Install OpenACS 5.0.0a1

by Vinod Kurup
OpenACS docs are written by the named authors, and may be edited by OpenACS documentation staff.

Set up the file system for an OpenACS Service

  1. The reference install stores all OpenACS services in /var/lib/aolserver, with one subdirectory per service. The first time you install a service, you must create that directory and set its permissions:

    [root@yourserver root]# mkdir /var/lib/aolserver
    [root@yourserver root]# chgrp web /var/lib/aolserver
    [root@yourserver root]# chmod 770 /var/lib/aolserver
    [root@yourserver root]#
    mkdir /var/lib/aolserver
    chgrp web /var/lib/aolserver
    chmod 770 /var/lib/aolserver
  2. You should already have downloaded the OpenACS tarball to the /tmp directory. If not, download the OpenACS tarball and save it in /tmp and proceed:

  3. Set up your user account.

    AOLserver needs to be started as the root user if you want to use port 80. Once it starts, though, it will drop the root privileges and run as another user, which you must specify on the command line. It's important that this user has as few privileges as possible. Why? Because if an intruder somehow breaks in through AOLserver, you don't want her to have any ability to do damage to the rest of your server.

    At the same time, AOLserver needs to have write access to some files on your system in order for OpenACS to function properly. So, we'll run AOLserver with a different user account for each different service. A service name should be a single word, letters and numbers only. If the name of your site is one word, that would be a good choice. For example "service0" might be the service name for the community.

    For the 5.0.0a1-P and 5.0.0a1-O Reference Platform, we'll use a server named service0 and a user named service0. We'll leave the password blank for increased security. The only way to log in will be with ssh certificates. The only people who should log in are developers for that specific instance. Add this user, and put it in the web group so that it can use database commands associated with that group.

    [root@yourserver root]# useradd -g web service0 -d /home/service0
    [root@yourserver root]#

    Set up database environment variables. They are necessary for working with the database.

    [root@yourserver root]# su - service0
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ emacs .bashrc

    Put in the appropriate lines for the database you are running. If you will use both databases, put in both sets of lines.

    • PostGreSQL:

      export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$LD_LIBRARY_PATH:/usr/local/pgsql/lib
      export PATH=$PATH:/usr/local/pgsql/bin
    • Oracle. These environment variables are specific for a local Oracle installation communicating via IPC. If you are connecting to a remote Oracle installation, you'll need to adjust these appropriately. Also, make sure that the '8.1.7' matches your Oracle version.

      export ORACLE_BASE=/ora8/m01/app/oracle
      export ORACLE_HOME=$ORACLE_BASE/product/8.1.7
      export PATH=$PATH:$ORACLE_HOME/bin
      export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$ORACLE_HOME/lib:/lib:/usr/lib
      export ORACLE_SID=ora8
      export ORACLE_TERM=vt100
      export ORA_NLS33=$ORACLE_HOME/ocommon/nls/admin/data

    Test this by logging out and back in as service0 and checking the paths.

    [service0@yourserver service0]$ exit
    [root@yourserver src]# su - service0
    [postgres@yourserver pgsql]$ env | grep PATH

    For PostGreSQL, you should see:


    For Oracle:

    [service0@yourserver service0]$ exit
    [root@yourserver root]#
  4. Unpack the OpenACS tarball and rename it to service0. Secure the directory so that only the owner can access it. Check the permissions by listing the directory.

