Tag Archives: Web

How to Keep Unoconv + Apache From Making You Sad

Server-side conversion of documents is a fairly common task. On Linux/Apache, doing so should be easy: you should just be able to run LibreOffice or OpenOffice in headless mode. If you’re really adventurous, you can install unoconv, which makes document conversion better[citation needed]. Anyway, you’ll be delighted to know that you can invoke any of those programs from your terminal. You won’t be delighted to know that they will return error code 77 when Apache tries to invoke them to actually convert a document. That means your server will probably return a 500 error to your users, and that means you’ll get a phone call at 3:00 in the morning from a crying user. Nobody wants to get a 3 AM phone call from a crying user.

To save yourself from such punishment, there is actually a very simple fix. First, create a new home directory for your Apache user (www-data):

sudo mkdir /home/www-data && sudo chown www-data /home/www-data

Then, you’ll need to edit your /etc/passwd file (scary stuff, right) to change the Apache user’s home directory and default shell. Doing so magically gets rid of your error code 77 troubles (I can’t explain further than that).

sudo nano /etc/passwd

Scroll down to the line that starts with “www-data.” It will look something like “www-data:x:[a number]:[a number]:[a string]:[user's home directory]:[path to user's default shell].” Obviously, we only care about the last two parts. Change the default directory to /home/www-data and then change the default shell to /bin/bash. You may need to move some of your website’s files around–I’m not sure because I use Django with mod_wsgi for GradeSolve so my files are stored elsewhere and I’m still an Apache noob.

Good luck.

It serves!

Writing a Working Web Server in Under 100 Lines of Code

UPDATE 12/30/12: You must run the compiled executable as an administrator on systems with UAC. Otherwise, the program will crash and exit.

I was reading some coding blogs last night and I happened across a guy who had written a minuscule web server in C# over his lunch break. I knew right away that I had to have one, too. A server like this one serves little practical purpose; it does not support any sort of server-side scripting (though adding a BASIC interpreter to it would be extremely cool). It does, however, serve a wide variety of documents (and will detect their MIME type prior to serving them.

The first thing I did was write a Log method to make console output look fancy:

static void Log(string message)
    Console.WriteLine("[{0}]: {1}", DateTime.Now, message);

That was quick. Next was to create an actual server method, which would continuously loop and be started asynchronously by the Main() method.

static void RunServer(int port)
    HttpListener listener = new HttpListener();
    listener.Prefixes.Add(string.Format("http://+:{0}/", port)); // Where to listen
    listener.Start(); // Fire up the server
    while (true)
        HttpListenerContext context = listener.GetContext(); // Get a connection
        Log("Requested: " + context.Request.Url);
        if (context.Request.RawUrl.EndsWith("/")) // Just asking for index; redirect
            context.Response.StatusCode = 301;
            context.Response.StatusDescription = "301 Moved Permanently";
            context.Response.RedirectLocation = context.Request.RawUrl + "index.html"; // Just send browser to index.html
            Log("Redirected client to /index.html.");
            byte[] retVal;
                retVal = File.ReadAllBytes("www" + context.Request.RawUrl); // Give the client the requested page
                context.Response.StatusCode = 404; // File not found; tell the client.
                context.Response.StatusDescription = "404 Not Found";
                Log("404: " + context.Request.RawUrl);
            string mime = GetMimeType(context.Request.RawUrl);
            context.Response.Headers.Add(HttpResponseHeader.ContentType, mime); // Give response a MIME type
            Stream respStream = context.Response.OutputStream; // Response stream we'll write to
            respStream.Write(retVal, 0, retVal.Length);
            context.Response.StatusCode = 200;
            context.Response.StatusDescription = "200 OK"; // Let client know stuff is okay
            Log("Served: " + context.Request.RawUrl + " as " + mime + ".");

There’s quite a bit going on here; I’ll try to explain it all. The beginning of this method configures an HttpListener to wait for connections and starts it. It then starts an infinite loop (the user can stop the server by closing the console window) of continuously waiting for and serving requests (listener.GetContext() blocks until something makes a request). A client can ask for three things in this simple server (since we’re not running server-side scripts):

  1. A page that exists (e.g. /index.html)
  2. A page that doesn’t exist (e.g. __++++_____-sdasfash1234.abcdf)
  3. A directory root that may or may not exist (e.g. /mysite/)

The first thing we check for is the directory root case. We check the URL to see if it ends in a slash. If it does, we redirect the client to whatever the path is, plus “index.html.” We could simply serve the “index.html” off the bat, but we’re (poorly) code golfing right now! That would take more code and accomplish essentially the same thing!

