• Home

  • Custom Ecommerce
  • Application Development
  • Database Consulting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • Systems Integration
  • Legacy Business Systems
  • Security & Compliance
  • GIS

  • Expertise

  • About Us
  • Our Team
  • Clients
  • Blog
  • Careers

  • VisionPort

  • Contact
  • Our Blog

    Ongoing observations by End Point Dev people

    Rails 3.1: Upgrading a Simple App — Part 1

    Steph Skardal

    By Steph Skardal
    September 21, 2011

    Here at End Point, I’ve worked with a few Rails 3 applications in production and a couple of Rails 3.1 apps in development, so I’ve become familiar with the new features and functionality including the Rails 3.1 Asset Pipeline that I mentioned earlier this year. I thought it was a good time to upgrade our website to Rails 3.1 and share the experience.

    To start, here’s a quick summary of our website:

    • Simple Rails application running on Rails 2.1.2 with no database
    • Static pages throughout the site, fully cached
    • Rake tasks to generate partials throughout the site to display dynamic blog content
    • Site uses a moderate amount of jQuery and jQuery plugins.
    • Site is optimized in terms of asset serving (ETags, Expires headers, CSS sprites, etc.)

    While I’ve worked with a few Rails 3 apps, I haven’t been involved in the actual upgrade process myself. There are plenty of resources out there with upgrade advice, including a few RailsCasts (one, two, and three). My favorite resource was the rails_upgrade gem, a gem that is now officially supported by Rails to help with the upgrade process. I followed the instructions to install the gem (script/plugin install git://github.com/rails/rails_upgrade.git) to install it as a plugin in our site’s application in a fresh git branch (on a camp, of course!).

    The rails_upgrade provides a few new rake tasks for checking compatibility, upgrading the routes, creating a Gemfile, and upgrading configuration. For me, the most valuable task was the rake rails:upgrade:check task. Here’s what the output looked like for this app:

    Deprecated session secret setting

    Previously, session secret was set directly on ActionController::Base; it’s now config.secret_token. More information: http://lindsaar.net/2010/4/7/rails_3_session_secret_and_session_store

    The culprits:

    • config/initializers/session_store.rb

    Old router API

    The router API has totally changed. More information: http://yehudakatz.com/2009/12/26/the-rails-3-router-rack-it-up/

    The culprits:

    • config/routes.rb

    New file needed: config/application.rb

    You need to add a config/application.rb. More information: http://omgbloglol.com/post/353978923/the-path-to-rails-3-approaching-the-upgrade

    The culprits:

    • config/application.rb

    Deprecated constant(s)

    Constants like RAILS_ENV, RAILS_ROOT, and RAILS_DEFAULT_LOGGER are now deprecated. More information: http://litanyagainstfear.com/blog/2010/02/03/the-rails-module/

    The culprits:

    • app/views/layouts/application.rhtml

    Soon-to-be-deprecated ActiveRecord calls

    Methods such as find(:all), find(:first), finds with conditions, and the :joins option will soon be deprecated. More information: http://m.onkey.org/2010/1/22/active-record-query-interface

    The culprits:

    • app/views/blog_archive/_ruby_on_rails.html.erb

    Deprecated AJAX helper calls

    AJAX javascript helpers have been switched to be unobtrusive and use :remote => true instead of having a seperate function to handle remote requests. More information: http://www.themodestrubyist.com/2010/02/24/rails-3-ujs-and-csrf-meta-tags/

    The culprits:

    • app/views/blog_archive/_company.html.erb

    Deprecated ActionMailer API

    You’re using the old ActionMailer API to send e-mails in a controller, model, or observer. More information: http://lindsaar.net/2010/1/26/new-actionmailer-api-in-rails-3

    The culprits:

    • app/controllers/contact_controller.rb

    Old ActionMailer class API

    You’re using the old API in a mailer class. More information: http://lindsaar.net/2010/1/26/new-actionmailer-api-in-rails-3

    The culprits:

    • app/models/contact_form.rb

    As you can see, the upgrade check spits out a list of necessary and recommended upgrades and the corresponding culprits. It’s also nice that the task provides documentation in the form of a link for each message. Studying the source of the plugin, I found additional examples of upgrade messages: named_scope updates, validate_on_* syntax, test_help path updates, gem bundling configuration, Rails generator API syntax updates, messaging on known broken plugins (e.g. searchlogic, cucumber, nifty-generators), and depracation on ERb helper and AJAX calls.

    I went through and applied my updates, according to the checklist. Notable updates were:

    Routing updates


    ActionController::Routing::Routes.draw do |map|
      map.root :controller => 'home', :action => 'index'
      map.connect 'contact/submit', :controller => 'contact', :action => 'submit'
      map.connect ':controller/:id'
      map.connect '*path', :controller => 'redirect'


    Endpoint::Application.routes.draw do
      root :to => 'home#index'
      match 'contact/submit' => 'contact#submit'
      match ':controller(/:id)', :action => :index
      match '*path' => 'redirect#index'

    Introduction of a Gemfile

    source 'http://rubygems.org'
    gem 'rails', '3.1.0'
    gem 'json'
    # Gems used only for assets and not required
    # in production environments by default.
    group :assets do
      gem 'sass-rails', "  ~> 3.1.0"
      gem 'coffee-rails', "~> 3.1.0"
      gem 'uglifier'
    gem 'jquery-rails'
    gem 'fastercsv'
    gem 'execjs'
    gem 'therubyracer'
    gem 'rake', '0.8.7'

    Renaming rhtml files

    Something that didn’t come up in the rails upgrade check that is required to have a working app is renaming all rhtml files to html.erb, briefly described here.

    Basic Asset Management

    To get the basic app working, I moved the public/stylesheets and public/javascripts to the new app/assets directories to start. I did not move the images out of the public/ directory because several of the images in the application are referenced by blog articles.

    Database-less Application

    I followed the directions here combined with a bit of troubleshooting to configure a Rails 3.1 app that does not require a database.


    The upgrade was a relatively painless process, although it still took a few hours for even the most basic application with only a handful of controllers, routes, and one mailer. My experience suggests that with a more complex application, the upgrade will take at least a few hours, if not much more. This simple app doesn’t do much with remote forms and links, so I didn’t spend any time upgrading the app to work with the jquery-ujs gem. Also, I obviously didn’t mess around with Rails 3.1 ActiveRecord issues since the application is database-less. Both of these items may add significant overhead to the upgrade process.

    I spent a significant amount of time working with the new asset pipeline and restructuring the assets, which I plan to describe in Part 2 of the upgrade. Stay tuned!

    javascript jquery rails