How To: Create & Manage a NodeBB Test / Dev Environment



  • Create & Manage a NodeBB Test/Dev Environment

    Table of Contents

    • Summary
    • Caveats
    • Webserver
      • Nginx
    • NodeBB
      • PRD -> DEV
      • Adjustments to DEV
      • Upgrading DEV NodeBB
      • Delete DEV
      • Fresh NodeBB with PRD database

    Summary

    The old saying goes

    Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.

    Managing NodeBB isn't as bad as that but there could be a bit of a challenge the first few times that you attempt to upgrade your software or install a new feature. Especially on your production system! So what can you do?

    Make a sausage factory of course! In our case the factory is a test/development environment to practice your upgrades or test a new plugin or CSS change. You do not necessarily need to spend additional money on a test/dev server, although you could. You can spin up a copy of your production system right on your production system. This is not very difficult due in part to how well NodeBB, and Node.js, were created.

    Caveats

    For disclosure I am not a developer of NodeBB or any of the supporting applications. These notes are just that, a collection of my notes as I was experimenting and learning. I do have twenty-four years of IT experience, mostly Unix (SunOS, Solaris, AIX, BSD, Linux) which includes twenty-four years of bad habits and ugly kludges. I do hope that in those years I have picked up a few gems and learned a few good traits. I will try to pass along only the best but please do accept the ugly as they come.

    My NodeBB forum runs on a Linux (CentOS) server. I utilize Redis as my NodeBB database and use Nginx as my web server. This document, unless noted otherwise, will reference that environment.

    I am making the assumption that you have a production NodeBB server that is fully operational and you wish to create a dev/test copy of it on the same server.

    And finally, The risk is yours. I do not take responsibility for harm to your system. Please evaluate all of my suggestions as you deem necessary.

    Webserver

    Nginx

    This addition should only need to be made once. After it is in place you should be able to create and delete dev NodeBB environments from your production without needing to adjust your Nginx configuration.

    You will need to make a new server block in your Nginx domain configuration file. Most likely located in /etc/nginx/sites-available/yourforumdomain.com.conf. This new server block will have the specifics for your dev NodeBB. For example you may create an entry like:

    server {
        listen       443 ssl;
        server_name  dev.yourforumdomain.com;
    [...]
    

    In your location / { location block you will need a proxy_pass entry that directs to the port that your dev NodeBB will listen on:

    location / {
    [...]
        proxy_pass http://127.0.0.1:4568;
    [...]
    

    Once you have your Nginx configuration adjusted appropriately do not forget to restart it. sudo systemctl restart nginx.

    NodeBB

    PRD -> DEV

    For my examples the production NodeBB is running under the /opt/nodebb/ directory path and we will be creating a copy into /opt/devNodebb/

    Let's make a copy of production into dev. This can be done "live" without needing to shutdown your production forum.

    mkdir /opt/devNodebb
    (cd /opt/nodebb; tar cf - .) | (cd /opt/devNodebb; tar xvf -)
    

    If NodeBB was running when you made the copy you'll need to remove the pidfile. A pidfile typically contains the process id information of the running program. This is useful so that commands such as ./nodebb stop know which program to kill. The pidfile you copied over relates to the process id of your production NodeBB. You don't want to be killing that process when you try to startup your dev NodeBB.

    rm /opt/devNodebb/pidfile
    

    Since you made a copy of production you have all production information. If you attempted to start your dev NodeBB now you would have problems. You must edit your config.json file and tell it that you want a new instance of NodeBB.

    vi /opt/devNodebb/config.json
    

    Change your url, port and database entries. For the URL make it the dev domain that you configured your Nginx to listen for. For the port and database numbers I just incremented by one from production.

    "url": "https://dev.yourforumdomain.com",
    "port": "4568",
    [...]
        "database": "1"
    

    No you aren't ready to start up your dev NodeBB just yet. There isn't a database behind it.

    Let's make a copy of the production Redis database for dev to use. I use redis-copy which is not part of the redis database distribution. I downloaded and built my copy from this Github repository redis-copy.

    The following command makes a copy of the Redis database number 0 (production) to database number 1 (your dev/test). Database number 1 is the database we told the devNodebb config.json file above to use.

    redis-copy localhost/0 localhost/1
    

    Now we may startup the dev NodeBB instance.

