Notes On Installing and Running Diaspora

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Revision as of 06:16, 13 June 2013 by Jhass (talk | contribs) (Add redis version requirement)
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»» Note
If you just want to use (or try out) Diaspora*, you don't necessarily have to set up your own pod.
You can join a pod that has registrations enabled, running the Diaspora* software. Just pick one from the list of community-operated servers that seems best to you.
If you still want to run your own pod... we salute you. Read on.


Diaspora* is run on a network of connected servers, or "pods". This document contains technical information for installing the necessary software to run a pod yourself, either for development, or as a new pod on the Diaspora network.

A little knowledge on administrating Unix-like systems (Linux, MacOS) or experience setting up other Rails applications can't hurt in this endeavour... ;)

For OS-Specific and service-specific guides, check out this page.

Things to Know

  1. The install is a bit complex, but we're here to help
    If you run into problems, please visit us in our IRC channels on Freenode.
  2. Running a common setup will get you the most help, if you need it.
    Most people in the community will have some experience running Diaspora* with Unicorn as the app server using Nginx as outward-facing web server. Of course, you're free to run any other app server (Thin, Passenger...) or web server (Apache), but you might find it harder to get help if you run into unexpected troubles.
  3. Diaspora* is developed utilizing latest web standards
    Therefore UX is best with recent browsers, so please update your Firefox, Opera, Chrome or Safari to the newest version. We do not currently support any version of Internet Explorer, though we won't reject any contributions attempting to change that circumstance.
  4. Diaspora* mandates HTTPS
    as we encrypt communication amongst servers and to the client browsers. You can get a free SSL certificate from StartSSL. You’ll need to reference the certificate in your webserver configuration file.
»» Note
The use of self-signed certificates is discouraged
While you can certainly get up and running with your own pod by using a self-signed SSL certificate, your pod may not be able to communicate with all other pods. It is therefore recommended that you use a certificate issued from a trusted Certificate Authority. Unfortunately, this also means that CaCert certificates won’t work. They are not (yet) part of most certificate bundles.

Pointing out the obvious

»» Important
Do not run anything as root if it's not explicitly requested by this guide.
Just use your normal user - or even better - create a separate user for Diaspora*.

We frequently see people doing everything as root. If you think that's a good idea: It's not. It's the worst thing you can do! Not only is it a security risk, it also violates all sorts of best-practices. See this comment for a short rationale on that topic.

Preparing your system

In order to run Diaspora*, you will need to install the following dependencies:

  • Build tools - Packages needed to compile the components that follow.
  • Ruby - The Ruby programming language.
    (We’re developing mostly on 1.9.3 and support for 1.8.7 was dropped a while ago.)
  • RubyGems - A package manager for Ruby code that we use to download libraries (“gems”) that Diaspora uses.
  • Bundler - A gem management tool for Ruby projects.
  • MySQL - Backend storage engine.
  • Or: PostgreSQL - Backend storage engine.
  • SQLite3 - Relational database management system
  • OpenSSL - An encryption library.
  • libcurl - A library to make HTTP requests (and much more).
  • ImageMagick - An image processing library we use to resize uploaded photos.
  • Git - A version control system, which you will need to download the Diaspora source code from GitHub.
  • Redis 2.0 or later - A persistent key-value store that we use via Sidekiq for background job processing.
  • one of the JavaScript runtimes on execjs' supported list.
»» Note
For operating-system and hosting-service specific guides, check out this list of instructions.
After all the requirements are installed on your system, return to this page and proceed with the installation.

Installing Diaspora*

Getting Diaspora* Source

Our source code is hosted at GitHub. We produce tagged stable releases, and on the master branch you will always find the code for the most recent release. If you have never used GitHub before, their help desk has a pretty awesome guide for getting set up.

To get a copy of the Diaspora* source from the master branch, use the following command:

git clone -b master git:// && cd diaspora

This will copy all files from the repository into a diaspora folder under the current directory.

