On our servers we only install software from Debian packages, or our own software with install scripts from our own CVS. This at first seems a bit mad, especially to Ruby on Rails people who love their gems. But it’s a sane way of managing lots of servers (we’ve got 7 Debian servers, and 2 FreeBSD servers to run at the moment).
Of course, you could install packages on them from CPAN, from Ruby Gems, by compiling them yourself and putting them in /usr/local. But you’d have to have another system for each packages system to keep track of what you’d installed and what version, and to worry about security updates. And you’d lose some of the benefits of dependency checking.
Most of our servers are, inevitably, still running Debian Sarge (the latest and greatest when we started them a few years ago). We’re going to gradually upgrade them to Debian Etch, but it is going to take a while. In the fast moving world of Rails this isn’t particularly helpful, so you have to backport packages. I couldn’t find any, so have made some myself.
You can find packages for Rails 1.2.5-1 on Sarge in our Debian package repository. Yeah, still an old version for you people “living on the edge”, but it’s the one in Etch (the latest Debian stable), and is way better than 0.13.1-1 that we had before 🙂