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Websites with nginx on Debian 5 (Lenny)

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Warning

This document is an older, unmaintained guide. There may be a new guide available for this software.

Nginx is a lightweight and high performance web server designed with the purpose of delivering large amounts of static content quickly and with efficient use of system resources. In contrast to the Apache HTTP server that uses a threaded or process-oriented approach to handling requests, nginx uses an asynchronous event-driven model which provides more predictable performance under load.

Although nginx is a relatively new entrant in the web server field, it has achieved a great deal of respect for its agility and efficiency, particularly in high profile situations. Many very high traffic and profile websites have begun to use nginx for its efficiency. At the same time, administrators of smaller systems have found nginx ideal for their systems for its slim memory footprint.

Before we begin installing the nginx web server, we assume that you have followed our getting started guide. If you're new to Linux server administration, you may be interested in our using Linux document series including the beginner's guide and administration basics guide.

Contents

Set the Hostname

Before you begin installing and configuring the components described in this guide, please make sure you've followed our instructions for setting your hostname. Issue the following commands to make sure it is set properly:

hostname
hostname -f

The first command should show your short hostname, and the second should show your fully qualified domain name (FQDN).

Installing nginx from Debian Packages

Nginx is included in the Debian software repositories. While using this method to install nginx will leave you with a working web server it is not the preferred method for installing nginx. Nevertheless, if you want to install in this manner, the following sequence of commands first ensures that your system's package databases and installed programs are up to date and then installs the nginx web server:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade --show-upgraded
apt-get install nginx

Installing nginx in this manner will allow you to rely on the Debian package maintainers to provide quality control, testing, and security updates to ensure that you're running the best possible version of the software. However, the packages provided by the Debian project do not track the latest development of the nginx server. Given the rapid development of nginx and variances between recent versions this is not ideal for many users. Continue to the next section to install nginx directly from source.

Installing nginx from the Source Distribution

Install Prerequisites

Because of the rapid development of the nginx web server and recent changes to the interface, many users of nginx compile their version of the software from sources provided by the nginx developers. Additional benefits include the ability to configure nginx to support additional third party modules and options which much be set at compile time. This document is written against the most recent release in the stable series of the server (version 1.0.0).

Begin by ensuring that your system's package database and installed programs are up to date by issuing the following commands:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade --show-upgraded

You will also need to install several dependent packages before proceeding with nginx installation. Issue the following command:

apt-get install libpcre3-dev build-essential libssl-dev

Download and Compile nginx

The source files and binaries will be downloaded in the /opt/ directory of the file system in this example. Issue the following sequence of commands to enter this directory, download the required files, and extract the source files from the archive:

cd /opt/
wget http://nginx.org/download/nginx-1.0.0.tar.gz
tar -zxvf nginx-1.0.0.tar.gz
cd /opt/nginx-1.0.0/

Now we can compile the nginx server. If you want to enable third-party modules, append options to ./configure at this juncture. Issue the following command to configure the build options:

./configure --prefix=/opt/nginx --user=nginx --group=nginx --with-http_ssl_module

When the configuration process completes successfully, you will see the following output:

nginx path prefix: "/opt/nginx"
nginx binary file: "/opt/nginx/sbin/nginx"
nginx configuration prefix: "/opt/nginx/conf"
nginx configuration file: "/opt/nginx/conf/nginx.conf"
nginx pid file: "/opt/nginx/logs/nginx.pid"
nginx error log file: "/opt/nginx/logs/error.log"
nginx http access log file: "/opt/nginx/logs/access.log"
nginx http client request body temporary files: "client_body_temp"
nginx http proxy temporary files: "proxy_temp"
nginx http fastcgi temporary files: "fastcgi_temp"

To build and install nginx with the above configuration, use the following command sequence:

make
make install

You will also need to create a user and group for nginx, issue the following command:

adduser --system --no-create-home --disabled-login --disabled-password --group nginx

Nginx is now installed in /opt/nginx.

Monitor for Software Updates and Security Notices

When running software compiled or installed directly from sources provided by upstream developers, you are responsible for monitoring updates, bug fixes, and security issues. After becoming aware of releases and potential issues, update your software to resolve flaws and prevent possible system compromise. Monitoring releases and maintaining up to date versions of all software is crucial for the security and integrity of a system.

Please follow the announcements, lists, and RSS feeds on the following pages to ensure that you are aware of all updates to the software and can upgrade appropriately or apply patches and recompile as needed:

When upstream sources offer new releases, repeat the instructions for installing nginx, spawn-fcgi, and uWSGI, and recompile your software when needed. These practices are crucial for the ongoing security and functioning of your system.

Create an Init Script to Manage nginx

Before we can begin to use the nginx server, we must create a means of controlling the daemon process. You can create an "init script" using this example to control nginx. Issue the following commands to download the file, change the execution mode, and set the system to initialize nginx on boot:

wget -O init-deb.sh http://library.linode.com/assets/659-init-deb.sh
mv init-deb.sh /etc/init.d/nginx
chmod +x /etc/init.d/nginx
/usr/sbin/update-rc.d -f nginx defaults

You can now start, stop, and restart nginx just like any other server daemon. For example, to start the server, issue the following command:

/etc/init.d/nginx start

Congratulations! You now have a running and fully functional HTTP server powered by the nginx web server. Continue reading our introduction to basic nginx configuration for more information about using and setting up the web server.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Last edited by Matthew Cone on Monday, October 8th, 2012 (r3129).