If you already cloned the repository get sure to checkout the master branch with (in the diaspora dir):

git checkout master


Depending on the database you want to use, add either `DB="mysql"` for MySQL or `DB="postgres"` for PostgreSQL before each command starting with `bundle…`, or export the environment variable: `export DB="mysql"` for MySQL or `export DB="postgres"`. (If you want to have both database types available for easy switching, you can either skip this step or use `DB="all"`.)

Install Required Gems

To start the app server for the first time, you need to use Bundler to install Diaspora's gem depencencies. Run (from Diaspora's root directory):

bundle install --without development test heroku

Bundler will also warn you if there is a new dependency and you need to bundle install again.

NOTE: If you don't get a green success line at the end, double check if you've installed all dependencies. If you can't figure it out feel free to ask for help at the mailing list or the How we use IRC.

NOTE: If you want to do any development run just `bundle install`

NOTE: If you are on Ruby 1.9.2 and get an error such as "invalid byte sequence in US-ASCII (ArgumentError)" then you need to set your system locale to UTF-8. This GitHub bug report on the gem that causes the problem has steps for doing so on Ubuntu.

NOTE: If you get "Could not get Gemfile" make sure you are in the diaspora directory (`cd diaspora`) you just cloned.

NOTE: If you do any other rails development on your machine, you will probably want to either run `bundle install --path vendor` instead to install the gems in your local diaspora directory to avoid conflicts with your existing environment, or use an RVM gemset.

Configure Diaspora

Diaspora needs to know what host it's running on. Copy `config/diaspora.yml.example` to `config/diaspora.yml`

cp config/diaspora.yml.example config/diaspora.yml

, put your external url into the url field, section environment and make any other needed configuration changes.


Diaspora is a Rails-app and as such it has different running modes. The default is "development mode" in which some performance features such as source code caching are disabled. The other mode is "production mode" which is best for actually running a pod. If you want just a test installation to develop for Diaspora, keep the defaults. However, if you plan to actually host a pod choose production mode.

If you want to run production mode:

  • Edit rails_environment in the server section in config/diaspora.yml
  • Change the `environment.assets.serve` setting to `true` in the `config/diaspora.yml` file. With this setting enabled Diaspora can take advantage of Rails' ability to serve static content like images and .css files from the application's /public directory. However, Rails is not a webserver, so a better option would be to leave `environment.assets.serve` set to `false` and instead install a true webserver such as Apache or Nginx alongside Diaspora and modify that webserver’s configuration to serve the static content itself:

Apache 2

<VirtualHost *:80>
  DocumentRoot /diaspora_root/public
  <Directory /diaspora_root/public>
      Allow from all
      Options -MultiViews

For a more advanced configuration have a look at this Gist.

OSX Server Note: If you wish to use Apache built into OSX Server, use Server Admin to create a site on port 443. A file should be created in the directory `/etc/apache2/sites/` with a name like "". The above proxy settings will allow you to continue to use your existing web services alongside the Diaspora installation.


Get inspired by our Nginx Configuration.


See Using lighttpd as webserver for an example configuration.

Configuring SSL

As noted previously, you will need to configure NGINX to point to your SSL certificate (procured from either StartSSL or elsewhere.

NOTE: Certificates issued from StartSSL will probably also require that the StartSSL intermediate certificate be concatenated in order for some pods to communicate properly. The following link will help you create a properly concatenated certificate for use by NGINX: StartSSL and NGINX

NOTE: If you are serving through a reverse proxy, you will need to set the `X_FORWARDED_PROTO` header to `https` on your reverse proxy server. The NGINX and Apache example configurations show how to do this. Failure to set this header will lead to a redirect loop.

Take note: We upgrade all port 80 requests to port 443. We recommend that you do the same.

OSX Server Note: If you use startssl to obtain both a private key and a certificate don't forget to decrypt the private key using the following command `openssl rsa -in ssl.key -out ssl.key`. Import the decrypted key (ssl.key) and a certificate (ssl.crt) file into Server Admin by dragging the files into the Certificate manager found here: Server Admin>Web>Site>>Security>Manage Certificates>Import Certificate Identity. If the certificate & key are valid the certificate should be 'blue'. Once imported, the certificate can then be selected as the security for the site.

