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Bigwig is a systems administrator at a public university
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June 09, 2003

Socket To Me

Spent most of the day struggling through the process of cramming a square Apache 1.3 configuration file from one of our aging Solaris servers into a round Apache 2 hole on one of the new Linux boxes. I learned a lot, which meant that my office mates spent most of the day listening to me curse before I finally got the web server to start.

I'm still not done. Just because something is running doesn't mean that it's running correctly. You could probably get a Trans-Am to run on french fry oil, but that doesn't mean it'll run very long. In fact, odds are that the new Apache is running badly, especially as the only way I managed to get the old config file parsed correctly was to cut and paste large chunks of Apache 2 configuration code that we don't really understand into it. I'll have to start pruning tomorrow, cutting out code and restarting the process to see which bits are critical and which are useless window dressing.

Yes, I could have read the documentation, but that would have taken just as long, and leave me knowing less than I do now. It's been my experience that after the first 15 minutes of looking at documentation my brain shuts down out of sheer boredom and stops learning anyway. Documentation is almost always written from the viewpoint that the reader knows as much as the writer, a assumption that is demonstrably wrong, else the reader wouldn't be there in the first place, so it's also confusing.

This is the error dogged me most of today.

"no listening sockets available, shutting down
Unable to open logs."

Think of a socket as one of the little holes an early telephone operator plugged a line into. Most programs connect to specific ones, identified for convenience's sake by numbers, usually called ports. One can tell Apache to connect to any port one wishes, but it defaults to port 80. What the error is saying is that for some reason port 80 is unavailable. But, since it can't open the log file, it iss unable to tell me why. Most of my job is spent looking at log files; so not having one is like making Batman fight crime without his utility belt.

Or in my case, arms or legs.

Normally the "no sockets available" message would mean one thing---that I'm a dumbass who already has Apache or some other web server running, thus closing the port off from new connections. Turn off the offending process, and my problems are solved. Google the error and that will be the solution to almost all of the links brought up.

In this case, that wasn't it. There's a command, "netstat -a," that will let me see which ports are in use at any particular time, and when I ran it "80" was nowhere to be found.

So instead of the error meaning that I was a dumbass, it meant that someone up there hated me. There's nothing more frustrating than a error with no explanation and no clues, except perhaps looking at the documentation in the mistaken belief that it might help.

The first thing I did was to start removing parts of the old configuration, reasoning that by cutting out code I could eventually isolate the problem. Our standard Apache config is over 2000 lines long, so it took a while. This only works if the bug is being caused by something in the code, not if the bug is due to something missing from the code, so Apache still refused to start even after I reduced the file down to about 10 lines.

That's when I started throwing extra code in. I think I've identified the code snippet responsible for ending my sisyphean task;

# Listen: Allows you to bind Apache to specific IP addresses and/or
# ports, instead of the default. See also the
# directive.
#
# Change this to Listen on specific IP addresses as shown below to
# prevent Apache from glomming onto all bound IP addresses (0.0.0.0)
#
#Listen 12.34.56.78:80

Listen 80

The above is part of the global configuration part of the Apache 2 configuration, something that isn't specified in the same manner our 1.3 files. Tomorrow I'll take it out and hope everything breaks. If not, then I'll curse and start again.

Posted by Bigwig at June 9, 2003 05:04 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
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