I’ve dreamed of this day but never imagined I’d actually think I’ve got ideas mature enough to do it. Turns out, kids can have good ideas too once in a while.

How do websites work?

Back in my senior year of highschool, my buddies and I thought it would be funny to have our own blog / website. I didn’t think there was much to it, so I turned to godaddy.com, the only website-buying marketplace around. Little did I know that they only sell domain names, and what I could even do with one. Did I pay $20 for a domain name? Splashthetown.com sat vacant for exactly one year under my command. Two-thirds of a CS degree later and I think I am finally ready. Billions of webpages exist on the internet, so it can’t be that difficult, right? I’m going to walk you through the steps I undertook to get this website to you, and how you are able to see the words you are reading on your screen right now.

Internet, I’ve Heard of That

I once heard the internet described as “the cloud”, which is good to help people understand you know nothing about it. To give a marginally better explanation, imagine your brain, with all its neurons interconnected and whatnot. Lets call each neuron a “node”. Each node holds information, and when it recieves a message it decides what to do with that information, modify it, store it, pass it on, sell it to the highest bidder for ad revenue, the possibilities are endless. In this way, the brain is much like the internet. These “nodes”, or nuerons, are actually computers that make up the internet, a big web of interconnected, communicating devices. Our goal is to add a node to the network, and tell it to send specific information to anyone who calls on it.

How to create your own Node

If you want to put your stake on the great world wide web, then you need a few things:

  • The Address - a domain name, purchasing one lets you tell internet phone books where your computer is located in the web.
  • The Node - a computer that can run some internet code on it. Most people want this to be some computer AWS or other server farm controls so that it stays online 24/7 and can scale easily (your code can be copied to other machines if you get tons of visitors). But it can get boring if you don’t have to keep fixing things on your server.
  • The Code - Some call it a web server, I adhere to this practice.

I will be walking you through the steps I took to get you here on this web page. There are hundreds of ways to get something on the internet, and my way is certainly one of them. For reference, I am running Arch Linux btw on my main computer.

Since I don’t want to pay $5 a month for ease-of-use and stability and scalability, I will be using a rasperry pi zero w2 plugged into a charging brick behind my book shelf to be the node.

image My Rasperry Pi Zero w2 - How it is currently serving up the web

Get a Domain

Any self-respecting, domain-selling company online will happily take your money. I’ve used Name and GoDaddy (but not really), but any google result will do. Purchase one, that is all for now. This probably didn’t need a whole section…

Write some Internet Code

Actually the goal for me with this site is to not have to write any code at all.

If you don’t have a raspberry pi and instead coughed over $$$ to Jeff Bezos, then get the IP address of your machine and skip to step 4.

  1. I used rpi imager to flash Raspberry Pi OS Lite to an SD card.

    • You can use any flashing tool, but rpi imager is convenient when working with Pi’s, and it lets you configure Wifi so the Pi connects automatically on boot.
  2. Put the SD card into the Pi and turn it on.

  3. Verify it is connected to the internet:

    • I use nmap to scan my local network
        nmap -sn 192.168.<insert third octet from device ip here, like 27>.0/24

    This gives me output like

        Host is up (0.018s latency).
        Nmap scan report for
        Host is up (0.077s latency).
        Nmap scan report for raspberrypi.lan (
  4. Use ssh to connect to the device ssh user@<ip address of server>. Do not forget to include the user name in the ssh command.

  5. For this webserver, I’m using Hugo, a static site generator written in Go to create the pages, and nginx to serve the files. Follow the instructions here to install it to your server / node and set up a simple site with Hugo. Optionally, you can build your site locally and then share it to your server with git, but that is out of scope for this post.

