Friday, February 12, 2016

Running a static website with Hugo on Google Cloud Storage

I've played a bit with Hugo, the static web site generator written in golang that has been getting a lot of good press lately. At the suggestion of my colleague Warren Runk, I also experimented with hosting the static files generated by Hugo on Google Cloud Storage (GCS). That way there is no need for launching any instances that would serve those files. You can achieve this by using AWS S3 as well of course.

Notes on GCS setup

You first need to sign up for a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) account. You get a 30-day free trial with a new account. Once you are logged into the Google Cloud console, you need to create a new project. Let's call it my-gcs-hugo-project.

You need to also create a bucket in GCS. If you want to serve your site automatically out of this bucket, you need to give the bucket the same name as your site. Let's assume you call the bucket You will have to verify that you own either by creating a special CNAME in the DNS zone file for pointing to, or by adding a special META tag to the HTML file served at (you can achieve the latter by temporarily CNAME-ing hugotest to and adding the HEAD tag to the home page for www).

If you need to automate deployments to GCS, it's a good idea to create a GCP Service Account. Click on the 'hamburger' menu in the upper left of the GCP console, then go to Permissions, then Service Accounts. Create a new service account and download its private key in JSON format (the key will be called something like my-gcs-hugo-project-a37b5acd7bc5.json.

Let's say your service account is called my-gcp-service-account1. The account will automatically be assigned an email address similar to

I wanted to be able to deploy the static files generated by Hugo to GCS using Jenkins. So I followed these steps on the Jenkins server as the user running the Jenkins process (user jenkins in my case):

1) Installed the Google Cloud SDK

$ wget
$ tar xvfz google-cloud-sdk.tar.gz
$ cd google-cloud-sdk/
$ ./

- source .bashrc

$ which gcloud

2) Copied the service account's private key my-gcs-hugo-project-a37b5acd7bc5.json to the .ssh directory of the jenkins user.

3) Activated the service account using the gcloud command-line utility (still as user jenkins)

$ gcloud auth activate-service-account --key-file .ssh/my-gcs-hugo-project-a37b5acd7bc5.json
Activated service account credentials for: []

4) Set the current GCP project to my-gcs-hugo-project

$ gcloud config set project my-gcs-hugo-project

$ gcloud config list
Your active configuration is: [default]

account =
disable_usage_reporting = True

project = my-gcs-hugo-project

5) Configured GCS via the gsutil command-line utility (this may actually be redundant since we already configured the project with gcloud, but I leave it here in case you encounter issues with using just gcloud)

$ gsutil config -e
It looks like you are trying to run "/var/lib/jenkins/google-cloud-sdk/bin/bootstrapping/ config".
The "config" command is no longer needed with the Cloud SDK.
To authenticate, run: gcloud auth login
Really run this command? (y/N) y
Backing up existing config file "/var/lib/jenkins/.boto" to "/var/lib/jenkins/.boto.bak"...
This command will create a boto config file at /var/lib/jenkins/.boto
containing your credentials, based on your responses to the following
What is the full path to your private key file? /var/lib/jenkins/.ssh/my-gcs-hugo-project-a37b5acd7bc5.json

Please navigate your browser to,
then find the project you will use, and copy the Project ID string from the
second column. Older projects do not have Project ID strings. For such projects,
click the project and then copy the Project Number listed under that project.

What is your project-id? my-gcs-hugo-project

Boto config file "/var/lib/jenkins/.boto" created. If you need to use
a proxy to access the Internet please see the instructions in that


6) Added the service account created above as an Owner for the bucket

7) Copied a test file from the local file system of the Jenkins server to the bucket  (still logged in as user jenkins), then listed all files in the bucket, then removed the test file

$ gsutil cp test.go gs://
Copying file://test.go [Content-Type=application/octet-stream]...
Uploading   gs://             951 B/951 B

$ gsutil ls gs://

$ gsutil rm gs://
Removing gs://

8) Created a Jenkins job for uploading all static files for a given website to GCS

Assuming all these static files are checked in to GitHub, the Jenkins job will first check them out, then do something like this (where TARGET is the value selected from a Jenkins multiple-choice dropdown for this job):


# upload all filee and disable caching (for testing purposes)
gsutil -h "Cache-Control:private" cp -r * gs://$BUCKETNAME/

# set read permissions for allUsers
for file in `find . -type f`; do
    # remove first dot from file name
    gsutil acl ch -u allUsers:R gs://${BUCKETNAME}${file}

The first gsutil command does a recursive copy (cp -r *) of all files to the bucket. This will preserve the directory structure of the website. For testing purposes, the gsutil command also sets the Cache-Control header on all files to private, which tells browsers not to cache the files.

The second gsutil command is executed for each object in the bucket, and it sets the ACL on that object so that the object has Read (R) permissions for allUsers (by default only owners and other specifically assigned users have Read permissions). This is because we want to serve a public website out of our GCS bucket.

At this point, you should be able to hit in a browser and see your static site in all its glory.

