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Zena – Rails CMS & VDI Playground

By Dale Reagan | December 30, 2008

CMS=Content Management System

Rails = Ruby on Rails – a development framework using the Ruby language, Active Record, and Restful programming.

VDI – virtual disk image (Sun Virtualbox virtual machine solution)

Zena is described as a state of the art CMS “with a focus on usability, ease of customization and web 2.0 goodness (application like behaviour).”  There are several options for fetching this solution including a Debian VDI Playground so of course, I tried the VDI.  The ~600MB+ VDI download took a good while.  When I checked the compressed file all seemed well.  When I installed the compressed disk image all seemed well.  When I run the image it just gets ‘stuck’…  It is quite likely that the VDI is/was corrupted so you may want to simply install from one of the download options:  git, svn, or compressed tar ball.

If you are reviewing CMS solutions then you should consider viewing the Zena videos since they show the system in action.  The videos contain a bit of Apple OS graphics (as things are clicked and selected, zoomed in/out, etc.) that I found a bit distracting, however, the details are impressive.  The editing of content and code seems to be relatively easy; the downside is that yet another templating language is used to ‘speed things up’; this is a common trade-off in our rush to get things done. At this point my impression is that this solution is for programmers/designers and perhaps not a good solution for non-techie users…

After some deliberation this seems like it might be a good project for VirtualBox and Cobbler:

  1. create a VM for testing the Zena CMS  (I will use an existing, 8GB disk (VDI), 512MB RAM, Fedora 8 VirtualBox virtual machine)
  2. create a Cobbler kickstart that includes the required VM components (Web server, database, Ruby, network setup)
  3. create an instance of the VM (PXE boot – install and configure the base OS as well as Zena components) and
  4. complete any manual setup that might be needed for Zena

It would be nice if an install script was part of this effort so I will most likely create one once all of the required steps are clear.  My Cobbler server is already configured to provide downloads (via wget and Apache) during installs so I just need to:

  1. add the Zena tar ball (and perhaps any other needed software) to the available downloads
  2. create a script to install Zena and have the same script create the database for Zena
  3. have the new VM download both the tar ball and script during the PXE boot
  4. and then have the new VM complete the install process by running the script

Hmm – I’m not as enthused after reviewing the install information for a Debian system the required software list includes:

Additional manual steps may/will include configuring Apache, Mysql and the Ruby install (the ‘gem install’ step below.)

  1. wget
  2. wget
  3. wget
  4. sudo gem install rake hoe gettext mongrel mongrel_cluster rmagick tzinfo syntax mongrel_upload_progress uuidtools daemons json capistrano ruby-debug --no-ri --no-rdoc

While many of the listed components are quite common the Playground VDI is looking like a possibly less time-consuming approach... 🙂

NOTE – you still have to install and configure Zena for use…. At this point I recall reading: “Installing and managing your own server running zena is for advanced users. We recommend taking an account by a zena hosting company if you feel unsure with server management.”

The install for Zena includes just four (4) steps – looks like it might be simple once you take care of the dependancies. I will post an update if/when I get an automated solution in place (via Cobbler or other means…)

Topics: Computer Technology, Problem Solving, Unix-Linux-Os, Web Site Conversions | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Zena – Rails CMS & VDI Playground”

  1. Gaspard Bucher Says:
    January 9th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Hi there !

    It’s true that installing all the dependencies on zena is not very easy. If you are on debian, there’s a script that installs everything ( a naked debian install (nothing selected in tasksel).

    You say that you had a corrupted vdi image. Can you give me some details so I can fix this ?

    Anyway, we are working hard to make installation with zena easier (debian package, apache mod_rails). Let me know if you have any advice…


  2. Dale Reagan Says:
    January 9th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the response, Gaspard. I will retry the VDI image and send you the output.

    For those of us on the other side of the ocean downloading a VDI can take a while so the script in your link looks like a good approach. It could be incorporated into a kickstart solution (i.e. via something like Cobbler – discussed elsewhere on my site); Using Cobbler I can provision a Fedora virtual machine with VirtualBox in (usually) less than ~8 minutes.

    Since your solution seems to be tied to the Debian Linux build I will explore installing a Debian repository on my system for automated builds and incorporate the script you mention – I’ll post here on the outcome.


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