How to Install Vanilla Forum on FreeBSD 12

Published on: Fri, May 17, 2019 at 11:12 am EST
BSD PHP Server Apps Social

Vanilla is a simple discussion forum written in PHP. Vanilla source code is publicly hosted on Github. This guide will walk you through the Vanilla installation process on a fresh FreeBSD 12 Vultr server instance using PHP, MariaDB as a database, and Nginx as a web server.


Vanilla Forum recommended software stack:

  • PHP version 7.2 or greater with the following extensions:
    • mbstring
    • curl
    • gd
    • PDO
    • mysqli
    • openssl
  • MySQL version 5.7 or greater, or MariaDB equivalent. This guide will use MariaDB
  • Web server software such as Nginx or Apache. This guide will use Nginx
  • SSL encryption is optional but recommended

Before you begin

Check the FreeBSD version.

uname -ro
# FreeBSD 12.0-RELEASE

Ensure that your FreeBSD system is up to date.

freebsd-update fetch install
pkg update && pkg upgrade -y

Install some basic system administration packages if they are not present on your system.

pkg install -y sudo vim unzip wget curl bash socat git unzip

Create a new user account with your preferred username (we will use johndoe).


# Username: johndoe
# Full name: John Doe
# Uid (Leave empty for default): <Enter>
# Login group [johndoe]: <Enter>
# Login group is johndoe. Invite johndoe into other groups? []: wheel
# Login class [default]: <Enter>
# Shell (sh csh tcsh nologin) [sh]: bash
# Home directory [/home/johndoe]: <Enter>
# Home directory permissions (Leave empty for default): <Enter>
# Use password-based authentication? [yes]: <Enter>
# Use an empty password? (yes/no) [no]: <Enter>
# Use a random password? (yes/no) [no]: <Enter>
# Enter password: your_secure_password
# Enter password again: your_secure_password
# Lock out the account after creation? [no]: <Enter>
# OK? (yes/no): yes
# Add another user? (yes/no): no
# Goodbye!

Run the visudo command and uncomment the %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL line to allow members of the wheel group to execute any command.


# Uncomment by removing hash (#) sign
# %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

Now, switch to your newly created user with su command.

su - johndoe

NOTE: Replace johndoe with your username.

Set up the timezone.

sudo tzsetup

Install PHP

Install PHP and PHP extensions.

sudo pkg install -y php72 php72-mbstring php72-curl php72-gd php72-pdo php72-mysqli php72-pdo_mysql php72-json php72-openssl php72-ctype php72-dom php72-hash php72-iconv php72-tokenizer php72-calendar php72-fileinfo php72-session php72-simplexml php72-xml php72-filter

Check the version.

php --version
# PHP 7.2.14 (cli) (built: Jan 15 2019 01:14:39) ( NTS )
# Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
# Zend Engine v3.2.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies

Soft-link php.ini-production to php.ini.

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

Check installed PHP extensions.

php -m
# mbstring
# curl
# gd
# mysqli
# openssl
# . . .

Enable and start PHP-FPM.

sudo sysrc php_fpm_enable=yes
sudo service php-fpm start

Install MariaDB

Install MariaDB.

sudo pkg install -y mariadb102-client mariadb102-server

Check the version.

mysql --version
# mysql  Ver 15.1 Distrib 10.2.19-MariaDB, for FreeBSD12.0 (amd64) using readline 5.1

Start and enable MariaDB.

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

Run the mysql_secure_installation script to improve the security of your installation.

sudo mysql_secure_installation

Log into MariaDB as the root user.

mysql -u root -p
# Enter password:

Create a new database and user. Remember the credentials for this new user.

GRANT ALL ON dbname.* TO 'username' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

Install Nginx

Install Nginx.

sudo pkg install -y nginx

Check the version.

nginx -v
# nginx version: nginx/1.14.2

Enable and start Nginx.

sudo sysrc nginx_enable=yes
sudo service nginx start

Configure Nginx for use with Vanilla forum.

sudo vim /usr/local/etc/nginx/vanilla.conf

Populate the file with the following.

server {

  listen 80;
  root /usr/local/www/vanilla;
  index index.php;

  location ~* /\.git { deny all; return 403; }
  location /build/ { deny all; return 403; }
  location /cache/ { deny all; return 403; }
  location /cgi-bin/ { deny all; return 403; }
  location /uploads/import/ { deny all; return 403; }
  location /conf/ { deny all; return 403; }
  location /tests/ { deny all; return 403; }
  location /vendor/ { deny all; return 403; }

  location ~* ^/index\.php(/|$) {
    fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
    try_files $fastcgi_script_name =404;
    set $path_info $fastcgi_path_info;
    fastcgi_param PATH_INFO $path_info;
    fastcgi_index index.php;
    include fastcgi_params;
    fastcgi_param SCRIPT_NAME /index.php;
    fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $realpath_root/index.php;
    fastcgi_param X_REWRITE 1;

  location ~* \.php(/|$) {
    rewrite ^ /index.php$uri last;

  location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ @vanilla;

  location @vanilla {
    rewrite ^ /index.php$uri last;


Save the file and exit with :+W+Q.

Now we need to include the vanilla.conf file in the main nginx.conf file.

Run sudo vim /usr/local/etc/nginx/nginx.conf and add the following line to the http {} block.

include vanilla.conf;

Test the configuration.

sudo nginx -t

Reload Nginx.

sudo service nginx reload

Install Vanilla forum

Create a document root directory.

sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/www/vanilla

Change ownership of the /usr/local/www/vanilla directory to johndoe.

sudo chown -R johndoe:johndoe /usr/local/www/vanilla

Navigate to the document root directory.

cd /usr/local/www/vanilla

Download the latest Vanilla forum.


Unzip it and remove the zip archive.


Change ownership of the /usr/local/www/vanilla directory to www.

sudo chown -R www:www /usr/local/www/vanilla

Restart PHP-FPM.

sudo service php-fpm restart

Navigate to the folder where you uploaded Vanilla in your web browser and follow the instructions on the screen to complete the setup.

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