Monday, April 14, 2014

Install Joomla 3.2 on Turnkey Linux 13.1 (Debian 7) LAMP Appliance

Even though Joomla recommends that developers and designers choose Joomla 3.2 over 2.5, Turnkey Linux most likely won't publish a new virtual appliance before Joomla 3.5 is finalized. The solution? Set up Tunkey LAMP 13.1 and install Joomla yourself.

The following information is provided strictly as a guide for getting started with Joomla 3.2 on Turnkey Linux LAMP 13.1 and is by no means a complete solution. I make no claims as to the security or stability of the following configuration. In other words, (as always) you are responsible for the security and stability of your own servers/network/data. That said, I've made every effort to provide the best info I could scrape together from various blogs, how-tos, wikis, and personal experience. Please feel free to comment on anything that can be improved.

Why Turnkey Linux?
While the following should work fine on a vanilla Debian/Ubuntu install, with Turnkey Linux you can deploy straight to the AWS cloud via Turnkey Hub or to a VM on your preferred hypervisor. No matter your setup, backups and restores will work just fine, and you can move to any other platform very easily. There are also some great management features included, but backups and the Turnkey Hub (a slick AWS management frontend) are what really make Turnkey Linux appliances shine. Of course you can use other kinds of snapshots but TLKBAM creates daily, off-site, and truly platform independent backups which is hard to argue with.

Install Updates
Before you do anything else, install updates.
apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

Get PHP Ready for Joomla
We'll start by editing a few values in /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini.
nano /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini

Then we need to disable output buffering and set a temporary uploads directory. We'll choose one outside Apache's site folder for a little added security. As additional security measures we'll restrict the PHP to a few specified folders and disable functions we don't explicitly need by adding to the disable_functions list. Don't forget to scroll to the end of the long list of already disabled features using the end key. The extremely brief and approachable "Security Checklist/Hosting and Server Setup" in the Joomla Docs should be considered required reading if you care at all about the data on your site.
output_buffering = Off
upload_tmp_dir = /var/tmp
open_basedir = /var/www:/var/tmp/
disable_functions = show_source,system,shell_exec,passthru,exec,phpinfo,popen,proc_open,

Configure XCache
In-memory caching of php output can really speed up your site and help limit your server's storage I/O requirements. Turnkey LAMP 13.1 already includes XCache, which Joomla nativly supports. A few tweaks to /etc/php5/conf.d/20-xcache.ini and we're set. Before we can do that though, we need to generate an md5 hash for the XCache admin pages. We won't actually set them up, but XCache doesn't like to run without these configured.
echo -n “your_password_here” | md5sum

Now we'll paste the md5 hash of our password in the XCache ini, set up a username for the admin pages (which we won't actually install), and disable XCache's built-in authentication. Joomla requires this set to "off", (and paradoxically that it also have a username and password) to actually write to the cache.
nano /etc/php5/conf.d/20-xcache.ini

xcache.admin.enable_auth = Off
xcache.admin.user = "admin_or_whatever"
xcache.admin.pass = "your_md5_hash"

And let's set some sensible values for cache sizes. If your server has tons of RAM (and your site is fairly large) then feel free to try something larger. Memtop is your friend if you're struggling to find good values. Just be sure to click through quite a bit of content to help fill up XCache.
xcache.size = 64M
xcache.slots = 32K
xcache.var_size = 32M
xcache.var_count = 1
xcache.var_slots = 16K

Finally, we should restart apache2 to ensure all our changes to php.ini and 20-xcache.ini are in effect.
service apache2 restart

Create a MySQL Database for Joomla
While you could use the default database and user, a much less insane approach is to create a database and user for Joomla. This will allow us to set more granular permissions for the Joomla user, keep your Joomla database walled off from other data, and lets us have the option of creating additional databases and users for other applications down the road. First, we log into MySQL as root (remember to use your MySQL root password, not the one for Linux). If you screw up, Turnkey LAMP comes with phpMyAdmin (https://ipaddress_or_url:12322) which makes finding and removing bad data a breeze.
mysql -u root -p

Next, we create a database. For the sake of extension compatibility and to allow for a multi-language setup we will specify UTF-8 character encoding. Use whatever name you like. For a little security through obscurity I like to choose something silly and irrelevant.
CREATE DATABASE thenameyouwant CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;

Now for Joomla's MySQL user:
CREATE USER 'someusername'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'Some_$tr0ng_Password-Here';

We need to give the Joomla user ALL PRIVILEGES on the Joomla database during the install. Afterward SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE should be sufficient (though you may need CREATE, DROP, ALTER to install or update extensions as well as Joomla itself). For the love of $DEITY don't leave the Joomla user with ALL PRIVILEGES. The Joomla user's password is stored in plain text in your site's configuration.php and you can bet that's the first stop for anyone who has compromised your server.
GRANT ALL ON nameofyourdatabase.* TO 'thejoomlauser'@'localhost';

And now close the MySQL command line interface to get back to your linux shell.

Download and Unzip Joomla
Head to the Joomla download page and copy the latest download link address for Joomla 3.2. We'll cd into /var/www, paste that url into a wget request, and then unzip the resulting file.
cd /var/www

Let's clean up a bit first, Turnkey Linux includes some PHP pages to help you find various available tools. All that info is also available via their wiki so we'll remove it on the server to avoid confusion.
rm -rf css images js *.php

Now to download, unzip, and remove the zip file when we're done.
wget (paste from



Perform Joomla Install (mostly) Via Browser
If everything prior to this was set up correctly this should be the easy part. In your browser go to the Joomla install page (and let's use HTTPS, seeing as you're about to input your MySQL password whatnot).

Enter the required information (site name, Joomla administrator credentials,etc). When prompted for database info be sure to use the username, password, and database name you specified earlier. When asked, don't enable FTP. It's not 1998 and there are better ways to get files to/from your server (WinSCP for example).

On the last page before Joomla attempts to finalize your configuration you will see an error (toward the bottom of the page) stating you do not have write access to configuration.php. We actually need to create /var/www/configuration.php and set it as read/write/execute for all users.
touch /var/www/configuration.php

chmod 777 /var/www/configuration.php

Then click finish. You will be greeted by a page stating your install was successful and prompting you to delete the installation folder.

Delete Install Folder
You need to delete the Joomla install folder before you can proceed to the actual administrative pages. Due to our file permissions setup we need to do this manually.
rm -rf /var/www/installation

Now just click the "Administrator" button and log into your new Joomla 3 installation.


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