Different certificates Make sure that your top level domain (e.g. if your pod is hands out the _same_ certificate as your actual pod URL. The communication with other pods (or applications, like might not work otherwise.

Set up the database

Note for PostgreSQL users: If you are running Diaspora with PostgreSQL, beware that having the ssl setting turned on in the PostgreSQL config has been causing problems for several people. We recommend turning it off unless you know what you're doing.

You need to configure the database settings. Copy config/database.yml.example to config/database.yml

cp config/database.yml.example config/database.yml

and edit it properly.

After that, run

bundle exec rake db:create

for development mode or

RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake db:create

for production mode

to create the needed database (or you could instead create the database manually.) If you want to create it manually make sure you choose utf8 as charset and utf8_bin as collation.

Now you need to create the necessary tables. To do so run

bundle exec rake db:schema:load

for development mode or

RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake db:schema:load

for production mode.

Warning: This will empty your database, on update use `db:migrate` instead of `db:schema:load`!

Set up services

If you want to connect your pod to other services like Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook read instructions integrating other Social Networks.

Running Diaspora

To turn on the server use the command `./script/server` from the working directory.

This will start Unicorn and Resque workers. The application is then available at http://your_pod:3000. You can change the port by either editing server.port in config/diaspora.yml or by setting up a reverse proxy (see above) if you want to run Diaspora at a subdomain or use HTTPS more easily.

Note: Ensure your database servers (Redis and MySQL or PostgreSQL) are running before trying to start the server.

Once Diaspora is running, just open it up in a web browser and sign up for an account.

Note: If you are running a 'production' installation and requests to the /assets directory return a HTTP 404 error to your client, run `RAILS_ENV=production DB="mysql" bundle exec rake assets:precompile` for MySQL or `RAILS_ENV=production DB="postgres" bundle exec rake assets:precompile` for PostgreSQL after each git pull. If you get a 500 page installation try restarting Diaspora after that.

Note: If you are running a 'production' installation and you do not see any images hosted, but the content loads fine, ensure that your reverse proxy is serving them. If you sure you don't want to setup a reverse proxy ensure that you have set your `environment.assets.serve` setting turned to `true` everywhere in your `diaspora.yml`.

Updating Diaspora

Read the Changelog!

Change into the Diaspora root folder and run

git pull origin master

If the update changes the Gemfile or Gemfile.lock files, for MySQL run

DB="mysql" bundle install --without development test heroku

or for PostgreSQL:

DB="postgres" bundle install --without development test heroku

Now kill your running Diaspora instance.

In order to apply any new schema always run

DB="mysql" bundle exec rake db:migrate

for MySQL, or

DB="postgres" bundle exec rake db:migrate

for PostgreSQL.

Or if you you run in production mode

RAILS_ENV="production" DB="mysql" bundle exec rake db:migrate

for MySQL, or

RAILS_ENV="production" DB="postgres" bundle exec rake db:migrate

for PostgreSQL.

Now start Diaspora again.

After each update run:

DB="mysql" bundle exec rake assets:precompile / DB="postgresql" bundle exec rake assets:precompile



Normally you don't need this if you aren't developing for Diaspora, just skip it :)

Diaspora’s test suite uses Rspec, a behavior driven testing framework. To run all tests execute: `rake`. Note that some of our tests require a display to be attached; if you just want to run the command-line tests, do `rake spec`.

Read-Only Installation

The directories 'tmp', 'public/uploads' and 'log' must be writable by the user running Diaspora even in a read-only installation.

Some of Diaspora's web content in the public/ folder is generated at runtime. In order to create a read-only installation, this content must be generated at install time instead.

Run sass/haml and create e. g., public/stylesheets/{application,ui,sessions}.css:

bundle exec thin -d --pid log/ start
wget http://localhost:3000; rm index.html
bundle exec thin --pid log/ stop

Precache public/assets/*gz files:

bundle exec rake assets:precompile

After these commands also the *public/* folder can be read-only (although *public/uploads* need to be writable, see above).