How to install Ghost from upstream, setup Apache as a frontend for Ghost, and create a systemd service to start Ghost automatically.

Introduction

Ghost is a blogging platform, a kind of Wordpress that would have been re-written from scratch, and that strives to remain simple.

In this post we will install and configure Ghost.

As often when we want to use the latest version, we’re going to bypass the package manager, and install the stuff from upstream. It’s quite easy with Ghost, no reason to be afraid ;)

Node.js installation

Ghost is coded in Node.js, it’s the first thing that we must install.

First, let’s be sure that you have all the build tools needed.

apt-get update
apt-get install build-essential python

Now, get the right version of Node.js. Have a look at the Ghost installation page and check what’s the recommanded version. At the moment it’s the 0.10.x serie.

VERSION=v0.10.41
wget http://nodejs.org/dist/$VERSION/node-$VERSION.tar.gz
tar -xvzf node-$VERSION.tar.gz
cd node-$VERSION
./configure
make
make install

Compilation takes some time…

Ghost installation

You will need to unzip, be sure to be ready…

apt-get install unzip

Now just go to the Ghost download page to see what is the latest version. Or you can also use the symlink to the latest version: https://ghost.org/zip/ghost-latest.zip. Unzip that where your websites usually go, it may be /var/www or /srv/www.

VERSION=0.7.1
wget https://ghost.org/zip/ghost-$VERSION.zip
unzip ghost-$VERSION.zip -d /srv/www/ghost-$VERSION
ln -s ghost-$VERSION /srv/www/ghost

I like to symlink my current Ghost blog, so that I can have different Ghost versions side to side, and switch from one to another easily. But it’s just my own way of doing things.

Basic Ghost configuration

There is an example of configuration provided, so the best thing to do is to copy it, and start from that point.

cd /srv/www/ghost
cp config.example.js config.js
vi config.js

Actually, there’s not much to change, you’re already setup to get started.

You can see that there are two different configurations, one for production and one for development. I only use the production, but once again it’s just my own use case, feel free to do better.

So, there’s one thing you should change, it’s the url value, which should point to the URL of your blog.

    // Configure your URL and mail settings here
    production: {
        url: 'http://your.blog.com',

Also, you should configure the mail settings right now, that’s what they advise in the official documentation. I use Mandrill to send my emails, here is the configuration:

        mail: {
            transport: 'SMTP',
            host: 'smtp.mandrillapp.com',
            options: {
                service: 'Mandrill',
                auth: {
                    user: '<your-mandrill-username>',
                    pass: '<your-mandrill-api-key>'
                },
            },
        },

More details on this page: Adding Mandrill to your ghost blog

Testing

You can already test your setup. There’s just one little thing to do. Go to the config file. See the server part ?

        server: {
            host: '127.0.0.1',
            port: '2368'
        }

The host setting tells Ghost to serve only the localhost. This is because Ghost is not supposed to serve the outside world directly. There should be another web server between Ghost and the outside wild world.

So, if you run Ghost on your machine, this is OK, you can test without having anything to change. But if you run it on a remote server, just for this quick test, you must change the host parameter, and set it to 0.0.0.0. Just be sure to set if back to 127.0.0.1 afterward, for security reasons.

Now, just run Ghost for the first time ! I do that in production mode directly. Be sure to run this commands in the Ghost directory, since npm (the Node Package Manager) installs plenty of stuff locally inside the Ghost directory.

cd /srv/www/ghost
npm install --production
npm start --production

That’s it ! Open your web browser, connect on the port 2368, you should see your blog. That was easy, wasn’t it ?

Apache setup for Ghost

As we said, Ghost should run behind a web server, which acts as a frontend.

I personnally use Apache, so I describe quickly the Apache setup. If you want to use Nginx, you’ll be fine, there’s plenty of doc available on the web.

At first, be sure to have Apache installed.

apt-get install apache2

Then, enable the HTTP proxy mode.

a2enmod proxy_http

Create the Ghost site configuration. As you can see, all the magic comes from the HTTP Proxy config.

echo '
<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerAdmin your@mail.com
    ServerName your.blog.com
    #ServerAlias your.blog.alias.com

    ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/ghost_vhosts_error.log

   <Location />
        ProxyPass http://localhost:2368/
        ProxyPassReverse http://localhost:2368/
   </Location>
</VirtualHost>
' > /etc/apache2/sites-available/ghost.conf

At last, enable the site:

a2ensite ghost

Now, you can just restart Apache. I personnaly use Debian, and therefore it’s up to systemd to do the job.

systemctl restart apache2

OK, so now, be sure that you have a node instance running (remember the npm start --production command ?). You should be able to see your blog in a web browser.

You should understand that, when you request your blog, it’s Apache who gets the request first. Thanks to the ServerName setting (and possibly ServerAlias if you have one), it redirects the request to localhost:2368, where there’s a node instance listening. This node instance is the one that serves your blog for real.

Getting Node to run by itself

Now, we’re almost there. For the moment, you run the node instance manually through the command npm start. That’s OK for debug, but now we need it to be running all the time, from the moment your server starts until it stops.

There are several ways to do that. I personnaly use systemd.

The first recommandation is to add a user that will run the node instance. This is a good habit, to avoid running it as root. So, just create a new user (we name it ghost, just to be simple), and let him own the Ghost directory.

adduser --shell /bin/bash --gecos 'Ghost application' ghost
chown -H -R ghost:ghost /srv/www/ghost

Now, here is the systemd unit file that is used to start/stop Ghost. Notice how we ask to run as the user/group ghost. Notice also that we set an environment variable. I think it’s needed, but I’m not 100% sure though…

echo '
[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/node /srv/www/ghost/index.js
WorkingDirectory=/srv/www/ghost
Restart=always
StandardOutput=syslog
StandardError=syslog
SyslogIdentifier=ghost
User=ghost
Group=ghost
Environment=NODE_ENV=production

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target
' > /etc/systemd/system/ghost.service

Here you go, just start the service !

systemctl enable ghost
systemctl start ghost

Start blogging

To start blogging, just open your web browser, visit the URL of your blog. Append /ghost to the URL, this will lead you to the admin page. Just create your account as you’re asked. If you did setup your mail stuff properly, you will receive an email once you finish creating your account.

And that’s all about it, now your can start writing posts.

Ghost uses the Markdown syntax, so if you don’t know about that yet, maybe it’s your next step :)

References

Here are some links that made me write this post: