How to Install Anchor CMS on a FreeBSD 11 FAMP VPS

Published on: Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 11:01 am EST
This article is a port of my "How to Install Anchor CMS on a CentOS 7 LAMP VPS" tutorial. It has been updated for FreeBSD 11.

Anchor CMS is a super-simple and extremely lightweight, free and open source Content Management System (CMS) Blog Engine that supports editing content in Markdown or HTML, and is fully i18n compatible out of the box. Creating and modifying themes is as easy as writing some very simple PHP and HTML/CSS, so there are no new templating languages to learn. Anchor CMS weighs in at only 250KB (compressed) so it is the perfect solution for web developers and bloggers who are tired of bloatware and just want a simple and minimalist blogging engine that gets the job done without any extra complications.

In this tutorial we are going to install Anchor CMS on a FreeBSD 11 FAMP VPS using Apache web server, PHP 7.1, and a MariaDB database.


  • A clean Vultr FreeBSD 11 server instance with SSH access

Step 1: Add a Sudo User

We will start by adding a new sudo user.

First, log into your server as root:


The sudo command isn't installed by default in the Vultr FreeBSD 11 server instance, so we will first install sudo:

pkg install sudo

Now add a new user called user1 (or your preferred username):

adduser user1

The adduser command will prompt you for lots of details for the user account, so simply select the defaults for most of them when it makes sense to do so. When you are asked whether to Invite user1 into any other groups?, you should enter wheel to add user1 to the wheel group.

Now check the /etc/sudoers file to make sure that the sudoers group is enabled:


Look for a section like this:

# %wheel        ALL=(ALL)       ALL

This line tells us that users who are members of the wheel group can use the sudo command to gain root privileges. It will be commented out by default so you will need to uncomment it and then save and exit the file.

We can verify the user1 group membership with the groups command:

groups user1

If user1 is not a member of the wheel group, you can use this command to update the user1 group membership:

pw group mod wheel -m user1 

Now use the su command to switch to the new sudo user user1 account:

su - user1

The command prompt will update to indicate that you are now logged into the user1 account. You can verify this with the whoami command:


Now restart the sshd service so that you can login via ssh with the new non-root sudo user account you have just created:

sudo /etc/rc.d/sshd restart

Exit the user1 account:


Exit the root account (which will disconnect your ssh session):


You can now ssh into the server instance from your local host using the new non-root sudo user user1 account:


If you want to execute sudo without having to type a password every time, then open the /etc/sudoers file again, using visudo:

sudo visudo

Edit the section for the wheel group so that it looks like this:

%wheel        ALL=(ALL)       NOPASSWD: ALL

Please note: Disabling the password requirement for the sudo user is not a recommended practice, but it is included here as it can make server configuration much more convenient and less frustrating, especially during longer systems administration sessions. If you are concerned about the security implications, you can always revert the configuration change to the original after you finish your administration tasks.

Whenever you want to log into the root user account from within the sudo user account, you can use one of the following commands:

sudo -i
sudo su -

You can exit the root account and return back to your sudo user account any time by simply typing the following:


Step 2: Update FreeBSD 11 System

Before installing any packages on the FreeBSD server instance, we will first update the system.

Make sure you are logged in to the server using a non-root sudo user and run the following commands:

sudo freebsd-update fetch
sudo freebsd-update install
sudo pkg update
sudo pkg upgrade

Step 3: Install Apache Web Server

Install the Apache web server:

sudo pkg install apache24

Enter y when prompted.

Now use the sysrc command to enable the Apache service to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo sysrc apache24_enable=yes

The sysrc command updates the /etc/rc.conf configuration file, so if you want to verify the configuration update manually you can simply open the /etc/rc.conf file with your favourite terminal editor:

vi /etc/rc.conf

Now start the Apache service:

sudo service apache24 start

You can quickly check that apache is running by visiting the IP address or domain of the server instance in your browser:


You will see the default FreeBSD Apache page displaying the text:

It works!

