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Linkedin Blog

Sciblog: A blog with the appearance of a scientific paper

Blog developed in Django with the same appearance of a research paper written in LaTeX.

  • CSS and LaTeX fonts integrated
  • Posts are presented in two columns like a paper
  • Formulas can be added with LaTeX notation
  • Share in social networks
  • RSS feed
  • Post search
  • Blog optimized for SEO
  • Comments with Disqus
  • Easy writing with CKEditor
  • Responsive for mobile
  • GDPR compliant cookie notice
  • (Optional) Privacy policy compliant with GDPR
  • (Optional) Installation of free SSL certificate
  • (Optional) Web optimization with CloudFlare

Example of sciblog: https://miguelgfierro.com

blog view blog view

Installation

We need to install several libraries. In Linux the commands are:

$ apt-get install -y libpq-dev git apache2 libapache2-mod-wsgi build-essential
$ wget https://repo.anaconda.com/miniconda/Miniconda3-latest-Linux-x86_64.sh
$ sh Miniconda3-latest-Linux-x86_64.sh
$ conda create -n py35 python=3.5
$ git clone https://github.com/miguelgfierro/sciblog.git
$ cd sciblog
$ pip install -r requirements.txt 

NOTE: Django version must be 1.8, Apache at least 2.4.23 and Python 3.5.

Set up the project in localhost

The first step is to generate the database. In the project folder:

$ cp sciblog/private.template.py sciblog/private.py
$ python manage.py syncdb  

When you are in localhost you have to set DEBUG = True in sciblog/private.py. You can set it to False but you won't see the images the user uploaded through the admin dashboard. In production, this is handled by apache. You should also change SECRETKEY.

Django will ask you to create a superuser. You have to put the username and password. The email is optional. This will generate a file called db.sqlite3 which is the database where all the blog content is stored.

After that, you have to make a migration, to create the tables in your database. To do that:

$ python manage.py makemigrations
$ python manage.py migrate

In another terminal you have to run Django development server:

$ python manage.py runserver  

In a browser put the link: http://localhost:8000/admin/

The panel will ask you to add username and password. Once you are in Django dashboard you can start adding content to your blog.

To work with Disqus comments you have to get your DISQUS_API_KEY and DISQUS_WEBSITE_SHORTNAME. They can be obtained at https://disqus.com/api/applications/.

NOTE: As of March 2017, Disqus shows ads by default. However, ads can be disabled if you run a small and non-commercial site.

Set up the project in a Ubuntu VPS server

First make sure that you have installed git, apache2 and libapache2-mod-wsgi as explained before. Also, change the key in private.py.

$ cd /var/www
$ git clone https://github.com/miguelgfierro/sciblog.git
$ cd sciblog
$ cp sciblog/private.template.py sciblog/private.py
$ python manage.py syncdb
$ python manage.py makemigrations
$ python manage.py migrate

Set the correct permissions:

$ chown www-data:www-data /var/www/sciblog
$ chown www-data:www-data /var/www/sciblog/db.sqlite3
$ chown www-data:www-data /var/www/sciblog/img

Update the Apache configuration file sciblog.conf:

  • Change example.com with your url.
  • Make sure that the python path in WSGIDaemonProcess points to the correct path.
  • Make sure all the other paths are correct.

Configure apache:

$ cp sciblog.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available/
$ a2ensite sciblog.conf
$ a2enmod wsgi
$ a2enmod rewrite
$ a2enmod expires
$ a2enmod headers
$ a2enmod deflate
$ a2enmod http2
$ systemctl restart apache2

When you are in production you have to set DEBUG_FLAG = False in sciblog/private.py.

Add your first content to the blog

The first step is to configure the site. Also, the first time you enter in your admin console http://localhost:8000/admin/, you have to go to sites and edit the default site, which is example.com. Change it for localhost:8000, if you are in development or to the name of your site without http:// (my case would be miguelgfierro.com).

