in the webapp.  Note that Rails gems are added to this
  # list if vendor/rails is not present, so be sure to include rails if you
  # overwrite the value
  config.gems = ["activerecord-jdbc-adapter", "jruby-openssl", "jrexml", "hpricot","ruport", "memcache-client", "uuidtools"]
  config.gems << "poiyer"
  config.gems << "charter"
  config.gems["activerecord-jdbc-adapter"] = "0.9"

  # Include gem dependencies not mentioned specifically
  #config.gem_dependencies = true

  # Files to be included in the root of the webapp.  Note that files in public
  # will have the leading 'public/' part of the path stripped during staging.
  # config.public_html = FileList["public/**/*", "doc/**/*"]

  # Pathmaps for controlling how public HTML files are copied into the .war
  # config.pathmaps.public_html = ["%{public/,}p"]

  # Name of the war file (without the .war) -- defaults to the basename
  config.war_name = "dealanalyzer"

  # Value of RAILS_ENV for the webapp
  if ENV['ENVIRONMENT'] == 'production'
    config.webxml.rails.env = 'production' 
    puts "Building war for production rails environment!"
    config.webxml.rails.env = 'development'
  # Application booter to use, one of :rack, :rails, or :merb. (Default :rails)
  # config.webxml.booter = :rails

  # Control the pool of Rails runtimes. Leaving unspecified means
  # the pool will grow as needed to service requests. It is recommended
  # that you fix these values when running a production server!
  config.webxml.jruby.min.runtimes = 2
  config.webxml.jruby.max.runtimes = 8

  # JNDI data source name
  # config.webxml.jndi = 'jdbc/rails'

# Finally, let’s test the war creation:

At this point, we have an very simple automated way of generating a war file that can be deployed to a java application server, but we don’t have a way of actually performing the deployment. If you’re like me, you definitely don’t want to manually type out the commands to ftp a file to your app server destination’s temp folder, ssh in and copy the war from the tmp folder to the deploy folder and hope you did everything in the right order. That process is prone with error, especially during production bug fixes at 3 in the morning.

In fact, your deployment process may be even more complicated. Let’s assume we have two application servers to deploy to. To make things a little simpler, let’s assume that each server is set up exactly the same (all paths, all jboss and java versions). The only difference between the two machines is the role that each server will perform. The first server is your ‘staging’ environment — this is where your app is in pre-production, and you’re testing functionality right before releasing. Once you’ve done final front-to-back testing, you’re ready to deploy to your ‘production’ environment, but you want to be sure that you are actually releasing the same version that you released to ‘staging’.

JRuby and Rake to the rescue.

Now, I realize that capistrano ( could be used for this purpose as well, but we developed a working process at our company long before capistrano came to the forefront of the Ruby community, and from a pragmatic standpoint, I find our process much easier to read and comprehend what is going on.

# If you choose to adopt the following rake file for your project, you will gain a simple 2 step process for deploying to your servers:

rake deploy:to_staging ENVIRONMENT=production
rake deploy:to_prod_from_staging ENVIRONMENT=production

As you can see, the deployment is fully automated, and the deployment to production is reconciled against our deployment to staging. All you have to do is replace staging-01 and production-01 with your real server names. The JRuby library includes ‘net/ssh’ and ‘net/scp’ to make our lives very easy:

# Begin lib/tasks/deploy.rake:

gem 'warbler', '=0.9.14'
require 'warbler'
gem 'net-ssh', '=2.0.3'
require 'net/ssh'
require 'net/scp'

namespace :deploy do
  class DeploymentUtils
    def initialize( server )
      @server = server

    def upload( local_file, remote_file )
      puts "Pushing #{ local_file } to #{ @server }:#{ remote_file }"
      Net::SCP.upload!( @server, 'jboss', local_file, remote_file ) end

    def download( remote_file, local_file )
      puts "Pulling #{ local_file } from #{ @server }:#{ remote_file }"!( @server, 'jboss', remote_file, local_file  )

    def archive_war
      puts "Archiving the war on #{ @server }"
      timestamp = "%m%d%Y-%H%M%S" )
      Net::SSH.start( @server, 'jboss' ) do |ssh|
        ssh.exec!( "cp jboss-deploy/#{WAR_NAME} war_archive/#{WAR_NAME}_#{ timestamp }" )

    def tail_jboss_log
      puts "Tailing jboss logs... please wait"
      sleep 10
      Net::SSH.start( @server, 'jboss' ) do |ssh|
        puts ssh.exec!( "tail -50 /home/jboss/logs/jboss.log" )

    def exec( cmd )
      Net::SSH.start( @server, 'jboss' ) do |ssh|
        puts ssh.exec!( cmd )

