Configuration and customisation

Tutor offers plenty of possibilities for platform customisation out of the box. There are two main ways in which the base Open edX installation can be customized:

  1. Modifying the Tutor configuration parameters.

  2. Modifying the Open edX docker image that runs the Open edX platform.

This section does not cover plugin development. For simple changes, such as modifying the *.env.json files or the edx-platform settings, you should not fork edx-platform or tutor! Instead, you should create a simple plugin for Tutor.

Configuration

With Tutor, all Open edX deployment parameters are stored in a single config.yml file. This is the file that is generated when you run tutor local quickstart or tutor config save. To view the content of this file, run:

cat "$(tutor config printroot)/config.yml"

By default, this file contains only the required configuration parameters for running the platform. Optional configuration parameters may also be specified to modify the default behaviour. To do so, you can edit the config.yml file manually:

vim "$(tutor config printroot)/config.yml"

Alternatively, you can set each parameter from the command line:

tutor config save --set PARAM1=VALUE1 --set PARAM2=VALUE2

Or from the system environment:

export TUTOR_PARAM1=VALUE1

Once the base configuration is created or updated, the environment is automatically re-generated. The environment is the set of all files required to manage an Open edX platform: Dockerfile, lms.env.json, settings files, etc. You can view the environment files in the env folder:

ls "$(tutor config printroot)/env"

With an up-to-date environment, Tutor is ready to launch an Open edX platform and perform usual operations. Below, we document some of the configuration parameters.

Individual service activation

  • ACTIVATE_LMS (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_CMS (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_FORUM (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_ELASTICSEARCH (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_MEMCACHED (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_MONGODB (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_MYSQL (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_RABBITMQ (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_SMTP (default: true)

  • ACTIVATE_HTTPS (default: false)

Every single Open edX service may be (de)activated at will by these configuration parameters. This is useful if you want, for instance, to distribute the various Open edX services on different servers.

Docker

Custom images

  • DOCKER_IMAGE_OPENEDX (default: "overhangio/openedx:{{ TUTOR_VERSION }}")

  • DOCKER_IMAGE_ANDROID (default: "overhangio/openedx-android:{{ TUTOR_VERSION }}")

  • DOCKER_IMAGE_FORUM (default: "overhangio/openedx-forum:{{ TUTOR_VERSION }}")

These configuration parameters define which image to run for each service. By default, the docker image tag matches the Tutor version it was built with.

Custom registry

  • DOCKER_REGISTRY (default: "docker.io/")

You may want to pull/push images from/to a custom docker registry. For instance, for a registry running on localhost:5000, define:

DOCKER_REGISTRY: localhost:5000/

(the trailing / is important)

Open edX customisation

  • OPENEDX_CMS_GUNICORN_WORKERS (default: 2)

  • OPENEDX_LMS_GUNICORN_WORKERS (default: 2)

By default there are 2 gunicorn worker processes to serve requests for the LMS and the CMS. However, each workers requires upwards of 500 Mb of RAM. You should reduce this value to 1 if your computer/server does not have enough memory.

Vendor services

Nginx

  • NGINX_HTTP_PORT (default: 80)

  • NGINX_HTTPS_PORT (default: 443)

  • WEB_PROXY (default: true)

Nginx is used to route web traffic to the various applications and to serve static assets. In case there is another web server in front of the Nginx container (for instance, a web server running on the host or an Ingress controller on Kubernetes), the container exposed ports can be modified. If WEB_PROXY is set to true then we assume that SSL termination does not occur in the Nginx container.

MySQL

  • ACTIVATE_MYSQL (default: true)

  • MYSQL_HOST (default: "mysql")

  • MYSQL_PORT (default: 3306)

  • MYSQL_ROOT_USERNAME (default: "root")

  • MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD (default: randomly generated) Note that you are responsible for creating the root user if you are using a managed database.

