Wednesday 6 January 2021

Creating a web site with Vue.js, Nginx, Symfony on PHP8 & MariaDB running in Docker containers - Part 1: Intro & Nginx


Please note that I initially intended this to be a single article, but by the time I had finished the first two sections, it was way too long for a single read, so I've split it into the following sections, each as their own article:

  1. Intro / Nginx (this article)
  2. PHP
  3. PHPUnit
  4. Tweaks I made to my Bash environment in my Docker containers
  5. MariaDB
  6. Installing Symfony
  7. Using Symfony
  8. Testing a simple web page built with Vue.js using Mocha, Chai and Puppeteer
  9. I mess up how I configure my Docker containers
  10. An article about moving files and changing configuration
  11. Setting up a Vue.js project and integrating some existing code into it
  12. Unit testing Vue.js components

I've already written everything down to and including "Using Symfony", and will release those over the coming days. Originally I was gonna finish the whole series before releasing anything, because I know what I'm like: there's a chance I'll get bored and not finish the series, so would be a bit rubbish to release the first n parts but not finish it. But then it occurred to me that that approach is not very agile, plus if I actually release what I've done, I'm probably more likely to see it through to completion. Each article is stand-alone anyhow, for the most part. I appreciate my mates Dara McGann and Brian Sadler also giving me a nudge on this.


This "Creating a web site with Vue.js, Nginx, Symfony on PHP8 & MariaDB running in Docker containers" exercise should be hilarious (at my expense, I mean), cos I've never touched Vue.js, only know enough about Nginx to get myself into trouble (and sometimes - but not always - back out of trouble again), never touched Symfony really. or PHP8 yet. And still a noob with Docker, and all this requires me to work with docker-compose, which I have not ever touched until about 10min ago. So I'll warn you up front that these articles just logs my journey through all this stuff, and any knowledge I am applying is coming to me via googling and reading stuff on Stack Overflow (etc), about 5min before I put it into practice. Nothing here is an expert's view, and no promises as to whether I'm doing anything correctly. Not sure why yer reading it, actually.

The motivation behind this work is multi-fold:

  • my client-side exposure is very out of date. I have not written any front-end production code for… blimey five years probably.
  • Accordingly I have not touched any of the new fancy JS frameworks, so figured I should take a look at Vue.js.
  • It'll need some sort of back-end. I'd usually use Silex for this, but it's end-of-life now, and the recommendation is to use Symfony instead. I've done the smallest amount on Symfony (supervising other devs whilst they do the work, basically), so this is an excuse to do some actual work with it.
  • PHP8's just been released so I'll use that, although I can't see it'll make any difference from 7.x for the purposes of what I'll be doing.
  • I've messed around with individual containers a bit in Docker now, but it's all been very ad hoc. This is a good excuse to tie some stuff together with Dockerfiles and docker-compose.yml.

To be completely frank, I am unenthused about this concept of "full stack" development. In my exposure to full-stack devs, what it means is instead of being good at one thing; they're very bloody ordinary at a bunch of things ("jack of all trades; masters of none"). I understand it might be useful in smaller shops, I guess. I've always been in the position that wherever I've worked there's been enough bods to have dedicated people in each role. I'm not saying there're no people who are good at an entire stack, but the bulk of people seem not to be. It strikes me as being the enterprise of people without the discipline to stick to one thing. The flipside of this is that I've been overlooked for two roles recently because they want people who do both client-side and back-end dev, and I will always admit to being weak on the front end. However I'm also pragmatic… if I need to improve my exposure here... so be it.

Right. Off we go. I'm gonna work through this in a stepped fashion; getting each component working (to a "G'day World" degree) before integrating the next component.

Before I start actually, I need to point out I am basing my approach on the excellent article "Symfony 5 development with Docker", by Martin Pham. I just found it on Google, but it's covering much of the same territory I need to cover.

Directory structure

I'm following Martin's lead here for the most part. The key bit is putting all the docker-related files into their own directory in my app directory:

adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise$ tree -F --dirsfirst -L 2 .
├── docker/
│   ├── nginx/
│   └── docker-compose.yml*
├── log/
│   └── nginx/
├── public/
│   └── gdayWorld.html*

5 directories, 4 files

(This was taken after I did the Nginx config, below, but it better shows what goes where if I include the Nginx stuff now).

Oh Martin also has the log directory as logs on the host and log in the containers. That bit me on the bum the first time I tried this (see further down), so I'm sticking with a uniform log throughout.


Firstly I'm just going to get Nginx serving gdayWorld.html on localhost:80. I'm not yet going to worry about PHP or Symfony or anything like that.

I've largely copied Martin's docker/nginx/Dockerfile:

FROM nginx:alpine
WORKDIR /usr/share/nginx/
CMD ["nginx"]

The only difference is I've changed the WORKDIR value from /var/www to /usr/share/nginx/ which seems to be where Nginx would naturally put its files. Martin's using /var/www because "the same directory with PHP-FPM since we’re gonna share this with a mounted volume" (that's from his article). However I will specifically not be doing that. I will be keeping the website directory and the application source code separate, as one usually would with a modern PHP app. Only the "entry-point" index.php will be in the web root; the rest will be in the adjacent src directory. In the context of this file, it doesn't matter here, but the same directory is referenced later where it does matter, and I want to keep things consistent. Also this seems to be a reference to the Nginx app directory really, not anything related to the web root, per se?

