Installing Ruby on Linux as a User other than root

June 17, 2010

(This article was first published on R-Chart, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Ruby is best known as the language behind the rails web application framework. However, it is a very flexible general purpose language that can be used for tasks of direct interest to R Developers (parsing files, interacting with databases, processing XML or JSON, math functions, statistics, machine learning, etc).

If you do not have root access on a Linux server, you may still be able to install the ruby language and rubgems. Start by checking the version currently installed (if any):

whereis ruby

which ruby

ruby –version

Create or navigate to a temporary directory.

mkdir ~/tmp

cd ~/tmp

Get a source archive of ruby and ruby gems from RubyForge.


Uncompress and extract the downloaded source into such like $HOME/tmp.

tar -xzvf ruby-1.8.6-p110.tar.gz

Change directory to the location of extracted sources.

cd ruby-1.8.6-p110

Run configure script with –prefix option set to $HOME (avoid permissions issues). This will result in an installation of ruby in your home directory.

./configure –prefix=$HOME


make install

Add $HOME/bin to your path (in ~/.bash_profile or other startup script).

export PATH=/home/username/bin/:.:$PATH

Verify the correct version was installed:

ruby –version

Keep in mind that various subdirectories will be created by this process (bin, lib, share).

Download Gems


Set GEM_HOME to a gems directory that you have write access to. Replace /home/username with your own home directory location. Use “pwd” to get correct syntax.

export GEM_HOME=/home/username/gems

Run the ruby gems setup program.

ruby setup.rb

Depending upon your environment, you may want to set up aliases, configure your PATH or other environmental variables.

alias ruby=’~/bin/ruby’

export GEM_HOME=/home/csaternos/gems

export RUBYOPT=rubygems

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