I’ve become fond of using nginx on my development machines, rather than a full Apache.

There are no explicit options built-in which allow something along the same lines as Apache’s `userdir`, however it’s easy enough to tweak the default configuration to support that behaviour without the need for external modules.

I also do some PHP dabbling from time to time, so need to enable that as well.

Install the required bits:

$ sudo aptitude install nginx php5-fpm

Configure nginx (the below is my customised and cleaned out server definition):

/etc/nginx/sites-available/default

server {
        listen 80 default_server;
        listen [::]:80 default_server;

        root /var/www/html;

        # Add index.php to the list if you are using PHP
        index index.html index.htm index.nginx-debian.html index.php;

        server_name _;

        # PHP support in user directories
        location ~ ^/~(.+?)(/.*\.php)$ {
                alias /home/$1/public_html;
                autoindex on;

                include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;

                try_files $2 = 404;
                fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
        }

        # PHP support in document root
        location ~ \.php$ {
                include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
                fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
        }

        # User directories in /home/user/public_html/
        # are accessed via http://host/~user/
        location ~ ^/~(.+?)(/.*)?$ {
                alias /home/$1/public_html$2;
                autoindex on;
        }
}

I also had to make a change to /etc/nginx/snippets/fastcgi-php.conf, to comment out the following line:

#try_files $fastcgi_script_name =404;

After restarting the nginx service (also make sure the php5-fpm service is running), you will be able to serve HTML and PHP files from your ~/public_html directory.