Can [ruby] on rails do this --- crazy request

Have you looked at the Ruby shell library? It is part of the standard installation. On Linux you'll find it at /usr/lib/ruby/1.8/shell

You can look up the Shell class and its methods at

You can do anything you'd from the command line and pass values back and forth. You can write your own classes and put the file in the RAILS_ROOT/lib dir.

I am using it to do some file format conversions. To see how shell is used you can look into the doc_convert library to see how shell is used. That's what I did.

Hope this helps,