By default, a running Open edX platform deployed with Tutor includes all necessary 3rd-party services, such as MySQL, MongoDb, etc. But it’s also possible to store data on a separate database, such as Amazon RDS. For instance, to store data on an external MySQL database, set the following configuration:

ACTIVATE_MYSQL: false
MYSQL_HOST: yourhost
MYSQL_ROOT_USERNAME: <root user name>
MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD: <root user password>

Elasticsearch

  • ELASTICSEARCH_SCHEME (default: "http")

  • ELASTICSEARCH_HOST (default: "elasticsearch")

  • ELASTICSEARCH_PORT (default: 9200)

  • ELASTICSEARCH_HEAP_SIZE (default: "1g")

Memcached

  • MEMCACHED_HOST (default: "memcached")

  • MEMCACHED_PORT (default: 11211)

Mongodb

  • ACTIVATE_MONGODB (default: true)

  • MONGODB_HOST (default: "mongodb")

  • MONGODB_DATABASE (default: "openedx")

  • MONGODB_PORT (default: 27017)

  • MONGODB_USERNAME (default: "")

  • MONGODB_PASSWORD (default: "")

Rabbitmq

  • ACTIVATE_RABBITMQ (default: true)

  • RABBITMQ_HOST (default: "rabbitmq")

  • RABBITMQ_USERNAME (default: "")

  • RABBITMQ_PASSWORD (default: "")

SMTP

  • ACTIVATE_SMTP (default: true)

  • SMTP_HOST (default: "smtp")

  • SMTP_PORT (default: 25)

  • SMTP_USERNAME (default: "")

  • SMTP_PASSWORD (default: "")

  • SMTP_USE_TLS (default: false)

  • SMTP_USE_SSL (default: false)

Note that the SMTP server shipped with Tutor by default does not implement TLS. With external servers, only one of SSL or TLS should be enabled, at most.

SSL/TLS certificates for HTTPS access

  • ACTIVATE_HTTPS (default: false)

By activating this feature, a free SSL/TLS certificate from the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority will be created for your platform. With this feature, your platform will no longer be accessible in HTTP. Calls to http urls will be redirected to https url.

The following DNS records must exist and point to your server:

LMS_HOST (e.g: myopenedx.com)
preview.LMS_HOST (e.g: preview.myopenedx.com)
CMS_HOST (e.g: studio.myopenedx.com)

Thus, this feature will (probably) not work in development because the DNS records will (probably) not point to your development machine.

To create the certificate manually, run:

tutor local https create

To renew the certificate, run this command once per month:

tutor local stop nginx
tutor local https renew
tutor local start -d

Custom Open edX docker image

There are different ways you can customise your Open edX platform. For instance, optional features can be activated during configuration. But if you want to add unique features to your Open edX platform, you are going to have to modify and re-build the openedx docker image. This is the image that contains the edx-platform repository: it is in charge of running the web application for the Open edX “core”. Both the LMS and the CMS run from the openedx docker image.

On a vanilla platform deployed by Tutor, the image that is run is downloaded from the overhangio/openedx repository on Docker Hub. This is also the image that is downloaded whenever we run tutor local pullimages. But you can decide to build the image locally instead of downloading it. To do so, build and tag the openedx image:

tutor images build openedx

The following sections describe how to modify various aspects of the docker image. Every time, you will have to re-build your own image with this command. Re-building should take ~20 minutes on a server with good bandwidth. After building a custom image, you should stop the old running containers:

tutor local stop

The custom image will be used the next time you run tutor local quickstart or tutor local start. Do not attempt to run tutor local restart! Restarting will not pick up the new image and will continue to use the old image.

openedx Docker Image build arguments

When building the “openedx” Docker image, it is possible to specify a few arguments:

  • EDX_PLATFORM_REPOSITORY (default: "https://github.com/edx/edx-platform.git")

  • EDX_PLATFORM_VERSION (default: "open-release/juniper.1")

  • EDX_PLATFORM_VERSION_DATE (default: "20200227")

  • NPM_REGISTRY (default: "https://registry.npmjs.org/")

These arguments can be specified from the command line, very much like Docker. For instance:

tutor images build -a EDX_PLATFORM_VERSION=customsha1 openedx

Adding custom themes

Comprehensive theming is enabled by default, but only the default theme is compiled. Indigo is a better, ready-to-run theme which you can start using today.

To compile your own theme, add it to the env/build/openedx/themes/ folder:

git clone https://github.com/me/myopenedxtheme.git "$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/themes/myopenedxtheme"

The themes folder should have the following structure:

openedx/themes/
    mycustomtheme1/
        cms/
            ...
        lms/
            ...
    mycustomtheme2/
        ...

