22 August 2013

Running Apache in the foreground

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my local development environment. When I have a new Drupal project to start, I usually start by creating a new hosts file entry and adding an apache virtual host for the project. But why? I don’t do this when I start a new ruby project. Whether it’s Rails or Jekyll, I just start a webserver right from the project root, and when I’m done with it, ctrl+c and it goes away. I want this for my Drupal and PHP projects.

So here’s what I figured I would need to do:

  • Run apache in the foreground from the project root.
  • Craft a minimal apache configuration file for serving PHP from a single doc root.
  • Extra credit: get apache to log to the console in the foreground.

Step 1: Run apache in the foreground

This is the full command I’ll be using to run apache from the current directory.

$ apachectl -d . -f httpd.conf -e info -DFOREGROUND
  • -d . sets the ServerRoot to the current directory. All relative paths within the configuration file will resolve to this root.
  • -f httpd.conf sets the configuration file to use. Note that this is relative to the ServerRoot, not the current working directory. In this case, the ServerRoot is the current working directory, so httpd.conf needs to exist in the current working directory.
  • -e info sets the logging level for startup. This is different than the log level set in the configuration file.
  • -DFOREGROUND defines the special apache directive that will cause the parent process to run in the foreground and not detach from the shell.

Step 2: Minimal httpd.conf

Now to get started on a minimal httpd.conf. Here’s the whole file. I’ll go through it line by line below.

 1 ServerName localhost
 2 Listen 8080
 3 PidFile tmp/httpd.pid
 4 LockFile tmp/accept.lock
 6 LoadModule authz_host_module /usr/libexec/apache2/mod_authz_host.so
 7 LoadModule dir_module /usr/libexec/apache2/mod_dir.so
 8 LoadModule mime_module /usr/libexec/apache2/mod_mime.so
 9 LoadModule log_config_module /usr/libexec/apache2/mod_log_config.so
10 LoadModule rewrite_module /usr/libexec/apache2/mod_rewrite.so
11 LoadModule php5_module /usr/local/opt/php53/libexec/apache2/libphp5.so
13 LogLevel info
14 ErrorLog "|cat"
15 LogFormat "%h %l %u %t \"%r\" %>s %b" common
16 CustomLog "|cat" common
18 DocumentRoot "build/html"
19 <Directory "build/html">
20   AllowOverride all
21   Order allow,deny
22   Allow from all
23 </Directory>
25 AddType application/x-httpd-php .php
26 DirectoryIndex index.html index.php

First things first. Set the ServerName to localhost, listen on port 8080 and stash the pid and lock files in ./tmp. Apache will not create the tmp directory, so either make sure this directory exists or choose another location.

Next we need to enable a minimal set of modules.

  • mod_authz_host provides the allow, deny and order directives.
  • mod_dir provides the DirectoryIndex directive.
  • mod_mime provides automatic mime content type headers.
  • mod\_log\_config provides the CustomLog and LogFormat directives.
  • mod\_rewrite and mod\_php are application specific, so leave them out if you don’t need them.

To get the logs printed to the console, we use Apache’s piped log format to pipe the log output to cat, which will print all of the logs to the console instead of stashing them in a file.

Finally, we set up the DocumentRoot. My project is built into build/html so that’s what I’m using here. Change this to whatever suits your project. Since this is only ever intended for local development, the Directory is set up to be extremely permissive.

I also added basic PHP handling, but again, if you don’t need PHP, there’s no reason to add these lines.

Final thoughts

  1. This solution requires creating an httpd.conf for every project, so it’s not as turnkey as something like Jekyll or Rails. I’m experimenting with a project I’m calling Feather to wrap this process into something nicer which can be included with Composer.

  2. At the time, I’m still primarily running PHP 5.3 to match the production version of some projects. I’ll be investigating the use of PHP 5.4’s built-in webserver at some point. Nonetheless, it’s still nice to have full use of Apache in my local environment, especially for projects like Drupal that make use of a .htaccess file.