Dreamhack Getting Started

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The Dreamhack service is a hosted development sandbox environment where you can do Dreamwidth development without having to have your own server. Dreamhack accounts are available free of charge for anyone who's interested in working on the Dreamwidth code.

When you get your Dreamhack account first created, most of the setup will be done for you. There are still a bunch of things you should do at first to make sure that your development environment is properly set up for you to work on, though. This guide is a walkthrough of all the steps you should take (in order) when you first log into your Dreamhack account.

You should also read Beginning dev checklist for more background information; if you are on windows, Newbie Guide for Windows People Working on Minor Bugs might be useful.

Get a SSH client

To connect to your Dreamhack and work on things, you'll need a program that will do SSH, or "secure shell". It lets you connect to the Dreamhack 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.

Connect to your Dreamhack

Once you have an SSH client, you can connect to Dreamhack. In PuTTY, put "hack.dreamwidth.net" for the server, and use the username and password you were given in your welcome email. In Terminal, type:

ssh dh-username@hack.dreamwidth.net

Change your password

Change your password to something you can remember. Type:


and follow the prompts.

Set the system 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 make_system.pl again and re-set it.)

Edit the config files

You'll need to edit a few config files to make for easier development. Do the following:

nano -w etc/config.pl

(Or whatever editor you prefer.)

Values you may want to change and/or set:

# This governs invite codes. 1 = new accounts need invites; 0 = anyone can create an account.

You should also edit your config-local.pl for some other local settings:

nano -w etc/config-local.pl

Values you may want to change and/or set:

$SITENAME = "Some LiveJournal Site";
# these are all used in various places throughout the site

Back up your configs

For safety and paranoia's sake, it's a good idea to back up all three of your config files in case a change accidentally overwrites them:

mkdir ~/config-backup
cp $LJHOME/etc/config* ~/config-backup

Protect your configs from updates

Code updates can wind up wiping out your config files, which will cause you to get errors connecting to your database. To prevent this from happening, set all of your config files to be locally tracked:

mkdir cvs/local cvs/local/etc cvs/local/cvs
cp etc/config-local.pl cvs/local/etc
cp etc/config.pl cvs/local/etc
cp etc/config-private.pl cvs/local/etc

Create $LJHOME/cvs/local/cvs/multicvs-private.conf and put this in it:

local .

Then, copy it to the main cvs directory:

cp $LJHOME/cvs/local/cvs/multicvs-private.conf $LJHOME/cvs/

From now on, if you want to make changes to any of your configs, do them to the versions in cvs/local/etc/. (You'll need to do this if any new features come about that involve config changes; it's a good idea to compare your local versions with the versions in Mercurial from time to time.)

Start Apache

Once all of this is done, you're ready to start Apache. Type:


Your Dreamhack will now appear at http://www.yourusername.hack.dreamwidth.net.

Update your code regularly

Before you do any development work, it's a good idea to update your code to the most recent version. See Dev Maintenance for instructions.

Get familiar with version control

Read Version Control and get familiar with how things work. You don't need to use Mercurial queues to manage your patches -- it's perfectly possible to just use $LJHOME/bin/cvsreport.pl every time you want to make a patch.

Hack away!

You can now start hacking! For more information, check out the Category: Development category, especially the Beginning dev checklist, Dev Getting Started, and Programming Guidelines pages. If you run into problems, the #dreamwidth-dev IRC channel and the [info]dw_dev_training community are good places to go for help.

We're looking forward to seeing your first patch!

A note about TheSchwartz

Previously, the Dreamhack setup process required you to set up TheSchwartz manually. You no longer need to do this as it's done for you automatically, but if you need to use TheSchwartz, you will still need to run the workers manually. This can generally be done with the command $LJHOME/bin/worker-manager --debug. However, please do not run this unless you need to; due to an issue with some of the workers, it can cause load for the server. It may be that the area you are working with does not need TheSchwartz for it to work.

Using the --debug switch, as in the command above, will force the worker manager to remain in the foreground, which makes it easy to stop; you can just press Ctrl-C. Note that even with --debug on, you can run worker-manager in the shell and use your Web browser to access your Dreamhack at the same time.

If you need to run worker-manager in the background, then you can leave off the --debug switch, which will make it go into the background. When you're done, you can then stop it with the command killall worker-manager.

(At some point, there will be a script to make it easier to do this! For now, though, this is what you need to so.)