How to install nginx webserver from source on Debian Linux / Install Latest Nginx on Debian

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If you're running a large website consisting of a mixture of php scripts, images and html. You probably have noticed that using just one Apache server to serve all the content is not that efficient

Each Apache child (I assume you're using Apache mpm prefork consumes approximately (20MB), this means that each client connection would consume 20 mb of your server memory.
This as you can imagine is truly a suicide in terms of memory. Each request for a picture, css or simple html file would ask Apache to fork another process and will consume (20mb of extra memory form your server mem capacity)!.

Taking in consideration all this notes and the need for some efficiency here, the administrator should normally think about dividing the processing of the so called static content from the dynamic content served on the server.

Apache is really a nice webserver software but with all the loaded modules to serve dynamic content, for instance php, cgi, python etc., it's becoming not the best solution for handling a (css, javascript, html, flv, avi, mov etc. files).

Even a plain Apache server installation without (libphp, mod_rewrite mod deflate etc.) is still not dealing efficiently enough with the aforementioned static files content

Here comes the question if Apache is not that quick and efficient in serving static files, what then? The answer is caching webserver! By caching the regular static content files, your website visitors will benefit by experiencing shorter webserver responce files in downloading static contents and therefore will generally hasten your website and improve the end user's experience.

There are plenty of caching servers out there, some are a proprietary software and some are free software.

However the three most popular servers out there for static file content serving are:

  • Squid,
  • Varnish
  • Nginx

In this article as you should have already found out by the article title I'll discuss Nginx

You might ask why exactly Nginx and not some of the other twos, well simply cause Squid is too complicated to configure and on the other hand does provide lower performance than Nginx. On the other hand Varnish is also a good solution for static file webserver, but I believe it is not tested enough. However I should mention that my experience with testing varnish on my own home router is quite good by so far.

If you're further interested into varhisn cache I would suggest you checkout www.varhisn-cache.org .

Now as I have said a few words about squid and varhisn let's proceed to the essence of the article and say few words about nginx

Here is a quote describing nginx in a short and good manner directly extracted from nginx.com

nginx [engine x] is a HTTP and reverse proxy server, as well as a mail proxy server written by Igor Sysoev. It has been running for more than five years on many heavily loaded Russian sites including Rambler (RamblerMedia.com). According to Netcraft nginx served or proxied 4.70% busiest sites in April 2010. Here are some of success stories: FastMail.FM, WordPress.com.

By default nginx is available ready to be installed in Debian via apt-get, however sadly enough the version available for install is pretty much outdated as of time of writting the nginx debian version in lenny's deb package repositories is 0.6.32-3+lenny3

This version was release about 2 years ago and is currently completely outdated, therefore I found it is not a good idea to use this old and probably slower release of nginx and I jumped further to install my nginx from source:
Nginx source installation actually is very simple on Linux platforms.

1. As a first step in order to be able to succeed with the install from source make sure your system you have installed the packages:

debian:~# apt-get install libpcre3 libpcre3-dev libpcrecpp0 libssl-dev zlib1g-dev build-essential

2. Secondly download latest nginx source code tarball

Check out on http://nginx.com/download the latest stable release of nginx and further issue the commands below:

debian:~# cd /usr/local/src
debian:/usr/local/src# wget http://nginx.org/download/nginx-0.9.6.tar.gz

3.Unarchive nginx source code

debian:/usr/local/src#tar -zxvvf nginx-0.9.6.tar.gz
...

The nginx server requirements for me wasn't any special so I proceeded and used the nginx ./configure script which is found in nginx-0.9.6

4. Compline nginx server

debian:/usr/local/src# cd nginx-0.9.6
debian:/usr/local/src/nginx-0.9.6# ./configure && make && make install
+ Linux 2.6.26-2-amd64 x86_64
checking for C compiler ... found
+ using GNU C compiler
+ gcc version: 4.3.2 (Debian 4.3.2-1.1)
checking for gcc -pipe switch ... found
...
...

