Docker Interpreter with Environment Variables in RubyMine

As you know from previous blog entries, we now rely on Docker dev containers as interpreters for our IDEs. This has the advantage that we don’t need local installations of for example Ruby or single packages, but all requirements are in a Docker container and our machine stays clean.
RubyMine has some pitfalls for this way. So in this blog post, I’ll present you some hard-won insights and show you what solution we came to.

Those were our first problems:

  1. When using a single Docker image as an interpreter, it does not clean up everything when exiting the application and container. For example, the Server.pids file remains on the local machine, resulting in the following error: “A server is already running. Check path/Pids/Server.pids.” This behavior can be worked around with a Before Launch script that deletes the file when the application starts, but it’s not very nice. RubyMine unfortunately does not have Docker Container Settings, different to other Jetbrain IDEs, so a simple –rm does not work.
  2. Furthermore, we need to talk to our local machine from our Docker container, for example to access a DB or to use a VPN tunnel originating from the local machine. For this, the Docker container needs to know my IP address, or the respective IP address of each developer. In our version control system, however, we don’t want to constantly overwrite the IP addresses or check before each push that you don’t accidentally write up your own IP address. Our wish was to have a local environment variable MY_MACHINE_IP where each developer writes their IP address and the Docker container fetches it when the program starts. The normal integration of the system environment variables by simply checking this option unfortunately does not work here when we start the program in Docker. This is because the IDE then integrates the environment variables of the Docker container and not those of my local machine. Also, using a local environment variable to pass it to Docker doesn’t work in Run Configuration, nor in Docker Image creation, as the images below show. Same if you want to use PATH variables of the IDE instead of environment variables.
Environment Settings in Run Configuration
Environments in Dev Container

Our solution – Docker Compose:

Our first problem is solved by using docker compose directly. The problem with the does not occur, because RubyMine manages the Docker Compose better and removes the automatically at startup.

Below, I explain our setup of a Docker Compose as an interpreter and how it solved all the problems.

We created a simple Docker Compose yaml with the image we want to use as an interpreter. At this point, you can also define environment variables that use local environment variables of your local machine. This solves our second problem.

Docker Compose yaml

The definition of the volume is important at this point. Docker tries to store things there during the installation and throws an internal server error if the volume is missing: 
Error response from daemon: the working directory ‘C:\repositories\my-project’ is invalid, it needs to be an absolute path.

Now an interpreter can be set up in RubyMine. To do this, a new remote interpreter must be created in the Settings under Language & Frameworks: Ruby SDK and Gems. An example is shown in the figure below:

Ruby Docker Compose Interpreter

It is important here to select the interpreter after this, otherwise you will not be able to save and will get an error that the project has no interpreter.

Now the interpreter can be stored in the run configuration.


We are now able to run our Ruby environment in a Docker container. Thus, the environment is independent of the local circumstances such as the installed Ruby version or packages, as these can all be found in the container. Also, each programmer can run the project locally without any further adjustments via a defined environment variable and the Docker container can still talk to other local Docker containers on the machine. Thus, the status in Gitlab is generally valid and not bound to the respective programmer by a customizable IP or the like.

One thought on “Docker Interpreter with Environment Variables in RubyMine”

  1. Before this solution, we had the odd situation that we wanted to make it easier for developers to setup a project and made it harder to actually work on the project afterwards, which is not a good trade.

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