Welcome to my new Homepage

July 9, 2017    homepage hugo gitlab rsync

Finally I moved my homepage a a complete static page powered by Hugo. Here I want to document some challenges I faced during the transition and how I solved them.

Basic setup

As already said I use Hugo to generate the static sites. My theme is based on Sustain. I did some changes and uploaded my version to GitLab.

I want to have all dependencies like fonts and JavaScript libraries locally, so this was one of the largest changes to the original theme. Further I added a easy way to add some share buttons to a blog post, like you can see at the end of this article. The theme also contains a nice and easy way to add presentations or general slide shows to the webpage, some examples can be seen here. The theme contains a example site which shows all this features.


This was one of the biggest challenges. I had some quite good discussion on my old blog powered by Wordpress so I don’t want to lose this feature completely. There are some solutions for static pages but non of these are satisfying. For example Staticman looks really promising. Sadly it only works with GitHub. Please let me know if you know something similar which doesn’t depend on GitHub.

For now I decided to do two things. By default I add a short text at the end of each article to tell people to send me a e-mail if they want to share or discuss their view on the topic. Additionally I can add to the meta data of each posts a link to a Friendica post. In this case the link will be added at the end of the article, inviting people to discuss the topic on this free, decentralised and federated network. I have chosen Friendica because it allows users to interact with my blog posts not only with a Friendica account but also with a Diaspora, GNU Social, Mastodon or Hubzilla account. If you have a account on one of these networks and want to get updates about new blog posts in order to participate in conversations around it, follow this Friendica account. I also created a more detailed description for people new to the world of free social networking.


After all the questions above where answered and a first version of the new webpage was in place, I had to find a easy way to deploy it. I host the source code of my homepage on GitLab which has a nicely integrated CI service which can be used to deploy the webpage on any server.

Therefore we need to add a CI script called .gitlab-ci.yml to the root of the repository. This script needs to contain following (please adjust the paths):

image: publysher/hugo

  - apt-get update
  - apt-get --yes --force-yes install git ssh rsync
  - git submodule update --init --recursive

  - hugo
  - mkdir "${HOME}/.ssh"
  - echo "${SSH_HOST_KEY}" > "${HOME}/.ssh/known_hosts"
  - echo "${SSH_PRIVATE_KEY}" > "${HOME}/.ssh/id_rsa"
  - chmod 700 "${HOME}/.ssh/id_rsa"
  - rsync -hrvz --delete --exclude=_ public/ schiesbn@schiessle.org:/home/schiesbn/websites/schiessle.org/htdocs/
    - public
  - master

We need to create a ssh key-pair to deploy the webpage. For security reasons it is highly recommend to create a ssh key used only for the deployment.

The variables SSH_HOST_KEY and SSH_PRIVATE_KEY need to be set at GitLab in the CI settings. SSH_PRIVATE_KEY contains the private ssh key which is located in the ~/.ssh directory.

To get the right value for SSH_HOST_KEY, we run ssh-keyscan <our-webpage-host>. Once we executed that command, we should see something similar to schiessle.org ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAACAQCtwsSpeNV.... Let’s copy this to the SSH_HOST_KEY value in our GitLab settings.

Finally we need to copy the public ssh key to the .ssh/authorized_keys file on the web-server to allow GitLab to access it.

Now we are already done. The next time we push some changes to the Github repository GitLab will build the page and sync it to the web-server.

Using the private key stored in the GitLab settings allows everyone with access to the key to login to our web-server. Something we don’t want. Therefore I recommend to limit the ssh key to only this one rsync command from the .gitlab-ci.yml file. In order to do this, we need to find the exact command send to the web-server by adding -e'ssh -v' to the rsync command.

Executing the rsync command with the additional option should result in something like:

debug1: Sending command: rsync --server -vrze.iLsfxC --delete . /home/schiesbn/websites/schiessle.org/htdocs/

we copy this command to create following .ssh/authorized_keys entry:

command="rsync --server -vrze.iLsfxC --delete . /home/schiesbn/websites/schiessle.org/htdocs/",no-pty,no-agent-forwarding,no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQC7Sf/PDty0d0SQPg9b+Duc18RxPGaBKMzlKR0t1Jz+0eMhTkXRDlBMrrkMIdXJFfJTcofh2nyklp9akUnKA4mRBVH6yWHI+j0aDIf5sSC5/iHutXyGZrLih/oMJdkPbzN2+6fs2iTQfI/Y6fYjbMZ+drmTVnQFxWN8D+9qTl49BmfZk6yA1Q2ECIljpcPTld7206+uaLyLDjtYgm90cSivrBTsC4jlkkwwYnCZo+mYK4mwI3On1thV96AYDgnOqCn3Ay9xiemp7jYmMT99JhKISSS2WNQt2p4fVxwJIa6gWuZsgvquP10688aN3a222EfMe25RN+x0+RoRpSW3zdBd

Now it is no longer possible to use the private key, stored at GitLab to login to the web-server or to perform any other command than this specific rsync command.

Interesting observation

I run this static webpage now for a few weeks. During this weeks I got quite some email from people interested in some topic I write about in my blog. This are not new blog articles, but posts which where already online for quite some time. Somehow it looks like more people find this articles after the transition to a static site. Maybe search engines rate the static site higher than the old Wordpress page? I don’t know, maybe it is just a coincidence… but interesting.

Björn Schießle
Computer Scientist (Dipl. Inf.), graduated at University of Stuttgart, Germany.
Active in the Free Software movement for over 25 years.
Long-term volunteer at FSFE and member of the General Assembly.
Co-founder and PreSales-Lead of Nextcloud.