Django authentication and mod_wsgi

While I was setting up the RPC4Django authenticated demo site (user = pass = rpc4django, self signed certificate), I ran into an interesting problem. There is a well documented way to use the Django auth database for HTTP basic authentication with apache/mod_python, but an authentication handler for mod_wsgi was not built into Django. After some investigation, I found the part of the mod_wsgi documentation on Django authentication. However, I was curious why a mod_python authentication handler existed in the Django code line, but no such mod_wsgi handler existed despite the fact that mod_wsgi is now the preferred method of Django production deployment.

A mod_wsgi authentication handler

This investigation led me to Django ticket #10809 which contains a patch for a mod_wsgi authentication handler. I found this interesting and I tried to install it into the demo site. At the time, I hadn’t even implemented the .wsgi authentication script and I was using an Apache htpasswd file in addition to the Django auth database. However, when I attempted to install the mod_wsgi handler, I ran into a number of issues. Firstly, mod_wsgi does not seem to be able to import a python module from the python path. Therefore, the line: WSGIAuthUserScript django.contrib.auth.handlers.modwsgi yields:

This led me to believe that mod_wsgi literally opens and reads the WSGIAuthUserScript. The problem with this is that DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE is not set before that is called and mod_wsgi does not pass environment variables that are set to the auth script. As per the documentation:

Any configuration defined by SetEnv directives is not passed in the ‘environ’ dictionary because doing so would allow users to override the configuration specified in such a way from a ‘.htaccess’ file. Configuration should as a result be placed into the script file itself.

This means that any attempt at a generic mod_wsgi authentication handler is moot since it cannot be configured to connect to the correct project’s auth database.

The solution

The solution is simple and not very gratifying: write an auth script specific for your application. This is what the demo site does now.



Update (October 9, 2009)

After some discussion on Django ticket #10809 with the author of mod_wsgi, I submitted a patch that includes a Django mod_wsgi auth handler. Hopefully it gets accepted soon.