[ANN] fcgi_watch (reaper replacement for shared servers)

fcgi_watch is a supplement to (or replacement for)

The standard reaper script searches for all processes started with a
given pathname using the output from a ps command, and performs an
action on them. There are problems with this approach, at least on some
shared servers:

  • The pathname seen from a script is not necessarily the same as the
    pathname seen from a shell command. You can determine whether you have
    this problem by typing a pwd command, then ruby -e 'puts pwd'. If the
    results are different, the problem exists.

  • At least on some servers, if you have two or more Rails applications
    running, all of the FCGI dispatchers will look the same to the ps
    command. This means that any action performed by reaper will affect all
    your Rails applications.


fcgi_watch finds and parses the fastcgi.crash.log in the <rails_app>/log
directory. It makes a list of processes that should be running, then
cross-checks it against the output of ps to find all the FCGI processes
that are actually running for a specified application. Only then does it
perform the specified action.


Managing FastCGI processes on a shared server is sometimes
problematical. You have little control over the web server used, over
its configuration, or over the activities of other users. Your
dispatchers might get swapped out and become “unresponsive”, causing the
server to start new ones. After a day or so, “ps aux” might show eight
or ten copies of dispatch.fcgi – more, if you have multiple
applications – and you have no way of knowing which ones of them can be
safely killed.

fcgi_watch provides an “expire” action, in addition to the actions
provided by reaper. fcgi_watch keeps track of the ages of instances of
dispatch.fcgi, and can “expire” processes older than a given number of
hours. You can also set a maximum number of FCGI dispatchers that you
want to allow for a given application. “fcgi_watch expire” will
terminate the extras – gracefully, if possible.

You can get fcgi_watch here:


I wrote fcgi_watch to solve my FCGI management problems, and it’s made
my life easier. Hope it helps someone else out!:slight_smile:

Please email me with any problems, suggestions, improvements, etc.

–Al Evans

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