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Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Install

Installing LON-CAPA on a minimal Red Hat Enterpise Linux 4 ES System

This document guides you through the process of setting up a new LON-CAPA server running Red Hat Enterpise Linux 4 (ES) with a minimum of packages installed. The computer will be configured solely as a LON-CAPA server and will be expected to have no other services running. Your server is expected to have a reasonably fast connection to the internet.

More information is available at http://install.lon-capa.org/.

Before you begin

Installing Linux is getting easier and easier. However, it is still a non-trivial undertaking and experience with Red Hat Linux will make this process easier. You will be required to log in to the machine and execute some routine Unix commands. Familiarity with the Apache web server, mod_perl, perl, and MySQL are not required to install and run LON-CAPA.

Installation Overview

The installation process takes the following steps:

  1. Obtain Red Hat Enterprise Server installation CDs
  2. Determine Network Settings
  3. Install Red Hat 4
  4. Update your system
  5. Install LON-CAPA
  6. Create a Domain Coordinator
  7. Start/Restart services
  8. Log in to LON-CAPA

Obtain Red Hat Enterprise Server CDs

RHEL4 ES CDs can be purchased from Red Hat: http://redhat.com/. For the minimal install on 32-bit architecture you will need only the first two CDs.

Determine Network Settings

You will need to know the following network settings for your installation. Note:You must have a static IP address to use LON-CAPA. DHCP is not supported.

  • ip address
  • netmask
  • hostname
  • gateway
  • domain name server(s)

Minimal Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Install

Installing Red Hat Enterprise Linux is quite easy if you've installed any of the Red Hat products before. Documentation is available from http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/enterprise/ Specific comment is provided for some of the installation steps below.

Installation Type
Choose "Server" installation
Partitioning your Drive
You may want to use the automatic partitioning feature of the installer, however you should review the results and be prepared to modify them. LON-CAPA resource files are stored in the /home directory, so the majority of the disk space should be allocated here. If you have 20 GB of space for RHEL4, /home should receive at least 10 to 12 gigs. Since MySQL uses the /var filesystem to store its databases you should have at least 4 gigs of space available on /var. Be sure to include adequate swap space. A minimum is 512 Megs, but you should typically have 1 or 2x as much swap space as you do physical RAM.
Network Configuration
LON-CAPA will not work with a machine set up to use a dynamic IP address. When configuring your network card, be sure to unselect the DHCP option and enter in your network information.
Firewall Configuration
Select SSH (remote login), HTTP/HTTPS (web server).
SELinux Configuration
Choose an SElinux setting of 'disabled' or 'warn', unless you are familiar with SElinux and writing security policies and want to help us write a security policy for LON-CAPA.
Software Packages
Choose the "Customize software packages to be installed" option.
Package Group Selection
Choose 'Minimal' which is the last item on the list.

Finish installing your server, reboot it, and log in as root.

Update your system

Import the GPG key for use in verifying packages retrieved from the Red Hat Network.

rpm --import /usr/share/rhn/RPM-GPG-KEY
Next you will need to register your server with the Red Hat Network.

Information about registration for the Red Hat Network can be found at: http://www.redhat.com/software/rhn/. You can register directly from the server where you will be installing LON-CAPA using:

up2date --register
Once you have registered your system so it has access to Red Hat package updates, you should first check the up2date configuration, and make any necessary changes (e.g., disable skipping of kernel updates).
Next update your system to the latest versions of the system software using up2date.
up2date -u

Reboot your system before continuing with the installation.

Retrieve the RHEL4_loncapa_rhnsources file from the LON-CAPA install site:

wget http://install.loncapa.org/versions/redhat/4ES/RHEL4_loncapa_rhnsources

Install the RHEL4_loncapa_rhnsources

mv /etc/sysconfig/rhn/sources /etc/sysconfig/rhn/sources.backup
cp RHEL4_loncapa_rhnsources  /etc/sysconfig/rhn/sources

Installing LON-CAPA

Install prerequisites

Import the GPG key for use in verifying LON-CAPA packages retrieved from the LON-CAPA installation site.

rpm --import http://install.loncapa.org/versions/redhat/RPM-GPG-KEY-loncapa  

Execute the installation

up2date LONCAPA-prerequisites
This may take some minutes due to LON-CAPA's large number of dependencies.

