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Code Partition for Beau Simensen

Rails: RVM + Passenger (Standalone behind nginx) + Upstart on Ubuntu 10.04

After testing the excellent Pivotal Lab's Continuous Integration Monitor we decided to use it long-term. This meant we needed to find a way to run the software on boot (Upstart) under its own environment (RVM) and get nginx to reverse proxy the site. This turned out to be a little more difficult than I had hoped.

RVM and Passenger

RVM is great! Unfortunately it made it more complicated to get something to run under a specific RVM environment at boot. The key turned out to be rvm wrapper. It took awhile to discover this nice feature and how to use it effectively.

First, make sure that you are using the correct Ruby. Assuming you have RVM installed (and you've already entered the cimonitor directory at some point) you should be able to execute the following:

rvm use ree-1.8.7-2011.03@cimonitor

Next, install Phusion Passenger Standalone according to the standalone user guide.

gem install passenger

Lastly, create a passenger wrapper for ree-1.8.7-2011.03@cimonitor. This will create a script named cimonitor_passenger that contains everything it needs to ensure that passenger is called with the appropriate RVM environment.

rvm wrapper ree-1.8.7-2011.03@cimonitor cimonitor passenger

Note: The first time that cimonitor_passenger start is run for any given user it will need to download, setup and install its own version of nginx. It might not hurt to run cimonitor_passenger start once by hand before trying to load from upstart.


On the surface Upstart looks pretty simple and an improvement over System-V init. However, it can be a huge pain to debug and test and at some point I threw in the towel and created a more standard System-V init style [start|stop] script.

Once everything became more simple with the Passenger RVM wrapper, I was able to try to come up with a simpler upstart script. Here are the contents of our /etc/init/pivotal_cimonitor.conf:

start on runlevel [2345]
stop on runlevel [!2345]

# Hack so that passenger does not croak.
env HOME=/home/cimonitor

# We must be in the project directory
chdir /home/cimonitor/pivotal_cimonitor

# Launch passenger
exec /usr/local/rvm/bin/cimonitor_passenger start --environment=production --user cimonitor

# Restart if passenger dies

This starts passenger it cimonitor's own RVM and even manages to run it as a non-privileged user. Success!


The nginx configuration was more or less a standard reverseproxy setup at this point. Sadly, cimonitor has too many /path… hardcoded into its views to be able to be effectively mounted anywhere but at the root.

If anyone finds a way to bypass this I'd love to hear it! But as far as I could tell, there was not going to be any way to have the entire application live under, say,