    • Once your site is built, run hugo in the base directory of your hugo site. This will generate all the static files for your website. It gave me this output:
          user@pi:~/foss-cat $ hugo
          Start building sites    hugo v0.102.2-f104f7bc02f7d23d41f17c7353df1217cf25b2dc linux/arm BuildDate=2022-08-31T10:42:06Z VendorInfo=gohugoio
                          | EN  
          Pages            | 10  
          Paginator pages  |  0  
          Non-page files   |  0  
          Static files     |  0  
          Processed images |  0  
          Aliases          |  2  
          Sitemaps         |  1  
          Cleaned          |  0  
          Total in 756 ms
  6. With your hugo pages built, install nginx and configure it to serve those pages. I found Gideon Wolfe’s guide to be super useful. On my raspberry pi I ran

        sudo apt-get install nginx
        sudo /etc/init.d/nginx start

    Then cd into the sites-available config of nginx and create a new file, call it something creative like <your-domain>. In it, put this configuration, changing lines 5 and 7 to their proper names:

    server {
       listen 80;
       listen [::]:80;
       server_name mysite.com www.mysite.com; # Domain name you purchased
       root /home/<my-username>/<my-hugo-site>/public/; # Absolute path to your hugo site
       index index.html; # Hugo generates HTML
       location / {
               try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

    Now, create a sym-link of the new file into the directory sites-enabled. Don’t use relative paths, I got weird nginx errors 😶 :

    sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/<config_file> /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/<config_file>

    With that complete, run sudo systemctl restart nginx.service and you should be able to visit the ip address of your machine and see your hugo site!

  7. Add domain name records through your domain name provider. You probably just need two A records, one with and without “www”. It should look something like this:

    Type Host Answer
    A www. ip address
    A ip address
    • If you are self-hosting like I am, you need to port-forward your device to make it visible on the world-wide-web. The steps to do this vary depending on your router. I fortunately and unfortunately have Google Fiber. So I can download Warzone in an hour but my resistance to an all-knowing data-collecting monolith feels futile. To port forward, you want to lock your raspberry pi’s IP assigned by the router. This is done through DHCP. Then, open up your router’s external port to the cooresponding internal raspberry pi port. For http you want your pi’s port 80. If you use SSL (which you should, its easy to setup), then use port 443.


    Port-Forwarding was something I have always wanted to do but my loving father never let me do it as a kid because he said bad stuff could happen, i.e stranger danger. I don’t think self-hosting is super safe or reasonable for most use-cases today, but I’m willing to do it because its awesome and I’ve always wanted to (see above). You should definitely lock down your local device with a good password and enforce SSH with trusted keys only. To do that, run this command on your regular machine (laptop) to your raspberry pi.

    ssh-copy-id <user>@<ip of pi>

    SSH into the pi and go to the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config and modify line 58 to read:

        # To disable tunneled clear text passwords, change to no here!
        PasswordAuthentication no
        #PermitEmptyPasswords no

    Exit and SSH back in to see if it works. Now reboot your machine. Proceed with cautious optimism.

    You’ve been warned.

  8. Lastly, I used certbot to add SSL to my site, because its easy and it makes your site’s sketchiness go from back-street alley to across-the-street mailman. On my Raspberry Pi I ran:

        sudo apt install snapd  # I didn't want to install snap on such a resource-limited device, but it was the recommended way, and I didn't want to trailblaze any longer, especially with ssl configuration, a subject I know little about
        sudo snap install core
        sudo snap install --classic certbot
        sudo ln -s /snap/bin/certbot /usr/bin/certbot  # Adds cert-bot to your PATH if /snap/bin isn't configured, you may need to restart / log-off log-in for the last line
        sudo certbot --nginx

Spread your Propaganda

If you followed this guide and got a working site, send me an email. I would love to check it out. This is my very first blog post and my very first blog site. I spent a whole lot of time setting everything up just how I like it, and I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. I think the actual setting up of the website probably only took a few hours, but writing this and getting all the styles and aesthetics to look the way I want took 10+ hours.

I also decided near the end that I would open-source my hugo pages, so if you find any mistakes, want to copy the styles, or just criticize my ideas, feel free to follow the Suggest Changes link above or click here to let me know how you feel.

‘Til next time