Admin Apache Hosting Service Web Site Technologies

Server Name Indication and what it means for those with only a single IP address

Sometimes everything is there in place, ready to be used, but you just have to either mistakenly try it, or learn it works by reading about it, because it may be counter-intuitive. Such is the case with Server Name Indication. I thought I knew enough about https to “know” that you can only have one key/certificate for a single IP address. That CERT can be a SAN (subject alternative name) CERT covering multiple names, but you only get one shot at getting your certificate right. Or so I thought. Turns out I was dead wrong.

Some details
Well, SNI guess is a protocol extension to https. You know I always wondered why in proxy server logs it was able to log the domain name? How would it know that if the http protocol conversation is all encrypted? Maybe it’s SNI at work.

Who supports it?
Since this is an extension it has to be supported by both server and browser. It is. Apache24 supports it. IE, Firefox and Chrome support it. Even my venerable curl supports it! What does not support it, right out of the box, is openssl. The openssl s_client command fetches a site’s certificate, but as I found the hard way, you need to add the -servername switch to tell it which certificate you want to examine, i.e., to force it to use SNI.

This is mainly used by big hosting companies so they can easily and flexibly cram lots of web sites onto a single IP, but us small-time self-hosted sites benefit as well. I host a few sites for friends after all.

Testing methodology
This is pretty simple. I have a couple different virtual servers. I set each up with a completely different certificate in my apache virtual server setups. Then I accessed them by name like usual. Each showed me their own, proper, certificate. That’s it! So this is more than theoretical for me. I’ve already begun to use it.

Enterprise usage
F5 BigIP supports this protocol as well, of course. This article describes how to set it up. But it looks limited to only one server name per certificate, which will be inadequate if there are SAN certificates.

https using Server Name Indication allows to run multiple virtual servers, each with its own unique certificate, on a single IP address.

References and related
I get my certificates for free using the interface to Let’s Encrypt
I’ve written some about apache 2.4 in this post
I don’t think Server Name Indication is explained very well anywhere that I’ve seen. The best dewscription I’ve found is that F5 Devcentral article:
RFC 4366 is the spec describing Server Name Indication.
My favorite openssl commands are listed in this blog post.
SNI is considered insecure because the hostname is sent in plaintext. encrypted SNI is the proposal to address that. Here’s a good write-up about that:

CentOS Hosting Service

Your AWS Instance was scheduled for retirement? don’t panic

After nearly four years of continuously running my AWS instance I got this scary email:

What to do?

The details
Since I never developed much AWS expertise (never needed to since it just worked) I was afraid to do anything. That’s sort of why I had kept it running for three and a half years – the last time I had to stop it didn’t work out so well.

Some terms
It helps to review the terms.
image – that’s like the OS. It has a unique identifier. Mine is ami-03559b6a.
instance – that’s a particular image running on a particular virtual server, identified by unique number. Mine is i-1737a673.
retired image – the owner of the image decided to no longer make it available for new instances

What it all means
I run a retired image, so for instance I can’t right-click my instance and:

– launch another like this

What I did to keep my instance running
I didn’t! Before the retirement deadline I stopped my instance. That is a painful process because it takes hours in my case. The server becomes unavailable quickly enough, but the status is stuck in state shutting down for at least a couple hours. But, eventually, it does shut down.

Then, I start it again. That’s it!

When it starts, AWS puts it on different hardware, etc, so I guess literally it is a different instance now, running the same image. I re-associate my elastic IP, and all is good.

So when the “retirement” date came along, there was no outage of my instance as I had already stopped/started it and that was all that was needed.
Amazon’s documentation – as good as it is – isn’t that clear on this point, hence this blog posting…

Side preparations
In case I couldn’t restart my image I had taken snapshots of my EBS volumes, and prepared to run Amazon Linux, which looks pretty similar to CentOS which is what I run. But, boy, learning about VPC and routing was a pain. I had to set all that up and gain at least a rudimentary understanding of all that. None of that existed six years ago when I started out! It was much simpler back then.

What it looks like

To make things concrete, here is my view on the AWS admin portal of my instances.

Having your Amazon AWS instance retired is not as scary as it initially sounds. Basically, just stop and start it yourself and you’ll be fine.

References and Related

(2024 update) Reserved Instances are now passé! I recently began using the AWS Savings Plans which offers more flexibility.

Want to know why you should be getting an AWS reserved instance to save money? This is a great article, like a For Dummies article, on the topic.

DNS Hosting Service

Free DNS services

I stumbled upon, which offers free DNS domain names. So I tested it and successfully registered .ml is Mali’s top level domain. I’ve heard it’s the only African country to open up its domains for free registration. There are a few other choices like .tk and .gq which are even more obscure.

As far as I can see this is a no strings service. It’s possible that they will share your registration data with third parties, but I don’t think this is the case since freenom is from the Netherlands where privacy tends to be stricter than in the US.

Creating an address record is easy enough, but no other kind of resource record seems available to free users. That can be pretty limiting.

