commit e6d2d3bf7e4b9ab9f33f598772bd379f5002a940
Author: James Halliday
Date: Sun Oct 25 09:59:47 2009 +0000

I had been meaning to give happstack a closer look for far too long and decided the best way to force myself to get around to putting together something interesting would be to get some cheap webhosting.

I've installed the ghc and cabal toolchain in non-root user accounts before, so I figured anything that offers shell accounts would be sufficient for my purposes. On IRC, pkrumins suggested Dreamhost, which he uses for Dreamhost has shell accounts and looked cheap enough, so I registered under the cheapest "happy hosting" account.

Once I got a shell, I downloaded the binary build of ghc for x86_64 into my home directory, extracted it, and configured it

./configure --prefix=$HOME/prefix && make install

Unfortunately, the system strip command used by the installer was incompatible with the binaries. Downloading and installing the latest version of GNU binutils into my home directory with the strip in my $PATH, I tried to install ghc again with exactly the same errors as before.

Frustratingly, ghc's installer hard-codes "/usr/bin/strip" instead of checking $PATH for it. I replaced every hard-coded /usr/bin/strip occurence to the location of my own version of strip from binutils with this one-liner:

perl -pi -e's{/usr/bin/strip}{$ENV{HOME}/prefix/bin/strip}g' \
    `grep '/usr/bin/strip' -lR .`

make install succeeded after this.

I downloaded and extracted cabal-install, ran, and had cabal up and running. Unfortunately, while installing many packages with cabal, Dreamhost's memory checker would kill the process for using too much memory. Whenever this happened, I would go into the directory of the troublesome package in ~/.cabal/packages/, then I would

tar xzf $PKG.tar.gz
cd $PKG
ghc --make Setup.hs && ./Setup configure --user && ./Setup build && ./Setup install

If the compile was killed, I just typed ./Setup build again until it finally finished all the way through. In this manner I was able to get most of the modules necessary to run happstack installed.

To install packages which depended on libraries and include files, I modified ~/.cabal/config by uncommenting and setting:

extra-include-dirs: $PREFIX/include
extra-lib-dirs: $PREFIX/lib

Not all modules will actually respect these directives, however. I had to hack away at some cabal files to get all the modules I needed running.

FileManip was super annoying to get installed. I finally went into its source and replaced "Control.Exception" with "Control.OldException", which did the trick.

Running happstack applications in the usual way where the service provides its own http server would only work on a Dreamhost Private Server account, which costs more money. Dreamhost does support CGI and FastCGI on the cheapest kind of account, however. I recommend using the plain CGI interface that Happstack.Server.FastCGI provides through Network.FastCGI, since errors show up properly in error.log and process management is much simpler.

While non-trivial to get running, this web experiment proves that it is at the very least possible to run Happstack applications on cheap hosting providers such as Dreamhost with little more than a shell account and CGI support. The source to is available on github, if you'd like to poke around!

git clone