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The pain of installing RT in Gentoo

Since some of my customers tend to forget what they asked me to do and then they complain that I’m going overbudget or overtime, I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and set up some kind of tracker. Of course given that almost all of said customers are not technical at all, using Bugzilla was completely out of question. The choice fell back to RT that has a nice email-based interface for them to use.

Setting this up seemed a simple process after all: you just have to emerge the package, deal with the obnoxious webapp-config (you can tell I don’t like it at all!), and set up database and mod_perl for Apache. It turned out not to be so easy. The first problem is the one I already wrote about at least in passing: Apache went segfaulting on me when loading mod_perl on this server, and I didn’t care enough to actually go around and debug why that is.

But fear not, since I’ve already rented a second server, as I said, I decided to try deploying RT there, it shouldn’t be trouble, no? Hah, I wish.

First problem is that Apache refused to start because the script couldn’t be launched. Which was at the very least bothersome, since it also refused to actually show me some error message beside repeating to me that it couldn’t load it. I decided against trying mod_perl once again and moved to a more “common” configuration of lighttpd and reverse proxying, using FastCGI.

And here trouble starts getting even nastier. To begin with, FastCGI requires you to start rt with its own init script; the one provided by the current 3.8.10 ebuild is pretty much outdated and won’t work, possibly at all. I rewrote it (and the rewrite I’ll see to push into portage soon), and got it to at least try starting up. But even then it won’t start up. Why is that?

It has to do with the way I decided to fix up the database: since the new server will run at some point a series of WordPress instances (don’t ask!), it’ll have to run MySQL, but there will be other Web Apps that should use PostgreSQL, and as long as performance is not that big an issue, I wanted to keep one database software per server; this meant connecting to PostgreSQL running on Earhart (which is on the same network anyway), and to do so, beside limiting access through iptables, I set it to use SSL. That was a mistake.

Even though you may set authentication as trust in the pg_hba.conf configuration file, the client-side PostgreSQL library tries to see if there are authentication tokens to use, which in case of SSL can be of two kinds: passwords and certificates. The former is the usual clear-text password, the latter as the name implies is a SSL user certificate that can be used to validate the secure connection from one point to the other. I had no interest to use user certificates at that point, so I didn’t care much about procuring or producing any.

So when I start the rt service (without using --background, that is… I’ll solve that before committing the new init script), I get this:

 * Starting RT ...
DBI connect('dbname=rt3;;requiressl=1','rt',...) failed: could not open certificate file "/dev/null/.postgresql/postgresql.crt": Not a directory at /usr/lib64/perl5/vendor_perl/5.12.4/DBIx/SearchBuilder/ line 106
Connect Failed could not open certificate file "/dev/null/.postgresql/postgresql.crt": Not a directory
 at //var/www/ line 206
Compilation failed in require at /var/www/ line 54.
 * start-stop-daemon: failed to start `/var/www/'                                                                       [ !! ]
 * ERROR: rt failed to start

Obviously /dev/null is the home of the rt user, which is what I’m trying to run this as, and of course it is not a directory by itself, trying to handle it as a directory will make the calls fail exactly as expected. And if you see this, your first thought is likely to be “PostgreSQL does not support connecting via SSL without an user certificate, what a trouble!”.. and you’d be wrong.

Indeed, if you look at a strace of psql run as root (again, don’t ask), you’ll see this:

stat("/root/.pgpass", 0x74cde2a44210)   = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat("/root/.postgresql/postgresql.crt", 0x74cde2a41bb0) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
stat("/root/.postgresql/root.crt", 0x74cde2a41bb0) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)

So it tries to find the certificate, doesn’t find it, and proceed to find a different one, if even that doesn’t exist, it gives up. But that’s not the case for the above case. The reason is probably a silly one: the library looks up errno to be ENOENT before ignoring the error, while the rest of them is likely considered fatal.

So how do you deal with a similar issue? The obvious answer would be to make the home directory to point to the RT installation directory, so that it’s also writeable by the user; in most cases this only requires you to set the $HOME variable, but that’s not the case for PostgreSQL, that instead decides to be smarter than that, and looks up the home directory of the user from the passwd file…

So why not changing the user’s home directory to the given directory then? One reason is that you could have multiple RT instances in the same system, mostly thanks to webapp-config, and another is that even with a single RT instance, the path to the installed code has the package’s version in it, so you would have to change the user’s home each time, which is not something you should be looking forward to.

How to solve this whole? Well, there is one “solution” that is what I’m going to do: set up RT on the same system as PostgreSQL, either with lighttpd or by using FastCGI directly within Apache, I have yet to decide; then there is the actual solution to solve this: get the PostgreSQL client library to respect $HOME and at the same time make it not throw a fit if the home directory is not really a directory. I just don’t think I have time to dedicate to the real fix for now.

Comments 11
  1. For a general purpose multi-project repository wiki/bug tracking/repo view tool, I find that www-apps/redmine is very comprehensive.It uses rails and has sqlite3, mysql, or postgresql backend support.It was the easiest tracking system ever to setup IMO.Some notable open source projects now use it too.

  2. dermartn, I’ll give a try to otrs since I hit a few more roadblocks trying to get RT working…Brian, I know redmine very well, but _it is not what I’m looking for_. I don’t need a *bug* tracker, I need something to handle customers’ calls, and RT (and otrs) are designed for those targets, not those of project management.The ease of set up is not important compared to the ease of use, if customers were to remember to login and stuff it’ll be left unused.

  3. algol, the same that I said about redmine applies to trac… with the addition that I find it unusable _myself_.

  4. Can you start it with spawn-fcgi? I wrote the original version of its init script and I’ve been using it with PHP for years. I also successfully used it with Rails back in the day before moving on to Passenger and Unicorn.

  5. Actually I haven’t thought about it… but at this point I was able to get it to work with mod_perl after “finding the bug”:… — hopefully it can be addressed relatively soon.

  6. I’m probably missing something, but why does Apache refuse to start if the perl script fails?

  7. That’s because mod_perl requires the general script to start up properly right away, otherwise, as noted, it fails to start. It’s one of the downsides of mod_perl…

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