Discourse Forum on Raspberry Pi from Home? Because, Why Not!

Discourse forum on Raspberry Pi is a great way to start off your forum with next to no budget. In this article I show you how to set it up!


Discourse is a popular Open Source software that is free to use and built with a vision of being the forum platform of the future! It is truly a useful and incredibly modifiable piece of software that I’ve had a lot of fun with and a that is really easy to work with once you understand the thinking behind it! In addition to this, it actually looks very nice and modern, not like those blocky old forums that I used to hang around when I was in my teens!

The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is a very simple, but powerful piece of hardware. It’s originally built to be a springboard into coding for beginners and younger people. With it’s highly customizable interface and open OS you can do pretty much anything you can imagine with this car-sized computer! So, one must obviously try to combine these two pieces of great technology and make something even better! A server hosting your own forum in you living room!

In this article you’ll learn just how to put two and two together and get five!

Important! Raspberry Pi is not officially supported by the team behind Discourse, but is shown to work great for development, or very small forums!

Pre-Requirements & Hardware

First of all you need to set up your Raspberry Pi! You’ll need a few additional items, such as a charger, monitor, and another computer to format the mini-SD.

I myself use the following:

  • Raspberry Pi 4, 4gb (Raspberry Pi 4 and up is required, the more memory, the merrier!)
  • Aluminum case with built-in fan to keep it nice and cool (not required but highly recommended)
  • Power Cable
  • Mini-SD card. I recommend 32gb, at least.
  • Internet-connection, preferably by cable (I’ve had some issues running a forum on wifi)
  • Another computer to do the setup on.
  • Domain name where you have access to change nameservers
  • Cloudflare account
  • E-mailservice, like Mailgun, to be able to send email from your Discourse instance.

Setting up the Raspberry Pi

  1. Download the official formatting software from the official Raspberry Pi website and install it.
  2. Choose “Rasberry Pi OS (64-bit)
    1. Click the cog in the down right corner, and set up wifi, SSH and passwords here and save yourself some trouble down the line!
  3. While this is running, you might as well put together your RPi, the case and install the fan.
  4. When the formatting is done, insert the mini-SD into your RPi
  5. Plug in the power cable and wait for it to start up.
  6. SSH into your RPi. How to find out what IP-adress your RPi has!
  7. Update and Upgrade the software!
The official imager. Make sure you use the correct version and a RPi 4. Keep in mind the imager needs to download the OS so the first time might take a while.
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Set up Mailsending Service

Before you continue, you have to set up DNS and a mailsender service! I myself use Mailgun, which is one of the recommended providers by Discourse. Their services are free up to a certain number of sent e-mails per month and is working very reliably for me. Good for starting out!

I recommend using Cloudflarefor a forum hosted on your home network.

First, I’d recommend setting up Mailgun and making sure that e-mails go through. If there’s no e-mails, there’ll be no forum!

Setting up Cloudflare

Why do I need a Cloudflare account?

Since the forum will run on your home- or work network, it’s essential to have some form of protection for your IP-adress. That’s why we will set up a Cloudflare Tunnel that routes the traffic through Cloudflare who will hide the IP from visitors.

To set up a tunnel like that is quite easy, just follow the steps below!

  1. Create an account and make sure you’re logged in.
    It’s a lot easier to do the following steps if you’re SSH-ing into your RPi using the same computer you’re logged into Cloudflare.
  2. Download Cloudflare to your RPi
  3. Login to your account on the RPi
  4. Create your Tunnel
  5. Check that the tunnel has been created properly
  6. Create a configuration file
  7. Create a CNAME-record to let Cloudflare know what domain to send through the tunnel
  8. Make sure the tunnel is running properly
  9. Install as a Service: Make sure the tunnel doesn’t stop running and automatically start running after reboot, etc.
    1. Set it up
    2. Start the service
    3. Check the status of the service
  10. Done with the Cloudflare part of the guide!

Install Discourse on RPi

The following part is the normal installation for Discourse on any device. However, some configuration is made to the installation files for it to work on RPi.

Important! Discourse needs Docker to work. When you’re asked if you are sure about installing Docker, do that or the installation won’t work.

  1. Head into Sudo territory!
  2. Clone the official Discourse into your RPi
  3. Head into the Discourse-folder and start the setup!

Important: Read the next step before starting this step to save yourself a lot of time! 4. After confirming the details is correct, press Enter. Then, immediately (or at least within 5 sec) press Ctrl+C to stop the installation for now. 5. Modify the app.yml-file

Now is a great time to add any Plugins you want on your forum! 6. Rebuild the App

This might take quite some time to finish, over an hour on my longest try. 7. When the app is done rebuilding the installation is done! 8. Head to the correct web adress in a browser and finish the installation.

