In order to get to know more about the various open source CMS and blog
systems out there, I've decided to fill up some hard disk space by
installing a bunch of them and comparing them as I go along. I'll be
detailing all my progress here with notes thrown in left and right. The
basic setup of this small series of blog posts will be:
- Day to day tasks
- Going beyond basics
- Hacking it
The series may turn out longer or shorter, but that's the opening
strategy. Now onto the players (I got inspiration for the list by
checking out OpenSourceCMS - very nice
Environment is Apache 2, PHP 5.3 and MySQL 5.0. Given the use of PHP 5.3
this is, in part, also a test of how up to date the software packages
are. Apart from PHP it won't be a test of how the software performs in
an up to date environment, though.
Each of the packages will be setup in it's own space on my local machine
(running ubuntu on an XPS m1330) and each will get it's own virtualhost
in Apache, to make things easy as well as fair/square. Something to the
Options FollowSymlinks MultiViews
Deny from all
Allow from 127.0.0.1
Each will also get it's own database with access from own user,
amounting to something like:
CREATE DATABASE subject DEFAULT CHARACTER SET utf8;
CREATE USER 'subject'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'subject';
GRANT ALL ON subject.* TO 'subject'@'localhost';
If present in the product, I'll make use of localisations, specifically
Danish (mainly to test it, as I prefer English).
Todays subject is blog installation, so, the first four on the above
list. In the next post I'll be looking at installing the CMS systems.
- Version tested: 4.2.0
- Requirements listed:
- PHP 4.3+
- MySQL 3.23+
- mysql + xml extensions for PHP
I started by downloading the source files from the textpattern
site and unpacking them using
wget https://textpattern.com/file_download/56/textpattern-4.2.0.tar.gz && tar -xzvvf textpattern-4.2.0.tar.gz
It's worth noting here that it's also possible to download the source
files using SVN which can come in very handy when updating core files.
There's a slight difference between the SVN files and the latest package
but mainly in terms of file hiearchy.
Onwards with the installation, I had a look at the accompanying
README.txt file which was fairly short. 1) drop files in web root or
somewhere else, 2) create a database and 3) load /textpattern/setup/ in
a browser. The shortness of instructions either means that things are
easy to do or that only little time was spent writing them up. To figure
out which I created a 'textpattern' user and database, set up the Apache
VirtualHost and then pointed FF to
https://textpattern/textpattern/setup/. Which worked without further ado,
even let me select my very own localised language.
However, having selected a non-English language, I got a slight
let-down: nothing was translated into my language, instead I just got
raw string keys like 'welcome_to_textpattern'. That's not overly
impressive - I can understand some words not being translated in the
main product, but nothing on the first page you click into in the
installer? After entering details on the MySQL connection, I got another
disappointment: I was shown a textarea with config details I should copy
and paste into a config file. Probably due to the localisation problems
the page didn't actually let me know what file to use but did show me
that I needed to put it in /textpattern/.
Two things worth noting here: PHP has no problem writing data to a file
and while copypasting isn't rocketscience it doesn't take many extra
tabs from a browser to screw up a file, especially when the best
practice of not using end PHP tags is not followed.
The third step consists of setting up an admin user and here things are
nicer. No double email to validate things, no hidden password. Good
good. This appeared to be the last step in the process as I was told
index.php would be accessible after this, but unfortunately I wasn't so
lucky: the first thing to greet me from https://textpattern/index.php was
a big fat error message in xdebug orange to the effect that some columns
did not exist although the code assumed they did. This went away after a
page refresh though, but in the meantime I also managed to log into a
non-functioning admin area - both experiences very confusing for a new
user and fairly unnecessary. After that, textpattern seemed to work ok
with no further work needed.
- Ease-of-installation: 4/5
- Instructions given: 2/5
- Confusion level: Medium to High
- Version tested: 3.50
First, grab source files and unpack. In this case, that includes
grabbing the extra language files, which translates to
wget https://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/nucleuscms/1.%20Nucleus%20Core/Nucleus%20v3.50/nucleus3.50.zip?use_mirror=dfn && unzip nucleus3.50.zip
cd nuclues3.50/nucleus/language/ && wget https://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/nucleuscms/danish-3.22.zip?download && unzip danish-3.22.zip
Next, I had a look for a readme file and found a readme.html in the main
folder. I set up the VirtualHost entry as the next thing and then
directed FF to https://nucleus/readme.html which worked fine - and the
documentation on installing that followed was well written and easy to
follow, which was cool. A fly in the ointment was the advice on
chmod'ing files and folders with 0666 or 0777 - this should be a last
resort, not the first suggested point!
After these points on file setup I was directed to install.php which
should take care of the rest. After loading this, it seemed time to
create another user/database pair, as the first questions I got were
about MySQL connections. Having done this, I could go on to filling in
all the details for the blog ... some of which were slightly confusing
as there were no explanations for them (such as a ping plugin).
At the end of the form there was a minor annoyance: a warning that the
user should submit the form once and only once! While this is
normally not a bad point, it's a whole lot better to make sure the user
only can submit the form once, instead of trying to work around this
problem. After that surprise there was the positive point of seeing
Nucleus remind people to change access properties of the config.php file
back to something secure.