And again, the docker/nginx/nginx.conf file is lifted from Martin's article:

user  nginx;
worker_processes  4;
daemon off;

error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log warn;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;

http {
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;
    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log;
    sendfile        on;
    keepalive_timeout  65;

    include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
    include /etc/nginx/sites-available/*.conf;

And the separate site config file, docker/nginx/sites/default.conf:

server {
    listen 80 default_server;
    listen [::]:80 default_server ipv6only=on;

    server_name localhost;
    root /usr/share/fullstackExercise/public;
    index index.html;

    location / {
         try_files $uri $uri/;

    location ~ /\.ht {
        deny all;

One difference here is that I'm setting the web root to be /usr/share/fullstackExercise/public, rather than a subdirectory of the Nginx application directory as Martin had it. /public is where the app's web-browseable files will be home (Symfony's location for these is that directory, relative to the application root).

I don't need the PHP stuff in this file yet, so I've removed it for now. We're only interested in serving HTML at the moment.

Lastly the docker-compose.yml file is cut down from the one in the article to just handle Nginx for now:

version: '3'

            context: ./nginx
            - ../public:/usr/share/fullstackExercise/public
            - ./nginx/nginx.conf:/etc/nginx/nginx.conf
            - ./nginx/sites/:/etc/nginx/sites-available
            - ./nginx/conf.d/:/etc/nginx/conf.d
            - ../log:/var/log
            - "80:80"

As mentioned above, the only significant change here is that that first volume has been changed from being ../src:/var/www (PHP src directory) to be ../public:/usr/share/fullstackExercise/public again, as per above.

Oh! One last file! public/gdayWorld.html:

<!doctype html>

<html lang="en">
    <meta charset="utf-8">

    <title>G'day world</title>

<h1>G'day world</h1>
<p>G'day world</p>

We should now be… good to go. Let's try it…

adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:~$ cd /mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise/
adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise$ cd docker/
adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise/docker$ docker-compose up
Building nginx
Step 1/4 : FROM nginx:alpine
---> 98ab35023fd6
Step 2/4 : WORKDIR /usr/share/nginx/
---> Running in 2223848549f7
Removing intermediate container 2223848549f7
---> 6f9bba05771d

Step 3/4 : CMD ["nginx"] ---> Running in 46c32d7862a7
Removing intermediate container 46c32d7862a7
---> 99cd0a9bb3fe
Step 4/4 : EXPOSE 80
---> Running in 62cb63572cab
Removing intermediate container 62cb63572cab
---> 7ae273be9176

Successfully built 7ae273be9176
Successfully tagged docker_nginx:latest
WARNING: Image for service nginx was built because it did not already exist. To rebuild this image you must use `docker-compose build` or `docker-compose up --build`.
Creating docker_nginx_1 ... done
Attaching to docker_nginx_1
nginx_1 | / /docker-entrypoint.d/ is not empty, will attempt to perform configuration
nginx_1 | / Looking for shell scripts in /docker-entrypoint.d/
nginx_1 | / Launching /docker-entrypoint.d/
nginx_1 | error: /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf is not a file or does not exist
nginx_1 | / Launching /docker-entrypoint.d/
nginx_1 | / Configuration complete; ready for start up

This is promising. So over to a web browser on my host machine:


Umm… OK… that didn't actually go as smooth for me as I make it sound there. The first time around - because I did not notice that discrepancy between log/logs in Martin's article - I ended up referencing a non-existent path in docker-compose.yml, and the docker compose call failed:

adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise/docker$ docker-compose up --build Creating network "docker_default" with the default driver Building nginx Step 1/4 : FROM nginx:alpine [...etc...] Successfully built 7ae273be9176 [...etc...] nginx_1 | / Configuration complete; ready for start up nginx_1 | nginx: [alert] could not open error log file: open() "/var/log/nginx/error.log" failed (2: No such file or directory) nginx_1 | 2020/12/05 19:10:50 [emerg] 1#1: open() "/var/log/nginx/error.log" failed (2: No such file or directory) docker_nginx_1 exited with code 1 adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise/docker$

That was simply cos I had this in my docker-compose.yml:

- ../logs:/var/log

Instead of this:

- ../log:/var/log

(In the file system, the directory is log). I very quickly spotted this and fixed it, and tried to back-out what I had done:

adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise/docker$ docker-compose down
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "bin/docker-compose", line 3, in <module>
File "compose/cli/", line 67, in main
File "compose/cli/", line 123, in perform_command
File "compose/cli/", line 69, in project_from_options
File "compose/cli/", line 125, in get_project
File "compose/cli/", line 184, in get_project_name
File "", line 383, in abspath
FileNotFoundError: [Errno 2] No such file or directory
[2052] Failed to execute script docker-compose

Try as I might I could not work out what file was missing. Nice one, btw, docker-compose for not actually saying what file-read didn't work. Amateur hour there.

After way too long of reading bug reports on Docker and various Stack Overflow Q&A, I spotted a solution ("Failed to execute script docker-compose"). The person answering just suggested "make sure Docker Desktop is running". That sounded off to me (of course it's running), but a comment on the answer made me look again: "I read this, thought what an answer for dummies, and then realised a few minutes later it was the answer I needed! DOH". I I went "oh all right then", and restarted Docker Desktop, dropped out of my bash instance and into a new one, and now:

adam@DESKTOP-QV1A45U:/mnt/c/src/fullstackExercise/docker$ docker-compose down
Removing docker_nginx_1 ... done
Removing network docker_default

Then I could just go docker-compose up --build, and the thing worked properly.

It's perhaps important to note I can replicate this at will, so this is just a workaround for some issue with Docker, but at least it got me moving forward. As I've been working through the rest of the articles in this series, I am getting this issue a lot: at least once a day. So it's not just caused by paths being wrong as per above. It seems to kick off quite often if I have changed docker-compose.yml to add/remove sections of config, or sometimes if I change files via the host machine file system (ie: my Windows desktop environment), rather than via the Ubuntu/WSL file system. I've not been able to tie it down to one particular thing. Something to look out for though.

Now to integrate PHP into the mix, see the next part of this series: Part 2: PHP.