How to Install and Run AskBot with LetsEncrypt SSL on Ubuntu 16.04

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What is AskBot?

AskBot is an open-source question-and-answer forum written in Django and Python. It provides features similar to StackOverflow, including a karma-based system, voting, and content moderation. It is used by many popular open source communities such as Ask-FedoraProject and Ask-OpenStack.

In this guide, you’ll install AskBot and deploy with NGINX as a web server, MySQL as a database server, Gunicorn as a Python WSGI HTTP Server and LetsEncrypt as a free SSL certificates provider on your Ubuntu 16.04 Linode.

Before You Begin

  1. If you have not already done so, create a Linode account and Compute Instance. See our Getting Started with Linode and Creating a Compute Instance guides.

  2. Follow our Setting Up and Securing a Compute Instance guide to update your system. You may also wish to set the timezone, configure your hostname, create a limited user account, and harden SSH access.

  3. A Fully-Qualified Domain Name configured to point to your Linode. You can learn how to point domain names to Linode by following the DNS Manager > Get Started guide.

Throughout this guide, replace example_user with a non-root user with sudo access. If you’re not familiar with Linux user permissions and the sudo command, see the Users and Groups guide.

Install Dependencies and Create a Database

  1. Install the required packages, including NGINX, MySQL, Python PIP, and LetsEncrypt:

    sudo apt-get install -y python-pip python-dev nginx mysql-server libmysqlclient-dev letsencrypt
  2. Log in to MySQL as the root user:

    sudo mysql -u root -p
  3. When prompted, enter the root password.

  4. Create a new MySQL user and database. In the example below, askbotdb is the database name, dbuser is the database user, and dbpassword is the database user’s password.

    CREATE USER dbuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'dbpassword';
    GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON askbotdb.* TO dbuser@localhost;
  5. Exit MySQL:


Install AskBot

  1. Create a directory to install AskBot. Remember to replace example_user with the name of a non-root user on your Linode:

    mkdir -p /home/example_user/askbot
  2. Ensure that pip is the latest version:

    sudo pip install --upgrade pip
  3. Use pip to install virtualenv:

    sudo pip install virtualenv
  4. Create a Python virtual environment using virtualenv:

    virtualenv /home/example_user/askbot/askbotenv
  5. Activate the Python virtual environment:

    source /home/example_user/askbot/askbotenv/bin/activate
  6. Install AskBot and its dependencies:

    pip install askbot mysqlclient mysql-python gunicorn

Configure AskBot

  1. Initialize the AskBot setup files. Use the database name, user, and password that you created earlier:

    askbot-setup -n /home/example_user/askbot/ -e 3 -d askbotdb -u dbuser -p dbpassword
    For more detailed information about the arguments to askbot-setup, user the -h flag: askbot-setup –h.
  2. Use collectstatic to place all of the static files (css, javascript, and images) into the AskBot installation directory:

     python /home/example_user/askbot/ collectstatic --noinput
  3. When you install or upgrade AskBot, you should run makemigrations and migrate:

    python /home/example_user/askbot/ makemigrations
    python /home/example_user/askbot/ migrate
  4. Turn off the Debug mode in to run AskBot in the production environment:

     sed -i "s|DEBUG = True|DEBUG = False|" /home/example_user/askbot/
  5. Change the URL of the static files from /m/ to /static/:

     sed -i "s|STATIC_URL = '/m/'|STATIC_URL = '/static/'|" /home/example_user/askbot/

Deploy AskBot with Let’s Encrypt SSL

This section requires that you have a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) that is configured to point to your Linode. In the examples below, replace with your FQDN.
  1. Edit /home/example_user/askbot/

    File: /home/example_user/askbot/
    import os
    os.environ.setdefault("DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE", "settings")
    from django.core.wsgi import get_wsgi_application
    application = get_wsgi_application()
  2. Create a systemd service for Gunicorn so that it can run as a service. Create the following gunicorn.service file:

    File: /etc/systemd/system/gunicorn.service
    Description=gunicorn daemon
    ExecStart=/home/example_user/askbot/askbotenv/bin/gunicorn --workers 3 --bind unix:askbot.sock wsgi:application
  3. Enable and start the Gunicorn service:

    sudo systemctl start gunicorn
    sudo systemctl enable gunicorn
  4. Restart NGINX and reload the daemon:

    sudo systemctl daemon-reload
    sudo systemctl restart nginx
  5. Use Let’s Encrypt to obtain an SSL certificate for your domain:

    sudo letsencrypt certonly -a webroot --agree-tos --email --webroot-path=/var/www/html -d -d
  6. Remove the default NGINX Server Blocks (Virtual Host) and the default NGINX index file to add new AskBot server blocks:

    sudo rm -rf /etc/nginx/sites-available/default /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default /var/www/html/index.nginx-debian.html
  7. Add new askbot NGINX Server Blocks (Virtual Host) to run AskBot in the production environment:

    File: /etc/nginx/sites-available/askbot
    server {
            listen 80;
            return    301 https://$server_name$request_uri;
    server {
            listen 443;
        ssl on;
            ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
            ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
            ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
        location ~ /.well-known {
            allow all;
            root /var/www/html;
            location = /favicon.ico { access_log off; log_not_found off; }
            location /static/ {
            root /home/example_user/askbot;
            location /upfiles/ {
            root /home/example_user/askbot/askbot;
            location / {
            include proxy_params;
            proxy_pass http://unix:/home/example_user/askbot/askbot.sock;
  8. Add a symbolic link between NGINX server blocks:

    sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/askbot /etc/nginx/sites-enabled
  9. The www-data group must have access to AskBot installation directory so that NGINX can serve static files, media files, and access the socket files. Add the example_user to www-data group so that it has the necessary permissions:

    sudo usermod -aG www-data example_user
  10. Restart NGINX so that the changes take effect:

    sudo systemctl restart nginx

Set Up an AskBot Admin Account

  1. Open a web browser and navigate to your Linode’s domain name:

  2. Click on create a password-protected account to create an Admin Account:

    The first account created using the above method will be treated as an admin account. Any subsequent accounts will be normal accounts.
  3. Choose an admin username and password:

  4. Set your domain name with AskBot using base url settings by clicking APP_URL:

  5. Add your domain name in the place of Base URL box and click Save:

  6. AskBot is now ready to run. Access the AskBot admin interface and customize it according to your needs:

Next Steps

At this point you are ready to begin posting on your forum. For more information about AskBot’s configuration options, check out the AskBot Documentation.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

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