Installing Lighttpd, Ruby on Rails, FastCGI, and MySQL on RedHat Enterprise Linux 5

Recently, I needed to configure a RedHat Enterprise Linux 5 box with lighttpd, FastCGI, Ruby on Rails, and MySQL. The box was subscribed to RHN, so I assumed a few simple commands like “sudo yum install lighttpd”, etc., would do the trick. Imagine my surprise to find that lighttpd, Ruby, gem, and FastCGI were all not available via RHN. I don’t know what the folks at RedHat are thinking by not including these packages, but it made me wish the box were running Debian Linux (which, for the record, has all of these packages available via aptitude).

Anyhow, switching to Debian was not an option, so I had to go back and do this the old fashioned way. The following is a quick walkthrough of the steps to install lighttpd, FastCGI, Ruby on Rails, and MySQL on RHEL 5. I am going to assume that you possess a reasonable level of Linux kung-fu if you are going to attempt this, so I won’t go too deeply into the individual details.

First, make sure your box is fully up to date, Linux-wise:

sudo yum update

Next, stop and deactivate Apache, which is running by default (I think) on RHEL 5:

sudo /etc/init.d/httpd stop
sudo chkconfig httpd off

Next, install necessary libraries and build lighttpd from the source code. I am adding some configuration options to ./configure to install files into the /usr/* directories, rather than the /usr/local/* directories as would be typical. This is a personal choice, so feel free to strip the options if you prefer to have your manually built applications in /usr/local…

sudo yum install pcre-devel zlib-devel bzip2-devel openssl-devel
wget ''
tar xvfz lighttpd-1.4.20.tar.gz
cd lighttpd-1.4.20
./configure --program-prefix= --prefix=/usr --exec-prefix=/usr --bindir=/usr/bin --sbindir=/usr/sbin --sysconfdir=/etc --datadir=/usr/share --includedir=/usr/include --libdir=/usr/lib --libexecdir=/usr/libexec --localstatedir=/var --sharedstatedir=/usr/com --mandir=/usr/share/man --infodir=/usr/share/info --with-openssl
sudo make install

Next, create a non-root user and group that will run lighttpd. I typically use “www-data”, since I am a Debian guy, but feel free to use whatever you want. The important bit, of course, is that the user is something other than root for (hopefully) obvious reasons:

sudo /usr/sbin/adduser -s /sbin/nologin www-data
sudo /usr/sbin/addgroup www-data

Next, configure lighttpd and create necessary config and log files and directories. The contents of lighttpd.conf will depend on the location of your Rails application, among other things. I have included a simple Rails config below…but I assume if you are doing this you probably already have that…

sudo mkdir /etc/lighttpd

sudo echo > /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf <<!

# Global config

server.port = 80
server.username = "www-data"
server.groupname = "www-data" = "/var/run/"
server.errorlog = "/var/log/lighttpd/error.log"
server.indexfiles = ( "index.php", "index.html" )

accesslog.filename = "/var/log/lighttpd/access.log"

url.access-deny = ( "~", ".inc" )

server.modules = (
) = "/www/path-to-your-app"
server.document-root = + "/public"
server.error-handler-404 = "/dispatch.fcgi"
url.rewrite = ( "^/$" => "index.html", "^([^.]+)$" => "$1.html" )
fastcgi.server = ( ".fcgi" =>
  ( "localhost" =>
    ( "min-procs" => 4,
      "max-procs" => 4,
      "socket" => "/tmp/",
      "bin-path" => + "/public/dispatch.fcgi",
     "bin-environment" => ( "RAILS_ENV" => "development" )

sudo chown -R www-data.www-data /etc/lighttpd

sudo echo "LIGHTTPD_CONF_PATH=/etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf" > /etc/sysconfig/lighttpd

sudo echo > /etc/init.d/lighttpd <<!

# lighttpd Startup script for the lighttpd server
# chkconfig: - 85 15
# description: Lighttpd web server
# processname: lighttpd
# config: /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf
# config: /etc/sysconfig/lighttpd
# pidfile: /var/run/

# Source function library
. /etc/rc.d/init.d/functions

if [ -f /etc/sysconfig/lighttpd ]; then
  . /etc/sysconfig/lighttpd

if [ -z "$LIGHTTPD_CONF_PATH" ]; then


start() {
  echo -n $"Starting $prog: "
  daemon $lighttpd -f $LIGHTTPD_CONF_PATH
  [ $RETVAL -eq 0 ] && touch /var/lock/subsys/$prog
  return $RETVAL

stop() {
  echo -n $"Stopping $prog: "
  killproc $lighttpd
  [ $RETVAL -eq 0 ] && rm -f /var/lock/subsys/$prog
  return $RETVAL

reload() {
  echo -n $"Reloading $prog: "
  killproc $lighttpd -HUP
  return $RETVAL

case "$1" in
    if [ -f /var/lock/subsys/$prog ]; then
    status $lighttpd
    echo $"Usage: $0 {start|stop|restart|condrestart|reload|status}"

exit $RETVAL

sudo chmod 755 /etc/init.d/lighttpd
sudo /sbin/chkconfig --add lighttpd
sudo /sbin/chkconfig lighttpd on

sudo mkdir -p /var/log/lighttpd
sudo chown www-data.www-data /var/log/lighttpd

Next, build and install Ruby from the source code. Again, I am adding configuration options to ./configure to install files into the /usr/* directories:

wget ''
tar xvfz ruby-1.8.7-p72.tar.gzcd ruby-1.8.7-p72./configure --program-prefix= --prefix=/usr --exec-prefix=/usr --bindir=/usr/bin --sbindir=/usr/sbin --sysconfdir=/etc --datadir=/usr/share --includedir=/usr/include --libdir=/usr/lib --libexecdir=/usr/libexec --localstatedir=/var --sharedstatedir=/usr/com --mandir=/usr/share/man --infodir=/usr/share/info --with-openssl
sudo make install

Next, install MySQL. This is the one step that RHN handles, thankfully…

sudo yum install mysql mysql-server mysql-devel
chkconfig mysqld on ; /etc/init.d/mysqld start

You should probably take this opportunity to change your MySQL root password, for (hopefully) obvious reasons:

/usr/bin/mysqladmin -u root password 'new password'
/usr/bin/mysqladmin -u root -p -h 'hostname' password 'new password'

Next, install FastCGI for use by lighttpd to spawn Rails dispatchers (again, using options for the /usr/* directories…):

tar xvfz fcgi-2.4.0.tar.gz
cd fcgi-2.4.0
./configure --prefix=/usr
sudo make install

Next, install RubyGems, so that we can grab Rails:

wget ''
tar xvfz rubygems-1.3.1.tgz
cd rubygems-1.3.1
sudo ruby setup.rb

Next, grab Rails and install some other useful Gems:

sudo gem update --system
sudo gem update
sudo gem install rails --include-dependencies  # installs Rails 2.1.2
sudo gem install mysql -- --with-mysql-config=/usr/bin/mysql_config  # installs mysql-2.7
sudo gem install fcgi  # installs fcgi-0.8.7
sudo gem install packet   # installs packet 0.1.14

And, finally, if all has gone according to plan, you can bring up lighttpd and access your Rails application:

sudo /etc/init.d/lighttpd start

Hope this helps. Maybe some day soon this will be condensed to about five yum install commands via RHN…