Lets Encrypt on Ubuntu using Apache, Nginx, or Lighttpd Cheat Sheet

If you are using Lets Encrypt (www.letsencrypt.org) certificates on your Ubuntu servers, you may find the following information useful if you work with Apache, Nginx, or Lighttpd.

Installing Lets Encrypt on Ubuntu 14.04 (or older)

Reference: https://www.vultr.com/docs/setup-lets-encrypt-with-apache-on-ubuntu-14-04

apt-get install git
git clone https://github.com/letsencrypt/letsencrypt /opt/letsencrypt

The 3rd line sets up Lets Encrypt and installs any necessary dependencies such as Python.

Ubuntu 16.04 install instructions

Reference: https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-secure-nginx-with-let-s-encrypt-on-ubuntu-16-04

apt-get install letsencrypt

Note: The remaining portion of this document uses /opt/letsencrypt/letsencrypt-auto and /opt/letsencrypt/certbot-auto command line tools as found when installing on Ubuntu 14.04 or older. If you are using Ubuntu 16.04 or newer, simply run the command letsencrypt and certbot without the full path or the additional -auto from the command line.

Setup your server so you can create certificates without having to stop your web server

I will not explain aliases in detail, but essentially you need to create an alias URI for /.well-known/. It can be shared among all of your virtual hosts. Lets Encrypt uses this folder to save folders and files that are used in the confirmation process for creating new and renewing existing certificates.

Create a working folder for Lets Encrypt:

mkdir -p /var/www/letsencrypt/.well-known/

Then setup your web server to use this working folder for the .well-known URI path on your server.

Apache .well-known Example

Create a file called letsencrypt.conf with the following.

Alias "/.well-known/" "/var/www/letsencrypt/.well-known/"
<Directory "/var/www/letsencrypt/.well-known">
 AllowOverride None
 Options None
 Require all granted

If you place this file in the conf-enabled folder (/etc/apache2/conf-enabled/letsencrypt.conf) then simply restart your Apache web server. Otherwise you will need to make a symbolic link in your conf-enabled folder to where you saved your letsencrypt.conf file.

Do not forget when ever making configuration changes to Apache to run the following before restarting your web server.

apache2ctl configtest

Nginx .well-known Example

Create a file called letsencrypt.conf with the following.

location ~ ^/\.well-known/(.*)$ {
 alias /var/www/letsencrypt/.well-known/$1;
 # No need to log these requests
 access_log off;
 add_header "X-Zone" "letsencrypt";

Then in your nginx.conf file near the top of the server { } add the following line:

 include /path/to/your/letsencrypt.conf;

Do not forget when ever making configuration changes to Nginx to run the following before restarting your web server.

nginx -t

Lighttpd .well-known Example

Add the following in your lighttpd.conf file. Note the += is for adding to an existing set of alias URLs. If you have no alias.url values, then simply remove the + but leave the equal. Learn more about Lighttpd aliasing here.

alias.url += ( "/.well-known/" => "/var/www/letsencrypt/.well-known/" )

Do not forget when ever making configuration changes to Lighttpd to run the following before restarting your web server.

lighttpd -t -f /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf

Creating New Lets Encrypt SSL Certificates

You can now create Lets Encrypt certificates without your server having to be shut down temporarily.

/opt/letsencrypt/letsencrypt-auto certonly --webroot --manual-public-ip-logging-ok -d example.com --agree-tos -m you@example.com --text  -w /var/www/letsencrypt/

Replace example.com and you@example.com with your email address and your host name. Remember if your host name starts with www., leave off the www. as it is not necessary, a certificate without the www. also works with the www.

Renew certs

/opt/letsencrypt/certbot-auto renew

certbot-auto uses previous settings to renew the cert in the exact same way it was created so no extra parameters are necessary

Reference: http://letsencrypt.readthedocs.io/en/latest/using.html#renewing-certificates

You can create a file in the /etc/cron.weekly/ folder to renew Lets Encrypt certificates weekly. Even though it will run weekly, Lets Encrypt is smart enough not to renew certificates until there is 30 days or less remaining. This gives you plenty of overlap in case for some reason one week failed to renew.

Example bash file /etc/cron.weekly/letsencrypt

/opt/letsencrypt/certbot-auto renew
You may want to use the > /dev/null 2>&1 trick at the end of the command line to surpress errors from coming from your cron tasks via email.

