Problem

You are thinking about installing your own copy of Web-CAT, but do not know what other software you must have installed to get it to run.

Solution

Web-CAT runs as a servlet in an appropriate servlet container, and it also is built on top of a few other software packages. Here is the complete list of requirements for what you have to have available on your server before installing Web-CAT:

  1. Java 1.5.x or newer for running Web-CAT. We recommend using Sun's JDK. Many linux users have reported that Web-CAT will not run using gcj (see SwitchToSunJdk).

  2. A servlet container for hosting servlet-based web applications. We use Apache Tomcat at Virginia Tech, but JBOSS, BEA WebLogic, WebSphere, or another appropriate J2EE application server platform should also work.

  3. MySQL for database support. Web-CAT's architecture allows other JDBC-compatible databases to be used for the underlying relational database layer, but we don't have drivers for them included in our basic distribution. If you want to adapt Web-CAT for another RDBMS, please contact our development team via our SourceForgeProject--we'd love the help!

  4. A recent Perl distribution for supporting instructor-provided grading plug-ins written in Perl. Plug-ins can be written in virtually any language supported on your server, but most of the pre-provided plug-ins are written in Perl.

    1. Be sure you have the HTML::Parser module installed with your Perl distribution.
    2. Be sure you have the XML::Parser module installed with your Perl distribution.

Discussion

We recommend that institutions dedicate a specific server for running Web-CAT, since grading student work does necessarily involve running student-provided code on a server. Although student code is appropriately sandboxed, using a separate server for Web-CAT will minimize any potential risks to other server-side applications you may also be running.

If you are planning to deploy Web-CAT on an existing web server at your institution, chances are good that you've already got an appropriate servlet container or application server running, and also probably have a recent version of Perl installed. You might even have a MySQL server available (it needn't be on the same machine that Web-CAT will be on, as long as your admin can create an appropriate account with the right permissions to allow non-local access).

However, if you are starting from scratch, be aware that there are a number of tools available to help you set up your server for applications like this. If you are planning to deploy Web-CAT on a Windows XP (or 2000) server, you might want to look at http://www.devside.net/. Their Web-Developer Server Suite is a preconfigured bundle that includes Apache, Tomcat, MySQL, and Perl. It also includes PHP, optional SSL support, and a number of other features. It is a great way to get an appropriate server environment up and running quickly. There are several other distributions like this available. Generically, they are often called WAMP (for Windows Apache + MySQL + Perl distributions) or WAMPP (with PHP, too) distributions, and you can find many alternatives by googling this term.

If you are setting up your own server from scratch on a different OS, similar bundles may also be available. Search the web for LAMP (the Linux equivalent) or XAMP (the OS X equivalent).

Note: A separate WebObjects deployment license is no longer required to run Web-CAT. Older versions of Web-CAT required you to have a WebObjects deployment license in order to install and run the servlet. Due to changes in Apple's licensing terms for WebObjects, the Web-CAT WAR distribution now includes a no-cost deployment license, allowing it to be installed for free on any platform.

Installing Perl Modules

Make sure your Perl installation includes both HTML::Parser and XML::Parser already. Read this entry in the CPAN FAQ if you want to find out what Perl modules you currently have installed: How do I find out what modules are already installed on my system?.

If you need to install these modules and you are using a linux flavor that supports rpms, you can use your package manager to install them directly. The two rpms to install are perl-HTML-parser and perl-XML-parser. Debian users can use apt-get. If you are using the ActiveState Perl distribution on Windows, you can use the included Perl Package Manager (ppm) to install these modules. Otherwise, read this CPAN FAQ entry: How do I install Perl modules?.

See Also

InstallWebCat
InstallationWalkthrough

Contributors

-- StephenEdwards 2006-09-22 19:41:33

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