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These instructions will help guide you to installing Submitty onto a server (whether on a dedicated machine or a VM).

Note: We assume that you’re installing Submitty on a dedicated machine. If this machine is used for other things, you may need to adapt the instructions below and for your needs (as the script installs all of the dependencies that Submitty depends on).

Note: These instructions should be run under root

  1. Install Ubuntu 16.04 server edition

  2. After installing the operating system, clone the git repository:

    mkdir -p /usr/local/submitty  
    git clone /usr/local/submitty/GIT_CHECKOUT_Submitty
  3. Run the automated portion of the install.

    cd /usr/local/submitty/GIT_CHECKOUT_Submitty  

    You will be asked several questions by the script. These questions are:

    1. Database Host
    2. Database User
    3. Database Password
    4. Site URL
    5. Enable Debugging (Not recommended if installing for production)

    Unless you have a database server already set up, you will most likely just specify localhost for the Database Host. You will need to create a DB user to use for the system as well. A basic way to do this would be (Note: change the password for the user):


    and then the DB User would be hsdbu and the DB Password would be whatever you set.

    Do not enable debugging unless you are developing code on a non-production machine.

  4. Edit PHP Settings

    We recommend for security that you modify your PHP installation and disable certain PHP functions. To do this, edit /etc/php/7.0/fpm/php.ini and find the entry for disable_functions and prepend the list of disabled functions with:

  5. Setup Apache

    Note: If you don’t have a SSL certificate for your server, we recommend using Let’s Encrypt to get one. It’s recommended that you use certbot to do this (and to have an HTTP configuration up).

    We provide a default apache configuration at .setup/apache/submitty.conf which you can just copy to /etc/apache2/sites-available. You will need to replace all instances of __your_domain__ with your actual domain (don’t include the https:// part of it) and /path/to/ssl/certificate/ to the actual path for your SSL certificate.

    Note: If you used Let’s Encrypt, your certificates will be at /etc/letsencrypt/live/__your_domain__, otherwise the common place to look would be /etc/apache2/ssl.

    The basic commands to do this are:

    cp /usr/local/submitty/GIT_CHECKOUT_Submitty/.setup/apache/submitty.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available/submitty.conf
    a2ensite submitty

    We also recommend that you Edit /etc/apache2/conf-enabled/security.conf to ensure these options below are set to limit the information the server gives to potential hackers:

    ServerTokens Prod
    ServerSignature Off

    You probably want to first disable or remove the default configurations to prevent unintended access to the web server (but don’t do this if the default site is already in use).

    a2dissite 000-default

    You may also want to comment out the directory specific portions of /etc/apache2/apache2.conf so that you do not risk configuration conflicts with your other configurations. (Things that begin with Directory and end with /Directory).

    Alternately, we provide submitty_http.conf to run Submitty on just HTTP. We recommend only using this if you are planning on developing for Submitty. For production, we strongly recommend that you get a certificate and use HTTPS/SSL.

  6. You need to either comment out the system call to in /var/local/submitty/bin/ and or populate /var/local/submitty/instructors/valid with a list of valid userids. If all valid users already have an account on the machine, one way to do this is:

    ls /home > /var/local/sumitty/instructors/valid
  7. We recommend that you should leave the PostgreSQL setup unless you know what you’re doing. However, for the version of PostgreSQL that comes with Ubuntu (16.04), you can use UNIX sockets and disable the ability to connect to the DB via TCP. The socket improves query responses minorly while disabling TCP can better secure your DB if you don’t plan to connect to it via localhost, IP, etc. The socket by default is run at /var/run/postgresql. To disable TCP, you will need to edit /etc/postgresql/9.5/main/pg_hba.conf and disable all the lines that start with host and hostssl. You will also have to modify /usr/local/submitty/.setup/ and change DATABASE_HOST to point to the socket, and then re-run the script.

  8. Test apache config with: apache2ctl -t If everything looks ok, restart apache with: `service apache2 restart’

Troubleshooting Installation
  1. I cannot connect to PAM!

Submitty authenticates PAM through the python module python-pam using the hwcgi user. By default, we assume you’re going to use local accounts for authentication and as such hwcgi has been added to the shadow group so that it can read /etc/password which is necessary for PAM to work.

To test PAM, you can do:

$ sudo su hwcgi -c python3
Python 3.5.1 (default, Jun 29 2016, 13:08:31)
[GCC 4.9.2] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import pam
>>> p = pam.pam()
>>> p.authenticate('username', 'password')

(where username and password match some account on the machine).

If you get an error about module pam not being found, that means that hwcgi does not have the proper permissions to the module and if you get False on authentication, then hwcgi does not have the proper permissions to check the right files via PAM.