Deleting SSL Certificates

When we no longer wish to maintain SSL for a host name, we need to delete the renewal config file.
rm /etc/letsencrypt/renewal/example.com.conf
This file includes information where the SSL certs are located and the options used when the SSL cert was first created.
This is not the same as revoking an SSL certificate. This simply no longer renewing the certificate every 2-3 months.
SSL Cert files are saved in the following path by folder for each host
Specific SSL files are located within the host name folder
Important reference to the pem files:
cert = /etc/letsencrypt/live/geeknewscentral.com/cert.pem
privkey = /etc/letsencrypt/live/geeknewscentral.com/privkey.pem
chain = /etc/letsencrypt/live/geeknewscentral.com/chain.pem
fullchain = /etc/letsencrypt/live/geeknewscentral.com/fullchain.pem

Note: “chain” is specifically for Apache and the SSLCertificateChainFile  setting, which is now obsolete as of 2.4.8. This is a good thing as now Nginx and Apache use the same fullchain and privkey files. Lighttpd is still not as simple, see note below.

Though all files are saved in the pem format, other systems and platforms use different file extensions rather than filenames to identify the differnet files. Here is a quick cheatsheet in case you need to map previous files to new files.

type (explanation) - letsencrypt - other examples
cert (public key) - cert.pem - example.com.crt, example.com.public.key
privkey (private key) - privkey.pem - example.com.key, example.com.private.key
chain - (chain key) chain.pem - gd_bundle.crt, alphasslroot.crt, etc...
fullchain (concatenation of cert + chain) - fullchain.pem - fullchain.crt

Pem files and their use on Apache, Nginx, and Lighttpd

Apache 2.4.8 and newer

SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem

Note that there is no SSLCertificateChainFile option, it now uses the fullchain.pem which combines the cert.pem with chain.pem.

Apache 2.4.7 and older

SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/cert.pem
SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/chain.pem

Note that we are not using the fullchain.pem, instead we are linking to the cert.pem and chain.pem on 2 separate configuration lines.


ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem;


Lighttpd Note: The cert and privkey need to be combined for Lighttpd

cd /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/
cat privkey.pem cert.pem > ssl.pem

Then link to the certificates in your lighttpd config settings.

ssl.pemfile = /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/ssl.pem
ssl.ca-file = /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/chain.pem

If you are automating Lighttpd renewals, you will need to add an extra step that concatenates the privkey.pem with the cert.pem before restarting/reloading Lighttpd

While searching the Internet for examples of setting up Lighttpd, I found some examples show using the ssl.ca-file using the fullchain.pem. Though this will also work, that is not technically correct as the ssl.pem already houses the cert.pem
Please feel free to leave a comment if you find an error and/or have additional notes which may be helpful for others.

CW10 – May 22, 2008 – Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide and Open Flash Charts

Angelo discusses the Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide 2nd edition and explains how to implement Open Flash Charts into your PHP project.

Don’t forget to E-mail comments and suggestions to compiledweekly AT gmail.com.


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Columbus PHP Meetup tonight – The Art of SQL Tuning for MySQL

If you’ve been following my Twitter (@AngeloMandato) lately, you may have herd me mention previous Columbus PHP Meetups. These meetups are great for meeting fellow PHP programmers in the Columbus area and a great way to learn about different libraries, techniques and frameworks that are available.

Columbus PHP Meetup web site: http://php.meetup.com/93/

Tonights meetup topic is “The Art of SQL Tuning for MySQL” presented by Jay Pipes from MySQL. I can’t wait to attend this meetup and gain some insightful knowledge how to tune MySQL. Ever since I started my career, I’ve encountered many issues either with server loads and/or time due to poorly written queries. I think I’ve done a decent job deploying indexes, grouping like queries together, etc… but I know there is more to learn.

The past two Columbus PHP Meetups covered the Zend Framework and CakePHP. Both were great presentations.

The Zend Framework presentation from February was very informative. The Zend Framework was written in a way that the developer can decide how much he/she wants to use from the framework. This makes it possible to easily add the Zend Framework to an existing project. I think the word framework may not be the best word to describe it though, perhaps it should be called library and framework. Many parts of the Zend Framework are really just libraries to help with things like email, XML-RPC, OpenID, Flickr, Amazon, etc… I now plan on using parts of the Zend Framework in some of my projects.

