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Dradis development 101

This guide covers how to tweak Dradis and extend it to fit your needs.

After reading this guide, you will be able to:

  • Understand how Dradis Framework works and how it leverages Ruby on Rails
  • Switch between development and production modes.
  • How to use the Rails console to query the data in your Dradis repository.

1 Dradis is built on Ruby on Rails

On the server side, Dradis is written in Ruby using the Ruby on Rails framework.

Ruby on Rails is an MVC framework used to build web applications. Dradis is just a web application built on Rails that manages a few types of models:

  • Notes: these are rich-text chunks that we create when using Dradis to manage a project.
  • Nodes: to facilitate organizing your notes, they are attached to nodes. Apart form notes, nodes can also contain other nodes and thus are organized in a tree structure.
  • Categories: each of the notes that is created in the Dradis repository is assigned to a category. For instance a note can be assigned to the false positive category, or the ready for report one.

You can find these under ./app/models/. You will notice that there are some other files in there, but we will leave those out of this 101 introduction to the framework.

On the client side, we use the ExtJS 3 JavaScript library to build the familiar email client interface. You will find out that the client-side JavaScript is not for the faint of heart, we will not be covering it in this guide either.

2 Development environment vs Production environment

Every Rails application can run in a few different environments. Typically these are: development, testing and production.

  • In development all ruby files are reloaded with every request, this means that you can make a change to a ruby file, refresh the browser and you will see the change take effect immediately without having to restart.
  • The test environment is only used when running Dradis test suites (not covered in this guide).
  • When the application is run in production mode ruby classes are not reloaded. Caching is enabled and a few other changes are in place to maximize the speed and responsiveness of the application.

When we ship Dradis as a downloadable archive, we take steps to ensure our users run in Production mode. This is the fastest mode and makes for the best user experience.

However, when you are tweaking Dradis or extending it with your own functionality, it is best to work in Development mode to avoid having to restart the application every time you make a change.

Each of the three environments (development, test and production) has its own database associated to it. Database configuration for all the environments can be found in:


3 Prerequisites: Ruby and Git

If you are going to extend Dradis in any way, you will need two basic tools: Ruby and Git.

Use your distro’s package manager to install the latest version of git (e.g. apt-get install git).

To get Ruby up and running we are going to use Ruby Version Manager.

Before we start let me recommend you stick to Linux/MacOS for development. It can be done in Windows, but the development experience with git/ruby/rails is usually nicer in *NIX based systems.

Without further ado, lets get the Ruby environment we need.

3.1 RVM and Ruby 1.9.3

We are going to install Ruby 1.9.3 using RVM. This has the benefit of keeping everything under your `~/.rvm/` folder:

etd@host:~$ bash -s stable < <(curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/wayneeseguin/rvm/master/binscripts/rvm-installer)
etd@host:~$ source ~/.profile
etd@host:~$ rvm -v

Once RVM is up and running we need to get a couple of libraries that will be required by the Ruby installation:

etd@host:~$ for package in zlib openssl libxslt libxml2; do rvm pkg install $package; done

And finally the Ruby 1.9.3 runtime:

etd@host:~$ rvm install 1.9.3
etd@host:~$ rvm 1.9.3 --default
etd@host:~$ ruby -v

There is an additional step that it’s not required but that will shorten the time required to install ruby gems:

etd@host:~$ echo "gem: --no-rdoc --no-ri" > ~/.gemrc

This tells RubyGems to not generate documentation for every library it installs.

Finally, we just need to install the Bundler gem, all other Ruby gems will be installed using Bundler:

etd@host:~$ gem install bundler
etd@host:~$ bundle -v

4 Getting Dradis source

Dradis source is hosted in GitHub: github.com/dradis/dradisframework

Lets get a local copy:

etd@host:~$ git clone https://github.com/dradis/dradisframework.git dradis-git

You just downloaded the full source of the framework. If you are not familiar with git you can checkout the Working with git wiki page.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a git guru to extend and tweak Dradis. In fact, you don’t need to use git at all from now own.

The code you just downloaded will run in development mode by default (which is what we want right now).

5 Bundler and Ruby dependencies

Dradis is a feature rich application that uses a number of external libraries. These external libraries are packaged in what are called ruby gems. You can see a list of all the required gems in the Gemfile file.

But don’t worry, we don’t need to install all these gems by hand. Bundler will help us do it.

Bundler finds and install the required dependencies, and once they are installed it manages the different executables that come those libraries so you can access them easily.

First, get all those dependencies installed:

etd@host:~$ cd dradis-git/
etd@host:~/dradis-git$ bundle install

You can check that now all dependencies have been installed:

etd@host:~/dradis-git$ bundle check
The Gemfile's dependencies are satisfied

To run a command inside the bundler context (this means in a context where all those dependencies have been preloaded) you use:

etd@host:~/dradis-git$ bundle exec [cmd_name]

6 Thor tasks

Now that you have a copy of the Dradis source, it’s time to introduce you to Thor. Thor is a simple and efficient tool for building self-documenting command line utilities.

We have used Thor to provide a command line interface to some of Dradis features you can see the available Thor tasks with:

etd@host:~/dradis-git$ bundle exec thor -T

The first task we need to run will help us to complete the setup of our development environment:

etd@host:~/dradis-git$ bundle exec thor dradis:reset

Once that’s done, you can verify everything works by firing up Dradis:

etd@host:~/dradis-git$ bundle exec rails server

If you can browse to you are good to go.

7 The Rails console

N/A yet

8 What next?

N/A yet