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Apache is the most popular web server on the Internet, partly because it is open source. This popularity means that security is very important. Securing the application starts with the way you configure it. This article, the first of six parts, is excerpted from chapter two of Apache Security, written by Ivan Ristic (O'Reilly; ISBN: 0596007248). Copyright © 2006 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the publisher. Available from booksellers or direct from O'Reilly Media.

  1. Apache Installation and Configuration
  2. Installation
  3. Downloading the source code
  4. Static Binary or Dynamic Modules
By: O'Reilly Media
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December 27, 2007

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The installation instructions given in this chapter are designed to apply to both active branches (1.x and 2.x) of the Apache web server running on Linux systems. If you are running some other flavor of Unix, I trust you will understand what the minimal differences between Linux and your system are. The configuration advice given in this chapter works well for non-Unix platforms (e.g., Windows) but the differences in the installation steps are more noticeable:

  1. Windows does not offer the chroot functionality (see the section “Putting Apache in Jail”) or an equivalent.

  2. You are unlikely to install Apache on Windows from source code. Instead, download the binaries from the main Apache web site.
  3. Disk paths are different though the meaning is the same.

Source or Binary

One of the first decisions you will make is whether to compile the server from the source or use a binary package. This is a good example of the dilemma I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. There is no one correct decision for everyone or one correct decision for you alone. Consider some pros and cons of the different approaches:

  1. By compiling from source, you are in the position to control everything. You can choose the compile-time options and the modules, and you can make changes to the source code. This process will consume a lot of your time, especially if you measure the time over the lifetime of the installation (it is the only correct way to measure time) and if you intend to use modules with frequent releases (e.g., PHP).

  2. Installation and upgrade is a breeze when binary distributions are used now that many vendors have tools to have operating systems updated automatically. You exchange some control over the installation in return for not having to do everything yourself. However, this choice means you will have to wait for security patches or for the latest version of your favorite module. In fact, the latest version of Apache or your favorite module may never come since most vendors choose to use one version in a distribution and only issue patches to that version to fix potential problems. This is a standard practice, which vendors use to produce stable distributions.
  3. The Apache version you intend to use will affect your decision. For example, nothing much happens in the 1.x branch, but frequent releases (with significant improvements) occur in the 2.x branch. Some operating system vendors have moved on to the 2.x branch, yet others remain faithful to the proven and trusted

The Apache web server is a victim of its own success. The web server from the 1.x branch works so well that many of its users have no need to upgrade. In the long term this situation only slows down progress because developers spend their time maintaining the 1.x branch instead of adding new features to the 2.x branch. Whenever you can, use Apache 2!

This book shows the approach of compiling from the source code since that approach gives us the most power and the flexibility to change things according to our taste. To download the source code, go to http://httpd.apache.org and pick the latest release of the branch you want to use.

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