If the RawUrl does not end in a slash, we’re serving a page! Anyway, the server stores all its files in a “www” folder that lives in the same directory as the executable. Fetching “www” plus the raw path with File.ReadAllBytes gets the data of the file we are looking for. The try statement is used in the event we can’t find the file. If an exception does get raised, the server returns a “404 File Not Found” error to the client. If this server were fancy, it would also serve a 404 error page.

If the server can find the file, it determines the MIME type through a simplistic process I will detail in a moment, sets the MIME type in the header, writes the data to the client stream, gives the client a “200 OK” (I am not sure if the order matters for all this, or if all the data simply gets flushed when the HttpResponse gets closed, but this code worked fine in Chrome and IE 9), and closes the connection.

The last thing is to determine the MIME type of the file. Rather than using WIN32 interop calls, I decided to write a simplistic method of my own based on the file extension being served.

static string GetMimeType(string fileName)
    // Fast way of determining if the lowercase file name ends with something
    Func<string, bool> fendw = new Func<string, bool>(inp => fileName.ToLower().EndsWith(inp));
    // Use our function to figure out the mime type
    if (fendw(".htm") || fendw(".html")) return "text/html";
    else if (fendw(".ico")) return "image/vnd.microsoft.icon";
    else if (fendw(".png")) return "image/png";
    else if (fendw(".jpg") || fendw(".jpeg")) return "image/jpeg";
    else if (fendw(".gif")) return "image/gif";
    else if (fendw(".js")) return "text/javascript";
    else if (fendw(".css")) return "text/css";
    else return "application/octet-stream";

This method wouldn’t be very interesting were it not for the Lambda Expression (remember those things I love?). The Lambda Expression takes as a string as an argument and returns a Boolean of whether the lowercase version of the provided file name ends with the specified text. In other words, it checks to see if the file has whatever extension you pass to it and ignores case. The “fendw” name, although cryptic, is short for “file ends with;” it prevented me from having to type fileName.ToLower().EndsWith(…) over and over again!

That’s it. The web server works — we just need to add a Main() method:

static void Main(string[] args)
    Console.WriteLine("On what port should the server run?:");
    int port = int.Parse(Console.ReadLine());
    Task server = new Task(() => RunServer(port)); // Start the server async
    Log("Server started on port " + port.ToString() + ". Close this window to stop it.");
    while (!server.IsCompleted) ; // Wait infinitely

The first part of this method gets the port the user wants to run the server on. I used 2013, since it’s almost New Year’s! Next, it creates an asynchronous task (using a Lambda Expression again!) to run the server on, then fires it up and blocks indefinitely. The use of the Lambda expression is unnecessary here (since the thread Main() runs on will just loop forever), but if you wanted to listen on more ports, you could create more tasks to run new instances of the server on. It makes the code more extensible, right?

It serves!

It serves!

Serving a real web page from a website I built for a charity organization last year!

Serving a real web page from a website I built for a charity organization last year!

If you desired, you could actually open a port in your router and let your friends connect to your cool new server. I should probably warn you that doing so would be a terribly risky idea, even if you only have the port open for a short while. You wouldn’t run through wolf-infested woods with a steak or swim at the Great Barrier Reef with a gaping leg wound for ten minutes, so why would you do the same on the Internet? In other words: this code is provided “AS-IS” with no express or implied warranty, especially since I do not really know how secure this server is. My guess is that it isn’t. Still, it’s hard to go wrong with a 100-line server!