Building a Rails Server

Fellow Los Techie John Petersen took the famous (or infamous) Nerd Dinner application created by Scott Hanselman and ported it to the Ruby on Rails platform. When John was developing this, I recommended we actually put it online and proceeded to purchase the domain name www.railsdinner.com

Owning the domain name was one thing, hosting the site was entirely another. Last week I decided to find a place to host Rails Dinner. That place conveniently,  is the server closet in my home office.

I had a spare machine not really doing much so I decided to appropriate it as a Linux server capable of hosting Ruby on Rails applications.   

The Tools

Hosting a Rails application requires a number of moving parts. The moving parts I installed and their purpose are as follows:

Software Purpose
Ubuntu 9.10 Server Linux server.
Ruby (including Gems) The runtime for ruby
Ruby on Rails MVC based web application framework
MySQL Open source SQL database.
Passenger Runtime deployment tool for Rails applications.
nginx High performance web server

 The Steps

Around the 3rd or 4th time of trying to install this server I decided to keep a log. The following tasks are what you need to do to get a Rails Server up and running.

Task Purpose
Download and install Ubuntu Server www.ubuntu.com
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop Optional step to add GUI support to your Linux server.
sudo apt-get install ruby-full build-essential Install ruby and all necessary libraries.
sudo apt-get install rubygems Install ruby gems distribution tools
sudo gem install rails Install rails
sudo apt-get install mysql-server Install mySQL Server
sudo apt-get install mysql-client libmysql-ruby libmysqlclient15-dev Install all libraries used to talk to mySQL
   
sudo gem install passenger Download all libraries needed to install passenger
sudo apt-get install libopenssl-ruby Install library required to compile nginx web server
sudo apt-get install libssl-dev Install library required to compile nginx web server
sudo apt-get install zlib1g-dev Install library required to compile nginx web server
   
cd /var/lib/gems/1.8/bin Change to directory where nginx build files are located.

NOTE: You may want to add this folder to your systems PATH settings

sudo ./passenger-install-nginx-module Downloads code and compiles (yes compiles!) custom web server with passenger built in.

NOTE: This command is finicky and took me a few tries to get it to run properly.

 NOTE: nginx is a high performance web server that is used by a lot of major web sites. It does not have a module/plug-in architecture so passenger is compiled directly into the server code. 

Web Server Configuration

After your web server compiles you need do add a script to your system to facilitate the stopping/starting/restarting of the nginx web server.

I found the script (and instructions) below at the following site: http://library.linode.com/development/frameworks/ruby/ruby-on-rails/nginx-ubuntu-9.10-karmic

#! /bin/sh

 

### BEGIN INIT INFO

# Provides:          nginx

# Required-Start:    $all

# Required-Stop:     $all

# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5

# Default-Stop:      0 1 6

# Short-Description: starts the nginx web server

# Description:       starts nginx using start-stop-daemon

### END INIT INFO

 

PATH=/opt/nginx/sbin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin

DAEMON=/opt/nginx/sbin/nginx

NAME=nginx

DESC=nginx

 

test -x $DAEMON || exit 0

 

# Include nginx defaults if available

if [ -f /etc/default/nginx ] ; then

        . /etc/default/nginx

fi

 

set -e

 

case "$1" in

  start)

        echo -n "Starting $DESC: "

        start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile /opt/nginx/logs/$NAME.pid 

                --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_OPTS

        echo "$NAME."

        ;;

  stop)

        echo -n "Stopping $DESC: "

        start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --pidfile /opt/nginx/logs/$NAME.pid 

                --exec $DAEMON

        echo "$NAME."

        ;;

  restart|force-reload)

        echo -n "Restarting $DESC: "

        start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --pidfile 

                /opt/nginx/logs/$NAME.pid --exec $DAEMON

        sleep 1

        start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile 

                /opt/nginx/logs/$NAME.pid --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_OPTS

        echo "$NAME."

        ;;

  reload)

          echo -n "Reloading $DESC configuration: "

          start-stop-daemon --stop --signal HUP --quiet --pidfile     /opt/nginx/logs/$NAME.pid 

              --exec $DAEMON

          echo "$NAME."

          ;;

      *)

            N=/etc/init.d/$NAME

            echo "Usage: $N {start|stop|restart|reload|force-reload}" >;&2

            exit 1

            ;;

    esac

 

    exit 0

Copy this file to a file called “nginx” in your /etc/init.d folder

Run the following code to make the script runnable and start your nginx web server when Ubuntu launches.

 

chmod +x /etc/init.d/nginx

usr/sbin/update-rc.d -f nginx defaults 

 Now you can start your server with the following command

/etc/init.d/nginx start

The last step is to drop your code into a folder on your server and configure nginx to use it. When you create the folder where you plan on installing your rails application make sure to use the sudo command. The sudo command insures that nginx and passenger can run your code. The following two lines create a directory for your application code.

 

cd /home

sudo mkdir www.railsdinner.com

Now copy your Rails source code into this folder.

Finally you need to add a configuration setting to your nginx configuration file (cd /opt/nginx/conf/nginx.conf) .

Add the following code inside the http{} brackets in your .conf file.

server {

      listen 80;

      server_name railsdinner.com www.railsdinner.com;

      root /home/www.railsdinner.com/public;   # <--- be sure to point to 'public'!

      passenger_enabled on;

   }

 

Finally Rails Dinner!

Now simply restart your nginx server and you are off to the races.

/etc/init.d/nginx restart

Go check it out for yourself

www.railsdinner.com

 Thanks!

Thanks to John Petersen for creating this application. It was a great learning experience and it took his work to inspire this endeavor.

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  • Jean-Francois Cantin

    Rod,
    you may also like these ubuntu appliances: http://www.turnkeylinux.com. They have a rails server and many others. And you can also use their core to build anyone you want.

    -JF