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Installing OpenACS on win2k

by Matthew Burke and Curtis Galloway and others

NOTE: These instructions were valid for ACS v4, but have not been tested with OpenACS and the ArsDigita binary distributions are no longer available. Currently (Summer 2010), the best option to get OpenACS 5.6.* and .LRN 2.5.* running on Windows is to use the native windows installation Windows-OpenACS by Spazio IT (Maurizio Martignano).



With the recent release of a win32 version of AOLserver, it is now possible to run the OpenACS on Windows2000 and Windows98. This document explains the steps necessary to get the OpenACS installed and running on your machine.


We do not recommend running a production server on Windows98. But the platform is more than sufficient for working the problem sets and for getting a feel for the OpenACS.

You'll need to use the ArsDigita binary distribution of AOLserver for the Win32 platform, which contains patches for several problems we have come across in the default AOLserver binary distribution. See the ArsDigita AOLserver 3 distribution page (from for details.

You can download the binary distribution from the ArsDigita download page (compliments of Eve Andersson) under "ArsDigita AOLserver 3 Binary Distribution for Win32." Please read the release notes in the distribution for configuration notes specific to the version you are downloading.


It is helpful if you have Oracle interMedia Text for full-text searches. We're also trying to make our system work with the PLS System, available free from

Although the zsh shell is the only command-line tool required to install the OpenACS, if you are a UNIX person used to typing ls instead of dir you'll get along much better with the Cygwin toolkit. This is a development library and set of tools that gives you a very UNIX-like environment under Windows. In particular, it includes bash, gzip and tar, which you can use to perform the OpenACS installation instead of WinZip and zsh.

Your Oracle installation

When you install Oracle, a good rule of thumb is "every default setting is wrong." We will not discuss Oracle configuration here except to mention that the OpenACS requires Oracle's NLS_DATE_FORMAT parameter be set to 'YYYY-MM-DD'. Fixing this depends on whether Oracle Administration Assistant for Windows NT (yes, that's Windows NT) will run on your machine or not (in some cases, it will complain about Microsoft Management Console not being installed).

If it runs on your machine, proceed as follows:

  1. Run Oracle Administration Assistant for Windows NT

  2. Navigate using the Explorer-style control in the left panel and select the Oracle Home for the database you wish to use.

  3. Bring up its properties dialog and add a parameter NLS_DATE_FORMAT with value 'YYYY-MM-DD' (without the quotes)

  4. Verify the date format by logging into the database using SQL Plus and run the following query: select sysdate from dual;

Otherwise you will need to perform a little registry surgery as follows:

  1. Run regedit and navigate down the registry keys to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\ORACLE.

  2. Choose the appropriate subtree; this will be HOME0 if you only have on einstallation of Oracle.

    If you are an Oracle achiever and have more than one Oracle installation on your machine, you will see HOME0, HOME1, HOME2, etc. Choose the subtree that corresponds to the Oracle installtion you wish to use with the OpenACS.


  3. If the NLS_DATE_FORMAT key is already present, double-click on its value and change it to 'YYYY-MM-DD' (without the quotes). If the key does not exist, choose Edit->New->String Value from the menu and type NLS_DATE_FORMAT for the name of the new value to create it. Then double-click on the empty value to change it.

  4. Verify the date format by logging into the database using SQL Plus and run the following query: select sysdate from dual;

For more information on Oracle configuration look at oracle-install or search the OpenACS forums. One other note: the "nuke a user" admin page and Intermedia won't run unless you set open_cursors = 500 for your database.

The ArsDigita binary installation

Extract the ArsDigita AOLserver distribution onto the C: drive into the default aol30 directory. You can install it on any drive, but it will make your life easier if you keep the AOLserver binary and your OpenACS instance on the same drive. For the rest of these instructions, we'll assume that you used drive C:.

Untar the OpenACS

We recommend rooting webserver content in c:\web. Since most servers these days are expected to run multiple services from multiple IP addresses, each server gets a subdirectory from c:\web. For example, would be rooted at c:\web\scorecard on one of our machines and if were on the same box then it would be at c:\web\jobdirect.

For the sake of argument, we're going to assume that your service is called "yourdomain", is going to be at and is rooted at c:\web\yourdomain in the Windows 2000 file system. Note that you'll find our definitions files starting out with "".

  • download the OpenACS (see above) into c:\temp\acs.tar.gz

  • use WinZip (or equivalent) to extract the files to c:\web\yourdomain

You'll now find that c:\web\yourdomain\www contains the document root and c:\web\yourdomain\tcl contains Tcl scripts that are loaded when the AOLserver starts up.

Feeding Oracle the Data Model

The entire server will behave in an unhappy manner if it connects to Oracle and finds that, for example, the users table does not exist. Thus you need to connect to Oracle as whatever user the AOLserver will connect as, and feed Oracle the table definitions.

  • load the states, country_codes and counties tables using the load-geo-tables shell script in the c:\web\yourdomain\www\install directory. You will need to open a console window and run

    zsh load-geo-tables foo/foopassword

    You most likely will see a slew of "Commit point reached . . . " messages. This does not indicate a problem.