Problems?

Keep in mind that if you’re using a new domain, the emails could take quite some time to reach their target. They could also be in the spam/trash. The longest I’ve had to wait until everything started working properly was one whole day. I just left it over the night and came back the next to try and continue the setup.

What caused this is a mystery to me, though I believe the problem to lie in the receiving end of the email-chain. I normally use a Protonmail account to set up my admin account and perhaps Protonmail is more sensitive towards new adresses.

So far we’ve installed the forum software itself, however, there’s quite a lot more to do and go through before the forum is ready for action! I will try to create a guide for that as well in the near future and add a link to it here! Until then, feel free to ask questions!


Want more suggestions on what to do with your Raspberry Pi? Check out this articleon why it might be a good idea to let your kids play old school retro games on the RPi!

If you successfully managed to install and run Discourse on your Pi for a while you might see the disc filling up faster than you’d like. You might have to clean out your Docker images as well!


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Florida man’s house hit by NASA’s space junk

In March of 2024, an ususpecting Florida man’s house was hit by a solid metal projectile jettisoned from the ISS in 2021.

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In March of 2024, an ususpecting Florida man’s house was hit by a solid metal projectile jettisoned from the ISS in 2021.

The Debris

It was after an installation of fresh lithium-ion batteries that NASA decided to eject a pallet of the old nickel-hydride batteries from the Internation Space Station in 2021. The debris was expected to burn up during the re-entry into the atmosphere as to not cause damage. However, a small piece of the scrap metal survived and decended upon the unsuspecting Florida man’s house in tremendous speed, causing small holes in the roof and two floors, nearly hitting the Florida man’s son, playing in the next room.

The projectile meassured 4-inch by 1.6-inch and weighed 1.6 pound.

The aftermath

Florida man filed an unprecendented lawsuit against NASA for the damage but has of writing (June 22th, 2024) not received any compensation from the trash-tossers.

The lawsuit is ongoing and could set a very interesting precedent for future damage caused by any of the millions of objects flying around over our heads. Currently there are over 29,000 objects measuring more than 10 cm, 670,000 objects 1-10 cm large, and more than 170 million objects larger than 1 millimetre.

Luckily, for Florida man, his home insurance covered some of the costs – about $15,000 – and he’s now hoping for another $80,000 from the lawsuit, should he win.

“Scientists at University of British Columbia, New Scientist reports, calculate that the odds are one in ten of “casualties being caused by falling debris over the next decade.””

Environmental Law Institute

This might be a good time to complement the volcano insurance with space junk insurance!

Do you think this is a big problem going forward, and who should pay for the damage caused by space junk falling on people’s houses and properties?

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2024-06-22 10:09 | 0 comments

VR advances and the future of WFH

Is WFH (working from home) just a very temporary freedom or is it here to stay? I believe it’s a bit of both.

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Is WFH (working from home) just a very temporary freedom or is it here to stay? I believe it’s a bit of both.

When the viral hysteria of ’20 hit and people hid in their homes with double FP2’s over their facial air holes, allegedly working from home, most people viewed this as an incredible opportunity for more freedom. There was an incredible amount of people who, all of a sudden had double, triple, or quadruple lunch breaks to go grocery shopping, tend to the garden, or even hit the beach. The data, however, is in and it’s not looking too good for the semi-vacationeers “working from home”.

Employee Monitoring Tools

Unsurprisingly, people higher up started to notice the trend and became disgruntled of the loss of control of their employee’s daily work habits. The first to Take meassures to counter this trend was the guys at big finance, who constructed elaborate “employee monitoring tools”.

Some of the great new features on your brand new WFH laptop include:

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  • Webcam access – should be self-explanatory but it’ll make sure you’re eyes are focused on the screen for the whole 8-hour work day
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The companies that used these tools noticed that they’re improving efficiency of their employees, regardless of their location.

Instead of forcing you into the office to make sure you’re working, they’re forcing the office upon your every location and system you’re using.

“Let them try…”

While the only companies using this type of extreme surveillance of their employees are the ones already known for pushing the limit of their subordinates, others will follow suit seeing the effectiveness of the systems.

A lot of people will, of course, not go along with this, but with the increased reach and reduced need of actually forcing people into the offices, most companies will probably succeed anyway. Almost all employees nowadays are easily exchangeable, whether we want to admit it or not. Especially when the hiring pool consist of the entirety of the world.

Of course, there’ll be hold-outs and companies that doesn’t jump on the big brother-train, but a lot of them will, making the few remaining jobs without extreme surveillance few and far apart.

