Apr 7, 2013 00:00 ยท 827 words ยท 4 minute read

Once I start my new job at thoughtbot, I’ll be working on a variety of ruby and rails projects at the same time. This, combined with the current 2.0 transition, means I once again need a ruby version management tool.

Chruby is the third (by my count) “new hotness” when it comes to these python-inspired virtualenv clones. First there was rvm which has a ton of features, then came rbenv which aimed to be simpler, finally we have chruby which is billed as the simplest of them all. So far, I’m a big fan.

For detailed instructions and usage please see the README files in the previously linked project pages. This post might gloss over some details and focuses more on my opinion of the tools than their usage. For Arch users, there are AUR PKGBUILDs for all of these.

Choices ๐Ÿ”—

Last time I required this feature, rbenv was just coming onto the scene, so I went with rvm. It is by far the most complex of these tools, and that is a downside itself. Overwriting cd (to allow auto-switching) is a concern for some people. The fact that it both installs and manages versions strikes others as a breach of Unix.

One feature commonly touted as the reason to use rvm is its gemsets which isolate sets of gems into groups and thus prevent gem-hell. Now that bundler is ubiquitous, this problem no longer exists.

Aside from rvm, the other major choices are rbenv and chruby. Looking at the rbenv project page, it still seems to do a number of things I don’t need or want. I’m also not a fan of it introducing a bunch of shims.

At its core, all such a manager needs to do is modify some environment variables so that the correct binary and set of libraries are loaded. Coincidentally, that’s about all chruby does.

Chruby ๐Ÿ”—

Paraphrasing from the project page, changing rubies via chruby will:

  1. Update $PATH so the correct ruby and any gem executables are directly available.
  2. Set a proper $GEM_HOME and $GEM_PATH so any gem related commands and tools (including bundler) will Just Work.
  3. Set some other ruby-related environment variables.
  4. Call hash -r for you (required when mucking with $PATH).

No shims, no crazy options or features bloating up the script which itself weighs in at less than 90 lines of very simple and readable shell.

If you choose, chruby can also do automatic switching. To opt in, you just have to source an additional (and equally simple) script. Once enabled, you will automatically change rubies when you enter a directory containing a .ruby-version file. This is done cleanly via a pre-prompt command and not by hijacking cd.

When auto-switching is enabled, be sure to define a “default” by dropping a .ruby-version in $HOME too.

Here are the entries in my ~/.zshenv (the same should work in bash):

if [[ -e /usr/share/chruby ]]; then
  source /usr/share/chruby/
  source /usr/share/chruby/
  chruby $(cat ~/.ruby-version)
The AUR PKGBUILD installs into /usr/share while the chruby README prescribes /usr/local/share. This may be a packaging bug that will eventually be fixed so be sure to verify and use the appropriate paths for your install.

So far, I’m a huge fan. The tool does what it advertises exactly and simply. The small feature-set is also exactly and only the features I need. As a bonus, setting the GEM_ variables is something I always seemed to need to do manually anyway, so it’s nice to no longer need that.

Ruby-build ๐Ÿ”—

Since chruby is just a “changer” you do need to install rubies via some other tool. Ruby-build makes that super easy:

$ ruby-build 1.9.3-p392 ~/.rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p392
$ ruby-build 2.0.0-p0 ~/.rubies/ruby-2.0.0-p0
Chruby will look for rubies installed in one of two places by default: /opt/rubies/ or ~/.rubies/. I prefer the latter.

Since ruby-build is actually a sub-tool of rbenv, it’s quite spartan. You’re required to type the desired version exactly (as read from ruby-build --definitions) and you need to give the full installation path, even though it could be determined easily by convention. rbenv install owns those niceties, apparently.

After this post was written, the author of chruby actually released a ruby-build competitor called [ruby-install][]. It’s feature-set is very much the same and it allows fuzzy commands like ruby-install ruby 1.9. I very much recommend it.

One last bit… ๐Ÿ”—

Some time ago, while still using both oh-my-zsh and rvm, I noticed that most of the prompts used yet-another rvm feature to read the currently active ruby and insert it into the prompt.

This seems a bit odd for a tool to provide this feature. There are also a great many if statements out there doing something different for rvm or rbenv. Will they all add a clause for chruby now?

Well, in a bout of insane cleverness, I found the following non-obvious way to get the currently active ruby version:

$ ruby --version

If you’d like to use this in your prompt, feel free to bogart from mine.