nginx crash on reload -- how to detect?

Francis Daly francis at
Sat Mar 16 11:14:58 UTC 2013

On Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 05:39:27PM +0100, Jan-Philip Gehrcke wrote:

Hi there,

> I'm currently running a self-built nginx 1.3.14 on a debian system and 
> use the attached (and also inlined) init.d script as /etc/init.d/nginx 
> for managing the service. It's taken unmodified from debian wheezy.

This looks like a generic init script which has been slightly adapted
for nginx.

It introduces some extra levels between what you do (run "service") and
what you want to do (control nginx). These levels are frequently useful,
but in this case they do seem to hide the information you want.

> $ service nginx reload
> The problem is that in this case it just states "Reloading nginx 
> configuration: nginx." without me realizing that the master process 
> crashed and that the new config did not become activated.

> I am wondering if there is a neat way to improve the service script in 
> order to make it realize when the nginx master unexpectedly dies in the 
> process of performing one of the service actions.

Right now, you run "service" which runs this shell script which
(eventually) runs start-stop-daemon which runs nginx.

nginx can communicate using its return value, its stderr output, and
its log file.

The sequence you run seems to hide the return value and the stderr output
from you.

It's not clear to me exactly what happened in your failing case; but if
you can recreate it, what do you see when you run "nginx", "nginx -t",
"nginx -s reload", and "nginx -s stop"? Check the return value, stderr
output, and error.log after each one.

Is there enough information in that output to help you understand the
nature of the problem?

(I believe that a return value of non-0 means that something went wrong,
and the stderr output and/or error.log will indicate what that something
was. The output may also have information when the return value is 0.)

When you're happy that you understand the nginx output, then you can try
changing the init script to let that output get back to you somehow. That
might involve learning where the current script puts that information;
or changing the start-stop-daemon invocation line to make it available;
or replacing the entire script with something much simpler and with
fewer features.

Be aware that removing features will probably make this daemon not fit
in with the startup/shutdown of all others on your system. Only you can
decide how much that matters to you.

Francis Daly        francis at

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