In the past1, I’ve been a big fan of running a virtualized web server locally instead of intalling PHP and Apache (or Nginx) directly on my development machine. I think I just changed my mind.

A little over a month ago, I read Elliot Jay Stocks’ article abou the stuff he missed on vacation. One of those things was the release of Anvil. Anvil is really just a nice looking front-end for Pow. Pow is a local rack web server built on node.js. It adds some cool stuff to /etc/resolvr to handle DNS for development domains and then you just symlink a directory into ~/.pow to get a server at a domain like .dev.

For some reason I’ve never really been a fan of MAMP. I think the “zero-config” thing stuck with me when I saw Pow though. So I started looking around2 to see if I could use Pow with PHP apps.

It turns out to be possible. There’s a gem called rack-legacy which is exactly for this purpose. Unfortunately rack-legacy uses the CGI version of PHP which doesn’t come in Mountain Lion. So you have to install PHP from source, which requires you to install mcrypt from source as well.

  1. Install mcrypt from source.
  2. Download the PHP source over at the PHP Downloads page.
  3. cd into the PHP source directory and configure it ./configure --with-cgi --enable-mbstring --with-curl --with-xmlrpc --with-mcrypt=/usr
  4. make and make install PHP.

So, now that we have PHP set up, install Pow, Rack, and all the other dependancies.

brew install node sqlite
gem install rack rack-legacy rack-rewrite
curl | sh

I think the only dependancy for pow is node, which I used homebrew to install. I also installed sqlite because it’s easier to use locoally than MySQL. And Laravel makes it simple to switch over to a SQLite database.

It’s finally time to set up our Laravel app. Rack apps need a file in the root which is just a Ruby script that configures the server for this particular app. Put the following in Laravel’s public folder and point Pow at the same folder.

require 'rack'
require 'rack-legacy'
require 'rack-rewrite'

use Rack::Rewrite do
send_file %r{([^?]+)}, Dir.getwd + '$1', :if => { |env|
path = File.expand_path(Dir.getwd + env['PATH_INFO'])
rewrite %r{(.*)?}, 'index.php$1'

use Rack::Legacy::Php, Dir.getwd
run Dir.getwd

That’s it.


There were kind of two main resources that I used to fully understand what was going on here and how to set this up. If you’re going to be a PHP developer and use Ruby tools, get used to seeing PHP as “Legacy Development” I guess.

  1. Legacy Development with Pow
  2. Configuration file to use PHP with rack

  1. I’ve written a few articles about setting up a VM in VirtualBox for PHP development locally. Including the original, part 2, the one about nginx, and the video

  2. I even considered writing my own “zero-configuration” web server that would work with PHP for a minute.