Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial – notes for ubuntu users

Ruby on Rails 3 Tutorial by Michael Hartl is an excellent introduction to Ruby on Rails. However, Hartl is an OS X user and at several points in the tutorial he punts when it comes to details for linux and Windows users. In most cases he does a good job of pointing towards blogs that describe steps that are different for linux and Windows users.

I initially attempted to go through the tutorial on Windows but decided to switch to ubuntu. The Windows references are much more vague and use of the tutorial and Ruby under Windows is significantly different than OS X or linux. Richard Simon also has some comments regarding this book and has clearly used it on ubuntu. Fred Schoeneman also provides some great information for those using Hartl’s book from ubuntu or other linux implementations.

Toran Billups has a succinct blog post for installing Ruby on Rails on ubuntu.

Below are my notes in areas where Hartl’s linux references didn’t quite cover the task at hand.

p85, autotest notification tools. Richard Simon covers this here. Execute the commands:

$ sudo apt-get install libnotify-bin
$ gem install autotest-notification
$ an-install

ubuntu VirtualBox screen resolution

I’m trying out ubuntu on my Windows 7 laptop under VirtualBox and I’d like to switch to full screen mode on my Toshiba laptop which is 1366×768 and on my desktop system which is 1920×1200.

Before you start this process, you must have the VirtualBox Guest Additions installed.  Execute the command:

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r)

Then shutdown your Ubuntu guest. If you’re running in a very high resolution, like 1920×1200, you must also configure the VirtualBox Guest to give it 128Mb of display memory. Do this in the VB Manager under Settings > Display.

If you still can’t get the resolution you want, try the following:

$ sudo apt-get install virtualbox-ose
$VBoxManage controlvm winbox setvideomodehint 1920 1200 24

What follows are the instructions using xrandr but the steps above worked for me under Ubuntu 10.10.

My first step was to setup the modes for the System > Preferences > Monitors tool. I found a very good description of the steps on the ubuntu geek site. Execute the xrandr command to get the name of your display which is used as a parameter in several of the commands.

$ xrandr
Screen 0: minimum 640 x 480, current 1024 x 768, maximum 1024 x 768
VBOX0 connected 1024×768+0+0 0mm x 0mm
1024×768 61.0*
800×600 61.0
640×480 60.0

You’ll replace all references to VGA1 in the commands to VBOX0. Here’s a summary of the steps creating a new resolution of 1366×768:

$ cvt 1366 768
# 1368×768 59.88 Hz (CVT) hsync: 47.79 kHz; pclk: 85.25 MHz
Modeline “1368x768_60.00” 85.25 1368 1440 1576 1784 768 771 781 798 -hsync +vsync

The Modeline output from the cvt command should be passed as a parameter to the xandr command as shown here:

$ xrandr –newmode “1368x768_60.00” 85.25 1368 1440 1576 1784 768 771 781 798 -hsync +vsync
$ xrandr –addmode VBOX0 1368x768_60.00
$ xrandr –output VBOX0 –mode 1368x768_60.00

To make the changes permanent, you need to edit the default file to insert the commands that we just executed.

$ gksudo gedit /etc/gdm/Init/Default

Insert the commands in the file after these lines


$ xrandr –newmode “1368x768_60.00” 85.25 1368 1440 1576 1784 768 771 781 798 -hsync +vsync
$ xrandr –addmode VBOX0 1368x768_60.00
$ xrandr –output VBOX0 –mode 1368x768_60.00

After following these steps, switch your VirtualBox ubuntu VM into full screen mode either via the Machine > Switch to Fullscreen menu item or Host Key + F.

IE9 Cookie Tracking

I really like the new feature in IE9 that allows you to track the cookies that sites are trying to place on your system.  I’m not sure how usable this will be over the long term but it’s certainly interesting to turn this feature on at least briefly to get an idea of the cookies being laid down by the sites you visit.

To enable this feature in IE9:

– From the Tools menu, select Internet Options

– Click the Privacy tab

– Click the Advanced button

– Click the Override automatic cookie handling checkbox

– I turn on the Prompt option for Third Party Cookies

You’ll then be prompted whenever a site you visit tries to drop cookies from a third party site and you can choose to allow or block the cookies.