The last lines printed by the nginx configure script are actually the major interesting ones for administration purposes the default complation options in my case were:

Configuration summary
+ using system PCRE library
+ OpenSSL library is not used
+ md5: using system crypto library
+ sha1 library is not used
+ using system zlib library

nginx path prefix: "/usr/local/nginx"
nginx binary file: "/usr/local/nginx/sbin/nginx"
nginx configuration prefix: "/usr/local/nginx/conf"
nginx configuration file: "/usr/local/nginx/conf/nginx.conf"
nginx pid file: "/usr/local/nginx/logs/nginx.pid"
nginx error log file: "/usr/local/nginx/logs/error.log"
nginx http access log file: "/usr/local/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"
nginx http uwsgi temporary files: "uwsgi_temp"
nginx http scgi temporary files: "scgi_temp"

If you want to setup nginx server to support ssl (https) and for instance install nginx to a different server path you can use some ./configure configuration options, for instance:

./configure –sbin-path=/usr/local/sbin –with-http_ssl_module

Now before you can start the nginx server, you should also set up the nginx init script;

5. Download and set a ready to use script with cmd:

debian:~# cd /etc/init.d
debian:/etc/init.d# wget http://www.pc-freak.net/files/nginx-init-script
debian:/etc/init.d# mv nginx-init-script nginx
debian:/etc/init.d# chmod +x nginx

6. Configure Nginx

Nginx is a really easy and simple server, just like the Russians, Simple but good!
By the way it's interesting to mention nginx has been coded by a Russian, so it's robust and hard as a rock as all the other Russian creations 🙂
Nginx configuration files in a default install as the one in my case are to be found in /usr/local/nginx/conf

In the nginx/conf directory you're about to find the following list of files which concern nginx server configurations:

deiban:/usr/local/nginx:~# ls -1
fastcgi.conf
fastcgi.conf.default
fastcgi_params
fastcgi_params.default
koi-utf
koi-win
mime.types
mime.types.default
nginx.conf
nginx.conf.default
scgi_params
scgi_params.default
uwsgi_params
uwsgi_params.default
win-utf

The .default files are just a copy of the ones without the .default extension and contain the default respective file directives.

In my case I'm not using fastcgi to serve perl or php scripts via nginx so I don't need to configure the fastcgi.conf and fastcgi_params files, the scgi_params and uwsgi_params conf files are actually files which contain nginx configuration directives concerning the use of nginx to process SSI (Server Side Include) scripts and therefore I skip configuring the SSI conf files.
koi-utf and koi-win are two files which usually you don't need to configure and aims the nginx server to support the UTF-8 character encoding and the mime.types conf is a file which has a number of mime types the nginx server will know how to handle.

Therefore after all being said the only file which needs to configured is nginx.conf

7. Edit /usr/local/nginx/conf/nginx.conf

debian:/usr/local/nginx:# vim /usr/local/nginx/conf/nginx.conf

Therein you will find the following default configuration:

#gzip on;

server {
listen 80;
server_name localhost;

#charset koi8-r;

#access_log logs/host.access.log main;

location / {
root html;
index index.html index.htm;
}
#error_page 404 /404.html;

# redirect server error pages to the static page /50x.html
#
error_page 500 502 503 504 /50x.html;
location = /50x.html {
root html;
}

In the default configuration above you need to modify only the above block of code as follows:

server {
listen 80;
server_name yoursitedomain.com;

#charset koi8-r;

#access_log logs/access.log main;

location / {
root /var/www/yoursitedomain.com/html;
index index.html index.htm;
}

Change the yoursitedomain.com and /var/www/yoursitedomain.com/html with your directory and website destinations.

8. Start nginx server with nginx init script

debian:/usr/local/nginx:# /etc/init.d/nginx start
Starting nginx:

This should bring up the nginx server, if something is miss configured you will notice also some error messages, as you can see in my case in above init script output, thanksfully there are no error messages.
Note that you can also start nginx directly via invoking /usr/local/nginx/sbin/nginx binary

To check if the nginx server has properly started from the command line type:

debian:/usr/local/nginx:~# ps ax|grep -i nginx|grep -v grep
9424 ? Ss 0:00 nginx: master process /usr/local/nginx/sbin/nginx
9425 ? S 0:00 nginx: worker process

Another way to check if the web browser is ready to serve your website file conten,t you can directly access your website by pointing your browser to with http://yoursitedomain.com/, you should get your either your custom index.html file or the default nginx greeting Welcome to nginx

9. Add nginx server to start up during system boot up

debian:/usr/local/nginx:# /usr/sbin/update-rc.d -f nginx defaults

That's all now you have up and running nginx and your static file serving will require you much less system resources, than with Apache.
Hope this article was helpful to somebody, feedback on it is very welcome!

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2 Responses to “How to install nginx webserver from source on Debian Linux / Install Latest Nginx on Debian”

  1. admin says:
    Epiphany 2.30.6 Epiphany 2.30.6 Debian GNU/Linux x64 Debian GNU/Linux x64
    Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.2+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0 Safari/531.2+ Debian/squeeze (2.30.6-1) Epiphany/2.30.6

    A handy tip before restarting the nginx is to test if the conf file is well configured, here is how:

    debian:~# nginx -t -c /etc/nginx/nginx.conf

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