    [root@yourserver root]# su - service0
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ cd /var/lib/aolserver
    [service0@yourserver aolserver]$ tar xzf /tmp/openacs-5.0.0a1.tgz
    [service0@yourserver aolserver]$ mv openacs-5.0.0a1 service0
    [service0@yourserver aolserver]$ chmod -R 700 service0
    [service0@yourserver aolserver]$ ls -al
    total 3
    drwxrwx---    3 root     web          1024 Mar 29 16:41 .
    drwxr-xr-x   25 root     root         1024 Mar 29 16:24 ..
    drwx------    7 service0 web          1024 Jan  6 14:36 service0
    [service0@yourserver aolserver]$ exit
    [root@yourserver root]#
    su - service0
    cd /var/lib/aolserver
    tar xzf /tmp/openacs-5.0.0a1.tgz
    mv openacs-5.0.0a1 service0
    chmod -R 700 service0/
  5. Add the Service to CVS (OPTIONAL)

  6. (This step should be obsoleted by the 5.0.0 tarball, as these directories will be included in the tarball)Set up several additional directories in the service root: etc is for configuration and control files, log is for error and request (web page hit) log files, and database-backup is for database backup files. If you did the CVS step, note that these new directories are excluded from that step so that you can decide whether or not you want your logs and config files in source control.

    [root@yourserver root]# su - service0
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ mkdir /var/lib/aolserver/service0/etc /var/lib/aolserver/service0/log /var/lib/aolserver/service0/database-backup
    [service0@yourserver aolserver]$ exit
    [root@yourserver aolserver]#
    su - service0
    mkdir /var/lib/aolserver/service0/etc /var/lib/aolserver/service0/log /var/lib/aolserver/service0/database-backup

Prepare Oracle for OpenACS

If you won't be using Oracle, skip to Section , “Prepare PostgreSQL for an OpenACS Service”

You should be sure that your user account (e.g. service0) is in the dba group.

  1. Verify membership by typing groups when you login:

    service0:~$ groups
    dba web

    If you do not see these groups, take the following action:

    service0:~$ su -      
    Password: ************
    root:~# adduser service0 dba

    If you get an error about an undefined group, then add that group manually:

    root:~# groupadd dba
    root:~# groupadd web

    Make sure to logout as root when you are finished with this step and log back in as your regular user.

  2. Connect to Oracle using svrmgrl and login:

    service0:~$ svrmgrl
    SVRMGR> connect internal

  3. Determine where the system tablespaces are stored:

    SVRMGR>  select file_name from dba_data_files;

    Example results:


  4. Using the above output, you should determine where to store your tablespace. As a general rule, you'll want to store your tablespace on a mount point under the /ora8 directory that is separate from the Oracle system data files. By default, the Oracle system is on m01, so we will use m02. This enables your Oracle system and database files to be on separate disks for optimized performance. For more information on such a configuration, see Chapter 12 of Philip's book. For this example, we'll use /ora8/m02/oradata/ora8/.

  5. Create the directory for the datafile; to do this, exit from svrmgrl and login as root for this step:

    SVRMGR> exit
    service0:~$ su -
    Password: ************
    root:~# mkdir -p /ora8/m02/oradata/ora8/
    root:~# chown service0.web /ora8/m02/oradata/ora8
    root:~# chmod 775 /ora8/m02/oradata/ora8
    root:~# exit
  6. Create a tablespace for the service. It is important that the tablespace can autoextend. This allows the tablespace's storage capacity to grow as the size of the data grows. We set the pctincrease to be a very low value so that our extents won't grow geometrically. We do not set it to 0 at the tablespace level because this would affect Oracle's ability to automatically coalesce free space in the tablespace.

    service0:~$ svrmgrl
    SVRMGR> connect internal;
    SVRMGR> create tablespace service0 
                 datafile '/ora8/m02/oradata/ora8/service001.dbf' 
                 size 50M 
                 autoextend on 
                 next 10M
                 maxsize 300M
                 extent management local
                 uniform size 32K;
  7. Create a database user for this service. Give the user access to the tablespace and rights to connect. We'll use service0password as our password.

    Write down what you specify as service_name (i.e. service0) and database_password (i.e. service0password). You will need this information for configuring exports and AOLserver.

