CCNMTL's custom Paste Template for django apps
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ccnmtldjango is a Paste Template that we use to replace the standard startproject command.

It does the same basic task of setting up a directory structure for a django app, but it has been extended to implement a lot of CCNMTL specific functionality and configuration.

What it provides for us that startproject doesn't:

  • Django Wind (a Django bridge to Columbia's central auth service - is included and configured by default so our apps can use WIND for auth automatically. Ie, anyone with a Columbia UNI by default will have an account. The CCNMTL developer UNIs are automatically set up as superusers, and the group affil that CCNMTL staff all have gets automatically mapped to staff. These are generally useful defaults for us.
  • virtualenv and pip setup with source tarballs bundled and bootstrappable,'s shebang set to use it. This basically fits it into our one-step automated deployment and containment approach.
  • a nice Makefile for common build, test, and run tasks
  • use wheel packages wherever possible
  • flatpages enabled
  • settings split for dev/prod/staging
  • apache/django.wsgi configured
  • sample apache config for mod_wsgi setup using Virtual Environments (everything is streamlined so that we can just symlink the generated apache config file into our production server's /etc/apache/sites-enabled/ directory and it's good to go)
  • media dirs for dev/prod/staging configured
  • raven included ( and configured for our sentry setup
  • raven configured to not run on south migrations
  • django-annoying is included (I like @render_to)
  • sqlite in-memory database used for unit tests
  • south tests automatically skipped on ./ test (they break)
  • django_compressor added and set up to compress css on production
  • django_statsd for graphite integration
  • /stats/ page wired up to display basic traffic stats for the app
  • 'main' app with templated index view wired up and ready to go
  • jQuery, Backbone and Underscore included
  • base templates included
  • django admin enabled (and authenticated with WIND for tlc)
  • httplib2
  • requests
  • markdown is included and enabled
  • database defaulted to postgresql
  • transaction middleware enabled by default (cause data corruption is teh suck)
  • timezone set
  • I18n turned off (we are unfortunately monolingual. no sense in denying it)
  • Pillow
  • psycopg2
  • a nice default template design with alternate base templates for multi-column layout.
  • flake8 ( is installed by default for code linting
  • layout based on twitter bootstrap3
  • ldap3
  • django-waffle included for feature flipping (
  • django-jenkins included and set up for our Jenkins instance (
  • django-smoketest included, wired up, and a sample included (
  • django-extensions included to do a variety of things like use IPython, Werkzeug debugger, kcachegrind profiling, etc. (
  • django-impersonate included and configured for easier debugging
  • collectstatic configured
  • django-pagetree and its django-pageblocks and django-quizblock installed and configured.
  • django-registration installed and configured
  • Google Analytics ready to go

To use ccnmtldjango, you need python 2.7+, virtualenv, pip, and a recent setuptools installed on your machine.

First, if you don't already have ccnmtldjango installed:

Set up a new virtual environment, e.g.

$ virtualenv ve

Activate your virtual environment, source ve/bin/activate, or prefix all commands with 've/bin/'

$ pip install Paste PasteDeploy ccnmtldjango

ccnmtldjango should automatically pull in the remaining needed dependencies (just PasteScript, actually). If that gives you problems, the most likely cause is that one or more of your setuptools, pip, or virtualenv libraries is old. So upgrade those first and try again.


$ paster create --list-templates

should include ccnmtldjango

Now, to quickstart a django project, do

$ paster create --template=ccnmtldjango myprojectname

myprojectname should be a python module name (ie, lowercase, no punctuation, etc). It will create a directory called myprojectname that has a django project in it.

paster still doesn't do anything with file permissions, so we still need to manually set a couple:

$ cd myprojectname
$ chmod +x

I couldn't figure out a way to insert random strings into the code via Paste Template, so one thing that ccnmtldjango is missing compared to a regular django startproject is that the SECRET_KEY variable in is always the same default. That's clearly not a good idea, so make sure you change that to some other random string that will be unique to your project. (Ideally, put that in a that doesn't get checked into version control).

This is probably a good point to check the project into version control.

We use containment for django too, with virtualenv:

$ make

That will create a ve directory which contains a virtualenv and has had all the libraries specified in the requirements.txt file installed into it (this includes django itself). The ve directory should never be checked into svn since it's generated. If you need other libraries for your application, requirements.txt then re-run ./

Keep in mind that with virtualenv, there's no need to activate an environment. Instead, a ve has a bin directory which contains a python executable. If you use that instead of the system python executable, it uses the libraries in that virtualenv.

ccnmtldjango assumes that your project will use a postgresql database with the same name as your project. So, for our example, you would then do:

$ createdb myprojectname

and it is all set to use it:

$ make migrate
$ make collectstatic

will install the tables that django needs for it's common apps (sites, sessions, admin, flatpages, etc) and have you create an admin user (if you want. If you're using WIND auth, you probably don't need to bother). It will also gather up static elements from all of your installed apps and put them in the right place. It's really up to you whether you want to check those into version control and not have to deal with it on deployment or leave them out of VC and add a collectstatic step to your deployment process.

Tests should pass out of the box:

$ make test

They can be run via Jenkins as well and generate the right reports in a reports directory (which you will want to gitignore).

$ make jenkins

Your application is ready to run now:

$ make runserver

will start a server on http://localhost:8000/. The admin app should be accessible (via a user account created with createsuperuser, or via WIND to tlc users (or ones specified in the WIND_SUPERUSER_MAPPER_GROUPS list in So go ahead and login to http://localhost:8000/admin/

Even without any application specific code, flatpages is included so you can put content on the web right away.

From this point out, it's basic django development. You'll probably want to do a ./ startapp to create your own application within the project and so on.

Debugging Tests

When debugging tests, sometimes it's useful to run only the test you're working on. To do this, you can specify the test class and method along with the module like this:

./ test dmt.api.tests.test_views.NotifyTests.test_get

Setting up a fresh checkout

The first time you check out an existing ccnmtl-template project from svn/git:

 $ make
 $ make runserver <IP Address>:<PORT>

Differences from a standard Django install

Obviously, a bunch of libraries and such have been added and there's the whole virtualenv thing. There are also some differences from a standard django project (ie, the result of startproject) that you should be aware of.

First, the settings have been split up to make dev/staging/prod deployments easier to configure. A regular django install will have one file that contains all the settings. Django developers will usually copy that settings file and make changes when deploying to production. ccnmtldjango takes advantage of the fact that settings are just python code and can be imported and overridden. So we have a which contains most of the settings. (which should be used for development) and then import everything from from then also overrides any settings that should be different in the production deployment (usually paths to templates and media files). Same deal for

TransactionMiddleware is enabled by default. This means that each HTTP request gets a transaction that commits or rolls back at the end of the request. The default django setup for some reason does things "autocommit" style where each database operation runs in its own transaction, independent of the HTTP request.

The other big difference to be aware of is the top-level templates directory. Standard django procedure is to have a templates directory in each application in your project that contains the templates for that application. ccnmtldjango has the top-level templates directory for a couple reasons. First, since paster only creates the project level directory and not the application directories, it was the only way to have it include a default base.html, admin/login.html, registration/login.html and so on. I also just like the approach of having a project-level templates directory, especially for the base.html template. Django allows multiple template directories and searches through them in a predictable order, so you can (and probably should) still create application level template directories, list them in TEMPLATE_DIRS ahead of the project level one, and override whatever templates you want in those.

I18N is turned off since it's fairly rare that we do multi-lingual stuff and it's a performance hit to have it enabled if it's not being used. If you need to do a multi-lingual django site, just re-enable it and get to work.