Category Archives: Microsoft

What happens when Windows is the step-child? Adventures in Ruby on Rails.

Like many of you I’ve heard the developer community going on about Rails for quite a while now. It wasn’t until recently I had any reason to dip into that world. Over at Nitosphere the website is all run on Rails. We got a inexpensive web host and it was pretty easy to get it up and running. Like most shared web host, it is all linux/open source based. We have now grown to the point that hosting our own server would be cheap enough and give us complete control over the box. As a Microsoft ISV I thought it would be nice to have our new box be a Windows box. It would also be nice to hook in to SQL Server instead of MySQL as well. After a little digging I did find that Microsoft is sponsoring IronRuby, a Ruby clone that runs on the .net platform. Unfortunately, it isn’t completely compatible with one of the packages that we need to run the website on. So, back to Ruby. There is also a gem to run Rails apps against SQL Server, It isn’t compatible with some of the stuff on our website ether. Finally, I fell back to ODBC to connect to SQL Server. Everything wired up but there was still an incompatibility issue. I’ll keep trying to work it out but our fall back was MySQL.

You will need:

Source Control:

If you plan on getting the source for anything you will need ether GIT or Subversion.

GIT for windows:

Subversion clients: basic client 32bit or 64bit

some folks prefer tortoisesvn 


Ruby core:


Ruby 1.8.7 has the most compatibility with existing gems. Get the latest installer if the one linked isn’t it. There are installers for 1.8.6 and 1.9.1. Again, check to see if they will support the gems you will need to get your site up and running!

install the dev kit if you would like to compile some gems instead of manually downloading them. If you don’t install the devkit some gems will fail to install since they can’t compile to a native extension. To get around that you can also use –platform=mswin32 when you install a gem.

Example: gem install fastercsv –platform=mswin32 will fetch the precompiled windows gem if it exists. for more information on the devkit check out this link.




By default when you create an application Ruby on Rails defaults to sqlite3. If you want to use Sqlite3 you will need to download the dll’s and the command line executable.


Since I couldn’t get our site to talk to SQL Server we are staying on MySQL for now. You can use the latest installer 64 bit or 32 bit but you must have the 32 bit library for Ruby to work properly. The libmySQL.dll from the 5.0.15 install did the trick for me. 

SQL Server

If you would like to try the SQL Server adapter just do a gem install activerecord-sqlserver-adapter to get it.


HTTP Ruby Server:

I went with mongrel, it may not be the best but it was pretty easy to setup and get up and running. I am running version 1.1.5 right now since that seems to work best with mongrel_service which you will need if you don’t want to stay logged into your web server with a dos prompt running. I opted for the latest beta of mongrel_service since it cut out some dependencies and seems pretty stable at the moment. As always adding –pre gets the latest beta gem. Also, –include-dependencies will grab everything the gem will need to run, including mongrel.


Gems specific to my install:

Substruct uses rmagick for thumbnail generation, which requires image magic to do the actual work.

Redcloth is a textile markup language for Ruby. If you didn’t install the devkit don’t for get to add –platform=mswin32 to your gem install commands.


My installation steps:

Install Ruby

Make sure c:rubybin (or where you installed it to) is in the path. I recommend a path with no spaces so no c:program files.

extract the devkit to the c:ruby directory.

extract the sqlite exe and dlls to c:rubybin

extract libmySQL.dll from the 32 bit 5.0.15 archive

Open an command prompt with administrator privileges.

Issue these commands:

gem update –system

gem install rails –no-ri –no-rdoc

gem install sqlite3-ruby –no-ri –no-rdoc

gem install mysql –no-ri –no-rdoc

gem install mongrel_service –no-ri –no-rdoc –platform mswin32 –include-dependencies –pre


After that install any gems you need for your Rails app. Make sure and test that your app works in production mode with mongrel before anything else. There will be some kinks to work out I’m sure. Once you are happy that everything is running as expected you can install your mongrel service.

mongrel_rails service::install -N MyAppsServiceName -c c:appmyapp -p 3000 -e production

The –N is the service name. –c is where the app will be served from. –p is the port number that it will listen on. –e is the mode it will run in like development or production. I chose a few high ports 3000 to 3008 for my services to run in.