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    ./nodebb start
    

    Adjustments to DEV

    Once your dev forum is running you should make a few administrative adjustments to it. These are not necessarily critical but they will help you to keep track of which system you are working on and may reduce notifications to your users, etc. Keep in mind that you cloned your production system which includes the users. If you do not want them logging into your dev system you should limit their exposure to it.

    You may want to adjust the site and browser title's to reflect a dev forum

    ACP > Settings > General > Site Title > DEV YourForumName
    ACP > Settings > General > Browser Title > DEV YourForumName
    

    Disable email subscriptions

    ACP > Settings > Email > Email Subscriptions > Disable subscriber notification emails
    

    Disable plugins that may cause confusion, such as Google Analytics

    ACP > Extend > Plugins > nodebb-plugin-google-analytics > Deactivate
    

    There may be other plugins that you wish to disable. Experimenting will lead you to adjust this list appropriately.

    There you have it. You now have a test/dev environment based off of your production system. Changes you make now will only be done in test/dev and your users will happily continue to use the production system until the time comes that you shutdown production to re-play changes or enhancements that you tested in dev.

    Upgrading DEV NodeBB

    So you went through all of the above steps and now you have, well, just a copy of production. Not really useful as it stands but now you have a platform to test upgrading without fear of damaging production.

    Let's upgrade! If you'd like to bring your dev NodeBB up to the current general release of NodeBB the following steps should be adequate.

    Stop your dev NodeBB

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    ./nodebb stop
    

    Tell Git to get the newest release information. This sets up NodeBB such that when you issue the upgrade command it will pull down all of the new or changed files as necessary.

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    git fetch
    git checkout v1.x.x
    git merge origin/v1.x.x
    

    Issue the NodeBB upgrade command

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    ./nodebb upgrade
    

    Watch for upgrade errors. Note that any customizations or changes you have made to your theme's CSS may have been undone by a new feature or bug fix. That is why we have this test/dev environment, so you can test and look for problems.

    If the upgrade appears to have worked without errors start up dev NodeBB and then switch into the logging mode so that you may watch the behavior of the system. Pressing ctrl-c will exit the logging mode.

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    ./nodebb start
    ./nodebb log
    

    Delete DEV

    What if there were problems with your upgrade or you'd like to start this process over with a fresh copy of production? That is not a big problem. A few commands will delete your test/dev environment and then you can start the copy process over again.

    Stop your dev NodeBB

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    ./nodebb stop
    

    Let's remove the test/dev software directory tree

    rm -rf /opt/devNodebb
    

    Delete the test/dev Redis database. This is probably the most dangerous command in this document. Please double check that the database number provided is the one for your test/dev environment and NOT the one for your production environment.

    redis-cli -n 1 flushdb
    

    And there you have it, test/dev is gone. You may now redo the PRD -> DEV or Fresh NodeBB with PRD database steps if you so desire.

    Fresh NodeBB with PRD database

    There may be times that you want to have a factory fresh NodeBB installation with your database content. You would end up with users, setttings, content, etc., but not files that you may have edited over time or plugins that you installed.

    Run the Delete DEV section to be sure you have no remnants of a previous test/dev environment. Then proceed.

    Tell Git to get the software and where to put it.

    git clone -b v1.x.x https://github.com/NodeBB/NodeBB /opt/devNodebb
    

    Copy your production config.json file and then edit it as you would have if you were doing the PRD -> DEV section

    cp /opt/nodebb/config.json /opt/devNodebb/config.json
    
    vi /opt/devNodebb/config.json
    

    Change your url, port and database entries.

    "url": "https://dev.yourforumdomain.com",
    "port": "4568",
    [...]
        "database": "1"
    

    Copy over your Redis database

    redis-copy localhost/0 localhost/1
    

    Since the config.json has been created and contains the information that the NodeBB setup process would have asked for we can just run the NodeBB upgrade command (as opposed to the setup command). Bypassing the questions about which database to use, etc. Before you run the NodeBB upgrade you have to actually install the NodeBB software. This process was not necessary when we copied PRD to DEV earlier as it was done when you did your initial production NodeBB installation and was brought over in the tar copy process.

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    npm install
    ./nodebb upgrade
    

    Now start it up!

    cd /opt/devNodebb
    ./nodebb start
    

    And there you have it. You now have a clean installation of NodeBB with your database content. As noted in the PRD -> DEV section you may wish to make adjustments to your dev forum so that you can easily identify which one you are working in. Ie., change the site and browser title names, etc.


    Contact me https://community.nodebb.org/user/rod
    Revision 1.2, 2016-APR-08 @645.beats

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