Combust Installation on macOS



One of the biggest complaints we get about Combust is that it is hard to install. I've never believed this, and have decided to put this "myth" to bed for once and for all.

To prove my point, I shall demonstrate how to install Combust in less than an hour, without a network connection. (And on battery, but that really has nothing to do with anything else.)


This installation was done on a PowerBook G4, running macOS 10.4.3. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Some file locations may be slightly different on Linux.

Physically, the documented installation was performed in Terminal 7 of Los Angeles International airport, while waiting for a plane. The documentation was written from seat 21F on the aforementioned plane, enroute to New York's John F. Kennedy airport. (For reasons the author doesn't understand, we've taken a *very* southernly route -- likely to avoid storms over the Rockies.)

The Powerbook has had nothing special installed on it. (It does have a barebones Fink, but nothing that should affect the installation.) No special perl modules have been installed. The development kit _is_ installed.

Only one operation must be performed as root. More on that later. (Of course, you _can_ do everything as root, but my personal taste is not to do this, especially on highly managed systems.)

So, to recap, we are going to use:

And the final preparation step is to make sure your system can access a CPAN mirror via the CPAN shell. On this notebook, I've synced a copy of minicpan to ~/projects/MINICPAN, and configured to use that as my source by executing the following in the CPAN shell:

   o conf urllist set file:///Users/rspier/projects/MINICPAN/
   o conf commit

If you have a network connection and have already configured the CPAN shell to use a remote mirror, that's ok too. (General configuration of the module is outside the scope of this article -- but I generally just let it autoconfigure.)

In order to install perl modules under your home directory, you need to make two configuration changes. First, tell by executing the following:

  perl -MCPAN -eshell
  o conf makepl_arg 'LIB=~/Library/Perl PREFIX=~'
  o conf commit

This will pass the specified arguments to, which tells it to put module files under ~/Library/Perl, and everything else under the root directory. This means you may end up with a man and bin directory under your home directory. (Although at least one module I installed decided to create a usr/bin/ -- but this isn't important for Combust. The arguments are documented in ExtUtils::MakeMaker.

Now, modify your .bashrc file to include:

   export PERL5LIB=$HOME/Library/Perl

If you're not using bash as your shell, figure out the equivalent. The PERL5LIB environment variable is documented in perlvar.

(Also run it on the command line to get it put into your current environment.)

If you don't do the above steps, you'll need to execute the next section as root, because the module installation process will attempt to install into directories you don't own.

Installing Dependent Modules

Combust is dependent on lots of modules. That's a fact. Get over it. Many of them aren't needed by the base Combust installation, but by the site. (And since that's likely what you're going to be running, you need those modules.)

For your sanity, we've created a Bundle containing them all. It makes it pretty darn easy to get them all installed. In the CPAN shell (perl -MCPAN -eshell) run:

   install Bundle::Combust

And then wait.

It may take a while to install all the modules and their dependent modules. You may be prompted from time to time for permission to install dependencies (unless you set o conf prerequisites_policy follow). Some modules may also ask you questions. You can generally say no to most of the questions.

I had trouble with two modules: XML::Simple and Yahoo::Search. The tests on the former were unhappy. I performed a manual force install. The latter's tests are dependent on a network connection, which sadly I didn't have at the time.

You can try and install Bundle::Combust again to verify that all the pieces are in place. If any module doesn't install, you can install it by hand.

Checkout Combust

Using subversion, checkout combust from:

For test purposes I checked it out into ~/projects/combust

Simple Tests

Now, before we try a complicated site like, we're going to test with a very barebones site (also known as "Trivial Example One"). This example is in the 'misc/examples/trivial' directory in your combust checkout.

Set the following environment variables:

  export CBROOT=~/projects/combust
  export CBROOTLOCAL=~/projects/combust/misc/examples/trivial

(Obviously, if your combust checkout is somewhere else, change the path.)

Now, lets modify $CBROOTLOCAL/combust.conf to look something like this:

  perl  = perl
  httpd = /usr/sbin/httpd
  apache_config = /etc/httpd
  port = 8555
  servername =

  sites = one

  servername = one.combust
  siteadmin  =

Then, teach your computer about one.combust by editing the /etc/hosts file.

Modify the localhost line to look something like this:       localhost one.combust

Now, we can start combust.

  $ $CBROOT/bin/run_httpd

The scripts will generate and check the appropriate configuration files and start apache. Or, an error will appear. Fix it.

Use curl or your web browser to visit http://one.combust:8555

You should see a message that says 'The time is now' followed by the current time.

(Sidebar: The test site had a stupid typo causing a namespace issue, which took 20 minutes to debug. It shouldn't have, but airports aren't always conducive to straightforward thinking.)

The sites

Now that we have a test system that works, its time to get the full system working.

Check out the doc tree from (this requires an identity and password) into a docs subdirectory of your combust installation. If you don't like nested checkouts, or are using a system such as svk that doesn't allow them, you can place it elsewhere and symlink $CBROOT/docs -> wherever you put it. (Note: this is going to change in the future when the sites are "isolated" from the main combust tree.)

Copy the combust.conf.sample from the combust directory to combust.conf and edit it to look something like this:

  perl  = /usr/bin/perl
  httpd = /usr/sbin/httpd
  apache_config = /etc/httpd

  servername = combust.combust
  sites = www, qa
  port = 8230

  servername = www.combust

  servername = qa.combust

All done! (Almost.)

Further studies

Combust supports many configuration options, and you may want to use some of them. Look at the provided combust.conf.sample to see them. Drop them in your own combust.conf and re-run $CBROOT/run_httpd to see the effect.

As of this writing, the docs directory contains the following sites:

  combust dbi dev ldap noc perl4lib qa sdl www cpanratings debugger
  foundation learn parrotcode ponie rre shared xml

You can add another one to your installation by adding the appropriate [site] section for it, and adding it to the sites list.

You may come upon pages that throw errors. These are likely due to missing modules or missing data files. (Some of those modules are in the Bundle::Combust::Extras bundle.) The missing data files are often downloaded rss files that go in $CBROOT/var/rss and are generally downloaded by $CBROOT/bin/cron_hourly. (Some of these blowups should be fixed by TRY/CATCH blocks.) You will also want to check the logs under your ($CBROOT|$CBROOTLOCAL)/apache/logs directory.

Use the source code, please! It's pretty simple, and may have the answer to your problems. Also, if you find a problem, we're very happy to accept patches. And if you can't figure it out -- ask. We have a combust-users (at) mailing list just for this purpose.

Things Intentionally Left Out


Robert Spier

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