I have been using rvm to manage my rubies for almost 5 years, mostly without problems. Throughout the years though, the number of features added keeps going in an attempt to do more for the user. Two weeks ago I was dealing with a cryptic stack trace related to X509 certificates when doing some cryptographic operations in JRuby 1.7.19. I wasn’t really sure what the culprit was, but the rvm documentation suggest that rvm itself can fix the issue. That seemed weird to me and also, it didn’t work. I was stuck with a JRuby installation that could not read the certificate from https://www.google.com.


Under the assumption that the culprit of my problem was rvm, I decided that try one of the alternatives: rbenv. Luckily this is a blog, because when speaking the name of the two tools sound infuriatingly similar. Switching to rbenv was relatively easy. The steps I followed are those outlined in brentertz gist:

Installing rubies was straight forward. I usually need a few versions of MRI on hand, going back to 1.9.3 and JRuby as well. All were installed without problems and worked fine.

My team had some scripts that assumed rvm was installed, but it was trivial to add support for rbenv, like so:

if which rvm &> /dev/null; then
  rvm --create use ${version}
if which rbenv &> /dev/null; then
  rbenv shell ${version}

In addition, I like having the current ruby version in my prompt, because I switch between versions often, even while working on the same project. My custom zsh theme needed to be adjusted as well. Using the same trick as above, I created a bash function that does the right thing:

# Somewhere that gets sourced on shell init.. like .profile
  if which rbenv &> /dev/null; then
    rbenv version | cut -f1 -d ' '
    if which rvm-prompt &> /dev/null; then
     rvm-prompt i v g


Most of our projects have been around for a while, so they are setup to use gemsets, because that was what rvm encouraged (and maybe still does, I don’t know). rbenv’s philosophy, on the other hand, is that they are unnecessary when using bundler. So far, not using gemsets has not had negative effects for me. I also have noted that my shell feels snappier when navigating directories: I attribute that to rvm hooking into cd, which is not done by rbenv.

So far, I have been happy with rbenv and believe that it is a simpler tool that does enough for the job at hand, but no more. And remember that X509 issue? It turns out it was not really related to rvm at all: It was caused by duplicate certificates derived from the OSX keychain that where being picked up by JRuby and the underlying Java classes objected to. That issue got solved by getting certs from the curl website and pointing JRuby to use those.