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How to prepare your system for development

This guide covers how to prepare your system for running and, optionally, developing our applications. This guide attempts to be generic; there may be product-specific requirements and so always check the READMEs if you're starting work on a product for the first time.

Install software

In order to run and develop our standard web applications, you will need to have the following installed on your system:

  1. Docker. On Mac and Windows machines you may find docker desktop to be the most useful solution. On Linux, follow the docker install instructions.
  2. Docker compose. This comes installed with Docker desktop although you may need to check that it is enabled in the Docker desktop settings. For Linux machines, you will need to install the docker compose plugin.
  3. Git. GitHub provide a guide on installing git. You will also need to make sure that you can sign in to GitLab.
  4. Python. (Optional) On Mac machines you can use homebrew. On both Linux and Mac machines you can use the system Python or use solutions such as pyenv to install specific versions. We try to support the versions which are currently supported by the Python developers but you'll usually have a better time the more up-to-date your system Python install is.
  5. Node. (Optional) On Mac machines you can use homebrew for this. For both Linux and Mac you can use a toolchain manager such as volta. The node website has an installation guide for other systems or if you prefer to install node directly from the source.

The minimum software you need to have installed to run one of our applications locally is docker and docker compose. The optional dependencies are required if you want to make modifications.

If you intend to deploy applications to our Google Cloud infrastructure, you will also need to install the logan tool via the following command:

python3 -m pip install --user logan \
  --index-url https://gitlab.developers.cam.ac.uk/api/v4/groups/5/-/packages/pypi/simple

If you intend to develop applications it is convenient to have some command-line tools installed. For Python development, we recommend that you install the "poetry" application for managing dependencies and local virtual environments and the "poe" task runner:

python3 -m pip install --user poetry poethepoet[poetry-plugin]

For TypeScript development, we recommend that you install the common JavaScript package management tools:

In addition to the software above, you will need a good programmers' text editor to be productive. This is a personal choice. Some people prefer full IDEs such as IntelliJ or PyCharm, some prefer more minimalist editors such as Sublime Text and some prefer middle-ground editors with plugins for extra functionality such as neovim or VSCodium.

Check that your system is ready

Check that docker is installed correctly:

$ docker run --rm hello-world

Hello from Docker!
This message shows that your installation appears to be working correctly.
...

Tip

On Linux machines you may get permissions errors. Make sure that your user is part of the docker group via sudo usermod -a -G docker $USER. You need to log out and back in for changes to take effect.

Check that docker compose is installed:

$ docker compose --help

Usage:  docker compose [OPTIONS] COMMAND
...

If you have installed logan, check that it is on the current PATH:

$ logan --help
usage: logan [-h] [-c CONFIGURATION] [--dry-run] [--quiet] [--image-name IMAGE_NAME] [--nobuild] [--nopull]
             [--workdir WORKDIR] [--writable-workdir] [--workspace WORKSPACE]
             [--terraform-data-volume-name TERRAFORM_DATA_VOLUME_NAME] [--rm-terraform-data-volume] [-T]
             [--docker-run-args DOCKER_RUN_ARGS] [--temp-directory TEMP_DIRECTORY] [-v]
             ...
I'm getting a "command not found" error trying to run logan.

Packages installed by pip install --user place command-line scripts under $HOME/.local/bin by default. You may need to add that location to the PATH. This proces may vary depending on the Operating System installed on your machine so ask a friendly dev if you're unsure how to do this.

If you have installed poetry and poe, check that they are on the current PATH:

$ poetry --version
Poetry (version 1.5.1)
$ poe --version
Poe the poet - version: 0.20.0

The exact versions shown may differ depending on when you install these applications.

If you have installed the node package managers, check they they are on the current PATH:

$ npm --version
9.8.0
$ yarn --version
1.22.19
$ pnpm --version
8.6.12

The exact versions shown may differ depending on when you install these applications.

Summary

In this guide you learned how to install software required for common development tasks.

Next steps