This post explains how to get a personal wiki using Gollum running on Amazon Web Services (EC2) on a micro instance with the free usage tier.

For a long time I’ve been using TiddlyWiki as a personal wiki for note taking. I used DropBox to sync the wiki html file between machines. I have wanted to upgrade this for a while for a system that has proper versioning and better syntax highlighting. I’ve also wanted to test out using AWS as I think it will be a useful experience for the future.

Step 1 - Get a domain name.

Any domain name will do. I recently learned about Internationalised Domain Names, which are URLs that contain language-specific Unicode characters. Browsers interpret the Unicode characters in a system called Punycode, which encodes the Unicode characters into a restricted ASCII character set, allowing DNS entries for IDN sites in the ASCII character set.

For instance, hover your mouse over the following URL in a modern browser and you will see a domain beginning with xn--: ☁→❄→☃→☀→☺→☂→☹→✝.ws

I had a browse through a Unicode character table, found a glyph that I liked (it looks like a skull with a monocle), then found the punycode URL for the character, then registered it with NameCheap. Despite the name, the customer support was very good.

I now had the URL http://ௐ.com.

Step 2 - Set up an Amazon Micro Instance

I signed up for the free usage tier of AWS, started up a micro instance, assigned an elastic IP to the instance, then pointed the DNS A record to that IP using NameCheap’s DNS server.

I used all of the default settings, and the micro instance image is the Ubuntu 13.04 server image. The next step was to install all required dependencies and Gollum itself:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install vim build-essential ruby ruby-dev libxslt1-dev git-core libxml2-dev
sudo gem install redcarpet gollum

The Gollum wiki has a list of other gems that you might find useful for different types of language markup and syntax highlighting. After the dependencies had been installed, I opened up TCP port 4567 on the web server security group, and created the wiki itself:

mkdir wiki
cd wiki
git init .

I added a file at to enable HTTP Basic Auth on the Rack application, based on the file I found here.

require 'rubygems'
require 'gollum/app'

use Rack::Auth::Basic, "Restricted Area" do |username, password|
   [username, password] == ['user', 'password']

gollum_path = File.expand_path(File.dirname(__FILE__))
Precious::App.set(:gollum_path, gollum_path)
Precious::App.set(:wiki_options, {})
run Precious::App

I could then see the server running with HTTP basic auth (see more authentication options for Rack::Auth here) on port 4567, after running the following:

rackup -p 4567

Hitting <Control+Z>, then running the following will let you log out of the session and the server will continue to run.


You can install an Upstart script to have Upstart manage your Gollum process. A quick Google found one that looks like it will do the trick here.

Note: This git repository has no remote, so this is your only copy. I suggest using an EBS volume to store your git repo, or for instance a nightly Cron job that pushes to another server.