This release: Version DEVEL
NOTE: The master branch is rolling Development! DO NOT USE unless you want fiery dragons! (you probably want to
git checkout 3.1.1)
Copyright (c) 2009-2018 Kim Holviala
Copyright (c) 2019 Gophernicus Developers
Gophernicus is a modern full-featured (and hopefully) secure gopher daemon. It is licensed under the BSD license.
(If you are looking for installation documentation, please see INSTALL.md).
Developers can be reached at gophernicus AT gophernicus DOT org.
Our IRC channel is on irc.freenode.net #gophernicus.
You most likely want to subscribe to the gophernicus mailing list at https://lists.tildeverse.org/postorius/lists/gophernicus.lists.tildeverse.org/, especially if you maintain a server. This is where all important announcements are made.
Command line options
-h hostname Change server hostname (FQDN) [$HOSTNAME] -p port Change server port  -T port Change TLS/SSL port [0 = disabled] -r root Change gopher root [/var/gopher] -t type Change default gopher filetype  -g mapfile Change gophermap file [gophermap] -a tagfile Change gophertag file [gophertag] -c cgidir Change CGI script directory [/cgi-bin/] -u userdir Change users personal gopherspace [public_gopher] -l logfile Log to Apache-compatible combined format logfile -w width Change default page width  -o charset Change default output charset [UTF-8] -s seconds Session timeout in seconds  -i hits Maximum hits until throttling  -k kbytes Maximum transfer until throttling  -f filterdir Specify directory for output filters -e ext=type Map file extension to gopher filetype -R old=new Rewrite the beginning of a selector -D text|file Set or load server description for caps.txt -L text|file Set or load server location for caps.txt -A admin Set admin email for caps.txt -U paths Specify a colon-separated list of extra unveil(2) paths (OpenBSD only). -nv Disable virtual hosting -nl Disable parent directory links -nh Disable menu header (title) -nf Disable menu footer -nd Disable dates and filesizes in menus -nc Disable file content detection -no Disable charset conversion for output -nq Disable HTTP-style query strings (?query) -ns Disable logging to syslog -na Disable autogenerated caps.txt -nt Disable /server-status -nm Disable shared memory use (for debugging) -nr Disable root user checking (for debugging) -np Disable HAproxy proxy protocol -nx Disable execution of gophermaps and scripts -nu Disable personal gopherspaces -d Debug output in syslog and /server-status -v Display version number and build date -b Display the BSD license -? Display this help
(end of option list) -- keep this line for automatic extraction!
Setting up a gopher site
After succesfully installing Gophernicus (see INSTALL) you need to set
up the gopher root directory. By default Gophernicus serves documents
from /var/gopher so start by creating that directory and making sure
it's world-readable. Then, simply add files and directories under your
root, fire up a gopher browser (Firefox with the OverbiteFF extension,
Lynx) and open up
HOSTNAME is your server hostname).
That's it, your first gopher site is now up and running. If the links
on the root menu don't work make sure you are using the
parameter in your configuration (with a valid resolveable hostname
HOSTNAME - see INSTALL).
Gophernicus has been written with high security in mind. There should be no buffer overflows or memory allocation problems so it should be safe to run a publicly available gopher server with Gophernicus.
However, the security settings (which are non-changeable) are so strict that you need to keep one thing in mind. Gophernicus will only serve world-readable content. Being readable by the server process is not enough, all files and directories MUST be world-readable or they are simply hidden from all listings and denied if a client asks for them.
-nx option prevents execution of any script or external file,
-nu option suppresses scanning for and serving of
directories (which are normally at
~/public_html/ for each user).
If you are running Gophernicus on OpenBSD, you may (depending on what features you want to use) be able to take advantage of unveil(2) and pledge(2).
If you run without executable map support (i.e. you run with
unveil(2) will be enabled and the server root will automatically be unveiled.
If run with personal gopherspaces enabled (i.e. you run without
the password database (
/etc/pwd.db) will automatically be unveiled, but you
will have to manually unveil the filesystem path(s) from which to serve
personal gopherspaces (see
-nm -nu -nx results in the strictest set of pledge(2) promises.
If you have executable maps enabled (i.e. you run without
-nx), then the
promises are relaxed to allow
exec. If you have personal gopherspaces enabled
(i.e. you run without
-nu), then the promises are relaxed to allow
If you have shared memory enabled (i.e. you run without
-nm), then pledge(2)
support cannot be used at all.
In short, you probably want to run Gophernicus with
-nm -nu -nx and then
remove the flags that would otherwise disable the features you want.
To see what is going on with regards to pledge(2) and unveil(2), run
-d (to turn on debug logging) and look in your system logs.
By default all gopher menus are automatically generated from the content of the directory being viewed. If you want to have informational text along with the files, or if you want to completely replace the generated menu with your own you need to take a look at gophermaps. See the README.gophermap for more information.
A gophertag file can be used to virtually rename a directory. Let's assume that you have a directory called "foo" somewhere - it will be listed as "foo" in all automatically generated menus. Now if you create a file foo/gophertag and put the text "bar" into it the menus will show "bar" but the links will still point to "foo". This is useful for creating descriptive names for directories without littering the file system with spaces and weird characters.
Gophernicus supports users personal gopherspaces. If a user has
world-readable directory called
public_gopher under his home, a
gopher://HOSTNAME/1/~user/ will serve documents from
This is suppressed if the
-nu option is given.
In this case, any
~ entry which otherwise initiates listing
of user directories will be displayed literally.
