Joshua Paling

First up, the date today is 6 Aug, 2013. I'm working on a Media Temple DV 4.0, with Plesk 11 installed. I'm running CentOS 5.8, using Apache as my webserver. If those details don't match up closely with what you're using, ignore this post!

The first thing you should do is create a snapshot backup of your server. Seriously. Do that before doing anything else.


I'm new to Ruby and Rails, and I'm a developer, not a SysAdmin. This is what worked for me, but I'm no expert.

What we'll need

RVM - Ruby Version Manager RVM allows you to install and manage multiple versions of Ruby, and also of Rails and other Gems. You might also have heard of rbenv. RVM and rbenv are basically two competing products which do the same thing.

For this post, we'll go with RVM.

Check out this RVM screencast.

Note: You probably already have ruby installed on your server. To verify, login with SSH and type ruby -v.

The output will be something like:

ruby 1.8.5 (2006-08-25) [x86_64-linux]

However, it's probably an old version, and it won't be set up in a way that allows you to run one website on ruby 1.9.2 and another on version 2.0. That's why we want RVM.

Passenger Passenger is an Application Server for Ruby apps, and therefore, for Rails. An application server is not a webserver. So, Passenger is not a replacement for a webserver such as Apache or Nginx.

There are several Ruby app servers we could use, but Passenger is recommended on the official rails deploy page, so that's what we'll go with.

We'll assume you're using Apache as your existing web server.

Let's get started

Note: I looked at Tom's guide when I was installing my first Rails app on Media Temple. It helped me a LOT, but it had some missing steps, some inconsistencies, and some information I found to be not recommended - at least, with regards to my particular setup.


You'll need to be able to login to your domain via SSH, with root access. You should also have a backup in case something goes wrong!

Install Developer Tools

Media Temple have a guide on how to install developer tools. I already had them installed - so I'm not sure if they are required for anything in this post, but you might want to install them to be safe.

Add your domain in Plesk - one gotcha

I assume you already know how to do this. However, one gotcha is that the Document Root should be set to the public folder of your rails install, not the root folder.

So, that means it will be set to httpdocs/public rather than the default httpdocs.

Install RVM

Log in to your server via SSH as root.

Before starting, lets make a note of what version of Ruby we've currently got installed. Run ruby -v. The output for me is: ruby 1.8.5 (2006-08-25) [x86_64-linux]

OK, now install RVM.

\curl -L | bash

Among other things, it should let you know that:

Installation of RVM in /usr/local/rvm/ is almost complete:

  * First you need to add all users that will be using rvm to 'rvm' group,
    and logout - login again, anyone using rvm will be operating with `umask u=rwx,g=rwx,o=rx`.

  * To start using RVM you need to run `source /etc/profile.d/`
    in all your open shell windows, in rare cases you need to reopen all shell windows.

So, let's do what it tells us:

Add users to the RVM group

As it says, lets start by adding the root user to the rvm group:

usermod -a -G rvm root

Read the full RVM install page and make sure you understand the security implications (disclaimer: as of right now, I don't!) before adding any other users to your RVM group.

Next, run:

source /etc/profile.d/

That should complete the set up of RVM. You can test it's installed by running rvm -v. You should get something like this:

rvm 1.21.17 (stable) by Wayne E. Seguin <>, Michal Papis <> []

Install Ruby through RVM

At this point, we've installed the Ruby Version Manager, but haven't yet used it to install any versions of Ruby!

To verify this, run ruby -v, and you'll see you're using the same version of ruby as when you started (for me, ruby 1.8.5 (2006-08-25) [x86_64-linux]). Now, run which ruby. For me, the output is /usr/bin/ruby, and since there's no mention of rvm in that path, I know I'm not using an RVM-managed version of ruby.

Let's fix that.

First, let's take a look at all the versions of Ruby that RVM knows about:

rvm list known

You'll get a reasonably long list. The MRI Rubies are probably the only ones you're interested in at this stage.

Now, let's install Ruby 1.9.3 (or whichever version you want):

rvm install 1.9.3

This takes a while. After we've done that, we can re-run ruby -v and we should see that we're using the version we just installed. If we run which ruby, we should get a path with rvm in it, like /usr/local/rvm/rubies/ruby-1.9.3-p448/bin/ruby.

Now, let's set version 1.9.3 as the default:

rvm use 1.9.3 --default

Instail Rails

We'll use the gem command to do this. gem is maintainted by RVM, as you'll see if you run which gem. OK… rails:

gem install rails -v 3.2.9

Obviously, you might want to install a different version.

Use Bundler. Don't use Gemsets

Now, at this point, Tom's guide has you create a gemset for your project. I was a bit confused about this, and asked about it on #RubyOnRails IRC channel. The creator of Passenger, FooBarWidget, answered my question, and among other things, said:

"The tip that I would give you is to completely ignore gemsets. They were introduced before bundler. I consider them legacy technology now that cause more problems and confusion than they're worth."

I plan on creating a full blog post about not using gemsets, but for now just take it of faith; don't use them.

