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Set of server administration tools that we use at Phusion.
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add-line Add the 'add-line' and 'remove-line' tools.
backup-mysql Various changes
check-web-apps Retry webapp check on SocketError
config.yml.example Support per-tool config file so that one can apply per-tool config fi…
confine-to-rsync Add confine-to-rsync
deny Improve 'deny' tool: no need to save executable bits state.
display-queue Initial import
flock Add a tool for obtaining file locks
gc-git-repos Document more scripts and introduce a config file.
monitor-cpu Allow printing monitor-cpu's internal state.
notify-if-queue-becomes-large Document more scripts and introduce a config file.
permit Revert "Improve 'permit' tool: we apparently don't need the ugly hack…
purge-queue Initial import
remove-line Add the 'add-line' and 'remove-line' tools.
rotate-files Add rotate-files tool
run Add more help messages for 'run'
set-capistrano-permissions Tighten web server access to release directories.
set-section Add set-section tool
shared.rb check-web-apps should correctly handle socket exceptions
silence-unless-failed Allow silence-unless-failed to buffer to a specific file, and make it…
syslog-tee Introduce the 'syslog-tee' tool and allow the 'run' tool to log to sy…
timestamp Add a new 'timestamp' tool for adding timestamps to command outputs
truncate Initial import
udp-to-syslog Fix udp-to-syslog -i option
watch-queue Initial import

Phusion Server Tools

A collection of server administration tools that we use. Everything is written in Ruby and designed to work with Debian. These scripts may work with other operating systems or distributions as well, but it's not tested. Read documentation with table of contents.

Install with:

git clone /tools

It's not necessary to install to /tools, you can install to anywhere, but this document assumes that you have installed to /tools.

Each tool has its own prerequities, but here are some common prerequities:

  • Ruby (obviously)
  • pv - apt-get install pv. Not required but very useful; allows display of progress bars.

Some tools require additional configuration through config.yml, which must be located in the same directory as the tool or in /etc/phusion-server-tools.yml. Please see config.yml.example for an example.

Cryptographic verification

We do not release source tarballs for Juvia. Users are expected to get the source code from Github.

From time to time, we create Git tags for milestones. These milestones are signed with the Phusion Software Signing key. After importing this key you can verify Git tags as follows:

git tag --verify milestone-2013-03-11


Tip: looking to backup files other than MySQL dumps? Use the rotate-files tool.

backup-mysql - Rotated, compressed, encrypted MySQL dumps

A script which backs up all MySQL databases to /var/backups/mysql. By default at most 10 backups are kept, but this can be configured. All backups are compressed with gzip and can optionally be encrypted. The backup directory is denied all world access.

It uses mysql to obtain a list of databases and mysqldump to dump the database contents. If you want to run this script unattended you should therefore set the right login information in ~/.my.cnf, sections [mysql] and [mysqldump].

Encryption can be configured through the 'encrypt' option in config.yml.

Make it run daily at 12:00 AM and 0:00 AM in cron:

0 0,12 * * * /tools/silence-unless-failed /tools/backup-mysql

Monitoring and alerting

monitor-cpu - Monitors CPU usage and send email on suspicious activity

A daemon which measures the total CPU usage and per-core CPU usage every minute, and sends an email if the average total usage or the average per-core usage over a period of time equals or exceeds a threshold.

Config options:

  • total_threshold: The total CPU usage threshold (0-100) to check against.
  • per_core_threshold: The per-core CPU usage threshold (0-100) to check against.
  • interval: The interval, in minutes, over which the average is calculated.
  • to, from, subject: Configuration for the email alert.

You should run monitor-cpu with daemon tools:

mkdir -p /etc/service/monitor-cpu
cat <<EOF > /etc/service/monitor-cpu/run.tmp
exec setuidgid daemon /tools/run --syslog /tools/monitor-cpu
chmod +x /etc/service/monitor-cpu/run.tmp
mv /etc/service/monitor-cpu/run.tmp /etc/service/monitor-cpu/run

notify-if-queue-becomes-large - Monitor RabbitMQ queue sizes

This script monitors all RabbitMQ queues on the localhost RabbitMQ installation and sends an email if one of them contain more messages than a defined threshold. You can configure the settings in config.yml.