Check your Apache default configuration file to ensure that the DocumentRoot directive points to the correct directory:

sudo vi /usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf

The DocumentRoot configuration option will look like this:

DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/apache24/data"

We now need to enable the mod_rewrite Apache module. We can do this by searching the default Apache configuration file for the term mod_rewrite.

By default, the mod_rewrite Apache module will be commented out (which means it is disabled). The configuration line on a clean Vultr FreeBSD 11 instance will look like this:

#LoadModule rewrite_module libexec/apache24/

Simply remove the hash symbol to uncomment the line and load the module. This, of course, applies to any other required Apache modules too:

LoadModule rewrite_module libexec/apache24/

We now need to edit The Directory Apache directive in the same configuration file so that mod_rewrite will work correctly with Anchor CMS.

Find the section of the configuration file that starts with <Directory "/usr/local/www/apache24/data"> and change AllowOverride none to AllowOverride All. The end result (with all comments removed) will look something like this:

<Directory "/var/www/html">
    Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
    AllowOverride All
    Require all granted

Now save and exit the Apache configuration file.

We will restart Apache at the end of this tutorial, but restarting Apache regularly during installation and configuration is certainly a good habit, so let's do it now:

sudo service apache24 restart

Step 4: Install PHP 7.1

We can now install PHP 7.1 along with all of the necessary PHP modules required by Anchor CMS:

sudo pkg install php71 mod_php71 php71-gd php71-mbstring php71-mysqli php71-xml php71-curl php71-ctype php71-tokenizer php71-simplexml php71-dom php71-session php71-iconv php71-hash php71-json php71-fileinfo php71-pdo php71-pdo_mysql php71-zlib php71-openssl php71-zip php71-phar

FreeBSD 11 gives us the option to use a development php.ini or a production php.ini. Since we are going to install Anchor on a public web server, we'll use the production version. First, back up php.ini-production:

sudo cp /usr/local/etc/php.ini-production /usr/local/etc/php.ini-production.backup

Then soft-link php.ini-production to php.ini:

sudo ln -s /usr/local/etc/php.ini-production /usr/local/etc/php.ini

We need to configure Apache to actually use PHP, so let's create a new file called php.conf in the Apache Includes directory:

sudo vi /usr/local/etc/apache24/Includes/php.conf

Enter the following text into the newly created file:

<IfModule dir_module>
    DirectoryIndex index.php index.html
    <FilesMatch "\.php$">
        SetHandler application/x-httpd-php
    <FilesMatch "\.phps$">
        SetHandler application/x-httpd-php-source

Save and exit the file.

Now let's restart Apache so that it can reload the configuration changes:

sudo service apache24 restart

Step 5: Install MariaDB (MySQL) Server

FreeBSD 11 defaults to using MariaDB database server, which is an enhanced, fully open source, community developed, drop-in replacement for MySQL server.

Install the latest version of MariaDB database server:

sudo pkg install mariadb102-server mariadb102-client

Start and enable MariaDB server to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo sysrc mysql_enable="yes"
sudo service mysql-server start

Secure your MariaDB server installation:

sudo mysql_secure_installation

When prompted to create a MariaDB/MySQL root user, select "Y" (for yes) and then enter a secure root password. Simply answer "Y" to all of the other yes/no questions as the default suggestions are the most secure options.

Step 6: Create Database for Anchor CMS

Log into the MariaDB shell as the MariaDB root user by running the following command:

sudo mysql -u root -p

To access the MariaDB command prompt, simply enter the MariaDB root password when prompted.

Run the following queries to create a MariaDB database and database user for Anchor CMS:

CREATE DATABASE anchor_db CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;
CREATE USER 'anchor_user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'UltraSecurePassword';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON anchor_db.* TO 'anchor_user'@'localhost';

You can replace the database name anchor_db and username anchor_user with something more to your liking, if you prefer. Also, make sure that you replace "UltraSecurePassword" with an actually secure password.

