Blogging with Hugo

Some years ago I switched my blog from Wordpress to Nikola. I wrote a blog post about the move, but within a year or so, I’d pretty much stopped blogging completely.

More recently I discovered Hugo, and used it for a couple of other sites I own. popeyspades is a simple blog to promote a game server I was running at the time.

popeyspades site

Make A Linux App is a single-serving site, which seeks to promote app development for Linux, and disuade the proliferation of Linux distributions.

makealinuxapp site

Hugo is pretty versatile. I really like it.

When I setup Make A Linux App, I put the source for the site on GitHub, and created some simple infrastructure to automate publishing of updates. I found the blogging part of Hugo pleasant, and the automation very easy to implement, so I decided to reboot my popey.com/blog.

Here’s the basics of what I did to gets started, in case anyone else fancies running a blog on Hugo. This is mostly a loose set of notes I made while setting up. Refer to the Hugo documentation for more professional docs ;)

tl;dr

In short, I create a blog post in markdown on my local PC, test that it works locally, proof-read, and if I’m happy I push it to GitHub and forget about it. A cron job on my VPS (provided by Bitfolk) runs periodically to grab the code from GitHub, build the site and publish it.

Initial setup

On my laptop, desktop or wherever I want to blog:

Install Hugo

$ snap install hugo

Create a site

$ mkdir ~/hugo/
$ cd ~/hugo
$ hugo new site popey.com-blog

Add a theme

I went for GhostWriter, but there’s tons of options if you browse the Hugo themes site.

Grab the release tarball, and unpack it in ~/hugo/popey.com-blog/themes such that there’s now a folder ~/hugo/popey.com-blog/themes/ghostwriter containing theme.toml among other assets.

Configure Hugo

Edit ~/hugo/popey.com-blog/config.toml and tweak as per the Hugo documentation. Here’s some ideas for what mine looked like at this point:

baseurl = "https://popey.com/blog/"
title = "popey.com/blog"
languageCode = "en-gb"
theme = "ghostwriter"

[Params]
    mainSections = ["post"]
    intro = true
    headline = "Alan Pope's blog"
    description = "A bit of personal space for writing"
    github = "https://github.com/popey/popey.com-blog"
    twitter = "https://twitter.com/popey"
    email = "alan@popey.com"
    opengraph = true
    shareTwitter = true
    dateFormat = "Mon, Jan 2, 2006"

[Permalinks]
    post = "/:year/:month/:filename/"

Testing

Hugo can serve the pages up locally, before any embarassing errors are published for the world to see. Simply run hugo serve in the directory:

$ cd ~/hugo/popey.com-blog/
$ hugo serve

You’ll get output like this, and can then visit the posted local URL (e.g. http://localhost:1313/blog/) in a browser to test.

$ hugo serve --buildFuture
Start building sites … 

                   | EN   
-------------------+------
  Pages            | 101  
  Paginator pages  |   5  
  Non-page files   |   0  
  Static files     |  70  
  Processed images |   0  
  Aliases          |  40  
  Sitemaps         |   1  
  Cleaned          |   0  

Built in 91 ms
Watching for changes in /home/alan/hugo/popey.com-blog/{archetypes,content,static,themes}
Watching for config changes in /home/alan/hugo/popey.com-blog/config.toml
Environment: "development"
Serving pages from memory
Running in Fast Render Mode. For full rebuilds on change: hugo server --disableFastRender
Web Server is available at http://localhost:1313/blog/ (bind address 127.0.0.1)
Press Ctrl+C to stop

If you plan to post-date articles, add the --buildFuture flag to the hugo serve to ensure you see posts which haven’t got to their publish date/time yet.

Create posts

To create a post, use the hugo new command with the path to the blog post filename. I have arranged mine by year and month, and use markdown as my language of choice.

$ hugo new post/2020/12/blogging-with-hugo.md

The file ./content/post/2020/12/blogging-with-hugo.md will be created with boilerplate metadata:

---
title: "Blogging With Hugo"
date: 2020-12-21T21:18:38Z
draft: true
---

Start editing with your text editor.

Sublime Text

The post should show up in your browser once you start maintaining content. The hugo serve command will dynamically rebuild the page each time the markdown file is saved, making it super easy to quickly iterate on the content.

Browser preview

Adding images

I place images in ./static/images/ in a ‘neat’ directory hierarchy. Then use this syntax to embed it in the posts.

![Alt text description](/blog/images/2020-12-21/filename.png)

Push changes

This isn’t a git tutorial. Use whatever method you feel comfortable with to push your changes to a git repo somewhere. Personally I use Sublime Merge which looks like this as I write this post.

Sublime Merge and Preview

Other options include GitKraken, GitHub Desktop and plenty of others. Or you could use git on the command line like an actual animal developer.

Server config

I’m not going to cover how you go about setting up the server, because there’s a billion guides online for setting up a VPS with Apache or whatever webserver you prefer.

Webserver

My webserver is configured to serve from /srv/<domain>/www so, /srv/popey.com/www/. The blog lives under /srv/popey.com/www/blog.

Cron job

I threw together this shell script which updates a local directory from GitHub via a simple git pull, then uses the hugo command to build the public pages in public/ which, if successful is copied to the webserver directory.

#!/bin/bash

cd "/home/alan/blog/popey.com-blog"
rm -rf "/home/alan/blog/popey.com-blog/public/*"
/usr/bin/git pull
/snap/bin/hugo
if [[ "$?" == "0" ]]; then
/usr/bin/rsync -avz --delete public/* /srv/popey.com/www/blog/
fi

I have configured this cron job to run at 45 mins past each hour.

45 * * * * cd /home/alan/blog && ./updateblog.sh

I can optionally ssh into the server and manually run that script if I want to promtly update some content which has been pushed to the git repo.

Updating content

Typically I’ll clone the repo, and go through the above process again to edit content. Alternatively for ninja “in production” edits, I might use the web based editor built into GitHub.

That’s essentially it. I can schedule posts to only appear on the site at a particular date/time, by setting a future time in the date field in each post meta-data. They’re public in the git repo as soon as I push of course, but they’ll only get publicly shown on the blog when the next cron job runs after the time specified. Good enough for me!

Conclusion

I find Hugo to be a super friendly, well-documented and easy to modify way to create and publish content on my own site. No PHP or MySQL needed ;)