  STAGING = 'staging-01'
  PRODUCTION = 'production-01'
  WAR_NAME = "dealanalyzer.war"
  STAGING_WAR = "fromstaging.war"
  UPLOAD_PATH = "/tmp"
  DEPLOY_PATH = "/home/jboss/jboss-deploy"

  desc "Deploy War to development servers"
  task :dev => ["war:clean", :war] do
    if ENV['JBOSS_HOME']
      cmd "cp #{RAILS_ROOT}/#{WAR_NAME} #{ENV['JBOSS_HOME']}/server/default/deploy"
      puts "Please set your JBOSS_HOME. War not copied!"

  desc "Deploy War to staging servers"
  task :staging => ["war:clean", :war] do
    if ENV['ENVIRONMENT'] =~ /production/i
      on( STAGING ).archive_war
      on( STAGING ).upload( WAR_NAME, "#{UPLOAD_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME}" )
      on( STAGING ).exec( "mv #{UPLOAD_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME} #{DEPLOY_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME}")
      on( STAGING ).tail_jboss_log
      puts "You must set the environment to production; rake deploy:staging ENVIRONMENT=production"

  desc "Push war from staging to prod"
  task :to_prod_from_staging do
    puts "pushing this war from #{ STAGING } to #{ PRODUCTION }..."
    on( STAGING ).exec( "ls -l jboss-deploy/#{WAR_NAME}" )
    puts "Are you sure?"

    if STDIN.gets.chomp! =~ /^Y$/i
      on( STAGING ).download( "#{DEPLOY_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME}", STAGING_WAR )
      if File.exists?( "#{ RAILS_ROOT }/#{WAR_NAME}" ) &&
         File.size( "#{ RAILS_ROOT }/#{WAR_NAME}" ) == File.size( "#{ RAILS_ROOT }/#{STAGING_WAR}" )
        on( PRODUCTION ).upload( STAGING_WAR, "#{UPLOAD_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME}" )
        on( PRODUCTION ).exec( "mv #{UPLOAD_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME} #{DEPLOY_PATH}/#{WAR_NAME}")
        on( PRODUCTION ).tail_jboss_log
        puts "Either you didn't deploy from here or the war on staging is different. Cancelling!"
      puts "Cancelled!"


    def cmd( cmd )
      puts "Running : #{ cmd }"
      system( cmd )

    def on( server ) server )

JRuby, Rails, Rake and Cron for Automation

There are times when you need to automate a particular periodic process associated with maintaining your application. Many times, these types of jobs could be performed manually, but it can easily be forgotten about, until a few weeks later when you wonder why your data is out of sync with reality. Take, for example, a process that obtains data (legally) through a third party vendor API and imports that data into an internal database so that recent information can be analyzed by users or programmatically processed in a timely manner. Without this data migration process in place, it might take way too long to be considered a usable system by any reasonable person.

Programmers know that it is not efficient to use a series of manual processes to keep a business going. All is fine and well when initially testing if your job is running correctly, but this often becomes a tedious or forgettable task. Instead, we should always seek out ways to increase the efficiency of ourselves and the efficiency of the people and systems we support. Most operating systems provide a way of at least scheduling tasks to run on a scheduled basis. If you are deploying to a *nix environment, you’re in luck, especially if the job needs to run specifically in the background.

Cron is a daemon started automatically from /etc/init.d that executes scheduled commands by searching its spool area /var/spool/cron/crontabs for crontab files named after accounts in /etc/passwd. Those crontabs should not be accessed directly; instead, use crontab -l to list a user’s crontab, and use crontab -e in order to edit a particular crontab. Cron also reads the files /etc/crontab and /etc/cron.d. It wakes up every minute to examine the crontabs and ensuring that each job has run by its scheduled time. If need be, the job is executed.

The format of cron entries is defined as the following:

.------------ minute (0-59)
| .---------- hour (0-23)
| | .-------- day of month (1-31)
| | | .------ month (1-12) OR jan,feb,mar,apr ...
| | | | .---- day of week (0-6) (Sunday= 0 or 7) OR sun,mon,tue,wed,thu,fri,sat
| | | | |
* * * * * command_to_be_executed

Cron also comes with a small list of special shortcuts as well.

@reboot   = run once at startup
@yearly   = 0 0 1 1 * = @annually = run once per year
@monthly  = 0 0 1 * * = run once per month
@weekly   = 0 0 * * 0 = run once per week
@daily    = 0 0 * * * = @midnight = run once per day
@hourly   = 0 * * * * = run once per hour

So how can use cron along with jruby? and rails?

First, you’ll need to ensure that you have a JRuby in the user’s PATH for which you’ll be using to define the cron jobs. An easy way to do this is to define the paths for JRuby, Java in the user’s .bash_profile.

$> vi .bash_profile

# :wq => to write the changes out the file and quit

$> source ~/.bash_profile

$> echo $JRUBY_HOME

$> echo $PATH

Try running the job that you wish to execute once, manually, as the appropriate user to test the environment:

su -l jrubyist -c 'jruby -S vendor_api_data_import start'

If everything is running properly, you can be sure that the command you add to the user’s crontab will work.
Let’s say we wanted this import task to run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:45 pm.
You would add the corresponding entry to the user’s crontab as the following, with a comment for describing the entry:

# Automated download/migration process that makes use of the  API
45 18 * * * mon,wed,fri source /etc/profile && 
source /home/jrubyist/.bash_profile && 
jruby -S vendor_api_data_import start

Combining Cron, JRuby, Rails and Rake
The example above is all fine and dandy, but what if you want to call a rake task that needs access to say, a set of models defined for a JRuby on Rails project?. A few days ago, Felipe Coury @fcoury posed this question on Twitter: “What gem/lib/etc do you guys use for Ruby daemons that needs to load the Rails env prior to execution?” I love to browse twitter for #jruby questions so I can help out by finding answers to those questions and writing about it. There’s a fairly straightforward approach you can take to achieve this goal, and the boilerplate process is as follows:

1) Upon deploying the JRuby/Rails application, create a symbolic link to the root of the rails dir.
In the case of JRuby/Rails on JBoss, this means we want a symbolic link to the exploded war file.
2) The Rake task you create should be defined such that it depends on the rails :environment.
3) Tell the cron entry to start the jruby/rake task given the path to that symbolic link.

#1- Can be automated by using a clever trick to hook into the initialization of the rails application.
When your container deploys your rails app, as in the case of JBoss, the $servlet_context will be defined,
so a link to the deployed application directory will be created at “/home/jrubyist/deployed-rails-app

# Create /config/initializers/symlink-deployment.rb
if defined?($servlet_context) && RAILS_ENV == 'production'
  symlink_file = "/home/jrubyist/deployed-rails-app"

  current_link = nil
  if File.exist?(symlink_file) && File.symlink?(symlink_file)
    current_link = File.readlink(symlink_file)

  if current_link != RAILS_ROOT
    system("ln -sf #{File.expand_path(RAILS_ROOT)} #{symlink_file}")

#2 – Example Rake Task that depends on your Rails models:

namespace :third_party_vendor do
  namespace :api do
    desc "Uses the 3rd party vendor API to import data into our internal databases."
    task :data_import => :environment do
      # Since we say that we depend on the :environment, 
      # we now have access to our rails model objects.  For example...
      # eligible_401k_employees = Employees.find(:all, 
                    :conditions => ['effective >= ?', 1.year.ago])

If you need to have access to non-rails frozen gems as well, you will want to modify your config/environment.rb to include the following before the do |config| …

# Load non-Rails frozen gems too..
Dir.glob(File.join(RAILS_ROOT, 'vendor', '*', 'lib')) do |path|
  $LOAD_PATH << path

Some people have reported that in order to get the environment to load correctly for your rails task, they had to add the following to the top of their Rake task:

require File.join(RAILS_ROOT, 'config', 'environment.rb')

#3 – Modify your cron task so that it executes your Rake task defined in your rails app.

# Automated download/migration process that makes use of the  API
45 18 * * * mon,wed,fri source /etc/profile && 
        source /home/jrubyist/.bash_profile && 
        RAILS_ENV=production rake --rakefile 

Finishing touches…
That should be enough to get you started. Finally, if you want your background processes to not affect your production application environment, you might consider adding “nice” to the command. nice maps to a kernel call of the same name. For a given process, it changes the priority in the kernel’s scheduler. A niceness of -20 is the highest priority, and 19 is the lowest priority. You can read more about nice on wikipedia.

Another useful feature to add to your rake task is to have the output of stdout written to a log file. That way you can go back and analyze the log file for any errors that might occur during the execution of your rake task. Create a file that is writable by the cron user, and then add the following to your cron command. The finished product is as follows:

# Automated download/migration process that makes use of the  API
45 18 * * * mon,wed,fri source /etc/profile && 
     source /home/jrubyist/.bash_profile && 
     RAILS_ENV=production nice rake --rakefile 
     --trace >> /home/jrubyist/logs/cron/import.log 2>&1

This technique is both useful and pragmatic. Never worry again about running a periodic process. Let the system do the work.

JRuby and SQLite3 Living Together

A few days ago I decided to download the Fat Free CRM, an open source Rails based CRM platform. In order to get it going with sqlite3 with JRuby on Rails, there were a couple things I needed to do in order to get started. This solution can be used for any general jruby/rails/sqlite3 that you may have; I only mention this particular application to give some context to the problem.

First of all, you’ll need to install a couple gems.

sudo jruby -S gem install jdbc-sqlite3
sudo jruby -S gem install activerecord-jdbcsqlite3-adapter

Next, you’ll need to configure your config/database.yml file to use the appropriate driver for sqlite3.

  adapter: jdbcsqlite3
  database: db/development.sqlite3
  timeout: 5000

That should solve any dreaded “no such file to load” errors that you encounter.