Retrieve and execute LON-CAPA setup program

Retrieve the LON-CAPA setup with the following command:

wget http://install.loncapa.org/linux/install.tar

Extract the archive with the following command:

tar xf install.tar

This creates a directory named installation. Change to it and execute the setup script with the following commands:

cd installation

The script is used to prepare a Linux system to run LON-CAPA, and can also be used to check the configuration of a system on which LON-CAPA has already been installed. Typically, though, you will run this script only once, when you first install LON-CAPA.

The script will analyze your system to determine which actions are recommended. The script will then prompt you to choose the actions you would like taken. Once a choice has been entered for all nine possible actions, required changes will be made.

The possible actions are:

  • Create the www user/group
  • Install the package LON-CAPA uses to authenticate users.
  • Set-up the MySQL database
  • Set-up MySQL permissions
  • Configure Apache web server
  • Configure start-up of services
  • Check firewall settings
  • Stop services not used by LON-CAPA,
    e.g., services for a print server: cups daemon
  • Download LON-CAPA source code in readiness for installation

Determine LON-CAPA Settings

LON-CAPA requires a number of identifying parameters to be set in order for it to function at all. Below is a list with descriptions.

Host Type (library or access)
The server must be designated a 'library' or an 'access' server. In general you should have a library server for your instructors to create their course content on and run their courses. Students should connect to access servers. If you are doing the first install of LON-CAPA at your site, or if you are playing with it for your own edification you should make your machine a 'library' server.
LON-CAPA domain
Each site or school which installs LON-CAPA needs its own domain. Here at MSU we use 'msu'. You should choose something short but meaningful. Restriction: One word, no hyphens, underscores, or special characters.
LON-CAPA host id
Each LON-CAPA server requires a unique internal name. We use names such as "msul1" for the first library server. Restriction: One word, no hyphens, underscores, or special characters.
Host administrator email
The amount of email sent to this address is relatively minimal. Messages are sent every time the system starts up, or if the system is in serious trouble. On a laptop, make this root@localhost.

Configuring LON-CAPA

To configure and install LON-CAPA, execute the following commands:

cd /root/loncapa-X.Y.Z     (X.Y.Z should correspond to a version number like '2.10.0')

You will need to enter the LON-CAPA configuration information you determined in the previous section.

Creating a Domain Coordinator

You will need at least one user at your site who has the role of 'domain coordinator'. This user creates accounts for other users and grants them additional privileges. The make_domain_coordinator.pl script invoked below requires that you enter the user's password. Feel free to use the "passwd username" command to change it later. Replace USERNAME and DOMAIN with an appropriate user name and your domain.

cd /root/loncapa-X.Y.Z/loncom/build
perl make_domain_coordinator.pl USERNAME DOMAIN

Start/Restart Services

The LON-CAPA network services take a moment to start. Most misconfigurations will be apparent at this step.

/etc/init.d/loncontrol start
/etc/init.d/httpd start

If you receive warnings when starting the httpd about missing perl modules, please make sure you followed the instructions in Installing LON-CAPA Dependencies. If you still have errors, please contact the LON-CAPA development team.

Log in to your LON-CAPA Machine

Point a web browser at your new machine and log in as the domain coordinator. Congratulations!

If things aren't working right

If you've followed the steps above and the server doesn't start or you think there's something wrong, please get in touch with the LON-CAPA group. You can submit a help request using our web form:
If there were errors in installation of the dependency RPMs or during the automatic setup, please send us as much information as possible. If some part of this document is unclear please let us know.

Contact Us: lon-capa@lon-capa.org

Supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF-ITR 0085921, NSF-CCLI-ASA 0243126, and NSF-CCLI 0717790. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Initial funding for CAPA has been provided by the Alfred. P. Sloan Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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