  • cd to c:\web\yourdomain\www\doc\sql and feed Oracle the .sql files that you find there. There is a meta-loader file, load-data-model.sql, that includes the other files in the proper order. To use it, open a console window and run

    sqlplus foo/foopassword < load-data-model.sql
  • If you have interMedia installed, while still in c:\web\yourdomain\www\doc\sql, run

    zsh load-site-wide-search foo foopassword ctxsys-password

    Note that there's no slash between foo and foopassword here. The third argument, ctxsys-password, is the password for interMedia Text's special ctxsys user.

Configuring AOLserver

You will need two configuration files. The first is a Tcl file with configuration information for AOLserver. This should be called yourdomain and should be located in c:\aolserve3_0. The second is an .ini file that configures the OpenACS and is discussed below. Note that pathnames in yourdomain must use forward slashes rather than the Windows back slashes. This is also true for the .ini file.

The following items must be defined in yourdomain:

  • three database pools: main, subquery, and log. They must be named as such. The default pool will be "main".

  • the auxconfig directory which contains the .ini file: c:\web\yourdomain\parameters

  • the pageroot: c:\web\yourdomain\www

  • the directory containing the TclLibrary: c:\web\yourdomain\tcl

You can use our template file as a starting point (you'll need to save this file with a rather than .txt extension).

Configuring OpenACS itself

If you want a system that works, go to c:\web\yourdomain\parameters and copy ad.ini to yourdomain.ini (or any other name different from ad.ini). You don't actually have to delete ad.ini.

Each section of yourdomain.ini has a hardcoded "yourservername" in the name (e.g. [ns/server/yourservername/acs]). This means that the OpenACS will ignore your configuration settings unless your AOLserver name happens to be "yourservername". Therefore you must go through yourdomain.ini and change "yourservername" to whatever you're calling this particular AOLserver (look at the server name in the nsd file for a reference).

Unless you want pages that advertise a community called "Yourdomain Network" owned by "", you'll probably want to edit the text of yourdomain.ini to change system-wide parameters. If you want to see how some of these are used, a good place to look is c:\web\yourdomain\tcl\ad-defs. The Tcl function, ad_parameter, is used to grab parameter values from the .ini file.

Starting the Service

Now you're ready to start things up. Before installing as a Windows service, you might want to test the setup for configuration errors. Open up a console window and go to c:\aol30. Then run

bin\nsd -ft yourdomain.tcl

This will print all the AOLserver messages to the console so you can see them.

Try to connect to your new server with a web browser. If you see the message "Error in serving group pages", you probably forgot to copy the ad.ini file in c:\web\yourdomain\parameters If everything seems ok, you can kill the server with Control-c and then issue the following command to install as a Windows service:

bin\nsd -I -s yourdomain -t yourdomain.tcl

You can now configure error recovery and other Windows aspects of the service from the Services control panel. If you make further changes to yourdomain or yourdomain.ini you should stop and start the service from the Services control panel.

Configuring Permissions

Now, you need to protect the proper administration directories of the OpenACS. You decide the policy although we recommend requiring the admin directories be accessible only via an SSL connection. Here are the directories to consider protecting:

  • /doc (or at least /doc/sql/ since some AOLserver configurations will allow a user to execute SQL files)

  • /admin

  • any private admin dirs for a module you might have written that are not underneath the /admin directory

Adding Yourself as a User and Making Yourself a Sysadmin

OpenACS will define two users: system and anonymous. It will also define a user group of system administrators. You'll want to add yourself as a user (at /register/ ) and then add yourself as as member of the site-wide administration group. Start by logging out as yourself and logging in as the system user (email of "system"). Change the system user's password. Visit the directory and add your personal user as a site-wide administrator. Now you're bootstrapped!

If you do not know what the system user's password is connect to Oracle using SQL Plus and run the following query:

select password from users where last_name = 'system';

Where to Find What

A few pointers:

  • the /register directory contains the login and registration scripts. You can easily redirect someone to /register/index to have them login or register.

  • the /pvt directory is for user-specific pages. They can only be accessed by people who have logged in.

Making sure that it works

Run the acceptance tests in /doc/acceptance-test

Running Multiple Instances of the OpenACS

You can run multiple instances of the OpenACS on a physical machine but they must each be set up as a separate Windows service. Each instance of the OpenACS must have its own:

  • Oracle tablespace and a user account with the appropriate permissions on that tablespace. Each of these tablespaces must have the OpenACS data model loaded.

  • file with the appropriate settings including server name, auxconfig, ipaddress, and port.

  • Copy of the acs files in an appropriate directory under c:\web.

Suppose you wish to run two services: and You would need the following:

  • an Oracle tablespace, lintcollectors with a user lintcollectors and password secretlint

  • an Oracle tablespace, iguanasdirect with a user iguanasdirect and password secretiguanas

For each of these tablespaces/users you would load the OpenACS data model as described above. Then in c:\aolserver3_0 create files for each service, i.e. lintcollectors and iguanasdirect. These files would point to their respective pageroots, c:\web\lintcollectors\www and c:\web\iguanasdirect\www; their respective auxconfigdirs, c:\web\lintcollectors\parameters and c:\web\iguanasdirect\parameters; etc. In the respective auxconfigdirs would be the files lintcollectors.ini and iguanasdirect.ini.

Now open a console window and go to c:\aol30. You'll start up the two services as follows:

bin\nsd -I -s lintcollectors -t lintcollectors.tcl
bin\nsd -I -s iguanasdirect -t iguanasdirect.tcl

In the services control panel you should see two services: AOLserver-lintcollectors and AOLserver-iguanasdirect.


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