Julia Evans

Day 22: getting OAuth to work in Rails

Today my goal was to set up OAuth login for a Rails project.

This was all pretty confusing because a) I don’t understand Rails yet and b) I decided to use an authentication library called Devise on top of it that I also don’t understand.

But one nice thing about Rails is that there are about 10 billion blog posts & Stack Overflow questions that make it possible to figure out what’s going on even if you don’t really know anything.

following tutorials without understanding them is kind of fun (but doesn’t work, of course)

I found an extremely nice content marketing tutorial on the digital ocean blog called How To Configure Devise and OmniAuth for Your Rails Application explaining how to set up OAuth with Rails. I followed all the steps without really understanding them and it kind of worked! Hooray.

This worked mostly fine when setting up GitHub login, but I also needed to implement a custom OAuth provider (for the Recurse Center OAuth), and so I learned a few things while fixing the bugs with that. Here they are.

it’s important to request the user’s information from the OAuth provider

I was just using OAuth for login, not to access an API, and (based on a very sketchy understanding of how OAuth works) I had this vague notion that once the OAuth server sent my application an access token, it would be “done”.

But I’d copied this template for creating a custom Omniauth provider from the docs and filled in all the fields, and it didn’t work!

It turns out that I’d misunderstood this line of code:


which I thought meant “get the /me field from a hashmap called access_token” but which actually means “make an HTTP request to the OAuth provider’s API using the access token, and get the path /me”. This is where the user’s name / email address / etc comes from, so it’s pretty important to get right.

I’d gotten the path wrong (since I didn’t realize it was a HTTP request at all!), and fixing the path made my OAuth integration work.

you need to set the X-FORWARDED-PROTO header to https

In OAuth, you need to send a redirect_uri to the OAuth provider (eg GitHub) with the URL of the page on your site to go back to.

In my case, this redirect_uri was supposed to be https://mysite.com/users/auth/github/callback. But my application was sending a http URL instead of an https URL. What? Why?

It turns out that something in Rails (I’m still not sure what honestly) looks at the X-FORWARDED-PROTO header from nginx to decide whether to build https or http links. My site was behind a Cloudflare proxy, so the requests coming into the site were all HTTP requests, and so my app thought http://... was the correct URL to use.

But it was not!!!

I added a

proxy_set_header X-FORWARDED-PROTO https; 

and everything was fixed.

tomorrow: maybe stop using devise?

Originally I thought I needed Devise to use the Omniauth gem, but it seems like maybe I don’t (according to this explanation on Railscasts).

And devise seems pretty complicated, so now that I have everything working I’m considering totally removing it and instead just using Omniauth. We’ll see if I feel like doing that or if it’s more fun to add actual features.

Day 21: wrangling systemd & setting up git deploys to a VM Day 23: a little Rails testing