You can always remove a service if something is wrong.

mongrel_rails service::remove -N MyAppsServiceName


Setting up IIS7:

Install the application request routing 2.0 and URL Rewrite plug-ins using the Web Platform Installer

Once that is done you will need to create a new web farm.

 create farm

Next you will need to add at least one server entry. You may want to edit your host file and add additional aliases to your IP Address so you can run multiple copies of mongrel to service all request. The recommendation is one per cpu/core.

add server

The last step the wizard ask if you want to add the routing rules. The answer is yes.

add rules

You can confirm the routing rules are in place.

edit inbound rule

Make sure you have a website in IIS running and listening on port 80. Without this there is nothing for IIS to route to your new server farm.


If you have any questions post them up. I’m not a Rails expert but I have just been through the pain of Rails on Windows!

Three Years late, Was It Worth The Wait? Windows 7, Vista Promises Delivered.

Having been married to Microsoft for most of my professional career doesn’t mean I drink the Kool-Aid.

I have had the distinct privilege to grow up in interesting times. I loved DOS. As a BBS operator DOS was the de facto OS for most BBSes that ran on x86 hardware. Combined with QEMM/DESQview  I was a multitasking fool, running many nodes on a single 386 and a ton of ram, 8 Megabytes to be exact.

Other OSes came and I tried them as well Even running OS/2 for a while. It was DOS compatibility and multi-instance that I was after, though you could run Windows 3.x apps in it, why bother.

I just didn’t see where Windows was anything near as powerful as my good old DOS prompt. I had used GUI’s before and knew that some day it would be the way things went. To put it bluntly though, I hated Windows. I my eyes at the time, it did nothing well. It made my sleek powerful machine run like a pig. It required me to learn how to do things the Windows way, which slowed me down. I even went so far as to actively refuse to own or install a mouse I so loathed Windows.

In many aspects my opinion hasn’t changed much. To be honest I blame the “over promise, under deliver” method of development that Microsoft seems to employ with Windows OS development.

Windows 3.11 for Workgroups was modestly noteworthy in my view because it help bring the internet into homes for the first time. I also knew the internet was awesome and powerful but I didn’t grasp the whole World Wide Web thing immediately ether. Not being a graphical guy I didn’t see what it bought me over any other tools that ran on the internet, until I really saw it running on Windows.

It still wasn’t enough to completely win me over. I was already working with GNU/Linux going back to DOS/Windows mostly to play games or develop on as a platform since that paid the bills. I had been using NT for quite a while as a systems/network/database administrator but still ran Linux at home and for other projects when I could. That changed a bit with the release of Windows 2000. To me it was Windows all grown up. 32 bits, nice GUI, fairly stable it had a lot going for it. Plus, Windows Me was such a miserable experience it was an easy choice to go with 2000 Workstation and pretend that particular nastiness just didn’t exist. Though it wasn’t until XP hit that I switched full time for my day to day desktop to Windows, from dual booting just XP all the way.

That lasted for quite a while…. Until Vista. Vista didn’t have a marketing problem, it didn’t suffer from bad press. It was just fundamentally broken. I don’t care how many Mojave commercials you run, live with it for a while and you will be just as unhappy with it if it was named Santa Clause.
I do thank MS for releasing Vista though, it turned me back on to Linux and specifically Ubuntu which I have been using now for the last couple of years. If anyone can close on Windows I think Ubuntu and Mark Shuttleworth have the best chance, unless Apple looses its mind and releases OSX for white boxes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will always give Windows its due when it comes to ease of configurations and common usage. If it wasn’t for Windows my mom would still be putting stamps on her mail to me.

With that little history lesson, and my obvious bias against Windows I still always try the latest and greatest for MS. It is in my best interest to do so. I don’t want to ever be too far behind the curve, or have a lack of something to complain about.

So, with all my gripes and soap-boxing, here I sit typing away on a x86 machine with Windows 7 loaded on it, and I’m happy with it. So happy I’m not dual booting into anything at the moment and my laptop has it loaded as well.

