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Announcing DebGem (beta), the RubyGem-to-Apt conversion service

By Hongli Lai on January 6th, 2009


Installing Ruby/Rails software on Debian and Ubuntu Linux distributions has been less than ideal until now. Ruby has a package manager called RubyGems, but Debian-based distributions have their own package manager, namely Apt, which manages the entire system and is preferred by most Debian users. RubyGems does not integrate well with Apt and cannot handle native Debian package dependencies. But on the other hand, Ruby software provided through the current Debian Apt repositories are not always up-to-date, e.g. the latest Rails version is often not available.

We are happy to announce DebGem, our RubyGem-to-Apt conversion service.

  • DebGem provides an Apt repository with Debian packages for virtually all gems available on RubyForge and GitHub. To put things into perspective, there are over 20000 gems on RubyForge and Github combined.
  • We support Debian and Ubuntu.
  • Installing an arbitrary Ruby library is now as easy as typing apt-get install libsomething-ruby.
  • Packages are kept up-to-date often. For example, the latest version of Rails is available through DebGem.
  • We support gems with native extensions as well, e.g. RMagick and Mongrel. We hand-tune individual packages to make sure that they have the proper package dependencies.
  • The repository is GPG signed.

Comments from a Debian member

We are committed to providing high-quality packages that integrate well into the system. For this reason, we’ve contacted Gunnar Wolf — a member of the Debian Ruby packaging team — for feedback prior to launching DebGem. In his latest blog post, he has expressed his approval of DebGem. Thanks Gunnar. 🙂

More information

DebGem is currently in free public beta. Please go to to learn more.

  • Andy L.

    You guys keep coming with these great new tools that are revolutionizing the way we deploy & maintain our ruby / rails apps!…

    What can I say?!

    Awesome work, guys, just awesome!

  • Congrats, guys.
    It looks great.

  • Bob Boblinski

    Nice tool, but it’s a real shame to see falling under some subscription model.

  • Congrats.

    But do you have the typo version we released 2 days ago :p

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  • @Frederic: Once DebGem is out of beta we intend on generating the packages automatically every day or so. 🙂

  • Interestingly enough, there is not REE in that repository, which renders it useless because you have to reinstall gems if you compile REE.

  • @Sergei: REE support will come, in time. But before it can be done it must first be natively packaged for *all* distributions, that’s a lot of work. We’ll also have to generate packages separately for each distribution with REE, thus effectively doubling the energy that we need to spend into it.

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  • anita

    You guys are great. I can’t believe this. You have no idea how many times I have run into problems with the Ubuntu/Rubygem incompatibility. This will definitely be something that I will pay for because I know you guys will do this right. Fantastic!!

  • dude… super cool !
    need some debian developers contact ? mail me !

  • Awesome! Thanks guys!

    I’ve just post using rghost project. it’s working fine with debgem.

  • I hate to be negative, especially with awesome people like you guys who’s been doing great stuff so far. But I’ll have to admit that IMHO, this is a horrible idea.

    Ultimately what you are offering is (just) an ATP repository which asks for payment to be used on a limited number of machines. It doesn’t sound appealing, does it?

    So what does it have to offer for the money? For a SysAdmin, probably not much. It could have a niche in where developers try to deploy for themselves. But as a SysAdmin who’s been deploying Ruby/Rails apps for over a year, I fail to see why RubyGems is not good enough in most of the generic cases. Installing certain gems might cause minor inconveniences, but nothing a SysAdmin can’t handle. When we try to apply this to large scale deployments, scripting and automation skills would be enough to handle it. Sure, DebGem is more convenient in such a case. But still it’s not appealing with the current pricing model.

    Even for people who are going to purchase subscriptions, it’d be hard for you to enforce your subscription based pricing with software like APT-Proxy (or retrieval from APT cache).

    I just came across this post and this is my first reaction. Hey, even Linus Torvalds made the mistake of underestimating Linux (so did MS and Gartnet Group). Couple of years ago who would’ve thought Cats with Captions were going to be all over the Net. So I’m not saying it’s dead. It’s just, if it was me I’d have thought again about how I’m going to proceed with this project.

    Being said all that, wish you guys good luck! All the best with your awesome projects.

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  • This is awesome.

    We started to build a repository of the gems we used regularly, but this wipes the floor with it. Thank you so much!


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