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Managing RubyGems on Gentoo


For Ruby on Gentoo, it has been asked how one should go about managing RubyGems. You have a few options:

  • Use Gentoo packages exclusively
  • Use gem exclusively
  • Mix and match and pray

Mix and match

Offhand, mixing and matching seems like a bad idea.

Doing so, you might install a gem using portage, but then you could use gem update to update it. Then you update it with portage…

Overall, seems like it could be problematic in the long run.

Gentoo packages exclusively

Being a Gentoo packager, my first take is that using packages is the way to go.

Some pluses:

  • One stop for installing/updating packages, ruby or otherwise
  • For gems with native extensions, can have dependencies on the things the native extensions use

Of course, there are a number of disadvantages.

  • There are tons of gems out there
  • Some update frequently
  • Lot of packages to be keeping up with stable keywords
  • Despite gem ebuilds being pretty straightforward, there is a bit of grunt work involved on to verify dependencies are accurate
  • Lots of gems are unpackaged, because they are usually packaged as requested or as developers need them
  • Despite being able to install multiple gems at once, packages usually aren’t slotted that way

Gems exclusively

If you’re a Ruby developer, the most natural way would be using RubyGem directly. Some nice things include:

  • Most direct way to have the latest and greatest gems
  • Can have as many versions installed as you want
  • Zero maintenance for Gentoo packagers (sweet!)

Of course, not without their drawbacks:

  • If a gem uses native extensions, it can be tricky to determine what its dependencies are
  • Problematic when other (non-ruby) packages need to depend on gems

My current practices

So where does that bring us?

Here are the practices I’ve taken to using for my Ruby and Rails development and deployment needs.

In development

On my development machine (a MacBook running Leopard with Gentoo/Prefix), I’ve using RubyGems directly.

If I’m working on a Rails app, and it needs any gems, I’ve taken to vendoring everything. This type of thing will be supported out of the box for Rails 2.1.

Of course, this wouldn’t work so well for things with native extensions, like hpricot.

In production

I avoid installing any gems in production as much as possible. If an app needs something, it should be vendored, like I just described.

For gems needed by my apps that have native extensions, or are otherwise needed in production (like rake and the mysql gem), again, I’m using RubyGem directly.

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