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by Manuel Rendon

The installation process [for CHEF] took a little time to figure out. There is no centralized “manual”; instead, there are several documents that describe the various processes (like explaining how to set up MySQL). Perhaps this is where MITC can provide some documentation. The basic process we did at MITC involves:

  • setting up Apache Tomcat

  • downloading a modified version of Jakarta-jetspeed (available at

  • installing Apache Ant and other related packages (if you’re using Linux and the Redhat Package Manager (RPM) is a great site)

  • Downloading the CHEF Source from

  • Editing the configuration files (necessary for installation)

  • Editing some other CHEF files (CSS, and a few other tweaks) (configuring the look of CHEF)

  • Installing the mysql java database client

  • Creating the MySQL database

  • Building and deploying CHEF via ANT (similar to “make”)

I attended a CHEF developers’ workshop so I was familiar with the installation process. I had to contact the U of M developers a few times when they hadn’t released a few files and sometimes when a few issues arose. The “main” installation file would have been enough to get an instance of CHEF running without using a database and without changing the default U of Michigan feel. I’m not sure if that file was updated to reflect a few changes that were made between a few chef releases. When customizing for our installation we had to look at the different files to find the right ones.

I don’t think an administrator needs too much java expertise to install CHEF. I certainly didn’t delve into any of the Java code. If you plan on doing customization to specific screens, it would involve working the Velocity Template Language. This separates the design(Velocity) from the code(Java). It’s relatively straight forward, IMHO.

Since we had a database on the backend we were able to backup the database easily. Interestingly the database holds the xml files.

The system was very reliable. There were individual elements that broke (a little more during the first semester). The entire system itself didn’t suffer any problems. Most of the problems that occurred cleared themselves after a while. They had to time out and reset.

Hosting CHEF was a pretty smooth process from our end. I think there were some difficulties at the beginning of Fall Semester because of all of the viruses. Not so much from our end, but from the participating schools’ networks. Once the initial onslaught of worms subsided I think it was smooth sailing.

The Michigan folks have always been very helpful. I wish there was a larger community of support available though. I hate bugging the same people over and over again.

Presented at the Spring 04 MITC conference : Critically Evaluating Technologies for a Liberal Arts Context, March 18th - 20th 2004


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