After stumbling across gollum, I decided it was about time I started tracking things I find and learn in a more structured way. Especially tracking tasks I don’t do often.

My requirements were:

  1. Must have search.
  2. Plaintext. No specific data formats.
  3. Ability to add to it from my ChromeBook.
  4. Secure.

Gollum nails the first 3, with its beautiful web interface and git-backed markdown goodness.

So let’s start by going for 3-out-of-4. First, decide how you’re going to install gollum. I used rvm for the first pass, so let’s go with that. Get a shell as the user you want to be running gollum as, and let’s get going.

# If you haven't installed RVM yet, go ahead and do that
# curl -L | bash -s stable --ruby=2.0.0
# You may need to (on Fedora) install libicu-devel for internationalization
$ gem install gollum
$ mkdir && cd
$ echo "#Hello

This is my first wiki article ever" >
$ git add . && git commit -m 'initial commit'
$ gollum

Now you should be set with gollum running on (by default) port 4567. Check it out, see if it works. Now let’s go after the security bit.

Thinking about the security part was the hardest, because I didn’t want to raise the barrier to adding info by requiring a password or 2-factor auth. Client certificate authentication came to mind, and so far it’s worked excellently. The idea of using a client certificate came from, which installs a cert in your browser when you sign up and requires it for any future transactions

With that, I set off make myself a signing certificate (because real ones are mad $$$) and make certs for my devices. I used the openssl command line tool, it’s kind of clunky, but it’ll get you there.

First, we need to make our signing cert.

openssl genrsa -aes256 -out ca.key 4096
openssl req -new -x509 -days 365 -key ca.key -out ca.crt

Now that we’ve generated our signing cert, we can use this script to sign the individual certificates for each client.

HOST=mycomputer #a shortname for a given client
SERIAL=01 # increment this with each host
mkdir $HOST && cd $HOST # make a directory for all the cert/key files related to that host
openssl genrsa -aes256 -out $HOST.key 2048
openssl req -new -key $HOST.key -out $HOST.csr
openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in $HOST.csr -CA ../client_signing_ca.crt -CAkey ../client_signing_ca.key -set_serial $SERIAL -out $HOST.crt
openssl pkcs12 -export -in $HOST.crt -inkey $HOST.key -out $HOST

So now we can run that script for as many clients as we need. It’s time to configure nginx to actually check the certificates and send requests along to gollum. This example assumes nginx is installed on the same machine you just installed gollum. Add the config below to nginx’s /etc/nginx/sites.d/, /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/, or directly to /etc/nginx.conf depending on how your site is configured.

If starting with a fresh nginx install, there are some nginx boilerplate configurations available to get your nginx server going with some sane defaults.

server {
        listen 80;
        rewrite ^ https://$server_name$request_uri? permanent;
server {
        listen 443 ssl;
        # if you don't have a serverssl cert, skip the next 2 lines
        ssl_certificate      /etc/nginx/certs/server.crt; 
        ssl_certificate_key  /etc/nginx/certs/ssl.key;
        # this will be the CA cert we created earlier
        ssl_client_certificate /etc/nginx/certs/client_signing_ca.crt;
        ssl_verify_client on; # require that the client cert be signed by us, otherwise throw a nasty 400
        location / {
                proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
                proxy_set_header Host $host;
                proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
                proxy_buffering on;
                proxy_redirect off;

After adding this file, restart nginx and test that gollum is accessible by clients with the certificate. The best way to do this is curl -k -v -L --cert mycomputer/mycomputer.p12

Now to get the certificate into your browser. In Chromium/Google Chrome the certificate can be imported in Settings > HTTPS/SSL > Import Identity Certificate. Bam, you’re done now. Head over and start using your personal wiki to record ideas, reference docs, drafts of blog posts, or journal entries. Best of all, never enter a password to get in; but know that your data is safe.