Lighttpd Book from Packt – Great Thanksgiving Present
27 Nov2008

Many people know me as a nginx web server evangelist. But as (IMHO) any professional I think that it is really rewarding to know as much as possible about all the tools available on the market so every time you need to make a decision on some technical issue, you’d consider all pros and cons based on my own knowledge.

This is why when I received an email from Packt company asking if I’d like to read and review their book on Lighttpd I decided to give it a shot (I usually do not review any books because I do not always have enough time to read a book thoroughly to be able to write a review). So, here are my impressions from this book.

First, when I received the book, I was in doubt: how such a small book could cover so flexible and multi-purpose piece of software like Lighttpd? But after reading a few first chapters I understood that the book is written as any professional book should be written – no weird long chapters explaining what is Internet, web server, HTTP or HTML. From the first pages you dive to the world of Lighttpd starting from installation and going through the most popular and useful configuration options to really interesting virtual hosting configurations.

Pretty interesting security-related chapters explain typical process of obtaining and installing SSL certificates. This always was the most painful process for me in almost any web setup I worked on, don’t know why though, this process seemed kind of messy for me, but I think those chapters could help novice web server administrators understand the process of securing a web server.

For many new lighttpd users the most interesting chapters should be ones that explain typical problems and use cases of using apache with or instead of apache servers and describe how to set up lighttpd to be used with the most popular backend web software (Ruby on Rails, wordpress, phpmyadmin and more). From my consulting experience I should say that this is the most popular lighttpd deployment scheme (lighttpd frontend + some backends) and this is why these chapters should be the most interesting for new users. As a RoR server administrator I wish authors would explain more different deployment options for Rails, but of course I understand that the book is dedicated to lighttpd, not Rails so it is OK to miss some options.

And finally, for experienced users like me who understands all the internals of the web traffic handling and needs to get more control over the traffic there is just awesome chapters on using Lua with lighttpd and writing custom lighttpd modules. I really wish I had such an explanations when I was doing nginx modules development for our projects! If I’d write some lighttpd module I’d definitely buy this book just because of those Lua and modules-related chapters – there is not so much info on these topics on the Net and such a solid explanation of the basics of web server extension could help a lot.

So, as the final words on this book, I’d like to recommend it to all web services administrators (even if they do not use lighttpd yet) – this book explains many fundamental things that you’d really like to know. As for professional developers/admins, this books could be useful if they are going to work on some advanced configurations or modules for lighttpd (yes, I loved those lua and modules sections).