7th June, 2017 | Tutorials |

How to Install Mahara on Ubuntu 14.04

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Mahara is an open source e-portfolio application that allow people to share its portfolio.

Several Mahara features:

You can learn more detail about Mahara by visiting Mahara website.


In this tutorial we'll learn how to install Mahara on Ubuntu 14.04. We will also install and configure its prerequisites.


We will install Mahara in fresh installation of Ubuntu Server 14.04. We also need these applications to be able to run Mahara:

Update the Base System

Before we install Mahara, let's update the system to the latest update.

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get -y upgrade

Install Apache 2

After applying latest update to our base system, Lets's start installing Apache 2 and required libraries.

$ sudo apt-get -y install apache2 apache2-bin apache2-data apache2-mpm-prefork libaio1 libapache2-mod-php5 libapr1 libaprutil1 libdbd-mysql-perl libdbi-perl libhtml-template-perl libmysqlclient18 libterm-readkey-perl libwrap0 ssl-cert tcpd

We can check the Apache 2 service status using command below:

sudo service apache2 status
 * apache2 is running

We can also check whether Apache 2 is listening on which port using command below:

 sudo netstat -naptu | grep apache
tcp6       0      0 :::80                   :::*                    LISTEN      14873/apache2

Install MySQL 5.6

We will install and use MySQL 5.6 as database for Mahara.

We will use MySQL Server 5.6 since MySQL 5.6 is the most up to date version of MySQL shipped with Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr.

$ sudo apt-get -y install mysql-server-5.6

We need to setup MySQL root password. Please input password for MySQL root user.

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Verify root password.

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Securing MySQL Installation

We will secure MySQL installation by running mysql_secure_installation.

Enter the root password that we set on installation.

$ mysql_secure_installation 

In order to log into MySQL to secure it, we'll need the current password for the root user. If you've just installed MySQL, and you haven't set the root password yet, the password will be blank, so you should just press enter here.

Enter current password for root (enter for none): OK, successfully used password, moving on...

Since we already have a root password set, answer this part with n.

Setting the root password ensures that nobody can log into the MySQL
root user without the proper authorisation.

You already have a root password set, so you can safely answer 'n'.

Change the root password? [Y/n] n ... skipping.

Remove the anonymous user to improve security. This will make sure people or the application has the correct username and password to login to MySQL. Answer with Y

By default, a MySQL installation has an anonymous user, allowing anyone
to log into MySQL without having to have a user account created for
them.  This is intended only for testing, and to make the installation
go a bit smoother.  You should remove them before moving into a
production environment.

Remove anonymous users? [Y/n] Y ... Success!

We also want remove root login from remote machine. Answer with Y.

Normally, root should only be allowed to connect from 'localhost'.  This
ensures that someone cannot guess at the root password from the network.

Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n] Y ... Success!

Previously the test database created automatically by the MySQL installation, but MySQL 5.6 does not create test database. We can still choose Y, it will throw error but that's fine.

By default, MySQL comes with a database named 'test' that anyone can
access.  This is also intended only for testing, and should be removed
before moving into a production environment.

Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n] Y - Dropping test database... ERROR 1008 (HY000) at line 1: Can't drop database 'test'; database doesn't exist ... Failed! Not critical, keep moving... - Removing privileges on test database... ... Success!

The last step is to reload the MySQL privilege table.

Reloading the privilege tables will ensure that all changes made so far
will take effect immediately.

Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n] Y ... Success!

All done! If you've completed all of the above steps, your MySQL installation should now be secure.

Thanks for using MySQL!

Cleaning up...

Create a Database for mahara

Now we have a secure MySQL installation, it's time to create database and user for mahara itself.

Login to MySQL using root credential.

$ mysql -u root -p
Enter password: 
Welcome to the MySQL monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 58
Server version: 5.6.30-0ubuntu0.14.04.1 (Ubuntu)

Copyright (c) 2000, 2016, Oracle and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

Oracle is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.


Create a new database named mahara using command below:

mysql> CREATE DATABASE mahara CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

Create a User for Mahara

The database for mahara is ready, let's create a username and password and grant privileges to mahara database.

Don't forget to change the password mahara123secret below with better password.

mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON `mahara`.* TO 'mahara'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'mahara123secret';
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

We need to run FLUSH PRIVILEGES command so that the privileges table will be reloaded by MySQL and we can use new credential.

Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)

Exit from MySQL console by typing \q

mysql> \q

Install PHP 5

The last component that we have to install before we can install mahara is PHP 5. We will install PHP 5 and several common PHP libraries.

