// why am I so n00b?

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):


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.