Gophernicus supports virtual hosting, or serving more than one logical domain using the same IP address. Since gopher (RFC1436) doesn't support virtual hosting this requires some hacks.
To enable virtual hosting create one or more directories under your
gopher root which are named after your domain names. The primary vhost
directory (set with the
-h HOSTNAME option) must exist or virtual
hosting will be disabled. Then simply add content to the hostname
directories and you're (kind of) up and running.
There is a serious issue with virtual hosting.
As stated previously, RFC1436 dosen't support virtual hosting. Clients won't like it.
How the virtual hosting works, is that it loops through the vhosts looking for the selector. As you might think, the root gophermap exists on all of the vhosts, meaning it might not use the correct vhost. There is currently no easy way to fix this.
It is recommended to add '%' on a line by itself to the bottom of your root gophermaps. This will add "special" links of the format example.com/;example.com which forces the correct vhost.
Gophernicus supports most parts of the CGI/1.1 standard. Most standard CGI variables are set, and some non-standard ones are added.
By default all scripts and binaries under any directory called
/cgi-bin/ are executed as CGI scripts (this includes cgi-bin
directories under users personal gopherspaces). Also, if a gophermap
is marked executable it is also processed as an CGI script.
As with regular files, CGI scripts must be world-executable (and readable) or they will be ignored. Make sure your CGI script is safe with ANY user input as poorly coded CGI scripts are the number 1 security problem with publicly open Unix/Linux/BSD servers.
-nx option prevents execution of any script or external file.
In this case, they will be simply ignored and no output is given.
Output filtering and PHP support
In addition to CGI scripts Gophernicus supports output filtering
scripts. By default output filtering is turned off, but you can turn
it on by using the
-f FILTERDIR option, creating that directory
and creating one or more scripts in there named by either the file
suffix, or by the gopher filetype char.
If a file is to be served out which matches either the file suffix script, or the filetype script then instead of simply sending the file to client the output filter script is executed with the original file as the first parameter and the output of the script is then sent to client.
For PHP support install the CLI version of the PHP interpreter and then symlink (or copy) that binary to the directory specified with -f option using the destination name "php".
$ ln -s /usr/bin/php5-cli /usr/lib/gophernicus/filters/php
After that all files with the php suffix will be "filtered" through the PHP command line interpreter. In other words, PHP starts working. And don't use the CGI version of PHP as it outputs HTTP headers the gopher protocol doesn't have.
Charset support and conversions
Gophernicus supports three charsets: US-ASCII, ISO-8859-1 and UTF-8. All textual input is internally upconverted to UTF-8 and then downconverted to whatever charset the client is asking for. The conversion is input autosensing which means that you don't have to specify your filesystem charset, or the charset of your text files - it's all detected automatically.
With standard gopher clients this is a bit of a problem as your text
files WILL be converted to 7-bit US-ASCII. This means that all 8-bit
charaters WILL BE LOST. This decision was made because no gopher
client that I tested was reliably cabable of decoding anything else
than pure US-ASCII. If you want to disable the conversion use the
-no option, or if you'd like to change the default output charset to
something else than US-ASCII just use for example the
Selector rewriting lets you rewrite parts of the selector on the fly. Well, not parts, but really just the start of it. And the rewrite enging here is nothing like Apache's mod_rewrite as I was too lazy to integrate any regex libraries... So, all it does is rewrite a fixed string at the start of the selector to something else. This will let you move your directories around while making sure that existing deeplinks still work.
-R "/~user=/~luser" -R "/old-dir=/new-dir"
Session tracking and statistics
To enable virtual hosting with gopher (RFC1436) clients Gophernicus tracks users and their session. As a side effect of that session tracking, Gophernicus has simple throttling controls to keep nasty users from killing your precious 120MHz PPC 604e server from dying under the load. The throttling defaults are high enough that normal human users will never hit the limits, but it's possible (and mostly preferrable) that a badly behaving crawling agent will be throttled.
The current sessions and other real-time status data can be viewed
by opening the URL
gopher://HOSTNAME/0/server-status . This status
view has been modeled after the Apache server-status which means
that it's possible to integrate Gophernicus into existing server
monitoring systems. To ease up such integrations, Gophernicus
supports HTTP requests of the server-status page using an URL like
TLS/SSL and proxy support
As of version 2.3 Gophernicus supports the HAproxy proxy protocol version 1. This makes it possible to build a cluster of gopher servers and use HAproxy in front of them all handling client routing to different backend servers.
More useful is putting Gophernicus behind Stunnel4 for TLS/SSL support and use the same proxy protocol to tell Gophernicus the correct remote IP address. The below sample stunnel configuration is all you need to TLS-enable your gopher server. Well, you'll need a certificate too and for that I recommend Let's Encrypt.
In addition to configuring Stunnel for TLS you should add
to Gophernicus options so that it knows which connetions are coming in
encrypted and which are not. Using proper
-T also makes it possible for
CGI programs to use the
$TLS environment variable to know whether the
current request was encrypted or not.
; ; Gophernicus behind Stunnel4 for gopher over TLS ; ; User/group for stunnel daemon setuid = stunnel4 setgid = stunnel4 ; PID file location pid = /var/run/stunnel4/gophernicus.pid ; Log to file, not syslog output = /var/log/stunnel4/gophernicus.log syslog = no ; Certificate in pem format is needed for TLS cert = /etc/ssl/private/gophernicus.pem ; Enable TCP wrappers libwrap = yes service = gophernicus-tls ; Gopher over TLS service [gophernicus] accept = :::7070 connect = 127.0.0.1:70 protocol = proxy