Enter VR-headsets

A lot of people laughed at the seeming fiasco of Apple’s new VR headset. It’s true that it is over-the-top for most people’s daily use and the price tag demanded true Apple fanboy-ism from the buyer.

What this signalled, however, is the VR headset’s entry into the serious market and our lives. When Apple comes out with a new product category, odds are it’ll be commonplace in a few years.

So far, headsets are mostly used as gaming devices, gamification of house chores for stay-at-home-dads, and media consumption, but my bet is that companies soon will find great applications for the headsets in the workplace as well. Why, you ask?

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Conclusion

As more and more people are demanding WFH part- or full time, pressure on the employers increases to accommodate without losing control. This is also an incredible tool to be used for personally evaluating employees fairly, if used with caution.

Furthermore, there must be discussions on how to handle all the data these new systems collect. Are employees actually aware of the amount of data their employer have on them? And what are the employer legally allowed to do with the data?

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2024-06-18 03:18 | 0 comments

Gene therapy trial restores hearing

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Gene therapy restoring hearing

18-month old British girl Opal Sandy has had her hearing restored through a new gene therapy trial. The deafness, in this case, was due to auditory neuropathy, a condition where nerve impulses from the inner ear to the brain are disrupted. To cure her condition a therapy, known as DB-OTO, was used, copying the OTOF gene directly to the ear. Through a minimally invasive procedure, where the gene solution was infused into the inner ear using a catheter, the hearing is potentially restored without any need of repeated treatments.

Future of hearing restoration

While this method was being used in the UK, other parts of the world are doing similar research targeting genetic forms of deafness. Both China and the US are currently working on their own respective delivery method and procedure of targeting the very gene causing deafness.

Not only did the little girl’s life change, but it also makes way for many more people being able to appreciate music, bird’s song, and the voices of our loved ones. Things the hearing of us takes for granted.

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When wolves became man’s best friend

I think we can all agree on that man’s best friend – the dog – can trace its ancestry back to the wolves. How this came to be is a completely different story that researchers haven’t entirely come to agree on. Was it humans or wolves that took the first s

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Timeline

Today’s dogs have wandered quite far from their original form in the wolf. Even today’s wolves have to some extent devolved into a smaller version of their once larger statures. We’re not entirely certain when this process actually began, but some estimates say it started between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago in Europe and Asia. Studies also suggest that this might have happened in different geographical locations.

Leading theories

The Self-Domestication Theory suggests that at some point wolves began to scavange near human settlements, attracted to the delicious remains of hunting trophys. Over time, the wolves who wandered further into the presence of man in his camps were rewarded with more spoils, warmth from the campfire, and a true bond of friendship.

Another theory, Directed Domestication Theory, suggest that the friendship wasn’t mutual but that early humans captured wolf pups and raised them as their own. They were then selectively breeded for desirable traits.

Whether one subscribes to the theory of mutual benefit or that it was a forced relationship, we can all probably agree that it has been a good one at that!

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Using AI to talk to whales

Recently OpenAI released a much improved version of their LLM, called ChatGPT-4o. The main focus seem to have been on language and conversation, where it answers significantly faster, in any language, and with more “human” emotions in speech, text…

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Recently OpenAI released a much improved version of their LLM, called ChatGPT-4o. The main focus seem to have been on language and conversation, where it answers significantly faster, in any language, and with more “human” emotions in speech, text, or image. Such an improvement does pose the question where it all ends. Will we be able to translate animal speech with an app on our phones in coming updates?

Project CETI and Earth Species Project

Scientists working on Project CETI (Cetacean Translation Initiative) and the Earth Species Project have been working on deepening our understanding of sperm whale language and communication. To this end, they’ve used AI tools in which they’ve created a LLM (Large Language Model) with vast amounts of data on whale talk. The goal is to be able to understand the language of the whales and even to reply to them.

Whale communication

Sperm whales apparently have a very complex communication system with sequences of clicks (called codas), of which the researchers have identified several distinct sequences, believed to function like an alphabet. Their language and “way of speaking” also isn’t random, but very dependant on the context of their interaction.

Conclusion

If we can learn how to communicate with sperm whales, there’s no reason to believe we cannot learn to communicate with other animals. Or plants and fungi, for that matter.

The interesting question here is, whether this will open up to new kinds of deeper knowledge about our environment.

Will we be able to continue to eat animals that we can communicate “meaningfully” with? What does your cat really think of you? Do you really want to know what the crows and seagulls are screaming about?

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2024-05-14 11:43 | 0 comments