This will set the first entry in the database to your site, which is related to the variable SITE_ID = 1 in sciblog/settings.py. You can see the number of the site in http://localhost:8000/admin/sites/site/1/. If you add another site, then it will have a different number in the database, so for everything to work you have to change the variable SITE_ID. In my experience, it is better if you don't touch anything :-)

Press add in Post to add your first post. You can add different sections, images and formulas. For images the recommended width is 300px. If you use a formula please select the flag Post with LaTeX formula. This will load the necessary js module to render the LaTeX code. If the flag is not activated, then the js is not added to the template (we don't want extra page load if we are not using formulas, right?).

You will see that your blog is working properly going to the url: http://localhost:8000 (in production you'll have to add something like http://miguelgfierro.com).

Create flat pages: generic page, about page and privacy page

Go to the admin console and add your first flat page. A flat page is a static html code.

In Flat pages press add. In url put /about/ (don't forget / in both sides). In title put your name, in sites put your site, in content put whatever you want and finally in template name put flatpages/about.html.

You can also create a privacy policy flat page. Go to the admin console, add a new flat page and in the url put /privacy/. I created a policy that is compliant with GDPR and that contains the typical systems and services of a normal personal blog: Google Analytics, cookies, RSS, etc. The text that I use can be found here. You can adapt your policy to your specific blog.

In case you want to add more flat pages, there is a generic html template that you can customize by modifying the file default.html.

In addition, for every new page that you want to add, you'll need to modify the url template in urls.py.

Managing mobile view

In order to debug with a mobile phone first you need to set DEBUG = True in sciblog/settings.py. Then you have to run the django server in the computer's external IP. To do that:

$ python manage.py runserver 0.0.0.0:8000

Then you need to know the IP of your computer. In Linux and Mac the command is ifconfig, in Windows is ipconfig. Then, to access your computer's server from a mobile phone, you have to open a browser in the phone and put the IP you just get. Let's assume the IP in my computer is 192.168.1.5, then you put in your mobile browser:

http://192.168.1.5:8000 

Secure page with SSL certificate (optional)

You can install a free SSL certificate with Let's Encrypt. Google prioritizes pages with SSL security, so https has became a key element for SEO. The first step is to set to True the flag HTTPS in settings.py.

In order to activate the SSL, make sure you assign your domain to the IP of the VPS. For that, go to your DNS configuration and add an A entry with:

  • Domain: example.com
  • Type: A
  • Target: <YOUR_IP>

Also add:

The basic installation in an apache server is very straightforward, as it is explained here. In the file sciblog.conf you have the configuration to activate the SSL. Furthermore, it allows to redirect http://example.com, https://example.com, http://www.example.com to https://example.com.

$ snap install --classic certbot
$ ln -s /snap/bin/certbot /usr/bin/certbot
$ certbot --apache -m your_email@example.com -d example.com -d www.example.com
$ a2enmod ssl
$ systemctl restart apache2

When the certificate expires, you just need to renew it.

$ certbot renew --quiet --no-self-upgrade
$ systemctl restart apache2

To check the installed certificates:

$ certbot certificates

Once the SSL certificate is installed, you can check the security of your page using this web.

Automatize renewal of Let's Encrypt certificate

This task can be automated as Let's Encrypt explains in their web or you can use a CRON task. Edit crontab with crontab -e and add:

7 7 */5 * * (/bin/date && certbot renew --quiet --keep-until-expiring --no-self-upgrade) >> cron.log 2>&1

This files executes every 5 days at 7.07am (you can see the explanation here). You can see that the CRON task is correctly set up typing crontab -l. Also, to make sure that the CRON job has run, you can type grep "certbot" /var/log/syslog.

Speed up page with Cloudflare (optional)

You can use Cloudflare to speed up your page and protect it. You just need to change the DNS. Don't forget to set the Cloudflare flag in sciblog/private.py.

NOTE: if you decide to set the SSL certificate along with Cloudflare, it is better to pause Cloudflare while installing the SSL certificate to check that it is working correctly in your server. Later, you can resume CloudFlare and go to Crypto and set SSL to full strict. This process is automated in the script cron_ssl_renew.py. To activate this, edit crontab with crontab -e and add:

7 7 */5 * * (/bin/date && /usr/bin/python /var/www/sciblog/cron_ssl_renew.py) >> cron.log 2>&1

SEO tricks

This blog is automatically optimized for SEO, however, you can improve your visibility with these tricks:

This is how my web looks like in terms of speed using GTmetrix:

Performance scores