How to Install Reader Self 3.5 RSS Reader on a Debian 9 LAMP VPS

Published on: Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 11:18 am EST
Debian Linux Guides Server Apps

Reader Self 3.5 is a simple and flexible, free and open source, self-hosted RSS reader and Google Reader alternative. Reader Self supports the main keyboard shortcuts from Google Reader, OPML import, built-in authentication, HTTPS image proxying (to download HTTP images), syncing starred items with Pinboard, ability to share across major social networks, Elastic Search integration, and is beautifully responsive across desktop, tablet, and mobile.

In this tutorial, we are going to install Reader Self 3.5 on a Debian 9 LAMP VPS using Apache web server, PHP 7.1, and a MariaDB database.

Prerequisites

  • A clean Vultr Debian 9 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:

ssh root@YOUR_VULTR_IP_ADDRESS

The sudo command isn't installed by default in the Vultr Debian 9 server instance, so we will first install sudo:

apt-get -y install sudo

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

adduser user1

When prompted, enter a secure and memorable password. You will also be prompted for your "Full Name" and some other details, but you can simply leave them blank by pressing Enter.

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

visudo

Look for a section like this:

%sudo        ALL=(ALL:ALL)       ALL

This line tells us that users who are members of the sudo group can use the sudo command to gain root privileges. It will be uncommented by default so you can simply exit the file.

Next we need to add user1 to the sudo group:

usermod -aG sudo user1

We can verify the user1 group membership and check that the usermod command worked with the groups command:

groups 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:

whoami

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 systemctl restart sshd

Exit the user1 account:

exit

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

exit

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

ssh user1@YOUR_VULTR_IP_ADDRESS

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 sudo group so that it looks like this:

%sudo   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:

exit

Step 2: Update Debian 9 System

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

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

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y upgrade

Step 3: Install Apache Web Server

Install the Apache web server:

sudo apt-get -y install apache2 

Then use the systemctl command to start and enable Apache to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo systemctl enable apache2
sudo systemctl start apache2

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

sudo vi /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf 

The DocumentRoot configuration option will look like this:

DocumentRoot "/var/www/html"

We now need to enable the mod_rewrite Apache module, so ensure that your Apache default site configuration file is still open, and add the following Directory Apache directives just before the closing </VirtualHost> tag, so that the end of your configuration file looks like this:

    <Directory /var/www/html/>
        Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        allow from all
    </Directory>
</VirtualHost>

The most important directive shown above is AllowOverride All.

Now save and exit the file, and enable the mod_rewrite Apache module:

sudo a2enmod rewrite

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 systemctl restart apache2

Step 4: Install PHP 7.0

We can now install PHP 7.0 along with all of the necessary PHP modules required by Reader Self:

sudo apt-get -y install php php-gd php-mbstring php-common php-mysql php-imagick php-xml libapache2-mod-php php-curl php-tidy php-zip

Step 5: Install MariaDB (MySQL) Server

Debian 9 defaults to using MariaDB database server, which is an enhanced, fully open source, community developed, drop-in replacement for MySQL server.

Install MariaDB database server:

sudo apt-get -y install mariadb-server

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

sudo systemctl enable mariadb
sudo systemctl start mariadb    

Secure your MariaDB server installation:

sudo mysql_secure_installation

The root password will be blank, so simply hit enter when prompted for the root password.

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 Reader Self

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

sudo mariadb -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 Reader Self:

CREATE DATABASE self_db CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;
CREATE USER 'self_user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'UltraSecurePassword';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON self_db.* TO 'self_user'@'localhost';
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
EXIT;

You can replace the database name self_db and username self_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 Reader Self Files

Change your current working directory to the default web directory:

cd /var/www/html/

If you get an error message saying something like 'No such file or directory' then try the following command:

cd /var/www/ ; sudo mkdir html ; cd html

Your current working directory will now be: /var/www/html/. You can check this with the pwd (print working directory) command:

pwd

Now use wget to download the Reader Self installation package:

sudo wget --content-disposition https://github.com/readerself/readerself/archive/3.5.6.zip

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

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

ls -la

Remove index.html:

sudo rm index.html

Let's quickly install unzip so we can unzip the file:

sudo apt-get -y install unzip

Now uncompress the zip archive:

sudo unzip readerself-3.5.6.zip

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

sudo mv -v readerself-3.5.6/* readerself-3.5.6/.* /var/www/html 2>/dev/null

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

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data * ./

Restart Apache again:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Now we're ready to move onto the final step.

Step 8: Complete Reader Self Installation

It's now 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 Reader Self installation page, enter your Vultr instance IP address into your browser address bar, followed by /setup/ :

http://YOUR_VULTR_IP_ADDRESS/setup/
  1. You will see a Pre-Installation Check at the top of the page so make sure that everything looks okay and proceed to the next step.

  2. Enter the following database values in the Database section of the installation page:

    Database Type:              MySQL (improved version)
    Hostname:                   localhost
    Username:                   self_user
    Password:                   UltraSecurePassword
    Database Name:              self_db
    
  3. Enter the following User details:

    Email:                  <your email address>
    Password:               <a secure password>
    
  4. Once you have checked that all of the above details are okay, simply click on the tick icon in the bottom left of the page to finalize the installation.

You will be redirected to a confirmation that says Installation successful.

To further configure Reader Self, click on the menu in the top right corner and select settings.

If you want the reader to auto-update your feeds (and you almost certainly do), you will need to edit your crontab:

sudo crontab -e

Add the following line to refresh your feeds hourly:

0 * * * * www-data cd /var/www/html && php index.php refresh items

If you haven't yet configured your Vultr DNS settings, you can do so using the Vultr DNS control panel.

It's also advisable to configure your site to use SSL as most modern browsers will give warnings when sites do not have SSL enabled and SSL certificates are now available for free.

In any case, you are now ready to start adding your feeds and further customizing the look and functionality of your reader.

Want to contribute ?

You could earn up to $300 by adding new articles