References and related In the search field just put the domain name without the extension, e.g., drjohnstechalk. It will tell you which extensions are available for free.
How about putting a free certificate on your free domain? Let’s Encrypt makes it possible.

Admin Apache Hosting Service IT Operational Excellence Linux Web Site Technologies

Scaling your apache to handle more requests

I was running an apache instance very happily with mostly default options until the day came that I noticed it was taking seconds to serve a simple web page – one that it used to serve in 50 ms or so. I eventually rolled up my sleeves to see what could be done about it. It seems that what had changed is that it was being asked to handle more requests than ever before.

The details
But the load average on a 16-core server was only at 2! sar showed no particular problems with either cpu of I/O systems. Both showed plenty of spare capacity. A process count showed about 258 apache processes running.

An Internet search helped me pinpoint the problem. Now bear in mind I use a version of apache I myself compiled, so the file layout looks different from the system-supplied apache, but the ideas are the same. What you need is to increase the number of allowed processes. On my server with its great capacity I scaled up considerably. These settings are in /conf/extra/httpd-mpm.conf in the compiled version. In the system-supplied version on SLES I found the equivalent to be /etc/apache2/server-tuning.conf. To begin with the key section of that file had these values:

<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
    StartServers             5
    MinSpareServers          5
    MaxSpareServers         10
    MaxRequestWorkers      250
    MaxConnectionsPerChild   0

(The correct section is <IfModule prefork.c> in the system-supplied apache).

I replaced these as follows:

<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
    StartServers          256
    MinSpareServers        16
    MaxSpareServers       128
    ServerLimit          2048
    MaxClients           2048
    MaxRequestsPerChild  20000

Note that ServerLimit has to be greater than or equal to MaxClients (thank you Apache developers!) or you get an error like this when you start apache:

WARNING: MaxClients of 2048 exceeds ServerLimit value of 256 servers,
 lowering MaxClients to 256.  To increase, please see the ServerLimit

So you make this change, right, stop/start apache and what difference do you see? Probably none whatsoever! Because you probably forgot to uncomment this line in httpd.conf:

#Include conf/extra/httpd-mpm.conf

So remove the # at the beginning of that line and stop/start. If like me you’ve changed the usual diretory where the PID file and lock file get written in your httpd.conf file you may need this additional measure which I had to do in the httpd-mpm.conf file:

<IfModule !mpm_netware_module>
    #PidFile "logs/"
# The accept serialization lock file MUST BE STORED ON A LOCAL DISK.
<IfModule !mpm_winnt_module>
<IfModule !mpm_netware_module>
#LockFile "logs/accept.lock"

In other words I commented out this file’s attempt to place the PID and lock files in a certain place because I have my own way of storing those and it was overwriting my choices!

But with all those changes put together it works much, much better than before and can handle more requests than ever.

In creating a simple benchmark we could easily scale to 400 requests / second, and we didn’t really even try to push it – and this was before we changed any parameters. So why couldn’t 250 or so simultaneous processes handle more real world requests? I believe that if all clients were as fast as our server it could have handled them all. But the clients themselves were sometimes distant (thousands of miles) with slow or lossy connections. Then they need to acknowledge every packet sent by the web server and the web server has to wait around for that, unable to go on to the next client request! Real life is not like laboratory testing. As the waiting around bit requires next-to-no cpu the load average didn’t rise even though we had run up against a limit, the limit was an artificial application-imposed one, not a system-imposed resource constraint.

More analysis, what about threads?

Is this the only or best way to scale up your web server? Probably not. It’s probably the most practical however because you probably didn’t compile it with support for threads. I know I didn’t. Or if you’re using the system-provided package it probably doesn’t support threads. Find your httpd binary. Run this command:

$ ./httpd -l|grep prefork

If it returns:


you have the prefork module and not the worker module and the above approach is what you need to do. To me a more modern approach is to scale by using threads – modern cpus are designed to run threads, which are kind of like light-weight processes. But, oh well. The gatekeepers of apache packages seem stuck in this simple-minded one process per request mindset.

My scaled-up apache is handling more requests than ever. I’ve documented how I increased the total process count.

References and related articles
How I compiled apache 2.4 and ran into (and resolved) a zillion errors seems to be a popular post!
The mystery of why we receive hundreds or even thousands of PAC file requests from each client every day remains unsolved to this day. That’s why we needed to scale up this apache instance – it is serving the PAC file. I first wrote about it three and a half years ago!04

Apache CentOS Hosting Service Web Site Technologies

Compiling Apache 2.4 on CentOS

This is a tale of one thing leading to another. I’ll probably either continue this post or delete it altogether if I find I’m headed down a wrong path.

The details
I suspect that to get better marks for my server’s SSL implementation I probably need apache 2.4. There is an RPM for apache 2.4 but it is almost two years old! So I decided to bite the bullet and compile the darn thing myself. Easier said than done. My current production version is 2.2.15.

Now if you just want to compile a recent version of apache 2.4 then this guide is much, much better than mine: My guide, where I’ve hit just about every conceivable error and powered through, is more for timid folks like me who want to keep their current apache 2.2 running while trying 2.4. In spite of what you read elsewhere this is possible to do, but you need patience and perseverance.

