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RubyGem is from Mars, AptGet is from Venus

Posted by Pelle December 4th, 2008 34 comments edit

The Debian world seems to be on a rant on why the RubyGem’s are bad and why we should all be using aptget instead.

For rants see: Wouter – Rails? Stay the f* away from my system, Gunnar Wolf – Ruby has a distribution problem as well as the official Debian take on RubyGems.

However, the Debian/Ruby Extras team fear that Rubygems will make it much more difficult to package and distribute Ruby software in Debian (similar concerns have been raised by other individuals and GNU/Linux distributions)

Updated: Just discovered that Gunnar actually wrote this really good post It’s just a different mindset. Not necessarily a sane one, though, which I think is a way better explanation of his concerns. I still don’t see why Gems is “the most obnoxious of them all”. Gem’s can and should improve. But at its current state I actually do like it.

I always wondered why their rubygem package was intentionally broken. But never took the time to worry too much about it, when it’s easy to uninstall it and install it from source.

RubyGems like CPAN are about being OS agnostic when writing and deploying our apps. At the application level, I really do not care nor want to care about what server os I’m running.

I develop on Mac and deploy to Ubuntu, Gentoo, Redhat and OpenBSD. Using aptget, rpm, portage and pkgadd is fine for initial server setup and on going maintenance, but for day to day deployment of applications nothing but a PITA.

Different worlds, different points of view

The fact is that we are talking about 2 completely different worlds here. The whole thing is something very much akin to the old Men are are from Mars, Women are from Venus meme from a few years back.

For me my focus is the application. Most Ruby developers write applications for a living. For sysadmins their focus is on keeping servers running. Most Debian maintainers probably come from that world. Regardless if my assumption is right or wrong on that, their focus is definitely on Debian and not on Ruby.

So you now have the situation where an American is laughing at the stupid Limies calling a cigarette a “fag” and an Brit laughing at the stupid yanks calling a bum a fanny.

Get over it. We come from different worlds and have to live together. If your job is maintaining a bunch of sysadmin type services such as mail, dns etc you know what you need to do your job. Application developers also know what we need to do our job. It might even be that these things are different.

However if your job as a sysadmin is to support several web applications server, then I’m afraid when it comes to the applications you are no longer king. You need to support the developers and not hinder them.

But as Gunnar says:

By using Ruby Gems, you dramatically increase entropy and harm your systems’ security.

This is what we politely call FUD in the tech industry.

On the server it is the sysadmin’s job to understand the benefits of postfix vs. sendmail. tinydns vs bind etc. It’s the DBA’s job to decide on when MySQL 5.1 feels stable enough to use in production.

It is our job as application developers to understand the finer points between RedCloth 3 and 4.1. RubyGems allows us to test our applications with specific dependencies and make sure that this is exactly how they are deployed.

This enables us to have the confidence to deploy without having to do full regression testing when moving from a Gentoo to a Ubuntu server. Or to deploy minor updates from our Mac’s onto a server.

After having spent years of managing servers manually, the simplicity and beauty of deploying with capistrano is amazing. Besides initial server setup (which I can soon wave goodbye to thanks to PoolParty) I want to focus on the application.

RubyGem’s give me the freedom to develop on a Mac/PC and deploy onto just about anything. I deploy onto Ubuntu, OpenBSD, Redhat and Gentoo.

aptget is fantastic at what it does, installing base software on my server. Maintaining my application dependencies is just not its job. The Debian community is right to be conservative. However the ruby world works at tremendous speed, change is part of our core DNA.

I don’t want to necessarily be installing a new MySQL or GCC version on a daily basis, but I am willing to use the often daily updates of ruby gems. As I have the tests that prove they work and fantastic transparency about what was changed via GitHub

The Debian maintainers should stop breaking software out of some misguided principal. For gods sake Debian is an Open Source OS not North Korea. You broke your RubyGem package, now fix it.

There must be some way of creating virtual packages that just install the gem. This method could be reusable for Perl’s CPAN packages and any other application level packaging system.

Update: Violent platform wars going on over this post on Hacker News

Holy sh*t Skype is down!

Posted by Pelle August 16th, 2007 1 comments edit

This is the first time I have ever seen Skype go down before. When something you depend on daily goes away it really makes you appreciate how important it’s become as a tool.


Anyway here are a couple of cold Saku for the Skype engineers in Tallinn.

Video of Blaine Cook's Scaling Twitter

Posted by Pelle April 23rd, 2007 5 comments edit

I taped this great talk by Blaine Cook about scaling Twitter at Silicon Valley Ruby Conference.

There were many great talks, but this was one of the best. Filled with the kind of insight you only get after very painful trial and error.

The slides themselves are available on Slide Share

Warning, yet again this was taped without the use of tripod, so you may feel a bit like you’ve been riding a camel when you finish watching it.

New experimental blog software

Posted by Pelle October 25th, 2006 edit

Just to let you know if there are some strange problems on this blog over the next couple of days it is because I have migrated from an old Typo blog to a home made blog application, which I designed for high performance and ease of maintenance, while remaining compatible with the old typo url and database formats.

My servers were down for a few hours today

Posted by Pelle March 24th, 2006 1 comments edit

This affected this blog, WideWord, WideBlog and

My ISP EasySpeedy is growing like crazy and had to do move datacenters. It took them about 4 hours, which was more than they promised, but I can only imagine the logistical problems with this.

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