WSO web development

Revision as of 13:03, September 30, 2007 by 08bpw (talk | contribs)

WSO's web site is a work in progress. You can always see "the next step" at, where the latest "stable" (stable being a relative term) version of the next update to the site lives. If you're impatient about the new facebook, or you know web design or Ruby, or if you just want to see how it's done, you're welcome to check out a copy of the code and go to work. This page will tell you how to get started.

Get a Subversion account

Email root at to get an account and password so that you can checkout a copy of the code from our Subversion repository. You'll need this when running any of the svn commands below.


If you don't have a WSO account, email root at One of them will hook you up. A WSO account is not your 06abc or abc1 account. It is the first letter of your first name followed by up to seven letters of your last name. Once you have an account, go ahead and log in:

Windows: get yourself a copy of Putty. is the host.

Mac/Linux: Open up a Terminal or a console, and type


where username is your WSO username (remember, not your 06abc OIT id).

Check out the code

Once you've logged in with SSH, you're ready to check out your very own copy of the WSO code. In your home directory, or wherever you'd like to keep your copy of the WSO site, run the following command to use Subversion to check out the code. (Don't forget the dot at the end!) This will spew a whole log of output onto your screen, listing all the files it's checking out. You can replace "wso-devel" with whatever name you want for your local copy of the code.

svn checkout svn:// wso-devel

Now change directory into the code directory:

cd wso-devel

We need to create a log file for your site so it doesn't complain directly to you.

touch log/development.log

Now your site is ready to run! If you just want to poke around you can do that without starting the server (check out How to transfer files to WSO), but if you want to make changes and see what happens, keep reading.

Start the server

But first you need your own personal port to run it on. Find this by running the following command. You'll want to save the output of this for future reference.

expr 50000 + $UID

To start the server run the following command in the wso-devel directory, replacing your_port with the number we generated above.

/opt/local/bin/ruby script/server -p your_port

If you see something like the following, then you're in business.

=> Booting Mongrel (use 'script/server webrick' to force WEBrick)
=> Rails application starting on
=> Call with -d to detach
=> Ctrl-C to shutdown server
** Starting Mongrel listening at
** Starting Rails with development environment...
** Rails loaded.
** Loading any Rails specific GemPlugins
** Signals ready.  TERM => stop.  USR2 => restart.  INT => stop (no restart).
** Rails signals registered.  HUP => reload (without restart).  It might not work well.
** Mongrel available at
** Use CTRL-C to stop.

Before breaking out the champagne, we need to check to see that the server actually works. Unfortunately, you can't just pop open a web browser and surf to your new site. WSO's servers are behind a firewall. The firewall only allows connections on certain ports. Yours is not one of them.

Setting up port forwarding

The way through the firewall is to pretend that the web server is running on your computer and not on WSO. We'll use a technology called port forwarding to send web requests to your machine through an SSH connection to your server on WSO. This is simply awesome, and not too hard.


Open up a Terminal on your own machine, and type

ssh -N -p 22 -f -2 -L 8000/

EXCEPT instead of your_port, put the port number that you wrote down, and instead of "username", type your WSO account name. Unfortunately, you'll have to run this command somewhat frequently, since SSH connections close when your computer reboots or goes to sleep (or WSO crashes, or whatever...). To make this a little less tedious, open the file called .bashrc in your home directory on your own machine and add this line:

alias wso8000='ssh -N -p 22 -f -2 -L 8000/'

Again, make the substitutions for your_port and username. Close the Terminal window and open a new one. Now, if you need to establish the connection, just type "wso8000" in a terminal window. You can pick a different alias, of course.


Putty lets you do port forwarding, too. You can read more about it here:

Here are the settings you'll need:

Source port: 8000
Destination port: (your special port)
Destination host: localhost

Try out the server

Open up a browser and go to http://localhost:8000/

The new facebook will be at http://localhost:8000/facebook and organizations at http://localhost:8000/organizations

Of course, if it doesn't work, please describe your problem on Talk:WSO web development.

Now, you can change a file in wso-devel, and the change will show up on your development server at this address the next time you reload the page in your browser. Sweet.

Making changes

Nice work getting this far. So now you actually want to do something with the code. For now, come to a WSO meeting Tuesdays at 9:30pm in the vicinity of TCL 202, or email wso at with questions/interest. With the new Facebook finished, our next big prospect is rewriting old PageKit services (Factrak!) in Ruby on Rails.

It's a good idea to run an update every so often so that your local working copy picks up changes that other people have made. Change directory into your wso-devel directory and run

svn update

Email root at if you'd like to change the WSO site, add a new service, or fix a bug. If you get the go-ahead, you're in good shape, so go to work. Once you think your change is ready for the world, you'll need to get permission to add your changes to our code repository, where it will be tested and deployed. Email root at about that. They'll take care of you.