Instant Rails Lives On


I have been a long-time user of Instant Rails to write Ruby on Rails applications on Windows.   What I like most about Instant Rails is its level of isolation, where nothing is installed on my local computer as a service or anything permanent.  I can just take it with me and run it anywhere.

A short time ago Curt Hibbs, the founder of the Instant Rails project on Rubyforge, decided he didn’t have the time to continue the project to the level it deserved.  He announced the project would not longer be updatee and users should look to another Ruby stack on Windows, named BitNami RubyStack

After trying BitNami I came away feeling like I had stepped back to something not as polished as Instant Rails.  I have no ill feeling about Bitnami, I hope they do very well.  I have been spoiled by the way Instant Rails runs isolated along with its nice user interface to control services and my Rails applications.




I decided to contact Curt and see what the story was with closing down the project and if I could do anything to help maintain it.  Curt explained he was simply too busy with work and real life to maintain the project any longer and it was as simple as that.  I thought about it a bit and offered to take the project over continue with this legacy.  Curt was happy to have someone keep the project going.

So, now what?

Immediate Plans

This is my first foray into an open source project so please be patient.  Anyone with advice on maintaining an open source project, it would be appreciated.  For the short term my goals are not lofty, I plan on:

  • Learning the layout of the Instant Rails project
  • Inventory what is currently part of the project
  • Understand how the project was administered so I can successfully manage to continue the project

Short-term Plans

In the next few weeks I want to be able to get a release out to RubyForge.  I would like to at least provide and update to the following:

  • Ruby on Rails 2.0.1, or newer if bugs are patched between now and then
  • Ruby 1.8.6 Patch Level 111

Longer-term Plans

I have used Instant Rails and love how it works.  I am not going to make any large changes with the project, I want to keep the functionality the way it is.  Curt has done a great job and there is no need to change for the sake of change.

I plan to make some updates to some of the packages to get them up-to-date beyond the ones above:

  • RubyGems
  • MySQL
  • Mongrel
  • Rake
  • Ruby 1.9

Of course I will fix any bugs I can along the way.

I have been asked about adding some things to the current build such as Capistrano 2.1 among some others. What would users like to see?   I can’t really add any and all gems to releases, it has to be by consensus.  As always users can just add gems themselves and customize as much as they want.

I will be posting updates here as things progress and I get other ideas or come to a fork in the road and need feedback.  Please come here for informational updates on Instant Rails.  Release updates will continue to be in the RubyForge project page.


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31 responses to “Instant Rails Lives On

  1. Thanks! I’m only really using Instarails marginally, but it is very nice to have it one-clicking.

    My main problem is that it insists that the projects be sitting in its directory. I happen to be running out of C:\project\trunk. (Yes, I have a copy of the full repo locally). This is not more than a minor annoyance, once I figured out what to do…

    I expect that a lot of your uses are actually hooking up to SQLServer. This was annoying because it required that I do some digging to find out how. I love the MYSQL default, but I would also suspect that new users would very much appreciate clean instructions and maximal support (like making the SQLServer gem part of the base).

    And yes, capistrano. I’m behind a firewall, and getting gems has been a real pain. Even if “all you do” is include the dozen or so gems needed for capistrano, that would be a huge bonus.

    Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for the feedback.

    Give me some ideas how you would like to see this work. I am very open to improvements and would appreciate the advice.

    I think SQLServer support is a great idea. Did you have to do much to get it to work.

    Capistrano seems popular, I think it will be a necessity.

  3. Hi,

    SQL SERVER SUPPORT is the best IDEA.

    IIS now supports FastCGI and ZEND has declared this official to host PHP sites on IIS.

    I think in your next term plans, you should be adding IIS support, so that
    Rails, Ruby etc can run on IIS with SQL SERVER.

    I personally think, IIS Fast CGI with SQL SERVER Support is the most demanded one.

    This will take Instant rails miles ahead in popularity as well as terms of use.

    Just my Opinion.


  4. I don’t know if we will have IIS support anytime soon. I think that would be a tall order to include in an isolated package the way Instant Rails is, but support for SQL Server…maybe down the road.