    SVRMGR> create user service0 identified by service0password default tablespace service0
    temporary tablespace temp quota unlimited on service0;
    SVRMGR> grant connect, resource, ctxapp, javasyspriv, query rewrite to service0;
    SVRMGR> revoke unlimited tablespace from service0;
    SVRMGR> alter user service0 quota unlimited on service0;
    SVRMGR> exit;

    Your table space is now ready. In case you are trying to delete a previous OpenACS installation, consult these commands in Section , “Deleting a tablespace” below.

  8. Make sure that you can login to Oracle using your service_name account:

    service0:~$ sqlplus service0/service0password
    SQL> select sysdate from dual;
    SQL> exit

    You should see today's date in a format 'YYYY-MM-DD.' If you can't login, try redoing step 1 again. If the date is in the wrong format, make sure you followed the steps outlined in Section , “Troubleshooting Oracle Dates”

Prepare PostgreSQL for an OpenACS Service

  1. Create a user in the database matching the service name.

    [root@yourserver root]# su - postgres
    [postgres@yourserver pgsql]$ createuser service0
    Shall the new user be allowed to create databases? (y/n) y
    Shall the new user be allowed to create more new users? (y/n) y
    [postgres@yourserver pgsql]$ exit
    [root@yourserver root]#
  2. Create a database with the same name as our service name, service0.

    [root@yourserver root]# su - service0
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ createdb -E UNICODE service0
    [service0@yourserver service0]$
    su - service0
    createdb -E UNICODE service0
  3. Automate daily database Vacuuming. This is a process which cleans out discarded data from the database. A quick way to automate vacuuming is to edit the cron file for the database user.

    [service0@yourserver service0]$ export EDITOR=emacs;crontab -e

    Add this line to the file. The numbers and stars at the beginning are cron columns that specify when the program should be run - in this case, whenever the minute is 0 and the hour is 1, i.e., 1:00 am every day.

    0 1 * * * /usr/local/pgsql/bin/vacuumdb --analyze service0
  4. Add Full Text Search Support (OPTIONAL)

  5. [service0@yourserver service0]$ exit
    [root@yourserver root]# 

Configure an AOLserver Service for OpenACS

  1. The AOLserver architecture lets you run an arbitrary number of virtual servers. A virtual server is an HTTP service running on a specific port, e.g. port 80. In order for OpenACS to work, you need to configure a virtual server. The Reference Platform uses a configuration file included in the OpenACS tarball, /var/lib/aolserver/service0/etc/config.tcl. Open it in an editor to adjust the parameters.

    [root@yourserver root]# su - service0
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ cd /var/lib/aolserver/service0/etc
    [service0@yourserver etc]# emacs config.tcl

    You can continue without changing any values in the file. However, if you don't change address to match the computer's ip address, you won't be able to browse to your server from other machines.

    • httpport - If you want your server on a different port, enter it here. The Reference Platform port is 8000, which is suitable for development use. Port 80 is the standard http port - it's the port used by your browser when you enter http://yourserver.test. So you should use port 80 for your production site.

    • httpsport - This is the port for https requests. The Reference Platform https port is 8443. If http port is set to 80, httpsport should be 143 to match the standard.

    • address - The IP address of the server. If you are hosting multiple IPs on one computer, this is the address specific to the web site. Each virtual server will ignore any requests directed at other addresses.

    • server - This is the keyword that, by convention, identifies the service. It is also used as part of the path for the service root, as the name of the user for running the service, as the name of the database, and in various dependent places. The Reference Platform uses service0.

    • db_name - In almost all cases, this can be kept as a reference to $server. If for some reason, the tablespace you are using is different than your servername, then you can set it here. You should have a good reason for doing this.

    • servername - This is just a *pretty* name for your server.

    • user_account - The account that will both own OpenACS files and connect to the database (for Postgresql).

    • debug - Set to true for a very verbose error log, including many lines for every page view, success or failure.

