SystemD FastCGI multiple processes

Of late, many mainstream distributions have been switching to SystemD as their init system. This includes Debian (since Debian 8) and Ubuntu (since Ubuntu 15.04). In the traditional SysV init system we used to have stuff like spawn-fcgi or custom scripts for starting a FastCGI process and having the web server connect to it over Unix or TCP sockets. Such kind of usage decreased when PHP FPM was introduced since it’s safe enough to assume that 90% (probably more) of the FastCGI deployments are just launching PHP interpreters using whatever mechanism is there (spawn-fcgi or custom scripts). PHP FPM does this for you now and it’s pretty good at it.

FastCGI is just a protocol, it can be used by any application. For custom applications which do not support starting their own FastCGI processes and listening on a socket we have to use external mechanisms. SystemD has a couple of good features which can help reduce the amount of custom work needed in terms of process monitoring, socket paths, file ownership, etc.

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99% problems in electronics are related to power supply

Arduino FTDI chip

My dad, who has worked a lot in electronics always says this one thing:

99% of problems in electronics are because of a bad power supply

Today, a real experience of this: In 2014 I bought a GSM signal booster to solve the call drop problem at home. It was working fine for all these 2 years, but since a few weeks the calls started dropping again. The booster had come with an 5V 1A adapter which powered it and I never switched off the booster. When I went to check it, the small screen on it showing the signal strength was blank and even after restarting it a couple of times it didn’t turn up again.

So I replaced the power adapter with my old Nexus 4 charger which can supply 1.2A at 5V. And boom, it works. Signal strength improved and calls are clear again. So always need to keep this in mind, whenever there’s a problem in electronics, first check the power supply.

Results of an online survey about preferred tyres

I am facing some instability on my car rides and after showing it to numerous mechanics, wheel alignment centers everyone said the same: The tyres have gone bad and they need replacement. The car hasn’t had that much running to justify a tyre replacement so I started looking online for solutions. Finally I have to conclude after much online research that the tyres have gone bad.

With so many tyre brands available in the market at different price points it’s difficult to make a good selection by just reading stuff online and knowing about experiences of friends / mechanics. In a commission driven business model like India where every tyre vendor sells tyres of every company they would obviously try to sell the tyre that will fetch them most profits (exceptions exist, I know!). So to make a good choice I decided to run a survey on Twitter and Reddit. Posting the results of the same. I received total 41 responses.

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Call Rate comparison: Per second vs Per minute

A simple graph I made using spreadsheet to compare call rate in per second vs per minute. There was a similar graph somewhere around, but I lost the link and hence I made my own graph 😛


1.5 paisa/second and 45p/minute are common rates in per second and per minute plans offered across India, so used that as base for creating my graph. If you are interested in downloading the spreadsheet I used for this calculation, you can do so here. It’s an OpenDocument Spreadsheet. I don’t use Windows nor MS Office. 🙂

Group based HTTP basic authentication using Nginx and MySQL with help of Lua

Recently I moved from Apache to Nginx on one of my servers due to increase in traffic. But I was using HTTP Basic authentication with group based authorization on Apache in this manner:

However, there’s no AuthGroupFile  in nginx. But LUA, a programming language is supported in nginx. So here’s how I used LUA and MySQL for achieving this:

Now the real magic comes in the authenticate.lua  script, I’m posting the code below which is available in Github as well:

The group authentication script looks for users and groups in a table called http_users. Since this is a script you can modify the way users are searched for in the database or change the database altogether!
The lua modules required to run this script are: resty.mysql, resty.session, resty.string and cjson. Though the passwords are stored in the database as a SHA224 hash, the comparison of the password is done by the database itself. I did not convert the password to hash before sending it to database, so you may want to review this in case you are using remote database. I’m using local database over Unix socket so it doesn’t matter much.

The table and triggers I have for the same:

The triggers are required to convert the INSERT  or UPDATE statements into SHA224. I’m using MySQL’s SET data type to ensure that the group value is fixed. The same values can be used by Nginx in $user_group  variable before specifying the access_by_lua_file  directive.