Setting Up a Personal Matamo Instance with Ansible

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This site used to use Google Analytics to gather website traffic data. However, there was always a level of uncomfort with subjecting my website guests to tracking by Google. So, for a while, I removed analytics all together. But then I missed the valuable insights that analytics provided in learning what posts guests found useful. In the end I decided to add analytics back, but in a way more geared towards user privacy. Matomo fit that bill.

Matamo is a web analytics platform that allows self-hosting an instance; user data is not shared with a third-party like Google. I could have my cake (getting insights in which posts website guests found useful) and eat it too (not expose my website guests to third-party web tracking). Here is how you can easily do the same with your website. If you are familiar with Ansible and Matomo, you can jump right to the code here: https://github.com/jonmbake/matomo-ansible.

Secondary Side Project Benefits

When doing personal projects, I try to think of ways to get secondary benefits like learning a new language or framework. I have always wanted to learn Ansible– the framework that allows easy, reproducible server provisioning ™. Setting up a personal Matomo instance would be a great opportunity.

Ansible Basics

Ansible allows one to provision (e.g. install Apache, MySQL, whatever) one or many servers easily and consistently by running a single command. A playbook YAML file describes how to do the provisioning. The playbook contains tasks and roles. Tasks are commands to run while provision, e.g. apt-get install apache2. Roles can be thought of as a way to group tasks that should be run together.

Ansible includes a number of modules. Modules are pre-packaged commands. So, for example, instead of defining the task:

- name: Extract foo.zip to /tmp
  command: unzip foo.zip -d /tmp

You can use the unarchive module:

- name: Extract foo.zip to /tmp
  unarchive:
    src: foo.zip
    dest: /tmp

Another Ansible concept is handlers. Handlers allow an action to performed at the end of a playbook when a certain task is invoked. For example, if you wanted to restart Apache after activating a module, you could add a handler notify to the task definition:

- name: Enable Apache SSL module
  apache2_module:
    state: present
    name: ssl
  notify: Restart Apache

Translating Matomo Install Instructions to an Ansible Playbook

Matomo documents the server requirements for a Matomo Instance. These would simply have to be translated into an Ansible playbook. The basic requirements are a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) so I installed those via the apt module (Ubuntu’s package manager):

- name: Install Apache, PHP, MySQL
  apt:
    pkg:
      - apache2
      - php7.2
      - php7.2-curl
      - php7.2-gd
      - php7.2-cli
      - mysql-server
      - php7.2-mysql
      - php7.2-xml
      - php7.2-mbstring
      - php7.2-geoip
    force_apt_get: true
    update_cache: yes

https://github.com/jonmbake/matomo-ansible/blob/master/roles/common/tasks/install-lamp.yml

It’s also important to make sure HTTPS/SSL is enabled with a valid certificate. Certbot makes it easy:

- name: Add certbot repo
      apt_repository:
        repo: ppa:certbot/certbot
        state: present

    - name: Install Certbot
      apt:
        pkg:
          - certbot
          - python-certbot-apache
        force_apt_get: true

    - name: Invoke Certbot
      command: certbot --apache -n --agree-tos -m  -d 

https://github.com/jonmbake/matomo-ansible/blob/master/site.yml

Once the server is “LAMPified”, the database can be created:

- name: Start MySQL
  service:
    name: mysql
    state: started
    enabled: yes

- name: Create Matomo database
  mysql_user:
    name: ""
    password: ""
    priv: '*.*:ALL'
    state: present

https://github.com/jonmbake/matomo-ansible/blob/master/roles/common/tasks/initialize-database.yml

Notice that like the Certbot tasks above, db_username and db_password are wrapped in double curly braces. This is because they are passed in as variables. Defaults can be set in the roles defaults directory.

The last thing to do is install Matomo. We simply have to download and extract the zip to /var/www/html/– the directory that Apache serves by default:

- name: Matomo | Check if installed
  stat:
    path: /var/www/html/matomo
  register: matomo_install

- name: Matomo | Download
  get_url:
    url: https://builds.matomo.org/matomo.zip
    dest: /tmp
  when: matomo_install.stat.exists == false

- name: Matomo | Extract zip
  command: bsdtar --strip-components=1 -xvf /tmp/matomo.zip -C /var/www/html/
  when: matomo_install.stat.exists == false

Now It’s Your Turn

If you are currently using Google Analytics, I ask you to give Matomo a shot. It is well-designed, free, and easy to set up. You might even learn something new during the setup process.

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