After the install was done, there was a bit of maintenance to be done by
hand: the install files must be removed
After removing these files, the blog was setup and functional.
- Ease-of-installation: 4/5
- Instructions given: 3/5
- Confusion level: Low
- Version tested: 1.4.1
- PHP 4.3.0+
First, grab the source code and extract files:
wget https://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/php-blog/serendipity-1.4.1.tar.gz?download && tar -zxvvf serendipity-1.4.1.tar.gz
Serendipity also lets you get the source files through SVN like
textpattern, an obvious plus.
Next step: check documentation. Serendipity doesn't come with
installtion documentation, which is a minus in my book. Why do I have to
check their site for further info, when I already have downloaded their
stuff? On the plus side though, the documentation is very good, and
definitely prepares you for the installation.
After adding a user/database and setting up the VirtualHost, it's time
to run the installer, which is done by aiming the browser at the main
folder of the Serendipity install (here https://serendipity/). The
installer first does a check to see what works and what needs some work,
which is a great feature. After tweaking some file permissions, I got
the choice of easy install or advanced install - I chose the latter, as
I wanted to see what one could set. I wasn't disappointed, there was a
whole lot of settings to work with. Unfortunately, this also meant that
the admin user setup got tucked away in the middle of the setup, and as
the values all came prefilled, I was close to just scrolling by that
bit. There was only one thing bugging me in the options: you have to set
a prefix for the database tables of Serendipity, even if you're giving
it a separate database to play with.
After checking the form, I hit 'complete installation' and then
instantly had errors in my face. Turns out that Serendipity 1.4.1 is
NOT compatible with PHP 5.3 - quite a few deprecated functions were
used. As the installer ended by claiming that things were in fact
working, I decided to brush the warnings aside and have a look at
things. That, unfortunately, turned out impossible, as Serendipity
really is incompatible with PHP 5.3 - neither the main site nor the
admin part works. I presume the cause of this is that the 1.4.1 version
is from January (PHP 5.3 was released half a year later) but that
doesn't really help, especially as the documentation claims Serendipity
is fully 5.x compatible (third paragraph under
requirements). The alternative is to try
the beta (latest release from August) or a nightly ... neither of which
is really acceptable to someone that wants a stable blog.
- Ease-of-installation: 0-3*/5
- Instructions given: 4/5
- Confusion level: Maximum
* if the installer had worked, it would have been a 3. Seeing as now
I'll have to either install something else or muck about in .php files
to get it working, it's a 0
- Version tested: 2.8.5
As with the other blog packages, first grab the sources and extract them
from their package:
wget https://wordpress.org/latest.tar.gz && tar -zxvvf latest.tar.gz
After that's done, it's time to set up the VirtualHost for WordPress.
Like Nucleus, WordPress comes with a readme.html, so that's the first
thing to point the browser at once you can. This file will then tell you
to manually edit wp-config.php and after that run wp-admin/install.php
... maybe a famous 5-minute install but could have been done easier. You
have to enter variables for the DB connection as well as authentication
keys, and especially the last could do with some more documentation or a
After that, the install is pretty much done - you only have to enter a
name for your blog and an email address, and you're done. Well, at least
I thought so. On the wordpress.org site it
states that you'll be downloading version 2.8.5 when you get the
sources. However, after installing I found myself looking at a notice
wanting me to update my install to version 2.8.5 ... If I didn't just
install that version, what did I install?! Judging by the WordPress
dashboard, it appears the package you download is actually 2.8.4 and to
finish installing 2.8.5 you have to update the install through the
dashboard. So much for 5 minutes.
I opted for the automatic install option but quickly found myself
staring at a screen asking for ftp login details ... for which site I
have no idea. The download option, on the other hand, just offered me a
.zip file ... which didn't help all that much (does that mean reinstall?
Upgrade?). Browsing the WordPress documentation on upgrading told me
that the Apache user needs to own the WordPress source files (having
write access is not enough, it seems) or you'll get the ftp connection
details screen when auto-updating. Strange way to present an error to
the user, if you ask me. However, as soon as I had changed ownership of
the files, the auto upgrade went smooth.
Overall, the install presented more work than it should have, and
seemingly for no reason. The process was fairly short, though.
- Ease-of-installation: 4/5
- Instructions given: 3/5
- Confusion level: medium
Of the four blog systems checked, Nucleus probably was the easiest to
install, with the least confusion following. While you may not choose
your blog by the installer, you probably wish you had when installing it
... especially in the case of Serendipity. It's something that should
not be overlooked, seeing as no one will be able to use your blog
software if they can't install it.
It seems that most of the blog packages have realised that there are
many things you can do to ease a users first experience with your
software: they have realised that it's more important to get the basic
stuff set up, let the user use the blog, and then let people make layout
and other advanced decisions later. It would be nice to see more use of
simple forms with documentation at your fingertips instead of somewhere
on the web. And lastly, you definitely need to review your documentation
on a regular basis, to avoid confusing people (and you obviously also
need to make sure that the download named 'latest' IS IN FACT the latest
version of your software).
Apart from Serendipity, that failed miserably, the install process went
OK for all the blogs. In general, it's not hard to install a blog and
getting it ready for use - especially if you're a knowledged user.
Next time: installing the CMS systems.