Step 7: Install Anchor CMS Files

Change your current working directory to the default web directory:

cd /usr/local/www/apache24/data

Your current working directory will now be: /usr/local/www/apache24/data. You can check this with the pwd (print working directory) command:


Now use wget to download the Anchor CMS installation package:

sudo wget

Please note: You should definitely check for the most recent version by visiting the Anchor CMS download page.

List the current directory to check that you have successfully downloaded the file:

ls -la

Remove index.html:

sudo rm index.html

Now uncompress the zip archive:

sudo unzip

Move all of the installation files to the web root directory:

sudo mv anchor-cms-0.12.3a/* /usr/local/www/apache24/data

Change ownership of the web files to avoid any permissions problems:

sudo chown -R www:www * ./

Restart Apache again:

sudo service apache24 restart

Step 8: Install and Run Composer

Anchor CMS requires us to use composer to download some plugins so we first need to install composer. Unfortunately, the version of the pre-built binary version of composer in the FreeBSD package repositories is not compatible with PHP 7.1. So instead of installing composer with the pkg command, we will instead compile it from source.

First, let's configure the FreeBSD 11 system to compile PHP software using PHP version 7.1 instead of the default 5.6.

Create a new file in the /etc/ directory called make.conf:

sudo vi /etc/make.conf

Enter the following text into the file:


Now save and close the file.

Next we need to download the FreeBSD ports collection using the portsnap command:

sudo portsnap fetch extract update

Once the portsnap command completes, change into the php-composer source code directory:

cd /usr/ports/devel/php-composer/

Now start the php-composer compilation and installation using the make command:

sudo make install clean

If you are not used to compiling software the screen may look a bit daunting to you. You will see lots of text scrolling by and will occassionally be asked to select some compilation settings. Simply accept the default values and select OK to continue compiling.

Note: Compiling software can take a considerable amount of time, but be sure to keep an eye on the screen as you may need to confirm details during the compilation.

When the compilation is completed, change into the webroot directory:

cd /usr/local/www/apache24/data

Run composer using the www user:

sudo -u www composer install -d /usr/local/www/apache24/data

You should see some warning messages from composer about not being able to write to the cache, but don't worry too much about that as everything should still install just fine.

We're now ready to move on to the final step.

Step 9: Complete Anchor CMS Installation

It's time to visit the IP address of your server instance in your browser, or if you've already configured your Vultr DNS settings (and given it enough time to propagate) you can simply visit your domain instead.

To access the Anchor CMS installation page, enter your Vultr instance IP address into your browser address bar, followed by /install/:


Most of the installation options are self explanatory, but here are a few pointers to help you along:

  1. On the Anchor CMS landing page, simply click on the Run the installer button to start the installation process.

  2. Select your Language and Timezone and click on the Next Step button.

  3. On the Database Details page, enter the following database values:

    Database Host:          localhost
    Port:                   3306
    Username:               anchor_user
    Password:               UltraSecurePassword
    Database Name:          anchor_db
    Table Prefix:           anchor_
    Collation:              utf8_unicode_ci

    Click Next Step to continue.

  4. On the Site metadata page, enter the following details:

    Site Name:              <your site name>
    Site Description:       <a site description>
    Site Path:              /

    Click Next Step to continue.

  5. Next enter appropriate admin login details:

    Username:               admin   
    Email Address:          <admin email address>
    Password:               <admin password>
  6. Click on the Complete button to finalize the installation.

You will see a bright green page with the message Install complete!.

To access the admin section simply click on the Visit your admin panel button and enter your username and password. If you aren't redirected to the admin login page, you can enter the admin address manually:


For security reasons, make sure you delete the /install/ directory from the webroot directory:

sudo rm -rf ./install/

You are now ready to start adding your content and configuring the look and feel of your site. Make sure you check out the Anchor CMS documentation for more information about how to build and configure your site.