Getting the source is easy enough. Then you configure it:

httpd-2.4.16$ ./configure −−prefix=/usr/local/apache24

checking for chosen layout... Apache
checking for working mkdir -p... yes
checking for grep that handles long lines and -e... /bin/grep
checking for egrep... /bin/grep -E
checking build system type... x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
checking host system type... x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
checking target system type... x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
configure: Configuring Apache Portable Runtime library...
checking for APR... configure: WARNING: APR version 1.4.0 or later is required, found 1.3.9
configure: WARNING: skipped APR at apr-1-config, version not acceptable
configure: error: APR not found.  Please read the documentation.

What version of apr do we have?

$ sudo rpm −qa|grep apr


Drat. No wonder we’re having trouble. Guess we could compile apr ourselves, but perhaps there’s a suitable version out there somewhere we can simply download?

Warning: this approach to apr shown below was a dead end for me. Further down I show a successful approach.

$ sudo yum search apr

Loaded plugins: fastestmirror
Loading mirror speeds from cached hostfile
 * base:
 * epel:
 * extras:
 * updates:
========================================================== N/S Matched: apr ==========================================================
httpd24-apr-debuginfo.x86_64 : Debug information for package httpd24-apr
httpd24-apr-devel.x86_64 : APR library development kit
httpd24-apr-util-debuginfo.x86_64 : Debug information for package
                                  : httpd24-apr-util
httpd24-apr-util-devel.x86_64 : APR utility library development kit
httpd24-apr-util-ldap.x86_64 : APR utility library LDAP support
httpd24-apr-util-mysql.x86_64 : APR utility library MySQL DBD driver
httpd24-apr-util-nss.x86_64 : APR utility library NSS crytpo support
httpd24-apr-util-odbc.x86_64 : APR utility library ODBC DBD driver
httpd24-apr-util-openssl.x86_64 : APR utility library OpenSSL crytpo support
httpd24-apr-util-pgsql.x86_64 : APR utility library PostgreSQL DBD driver
httpd24-apr-util-sqlite.x86_64 : APR utility library SQLite DBD driver
httpd24-apr.x86_64 : Apache Portable Runtime library
httpd24-apr-util.x86_64 : Apache Portable Runtime Utility library

I singled out the promising looking ones. After all it’s apache 2.4 that’s driving the need for this version so the httpd24 versions of apr should suffice.

So I installed these:

$ sudo yum install httpd24-apr-util.x86_64
$ sudo yum install httpd24-apr-util-devel.x86_64

Now how do we tell the configurator where our new apr package is?

httpd-2.4.16$ ./configure −−help|grep −i apr

  --enable-hook-probes    Enable APR hook probes
  --with-included-apr     Use bundled copies of APR/APR-Util
  --with-apr=PATH         prefix for installed APR or the full path to
  --with-apr-util=PATH    prefix for installed APU or the full path to

The with-apr switch looks promising. Now we guess as to exactly what we should put for the path. Here’s what happens when we guess wrong:

httpd-2.4.16$ ./configure −−with-apr=/opt/rh/httpd24/root/usr/lib64 −−prefix=/usr/local/apache24

checking for chosen layout... Apache
checking for working mkdir -p... yes
checking for grep that handles long lines and -e... /bin/grep
checking for egrep... /bin/grep -E
checking build system type... x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
checking host system type... x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
checking target system type... x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
configure: Configuring Apache Portable Runtime library...
checking for APR... configure: error: the --with-apr parameter is incorrect. It must specify an install prefix, a build directory, or an apr-config file.

I’ll spare you the guesswork. Here is the path correctly specified:

httpd-2.4.16$ ./configure −−with-apr=/opt/rh/httpd24/root/usr −−prefix=/usr/local/apache24

configure: Configuring Apache Portable Runtime Utility library...
checking for APR-util... yes
checking for gcc... gcc
checking whether the C compiler works... yes
checking for C compiler default output file name... a.out
checking for suffix of executables...
checking whether we are cross compiling... no
checking for suffix of object files... o
checking whether we are using the GNU C compiler... yes
checking whether gcc accepts -g... yes
checking for gcc option to accept ISO C89... none needed
checking how to run the C preprocessor... gcc -E
checking for gcc option to accept ISO C99... -std=gnu99
checking for pcre-config... false
configure: error: pcre-config for libpcre not found. PCRE is required and available from

So we finally got past the apr error and are onto the next one : (. I’ll try to install pcre-devel to see if that helps:

$ sudo yum install pcre-devel.x86_64

Wow! Got lucky that time. That cleared up that error and the configure went all the way through!

