Forum OpenACS Q&A: newbie..trouble installing OpenACS

Posted by Rick Yun on
Hi all,

I'm very excited about getting into OpenACS, but my only background is in Visual Basic and MS Access programming (please show mercy).

I have installed postgresql 8.2.4, tcl 8.4.14, and aolserver 4.5 using the Cognovis scripts. I have tested the database, and can get a tcl shell. I'm now trying to install OpenACS 5.3.2. I've downloaded and uncompressed the source file, moved the folder containing the uncompressed files to SERVERROOT (/var/lib/aolserver/) and renamed the directory to $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME.

However, when I enter "su - $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME" in accordance with the installation instructions, in preperation for downloading the install script from cvs, I get an "Unknown id" error. WAs I supposed to create an AOLserver account named $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME? I believe the postgresql user I created before is names "postgres." Later in the instructions, it looks like I'm supposed to create another user in postgresql named $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME, I haven't previously specified OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME in the installation process. Can anyone tell me if I'm missing something here?

Any help would be much appreciated.


Posted by Brian Fenton on
Hi Rick,
Welcome to the community! Let's try and get you up and running...

That doesn't quite right what you're doing - can you post a link to the documentation you're following?


Posted by Torben Brosten on
Welcome, Rick,

I believe the Cognovis scripts mention setting up a user in "Install OpenACS": This url is referred to on this page:

The manual instructions mention setting up a user account for each website "Set up a user account for each site" here:

See also for the meaning of $OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME etc.

btw, my background before OpenACS was MS Excel macros (pre-dates VB a few years). best wishes!

Posted by Rick Yun on
Thanks for the quick replies.

Between going back and forth between the various installation methods on the website, I guess I missed some instructions.

I am installing on Debian 4. Up to this point, I've used the Cognovis scripts to install pg, tcl, and aolserver (,

Per Torbin's provided link, I decided to proceed with the Cognovis instructions for setting up an aolserver user (

export SERVICE0=service0
sudo useradd $SERVICE0
sudo mkdir /var/lib/aolserver/$SERVICE0/
sudo chown -R $SERVICE0.web /var/lib/aolserver/$SERVICE0
sudo usermod -g web $SERVICE0
sudo usermod -d /var/lib/aolserver/$SERVICE0 $SERVICE0

/usr/local/pgsql/bin/createuser -s $SERVICE0 -U postgres
/usr/local/pgsql/bin/createdb -E UNICODE -U $SERVICE0 $SERVICE0

sudo su - $SERVICE0

At this point I switched (foolishly?) to the instructions on, since they had more detail on how to proceed.

cvs -d co -d install openacs-4/etc/install

I was expecting the install.tcl and other files to be placed in /home/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/install, but instead they are in /var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME directory, and the /home/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME directory doesn't exist.

This has me a bit worried that I missed something earlier, or that there is some incompatibility with the installation methods. Before I muck things up further, I thought I'd see if anyone could spot anything obviously wrong...


Posted by Brian Fenton on

Well, taking a glance at the Cognovis notes it looks like everything will be in /var/lib/aolserver/ so it looks like you followed those notes correctly.

I'd say you'll be ok if you stick to the /var/lib/aolserver/ path - just use that everywhere you see /home in the other notes. It's only paths but I know it can seem a bit hairy the first time.

keep asking questions if you get stuck,