    I plan to get the project back on it’s feet and updated with the latest of the core modules before I look ahead.

    Thanks for the input.

  5. I’d like to see the entire ruby/rail/etc package without ANY DB included. Why? Because I already have my WAMP (ok, XAMPP, really) already setup and working, and just want to drop a complete ruby dev stack into place.

    Maybe I don’t know enough about Instant Rails or Bitnami, but I just don’t want my mySQL setup, tables, etc overwritten.

    Thank you.

  6. SQLServer support requires going to RubyForge and getting ruby-dbi and then setting up a DSN connection. Here’s the tutorial from SoftiesOnRails:

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  8. This is just fantastic news, having tried to use BitNami, I too missed Instant Rails.
    All the best and Thanks for keeping it alive


  9. @Mike – you can run Instant Rails without starting MySQL, it is part of the configuration. It’s also important to understand that the MySQL instance in Instant Rails does NOT install as a service on your system and therefore is separate from any installation of MySQL you may have already. Your data/tables would be safe.

    Thanks for the comment and I hope my answer helps.

  10. @Ryan – thanks for the link to the tutorial. I will take a look at that and see how SQL Server support might be integrated in later releases of the project.

  11. @Joseph – thank you. I happy there is another person out there pleased by the news. I think Instant Rails makes it just so easy to use, keeping with the Rails philosophy.

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  13. Thanks for the awesome news. I’m a noob to rails. I love having the option of InstantRails as a “one-click” to get started. There were several tutorial on how to back-engineer IIS to work but this is just great for development!!! I like that it has MySQL built in because that’s the db my Ubuntu server is using. It makes it easy to develop w/ my laptop on the road and dump it onto the server to check it in it’s “natural” environment.

  14. @Josh – I’m glad you like Instant Rails. I also develop on a laptop and move it over to a Linux server, works great.

    I will look into the IIS implementation down the road. Right now I just want to get a release of Instant Rails out with updated Ruby, Rails, Mongrel and likely Capistrano. Capistrano will make my life easier to deploy from development to a production or staging server. It sounds like it might help you too.

  15. Thanks for keeping this great project lives on. Please also update PHP to ver 5 if possible.

  16. Thanks for keeping InstantRails alive. I do dev work on both OSX and Windows, and I keep InstantRails on a USB drive with me at all times.

    Honestly though, I don’t see how InstantRails was ever broken in the first place, even without an active developer behind it. I’ve been keeping my gems updated and am running 2.0.1 with it now.

    Thanks for picking up the torch, Rob.

  17. @Songrit – I will look into PHP 5 as well.


  18. @Unixmonkey – you are right, nothing was ever broken in the current Instant Rails and users could just keep upgrading themselves. One of the nice features of Instant Rails is it is bundled with the latest and users that don’t want to have to worry about upgrading can just get an up-to-date bundle.

    I have always upgraded myself too but it was nice just to get a clean install sometimes.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  19. Love Instant rails, But havent seen it being used in Production, nor advertised as ready for production usage.

    A few questions though. Instant rails by default has Apache and MySQL installed, Why do I use Apache for?. all the Applicaitons run with their own Mongrel or Webrick servers.

    Is there a way that you need not start Mongrel or Webrick, but have the apache transparently serve the application (http://localhost/). This should solve frequent starts and restarts of the Mongrel.

    Can you provide a darcs/svn/mercurial repository for updates. It would save time and bandwidth. I do not have to download the whole package, just the new patches can be downloaded later….

    Thanks for taking the cause Rob.. Ask for any help, and the whole comminity is ready to maintain this great app….

  20. @Shree – glad to hear you are a fan of Instant Rails. I don’t know where you saw anything about Instant Rails in products but its not really the goal of Instant Rails, more for development.

    I would like to include Capistrano to allow Instant Rails to deploy code to production systems. Maybe this is what you refer to?

    Yes you can use Apache, it starts as a service. It should just serve http://localhost on port 80.


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  22. Shree makes a great point. What’s the point of bundling apache if you won’t take full advantage of it. You should tinker with it just a bit more to add mod_proxy_balancer and some options for how many mongrels to launch, and a way to install it as a service, and it could be a full production stack for launching on Windows servers.