I learned a lot from the CakePHP presentation from March as well. CakePHP is definitely a “framework” with all of the University taught thinking of object oriented programming and separating presentation with logic integrated. What I found interesting is CakePHP took somewhat of a Ruby on Rails like approach in managing your SQL queries. I think this type of development is fine for small to medium size projects but anything where you need full control of the queries or presentation you may find yourself feeling restricted. The presentation side of things reminds me of Smarty Template Engine, which my past experience with Smarty started out great but ended with frustration that I couldn’t add the logic I wanted at the presentation level.

I would like to learn more about CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter is the application framework that Joe used for developing the registration system for PodCamp Ohio.

PHP 5 Study GuideRelated news, I purchased a copy of the Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide. I own a copy of the Zend PHP 4 Certification Study Guide and loved the book till the pages started falling out. It is not just for those who want to be certified in PHP, the content is perfect for a developer who already knows how to program but just wants something to reference for the language. You should already have some background in C/C++/Java/PHP before you read this book though. I’m very pleased with this addition as well as the first one. I think I may order the Guide to Programming with Zend Framework next.

So are you attending PHP meetups in your area? If so, what sorts of things are you learning?

Sun acquires MySQL

If you have not herd, Sun Microsystems is acquiring MySQL. I think this is a great move, especially since Sun has embraced the open source community as strong, if not stronger, than other large companies such as IBM, Yahoo and Google.

Article: http://www.mysql.com/news-and-events/sun-to-acquire-mysql.html

I think the move is a good one for MySQL. With the recent purchase of the InnoDB storage engine by Oracle, there has been some concern that MySQL could end up in the hands of a company that’s best interests do not involve the open source community.

The recent influx of participation in the development of MySQL by Google gives me a lot of hope that MySQL’s future will be a bright one. The next generation storage engine called Falcon hopes to become a replacement for InnoDB and many of the performance tweaks Google has implemented over the years will most likely find their way into the future versions of MySQL.

CW9 – June 3, 2007 – Subversion revision control system

One Topic:Subversion, a open-source, cross platform revision control system. Tonight I talk about how to install, configure and understand how to use a Subversion repository.

Don’t forget to E-mail comments and suggestions to compiledweekly AT gmail.com.

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CW8 – October 12, 2006 – web design, shoutcast, media production and hosting

Recorded on October 4th, Angelo speaks with good friend Matt, who owns Choice Lynk Media, a Multi-media production company. We talk about his web site, podcasting, shoutcast server and other interesting tech stuff. Also cover some basic features that we will be talking about over the next few weeks on how to setup your own web hosting server.

CW7 – July 13, 2006

Two topics: TinyMCE, a cross browser HTML rich text editor and solutions for SPAM. TinyMCE is an excellent html styled text editor that has an endless number of settings and is extendable. In the second topic I address SPAM and talk about two server solutions; SpamAssassin and MIMESweeper. Software recommendation of the week: nLite, web site of the week: nerdvittles.com test

  • nLite :: Update Windows installation CD’s quick and easily.
  • TinyMCE :: TinyMCE, a cross browser html rich text editor.
  • Nerd Vittles :: Awesome site, more than just informaton on TrixBox here!
  • SpamAssassin :: SpamAssassin server based anti-spam tool.
  • MIMESweeper :: MIMESweeper, product of Clearswift, a full blown supported SMTP service with SPAM controls.
  • Thunderbird :: E-mail client with spam filtering built in

CW6 – June 8, 2006

Two topics, ModRewrite for Apache and TrixBox PBX. ModRewrite lets you do some really cool things with Apache you thought you couldn’t do. TrixBox is a Voice Over IP PBX Phone system built on CentOS Linux. Software recommendation, UltraVNC and Web Script recommendation, IMP Webmail.

CW5 – April 20, 2006

This week we look at phpMailer, a PHP E-mailing class and wxWidgets basics. Show also includes 3 useful Firefox extensions for web development, phpMyAdmin recommendations.

CW1 – March 16, 2006

Welcome to the first podcast of Compiled Weekly. Today’s podcast I introduce myself, promote the PodcasterNews.com podcast network, review the open source Ravencore web control panel, recommend the SciTE text editor, and cover Cross Site Scripting XSS and how to prevent it.