Webserver changes summer 2016

This page lists the changes to the webservers of ULYSSIS in the summer of 2015, and how you can prepare for it. If any of these instructions are not clear to you, or if you have some more questions about the change, don't hesitate to e-mail us at

When are the changes planned?

The exact date will still be announced, but are currently planned for the last weekend of July: there will be a downtime on July 25 and 26 when we upgrade all of our servers. After that, we will use the new webserver configuration.

How can I test if my site will still work?

Our new webservers can be directly accessed at the IP address You can see if your site still works on the new servers by changing your hosts file.

Where is the hosts file?

On Windows: if Windows is installed in C:\Windows (the default), this will be C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts.

On Mac OS X: /private/etc/hosts.

On Linux: /etc/hosts.

How should I change the hosts file?

If your website is at and, then you can test if it works by adding the following line to your hosts file:

Make sure that you remove these changes when you're done testing.

If any issues crop up, you can check the logs at /var/log/new_apache_user/username (where username is your username) for hints on what went wrong. Don't worry if you don't find your username listed in the directory /var/log/new_apache_user, it will appear automatically when you enter it. If you found a problem that you can't fix yourself, please do e-mail us at We'd like the transfer to go smoothly for all of our users.

What will change?

The most important changes are the following, click on them or scroll down for more info:

  1. The PHP version will change from 5.5 to 7.0
  2. The OS will be upgraded from Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04

If you stuck to best practices when working with PHP, and if you have kept everything up to date, your website will in most cases just work.

PHP moving from 5.5 to 7.0

On the new webservers, the PHP version is 7.0, whereas on the old webserver, this was 5.5.

On the website, there are lists of the most important changes from 5.5 to 5.6, and from 5.6 to 7.0.

mod_php to PHP-FPM

Things that may or may not break

If you use an old version of TYPO3, this will stop working, because it explicitly checks for how PHP is provided, but doesn't know about PHP-FPM. Make sure you update to a recent, supported, version.

php_value and php_flag instructions in .htaccess files are normally only available when using mod_php, but we use the htscanner module so that these are still supported, so don't worry about those: they shouldn't break.

More security

With PHP-FPM, you can make your PHP code more secure. After the switch you can make the following changes.

PHP code used to be executed using mod_php, and run as the www-data user. This will now change: PHP code will run using PHP-FPM and as your ULYSSIS user. This is an opportunity to tighten up your website's security: the user www-data no longer needs to be able to read .php files, it only needs to know that these files exist. This means that any PHP files have to be only readable by you. This also means that in order to be able to create files inside of a directory, that directory only has to be writeable by you.

Securing database login info

Suppose you have a file called config.php, containing login information for your database. To secure this information, you can make it readable and writeable by only you, and nobody else using chmod 600 config.php. In FileZilla, you can do this by right-clicking on the config file, clicking on "File permissions...", and changing the permissions according to the following screenshots:

Config-php dropdown.png Config-php attrs.png

Securing uploads directory

Also, if there are directories that you made writeable by others, e.g. an uploads folder, this is no longer necessary. If this directory is called uploads, you can remove write rights for others with chmod go-w uploads. In FileZilla, you can do this by right-clicking on the config file, clicking on "File permissions...", and changing the permissions according to the following screenshots:

Uploads dropdown.png Uploads attrs.png

Changed behaviour of the mail() function

As noted earlier, PHP is now executed as your user instead of www-data. This also has the effect that by default email sent using the mail() function will come from (where username is your username) instead of This also means that all bounces caused by emailing to an non-existing or unavailable address will now arrive in your ULYSSIS account.

Apache from 2.2 to 2.4

Notably, the old Order, Deny and Allow directives are removed. However, we use the mod_access_compat module to continue to provide these directives. You are however encouraged to switch to the new auth directives. Consult the Apache documentation for more information.

To faculty organisations: If your website uses the Centrale KULeuven Login, you will have to add ShibDisable Off to your .htaccess file. We have to disable Shibboleth by default, because it inferferes with regular file-based basic authentication.