Installing your own Ruby Gems on Dreamhost

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I came across this problem when trying to setup Capistrano on my dreamhost box.

Capistrano (orginally SwitchTower); is a standalone deployment utility that can integrate nicely with Rails. It allows you to deploy your apps across multiple servers from a subversion; Its handy for any shared environment (such as dreamhost), since you can use it to migrate databases and reset running fcgi processes.

Checking the Dreamhost Gemlist (or; gem list —local) I found that Capistrano wasnt installed – so I had to go about setting up my shared box so I could install any Gem I liked, in my home directory.

Its easier than I thought, but I had some trouble searching Google to find an answer so Im posting it up here; share the knowlegde and all that …

First up, create a new .gems folder in your home directory;

mkdir ~/.gems

Next open up your ~/.bashrc and ~/.bash_profile files and make sure to add the following lines as new environment variables;

export GEM_HOME=$HOME/.gems
export GEM_PATH=/usr/lib/ruby/gems/1.8:$GEM_HOME

Also adjust your PATH variable to include your new ~/.gems folder;

export PATH=~/bin:~/.gems/bin:$PATH

Thats basically it ! – For any gems you want to install you’ll need to grab them from somewhere online; I picked up Capistrano from here with


Then ran this command to install the gem (from my home dir)

gem install ~/capistrano-1.1.0.gem

Since we added the ~/.gems folder to the PATH variable in your bash files, you can simply type cap -V to check capistrano is installed.

Although this is not nessecary for Capistrano – in order to get your rails app to use other gems installed in your home directory, you first have to unpack them in RAILS_ROOT/vendor. Therefore, to be able to require them in your code, enter the RAILS_ROOT/vendor directory and do the following:

gem unpack gem_name

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