    Either that or drop apache altogether. Arguably, you could lose mysql too since in 2.0.2 sqlite will be the default db adapter. Bundle in SQLite Database Browser and call it a day.

  23. @Unixmonkey – I understand your points and they maybe well founded. My plan is to leave it as-is for now, except for the upgrades I already mentioned.

    I am considering SQLite now but it is version 3 which Rails is going to default to and the SQLLite Database Browser looks a bit old and hasn’t been updated in a while and probably won’t work with SQLite3.

    Any other ideas for a SQLite manager that someone has at least updated this year?

    I appreciate the feedback, very good ideas.

  24. SQlite3 Administrator is released under GPLv2

    SQLite3 is the default in RoR 2.0.2 and is easier for development lifecycles, No need to learn the administration.

    Along with this Changes, Can you also include the plugin YamlDB from Heroku by default, It helps in migrating the data from SQlite to MySQL or any other Database later on..

    Because Instant Rails is not designed to run in Production, we can decrease the bundle by eliminating the Apache and MySQL, and providing them as a seperate Download…

    My 0.2 cents…

  25. @Shree – thank you for those updates. After thinking about using SQLite3 I think simply using migrations is one way and probably the easiest way to manage the SQLite3 DB.

    I will look at the YamlDB plugin as well.

  26. Well, this is just fantastic news.

    Even if no additional features are added or changes made, the simple fact that Instant Rails will be “keeping pace” makes me pretty darn happy.

    Thanks Rob! Sincerely: Thank you.

  27. @Steve – thanks, I appreciate it. I want to keep it as good as it has been all this time.

  28. Of course everyone loves instant rails. It has been my best friend for rails development since day one.
    The biggest problem is finding an end all solution to efficient hosting of rails applications. One option I decided to try was to set up instant rails and host the application through apache pointing to the same port instant rails was serving on. It was probably a bad idea in retrospect, but due to my limited knowledge in deploying rails apps, it seemed like the easiest solution at the time.
    One other method I’ve tried was hosting a rails app through IIS 6.0 using fastCGI. But that was inconsistent at best, and not even officially supported by IIS 6 (note that IIS 7 officially supports fastCGI, YAY!).
    I guess what I’m alluding to is, how practical do you think hosting a rails app through Instant Rails is? Seems like it is far to simple and easy to be a ‘best practices’ solution.
    Any thoughts, comments, suggestions?

  29. @Dan thank you for your experiences with Instant Rails.

    I am not the original developer of Instant Rails but took it over from Curt Hibbs, so I don’t know the original intent of the project. I can tell you from my experience as a Windows person who has used Instant Rails extensively over the past year or more, that I would never try to use it for production. I don’t think it was ever intended for production, but that’s just my opinion.

    I think it is a development environment you should be able to deploy your Rails app to a Rails hosting provider or your own server. I have included Capistrano in the latest, 2.0 release of Instant Rails which should help with deployment. I have developed ASP.NET applications for many years and I don’t think Windows is the right platform for hosting a Rails application at this point in time. I have several Rails apps running, all on Linux.

    So, it’s really what is the right tool for the job and Instant Rails helps Windows developers create Rails apps, that’t it IMHO.

    I hope this helps.

  30. Thanks for the quick reply Rob.
    I couldn’t agree more with your opinion about instant rails for production. It didn’t seem very elegant or practical, but it was worth the inquiry. In an extremely small scale environment, one might get away with it, but large scale apps wouldn’t fair to well I would imagine.
    I haven’t written to many large scale rails projects, so my depolyment experiences are minimal, like many other developers who are just catching on to the new ruby trend. The thought of serving up apps in Linux has crossed my mind several times, but sometimes stubborn clients or other external pressures force you to work in Windows environments (unfortunately).
    But you definitely helped. Understanding the scope of instant rails and its intended purposes clarifies a lot.

    Thanks again.

  31. @Dan I understand your pain. Probably the easiest way to get a client to host on Linux is buy them managed services outside of their company. They may not need to know its on Linux, just they have it hosted.

    I write more software for Windows than I care to admit, someday I hope to be doing it all on Ruby and other great multi-platform languages.

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