A Website and a Blog for $5/mo - Part 1

Andrew Barr, Wednesday, 4 November 2020

I am on a mission to once again work as a developer (Ideally using Elixir) so set about converting my Wordpress website and blog to Phoenix Applications. I had read Dashbit’s post about precompiling their posts and loading them into memory. I loved the idea of not relying on a database and set about converting my existing sites (There was not much to post as I am only just starting). I cancelled my Wordpress account and headed over to Digital Ocean as they had a $100 credit promotion for new accounts.

Digital Ocean

Once I had signed up I went ahead and created a new project. After clicking on the Project in the menu I created a new Droplet. I chose the default Ubuntu operating system and scrolled all the way to the left to choose the $5/mo option. I nominated the closest region to me (I am in Australia) and then chose SSH for authentication.

To setup the SSH key open a terminal window (I am on a Mac) and navigate to your ssh folder and type ssh-keygen. You will be asked to nominate a file name, I chose id_rsa_do.

$ cd ~/.ssh
$ ssh-keygen

Press enter twice to skip past the passphrase option. Grab the contents of the public key using the more command.

$ more id_rsa_do.pub

Copy the key and paste it into the form after clicking the new SSH Key button on the Digital Ocean webpage. After you create the Droplet you will be able to copy the ip address. Once you have it open your .ssh/config file in the editor of your choice (I use vim). Create a Host block.

Host your-droplet-ip
    HostName your-droplet-ip
    IdentityFile /Users/path/to/.ssh/id_rsa_do

Now you can open your terminal and log into your new Droplet using SSH.

$ ssh root@your-Droplet-ip

It is always good practice to create a new user to control your Droplet rather than using the root account. At the command line type the following command and create a new password when prompted:

$ adduser your-user-name

After creating the new user modify the account to give it the privlages you need. Following that copy over the .ssh directory to your new user account so you can login directly to the account using the ssh key from above.

$ usermod -aG sudo your-user-name
$ rsync --archive --chown=your-user-name:your-user-name ~/.ssh /home/your-user-name

You can now close the ssh connection and test your new account by loging back in:

$ ssh your-user-name@your-Droplet-ip

I have a domain name (andrewbarr.io) so I changed the DNS records so there was an A record for andrewbarr.io and *.andrewbarr.io pointing to my Droplets ip address. This allowed me to modify the .ssh/config file:

Host your-domain
    HostName your-domain
    IdentityFile /Users/path/to/.ssh/id_rsa_do

Now when you login to your Droplet you can use $ ssh your-user-name@your-domain

Setting up Erlang, Elixir and Node

At the command line of your Droplet run the following commands. You can find the Erlang installation instructions under the Installation Using Repository heading.

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install -y build-essential
$ wget https://packages.erlang-solutions.com/erlang-solutions_2.0_all.deb 
$ sudo dpkg -i erlang-solutions_2.0_all.deb
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install erlang
$ sudo apt-get install elixir

Check that everything has installed by running $ elixir -v, you should see the Erlang and Elixir versions that have been installed. If everything is looking good it’s time to install Nodejs.

$ sudo apt install nodejs
$ sudo apt install npm
$ sudo apt-get update

Check that everything has installed by running $ node -v and npm -v. We are now ready to setup a server so we can host more than one website on the server.

Nginx and LetsEncrypt

Start by installing Nginx and modifying the firewall settings.

$ sudo apt-get install nginx
$ sudo ufw allow OpenSSH
$ sudo ufw allow http
$ sudo ufw allow https
$ sudo ufw enable

After installing you can check the status of Nginx by running $ systemctl status nginx, you should see that the service is enabled and running. You can now go to your domain in the browser and it will load the Nginx welcome page. Next we want to create a location to host our own website. At the command line:

$ cd /var/www
$ sudo mkdir -p your-website-name/html
$ sudo chown -R $USER:$USER your-website-name/html
$ sudo chmod -R 755 your-website-name

To test the config navigate to the html directory and create an html file.

$ cd your-website-name/html
$ sudo vim index.html

Save whatever markup you want and save the file.


To serve your new page we need to create a setting file, you can copy and modify the default settings by running:

$ sudo cp /etc/nginx/sites-available/default /etc/nginx/sites-available/your-website-name

Now open the settings file in an editor $ sudo vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/your-website-name and make the following changes.

server {

    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

    root /var/www/your-website-name/html;

    server_name your-domain www.your-domain;

After saving create a symbolic link from Nginx sites-available to the sites-enabled

$ sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/your-website-name /etc/nginx/sites-enabled

You can now test your Nginx configuration by typing $ sudo nginx -t, upi should see a message saying it is OK. You can now restart Nginx with $ sudo systemctl restart nginx. Now you can navigate to your domain in the browser and you should see your custom html craeted above.

Now we want to make sure our traffic is secure so we will install LetsEncrypt. At the command line type the following commands, ensuring you use a valid email address to get expiration warnings.

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
$ sudo apt install python-certbot-nginx
$ sudo certbot --nginx -d your-domain -d www.your-domain

After running tests to ensure you own the domain it will offer no redirect or redirect. Choose option 2 so that all insecure traffic is redirected. Once you have finsihed test the configuration and restart Nginx

$ sudo nginx -t
$ sudo systemctl restart nginx

You should now be able to navigate to your domain in the browser and see you domain is always running under ssl.

In Part 2 we will build a simple Phoenix aplication and deploy it to the server.