Archive of December 2020

man.cgi with lighttpd

This post describes setting up OpenBSDs man.cgi(8) with lighttpd on Gentoo, with OpenRC.

Reasons for choosing lighttpd over nginx:

  • Native CGI binary support
  • Native chroot support

Both of these are going to turn out to be very important for man.cgi(8).

Installing man.cgi

First step would be to install a working man.cgi static binary. For this, we need to install to app-text/mandoc with the cgi USE flag:

$ USE="cgi" emerge --ask --verbose app-text/mandoc

This will install a static binary /var/www/cgi-bin/man.cgi.

Installing lighttpd

The default flags for lighttpd are enough to bring in CGI wrapper support.

$ emerge --ask --verbose www-servers/lighttpd

Set up /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf

I am going to assume that this server is only for serving man pages and for nothing else, in which case the following /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf should suffice:

# chroot to directory (defaults to no chroot)
server.chroot            = "/var/www"

server.username          = "lighttpd"
server.groupname         = "lighttpd"

var.basedir              = "/"
var.logdir               = "/var/log/lighttpd"
var.statedir             = "/var/lib/lighttpd"

server.errorlog          = var.logdir + "/error.log"
accesslog.filename       = var.logdir + "/access.log"

server.document-root     = "/"          = "/var/run/"

# NOTE: the order of modules is important.
server.modules = (

server.indexfiles        = ("index.php", "index.html",
                            "index.htm", "default.htm")

server.follow-symlink    = "enable"

server.use-ipv6          = "enable"

# (extensions that are usually handled by mod_cgi, mod_fastcgi, etc).
static-file.exclude-extensions = (".php", ".pl", ".cgi", ".fcgi")

$HTTP["url"] =~ "^/cgi-bin/" {
	cgi.assign = (
		".cgi"   => "/cgi-bin/man.cgi"

include "mime-types.conf"

Don't start the server yet, it will fail

Set up the /var/www chroot

From the above configuration, it is clear that we need some extra directories in /var/www and with proper permissions.
I am going to be a bit lax about permissions, they can be hardened if need be.

$ mkdir -p /var/www/var/{{lib,log}/lighttpd,run,tmp} /var/www/man/system /var/www/dev
$ chown -R lighttpd:lighttpd /var/www/var
$ chmod 777 /var/www/var/{run,tmp}

Set up the /etc/init.d/lighttpd service

Lighttpd currently needs a /dev/null to be present inside the chroot at /var/www which is not there by default.
We will modify the lighttpd init.d file to mount a devtmpfs on /var/www/dev at each start.
You can of course do it a different way; make it into a separate init, modify existing devtmpfs mounts, etc. This is good enough for local servers.

# Copyright 1999-2016 Gentoo Foundation
# Distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License v2

extra_started_commands="reload graceful"

LIGHTTPD_PID="$(grep pid ${LIGHTTPD_CONF} | cut -d '=' -f 2 | tr -d \\\" | tr -d [:space:])"

depend() {
	need net
	use mysql logger spawn-fcgi ldap slapd netmount dns
	after famd
	after sshd

checkconfig() {
	if [ ! -f "${LIGHTTPD_CONF}" ] ; then
		ewarn "${LIGHTTPD_CONF} does not exist."
		return 1

	if [ -z "${LIGHTTPD_PID}" ] ; then
		eerror " variable in ${LIGHTTPD_CONF}"
		eerror "is not set. Please set this variable properly"
		eerror "and try again"
		return 1
	/usr/sbin/lighttpd -t -f ${LIGHTTPD_CONF}

start() {
	checkconfig || return 1
	# Glean lighttpd's credentials from the configuration file
	# Fixes bug 454366
	LIGHTTPD_USER="$(awk '/^server.username/{s=$3};{sub("\"","",s)};END{print s}' ${LIGHTTPD_CONF})"
	LIGHTTPD_GROUP="$(awk '/^server.groupname/{s=$3};{sub("\"","",s)};END{print s}' ${LIGHTTPD_CONF})"
	checkpath -d -q -m 0750 -o "${LIGHTTPD_USER}":"${LIGHTTPD_GROUP}" /run/lighttpd/
	mount -t devtmpfs none /var/www/dev

	ebegin "Starting lighttpd"
	start-stop-daemon --start --exec /usr/sbin/lighttpd \
		--pidfile "${LIGHTTPD_PID}" -- -f "${LIGHTTPD_CONF}"
	eend $?

stop() {
	local rv=0
	ebegin "Stopping lighttpd"
	start-stop-daemon --stop --pidfile "${LIGHTTPD_PID}"
	umount -R /var/www/dev

reload() {
	if ! service_started "${SVCNAME}" ; then
		eerror "${SVCNAME} isn't running"
		return 1
	checkconfig || return 1

	ebegin "Re-opening lighttpd log files"
	start-stop-daemon --pidfile "${LIGHTTPD_PID}" \
		--signal HUP
	eend $?

graceful() {
	if ! service_started "${SVCNAME}" ; then
		eerror "${SVCNAME} isn't running"
		return 1
	checkconfig || return 1

	ebegin "Gracefully stopping lighttpd"
	start-stop-daemon --quiet --pidfile "${LIGHTTPD_PID}" \
		--signal INT
	if eend $? ; then
		rm -f "${LIGHTTPD_PID}"

Enable and start lighttpd.

$ mkdir -p /var/www/dev
$ rc-update add lighttpd default
$ rc-service lighttpd start

Set up the man pages

We will copy all the man pages into /var/www/man/system and be done with the whole setup.

$ cp -r /usr/share/man/.  /var/www/man/system
$ cd /var/www/man/system
$ makewhatis -T utf8 .
$ echo "system" > /var/www/man/manpath.conf


Visit http://localhost/cgi-bin/man.cgi/ to check out them sexy man pages.