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Posted on November 14th 2014

Ruby on Rails Tutorial: Creating a Rails Instance from an Existing MySQL DB

In this Ruby on Rails tutorial, I will show how to create a Rails instance from an existing MySQL database.

I have an existing site that used Codeigniter and a MySQL DB, and I want to more or less convert that site into a Ruby on Rails site. I would like to make things as automatic as possible so I don't have to manually port any of the existing data or create the model properties.

I found this thread on ruby-forum.com that explains the basics of how to migrate an existing MySQL DB so it works with Rails. Let's follow the steps provided:

1. Write config/database.yml to reference your database.

I'm going to follow the guidelines in the RailsGuides for configuring a MySQL DB. The guidelines say that I should change my config/database.yml file to look something like this:

  adapter: mysql2
  encoding: utf8
  database: blog_development
  pool: 5
  username: root
  socket: /tmp/mysql.sock

With some small tweaks to match my local environment, I'm ready for step 2:

2. Run "rake db:schema:dump" to generate db/schema.rb

First stumbling block. I get the following error upon trying "rake db:schema:dump":

Please install the mysql2 adapter: gem install activerecord-mysql2-adapter (mysql2 is not part of the bundle. Add it to Gemfile.)

After following the suggestions I've been given (1. gem install activerecord-mysql2-adapter and 2. Adding "gem 'mysql2'" to my Gemfile) I try "rake db:schema:dump" again. Second stumbling block. I get this error:

Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/tmp/mysql.sock' (2)

This StackOverflow thread tells me that I need to figure out the correct socket file and specify it in my database.yml file. I run 'mysqladmin variables | grep socket' from the command line and find out that my socket file is located at '/Applications/XAMPP/xamppfiles/var/mysql/mysql.sock' because, of course, I'm running XAMPP for my MySQL server.

Success! Well, I think so anyway. At least I didn't get any error messages this time.

3. Convert schema.rb into db/migrate/001_create_database.rb

My schema.rb file reflects a successful connection to my MySQL DB. It seemingly faithfully describes the tables and fields of my DB. So I create a '/db/migrate' folder, copy my 'schema.rb' file into it, rename it '001_create_database.rb' and wrap the schema as suggested by the ruby-forums.com thread:

class CreateDatabase < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def self.up
    # insert schema.rb here

  def self.down
    # drop all the tables if you really need
    # to support migration back to version 0

One note about this: The instructions in the ruby-forums.com thread say the first line of the migration file should be:

class CreateMigration < ActiveRecord::Migration

But it didn't work for me until I changed it to:

class CreateDatabase < ActiveRecord::Migration

(Note the updated class name.) All good now.

So now I think I have what I need to create the DB if I need to.

Now for the cool part. If I create a simple model whose class name matches one of the tables in my DB, I can immediately start accessing the data in the DB. Simple model:

class Tweet < ActiveRecord::Base
  # I have a table called 'tweets' in the DB

Now in the Rails console I can type:

> i = Tweet.find(296) # 296 is an ID of an item in the DB

And I get the data related to that record!

One last thing to really show that a connection has actually been made to the old DB. I want to display some records in the browser. There are really only three steps to accomplish this, but I'll add a fourth step to allow for pagination between all the records.

Step 1: Add routes to set up basic CRUD functions

This is pretty simple, just add the following line to the beginning of the routes.rb file:

resources :tweets   # replace 'tweet' with the name of your model

Now if I go to I get an error "uninitialized constant TweetsController." That's because, well, I haven't created my Tweets controller.

Step 2: Add a controller and define an index function

In the '/app/controllers' directory, I simply created a file called 'tweets_controller.rb' and added the following text (replacing the names of the classes and models as necessary):

class TweetsController


This won't work until we get through step 3.

Step 3: Add the 'will_paginate' gem

In the Gemfile, add the following line:

gem 'will_paginate', '3.0.3'

Then run 'bundle install'

Step 4: Create a view

In the '/app/views' directory I created a 'tweets' directory and within that directory I created a file called 'index.html.erb'. The 'index' part of that file name matches the index function of my TweetsController for a reason - this view gets called automatically when the user goes to '/tweets/index.html'.

In the same '/app/views/tweets/' directory I create a very simple _partial _file that will be called whenever an individual tweet needs to be displayed. That file is called "_tweet.html.erb" and the contents look like this:

The contents of the '/app/views/tweets/index.html.erb' file I mentioned above look like this:

 <!-- Knows to repeatedly render the _tweets partial -->

And that's it! I get all my DB records listed, 10 at a time, with pagination links so I can jump around between them. There's no formatting and a lot more work will go into displaying and organizing the data, but this is a really good start.

I create these rough tutorials as I go, so I fear some of the info may be disjointed or inconsistent. Please let me know if you have any questions or need anything clarified. I'm happy to help.

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