Oh, no. It doesn’t compile! It begins to, but it can’t compile export.c:

httpd-2.4.16$ make

gawk -f /usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/build/make_exports.awk `cat export_files` > exports.c
/usr/lib64/apr-1/build/libtool --silent --mode=compile gcc -std=gnu99  -pthread      -DLINUX=2 -D_REENTRANT -D_GNU_SOURCE     -I. -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/os/unix -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/include -I/opt/rh/httpd24/root/usr/include/apr-1 -I/usr/include/apr-1 -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/aaa -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/cache -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/core -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/database -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/filters -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/ldap -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/loggers -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/lua -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/proxy -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/session -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/ssl -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/test -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/server -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/arch/unix -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/dav/main -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/generators -I/usr/local/src/apache24/httpd-2.4.16/modules/mappers  -prefer-non-pic -static -c exports.c && touch exports.lo
exports.c:1244: error: redefinition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_create’
exports.c:198: note: previous definition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_create’ was here
exports.c:1245: error: redefinition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_destroy’
exports.c:199: note: previous definition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_destroy’ was here
exports.c:1246: error: redefinition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_alloc’
exports.c:200: note: previous definition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_alloc’ was here
exports.c:1247: error: redefinition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_free’
exports.c:201: note: previous definition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_free’ was here
exports.c:1248: error: redefinition of ‘ap_hack_apr_allocator_owner_set’

This could be tough! Maybe impossible for me to get past. I’ve never encountered this kind of error. OK. Got it. Not so tough. I had two versions of apr installed – the old one needed by my apache 2.2 and the new one installed as shown above. I didn’t want to completely blow away the old one as I feared that it is dynamically linked by Apache 2.2, so I did the following:

$ cd /usr/lib64; sudo mv apr-1 drjapr-1
– then change to my apache24 root directory and run configure again; then run make

And it went through this time!

Only modules installed
make install however only installed modules, not the httpd binary.

The problem seems related to my original apr libraries. They look like this:

$ sudo rpm −qa|grep ^apr


I tried to move them all to a temporary directory but then the compiler cannot find libtool which is normally supplied by apr-devel.

I considered removing apr-devel, but boy there are so many dependencies that my other packages have on it that I did not feel comfortable doing that. PHP, apache2.2 and a whole lot more depend on it.

End of dead end approach to apr

New approach needed
My new approach is to try to use the APR from apache itself by downloaded the Unix sources for APR and apr-util from Yes, this worked best of all. I even put back all the apr files I had moved in the previous failed effort.

It’s not very clear what they mean by unpacking apr and apr-util in srclib. I created symlinks in my srclib directory such that apr -> apr-1.5.2 and apr-util -> apr-util-1.5.4. For the inexperienced the command format is like in this example:

$ ln −s apr-1.5.2 apr

Of course you first have to download the source tarball to your srclib directory and unpack it:

$ tar zxf apr-1.5.2.tar.gz

It Compiles and Installs
So after all those misfires I finally got a version that compiled and installed in its entirety. That process starts with this configure command:

$ ./configure −−with-included-apr −−prefix=/usr/local/apache24

Then the usual make and sudo make install.

Modules problem
I inherited a configuration that had a mods-avalable and a mods-enabled directory which is how my old apache 2.2 was set up. After tweaking the modules path using the replace command, something like this

$ cd /etc; cp −pr apache2 apache24; cd mods-avalable
$ sudo replace /usr/lib/apache2 /usr/local/apache24 −− *.load

I still could not start my new server:

Starting apache24: httpd: Syntax error on line 203 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf: Syntax error on line 1 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/authz_default.load: Cannot load /usr/local/apache24/modules/ into server: /usr/local/apache24/modules/ cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

I looked at all my configuration files and don’t see anything that relies on this module so I deleted the reference to it in mods-enabled.

Starting apache24: httpd: Syntax error on line 203 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf: Syntax error on line 1 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/cgi.load: Cannot load /usr/local/apache24/modules/ into server: /usr/local/apache24/modules/ cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Now I do like to run CGI programs on occasion so this one can’t be so easily brushed aside. It could be that we should be using instead.

Then it’s onto this error:

Starting apache24: httpd: Syntax error on line 203 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf: Syntax error on line 1 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/php5.load: Cannot load /usr/local/apache24/modules/ into server: /usr/local/apache24/modules/ cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

I use php so I may have to investigate this one in some detail. simply trying to update the link to where the old resides under apache2.2 brings up this different kind of error:

Starting apache24: httpd: Syntax error on line 203 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf: Syntax error on line 1 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/php5.load: Cannot load /usr/lib/apache2/modules/ into server: /usr/lib/apache2/modules/ undefined symbol: unixd_config

Wow. I’m reading various things and it looks like I’ll now have to compile php5 as well. This is getting hairy. This site, although old, seems to explain it most clearly. And of course I’ve got php 5.3 which you can’t even find source for on the php web site,

So I downloaded php5.4.43, which is the oldest one I could find on the php web site!

To configure it I used this long list of options, some of which are determined by my choices of location for my apache24 files:

$ ./configure ‐‐with‐apxs2=/usr/local/apache24/bin/apxs ‐‐with‐mysql ‐‐prefix=/usr/local/apache24/php5 ‐‐with‐config‐file ‐path=/usr/local/apache24/php5 ‐‐disable‐cgi ‐‐with‐zlib ‐‐with‐gettext ‐‐with‐gdbm ‐‐with‐curl ‐‐with‐openssl

2017 update for php
I finally needed to update some WordPress packages and found my only transport is ftp. I think my command-line compile options for php5 above leave something to be desired. I think I need to add curl and openssl like so:

$ ./configure ‐‐with‐apxs2=/usr/local/apache24/bin/apxs ‐‐with‐mysql ‐‐prefix=/usr/local/apache24/php5 ‐‐with‐config‐file ‐path=/usr/local/apache24/php5 ‐‐disable‐cgi ‐‐with‐zlib ‐‐with‐gettext ‐‐with‐gdbm ‐‐with‐curl ‐‐with‐openssl

but I get these errors:

ext/curl/.libs/interface.o: In function `php_curl_option_url':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:180: undefined reference to `core_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/interface.o: In function `_php_curl_setopt':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:1821: undefined reference to `core_globals'
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:1804: undefined reference to `core_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/interface.o: In function `curl_progress':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:1113: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/interface.o: In function `curl_write_header':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:1264: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/interface.o: In function `curl_write':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:1038: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/interface.o: In function `curl_read':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/interface.c:1187: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/streams.o: In function `php_curl_stream_opener':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/streams.c:320: undefined reference to `file_globals'
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/streams.c:406: undefined reference to `core_globals'
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/streams.c:414: undefined reference to `core_globals'
ext/curl/.libs/streams.o: In function `on_data_available':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/curl/streams.c:68: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
ext/standard/.libs/info.o: In function `php_info_print_request_uri':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/standard/info.c:97: undefined reference to `sapi_globals'
ext/standard/.libs/info.o: In function `php_print_gpcse_array':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/standard/info.c:213: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
ext/standard/.libs/info.o: In function `php_print_info':
/usr/local/src/php5/php-5.4.43/ext/standard/info.c:918: undefined reference to `executor_globals'
collect2: ld returned 1 exit status
make: *** [sapi/cli/php] Error 1

Here the problem seems to be that since I had already compiled php5 and left it around, it was using the old parts.

You need to do a make clean first! Then it compiles.

Now I’m down to this apache error:

$ sudo service apache24 start

Starting apache24: AH00526: Syntax error on line 55 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf:
Invalid command 'LockFile', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

I’m going to just try to comment out that pesky Option LockFile…. I’ve found this apache page which is helpful for this upgrade: OK, next error:

Starting apache24: AH00526: Syntax error on line 145 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf:
Invalid command 'User', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

Here the advice is to load module mod_unixd. I don’t even have anything like that so I’m looking into it now. OK. It’s in the apache24/modules so I just need to load it in. Next error:

Starting apache24: AH00526: Syntax error on line 161 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf:
Invalid command 'Order', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

Wow. That comes from this pretty standard line:

<Files ~ "^\.ht">
    Order allow,deny
    Deny from all
    Satisfy all

This is a helpful document: So at their recommendation I replaced all that with a

Require all denied

That leads to the next error:

Starting apache24: AH00526: Syntax error on line 166 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf:
Invalid command 'Require', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

It means Require is not even found. I needed to load some new modules, names authz_code and unixd:

LoadModule authz_core_module /usr/local/apache24/modules/
LoadModule unixd_module /usr/local/apache24/modules/

Next error:

AH00526: Syntax error on line 20 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/alias.conf:
Invalid command 'Order', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

so some of my old conf files that I copied over use the old syntax. The alias.conf file looked like this:

Alias /icons/ "/var/www/icons/"
<Directory "/var/www/icons">
    Options Indexes MultiViews
    AllowOverride None
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all

Again looking at they suggest to replace the Order… and following line with:

Require all granted

Next error:

AH00526: Syntax error on line 3 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/deflate.conf:
Invalid command 'AddOutputFilterByType', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

But I was already loading the deflate module which defines AddOutputfilterByType. What I learned is that in apache 2.4 you also need to load mod_filter.

And the next error please:

AH00526: Syntax error on line 43 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/ssl.conf:
SSLSessionCache: 'shmcb' session cache not supported (known names: ). Maybe you need to load the appropriate socache module (mod_socache_shmcb?).

That’s in complaint about this line:

SSLSessionCache        shmcb:${APACHE_RUN_DIR}/ssl_scache(512000)

The standard advice for this error is to uncomment this line:

LoadModule socache_shmcb_module modules/

But I don’t have that module!

I guess I chose the wrong options when doing the initial ./configure. See the references for a proper guide that lists some good options.

