Beginning dev checklist

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Cleanup: Most of this should go into bullet points in Dev Getting Started or Dreamhack getting started, and then this page can be blanked and redirected. Please refer to the Wiki Style Guide and Manual of Style pages.

Working with a development environment

Working with Unix

The Dreamwidth code runs under Unix (specifically, Ubuntu Linux). If you've never used Unix before, you might want to read over a tutorial on how to approach the system, how to use the command line, how to create files, delete files, move files, and other useful things. For the rest of this list, I'll assume you're familiar with the basics of directory structures. In particular, you use the symbol ~ to represent your home directory: the top-level directory that everything else goes in.

The location of $LJHOME

Some instructions on the wiki will mention $LJHOME (must be all caps). This is where your Dreamwidth code can be found. You can type it as-is; there's no need to replace it with anything else.

On a Dreamhack, $LJHOME points to the ~/dw directory. Thus, cd $LJHOME/etc (for example) is the same as cd ~/dw/etc, and will change your directory to ~/dw/etc.

Accessing your files

Once you have a development environment, you'll need to access the files on them (in order to change them). This involves downloading a program that will do SSH, or "secure shell". It lets you connect to the other site (in this case your dev server) and work with the files, which you can't do through your browser. If you're running Windows, download PuTTY. If you're on a Mac or a Linux distribution, you won't need a separate program; the Terminal (Applications/Utilities/Terminal on the Mac) will let you connect.

Use your SSH system to go to Enter the username and password provided in your Dreamhack setup email.

Set the system user password

Your Dreamhack installation has a user named 'system', which has all the admin privs and owns all the system styles. The system account is the first account on the server. You need to set a password so you can log into it. Type:


Pick something you'll remember. (If you ever forget the system password, though, you can just run again and re-set it.)

Set up for test users

You are probably going to want to create test users on your Dreamhack. By default your Dreamhack installation will ask for invite codes. You can generate your own invite codes on your Dreamhack, or disable this. Instructions on disabling this are included further down.

You are likely to want at least two test accounts, for example so one can subscribe to inbox/email notifications of entries posted by another. You can create test accounts as you find you need them.

Start programming


Once you've done all that, you're ready to start programming! You're going to need to use an editor: something that will let you edit the files you're working with. There are two ways you can do this:

  • You can download the files from your Dreamhack to your local machine, edit them, and then re-upload them.
  • You can edit them directly on the Dreamhack itself.

If you want to edit them on the Dreamhack, you're going to need to learn one of the several Unix editors that are installed on the system. The question of which editor you should be using is going to be personal preference, and the "editor war" is a hotly-debated topic.

For an absolute beginner, the best editor to use is probably nano, an open-source version of the "pico" editor. it doesn't have everything, but it is very, very quickly learnable. (Other editors in the server include emacs, vim, and joe, but nano is the easiest. "pico" isn't installed on the server; if you try to use it, it'll run nano instead.)

Working with nano

One thing you absolutely do need to keep in mind, though, is that by default nano will word-wrap the file that you're working on, and when it does this, it quietly adds *real* linebreaks to the file. This can cause trouble with generating patches, and because it looks like it's just a display word-wrap, rather than an actual word-wrap, it can take you a while to diagnose it. To prevent this from happening, when you call nano, do it with the -w flag, which will turn off auto-linebreaking for that session:

nano -w filename

You may want to make this a default by editing the nano config file:

echo 'set nowrap' >> ~/.nanorc

Allow users to register without invite codes

Note: Maybe should reorganize this so this is closer up to the first setups?

A useful first edit is to turn invite codes off in etc/, to make it quicker to set up dummy accounts for playing around. Type:

nano -w etc/

This will open the config file in nano. Have a skim through, as there are lots of useful options here. To turn invite codes off, scroll down to $USE_ACCT_CODES = 1 and change it to 0. To save this, use Ctrl-O and then Enter, and exit using Ctrl-X.

Once you've done that, restart your hack by typing "stop-apache", then "start-apache". (Every time you change a file that ends in .pm or .pl, it's a good idea to restart Apache again to make sure the modules reload.)

You can then go to (replacing 'yourname' with the name you chose when applying for a Dreamhack) and start playing. The front page of your hack will now give you a message about being able to join without an invite code for a week, and offer a link to do so. You can ignore the "This week only" part - that's just the text that was initially used on the regular site when we first turned off invite codes.

Or, create a promo code

If you don't want to turn off invite codes entirely, to prevent spam account registration, you can make a "promo code" that will let you create users whenever you want, without having to generate invite codes directly.

First, go to (while logged in as the system user or another user with admin:*) and grant yourself the 'payments' priv. Then, go to Select "Create New", check the "Active" box, and input a code (letters/numbers only; case-sensitive) and a number of accounts the code will work to create. Once you hit save, the promo code will be activated and will work the same way as an invite code will.

Layout of the code directory

All of the code is contained in the $LJHOME directory. On Dreamhacks, this is in: ~/dw. When you make changes to the code in this directory and restart the server, your changes will show up.

You can see what changes you have made by doing git diff: the output shows all local changes to the branch you're in since the last commit.

You can revert an the original committed version of the code by [INSERT GIT INSTRUCTIONS]

Finding what you're looking for in the code

The code is a little ... sprawling. Finding what you're looking to change can be pretty hard. Fortunately, we have some instructions at Dev Finding Things.

( ...insert more about where to look for things, common use areas, how to use rgrep for fun and profit, etc )

( ...insert more about how to recover from a disaster, aka What Happens When You Break It )

Getting back to a clean slate

Sometimes when you're investigating an issue, you'll end up with a bunch of debug code hanging around in random files. To see all your changes, run:

   git status

To revert all of your changes and get back to a clean slate, run:

   git checkout .

To revert only the changes in specific files or directories, run:

   git checkout dir/subdir dir/file.txt