Servers Need Locale

I worked out why my ancient photo albums were broken.

Part 6 of the Running to Stand Still series.


When I visited my pre-2004 albums all I got was was a plain status page reporting status code 500 Internal Server Error. Nothing in the logs (the access log recorded that a 500 was returned but nothing about why).

Could not reproduce it on my development server: everything worked fine.

Tried running runserver on my web server: it worked fine. Tried running the sever via Gunicorn so as to be more like the deployment: still worked fine.


In the end I had to put the production server itself in debug mode:

echo y | sudo tee /service/alleged/env/DEBUG
sudo svc -du /service/alleged

Then I got to see the error page from Django, which had a trace showed that it was trying to read data from a CSV file and had failed to decode it as ASCII because it contained UTF-8 data.

I checked and my locale is set by my LANG environment variable to en_GB.UTF-8. But perhaps the server process does not have LANG set, or has it set to some non-human locale.

To check this I set the LANG variable for the server using the same technique as before:

echo $LANG | sudo tee /service/alleged/env/LANG
sudo svc -du /service/alleged

And lo! all was restored. Debugging over, so I can remove the DEBUG flag by removing the file:

sudo rm /service/alleged/DEBUG


Set the locale of your server explicitly.