Then you must rebuild the openedx Docker image:

tutor images build openedx

Finally, you should enable your theme with the settheme command.

Installing extra xblocks and requirements

Would you like to include custom xblocks, or extra requirements to your Open edX platform? Additional requirements can be added to the env/build/openedx/requirements/private.txt file. For instance, to include the polling xblock from Opencraft:

echo "git+https://github.com/open-craft/xblock-poll.git" >> "$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/requirements/private.txt"

Then, the openedx docker image must be rebuilt:

tutor images build openedx

To install xblocks from a private repository that requires authentication, you must first clone the repository inside the openedx/requirements folder on the host:

git clone git@github.com:me/myprivaterepo.git "$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/requirements/myprivaterepo"

Then, declare your extra requirements with the -e flag in openedx/requirements/private.txt:

echo "-e ./myprivaterepo" >> "$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/requirements/private.txt"

Running a fork of edx-platform

You may want to run your own flavor of edx-platform instead of the official version. To do so, you will have to re-build the openedx image with the proper environment variables pointing to your repository and version:

tutor images build openedx \
    --build-arg EDX_PLATFORM_REPOSITORY=https://mygitrepo/edx-platform.git \
    --build-arg EDX_PLATFORM_VERSION=my-tag-or-branch

Note that your release must be a fork of the Juniper release in order to work. Otherwise, you may have important compatibility issues with other services. In particular, don’t try to run Tutor with older versions of Open edX.

Adding custom translations

If you are not running Open edX in English, chances are that some strings will not be properly translated. In most cases, this is because not enough contributors have helped translate Open edX in your language. It happens! With Tutor, available translated languages include those that come bundled with edx-platform as well as those from openedx-i18n.

Tutor offers a relatively simple mechanism to add custom translations to the openedx Docker image. You should create a folder that corresponds to your language code in the “build/openedx/locale” folder of the Tutor environment. This folder should contain a “LC_MESSAGES” folder. For instance:

mkdir -p "$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/locale/fr/LC_MESSAGES"

The language code should be similar to those used in edx-platform or openedx-i18n (see links above).

Then, add a “django.po” file there that will contain your custom translations:

msgid "String to translate"
msgstr "你翻译的东西 la traduction de votre bidule"

The “String to translate” part should match exactly the string that you would like to translate. You cannot make it up! The best way to find this string is to copy-paste it from the upstream django.po file for the English language.

If you cannot find the string to translate in this file, then it means that you are trying to translate a string that is used in some piece of javascript code. Those strings are stored in a different file named “djangojs.po”. You can check it out in the edx-platform repo as well. Your custom javascript strings should also be stored in a “djangojs.po” file that should be placed in the same directory.

To recap, here is an example. To translate a few strings in French, both from django.po and djangojs.po, we would have the following file hierarchy:

$(tutor config printroot)/env/build/openedx/locale/
    fr/
        LC_MESSAGES/
            django.po
            djangojs.po

With django.po containing:

msgid "It works! Powered by Open edX{registered_trademark}"
msgstr "Ça marche ! Propulsé by Open edX{registered_trademark}"

And djangojs.po:

msgid "%(num_points)s point possible (graded, results hidden)"
msgid_plural "%(num_points)s points possible (graded, results hidden)"
msgstr[0] "%(num_points)s point possible (noté, résultats cachés)"
msgstr[1] "%(num_points)s points possibles (notés, résultats cachés)"

Then you will have to re-build the openedx Docker image:

tutor images build openedx openedx-dev

Beware that this will take a long time! Unfortunately it’s difficult to accelerate this process, as translation files need to be compiled prior to collecting the assets. In development it’s possible to accelerate the iteration loop – but that exercise is left to the reader.

Running a different openedx Docker image

By default, Tutor runs the overhangio/openedx docker image from Docker Hub. If you have an account on hub.docker.com or you have a private image registry, you can build your image and push it to your registry with:

tutor config save --set DOCKER_IMAGE_OPENEDX=myusername/openedx:mytag
tutor images build openedx
tutor images push openedx

(See the relevant configuration parameters.)

The customised Docker image tag value will then be used by Tutor to run the platform, for instance when running tutor local quickstart.