Software dev, tech, mind hacks and the occasional personal bit

Ruby on Rails Hosting, Setup And Migration

I’ve been doing a little rails of late.. Here’s a summary of the stuff that I’ve learnt.

What hosting should I use in Australia for rails?


I’m using jumba ( Jumba is very cheap (~$30AUD/year), and they give you shell access, mysql etc. However, there was a period of several weeks when they moved me to some server without an install of rails and kept promising to install rails and never did. I finally got them to move me back to their main server which has rails installed. It was a painful process, so I’m not sure if I would recommend them. That being said, things are going OK at the moment, and I’ve got a few development apps up and running on their service.

UPDATE 29 March 2006: Jumba summarily stopped rails support without notice and was rude when I contacted them about it. I would not recommend Jumba for web hosting anything – they have frequent down time, server switches and reboots and their low price is made up for by the amount of time you waste. They used to be OK, but no longer. I’m in the market for a new host, will post on how it goes.

How to set up rails applications in your home directory (in public_html) under a UNIX/Apache/cgi/fcgi environment

  1. Upload or create your application in your home directory. Eg, ~/MyRailsApp/
  2. In your public_html directory, create a soft link to the public directory of your app. Eg,
    ln -s ~/MyRailsApp/public ~/public_html/MyRailsApp
  3. Make sure dispatch.fcgi in the ~/MyRailsApp/public directory is executable. If not, chmod it a+x.
  4. Confirm that dispatch.fcgi has a valid path to ruby on the first line. If you’ve created this project on another machine, you’ll quite possibly need to update the path. The path is often something like ‘#!/usr/local/bin/ruby’, but check what it is under your system with ‘which ruby’. Special note for InstantRails users – you’ll always need to update the path when uploading to unix hosting, as instant rails uses a windows style path with the slashes the other way around.
  5. Update your ‘database.yml‘ file (in the ‘config‘ directory of your app) with correct database names, user names and passwords.
  6. Run ‘dispatch.fcgi‘ (in the ‘public’ directory of your app). If you see an ‘Internal Server Error’ message, you know things are going OK. If you’ve got the path to ruby wrong on the first line, or some other similar problem, you’ll find out about it here, where as if you run through the web, you don’t get these sorts of problems reported in an easy to understand way.
  7. Check out your running system in the browser (eg, browse to

Tips for trouble shooting rails errors

  1. A good place to start is by reading your logs in the ‘log’ directory of your rails app. If you’re running a development configuration, have a read of ‘development.log’.
  2. Try manually running ‘dispatch.fcgi‘ in the ‘public’ directory of your app. If you get an ‘Internal Server Error’ message printed out on the console, it’s probably working ok. Alternatives to this are reports of missing files and unable to find ruby – often these aren’t shown when browsing to your web site.

Rails problems and solutions

1. Browser and logs show: Application Error – Rails app failed to start properly

I got this after my app was moved from one unix host to another by my hosting company. I tried heaps of stuff to try and resolve this. Eventually I created a brand new dummy project on the unix host called ‘Test’ and Test worked fine from the browser. I then tried my original project again and suddenly it worked fine! It has been working fine since. I can only imagine that there was some sort of problem in temporary files or similar which got flushed. No good explanation for this currently.

2. in `start_engine’: undefined method `add_path’ for Controllers:Module (NoMethodError)

I got this one when migrating a project from rails 1.1 to a later version of rails. The solution is to force update your rails engines:

script/plugin source
script/plugin install engines –force
script/plugin install login_engine –force

3. My app works fine if there is a trailing slash on the url. Otherwise, I get a ‘Bad Request’ error page. Eg, ‘’ works, but ‘’ does not work.

Add a RewriteRule to the .htaccess file in your application’s public folder:
RewriteRule ^.*myapp$ http://%{HTTP_HOST}/myapp/ [R=301,L]

My basic .htaccess rewrites are as follows:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^.*myapp$ http://%{HTTP_HOST}/myapp/ [R=301,L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ dispatch.fcgi [QSA,L]

I tried removing the RewriteCond !-f, and my pages lost their styles. I think the condition allows the rails framework to load .css files directly without having the requests go through dispatch.fcgi.


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1 Comment

  1. gneeot

    Your suggestion howto remove ‘public’ is great, but I’m getting:
    “Bad Request
    Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand.

    Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.”
    when I’m typing in my address field: – works ok

    Do you now what could be the reason?

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