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Planeteria Readme

About Planeteria

A planet is a collection of posts from many different blogs, all somewhat related to one topic. It's a great way to keep tabs on a subject, a community, a technology, a team, a project or anything else that attracts a diverse range of bloggers. is a hosted planet reader. Planeteria allows anyone to make a planet, host it and administer it on After you make your planet, tell people about it. That's the whole point of community-building!

Planeteria was created by James Vasile (james at hackervisions dot net) in 2010 and has been maintained in his copious spare time since its creation.

Command Line Options to

Planeteria is run as a command line tool ( and two CGI scripts ( and The command line tool is used as follows:

Usage: [options]


  • -h, --help show this help message and exit
  • --force force downloading of cached upstream feeds
  • --no-update prevent downloading of upstream feeds
  • --delete-missing delete planets from db if they are not in file system
  • --clean remove missing planets, unused feeds

The --clean flag doesn't remove old posts from the cache (just unused feeds), and it doesn't delete unused planets, but in a future version, it will.

About Planeteria's code

This is a free open source project licensed under the AGPLv3 license.

This software was originally built on Venus. Venus is great if you're only running one planet, I highly recommend it. However trying to scale up the code for a single planet to make one system do many planets proved to be tricky, so those dependencies were discarded for more flexibility. The code is less robust as a result and could use some love.

In 2013, Aleta Dunne (aleta dot dunne at gmail dot com) took on fixing up the site as an internship project for the GNOME Outreach Program for Women (OPW). We always welcome more help, though!

Please let us know about bugs on the Github issue tracker, or submit a patch!

We have a roadmap in, please ping us if you want to tackle any of those!

Unit Tests

There are some tests in the test directory. Run them from the main directory with test/ . and you will see the start of some unit testing. Please don't use the tests on a live, deployed install. They create and destroy test planets.

The tests include tests of the web functionality. To run those tests, you'll want to do be logged in as the same user that your apache instance runs under (try sudo su www-data; bash). Otherwise, there is a permissions mismatch when the user running the tests tries to delete a file created by the web server and the 644 permissions prevent it. If you get permission denied errors when running nosetests, this might be the problem.

If you want to see the debug output while running nosetest, do tail -f log/planeteria.log in another screen or console.

Once you have complete coverage of everything except, any uncovered functions in can be moved to util_unused.


Planeteria is compatible with Python versions 2.3 - 2.7. For an overview of its components, see doc/overview.dia.

Grab the code from the master repo:

git clone git://


Planeteria depends on several libraries. Follow the instructions for your OS below. We've only tested the installation on Debian and Mac OS X so far; we welcome any contributors who would like to help develop installation instructions for other operating systems.

We recommend installing these in a virtual environment (virtualenv) to avoid conflicts with dependencies for other projects run on the same machine. To learn more about installing and using virtualenv, go to

Package installation on Debian To install them on Debian, you can

get them all by typing (or pasting) the following into a terminal window:

aptitude install python-feedparser python-utidylib python-simplejson \
python-beautifulsoup python-lxml python-htmltmpl python-dateutil

Package installation on Mac OS X

Most packages can be installed on a Mac with pip, however one of them needs to be downloaded before running pip. Go to and download the 1.22 version (dated 2001-12-17).

WARNING: Do not click the link at the top of the page that says "Looking for the latest version?" Although the version number seems to be the correct version number, the link will actually download htmltmpl 1.22 for PHP, not the Python version which is what this project uses. The download should have the file name htmltmpl-1.22.tar.gz; you should not see php in the filename.

Once you have downloaded the htmltmpl tarball, note the file path for the pip install. Copy and paste the following command into a terminal window, and before you hit Enter, replace path/to/htmltmpl-1.22.tar.gz with the file path on your system.

pip install feedparser pytidylib simplejson beautifulsoup lxml python-dateutil path/to/htmltmpl-1.22.tar.gz

The last step for Mac users is to install tidy, which is required for pytidylib to work. We used Homebrew to install tidy but it requires an extra step because it's not in the default Homebrew repository. First, enter

brew tap homebrew/dupes  

which tells homebrew to look in the dupes library, then:

brew install homebrew/dupes/tidy  

which installs tidy.

Loading the site on your machine

Note that without running it on an Apache server, form submission won't work, so you won't be able to create or administer a planet, however you can view the static pages just fine.

Run which should generate the html files for the site and place them in the /www folder. Then open /www/index.html in a browser window.

Running the site on an Apache server virtual host

The site requires sqlite3.


Make sure that the Planeteria directory is accessible by the web server (read/execute permission). You also need to give the server write permission for the following directories:


Server Configuration

For those setting up a virtual host on a Mac, this site walks you through the process in more detail than described below.

In your /etc/hosts file, add a new line underneath localhost that says planeteria.local

In your httpd.conf file, make sure it points to the /extra/httpd-vhosts.conf file like below. Verify the file path!

# Virtual hosts
Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

(The second line is commented out by default.)

In your /extra/httpd-vhosts.conf file, add the following settings:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName  planeteria.local (it should match the server name in your /etc/hosts file)
    DocumentRoot "/path/to/Planeteria/www"
    ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/planeteria-error.log
    TransferLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/planeteria-access.log
    LogLevel debug

<Directory "/path/to/Planeteria/www/">    
    Options +ExecCGI +FollowSymLinks
    AllowOverride All
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all
    AddHandler cgi-script cgi py pl

Make sure to replace /path/to/Planeteria with the full file path to the location of the cloned Planeteria repo. Be especially attentive to the trailing slashes and quotation marks around the file paths, they may vary from machine to machine and can make the difference of whether the server can find the root directory or not.

Once your settings are saved, reboot the server and follow the directions above to load the site.

Set base href

You need to tell Planeteria what domain and directory it lives in by creating a data/base_href file with the domain. It must start with http://. On the server which runs the site, that file contains On Aleta's virtual host, the base_href file contains http://planeteria.local which just adds http:// to the server name used in her /etc/hosts file.

Automatic updates

In a sandbox environment, you can choose to generate the html files as needed by running in the Terminal. However if you want to deploy the site on a server to run on its own, you will need to set up a cron job to run automatically every so often. runs it every 15 minutes.

To set this up, add a line like this to your crontab:

15 * * * * cd /path/to/Planeteria; ./


 git log --pretty='format:%an'|sort|uniq -c|sort --reverse

 457 James Vasile
   3 jvasile
  39 dtiburon
   1 Wraithan (Chris McDonald)
   1 Wacky Hacky
   1 Sumana Harihareswara