I’m now trying to configure like this:

$ ./configure −−with-included-apr −−prefix=/usr/local/apache24 −−enable-php5 −−enable-so −−enable-ssl −−with-mpm=prefork

Actually I don’t know if I needed all those options such as enable-ssl. The main thing was that my apache 2.2 mods-available directory didn’t have a mention of My apache 2.4 built with these config options definitely does. so I just need one of these LoadModule statements like this:

LoadModule socache_shmcb_module /usr/local/apache24/modules/

Well we’ve moved six lines down into that config file. I guess that’s progress! because now we’ve made it all the wy to line 49:

AH00526: Syntax error on line 49 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/ssl.conf:
Invalid command 'SSLMutex', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

Even apache’s upgrade guide documents this error. It’s caused by a conf file line that looks something like this:

SSLMutex  file:${APACHE_RUN_DIR}/ssl_mutex

and they say – I’m paraphrasing here – just try to comment it out and hope for the best.

Next error:

AH00526: Syntax error on line 9 of /etc/apache24/mods-enabled/status.conf:
Invalid command 'Order', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

Yeah status.conf has

    Order deny,allow
    Deny from all
    Allow from ::1

We’ll try to replace that with this:

Require host ::1

Now it runs through all the configuration OK but doesn’t actually start. I had set up an init.d script and I wasn’t going to go into this but I may have to:

$ sudo service apache24 start

httpd (pid 30896) already running

Remember I am trying to run this while still running the old apache 2.2 server. Process 30896 is the old apache 2.2:

root     30896     1  0 10:05 ?        00:00:00 /usr/sbin/httpd -d /etc/apache2 -f apache2.conf

This results from the byzantine way I set up to launch apache. There is a /etc/sysconfig/apache24 which doesn’t do much other than import environment variable definitions from /etc/apache24/envvars, except I had forgotten to update that path so it pointed to the old /etc/apache2/envvars.

Now it starts! But not without complaint:

Starting apache24: [Thu Aug 06 11:18:04.711658 2015] [core:warn] [pid 22911] AH00117: Ignoring deprecated use of DefaultType in line 178 of /etc/apache24/apache24.conf.
                                                              [  OK  ]

That stems from this line which tries to establish a default MIME type:

DefaultType text/plain

I also notice I cannot really get the status of my new web server:

$ sudo service apache24 status

httpd dead but subsys locked

So stopping/starting doesn’t really work either once it’s started.

What I found is that it seems happier if I have a line in /etc/sysconfig/apache24 which has an explicit PIDFILE defined – I use PIDFILE=/var/run/ – with the same filepath as is mentioned in the apache24.conf file, where I have PidFile ${APACHE_PID_FILE} where APACHE_PID_FILE is taken from my envvars and has the value /var/run/ OK, my setup is very convoluted and probably unique. But the problem is common on CentOS so the main takeway is to have consistent reference to the pidfile filepath in /etc/sysconfig/httpd or whatever you are calling it as in your main config file httpd.conf or whatever you are calling it.

Home page test (I’m running on port 1443 to avoid conflict with my production server):

$ curl −i −k

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Date: Wed, 05 Aug 2015 18:33:19 GMT
Server: Apache/2
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.4.43
Content-Length: 2
Content-Type: text/html

So that looks pretty good.

A simple php test:

$ curl −i −k

Long output. Basically looks right.

OK. What about the opening WordPress page?

$ curl −i −H ‘Host:’ −k

Yes. Big long output. Looks good. I don’t think this proves that the mySQL/php interface is really working however as that page could be cached since I use a pagecache plugin.

Next test I’d like to run is the Qualys SSLLabs test, but it won’t run on port 1443. Maybe the DigiCERT test will. Yes, it does allow it. And I no longer have the BREACH vulnerability.

A few words about a BREACH test
This prompted me to look at why Digicert felt I was vulnerable to BREACH in the first place. I thnk it’s related to serving compressed objects. So I thought of this simple test. Against my apache 2.2 I can run a query like this:

$ curl −i −k −−compress|head −10

Date: Fri, 07 Aug 2015 14:02:48 GMT
Server: Apache/2
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.3.3
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Content-Encoding: gzip
Content-Length: 30414
Content-Type: text/html
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en-US">

See that Content-Encoding: gzip? Yet the actual content that begins <!DOCTYPE html… is in plain text and plainly not compressed. So I really wasn’t vulnerable to BREACH at all. The server claimed to be compressing the pages it was sendnig to the browser but in reality it wasn’t. For apache 2.4 the behaviour is basically the same except there is no response header Content-Encoding: gzip returned. This is why it passes Digicert’s BREACH test with flying colors.

Moving on
Next test. Swap apache 2.2 for apache 2.4 by changing listening ports 443 for 1443. Then do the SSLlabs test. I now get an A. well, actually I get an A both before and after the swap.

WordPress test
I’m writing this using my new shiny apache 2.4. With regards to WordPress it all seems to feel the same as before. One small thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t get WordPress news any longer:

RSS Error: WP HTTP Error: There are no HTTP transports available which can complete the requested request.

