Running Rails applications using Nginx with Passenger on Ubuntu Server

If you’re planning to run Rails applications on Nginx using Phusion Passenger, and do it on Ubuntu Linux, here’s what needs to be done.

Even though there’s Ubuntu nginx package available (which works perfectly when you’re running PHP apps using FCGI), if you want to take into use Phusion Passenger, you’ll need to recompile Nginx from sources.

Instructions below were verified on Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) Server Edition.

If you already have Nginx ubuntu package installed, uninstall it (NOTE! purge will delete all configuration files – so if you changed them – make a backup for future reference):

sudo aptitude purge nginx

Assuming you already have Rails stack installed, install Passenger gem:

sudo gem install passenger

At the time of this writing the latest version of Passenger is 2.2.11

Let’s check dependencies that Ubuntu nginx package has and install them before compilation:

aptitude show nginx | grep Depends
You’ll see something like:
Depends: libc6 (>= 2.4), libpcre3 (>= 7.7), libssl0.9.8 (>= 0.9.8k-1), zlib1g
Install build dependencies and start nginx module installation (it will offer you to recompile nginx)
sudo apt-get install libc6 libpcre3 libssl0.9.8 zlib1g
sudo /usr/local/bin/passenger-install-nginx-module
Choose option 1 (Yes: download, compile and install Nginx for me) unless you need special configuration parameters or need features not enabled by default (like SSL).
Further instructions assume that you also chose default installation directory /opt/nginx.
If you’ve purchased Passenger Enterprise Edition, don’t forget to register it:
sudo /usr/local/bin/passenger-make-enterprisey
Now add nginx init script (I just copied this from Ubuntu default nginx package):
sudo vim /etc/init.d/nginx
with the following content:
#! /bin/sh

# Provides:          nginx
# Required-Start:    $local_fs $remote_fs $network $syslog
# Required-Stop:     $local_fs $remote_fs $network $syslog
# 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


test -x $DAEMON || exit 0

# Include nginx defaults if available
if [ -f /etc/default/nginx ] ; then
        . /etc/default/nginx

set -e

. /lib/lsb/init-functions

test_nginx_config() {
  if nginx -t $DAEMON_OPTS
    return 0
    return $?

case "$1" in
        echo -n "Starting $DESC: "
        start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile /var/run/$ \
                --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_OPTS || true
        echo "$NAME."
        echo -n "Stopping $DESC: "
        start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --pidfile /var/run/$ \
                --exec $DAEMON || true
        echo "$NAME."
        echo -n "Restarting $DESC: "
        start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --pidfile \
                /var/run/$ --exec $DAEMON || true
        sleep 1
        start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile \
                /var/run/$ --exec $DAEMON -- $DAEMON_OPTS || true
        echo "$NAME."
        echo -n "Reloading $DESC configuration: "
        start-stop-daemon --stop --signal HUP --quiet --pidfile /var/run/$ \
            --exec $DAEMON || true
        echo "$NAME."
        echo -n "Testing $DESC configuration: "
        if test_nginx_config
          echo "$NAME."
          exit $?
        status_of_proc -p /var/run/$ "$DAEMON" nginx && exit 0 || exit $?
        echo "Usage: $NAME {start|stop|restart|reload|force-reload|status|configtest}" >&2
        exit 1

exit 0
Now make this script executable add it to default run levels:
sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/nginx
sudo /usr/sbin/update-rc.d -f nginx defaults
Edit  nginx.conf to look like this:
user www-data;
worker_processes  4;

error_log  /opt/nginx/logs/error.log;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    worker_connections  8192;
    use epoll;

http {
    passenger_root /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/passenger-2.2.11;
    passenger_ruby /usr/local/bin/ruby;

    include       /opt/nginx/conf/mime.types;

    # set a default type for the rare situation that
    # nothing matches from the mimie-type include
    default_type application/octet-stream;

    # This log format is compatible with any tool like awstats
    # that can parse standard apache logs.
    log_format main '$remote_addr - $remote_user [$time_local] '
                    '"$request" $status $body_bytes_sent "$http_referer" '
                    '"$http_user_agent" "$http_x_forwarded_for"' ;

    access_log  /opt/nginx/logs/access.log;

    sendfile        on;
    tcp_nopush     on;

    keepalive_timeout  0;
    tcp_nodelay        on;

    gzip  on;
    gzip_disable "MSIE [1-6]\.(?!.*SV1)";
    gzip_http_version 1.0;
    gzip_comp_level 2;
    gzip_proxied any;
    gzip_types text/plain text/css application/x-javascript text/xml application/xml application/xml+rss text/javascript;

    include /opt/nginx/conf/sites-enabled/*;
Now create virtual hosts structure (so that it looks like the structure created by Ubuntu original nginx package):
sudo mkdir /opt/nginx/conf/sites-available
sudo mkdir /opt/nginx/conf/sites-enabled
Now it is time to configure your first rails site. Create virtual host configuration in sites-available.
sudo vim /opt/nginx/conf/sites-available/
Content can be something like:
server {
        listen   80;

        access_log  /home/user/logs/;
        root   /home/user/;

        # serve static content directly
        location ~* \.(ico|jpg|gif|png|css|js|swf|html)$ {
          if (-f $request_filename) {
            expires max;

        passenger_enabled on;

        # deny access to .htaccess files, if Apache's document root
        # concurs with nginx's one
        location ~ /\.ht {
          deny  all;
Make a symlink in sites-enabled directory and restart nginx.
sudo ln -s /opt/nginx/conf/sites-available/ /opt/nginx/conf/sites-enabled/
sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart
Now open the browser and check that your site is working.


9 responses to “Running Rails applications using Nginx with Passenger on Ubuntu Server”

  1. Nice tutorial. However, I’m getting permission errors right before Nginx is configured. Thing is, I’m doing this as root, and I have no other users on my system right now. Any advice?

    ./configure –prefix=’/opt/nginx’ –with-pcre=’/tmp/pcre-8.02′ –add-module=’/usr/local/rvm/gems/ree-1.8.7-2010.02/gems/passenger-2.2.15/ext/nginx’
    sh: ./configure: Permission denied

  2. I figured it out. I had to install PCRE properly before .configure. It didn’t like that my PCRE was in a tmp folder, I guess. :S Never mind!

  3. how would you uninstall nginx that was compiled from source?

  4. […] Making nginx utilise GC settings when spawning Passenger instances is easy, and is well described by Chris. Here are instructions that work nice with server and Nginx setup on Ubuntu as I described in earlier posts. […]

  5. Great how-to, worked like a charm, thank you!

  6. Oldřich Vetešník

    Thanks, I was looking for this!

  7. Because the admin of this website is working, no doubt very rapidly it will be renowned, due
    to its quality contents.

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