Notes on Hugo setup

I've only dabbled in Hugo in the last couple of weeks, so these are very introductory-type notes.

Installing Hugo on OSX and creating a new Hugo site

$ brew update && brew install hugo
$ mkdir hugo-sites
$ cd hugo-sites
$ hugo new site
$ git clone --recursive themes
$ cd
$ ln -s ../themes .

At this point you have a skeleton directory structure created by Hugo (via the hugo new site command) under the directory

$ ls
archetypes  config.toml content     data        layouts     static themes

(note that we symlinked the themes directory into the directory to avoid duplication)

Configuring your Hugo site and choosing a theme

One file you will need to pay a lot of attention to is the site configuration file config.toml. The default content of this file is deceptively simple:

$ cat config.toml
baseurl = ""
languageCode = "en-us"
title = "My New Hugo Site"

Before you do anything more, you need to decide on a theme for your site. Browse the Hugo Themes page and find something you like. Let's assume you choose the Casper theme. You will need to become familiar with the customizations that the theme offers. Here are some customizations I made in config.toml, going by the examples on the Casper theme web page:

$ cat config.toml
baseurl = ""
languageCode = "en-us"
title = "My Speedy Test Site"
newContentEditor = "vim"

theme = "casper"
canonifyurls = true

  description = "Serving static sites at the speed of light"
  cover = "images/header.jpg"
  logo = "images/mylogo.png"
  # set true if you are not proud of using Hugo (true will hide the footer note "Proudly published with HUGO.....")
  hideHUGOSupport = false

#  author = "Valère JEANTET"
#  authorlocation = "Paris, France"
#  authorwebsite = ""
#  bio= "my bio"
#  googleAnalyticsUserID = "UA-79101-12"
#  # Optional RSS-Link, if not provided it defaults to the standard index.xml
#  RSSLink = ""
#  githubName = "vjeantet"
#  twitterName = "vjeantet"
  # facebookName = ""
  # linkedinName = ""

I left most of the Casper-specific options commented out and only specified a cover image, a logo and a description. 

Creating a new page

If you want blog-style posts to appear on your home page, create a new page with Hugo under a directory called post (some themes want this directory to be named post and others want it posts, so check what the theme expects). 

Let's assume you want to create a page caled (I haven't even mentioned this so far, but Hugo deals by default with Markdown pages, so you will need to brush up a bit on our Markdown skills). You would run:

$ hugo new post/

This creates the post directory under the content directory, creates a file called in content/post, and opens up the file for editing in the editor you specified as the value for newContentEditor in config.toml (vim in my case). The default contents of the md file are specific to the theme you used. For Casper, here is what I get by default:

author = ""
comments = true
date = "2016-02-12T11:54:32-08:00"
draft = false
image = ""
menu = ""
share = true
slug = "post-title"
tags = ["tag1", "tag2"]
title = "hello world"


Now add some content to that file and save it. Note that the draft property is set to false by the Casper theme. Other themes set it to true, in which case it would not be published by Hugo by default. The slug property is set by Casper to "post-title" by default. I changed it to "hello-world". I also changed the tags list to only contain one tag I called "blog".

At this point, you can run the hugo command by itself, and it will take the files it finds under content, static, and its other subdirectories, turn them into html/js/css/font files and save it in a directory called public:

$ hugo
0 draft content
0 future content
1 pages created
3 paginator pages created
1 tags created
0 categories created
in 55 ms

$ find public

That's quite a number of files and directories created by hugo. Most of it is boilerplate coming from the theme. Our file was turned into a directory called hello-world under public/post, with an index.html file dropped in it. Note that the Casper theme names the hello-world directory after the slug property in the file.

Serving the site locally with Hugo

Hugo makes it very easy to check your site locally. Just run

$ hugo server
0 draft content
0 future content
1 pages created
3 paginator pages created
1 tags created
0 categories created
in 35 ms
Watching for changes in /Users/grig.gheorghiu/mycode/hugo-sites/{data,content,layouts,static,themes}
Serving pages from memory
Web Server is available at http://localhost:1313/ (bind address
Press Ctrl+C to stop

Now if you browse to http://localhost:1313 you should see something similar to this:

Not bad for a few minutes of work.

For other types of content, such as static pages not displayed on the home page, you can create Markdown files in a pages directory:

$ hugo new pages/
author = ""
comments = true
date = "2016-02-12T12:24:26-08:00"
draft = false
image = ""
menu = "main"
share = true
slug = "static1"
tags = ["tag1", "tag2"]
title = "static1"


Static page 1.

Note that the menu property value is "main" in this case. This tells the Casper theme to create a link to this page in the main drop-down menu available on the home page.

If you run hugo server again, you should see something the menu available in the upper right corner, and a link to static1 when you click on the menu:

To deploy your site to GCS, S3 or regular servers, you need to upload the files and directories under the public directory. It's that simple.

I'll stop here with my Hugo notes. DigitalOcean has a great tutorial on installing and running Hugo on Ubuntu 14.04.

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