Hopefully there’s nothing more serious.

php.ini missing
If you blindly copied my config options for compiling php then sooner or later (much later in my case) you’ll realize that you have no valid php.ini file! You will see an error like this when the date() function is called:

Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in

So because I used the config option –with-config-fil
e-path=/usr/local/apache24/php5 I needed to put a php.ini file in that directory and only that directory. For now its contents are:

; DrJ, inspired by - 12/31/14
; Maximum allowed size for uploaded files.
upload_max_filesize = 10M
; Must be greater than or equal to upload_max_filesize
post_max_size = 10M
; You'll need this to avoid errors with the Date function
; Defines the default timezone used by the date functions
date.timezone = America/New_York

Appendix A
mod_ssl error after patching

I have an apache 2.2.21 server on a SLES server. After a system patch (I guess) I realized the apache web server wouldn’t start. It shows this error:

> sudo service apache201 start

Starting httpd (/usr/local/apache2/bin/httpd) httpd: Syntax error on line 54 of /usr/local/apache201/conf/httpd.conf: Cannot load /usr/local/apache201/modules/ into server: /usr/local/apache201/modules/ undefined symbol: ap_map_http_request_error

I had been playing fast and loose and I borrowed the from some other system, I guess. I forget which. In other words, I dropped in by hand a into the directory /usr/lib64/apache2-prefork. I was using those system-supplied modules paired with my compiled apache. All fine until that patch. So I found another frm a different system and tried that one. It worked. Whew. These were both SLES 11 SP 4 systems. The older one (with the that still works) is dated April 18th, 2017. The one with the broken Dec 29thth 2017. That’s from a uname -a.

References and related articles
A proper guide to installing apache 2.4 on CentOS is

Some upgrade issues are covered by apache’s own guide:

Scaling up apache to handle more than a couple hundred simultaneous requests is described in this blog post.

The DigiCERT certificate inspector tool, which is what I was referring to in this post when it comes to scanning for BREACH vulnerabilities, is here.

Admin Apache Hosting Service

running a second, third, …, instance of WordPress on your server

Since I can host myself on my AWS server, why not a second blog, totally unrelated, for a friend? This has not been documented as well as I would have liked though it is very straightforward. So I’ll mention a few things here.

WordPress prep activities
You follow the WordPress regular installation instructions: But I’ll repeat the important steps for the DIY admin with their own server like me:

$ cd /tmp; wget ‐‐no‐check‐certificate
$ tar ‐xzvf latest.tar.gz
$ sudo cp ‐r wordpress <YOUR_HTDOC_ROOT>/blog

Set up a dedicated virtual server (apache virtual server) to handle this additional domain (that’s a whole post to explain).

The main thing is to realize you can set up a separate database in your single mysql instance for your second blog:

$ mysql -u adminusername -p
Enter password:
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 5340 to server version: 3.23.54
Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the buffer.
mysql&gt; CREATE DATABASE 2nddatabasename;
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)
mysql&gt; GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON 2nddatabasename.* TO "2ndwordpressusername"@"localhost"
    -&gt; IDENTIFIED BY "passwordfor2nddatabase";
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)
mysql&gt; EXIT

Then access this web site’s WordPress setup page from a browser:



Error connecting to the database?

I usually goof up something or other. I have even literally created a username that was ‘username’@’hostname’ because I read that off my example before I corrected it. I needed to specify localhost instead of hostname. But anyway, I didn’t panic. I tried to connect to the MySQL DB with the user I thought I had just created (and it didn’t work), i.e., mysql -u newuser -p – would not accept the password I knew I had just created.

I even had problems droppnig that user, again, because unless I specified the user as ‘username’@’hostname’ it could not find the user!

In the days of MariaDB these types of DB commands still work the same way, for the record.

Admin Hosting Service Linux

Hosting: You Really Can’t beat Amazon Web Services EC2

You want to have your own server hosted by a service provider that’s going to take care of the hard stuff – uninterruptible power, fast pipe to the Internet, backups? That’s what I wanted. In addition I didn’t want to worry about actual, messy hardware. Give me a virtual server any day of the week. I am no hosting expert, but I have some experience and I’d like to share that.

The Details
I’d say chances are about even whether you’d think of Amazon Web Services for the above scenario. I’d argue that Amazon is actually the most competitive service out there and should be at the top of any short list, but the situation wasn’t always so even as recently as February of this year.

You see, Amazon markets itself a bit differently. They are an IaaS (infrastructure as a service) provider. I don’t know who their top competition really is, but AWS (Amazon Web Service) is viewed as both visionary and able to execute by Gartner from a recent report. My personal experience over the last 12 months backs that up. My main point, however, is that hosting a server is a subset of IaaS. I assume that if you want your own server where you get root access, you have the skill set (aided by the vast resources on the Internet including blogs like mine) to install a web server, database server, programming environment, application engines or whatever you want to do with it. You don’t need the AWS utility computing model per se, just a reliable 24×7 server, right? That’s my situation.

I was actually looking to move to “regular” hosting provider, but it turns out to have been a really great time to look around. Some background. I’m currently running such an environment running Ubuntu server 10.10 as a free-tier micro instance. I’ve enjoyed it a lot except one thing. From time to time my server freezes. At least once a month since December. I have no idea why. Knowing that my free tier would be up anyways this month I asked my computer scientist friend “Niz” for a good OS to run a web server and he said CentOS is what I want. It’s basically Redhat Enterprise Linux except you don’t pay Redhat for support.

