Installing LON-CAPA on a minimal SuSE Linux 11.1 System

This document guides you through the process of setting up a new LON-CAPA server running SuSE Linux 11.1 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

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 SuSE 11.1 installation media (DVD)
  2. Determine Network Settings
  3. Install Suse 11.1
  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 SuSE Linux 11.1

A SuSE 11.1 iso for burning to DVD can be obtained from the opensuse download site:, or from an opensuse mirror site - You will also find links there to sites with iso files for burning a Start-CD-Image (e.g., openSUSE-11.1-NET-i586.iso for 32 bit) used in a network install, if burning a CD is more convenient for you.

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. Minimal SuSE 11.1 Install

Installing SuSE 11.1 is quite easy if you've installed Linux products before. Some documentation is available from the Installation Quick Start guide.

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.
Desktop Selection
Click Other and choose Text Mode
Software Selection
Choose Expert Mode and for Software enable Base System, Yast Installation Packages and Software Management
Partitioning your Drive
For a LON-CAPA library server (i.e., the main server used for permanent storage of course and user data), a separate partition is recommended for /home, as this simplifies future upgrades of the operating system. If you are adding an additional access server to an existing LON-CAPA domain, this does not apply as no permenent data are stored on an access server. As LON-CAPA resource files are stored in the /home directory, the majority of the disk space should be allocated here. If you have 20 GB of space for SuSE 11.1, /home should receive at least 10 to 12 gigs. Since MySQL uses the /var filesystem to store its databases you should have as 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.

Once you system has rebooted, you will use yast to complete the configuration. Change the following settings:

Network Configuration
LON-CAPA will not work with a machine set up to use a dynamic IP address. When configuring your network card, you should include host name information (e.g., host name = tmp1, domain =, as well as name server. Other settings (ip address, gateway, netmask will have been set when you included them in the boot configuration).
Enable the firewall, and allow login services (SSH).

After finishing the online update, the system should reboot, and proceed to have you create a user account, show you the Release Notes, and let you configure any extra hardware, and then finish up the boot process. At the prompt login as root.

4. Change software sources for your system

Next you will use yast to import packages required for LON-CAPA.


Select "Installation Source" and change to point at OSS and non-OSS repositories: ( and or alternatively at iternet installation repositories close to your location (see, or a local institutional source you have built from the SuSE 11.1 DVD, or you may prefer to continue to point at the installation DVD.

Add an additional installation source

Add the LON-CAPA SuSE 11.1 repository as an additional installation source. Once this is done, software installation in yast should then have access to a minimum of three repositories - a YUM source for SuSE updates (established when you run online update from yast), an installation source (for OSS packages included in the standard distribution) and the LON-CAPA repository (for extra packages needed to run LON-CAPA). For the LON-CAPA source you will use:

Media Type
Server Name
Directory on server
After saving this configuration information for the LON-CAPA repository, you will need to import a public LON-CAPA key, before the catalog is read, and the repository is available to you. Quit yast.

Use zypper to add two additional repositiories provide by openSuSE - one for the R statistics package (the R-patched repo), and one for the Maxima computer algebra system (the science repo). Use the following commands to add them.

zypper ar -f '' R-patched
zypper ar -f '' science

5. Installing LON-CAPA

Install prerequisites


yast -i LONCAPA-prerequisites

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

Configure firewall settings for Apache

After Apache has been installed use yast to configure the Firewall to open port 80 for http (and port 443 for https, if you plan to use Apache with SSL).

Allow the following services: web services (http and https).

Retrieve and execute LON-CAPA setup program

Retrieve the LON-CAPA setup 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

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 underscores or special characters (except hyphens).
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 underscores or special characters (except hyphens).
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.

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. 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

7. 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/apache2 start

If you receive warnings about missing perl modules when starting apache2, please make sure you followed the instructions in Installing LON-CAPA Dependencies. 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 get in touch with the MSU 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. Please let us know if any parts of this document are unclear.