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START V2 Installation notes


START runs on all contemporary variations of Unix, Linux and similar operating systems. It can be installed under any web space served by any version of the Apache webserver.

Important: You will probably need to install START from root, or from some other account using sudo commands. In any case, it is essential that after setup is complete, you change the user/group ownership for the entire START directory hierarchy. Specifically, this means changing the user/group to that under which Apache runs. This detail is frequently overlooked - not just for START, but for all web-based software - so please remember that this must be done as the final phase in your installation process.

Software Dependencies

Before installing START, you should ensure that your software base is sufficiently up-to-date. START requires three well-known tools to support its functionality.

1. Perl 5.8.3 or above: Perl is an integral part of all systems, and you server will already have some version installed. However, START requires (at least) perl 5.8.3 for some of its activities. To check your version of perl, type

perl -v
from the shell interface. The result will indicate the version of your perl build.

If you need to upgrade your perl, you should ask your system administrator to do this for you.

The default install will be sufficient to upgrade your current perl build (without adversely affecting other software on your system).

Note: START also requires some additional modules to be present, all of which can be installed by the shell command cpan:


When you install these modules, the cpan script will also install all of their dependencies.

2. Ghostscript: All Unix systems have ghostscript pre-installed, somewhere. It is called gs. The directory including gs should already be in your PATH variable. START will function adequately with versions 5.04 and above, using either GNU or AFPL releases.

3. Web Server: Start runs under the Apache web server.

Webserver Options

Install START to run in any space controlled by your Apache server. Any up-to-date version of Apache will suffice. However, to run under Apache 2.1 and above, your server will need the following modules loaded:


These may already be compiled into your build. If not, you can load them via DSO (LoadModule) directives.

While the conference data will be stored in an area served by Apache, note that this does not mean that it will be publically exposed. To the contrary, nobody outside your domain will see the internal data in START. All directories of START are protected with .htaccess files, the majority of which allow no access at all.

First, login directly to the server. Now, go to the web directory where you want to put START. For the sake of this discussion, we assume you wish to put START at the top level of your web hierarchy. Assume that your DocumentRoot is the following directory:

If it is some other directory, the same discussion applies to that directory. In this case, you could carry out the following steps:

1. Put the START archive in /var/www.

2. Install START from this directory, as per the installation instructions below. After you extract the files in tarball, remove the archive from the webspace. Failure to do this will be a violation of your license agreement, since it could lead to a free, universal dissemination of this proprietary software.

3. The setup dialog will prompt you for the URL to access START. Assume that your DocumentRoot corresponds to the following URL:
In this case, you should enter the following URL to access START:
Of course, if you install START "deeper" in your web hierarchy, you should adjust the URL accordingly (to account for the web-relative path down to the start directory).

4. START manages authentication (and other access rights) via .htaccess files, which are automatically inserted in all of its subdirectories. To ensure that your webserver processes the directives in these files, you will probably need to a container for START in your main httpd.conf file. Using the running example - in which the entire START directory is installed directly below your DocumentRoot - the following code should be inserted in your webserver's master httpd.conf file.

<Directory "/start/www">
   AllowOverride All
   AddHandler cgi-script .cgi

Optionally route START interactions through an aliased URL, or through a proxy server.

The setup dialog will ask you if you want to rewrite the base URL for START's web hierarchy. You might want to do this under two conditions: (a) if you decide to route traffic to/from START through a proxy; or (b) if you alias the publically accessible space for START (thereby making the URL more simple).

Installing START

1. Put the START archive in the directory above where you want START to operate.

2. Now type

   tar xvfz START.tar.gz  # Expand archive.
   rm START.tar.gz        # Removes tarball from public webspace.
   cd start
   perl          # Initiate the installation.

If your workstation is up-to-date, the setup dialog will guide you through the rest of the process.

4. The URL for the administrator console will be listed at the end of the setup script. Make a note of it.

5. Change the user/group to be the user/group under which your Apache server runs. For example, if httpd runs as user www and group www, then type:

   chown -R www:www *

If the apache user/group are not www, then substitute as necessary.

6. With the admin console, you can set up the conference(s) for which you licensed START. A hosted conference will have a unique identifier (usually a combination of the conference's acronym and its meeting year).

7. After setting up a conference, START will be inform you of where you can find its manager's console. Use the manager console to continue setting up the parameters for a hosted conference.

Optional: SPF Conformance

In recent years, some MTAs and spam filters have adopted the SPF standard, for determining whether an email's sender address has been "spoofed". Note that START relies heavily on email for communication from the PC chairs, from track chairs, and from/between reviewers (if, for example, message boards are used). The "from address" in the email's header will always be that corresponding to the person (or entity) sending the mail. This can occasionally cause problems, if the sending address is not in your server's domain - e.g., the email may get falsely tagged as spam.

There is a simple way to prevent this problem: To alter the envelope to ensure that the sender (and more importantly, the return-path) always corresponds to an address inside your domain. This is easy to accomplish, via carrying out a few simple steps.

1. Create a new username called start on your server. The following shell command should suffice:

     useradd -m -s /bin/false start
The user start need not have login rights. However, it does need to be recognized as a valid sender for your MTA. Returning to the example above - where the domain was, the email address This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it should now be a valid email address inside the domain, i.e., the user start should be able to send and receive mail.

2. In the new home directory (/home/start), create a .forward file, consisting of one single line:


In the example above, full-path-to-start would be /var/www/start/ (adjust as necessary for the path to your "start" directory.

The forward will ensure that any incoming mail will be processed by START. Why is this necessary? There is only once situation under which the "user" start will receive valid incoming mail: that is, when a START user sends mail to someone involved with the conference, and for some reason the mail cannot be delivered. At that point, the bounce report will be returned to your local user start . The purpose of the forwarding script is to relay the bounce report back to the START user who initiated the mail.

3. In the setup script for start, you will get the following prompt:

    Enter sending address for email (optional): 
Enter the new email address for the user start (which, in our example, would be This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

At that point, all email coming from your START site will conform to SPF guidelines.


Whenever a new version of START is released, you will receive mail about the release. You should upgrade to that version. You will not need to re-install the Apache server, or do any of the other work noted above.

Rather, for over-installs you need to only de-compress the START archive, and put it in exactly the same directory where you put your first installation.

Then re-run the setup dialog.

An over-install can be done while your server is up and running. An over-install of START will never destroy any of your conference-specific data.

Please notify This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you encounter any difficulties whatsoever. Also, we always welcome feedback on ideas for improvements, add-ons, new features, etc.


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