I looked at traditional hosting providers GoDaddy and Rackspace and 1and1 a bit. I ran the numbers and saw that GoDaddy, with whom I already host my DNS domains, was by far the cost leader. They were also offering CentOS v 5.6 I think RackSpace also had a CentOS offering. I spoke with a couple providers in my own state. I reasoned I wuold keep my business local if the price was within 25% of other offers I could find.

Then, and here’s one of the cool things about IaaS, I fired up a CentOS image at Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. With utility computing I pay only by the hour so I can experiment cheaply, which I did. Niz said run v 5.6 because all the bugs have been worked out. He hosts with another provider so he knows a thing or two about this topic and many other topics besides. I asked him what version he runs. 5.6. So I fired it up. But you know, it just felt like a giant step backwards through an open source timeline. I mean Perl v 5.8.8 vs Ubuntu’s 5.10.1. Now mind you by this time my version of Ubuntu is itself a year old. Apache version 2.2.3 and kernel version 2.6.18 versus 2.2.16 and 2.6.35. Just plain old. Though he said support would be available for fantastical amount of time, I decided to chuck that image.

Just as I was thinking about all these things Amazon made a really important announcement: prices to be lowered. All of a sudden they were competitive when viewed as a pure hosting provider, never mind all the other features they bring to bear.

I decided I wanted more memory than the 700 MB available to a micro image, and more storage than the 8 GB that tier gives. So a “small” image was the next step up, at 1.7 GB of memory and 160 GB disk space. But then I noticed a quirky thing – the small images only come in 32-bit, not 64-bit unlike all the other tiers. I am so used to 64-bit by now that I don’t trust 32-bit. I want to run what a lot of other people are running to know that the issues have been worked out.

Then another wonderful thing happened – Amazon announced support for 64-bit OSes in their small tier! What timing.

The Comparison Results
AWS lowered their prices by about 35%, a really substantial amount. I am willing to commit up front for an extended hosting because I expect to be in this for the long haul. Frankly, I love having my own server! So I committed to three years small tier, heavy usage after doing the math in order to get the best deal for a 24×7 server. It’s $300 $96 up front and about $0.012$0.027/hour for one instance hour. So that’s about $18 $22/month over three years. Reasonable, I would say. For some reason my earlier calculations had it coming out cheaper. These numbers are as of September, 2013. I was prepared to use GoDaddy which I think is $24/month for a two-year commitment. My finding was that RackSpace and 1and1 were more expensive in turn than GoDaddy. I have no idea how AWS did what they did on pricing. It’s kind of amazing. My local providers? One came in at six times the cost of GoDaddy(!), the other about $55/month. Too bad for them. But I am excited about my new server. I guess it’s a sort of master of my own destiny type of thing that appeals to my independent spirit. Don’t tell Amazon, but really I think they could have easily justified charging a small premium for their hosting, given all the other convenient infrastructure services that are there, ready to be dialed up, say, like a load balancer, snapshots, additional IPs, etc. And there are literally 8000 images to choose from when you are deciding what image (OS) to run. That alone speaks volumes about the choices you have available.

What I’m up to
I installed CentOS 6.0 core image. It feels fresher. It’s based on RedHat 6.0 It’s got Perl v. 5.10.1, kernel 2.6.32, and, once you install it, Apache v 2.2.15. It only came with about 300 packages installed, which is kind of nice, not the usual 1000+ bloated deal I am more used to. And it seems fast, too. Now whether or not it will prove to be stable is an entirely different question and only time will tell. I’m optimistic. But if not, I’ll chuck it and find something else. I’ve got my data on a separate volume anyways which will persist regardless of what image I choose – another nice plus of Amazon’s utility computing model.

A Quick Tip About Additional Volumes
With my micro instance it occupied a full 8 GB so I didn’t have a care about additional disk volumes. On the other hand, my CentOS 6.0 core image is a lean 6 GB. If I’m entitled to 160 GB as part of what I’m paying for, how do I get the access to the remaining 154 GB? I guess you create a volume. Using the Admin GUI is easiest. OK, so you have your volunme, how does your instance see it? It’s not too obvious from their documentation but in CentOS my extra volume is


I mounted that a formatted it as an ext4 device as per their instructions. It didn’t take that long. I put in a line in /etc/fstab like this:

/dev/xvdj /mnt/vol ext4 defaults 1 2

Now I’m good to go! It gets mounted after reboot.

Dec, 2016 update
Amazon has announced Lightsail to better compete with GoDaddy and their ilk. Plans start as low as $5 a month. For $10 a month you get a static IP, 1 GB RAM, 20 GB SSD storage I think and ssh access. So I hope that means root access. Oh, plus a pre-configured WordPress software.

Amazon EC2 rocks. They could have charged a premium but instead they are the cheapest offering out there according to my informal survey. The richness of their service offerings is awesome. I didn’t mention that you can mount the entire data set of the human genome, or all the facts of the world which have been assembled in How cool is that?