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Ruby on Rails with Apache on Debian 7 (Wheezy)

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Ruby on Rails is a popular rapid development web framework that allows web designers and developers to implement dynamic fully featured web applications quickly that is written in the Ruby programming language. Rails enables developers to produce inventive applications on tight time scales. Examples of well known Rails-powered sites include Hulu, GitHub, and the applications provided by 37 Signals, among many others. This guide deploys Rails applications using the Phusion Passenger or mod_rails method. Passenger allows you to embed Rails apps directly in Apache applications without needing to worry about FastCGI or complex web server proxies.


Set the Hostname

Before you begin installing and configuring the components described in this guide, please make sure you've followed our instructions for setting your hostname. Issue the following commands to make sure it is set properly:

hostname -f

The first command should show your short hostname, and the second should show your fully qualified domain name (FQDN).

Installing Passenger and Dependencies

Issue the following command to reload your system's package repositories and ensure that all installed programs are up to date:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

Use the following command to install system packages required for using Ruby, building Ruby modules, and running Rails applications:

apt-get install build-essential libapache2-mod-passenger apache2 ruby rdoc ruby-dev libopenssl-ruby rubygems

Using the gem package manager for Ruby modules, install the fastthread gem:

gem install fastthread

Finally, install Ruby On Rails:

gem install rails

If you require a specific version of Ruby On Rails, issue one of the following commands for the version you need:

gem install rails --version 2.1.2
gem install rails --version 2.2.2
gem install rails --version 2.3.5
gem install rails --version 3.0.4

This should install the appropriate versions of all required packages including ruby, rack, and other dependencies needed for basic Rails development.

Additionally, you will also need to add rails to your $PATH. To do so, issue the following command, making sure to replace "VERSION" with the version of Ruby you are running:


For example, the command for version 1.8 of Ruby would be:


After issuing this command, attempt to run rails again. If it works, then you may also want to add this PATH to your local ~/.bashrc file:

echo "PATH=/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/usr/games:/var/lib/gems/VERSION/bin" >> ~/.bashrc

Alternatively, you can amend your global $PATH by adding it to your "/etc/environment" file.

To install support for the MySQL database system in Rails, issue the following commands:

apt-get install mysql-server libmysqlclient16 libmysqlclient-dev mysql-client mysql-common
gem install mysql

Additionally, the application you deploy will likely have additional dependencies. Install these dependencies before proceeding.

Configuring Apache to Work with Passenger

If you configured Apache virtual hosting as outlined in the Debian 6 (Squeeze) Apache guide, the public directory for your domain (e.g. is located in /srv/www/, and your <VirtualHost > configuration block contains a line that reads:

File excerpt:Apache Virtual Host Configuration

DocumentRoot /srv/www/

Modify this line to point to the public/ folder within your Rails application's root directory. For instance, if your Rail application is located within /srv/www/ then the DocumentRoot would point to /srv/www/, as in the following example:

File excerpt:Apache Virtual Host Configuration

DocumentRoot /srv/www/

Restart Apache once to ensure all settings have been loaded using the following command:

/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Deploying Multiple Rails Apps

There are a number of strategies for deploying more than one Rails application using Passenger. The most simple approach requires running multiple distinct virtual hosts configured as above to host a single Rails app each. Alternatively, you may host multiple Rails apps within a single virtual host. Add RailsBaseURI directives that specify the path to your Rails application within the VirtualHost configuration as in the following example:

File excerpt:Apache Virtual Host Configuration

DocumentRoot /srv/www/
RailsBaseURI /lollipop
RailsBaseURI /frogs
RailsBaseURI /simon

These directives configure Passenger to run three Rails apps on the site at the three locations specified. Rather than linking the public/ directory of your Rails app to the public_html/ directory as above, link the public/ directory of the application to a directory within the public_html/ directory. These links would be created in the following manner:

ln -s /srv/www/ /srv/www/
ln -s /srv/www/ /srv/www/
ln -s /srv/www/ /srv/www/

The files for each Rails application are located in a /srv/www/ directory, which is inaccessible to the web server. Congratulations! You have successfully deployed Ruby On Rails applications with the Apache Web server and Passenger.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Last edited by Sharon Campbell on Friday, September 13th, 2013 (r3669).