Chapter 12. Getting to know how to customize the SME Server

Table of Contents
Exercise 1: Changing a configuration template
Exercise 2: The magic of templates
Exercise 3: Using events and actions
Exercise 4: Adding new configuration database parameters
Exercise 5: Adding a user interface screen
Exercise 6: Adding a new event type
Exercise 7: Thought experiment - adding a new server application
Customization guidelines

Once you have studied the architecture of the SME Server, it is best to try to make some small customizations to become comfortable with the concepts. The number one rule to remember is: customizations always involve adding files to the server, rather than modifying existing files. This is very important, as it enables customizations to be easily packaged, and mixed and matched. The unique architecture of the SME Server enables virtually anything to be customized by adding a file in the correct location.

Exercise 1: Changing a configuration template

Let us say that you wish to customize your server so that it runs a specified program every twenty minutes. To simplify the problem, let us assume that this program simply adds a line of dots to the log file (/var/log/messages), i.e.:

/usr/bin/logger -t "Demo" "......"

Normally you would accomplish this by adding a line to the /etc/crontab file, which is the standard Linux mechanism for running scheduled jobs. However, the default /etc/crontab file looks something like this on an SME Server:

#              !!DO NOT MODIFY THIS FILE!!
# Manual changes will be lost when this file is regenerated.
# Please read the developer's guide, which is available
# at
# Copyright (C) 1999-2006 Mitel Networks Corporation


# run-parts

01 * * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.hourly
02 4 * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.daily
22 4 * * 0 root run-parts /etc/cron.weekly
42 4 1 * * root run-parts /etc/cron.monthly

# logrotate
12 1 */7 * * root       /sbin/e-smith/signal-event logrotate

Note the auto-generated comment block which reminds you not to edit the file. If you do, your changes will be overwritten when the template is next expanded by a system event. We want to append a new line that looks like this (read the Linux crontab documentation to understand the format of crontab entries):

*/20  *  *  *  *   root   /usr/bin/logger -t "Demo" "......"

Remember that we cannot simply edit the /etc/crontab file. The rule is that we must perform this customization by adding a new file to the system. To get an idea how to do this, have a look at the contents of the template for /etc/crontab:

[gordonr@smebuild crontab]$ pwd

[gordonr@smebuild crontab]$ ls
00setup  10runparts  20statusreport  65_logrotate  email

Each of the files in that directory is a template fragment. The SME Server builds the /etc/crontab file by assembling those fragments and running them through the template processor.

To make your customization, create your own additional fragment by creating a file in this directory called 25templatedemo with the following contents:

# Template demo crontab entry:
*/20  *  *  *  *   root   /usr/bin/logger -t "Demo" "......"

Next time the SME Server regenerates the /etc/crontab file, it will contain your additional fragment. Starting the name with the prefix "25" forces the template fragment to go between the "20statusreport" and "65_logrotate" fragments. Force the /etc/crontab file to be generated immediately by typing the command:

expand-template /etc/crontab

If you look at the /etc/crontab file now, you should see your new fragment at the appropriate place, and your customization will take effect immediately (as cron notices when its configuration file has been changed). Check /var/log/messages to see the results.

To package this customization, you will need to create an RPM package that contains this single file, and ensures that the /etc/crontab template is expanded in the relevant events. You should also call one of these events in the RPM post-install section to ensure that the template is expanded without further action. Installing that RPM on any SME Server will cause the customization to occur, and will start printing the line of dots to the /var/log/messages logfile every 20 minutes.

The final point to note here is that if you remove your new file 25templatedemo and re-expand the /etc/crontab template, the crontab will go back to the way it was, and your customization will disappear cleanly. Therefore you should put a post-uninstallation script into your RPM package that runs the appropriate events to expand the templates once more. That will result in a package that installs and uninstalls cleanly.

Remember that for testing you can call expand-template directly in the post-install and post-uninstall sections, but released software should use the templates2expand mechanism to request template expansion in the relevant events.