Why, you may ask, am I back on the bandwagon? Here is the short list.



That’s right, as bad as Vista was, 7 doesn’t show any signs of the past sins. My first big ugh moment with Vista was trying to copy files on the network. It just wouldn’t start, or if it did it took forever to finish. I know it was addressed in a patch and later by SP1 but it was a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Rarely would I come close to gigabit speeds even though I’m on a managed switch and both ends can easily handle the load. XP came much closer, and if I wasn’t using Samba, Ubuntu just flew over the wire. Windows 7 brought that back in line. When I got near wire speed on my first test run I just assumed it was wrong. I still doesn’t handle lots of small files as well as my Ubuntu setup but its not enough to quibble about.


Vista had them but at the cost of making your state of the art machine run like last years eMachine you bought for your mom for 300 bucks. On the other hand Ubuntu with Compbiz was just stunning and ran on my older Pentium M laptop with a radeon x200 mobile GPU in it. Again, 7 addresses this it keeps the visuals from Vista and improves on them, I got to say the rotating wallpapers is my current favorite feature at the moment. It is still a generation behind Compbiz as far as raw visual stunning effects.
I’ll never forget when a friend of mine was going on about Aero glass and transparencies in Vista all I did was break out my laptop and tab through the running apps. Once he picked his jaw up he asked how I had gotten Vista to do that….. After he got over the second shock, that it was Linux, I had him trying Ubuntu for himself.
I’ve also attempted to use Stardock to get as close to the same effects on windows and just had to give up. There was enough annoying crashes and blips to make it not worth my time.


I wasn’t sure I was going to like the new fat bar but it has quickly grown on me. I hate having a million icons on my desktop but I want things to be accessible that I use day in and day out. With Windows 7 replacing the quick launch with the ability to pin an application to the bottom bar, or in the start menu, you get the best of both worlds you task bar shows you what is running it also acts as your quick launch and it is remarkably uncluttered.
I am also a fan of the mouse over preview that shows you how many things you have open per group and what is in them i.e. having multiple browsers open or multiple management studio sessions. With the quick preview I can just peek and pick the one I need to work with now without having to alt-tab through everything.
The focus and fade effect you get when you mouse over then up onto the preview showing you only that window on the screen is also a nice touch. I use to always use the minimize all windows using the shortcut on the quick launch bar, then alt-tab through the list of running programs to find the one I was after it sucked but it was fast enough.


Out of the box I had very few driver issues with 7. It even installed without my help on my Nvidia raid array. There are a couple of drivers missing for my laptop but no real show stoppers. Since Vista took the brunt of that attack I’ll chalk it up as a win in that column for Vista.


Don’t laugh I mean it. 7, even as a beta and now RC has a better, more polished security model. Not the open range XP was and not the heavy handed style of Vista.
Just to make other Ubuntu/Linux junkies upset I don’t think it is any more disrupted as having to execute under sudo to install components or do administrative actions.
I do wish there was a bigger push to move stuff out of the kernel space and into user land for security and stability but I think time will fix these issues as well.


I still hear you snickering from the above topic but I must push on. Other than the 1.5 BILLION reboots to install software or update drivers I haven’t had any real issues with crashing.
The compatibly run as model actually worked for me on a couple of apps that didn’t play well under 7, but did just fine on Vista. Also, the fact you can install an application in this mode made life easier to the legacy stuff I have to have. 
Another thing that will make the OSX guys upset is I haven’t rebooted my laptop since the install was completed. Hibernate actually works and that is the mode I leave it in. On my new laptop with 4GB of ram and a decent SSD drive it comes back from hibernate in a flash(no pun intended, oh hell who am I kidding of course it was intended). I was pretty much guaranteed that If I put Vista into hibernate it was about a 1 in 3 chance that I’d have to ditch the saved image and reboot clean.

This all adds up to a better user experience and enhanced productivity without a steep learning curve. I don’t feel like this was rushed out the door and then crammed down our collective throats as the pentacle of operating systems.

If you haven’t tried it, do so. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.