Installing RADIUSdesk on Ubuntu 16.04 using Nginx


  • Nginx is a web server that is gaining a lot of popularity today.
  • It is fresh, lightweight, fast, scales well and is able to take a lot of load without overwhelming your system.
  • Nginx is one of those things that will cross any web developer's path sooner or later.
  • This section will cover the steps you have to go through to get RADIUSdesk working with a LEMP stack on Ubuntu 16.04
    • * A LEMP stack is one of those acronyms you can impress your friends with. It stands for Linux NginX MySQL and PHP.

What do we require

  • A standard Nginx install on Ubuntu is actually very simple.
  • The part that is more involved is to tweak Nginx to do the following:
Requirement Comment
Interpret PHP Scripts We would like the web server to call the PHP interpreter when a page ending with .php is requested.
Be able to have access to the MySQL functions of PHP Since we set up a LEMP server, we need to have a MySQL server installed and accessible from PHP.
Modify the expiry date of http headers to encourage caching We want files that does not change (e.g. css or images) to be cached on the client's side to make the client's experience more pleasant
Compress text before they are served to the client We can compress the text that flows between the client and the server and in this way reduce the over the line bytes which in turn should also give the client a more pleasant experience
Enable rewrite rules in CakePHP for pretty URL's CakePHP makes use of the .htaccess files in Apache to enable pretty URLs. Since Nginx does not support .htaccess files, we need to change Nginx to behave in the same way.


Install Nginx

  • We assume you have a clean install of Ubuntu 16.04 WITHOUT Apache installed.
  • To remove Apache
   sudo systemctl start apache2.service
   sudo apt-get remove apache2
  • Ensure the English language pack is installed
sudo apt-get install language-pack-en-base
  • Install Nginx
sudo apt-get install nginx
  • Ensure the web server starts up and is running
sudo systemctl stop nginx.service
sudo systemctl start nginx.service
  • Navigate to the IP Address of the server where you installed Nginx using a browser to ensure Nginx serves content e.g.
  • The default directory where Nginx serves its content from on Ubuntu is /var/www/html.
  • Since RADIUSdesk has been developed over a couple of years, it was traditionally served by Nginx from the /usr/share/nginx/html directory. (This was on Ubunut 14.04).
  • Edit the default server file:
 sudo vi /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
  • Change the value of root:
#root /var/www/html;
root /usr/share/nginx/html;

Configure Nginx to interpret .php files


  • The default install of Nginx does not support the serving of .php files.
  • We will install a program (actually a service) called php-fpm.
  • This service will listen for requests to interpret.
  • Install the php-fpm service:
sudo apt-get install php-fpm

Modify Nginx

  • Now that the php-fpm service is installed we should change the default Nginx server to make use of it.
  • Edit the default server file:
    sudo vi /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
  • Add index.php to this line:
    #add index.php
    index index.php index.html index.htm;
  • Activate PHP precessing by uncommenting this this section. Note that we use the UNIX socket:
    # pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on
    location ~ \.php$ {
                include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
        #       # With php7.0-cgi alone:
        #       fastcgi_pass;
        #       # With php7.0-fpm:
                fastcgi_pass unix:/run/php/php7.0-fpm.sock;
  • Enable the hiding of .htaccess files
    # deny access to .htaccess files, if Apache's document root
    # concurs with nginx's one
    location ~ /\.ht {
        deny all;
  • Reload the Nginx web server's configuration
sudo systemctl reload nginx.service
  • Create a test .php file to confirm that it does work
sudo vi /usr/share/nginx/html/test.php
  • Contents:

Install MySQL

  • Be sure to supply a root password for the MySQL database when asked for it if you are security conscious else simply hit the ESC key.
sudo apt-get install mysql-server php-mysql

Disable strict mode

  • With the 16.04 release of MySQL there were some changes to the MySQL configuration which causes problems on the current RADIUSdesk database implementation.
  • We will disable Strict SQL Mode in MySQL 5.7.
sudo vi /etc/mysql/conf.d/disable_strict_mode.cnf
  • Enter these two lines:
  • Save the file and restart the MySQL service
sudo systemctl restart mysql.service

Performance tune Nginx

Modify expiry date for certain files

  • Edit the /etc/nginx/sites-available/default file:
sudo vi /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
  • Add the following inside the server section:
location ~ ^/cake2/.+\.(jpg|jpeg|gif|png|ico|js|css)$ {
    rewrite ^/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/(.*)$ /cake2/rd_cake/webroot/$1 break;
    rewrite ^/cake2/rd_cake/(.*)$ /cake2/rd_cake/webroot/$1 break;
    access_log off;
    expires max;
    add_header Cache-Control public;
  • Reload Nginx:
sudo systemctl reload nginx.service

Compress the text before sending it to client

  • Edit the main config file of Nginx.
sudo vi /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
  • Change the compression section to contain the following:
gzip on;
gzip_disable "msie6";

gzip_vary on;
gzip_proxied any;
gzip_comp_level 6;
gzip_buffers 16 8k;
gzip_http_version 1.1;
gzip_types text/plain text/css application/json application/javascript text/xml application/xml application/xml+rss text/javascript;
  • Restart Nginx
sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

Install RADIUSdesk

  • The first part prepared everything to install RADIUSdesk. This part will go through the steps to install the latest RADIUSdesk.
  • RADIUSdesk consists of three components.
    • rd directory with its contents contains all the HTML and JavaScript code and is used as the presentation layer.
    • rd_cake is a CakePHP application and can be considered the engine room. Here the data is processed before being presented by the presentation layer. (We currently use one CakePHP v2 and one CakePHP v3 application in order to migrate from CakePHP v2 to CakePHP v3)
    • rd_login is a directory with various login pages which are centrally managed through the RADIUSdesk Dynamic Login Pages applet. Although this is optional, it is used by most installs.
  • We will use SVN (subversion) to check out the latest version (trunk) of RADIUSdesk.