So, don't create a Gemset. Instead, install bundler now, with:

gem install bundler

We'll use bundler a bit further down the track.

Installing Passenger


gem install passenger

And once it's installed, run:


This basically allows Passenger (your App Server) to talk to Apache (your Web Server). It will give you a whole bunch of output, hopefully without errors!

At the end, it will give you two crucial bits of information:

Important Bit 1

The Apache 2 module was successfully installed.

Please edit your Apache configuration file, and add these lines:

   LoadModule passenger_module /usr/local/rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p448/gems/passenger-4.0.10/buildout/apache2/
   PassengerRoot /usr/local/rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p448/gems/passenger-4.0.10
   PassengerDefaultRuby /usr/local/rvm/wrappers/ruby-1.9.3-p448/ruby

After you restart Apache, you are ready to deploy any number of Ruby on Rails
applications on Apache, without any further Ruby on Rails-specific

Press ENTER to continue.

And after you press enter…

Important Bit 2

Deploying a Ruby on Rails application: an example

Suppose you have a Rails application in /somewhere. Add a virtual host to your
Apache configuration file and set its DocumentRoot to /somewhere/public:

   <VirtualHost *:80>
      # !!! Be sure to point DocumentRoot to 'public'!
      DocumentRoot /somewhere/public
      <Directory /somewhere/public>
         # This relaxes Apache security settings.
         AllowOverride all
         # MultiViews must be turned off.
         Options -MultiViews

Let's deal with Important Bit 1 first. So, it wants us to edit our apache config file. Before doing that, let's make a backup of it (replace YYYY-MM-DD with the current date!):

cp -p /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf.YYYY-MM-DD.bak

Now, open /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf with a text editor - I'll use nano:

nano /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

Then, at the end of the file, add the 3 recommended lines, prefixed by a comment, eg:

# Next 3 lines added by Joss, 2013-07-06. Running 'passenger-install-apache2-module' tells you this is required
LoadModule passenger_module /usr/local/rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p448/gems/passenger-4.0.10/buildout/apache2/
PassengerRoot /usr/local/rvm/gems/ruby-1.9.3-p448/gems/passenger-4.0.10
PassengerDefaultRuby /usr/local/rvm/wrappers/ruby-1.9.3-p448/ruby

Configure Apache (important bit 2)

Important Bit 2 tells us how we'll need to configure apache. Unfortunately, that config won't work for us. But don't worry - Tom's guide has us covered.

Reminder: Remember the "Add your domain in Plesk - one gotcha" that I mentioned earlier? It bears repeating. Your rails app will sit in httpdocs, but the site, configured in Plesk, should have it's Document Root set to httpdocs/public, that is, to the public directory inside your rails install.

OK, we're getting close now. Let's cd into our site's configuration directory - something like:

cd /var/www/vhosts/

If you do an ls, you'll see there are a bunch of numbered files - these are the configuration files automatically maintained by Plesk. Just leave them there - but we're going to create our own configuration file which will take precedence:

nano vhost.conf

Now, paste in the vhost.conf given in Tom's guide: (Be extremely careful to adjust all the paths so they pertain to your site - one wrong path here can cause you a world of pain!)

DocumentRoot /var/www/vhosts/
PassengerAppRoot /var/www/vhosts/

<Directory "/var/www/vhosts/">
        Options FollowSymLinks
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all

RailsEnv production
RailsBaseURI /
PassengerMaxPoolSize 1
PassengerMaxInstancesPerApp 1
PassengerPoolIdleTime 30

Upload Your Files & Database

Hopefully in future, you'll be using something like Capistrano or Fabric to automate your deployment. But for now, let's just upload the files to /var/www/vhosts/ via plain old S/FTP and check if things are working.

You'll also need to create a database and make sure your database.yml file is set up right, but I won't go over that here. Using MySQL will be easiest, as it's available out of the box on Media Temple's DV 4.0's. However, Postgres is better - so try and get that working if you're game.

Install Required Gems

Now, cd into the root of your rails installation (the same folder that contains your Gemfile), and run:

bundle install

If it fails due to sh: git: command not found, then install git and try again.

If you get errors in your browser, even though bundle install seems to work OK, you can try running

bundle install --deployment

I got that suggestion from here, and there's more info on the --deployment option here.

Basically, bundle install will look through our Gemfile and download everything we need to run our application.

Precompile Assets

Now, you'll need to precompile your assets. From your httpdocs directory, run

bundle exec rake assets:precompile

If you get an error like Could not find a JavaScript runtime, then you'll need to add therubyracer to your Gemfile, and then re-run bundle install, and then re-run bundle exec rake assets:precompile.

Last but not least, once your assets are precompiled, restart passenger by running this from within the httpdocs directory:

touch tmp/restart.txt

If you've done things right, at this point, your app should work. But if you're unlucky like me, and you get an error like: This web application process is being run as user 'nobody' and group 'nobody' and must be able to access its application root directory then read this post.

If you think you need to restart anything, for any reason, you can:

cd into your httpdocs directory, and restart passenger with:

touch tmp/restart.txt

And you can restart apache with

/etc/init.d/httpd restart