Blog In A Box

Custom PC - - CUSTOMISATION - https://in­

When I wrote the first edi­tion of the Rasp­berry Pi User Guide, I had an en­tire chap­ter ded­i­cated to set­ting up a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack and in­stalling the pop­u­lar Word­Press blog­ging plat­form on top. It wasn’t ex­actly a straight­for­ward process, and by the time the third edi­tion of the book came around, ac­tu­ally get­ting LAMP and Word­Press work­ing on a stock Rasp­bian in­stall was more ef­fort than it was worth, and the chap­ter was ex­cised in favour of a project that was more en­cour­ag­ing for be­gin­ners.

Clearly, I’m not the only one unim­pressed with the dif­fi­culty in get­ting a blog­ging plat­form up and run­ning on a Rasp­berry Pi, be­cause Word­Press de­vel­oper Au­tomat­tic has de­cided to ad­dress this is­sue with the launch of Blog In A Box.

At its heart, Blog In A Box is a rel­a­tively sim­ple piece of soft­ware that serves to au­to­mate the cre­ation of a mi­cro-SD card run­ning Rasp­bian Linux, a LAMP stack and the lat­est sta­ble re­lease of Word­Press. I re­ally do mean ‘au­to­mate’ too – there’s very lit­tle phys­i­cal in­ter­ac­tion re­quired on the part of the user.

Blog In A Box (BIAB) is avail­able for Win­dows, Linux – more on which later – and macOS, and all you need is a cou­ple of gi­ga­bytes of free hard drive space and an SD card reader into which you can stick a mi­croSD card – plus, of course, the mi­cro-SD card it­self, and a Rasp­berry Pi to ac­com­mo­date it when you’re done. The BIAB down­load it­self is pretty small at un­der 100MB, but don’t let that fool you – on first run, it down­loads a Rasp­bian disk im­age, plus the lat­est Word­Press build, which is go­ing to take a while on slower con­nec­tions.

Well, that’s what it’s sup­posed to do on the first run any­way. I in­stalled the Linux build on my Ubuntu 16.04 desk­top, and what ac­tu­ally hap­pened was that it alerted me that I needed kdesudo – the ver­sion of the ‘sudo’ priv­i­lege es­ca­la­tion util­ity writ­ten for the KDE desk­top en­vi­ron­ment. This should have been marked as a depen­dency in the BIAB .deb pack­age and in­stalled au­to­mat­i­cally, but that wasn’t the case. I then had to wait while nearly 300MB of other KDE pack­ages – tak­ing up nearly 600MB of hard drive space when ex­tracted – were down­loaded and in­stalled just to get kdesudo. Not a great start.

With kdesudo in­stalled, BIAB be­haved a lit­tle bet­ter. It down­loaded the lat­est Word­Press and disk im­ages and then re­quested Wi-Fi cre­den­tials – a step you can skip if you’re us­ing your Rasp­berry Pi via a wired con­nec­tion.

At this same screen, I was of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to add an SSH pub­lic key for pass­word­less lo­gin, although it turns out this fea­ture doesn’t work quite as in­tended.

Car­ry­ing on through the steps, you find out just how far the whole process is au­to­mated: the next screen of­fers de­faults for ev­ery­thing from the Pi it­self to Word­Press, with user­names and ran­domly gen­er­ated pass­words al­ready filled out.

Nat­u­rally, you can also cus­tomise these op­tions to your lik­ing. Then, when the disk im­age is burned to the mi­cro-SD card, your set­tings are trans­ferred.

At least, that’s the the­ory. In prac­tice, when the burn process fin­ished, I was given an er­ror mes­sage ask­ing me to rein­sert my SD

card, and no amount of eject­ing and rein­sert­ing it would make the mes­sage go away. Even­tu­ally I gave up and restarted the process on a macOS ma­chine; strike two for the Linux build.

With the in­stal­la­tion process fi­nally com­pleted, all that was left was to insert the mi­cro-SD card into a Rasp­berry Pi and wait for it to boot. Sure enough, I had a work­ing Word­Press blog run­ning from the Pi – and com­plete with a clever plug-in that of­fers na­tive in­te­gra­tion with a CSI-con­nected cam­era or GPIO-con­nected Sense Hat.

Sadly, other as­pects of the in­stal­la­tion proved less clever. Manual plug-in and theme up­dates were im­pos­si­ble, as the sys­tem runs no FTP server. Also, my SSH pub­lic key turned out to be wasted, as SSH was dis­abled, which seems like an over­sight likely to be fixed in a fu­ture re­lease. A Samba server was run­ning, though, pro­vid­ing ac­cess to the Word­Press di­rec­tory for manual plugin in­stal­la­tion and theme edit­ing, once it had been au­then­ti­cated with the pass­word cho­sen ear­lier in the process.

It would be good for BIAB to be a lit­tle smarter though; work­ing SSH would be a start, as would be the abil­ity to en­able HTTPS with a cer­tifi­cate from Let’s En­crypt, sim­i­lar to the fea­ture set of the Pi-based Nextcloud Box (see Is­sue 161). The fact it checks for Word­Press up­dates and in­stalls them au­to­mat­i­cally daily, how­ever, is wel­come.

The big­gest fea­ture of BIAB, though, is its sim­plic­ity. Com­pared with my in­struc­tions on manual con­fig­u­ra­tion from way-back-when, it’s prac­ti­cally fool­proof – and, with a lit­tle more work, Au­tomat­tic could have a spe­cial prod­uct on its hands. Blog In A Box is avail­able now as a free down­load from

The con­fig­u­ra­tion is all done for you, although you can cus­tomise var­i­ous set­tings prior to in­stal­la­tion

Blog In A Box cer­tainly makes it easy to in­stall Word­Press on a Rasp­berry Pi

My ex­pe­ri­ence of the Linux ver­sion, sadly, was far from smooth

Bar a few nig­gles, you can use your Blog In A Box like any other Word­Press site

BIAB in­cludes a plugin that al­lows di­rect ac­cess to a CSI cam­era or Sense HAT

Per­for­mance on a Rasp­berry Pi 3 is sur­pris­ingly snappy, even via Wi-Fi

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