Install CakePHP

  • As from December 2016 we started a migration process of migrating from CakePHP v2 to CakePHP v3.
  • The ORM component of CakePHP v3 is completely new and different which makes the migration fairly involved.
  • Since the architecture of RADIUSdesk is following modern design principles it allows us to run both CakePHP v2 and CakePHP v3 simultaneously.
  • We can then do the migration gradually over time.
Required packages
  • Make sure the following packages are installed:
sudo apt-get install php-cli php-gd php-curl php-xml php-mbstring php-intl
Install CakePHP v2
  • Download the 2.x version of CakePHP (Version 2.9.7 as of this writing). https://github.com/cakephp/cakephp/tags
  • There are two formats to choose from when selecting to download, Zip or Tar.gz. Select Tar.gz.
  • Copy and extract it inside the directory that Nginx is serving its content from (/usr/share/nginx/html)
sudo cp 2.9.7.tar.gz /usr/share/nginx/html
cd /usr/share/nginx/html
sudo tar -xzvf 2.9.7.tar.gz 
sudo ln -s ./cakephp-2.9.7 ./cake2
  • Reload php7.0-fpm
sudo systemctl reload php7.0-fpm.service
Install the RADIUSdesk CakePHP v2 Application
  • Install subversion in order for you to check out the latest source for RADIUSdesk.
sudo apt-get install subversion
  • Check out the rd_cake branch from trunk to /usr/share/nginx/html.
cd /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2
sudo svn checkout svn://dvdwalt@svn.code.sf.net/p/radiusdesk/code/trunk/rd_cake ./rd_cake
  • Change the following directories to be writable by www-data:
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/tmp
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/Locale
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/img/flags
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/img/nas
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/img/realms
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/img/dynamic_details
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/img/dynamic_photos
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/webroot/files/imagecache
Install the RADIUSdesk CakePHP v3 Application
  • Check out the cake3 branch from trunk to /usr/share/nginx/html.
cd /usr/share/nginx/html/
sudo svn checkout svn://dvdwalt@svn.code.sf.net/p/radiusdesk/code/trunk/cake3 ./cake3
  • Change the following directories to be writable by www-data:
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/tmp
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/logs
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/webroot/img/realms
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/webroot/img/dynamic_details
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/webroot/img/dynamic_photos
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/webroot/img/access_providers
sudo chown -R www-data. /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/webroot/files/imagecache

The Database

  • Create the following blank database:
sudo su
mysql -u root
create database rd;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON rd.* to 'rd'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'rd';
  • Populate the database (trunk):
    sudo mysql -u root rd < /usr/share/nginx/html/cake3/rd_cake/setup/db/rd.sql
  • If you have a small server like a Raspberry Pi you, run the following SQL for better performance.
USE rd;
DELETE FROM phrase_values WHERE language_id=16 OR language_id=15 OR language_id=13 OR language_id=5 OR language_id=14;

Configure Nginx

  • Since CakePHP uses rewrite rules, we have to configure Nginx in such a way as to allow rewriting of the URL's that starts with /cake2/rd_cake or with /cake3/rd_cake.
  • Edit /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
    sudo vi /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
  • Add the following section inside the server section:
location /cake2/rd_cake {
     rewrite ^/cake2/rd_cake/(.*)$ /cake2/rd_cake/webroot/$1 break;
     try_files $uri $uri/ /cake2/rd_cake/webroot/index.php?q=$uri&$args;
location /cake3/rd_cake {
   rewrite ^/cake3/rd_cake(.+)$ /cake3/rd_cake/webroot$1 break;
   try_files $uri $uri/ /cake3/rd_cake/index.php$is_args$args;
  • Reload the Nginx web server:
   sudo systemctl reload nginx.service
  • Congratulations you are almost there. Next we will install the viewer component

Viewer component

  • Check out the latest code of the viewer component under the /usr/share/nginx/html/ directory:
cd /usr/share/nginx/html/
sudo svn checkout svn://dvdwalt@svn.code.sf.net/p/radiusdesk/code/trunk/rd ./rd
  • For the viewer component you need the ExtJS toolkit. We've added version 6.2.0 to the SVN repository for easy download :-)
  • Checkout and unzip the GPL version under the /usr/share/nginx/html/rd directory. NOTE: This is a single big file which will take some time to download over slow connections.
cd /usr/share/nginx/html/
sudo svn checkout svn://svn.code.sf.net/p/radiusdesk/code/extjs ./
sudo mv  ext-6-2-sencha_cmd.tar.gz ./rd
cd /usr/share/nginx/html/rd
sudo tar -xzvf ext-6-2-sencha_cmd.tar.gz

Cron Scripts

  • RADIUSdesk requires a few scripts to run periodically in order to maintain a healthy and working system.
  • To activate the cron scripts execute the following command, which will add RADIUSdesk's crons scripts to the Cron system
sudo cp /usr/share/nginx/html/cake2/rd_cake/Setup/Cron/rd /etc/cron.d/
  • If you want to change the default intervals at which the scripts get executed, just edit the /etc/cron.d/rd file.

Next steps