Run it every 15 minutes in cron:

0,15,30,45 * * * * /tools/notify-if-queue-becomes-large

check-web-apps - Checks web applications' health

This script sends HTTP requests to all listed web applications and checks whether the response contains a certain substring. If not, an email is sent.

Run it every 10 minutes in cron:

0,10,20,30,40,50 * * * * /tools/check-web-apps

File management

permit and deny - Easily set fine-grained permissions using ACLs

permit recursively gives a user access to a directory by using ACLs. The default ACL is modified too so that any new files created in that directory or in subdirectories inherit the ACL rules that allow access for the given user.

deny recursively removes all ACLs for a given user on a directory, including default ACLs.

The standard setfacl tool is too hard to use and sometimes does stupid things such as unexpectedly making files executable. These scripts are simple and work as expected.

# Recursively give web server read-only access to /webapps/foo.
/tools/permit www-data /webapps/foo

# Recursively give user 'deploy' read-write access to /webapps/bar.
/tools/permit deploy /webapps/bar --read-write

# Recursively remove all ACLs for user 'joe' on /secrets/area66.
/tools/deny joe /secrets/area66

You need the getfacl and setfacl commands:

apt-get install acl

You must also make sure your filesystem is mounted with ACL support, e.g.:

mount -o remount,acl /

Don't forget to update /etc/fstab too.


Adds a line to the given file if it doesn't already include it.

/tools/add-line foo.log "hello world"
# Same effect:
/tools/add-line foo.log hello world


Removes the first instance of a line from the given file. Does nothing if the file doesn't include that line.

/tools/remove-line foo.log "hello world"
# Same effect:
/tools/remove-line foo.log hello world


Sets the content of a named section inside a text file while preserving all other text. Contents are read from stdin. A section looks like this:

###### BEGIN #{section_name} ######
some text
###### END #{section_name} ######

If the section doesn't exist, then it will be created.

$ cat foo.txt
hello world
$ echo hamburger | /tools/set-section foo.txt "mcdonalds menu"
$ cat foo.txt
hello world
##### BEGIN mcdonalds menu #####
##### END mcdonalds menu #####

If the section already exists then its contents will be updated.

# Using above foo.txt.
$ echo french fries | /tools/set-section foo.txt "mcdonalds menu"
$ cat foo.txt
hello world
##### BEGIN mcdonalds menu #####
french fries
##### END mcdonalds menu #####

If the content is empty then the section will be removed if it exists.

# Using above foo.txt
$ echo | /tools/set-section foo.txt "mcdonalds menu"
$ cat foo.txt
hello world


Truncates all given files to 0 bytes.


Allows you to use the common pattern of creating a new file, while deleting files that are too old. The most common use case for this tool is to store a backup file while deleting older backups.

The usage is as follows:


Suppose you have used some tool to create a database dump at /tmp/backup.tar.gz. If you run the following command...

rotate-files /tmp/backup.tar.gz /backups/backup- .tar.gz

...then it will create the file /backups/backup-<TIMESTAMP>.tar.gz. It will also delete old backup files matching this same pattern.

Old file deletion works by keeping only the most recent 50 files. This way, running rotate-files on an old directory won't result in all old backups to be deleted. You can customize the number of files to keep with the --max parameter.

