Forum archive 2000-2006

Nandor Sieben - CD image distribution

by Arnold Pizer -
Number of replies: 0
 CD image distribution topic started 7/12/2005; 11:50:41 PMlast post 7/17/2005; 6:34:47 PM
 Nandor Sieben - CD image distribution  7/12/2005; 11:50:41 PM (reads: 1069, responses: 7) Webwork installation is not a trivial task. I think it would be very helpful to have a bootable CD distribution that contains everything needed so that even someone who is not a unix expert could install the system. Nandor <| Post or View Comments |>

 Davide P. Cervone - Re: CD image distribution  7/13/2005; 7:06:28 AM (reads: 1280, responses: 0) Great. Let us know when you have that worked out. Seriously, though, there is no hope of doing what you ask. The number of different hardware and unix software arrangments is enormous; which combination would you want this bootable CD to be for? You would need a different CD for each. (And why would it need to be bootable anyway? Most server administrators I know wouldn't want to take their servers off line to do this installation, and would be horrified at the idea of booting the server off something other their their own hard disks, except in an emergency. I know I would.) Plus there is no standard layout for disk organizations, so finding the already installed libraries and knowing where to put the results is not easy, either. You have no idea of the enormity of the task you are suggesting. Perhaps if WeBWorK were a commercial product, then they could hire people to write the code you are suggesting. But you are getting this product for free, and with free technical support. The developers have already written the code for you (and continue to write code for you tailered to your every request). It hardly seems too much to ask for you to do the installation yourself. I would far rather see them working on actual WeBWorK code than taking their time to write installers for every possible system configuration. Davide <| Post or View Comments |>

 Nandor Sieben - Re: CD image distribution  7/13/2005; 3:35:51 PM (reads: 1251, responses: 0) I was able to do the installation twice. Still if I had to do it again I would feel some weight on me because it's not easy to do. A teacher in a small college without a willing system administrator and with no unix experience is in a very difficult position. Even a unix expert needs quite a bit of effort. It's not that webwork itself is so difficult to install. The supporting applications, especially the perl modules cause most of the headache. There are all sorts of small Linux distributions out there which come on a CD and install a special set of tools. I am not an expert on this but it should not be too hard to create a distribution that has all the required perl modules, latex stuff, gd, dvipng, mysql, the right version of Apache etc. Chances are that everything needed is a Debian package. This could be installed on a new machine easily by almost anybody. After that, the installation of webwork itself is relatively easy. Writing a script that copies the webwork files to the correct location, modifies the config files, creates the mysql database and the admin course is not hard to do. Webwork is great software. The developers deserve a lot of credit. I appreciate the incredibly quick help I receive on this discussion group. I just had an idea, it may be a bad idea. I don't need any of it, but I think it would help a lot of people who are frustrated during the installation. I also think it would help the spread of webwork as well. Nandor <| Post or View Comments |>

 Eugene (Bud) Boman - Re: CD image distribution  7/14/2005; 12:09:49 PM (reads: 1233, responses: 0) I see Davide's point -- creating a universally installable CD is an overwhelming task. But Nandor's point is also valid. If WW were easier to install it would help spread the word. Is there any reason not to set our sights a little lower and just make an apt-gettable Debian package with which a root priveleged user can install webwork, create the admin course, and set up some basic problem libraries with the command # apt-get install webwork2 It wouldn't solve everyone's installation problems to be sure, but it would solve some of them. And, presumably, once a Debian package exists it could be used as a template for whatever automatic installation tools exist on other flavors of Linux. If someone is already working on this, great! If not I'd be willing to give it a shot. No promises. Like everyone else I have other responsibilities and this would be my first attempt at creating a package so I may or may not succeed. I'm willing to try though. It is well past time for me to give something back anyway. If anyone else is working on a Debian package for WW please let me know. I don't want to duplicate the effort. -- Bud <| Post or View Comments |>

 Bill Ziemer - Re: CD image distribution  7/14/2005; 12:31:37 PM (reads: 1236, responses: 0) I wrote a make file for webwork 1.x that worked well. It may be a good starting point for a webwork 2.x install. <| Post or View Comments |>

 Michael Gage - Re: CD image distribution  7/14/2005; 12:33:41 PM (reads: 1242, responses: 0) Hi Bud, To my knowledge no-one else is currently working on this project. I agree that it would be quite useful, although as Nandor points out the biggest hassle in setting up a new WeBWorK, particularly on an existing machine, is getting all the infra-structure apache, tex, gd, the CPAN modules etc. working properly. If your installation is new enough this may have been done for you, but there is no guarantee. Good luck with the project and keep us informed about how it is going. It may be that someone in this discussion group has experience creating packages and can help out with advice. We have past attempts at creating installation packages and/or installation instructions. (See Arnie's work on http://webhost.math.rochester.edu/webworkdocs/docs/install/linuxredhat) unfortunately it goes out of date very quickly and we don't currently have support for maintaining it. Bill Ziemer also created a comprehensive package, but it has also gone out of date, and even in its prime it worked on some machines, but not on others. One thing that everyone can help with is documentation of installation experiences. The install documents are on a Wiki, which can be edited by anyone -- so if you have discovered a neat tip that works on your machine, go ahead and add it to the twiki. I've found that the use of the CPAN module is a big help in installing many of the modules from the CPAN archives. It doesn't work for all of them, but it saves time on the easier ones. Your mileage may vary. (http://search.cpan.org/~andk/CPAN-1.76/lib/CPAN.pm) Comments on your experiences, successes and failures, to this discussion group are also useful. <| Post or View Comments |>

 Michael Gage - Re: CD image distribution  7/14/2005; 1:04:15 PM (reads: 1255, responses: 0) Thanks, Bill. I couldn't locate the reference :-). One approach I've tried is to create "unit check" type scripts that tell you if things are properly installed so far. It is of course tricky to keep these up to date, and so that they run reliably on all machines, but everyone can help with additions to the twiki (http://devel.webwork.rochester.edu/twiki/bin/view/Webwork/InstallationManualV2pt1#Checking_module_dependancies and also http://devel.webwork.rochester.edu/twiki/bin/view/Webwork/InstallationManualV2pt0#Perl_modules -- currently a bit out of date). I'll try to update the script, or for those of you with commit access to the CVS you can update scripts such as check_modules.pl yourself. <| Post or View Comments |>

 Bill Ziemer - Re: CD image distribution  7/17/2005; 6:34:47 PM (reads: 1235, responses: 0) http://www.csulb.edu/~wziemer/ is the page, the tilde got escaped. <| Post or View Comments |>