The instructions below will setup an instance of Submitty on your own hardware that will have several courses, many sample assignments, and a hundred students with assignment submissions so you can explore the features of Submitty as it would appear “mid-semester”. Your host computer can run any modern operating system (Windows, Mac, or Unix/Linux). The installation process will create a new Virtual Machine (VM) on your computer and the VM will use the Ubuntu GNU/Linux operating system.

Note: We only officially support and test development using VirtualBox. The instructions below are for VirtualBox. While alternatively using VMWare should work, we have not tested this, and do not provide these instructions.

Pre-Installation Checklist

  1. To develop with a Virtual Machine (VM), your computer should have at least 8GB of RAM and a 64-bit host OS. AMD-V or Intel VT-x are also required (most computers have these). Submitty is RAM and I/O intensive, so more RAM and a fast disk are better.

  2. Make sure you have at least 20GB of hard disk available for installation. We do not recommend installing the Submitty Developer VM on DropBox, OneDrive, GoogleDrive, or other cloud storage.

  3. Some developers have had problems running both VirtualBox and VMWare on the same computer. If you have problems, we suggest shutting down the VMWare VMs, or stopping the VMWare services, or uninstalling VMWare.

  4. The complete installation process could take an hour or more. Make sure your internet connection is strong and consistent. You’ll probably want to plug in your laptop power cord. Check your computer settings and make sure the machine does not hibernate or go to sleep during installation.

Submitty Developer VM Installation

  1. Enable Virtualization


    1. Virtualization is generally enabled by default.

    Windows 10

    1. Open the Settings app by searching for it in the windows bar or clicking it in the Windows menu.

    2. Navigate to Update and Security, then select Recovery from the side menu.

    3. Under Advanced Startup, click Restart Now.

    4. Once your PC has rebooted, click the Troubleshoot option.

    5. Click Advanced Options.

    6. Click UEFI Firmware Settings and restart as suggested.

    7. Enter your BIOS (generally by pressing Del, F12, or other keys while booting). If you are not able to find the key combo needed to enter your BIOS, refer to this guide.

    8. Locate Virtualization, and enable it. (Note: If you cannot find the option to enable virtualization, search Google for a tutorial on enabling it with your motherboard.)

    9. Reboot your computer.


    1. Enter your BIOS (generally by pressing Del, F12, or other keys while booting).

    2. Navigate the BIOS Settings.

    3. Locate Virtualization and enable it.

    4. Be sure to choose Hardware Virtualization in the System -> Acceleration settings of the virtual machine you are using.

    NOTE If using secure boot, vagrant may fail to work with VirtualBox. You will then either need to disable secure boot from the boot menu/BIOS or follow these steps to self-sign the necessary packages to run vagrant and VirtualBox.

  2. Download and install the latest version of Ruby.

  3. Download and install the latest version of Git.

  4. Download and install VirtualBox and Vagrant

    Below are quick steps to get everything installed and running.

    Windows 10

    • You can just go to the respective sites and download the necessary binaries.


    • You can either go to respective sites and download the necessary binaries or install homebrew if you don’t have it and then run:

      brew cask install virtualbox
      brew cask install vagrant


  5. Install vagrant-vbguest.

    Open your terminal/cmd.exe and run:

    vagrant plugin install vagrant-vbguest

    Note: You will want to run vagrant plugin update every once in a while to keep the plugin up-to-date.

  6. Clone the Submitty repository to a location on your computer (the “host”).

    git clone

    NOTE: If you are not currently part of the Submitty organization on Github, you may want to fork the repo and use the git url from your fork instead, especially if you are looking to contribute.

    OPTIONAL: If you will be developing code in one of the companion Submitty repositories (e.g., AnalysisTools, Lichen, RainbowGrades, Tutorial), also clone those repositories to the same directory. For example:

      └── myusername
          └── Submitty
              └── GIT_CHECKOUT
                  ├── AnalysisTools  (optional)
                  ├── Lichen         (optional)
                  ├── RainbowGrades  (optional)
                  ├── Submitty
                  └── Tutorial       (optional)

    This host directory structure will be shared / synced between your host operating system and the Submitty virtual machine.

  7. Navigate into the Submitty repository on your computer in a shell/terminal and type:

    Windows should run CMD or powershell on administrator mode

    vagrant up

    Vagrant will build your VM. This will take maybe 30 minutes to a few hours depending on your Internet connection speed. When this command finishes, your VM is ready to use.

  8. When the vagrant up command completes successfully, you will be able to access the Submitty website (instructions follow in the next section).

    The VM will continue to run jobs in the background and consume a nontrivial amount of CPU resources, while completing a backlog of autograding for a dozen or more sample submissions for each of the more than 100 users in the sample courses.

    If your development work will not require sample assignment submissions or autograding results, you may prepend NO_SUBMISSIONS=1 to the previous command, which will skip the creation of these sample submissions and their autograding and decrease the time to complete installation.

    NO_SUBMISSIONS=1 vagrant up

Using your Submitty Developer VM

  1. When the VM is “up”, you can go visit the homework submission website.

  2. When the VM is “up”, you can connect from your host computer to the virtual machine via ssh. Windows users will need to install SSH software (e.g., WSL, or Cygwin, or Putty ). From a terminal in the repository directory type:

     vagrant ssh

    You will connect to the VM as the root user.

    If vagrant ssh asks for a password for the root@ user and “vagrant” without the quotation marks does not work, look at the vagrant ssh config file and make note of the hostname and port.

     vagrant ssh-config

    Then directly ssh into the VM by

     ssh vagrant@hostname -p port

    If it asks for password, it should be “vagrant” and then

     sudo su

    to login as the root user. You should then see you are logged in as root@vagrant.

  3. The following users exist on the VM:

    user password role
    vagrant vagrant OS user
    root vagrant OS user
    submitty_cgi submitty_cgi Submitty process
    submitty_php submitty_php Submitty process
    submitty_daemon submitty_daemon Submitty process
    postgres postgres database process
    instructor instructor Submitty user
    ta ta Submitty user
    student student Submitty user
  4. The VM has the following four courses by default and they are all part of the current semester:

    • tutorial
    • sample
    • development
    • blank

    Note: The current semester is calculated by either using an s if in the month is < 7 else use f and then take the last two digits of the current year. So April 2017 would be s17 while September 2017 would be f17.

Starting and Stopping the Submitty VM

  1. When you take a break from Submitty development work, you can suspend the Submitty VM to to save resources (CPU and battery) on your host machine.

    vagrant suspend

    Alternatively, you can halt the virtual machine. This is a more complete shutdown and will take slightly longer to restart when you resume development work.

    vagrant halt
  2. To resume work on a VM that is suspended or halted:

    vagrant up

    NOTE: when resuming work, you may see this warning several times, default: Warning: Remote connection disconnect. Retrying.. . These warnings are not harmful and can be ignored.

  3. If you just want to restart the VM (same as halt then up), type:

    vagrant reload
  4. Read the Development Instructions page for instructions on updating an existing installation with recent code changes.

  5. To completely delete the virtual machine, type:

    vagrant destroy

    And if desired (to start over from scratch with a fresh VM):

    vagrant up

Installation Troubleshooting