Recency is determined through the timestamp in the filename, not the file timestamp metadata.


display-queue - Display statistics for local RabbitMQ queues

This tool displays statistics for RabbitMQ queues in a more friendly formatter than rabbitmqctl list_queues. The meanings of the columns are as follows:

  • Messages - Total number of messages in the queue. Equal to Ready + Unack.
  • Ready - Number of messages in the queue not yet consumed.
  • Unack - Number of messages in the queue that have been consumed, but not yet acknowledged.
  • Consumers - Number of consumers subscribed to this queue.
  • Memory - The amount of memory that RabbitMQ is using for this queue.

watch-queue - Display changes in local RabbitMQ queues

watch-queue combines the watch tool with display-queue. It continuously displays the latest queue statistics and highlights changes.

purge-queue - Remove all messages from a local RabbitMQ queue

purge-queue removes all messages from given given RabbitMQ queue. It connects to a RabbitMQ server on localhost on the default port. Note that consumed-but-unacknowledged messages in the queue cannot be removed.

purge-queue <QUEUE NAME HERE>

notify-if-queue-becomes-large - Monitor RabbitMQ queue sizes

See the related documentation under "Monitoring and alerting".



To be used in combination with SSH for confining an account to only rsync access. Very useful for locking down automated backup users.

Consider two hypothetical servers, and Once in a while runs an automated rsync command, copying data from to its local disk.'s SSH key is installed on If someone hacks into we don't want it to be able to login to or do anything else that might cause damage, so we need to make sure that can only rsync from, and only for certain directories.

confine-to-rsync is to be installed into's authorized_keys file as execution command:

command="/tools/confine-to-rsync /directory1 /directory2",no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding,no-agent-forwarding,no-pty ssh-dss AAAAB3Nza( of's key here...)

confine-to-rsync checks whether the client is trying to execute rsync in server mode, and if so, whether the rsync is only being run on either /directory1 or /directory2. If not it will abort with an error.



Runs the given command but only print its output (both STDOUT and STDERR) if its exit code is non-zero. The script's own exit code is the same as the command's exit code.

/tools/silence-unless-failed my-command arg1 arg2 --arg3


Runs the given command, and prepends timestamps to all its output. This will cause stdout and stderr to be merged and to be printed to stdout.

/tools/timestamp my-command arg1 arg2 --arg3


This tool allows running a command in various ways. Supported features:

  • Running the command with a different name (argv[0] value). Specify --program-name NAME to use this feature.
  • Sending a copy of the output to a log file. Specify --log-file FILENAME to use this feature. It will overwrite the log file by default; specify --append to append to the file instead.
  • Sending a copy of the output to syslog. Specify --syslog to use this feature. run will use the command's program name as the syslog program name. --program-name is respected.
  • Sending the output to pv. You can combine this with --log-file and --syslog.
  • Printing the exit code of the command to a status file once the command exits. Specify --status-file FILENAME to use this feature.
  • Holding a lock file while the command is running. If the lock file already exists, then run will abort with an error. Otherwise, it will create the lock file, write the command's PID to the file and delete the file after the command has finished.
  • Sending an email after the command has finished. Specify --email-to EMAILS to use this feature. It should be a comma-separated list of addresses.

run always exhibits the following properties:

  • It redirects stdin to /dev/null.
  • It exits with the same exit code as the command, unlike bash which exits with the exit code of the last command in the pipeline.
  • stdout and stderr are both combined into a single stream. If you specify --log-file, --syslog or --pv then both stdout and stderr will be redirected to the pipeline.
  • All signals are forwarded to the command process.


This is like tee, but writes to syslog instead of a file. Accepts the same arguments as the logger command.


Forwards all incoming data on a UDP port to syslog. For each message, the source address is also noted. Originally written to be used in combination with Linux's netconsole.

See ./udp-to-syslog --help for options.


Garbage collects all git repositories defined in config.yml. For convenience, the list of repositories to garbage collect can be a glob, e.g. /u/apps/**/*.git.

In order to preserve file permissions, the git gc command is run as the owner of the repository directory by invoking su. Therefore this tool must be run as root, or it must be run as the owner of all given git repositories.

Make it run every Sunday at 0:00 AM in cron with low I/O priority:

0 0 * * sun /tools/silence-unless-failed ionice -n 7 /tools/gc-git-repos
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