$ sudo apt-get -y install php5-cli php5-common php5-json php5-mysql php5-readline

Install additional php libraries:

$ sudo apt-get -y install php5-gd php5-mcrypt php5-curl

We will enable mcrypt module

$ sudo php5enmod mcrypt

Restart the Apache 2 process so the changes will be applied:

$ sudo service apache2 restart

Install Mahara

All prerequisites are already installed. We're ready to install mahara. The latest stable version of mahara is available Mahara download page on Launchpad.

At the time of this writing, the latest stable version is version 16.10.2, let's download mahara compressed file using wget.

$ wget -c

Extract the mahara compressed file.

$ tar xzf mahara-16.10.2.tar.gz

Move mahara-16.10.2 directory to Apache directory.

$ sudo mv mahara-16.10.2 /var/www/mahara

Change ownership of mahara directory to www-data user and group.

$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/mahara

The Mahara files are ready, now let's create Apache Virtual Host configuration to serve mahara.

Configure Apache Virtual Host for http Only

Create new apache configuration file on /etc/apache2/sites-available/mahara.conf with contents below.

<VirtualHost *:80>

DocumentRoot /var/www/mahara/htdocs

<Directory /var/www/mahara/htdocs> Options -Indexes +FollowSymLinks +MultiViews AllowOverride All Require all granted php_value post_max_size 20M </Directory>

ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/ CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/ combined


Don't forget to change above with the domain name that you use for your mahara installation.

Enable the site using a2ensite command.

$ sudo a2ensite mahara

Reload the apache2 process so it read the new virtualhost configuration:

$ sudo service apache2 reload

Setup Mahara

Move the mahara configuration file config-dist.php to config.php.

Open config.php file.

Change database configuration to reflect database name and credential we created earlier.

$cfg->dbtype   = 'mysql';
$cfg->dbhost   = 'localhost';
$cfg->dbport   = null; // Change if you are using a non-standard port number for your database
$cfg->dbname   = 'mahara';
$cfg->dbuser   = 'mahara';
$cfg->dbpass   = 'mahara123secret';

Change dataroot configuration from :

$cfg->dataroot = '/path/to/uploaddir';


$cfg->dataroot = '/var/www/mahara/uploaddir';

Set urlsecret and passwordsaltmain configuration

// $cfg->urlsecret = 'mysupersecret';
// $cfg->passwordsaltmain = 'some long random string here with lots of characters';

These two configurations should be filled with random characters. You can use two online service below to get random character to be used for two value above.

Now open the Mahara URL we will be redirected to Mahara installation wizard. Click Install Mahara

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Next we will install the mahara database. Click Continue

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The last step is to set admin password and email. Click Submit

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We already enter Mahara dashboard.

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Mahara homepage.

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Configure https only site for mahara

Secure connection is now a requirement for web application. Last step that we will do in this tutorial is changing the connection to only use https.

We assume that you already have SSL certificate and private key.

Let's create new apache virtual host configuration on /etc/apache2/sites-available/mahara-ssl.conf with contents below.

Don't forget to change:

<VirtualHost *:80>
   Redirect permanent /

<VirtualHost *:443>


DocumentRoot /var/www/mahara/htdocs

<Directory /var/www/mahara/htdocs> Options -Indexes +FollowSymLinks +MultiViews AllowOverride All Require all granted php_value post_max_size 20M </Directory>

ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/ CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/ combined

SSLEngine on SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/ SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/apache2/ssl/ SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/apache2/ssl/

Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=15768000"



We will also disable mahara http only virtual host and enable the new virtual host config.

$ sudo a2dissite mahara
$ sudo a2ensite mahara-ssl

The new virtual host configuration need Apache mod_ssl and mod_headers modules. We need to enable those modules.

$ sudo a2enmod ssl
$ sudo a2enmod headers

Now, restart Apache 2 service so it will reload its configuration. We need to restart instead of reload since we enabled a new module.

$ sudo service apache2 restart

After configuring Mahara with https we need to change one Mahara configuration. Open config.php

Find the line:

// $cfg->wwwroot = '';

Replace with

$cfg->wwwroot = '';

Email Support

Mahara have mail support, we will not go through email settings in this tutorial. However, I strongly recommend using third party email service like Mailgun or Sendgrid for Mahara instead of setting up your own email server.

Cron setup

On root user add crontab entry below. Please change somesecret value below with urlsecret that you already change when setting up Mahara.

* * * * * curl


In this tutorial we learned how-to install mahara on Ubuntu 14.04.

We installed all the prerequisites, create user and database on MySQL for Mahara and also configure Apache 2 virtual hosts to be able to serve mahara.

We also configured https settings for mahara so we run Mahara securely and configure crontab for Mahara.

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