Capistrano 2.0 Preview 4

I am such a chicken. I very much wanted the next release of Capistrano to be the official “Capistrano 2.0” release. But as I watched the changelog grow, I started to get cold feet.

Thus, tonight I announce the fourth (and final, hopefully!) preview release of Capistrano 2.0. As before, you can grab it from the Rails beta gems server:

gem install -s capistrano

(What is Capistrano, you ask? Allow me to direct your attention to…)

The following items are just some of the changes new in preview #4:

  • The deploy:symlink task works correctly now when run by itself.
  • Synchronously instantiate the gateway to prevent it being instantiated multiple times.
  • Use “which” instead of "test -p to test whether a command exists on the path.
  • The :hosts and :roles keys can now accept lambdas, to lazily select which hosts or roles a task uses.
  • Versions of Net::SSH prior to 1.1.0 work with Capistrano again.
  • Variable accesses are now thread safe.
  • The deployment code is now locale-independent, so that the revision is parsed correctly even if your computer is using a non-English locale.
  • You can now pass :on_error => :continue when defining a task, so that any connection or command errors that occur during the task’s execution will be ignored, allowing the task (and subsequent tasks) to continue.

You can see the entire list of changes in the CHANGELOG.

So, give it a go. Try it out. Post your feedback to the Capistrano mailing list. I’d love to release cap2 final next week!

P.S. If you are on a Windows machine, and you get Zlib errors trying to install the Capistrano gem, try this. Find the rubygems/package.rb file (wherever it happens to be in your Ruby installation), open it up, and find the zipped_stream method. Then, replace it, wholesale, with the following:

def zipped_stream(entry) # skip the gzip header
  zis =
  is =
  zis.finish if zis

That seems to do the trick for me; let me know if it doesn’t work for you.

Bratwurst on Rails at RailsConf Europe

The Berlin Ruby User Group is throwing a pre-RailsConf party under the banner of Bratwurst on Rails.

The Ruby User Group Berlin is one of the biggest in Germany and therefore we’re pleased to organize an event on the night before the RailsConf Europe. In the tradition of last year’s “Pizza on Rails” the event is called “Bratwurst On Rails.”

The event is an opportunity to socialize and meet the conference participants in a relaxed atmosphere, and to make your name or brand known amongst them. Tighten your knots with the community by becoming a sponsor.

The venue will be in the heart of Berlin, close to the conference venue. Entry will be free, as will the food. (If you’re interested in sponsoring, have a look at our sponsoring packages and feel free to contact the organisation board via

Capistrano 2.0 Preview 3

Alright, we’re nearing the finish line! Capistrano 2.0 Preview Release #3 is now available.

Capistrano is a utility for automating the execution of tasks on one or more remote machines. You can read all about it at

To install Preview #3, you’ll need to grab it from the Rails beta gem server:

gem install -s capistrano

Accompanying PR3 is a new page of documentation on the site: Capistrano Basics. This walks you through the major features of Capistrano, but does not touch on deployment. This makes it a great introduction for those wanting to use Capistrano in non-deployment scenarios.

Preview #3 includes the following changes and enchancements:

Feature: Mercurial and CVS are now supported out of the box. Just set your :scm variable to :mercurial or :cvs, like so:

set :scm, :mercurial
# or
set :scm, :cvs

Thanks to Tobias Luetke and Matthew Elder for the Mercurial module, and Brian Phillips for the CVS module.

Feature: There is now a :default_environment variable, which is a hash that can be used to set environment variables that should be present for all commands that are executed. For instance:

default_environment["PATH"] =

Feature: All commands are now explicitly invoked via “sh”, which means that even if your default user shell is non-POSIX (e.g., tcsh, csh, etc.), you can use Capistrano just fine. Note that if you were using tcsh or csh syntax in your Capistrano scripts, you now need to set the :default_shell variable to use your (non-POSIX) shell of choice:

set :default_shell, "/usr/bin/tcsh"

Feature: You can declare empty roles, and Capistrano won’t complain. This is useful for predeclaring roles that need to exist (because task definitions depend on them), but which might not have any servers in them (depending on runtime conditions).

Feature: A username and port specified with the server definition (e.g., “”) now take precedence over the :username and :port settings in the ssh_options hash, rather than the other way around. This lets you set a general default via ssh_options, and override on a per-server basis in the server definitions themselves.

There are several other minor changes and fixes as well; you can read the CHANGELOG for all the gory details.

The Summer of Hack, 2007

The hackfest is back! In sleek new form, the ’fest runs monthly, starting now.

Without further ado: it’s on. Two weeks to go. Sprint!

Thanks to Working With Rails for making this an integral part of their site; thanks to O’Reilly for signing on as the first sponsor (first prize is a free pass to RailsConf Europe); and thanks to you for contributing the patches and bugfixes that keep Rails at the top of its game.

Go, go!

#rails-contrib and rubyonrails-stacks

RailsConf gave birth to a number of new outlets for sub-communities within the Rails family:

#rails-contrib is a new IRC channel on freenode for contributors to Rails. The Rails core team will hang out there to answer questions, discuss patches, and generally interact with anyone doing implementation work for the Rails framework. It's not meant for general chatter, though. Or for how to use the framework. It's strictly for implementational issues and the contributors working on those.

rubyonrails-stacks is a new forum to discuss how we can get standardized set of images going for Rails that can be deployed on any Xen host or even EC2. I posted a welcome with more details on the forum.

Taking expirations out of caching

It’s been said that the two last hard problems in programming are naming things and expiring caches. The first is going to be hard to sidestep entirely, but what if we could the second? Tobi arrived at a eureka moment for just that using Memcached and various kinds of caching. Instead of manually expiring things, just ask for a specific version, and let the caching engine take care of dumping that which isn’t used any more.

Read more on The Secret to Memcached.