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GitAtom

GitAtom is a "static" website generator used to create and manage Markdown blog content using Git and the Atom feed format.

Upon Git-committing one or more Markdown-formatted posts to your blog, GitAtom will automatically regenerate a static website for you. You can even configure GitAtom to automatically publish your site to a remote repository upon Git push.

This is a work in progress! GitAtom is not yet really ready for general use. Please see the GitAtom Issue Tracker for some of the many GitAtom pitfalls.

Background

After 20 years of blogging (off and on), Bart Massey got tired of some of the issues with the various blog platforms. A CS Capstone Team at Portland State University wrote GitAtom to Bart's design. Bart has subsequently maintained and updated GitAtom.

What does GitAtom offer?

  • Maximal data portability: If you decide to migrate your blog content away from GitAtom, you should be able to do something reasonable with the combination of per-post Atom feed files and Git repo that GitAtom maintains for you.

  • Old-school convenience: If you are the kind of person who wants to just edit a Markdown blog post with emacs, git-commit it, push it and have a blog post on the web — you are me and you get that. Github Markdown is a good markdown engine for blogging purposes.

  • Reasonable flexibility: GitAtom is only medium-opinionated. The use of Jinja2 templating, CSS styling on top of simple HTML, and direct access to the Git repo via libgit2 means that adapting GitAtom to your needs may not be too much of a pull.

What are the downsides?

  • Major features are missing: Some stuff you'd expect from any blog platform isn't there: notably any kind of a feed mechanism. Adding missing features is a high priority, but let's just say pull requests are welcome.

  • Fragile: The codebase is tiny but full of small issues at this point. Lots of stuff will panic during site generation that should be more gracefully handled. The process of publishing remotely is a bit convoluted and can go wrong in many ways.

  • Bespoke: This is a boutique project. It has only one developer-user currently. You will not have access to help or support other than that.

Setup

The setup of GitAtom is a bit intricate, in spite of some provided information. We assume a user who is relatively familiar with the technologies used by GitAtom.

Requirements

python3.9 and git 2.27 or later must be installed before installing GitAtom. git must be up to date on both local and remote systems to deploy remotely.

Installation

To begin, clone GitAtom to your local machine.

git clone https://github.com/GitAtom-PDX/GitAtom.git

Next, install all required modules.

python3 -m pip install -r requirements.txt

The following modules will be installed:

  • Jinja2 for site generation and formatting.

  • cmarkgfm to convert Markdown to HTML for site generation.

  • PyYAML for config handling.

  • pygit2 to implement git commands in Python.

  • paramiko to initialize remote server.

  • python-dateutil to handle date-time parsing, formatting and conversions.

Set Up Environment Variable

GitAtom needs to be able to find its modules. Set the GITATOM_PATH environment variable to point to the root of this repository as installed.

Set Up Your Blog

You will want to have a repo for your blog content, separate from the GitAtom codebase. Run

python3 init-content.py

This will make a content/ subdirectory containing a new Git repo with a ready-to-edit config.yaml in it. It will populate the content/ repo with the directories GitAtom needs to operate.

Configuration

GitAtom must be configured using config.yaml prior to initialization.

Fields:

Field Description
feed_id Website's web address or unique permanent URI
feed_title Title of the website/blog.
author Name of author of the blog.
repo_path Path to where the remote server bare repository will be located.
work_path Path to where the website will be hosted on remote server.
host IP address of remote server.
port SSH port, default used by ssh is 22.
username Name of the user on the remote system.
keypath Path to your ssh key.
deploy true/false: use true if you want to deploy to a remote server.

GitAtom can be configured to use automatic remote deployment. You will need access to the remote server to which you want to publish the blog.

Directories

Directory Description
content/markdowns Where GitAtom expects to find your Markdown blog posts.
content/atoms Where GitAtom stores your Atom-formatted blog posts.
content/site Where GitAtom stores your static web pages.

Initialization

Be sure to edit your content/config.yaml. You may then initialize GitAtom using the configuration specified there.

python3 init.py

If using GitAtom locally, this will install the pre-commit hook.

If using remote deployment (deploy = true in ./content/config.yaml), a bare repository will be created and the post-receive hook will be installed on the remote server.

Once you have completed the initialization of GitAtom, you may move content/ elsewhere: the main GitAtom sourcebase will be referenced using the GITATOM_PATH environment variable (described above).

Webserver Config

Here's a webserver configuration you can try for Apache2.

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName devblog.example.com
    ServerAlias devblog.example.com www.devblog.example.com
    ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/devblog.example.com-error.log
    CustomLog /var/log/apache2/devblog.example.com-access.log common
    ServerAdmin webmaster@devblog.example.com
    DocumentRoot /var/www/devblog/site
</VirtualHost>

(If you use nginx or something, you'll have to figure that one out. Let us know how it went.)

The important thing here is to be sure to set DocumentRoot correctly so that the /site directory is transparent. This is a misfeature/bug in Gitatom that should be fixed but for now here we are.

Usage

Once GitAtom is set up, you may use normal Git commands to operate your blog. Three Git commands are set up to work especially with GitAtom: add, commit, and push.

Command Description
add Add or update one or more blog posts. Only
Markdown files located in the markdowns/ directory will
be tracked for xml file creation. Note: git commit -a
does not currently work: you will need to explicitly git add.
commit Generate and commit XML and HTML from added
Markdown file(s). Resulting files are saved in atoms/ and site/.
push Publish to the remote repository.

If using remote deployment, the post-receive hook on the remote repository will update the site directory at your work_path, as specified in config.yaml during initialization.

Blogging

To publish somepost.md from your content/ repo:

git add ./markdowns/somepost.md
git commit -m 'adding somepost to blog'
git push -u origin

(I normally just use git add . in the first step.)

Use git push -u origin to publish your first post. After that, git push will default correctly.

Markdown Requirements

Each blog post file should start with a level 1 header that will be used as the post title. All other blog post information is extracted from Git at commit time.

Templating

To change the blog template, simply modify or replace the style.css file in the content/site directory.

SSH Issues

Perhaps you are seeing "Permission denied on ssh into remote server." This error occurs when a user has multiple ssh keys. Create an alias that indicates use of a specific key.

To fix, create an alias in the ~/.ssh/config file on the local machine and reconfigure the remote branch.

In ~/.ssh/config add the following:

Host alias
    HostName address
    User username
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/path-to-key
    IdentitiesOnly yes
Field Description
Host alias name, chosen by user
HostName IP address of remote server
User username for remote server
IdentityFile path to your ssh key

NOTE IdentityFile requires an absolute path.

Next, reconfigure the remote branch. First, display the list of remote branches.

git remote -v

Find the branch named origin and save the path following the colon.

origin user@hostname:/path/to/your/repo.git

Reconfigure the origin using your alias.

git remote set-url origin alias:/path/to/your/repo.git

The remote will now use your alias to connect via ssh.

You need to have permissions to write in the repo and working tree directory on the remote server. If that directory cannot normally be written to without sudo you need to connect to the remote server and make sure the user has permissions to write into the targeted directories.

Authors

GitAtom was developed for the Portland State University CS Capstone during Fall 2020 - Winter 2021.

Subsequently, Bart Massey bart@cs.pdx.edu and Keith Packard keithp@keith.com took over primary responsibility for the codebase.

License

This work is made available under the "GPL v3 or later license." Please see the file LICENSE in this distribution for license terms.

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