How to remotely debug Rails in Apache + Passenger + RubyMine

I’m now a Ruby on Rails programmer and the past week I’ve been frantically learning how to develop on my MacBook Air.

My configuration

  1. Mac OS X Mountain Lion
  2. Xcode 4.4
  3. Apache 2.2.22
  4. MySQL 5.5.27
  5. Phusion Passenger 3.0.15
  6. Ruby 1.8.7
  7. Rails 2.3.12


I wanted an IDE like Zend Studio, whose remote debugging support for PHP I simply love.

After some research I bought a license for RubyMine 4.5, because I was impressed by its integration with Ruby and Rails and its excellent debugger.

Unfortunately, RubyMine’s offers remote debugging configurations that (at the moment) don’t allow to hook into a running instance. That means that you can’t remotely debug on your own application stack, unless your Rails server is run by a command line script.

Well… luckily enough, I’ve just found another way that allows me to remotely debug using my own stack.
In fact, RubyMine’s local debugger does support Passenger Standalone as a Rails server, through a command line like this:

/usr/bin/ruby /usr/bin/passenger start -a -p 3000 --max-pool-size 1 --spawn-method conservative -e development

in conjunction with the following file (config/initializers/rubymine_passenger_debug.rb)

# generated by RubyMine

if debug_port
  puts "Preparing to launch debugger for #{$$}"
  require 'ruby-debug-ide'

  Debugger.cli_debug = ("true" == ENV['RUBYMINE_DEBUG_VERBOSE'])
  Debugger.start_server('', debug_port.to_i)

And it works like a charm.

My method

This example is based on the Notebook app created in the RubyMine tutorial Discover RubyMine in a Few Simple Steps.

(1/6) Edit /etc/hosts

I make an alias in my Mac such that corresponds to (localhost).


(2/6) Edit …/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

I make a virtual host for my “remote” development site. Note that the notebook folder is under Sites. On the other hand, my “local” development site will be under RubymineProjects. To synch them you need to deploy, i.e. delete the notebook folder in Sites and copy again there the one in RubymineProjects.

NameVirtualHost *:80

<VirtualHost *:80>
    # this is the default entry !!!
    ServerName localhost

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ErrorLog "/private/var/log/apache2/"
    CustomLog "/private/var/log/apache2/" common

    DocumentRoot "/Users/andrea/Sites/notebook/public"
    <Directory "/Users/andrea/Sites/notebook/public">
        # This relaxes Apache security settings.
        AllowOverride all
        # MultiViews must be turned off.
        Options -MultiViews

(3/6) Edit …/apache2/httpd.conf

This is where Passenger is configured into Apache. I configure my instance like RubyMine does when it starts Passenger Standalone for local debugging. This is a minor drawback… I think I can live with it + remote debugging.

LoadModule passenger_module /Library/Ruby/Gems/1.8/gems/passenger-3.0.15/ext/apache2/
   PassengerRoot /Library/Ruby/Gems/1.8/gems/passenger-3.0.15
   PassengerRuby /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/1.8/usr/bin/ruby
   # when RubyMine executes Passenger Standalone for debugging, these are the settings...
   PassengerMaxPoolSize 1
   PassengerSpawnMethod conservative
   SetEnv RAILS_ENV development


(4/6) Create …/notebook/lib/tasks/rdebug.rake

I create a simple rake task to start the server with debugging enabled.

task :rdebug do
  system("touch tmp/restart.txt")
  system("touch tmp/debug.txt")

(5/6) Add RubyMine – Run/Debug Configurations – Ruby remote debug

I add a new Ruby remote debug configuration. Remote host is the IP of my “remote” development site. The remote port can be any that is not already used. The local port is decided by the dialog box, so you’ll have a different number each time you add a new configuration. Remote and local root folders must match the same app tree such that the mapping works when debugging.

(6/6) Edit …/notebook/config/environments/development.rb

I add this block at the end of my development configuration. It is the keystone. Note that remote_host and remote_port must match the corresponding values in the Ruby remote debug configuration.

remote_host = ''
remote_port = 7000

debug_flag = File.join(RAILS_ROOT, 'tmp', 'debug.txt')
if File.exists?(debug_flag)
  require 'ruby-debug-ide'
  Debugger.start_server(remote_host, remote_port)


Debug sequence

This is the sequence I use for remote debugging. Apart from the first step, the rest is the same used for local debugging.

  1. From a Terminal window: rake rdebug
  2. From RubyMine – (notebook) Debug
  3. From the browser – Reload a page and hit a breakpoint
  4. RubyMine gets the focus and waits for you to debug

And it works like a charm.

5 Replies to “How to remotely debug Rails in Apache + Passenger + RubyMine”

  1. Thanks, is it possible for you to provide the actual text, of your mentioned configuration files in Steps 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6?


  2. Andrea, I am trying to make this work between my Mac laptop, and a remote VM host, but am not able to get the debugger to connect. The debugger connection attempt, will always time out.

    Any insight or basic steps for debugging?

    Thank you,

  3. I’m unable to provide any insights. I wrote this article 10 years ago. To be honest, I’m impressed you could still find it useful.

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