Backup via FTP

I have a 1and1 linux business account which provides 250Gb of storage and more email accounts than I could ever need. The only restriction that I run into is the maximum number of files of 262,144. I’m nowhere near the 250Gb maximum file usage.

A few weeks ago I received an email from 1and1 saying that the price for the linux Business service would be going up from $9.99/mo to $13.99/mo in May. At the same time, there would now be unlimited web space, email accounts, MySQL database, subdomains, etc. However, the email made no mention about a change in the maximum number of files.

The cost of online storage options keeps going down whether it’s 1and1, Google, Amazon S3, Dropbox or the new Amazon Cloud Drive .

It would be nice to have a simple backup utility that will backup via FTP to a storage service of your choosing. With 1and1, it would be great if that backup would be to a single file to bypass their file limit. In searching for ftp backup utilities, I found a lot of really old utilities but eventually came across Cobian Backup. I’ve spent a couple of days trying out Cobian backup and it works well and is free. The user interface isn’t initially intuitive but watch this short YouTube video and you’ll be using it in no time.

For my purposes, I’ve found a couple of other options that work well. Under the Archive setting, I select 7z compression because I had a problem with zip compression. I also set up the file to be split into DVD size (4.3Gb) files so that I can download the backup in reasonable size pieces and because Cobian compresses the files on local storage so you’re going to need some amount of free space on the local hard drive if you use their compression option.


If you’re installing a new Windows system you need Ninite. Ninite is a website that provides a quick and simple way to install much of the software you want on a new system.

Browse to the Ninite website, click the checkboxes next to the apps you want (WinZip, DropBox, Chrome, Firefox, Skype, ….) and it will download the latest versions and install them without any further interactions. The list of supported applications is updated regularly.

iPad Outlining Apps

I’ve been looking for a good outlining app for the iPad and thought I’d document what I found here. I’ve used SoundNote which lets you record audio and take notes at the same time (Evernote also has this feature), iBrainstorm, Evernote and the standard Apple Notes applications. I’ve also heard really good things about Note Taker HD. They all have their uses but if you want to outline a subject, none of them are really setup for that.

For me, efficient hierarchical list keeping with a good interface and presentation is the primary requirement. It would be nice to sync this between devices or at least store the document on DropBox.

There are a number of mind mapping apps for the iPad which I won’t attempt to review here but iThoughtsHD seems to be the leading one in that category. There are also numerous ToDo app solutions which sometimes providing outlining features. I’m a big fan of ToodleDo which provides a cloud solution that integrates iOS and Android devices aswell as a good web interface.

Outliner for iPad by CarbonFin is $4.99 and receives a 4+ rating on the iTunes store with 199 ratings.

This looks like the most mature (if you can say that for a platform that’s only a year old) of the outlining apps I’ve run across. It includes the ability to create outlines as tasks or lists and if you mark an outline as a task, it creates a checkbox next to each item to track it’s completion. There’s a cloud function called Outliner Online that allows you to sync your outlines and to share them with other users. A quick features summary with screen shots can be found at the CarbonFin website.

Simple Outliner has both a free and $2.99 version which have a total of 296 and 48 ratings respectively but the ratings are around 3.

The combined reviews for the free and paid version of this app are mixed at best. Numerous comments about the user interface being difficult to use.

Lists is $0.99 and appears to be a new app with only a few ratings. I’m not crazy about the layout – too much whitespace so you can’t see as many lines per screen and one of the three reviewers also commented on this. The developers website says that version 2 will provide synchronization between devices.

Based on this, I’m going to give Outliner for iPad a try.

My RSS Feeds

Since I bought an iPad I’m using Google Reader and tracking more RSS feeds/blogs since it’s such a convenient device for consuming information on the web.

I’m a big fan of the iPad Reeder application which syncs with your existing Google Reader account including tracking what you’ve already read and starred. Reeder is $4.99.

There are many iPad RSS/News readers available both paid and free. TCGeeks has a good review of what’s available.

Here are the categorized RSS feeds/blogs I follow using Google Reader and Reeder for the iPad: