Mephisto Setup on HostingRails.com

In the past I’ve setup blog sites using B2Evolution, WordPress and other PHP frameworks and had no trouble at all. Last week I setup this web site using Mephisto on a Rails hosting service (hostingrails.com), and expected to get it up and running in just a few minutes; after all, if installing and configuring a PHP blog site in 2005 was easy, certainly doing the same in 2008 with better technology (Rails) should be even easier.

Wrong!

First I created a MySQL database on my production server and called it “mephisto”. Then I set the char set and collation settings using the command line:

# mysql -u myusername -p
mysql> ALTER DATABASE mydatabasename DEFAULT CHARACTER SET utf8
  COLLATE utf8_unicode_ci

Since I’m not ready to write my own Rails blog site, I decided to download and setup the latest version of Mephisto (0.8 “Drax”). When I tried to download the TAR file from the 0.8 Drax link using curl I got HTML that redirected me to a different location:

# cat master.tar.gz
<html><body>You are being <a href="http://github.com/tarballs/technoweenie-
mephisto-90e2cc253d94e2e544bc8b21f361c7360c1e9baa.tar.gz">redirected</a>.</body></html>

Probably this is standard behavior by github and I should have used that directly. I need to stop thinking like a PHP developer! Regardless, it wasn’t much trouble to download the actual Mephisto TAR file:

# curl -O http://github.com/tarballs/
  technoweenie-mephisto-90e2cc253d94e2e544bc8b21f361c7360c1e9baa.tar.gz
# tar xvf technoweenie-mephisto-90e2cc253d94e2e544bc8b21f361c7360c1e9baa.tar.gz
# mv technoweenie-mephisto-90e2cc253d94e2e544bc8b21f361c7360c1e9baa mephisto

No big deal; so far this was a very similar experience to setting up a PHP web site: create the database, download the code and you’re almost done. Next, I entered the proper values in database.yml and tried to initialize the database:

# rake db:bootstrap RAILS_ENV=production
(in /home/myusername/mephisto)
Your config/boot.rb is outdated: Run "rake rails:update".

It was at this point that my problems started. First I wasn’t sure why I received this error message at all. Next I tried to use rails:update to fix it as instructed and ran into further trouble. A couple of hours and 5 or 10 blog posts later I discovered the solution here in this great write up. It turns out that Mephisto 0.8 does not work with Rails 2.1 and I needed to downgrade to Rails 2.0.2. Since I’m using a shared server on hostingrails.com I used rails:freeze:edge to get the proper version of Rails installed in my app’s folder:

# rake rails:freeze:edge RELEASE=2.0.2
Downloading Rails from http://dev.rubyonrails.org/archives/rails_2.0.2.zip
Unpacking Rails
Updating current scripts, javascripts, and configuration settings

At this point I tried to initialize the database again but this time got a different error:

# rake db:bootstrap RAILS_ENV=production
(in /home/myusername/mephisto)
rake aborted!
undefined method 'install_gem_spec_stubs' for #<Rails::Initializer:0xb7c652e8>

As explained here, I still had to manually copy one file from Rails to my application which rails:freeze:edge didn’t handle properly, using this command from my app’s folder:

# cp vendor/rails/railties/environments/boot.rb config/boot.rb

Finally I was able to run rake db:bootstrap successfully! The last bit of configuration I had to do was to add this line to config/environment.rb in order to insure hostingrails.com used the production configuration:

# Uncomment below to force Rails into production mode when
# you don't control web/app server and can't set it the proper way
ENV['RAILS_ENV'] ||= 'production'

After creating a symlink and doing some other standard configuration for hostingrails.com, I was finally able to get my site up and running. It was a lot harder than configuring a PHP site and ruined a whole evening, but in the end wasn’t all that bad.