Installing LON-CAPA on a basic Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Server

This document guides you through the process of setting up a new LON-CAPA server running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Server with only the base set 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

Before you begin

Installing Linux is getting easier and 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 Ubuntu 12.04 LTS .iso
  2. Determine Network Settings
  3. Install Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
  4. Update your system
  5. Install LON-CAPA
  6. Create a Domain Coordinator
  7. Start/Restart services
  8. Log in to LON-CAPA

1. Obtain Ubuntu 12.04 LTS .iso file

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (server install) isos can be obtained from the Ubuntu Server download page
An .iso file (either 32 bit or 64 bit) can be burned to a CD.

2. 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.

3. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS installation

Installing Ubuntu Linux is easy. Documentation is available from Most of the installation screens are self explanatory. There are a few steps that require comment and are dealt with below.

Installation Language
Use English as your installation language.
Installation Type
If this is a fresh install choose "Install Ubuntu Server".
Partitioning your Drive
For a fresh install you may want to use the automatic partitioning feature of the installer. If you decide to customize partitioning, the following may be useful to know. 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 Ubuntu, /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.
Software Selection
The base system will be installed. Once that is complete you will have the option to select additional software collections. Leave all unselected.

Finish installing your server, reboot it, and log in with the username you created during installation.

Firewall Configuration
Use ufw to allow incoming traffic for the following services: ssh, www, https
sudo ufw default deny
sudo ufw enable
sudo ufw allow ssh
sudo ufw allow www
sudo ufw allow https
E-mail: Postfix Installation
Configure to "Internet Site" to allow LON-CAPA to send e-mail to users.
sudo apt-get install postfix
E-mail: Postfix Configuration
If you need to change the postfix configuration in the future use:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure postfix

4. Update your system

Update your system to the latest versions of the system software using apt-get

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

If kernel packages were updated, reboot your system before continuing with the installation.

Add LON-CAPA ubuntu repository to your /etc/apt/sources.list file.

sudo apt-get install python-software-properties
sudo apt-add-repository 'deb precise main'

5. Installing LON-CAPA

Import the LON-CAPA encryption key

sudo apt-key add APT-GPG-KEY-loncapa.asc
sudo apt-get update

Install prerequisites


sudo apt-get install 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 script and dependencies with the following command:


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
sudo ./

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:

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.
Domain names which include a departmental abbreviation are not recommended as although LON-CAPA may start in a single department, other departments frequently join subsequently. For a domain name: 'msu' is a superior choice to 'msuphys' for example.
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.
Domain's Primary Library Server ID
If you are setting up a domain with a single library server, then the domain's primary library server ID will be the LON-CAPA host id of that server (e.g., msul1). Once your domain grows and you need to add more servers, one of the library servers in the domain should be assigned as the domain's primary library server. This will be where domain-wide settings will be stored.
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.
Support email address
If you enter an e-mail address here, then users of the system will be able to click an "Ask Helpdesk" link in the system to display a web form which they will complete to request support from your institution's helpdesk. On form submission the contents will be sent to the e-mail address you specify.

Configuring LON-CAPA

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

sudo -i
cd /root/loncapa-X.Y.Z     (X.Y.Z should correspond to a version number like '2.11.0')

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

6. 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 script invoked below requires that you enter the user's password. Replace USERNAME and DOMAIN with an appropriate username and your domain.

cd /root/loncapa-X.Y.Z/loncom/build

7. Start/Restart Services

The LON-CAPA network services take a moment to start. Most misconfigurations will be apparent at this step. Lastly, exit from root status to resume use of your regular account.

/etc/init.d/loncontrol start
/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

If you receive warnings about missing perl modules when starting Apache, please make sure you followed the instructions in Installing prerequisites. If you still have errors, please contact the MSU LON-CAPA group.

8. 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 send a help request to the MSU LON-CAPA group. If there were errors in installation of the dependency .deb packages or errors during the automatic setup, please send us as much information as possible. If some part of this document is unclear please let us know.