Tag Archives: Lighttpd

Setting Up Lighttpd with PHP-FPM

PHP-FPM can provide an alternative to spawn-fcgi when setting up Lighttpd with PHP. It has several advantages over using spawn-fcgi among them:

  • It can dynamically scale and spawn new processes as needed.
  • Gracefully respawn PHP processes after configuration change.
  • Comes with init.d script so no need write your own.
  • Ability to log slow PHP script execution (similar to MySQL’s slow query log).


PHP-FPM is available from the Ubuntu (since 12.04) and Debian’s repositories, so all you need to do is:

$ sudo apt-get install php5-fpm


PHP-FPM works with process pools. Each pool spawns processes independently and have different configurations. This can be useful to separate the PHP process of each user or major site on the server. PHP-FPM comes with a default pool configuration in /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf. To create new pools, simply copy the default pool configuration and edit it. At least you will need to set the following:

  • Pool name – [www]. I name mine according to the user which the pool serves.
  • user – I set the user to the appropriate user, and leave group as www-data.
  • listen = /var/run/php.$pool.sock – Unix sockets have lower overhead than tcp sockets, so if both Lighttpd and PHP run on the same server they are preferable. $pool will be expanded to your pool name. Also, it is more secure to create the sockets in a directory not writable globally (such as /tmp/) so /var/run is a good choice.
  • listen.owner should match the PHP user, while listen.group should match the group Lighttpd runs in, so both have access to the socket.

If you copied www.conf to create new configuration, you will need to rename it to something like www.conf.default in order to disable it.

In the Lighttpd configuration you need to add the following to each vhost that uses PHP:

fastcgi.server    = ( ".php" => 
                "disable-time" => 0,
                "socket" => "/var/run/php.pool.sock",

Where pool in the socket configuration is replaced by the matching pool name in the PHP-FPM configuration. Overriding disable-time and setting it to 0, is suitable in the case you have only one PHP backend and it’s local. In this scenario, attempting to connect to the backend is cheap, and if it gets disabled no requests will get through any way.

Useful Files

  • /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d – The PHP-FPM pool configuration directory.
  • /var/log/php5-fpm.log – The PHP-FPM error log. It will display error and warning notifying you when pm.max_children has been reached, when processes die unexpectedly, etc.

Securing Access to phpMyAdmin on Lighttpd via SSH

phpMyAdmin lets easily manage your MySQL databases, as such it also presents a security risk. Logging in to phpMyAdmin is done using a username and password for the database. Hence, if someone is able to either eavesdrop or guess by brute-force the username and password could wreak havoc of your server.

A possible solution to the eavesdropping problem, is to use SSL to secure the communication to the phpMyAdmin. However, SSL certificates don’t present any method to stop brute-forcing. To prevent brute-forcing attempts, you could limit access to your IP address. However, most of us don’t have static IPs at home. The solution I came up with, kinds of combines both approaches.

Instead of using SSL to encrypt the data sent, I’m using SSH and instead of limiting access to my IP address, I’ll limit access to the server’s IP address. How will it work? First we start by editing the phpMyAdmin configuration for lighttpd. This usually resides in /etc/lighttpd/conf-enabled/50-phpmyadmin.conf. At the top of the file you’ll find the following lines:

alias.url += (
        "/phpmyadmin" => "/usr/share/phpmyadmin",

These lines define the mapping to the phpmyadmin installation, without it the phpMyAdmin wouldn’t be accessible. We use lighttpd’s conditional configuration to limit who is able to use that mapping by changing the above lines to:

$HTTP["remoteip"] == "" {
        alias.url += (
                "/phpmyadmin" => "/usr/share/phpmyadmin",

This limit access to the phpMyAdmin only to clients whose IP is the server’s IP (of course you’ll need to change that IP to your server’s IP). This stops curtails any brute-forcing attempts, as only someone trying to access the phpMyAdmin from the server itself will succeed.

But how can we “impersonate” the server’s IP when we connect from home? The easiest solution would be to use to the SOCKS proxy provided by SSH.

ssh user@server.com -D 1080

This will setup a SOCKS proxy on port 1080 (locally) that will tunnel traffic through your server. The next step is to instruct your browser of OS to use that proxy (in Firefox it can be done via Preferences->Advanced->Network->Connection Settings, it can also be defined globally via Network Settings->Network Proxy under Gnome). This achieves both of our goals. We are now able to connect to the server while using its own IP and our connection to the server is encrypted using SSH.

This method can be used to secure all kinds of sensitive applications. We could have achieved the same thing by using a VPN, but it’s more hassle to setup compared to SSH which is available on any server.

Installing Lighttpd-1.4.22 on Ubuntu 8.04

I had some problems with the lighttpd-1.4.19 that comes with Ubuntu 8.04, mainly it’s problems of handling the HTTP header Expect: 100-continue (which older versions of Lighttpd return error 417). The problem was fixed in Lighttpd-1.4.21, but 1.4.22 is the newest version so I’ve decided to install it.

As I mentioned before, Ubuntu doesn’t have lighttpd-1.4.22 for 8.04, and it’s also not available in the updates or backports repositories. Fortunately, I’ve found that the package is available from Debuian Sid (unstable). Here are some instructions on how to install it.
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Book Review: Lighttpd by Andre Bogus

As an avid user of Lighttpd, I was glad to receive a copy of the “Lighttpd” book by Andre Bogus (Packt publishing) for reviewing. I’ve been using Lighttpd extensively for production over a year now and I’m very satisfied. However, I remember that as a new user I had my share of frustration. In his book, Andre Bogus, tries ease the process for those that decided to move to Lighttpd.
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Configuring Lighttpd for CakePHP

I tried a few days ago to install a CakePHP project of mine on a lighttpd web-server. As expected, its clean URLs didn’t work, so I set out to find a solution.

One possible solution is the one outlined in the CakePHP manual. The solution uses the mod_magnet module (which basically runs a Lua script to do the rewriting), and I found it an overkill. I was looking for a simple solution based only on mod_rewrite, something like the solution for WordPress.
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phpMyAdmin + Lighttpd in Gentoo

Usually installing software in Gentoo is a piece of cake. Just emerge what you want and (with the right USE flags) and everything will be ready for you. However, as today I’ve found out today, installing phpMyAdmin with Lighttpd isn’t trivial as it should be.

In this post I’ll try to walk you through the necessary steps to install phpMyAdmin with Lighttpd in Gentoo.
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Clean URLs (Permalinks) for WordPress on Lighttpd

I’ve moved my blog in the last few days to a new bigger dedicated server (as well as some other sites I own). After doing some benchmarks (I plan to post those soon) I’ve decided to switch to Lighttpd. While the exact migration notes are the topic of another post, I can say that I’m fairly satisfied with the move.

After setting up the server, I started moving the blog. Importing the files and the database was pretty straight forward. But when I thought every thing is ready and I transfered the domain to the new server I’ve found out that none of my inner pages are accessible. The reason, as it turned up pretty quickly, is that the WordPress depends on Apache’s mod_rewrite to create the clean URLs (the so called permalinks). This actually posed two problems:

  1. WordPress depends on Apache’s mod_rewrite.
  2. WordPress used .htaccess files for the clean URLs configuration

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