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Ubuntu - Thin web server for Ruby

There are variety of options open to the sysadmin when serving Ruby applications.

One of them is thin. This is a 3rd party web server that is proxied to from the main web server (similar to mongrels in a general setup). Let's take a look at installing thin.



I am assuming you have Ruby and Rubygems installed on your Cloud Server. If you don't, please see the Ubuntu Intrepid - Ruby on Rails article.


Thin is a rubygem and so installation couldn't be easier:

sudo gem install thin

On the test Cloud Server with a basic rubygems and Rails installation, the process installed the following gems:


Thin basics

There will be separate articles for proxying to thin from different web servers (Apache, Nginx, etc).

As such, we'll only look at the basics of thin, leaving Virtual Host configurations for later.

To determine the thin verions:

thin -v

As is often the case in the wacky world of the developer, each version has a unique name:

thin 1.0.0 codename That's What She Said

Starting and stopping

Starting thin requires your navigating to a rails app directory and issuing this command:

thin start -d

The '-d' option runs it in the background. If you omitted the '-d' option, it would act in a similar manner to the webbrick server and requires an 'open' terminal. In that case, a standard 'Ctl -C' would kill the process.

To stop thin, you don't need to worry about finding the PID or searching for something to kill:

thin stop


The default environment for thin is development. To start it in a production environment is easy:

thin start -d -e production


It would be relatively unusual for a Rails application to only need 1 ruby server; to start a cluster of 3 you would use this command:

thin start --servers 3

The output shows 3 servers being started sequentially from port 3000 (the default port).

Stopping the cluster is just as easy:

thin stop --servers 3

Again, the output is very clear: a quit signal is sent to each PID.


You can add thin to a runlevel (/etc/init.d/) with ease.

To start with you need to create the script:

sudo thin install

Then add the script to the default runlevels:

sudo /usr/sbin/update-rc.d -f thin defaults

The output confirms the process:

Adding system startup for /etc/init.d/thin ...
   /etc/rc0.d/K20thin -> ../init.d/thin
   /etc/rc1.d/K20thin -> ../init.d/thin
   /etc/rc6.d/K20thin -> ../init.d/thin
   /etc/rc2.d/S20thin -> ../init.d/thin
   /etc/rc3.d/S20thin -> ../init.d/thin
   /etc/rc4.d/S20thin -> ../init.d/thin
   /etc/rc5.d/S20thin -> ../init.d/thin


Now we need to define which (if any) of the rails applications to start on a reboot.

Just for example, assume I have a rails application located here:


I want to start 3 thin servers and be in production mode when they are started:

sudo thin config -C /etc/thin/testapp.yml -c /home/demo/public_html/testapp/  --servers 3 -e production

Have a look at the file that was created:

cat /etc/thin/testapp.yml

The contents:

pid: tmp/pids/thin.pid
timeout: 30
port: 3000
log: log/thin.log
max_conns: 1024
require: []
environment: production
max_persistent_conns: 512
servers: 3
daemonize: true
chdir: /home/demo/public_html/testapp

As you can see, there are several options that can be tweaked by hand if needed.

Note the server numbers and environment are exactly as we set them. You can, of course, add as many or as few options to the command as you require, such as port numbers and so on.

When the Cloud Server is rebooted, the 3 thin servers will now start automatically.


As with most applications, there is more than I can go into here but please do check out all the options that are available to you:

thin --help


Thin is an established method of serving Ruby on Rails applications. I hope this introduction outlines how easy and sysadmin-friendly thin actually is.

To see how to proxy to the thin web server from Apache or Nginx, please see the next few articles.

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