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ThinkUp on OpenShift: Easy as Pie

I’ve been interested in setting up my own instance of the open-source social networking analysis tool ThinkUp for awhile now, but I have tried a few things without success:

  • I have a shared hosting account with Dreamhost, and I tried to install ThinkUp as a subdomain there, but unfortunately the shared hosting plan is known to be incompatible with busy ThinkUp accounts (and the initial crawl is a pretty busy process).
  • I tried installing ThinkUp on a LAMP stack on a VPS, but apparently I missed something in the setup process and MySQL would not allow ThinkUp to connect. (I’m sure I was making a noob error somewhere in there – probably skipped a simple step – but I couldn’t figure out what I was missing despite extensive Googling.)
  • I also tried installing ThinkUp on top of a Docker-based LAMP stack, but something timed out in the initial crawl there again.

Yeah, I’m a bit of a hack at this. But even a hack like me was able to find something I could get to work:

OpenShift Online

OpenShift Online is a RedHat Public Cloud PaaS system with an interesting, git-based code implementation system. Read more about OpenShift Online at their website. I use it for two things now. The other, if you haven’t noticed is this blog =o) (update: not anymore!)

RedHat provides a great amount of cloud computing power for no cost. The basic, free account has been more than enough power to run this blog and my ThinkUp installation. Read more about their current offerings at the OpenShift Online site.

ThinkUp OpenShift Quickstart

Starting with OpenShift is quite simple because of their “Quickstart” system, a git-based code recipe manager, and there is an excellent Quickstart recipe shared by GitHub user ronei133330 – this is a fork of an earlier Quickstart recipe, which was updated for ThinkUp 2.0-beta.10.

The setup process is incredibly simple once you register for OpenShift. After installing the rhc ruby gem, you can run just one command:

rhc app create thinkup php-5.4 mysql-5.5 cron-1.4 –from-code

And your ThinkUp installation will be ready to walk you through the configuration process, which is thoroughly documented on the ThinkUp site.

Issues I Encountered

I have only encountered three issues running ThinkUp this way:

  • Despite the fact that the Quickstart indicates that PHP mail should be enabled on this OpenShift instance, mail did not work for me. However, I was able to Configure ThinkUp to send mail via Mandrill, which worked like a charm.
  • OpenShift seems to indicate that it is possible to specify the MySQL server with a variable, but ThinkUp’s configuration screen could not connect with this. I needed to add the phpmyadmin cartridge from the OpenShift Web UI to my OpenShift instance and get the IP address (looks like a local address) and port from their in order to correctly configure ThinkUp.
  • I made one change to my git source to attempt to fix the mail issue, but in the process of deploying my changes, my initial configuration of ThinkUp was erased. Maybe I should have expected that. It was not a huge issue to re-configure it (and at least ThinkUp hadn’t done a crawl yet by then).

Despite these issues, I found the configuration and installation process on OpenShift actually worked quite well, despite my lack of formal training on how to actually, properly configure a LAMP stack. Thanks, OpenShift! and thanks, ThinkUp!

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