My Apache Configuration for Ruby on Rails with Passenger

Posted by smoe Sat, 18 Apr 2009 12:20:00 GMT

One of the great things about using Passenger rather than Mongrel is the simple Apache configuration that gets you started. You don’t need to manage ports, decide how many processes an application is going to need, or edit a second configuration file for the application servers. At this time passenger 2.2.0 is the newest release, and it works great with mod_rewrite and every other Apache module I use.

This is the virtual host entry from the Phusion Passenger Apache Users Guide

<VirtualHost *:80>
    DocumentRoot /webapps/mycook/public

It couldn’t get much simpler and it could be all you need, but my development environment requires a bit more. The first change is something I believe I picked up from a PeepCode screencast. Edit your etc/hosts file to add a name for any site you are developing. it might look like this:    localhost newsite.local oldsite.local

Then you can see the sites in development on your local machine with http://newsite.local. Another great thing about Passenger is that it automatically runs as the user that owns the site. So you can keep all your log files, including Apache’s access and error logs, under your home directory and view them without fussing with sudo. With this next Apache configuration I can access any of my local sites quickly and keep the log files separate. I don’t’ think you need a LogLevel more verbose than "warn", we are not debugging Apache, just a website. You shouldn’t see "smoe" in your Apache configuration, that’s my actual username and work directory. I am not worried about publishing it because I always use awesome high quality passwords and RSA certificates.

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName newsite.local
    DocumentRoot /home/smoe/work/newsite/public
    LogLevel warn
    CustomLog /home/smoe/work/newsite/log/access.log combined
    ErrorLog  /home/smoe/work/newsite/log/error.log

I love working in Debian. It’s default apache2 configuration allows you keep a separate file for every virtual host and enable or disable them very quickly. When I setup a new site I just make a copy of an existing site and change the name. This is what I have to type.

sudo cp /etc/apache2/sites-available/oldsite /etc/apache2/sites-available/newsite
sudo vi newsite
sudo a2ensite newsite
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 reload

That is really all it takes to run a development server. I need a bit more for staging and production. A staging servers should be configured exactly like the production server. I use the label "preview" in my database.yml file and I set up deploy.rb in Capistrano to deploy to preview by default. For a production deployment I have to type RAILS_ENV=production on the cap deploy command line. I don’t want to accidentally deploy to production. I could go on but the details of Capistrano and staging servers are off topic.

Production servers have additional requirements for their Apache configuration. Mine uses mod_rewrite to support cap deploy:web:disable. I had a nice hack for older versions of passenger but we don’t need that anymore. I also use mod_deflate and mod_expires to improve site performance. If you want to understand why check out the YSlow firefox plugin. Again Debian makes your Apache configuration a breeze. Run a ls on /etc/apache2/mods-enabled if you don’t see deflate and expires just type this:

sudo a2enmod deflate
sudo a2enmod expires
sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Now we are ready for my ultimate production Apache2 configuration. I had some problems getting ExpiresbyType to work, but putting ExpiresDefault in a <FilesMatch> container works fine, and it handles subdirectories I was missing with a <Directory> container. There might be a way to make this configuration smaller, but I’d rather be done than perfect. Don’t forget to set your RaisEnv. The default is development, and we are doing preview or production here. We also configure Etags to none so Rails can handle the Etags,

<VirtualHost *:80>
        DocumentRoot /home/smoe/newsite/current/public

        RewriteEngine On
        RewriteCond %{DOCUMENT_ROOT}/system/maintenance.html -f
        RewriteRule ^.*$ /system/maintenance.html

        RailsEnv preview

        ExpiresActive on

        <Directory /home/smoe/newsite/current/public/>
                Options -Indexes
                AllowOverride None
                Order deny,allow
                Deny from none
                Allow from all
                AddOutputFilterbyType DEFLATE text/html
                FileEtag none

        <FilesMatch "\.(js|css|gif|png|jpg)$">
                ExpiresDefault "access plus 2 year"
                SetOutputFilter Deflate      

        LogLevel warn
        ErrorLog /home/smoe/newsite/shared/log/error.log
        CustomLog /home/smoe/newsite/shared/log/access.log combined

Now you’re serving up a high performance Ruby on Rails with Passenger web application.

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