  2. AOLServer is very configurable. These settings should get you started, but for more options, read the AOLServer docs.

  3. Enable OpenFTS Full Text Search (OPTIONAL)

  4. Install nsopenssl for SSL support. (OPTIONAL)

Verify AOLserver startup

  1. Kill any current running AOLserver processes and start a new one. If you are using Oracle, rather than PostgreSQL, replace nsd-postgres with nsd-oracle).

    If you want to use port 80, there are complications. First, Aolserver must be root to use system ports such as 80, but refuses to run as root for security reasons. Thus you must start as root and specify a non-root user ID and Group ID which Aolserver will switch to after claiming the port. To do so, find the UID and GID of the service0 user via grep service0 /etc/passwd and then put those numbers into the command line via -u 501 -g 502. Second, if you are root then killall will affect all OpenACS services on the machine, so if there's more than one you'll have to do ps -auxw | grep nsd and selectively kill by job number.

    [service0@yourserver etc]$ killall nsd
    nsd: no process killed
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ /usr/local/aolserver/bin/nsd-postgres -t /var/lib/aolserver/service0/etc/config.tcl
    [service0@yourserver service0]$ [08/Mar/2003:18:13:29][32131.8192][-main-] Notice: nsd.tcl: starting to read config file...
    [08/Mar/2003:18:13:29][32131.8192][-main-] Notice: nsd.tcl: finished reading config file.
  2. Attempt to connect to the service from a web browser. You should specify a URL like:


    You should see a page that looks like this. If you imported your files into cvs, now that you know it worked you can erase the temp directory with rm -rf /var/lib/aolserver/service0.orig.

    If you don't see the login page, view your error log (/var/lib/aolserver/service0/log/service0-error.log) to make sure the service is starting without any problems. The most common errors here are trying to start a port 80 server while not root, failing to connect because of a firewall, and aolserver failing to start due to permissions errors or missing files. If you need to make changes, don't forget to kill any running servers with killall nsd.

  3. Automate AOLserver keepalive (OPTIONAL)

Configure a Service with the OpenACS Installer

Now that you've got AOLserver up and running, let's install OpenACS 5.0.0a1.

  • You should see a page from the webserver titled OpenACS Installation: Welcome. You will be warned if your version of the database driver is out of date, if AOLserver cannot connect to the database, if any modules are missing or out-of-date, or if there are any problems with filesystem permissions on the server side. But if everything is fine, you can click Next to proceed to load the OpenACS Kernel data model.

  • The next page shows the results of loading the OpenACS Kernel data model - be prepared to wait a few minutes as it works. You should see a string of output messages from the database as the datamodel is created. You'll see the line:

    Loading package .info files ... this will take a few minutes

    This will really take a few minutes. Have faith! Finally, another Next button will appear at the bottom - click it.

  • The following page shows the results of loading the core package data models. You should see positive results for each of the previously selected packages, but watch out for any errors. Eventually, the page will display "Generating secret tokens" and then "Done"- click Next.

  • You should see a page, "OpenACS Installation: Create Administrator" with form fields to define the OpenACS site administrator. Fill out the fields as appropriate, and click Create User.

  • You should see a page, "OpenACS Installation: Set System Information" allowing you to name your service. Fill out the fields as appropriate, and click Set System Information

  • You'll see the final Installer page, "OpenACS Installation: Complete." It will tell you that the server is being restarted; note that unless you already set up a way for AOLServer to restart itself (ie. inittab or daemontools), you'll need to manually restart your service.

    [service0@yourserver service0]$ /usr/local/aolserver/bin/nsd-postgres -t /var/lib/aolserver/service0/config.tcl
  • Give the server a few minutes to start up. Then reload the final page above. You should see the front page, with an area to login near the upper right. Congratulations, OpenACS 5.0.0a1 is now up and running!

  • Install Full Text Search (OPTIONAL). If you have installed OpenFTS and enabled OpenFTS, you can now install the OpenFTS Driver package and Full Text Search Engine package in the OpenACS service.

Next Steps

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