How to Install Reader Self 3.5 RSS Reader on a FreeBSD 11 FAMP VPS

Published on: Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 11:19 am EST
This article is a port of my "How to Install Reader Self 3.5 RSS Reader on a CentOS 7 LAMP VPS" tutorial. It has been updated for FreeBSD 11.

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 FreeBSD 11 FAMP VPS using Apache web server, PHP 7.1, and a MariaDB database.

Prerequisites

  • 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:

ssh root@YOUR_VULTR_IP_ADDRESS

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:

visudo

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:

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 /etc/rc.d/sshd restart

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 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:

exit

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 into 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:

http://YOUR_VULTR_IP_ADDRESS/

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/mod_rewrite.so

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/mod_rewrite.so

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

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
</Directory>

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 Reader Self:

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 Reader Self 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$">
        SetHandler application/x-httpd-php
    </FilesMatch>
    <FilesMatch "\.phps$">
        SetHandler application/x-httpd-php-source
    </FilesMatch>
</IfModule>

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 Reader Self

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 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 /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:

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

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/.* /usr/local/www/apache24/data 2>/dev/null

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

sudo chown -R www:www * ./

Restart Apache again:

sudo service apache24 restart

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 cd /usr/local/www/apache24/data && 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.