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For Development

To prepare a copy of Hedwig for testing and development, you should clone the Git repository into your workspace. You can then either "install" the package, perhaps in a "virtualenv":

virtualenv-2.7 venv
source venv/bin/activate
pip install --editable .

Or set your PYTHONPATH environment variable to include Hedwig's lib directory:

export PYTHONPATH=lib

If you need to run Hedwig from another directory, set an absolute PYTHONPATH (if not using a "virtualenv") and set the environment variable HEDWIG_DIR to the top level of the Hedwig repository. This is necessary to enable Hedwig to locate resources such as the configuration file and HTML templates.

For Apache (with mod_wsgi)

An example .wsgi script file is provided with Hedwig, called hedwig.wsgi.example. You can copy this file to hedwig.wsgi and adjust the paths for the "virtualenv" and Hedwig home directory. For more information about using Flask-based applications (such as Hedwig) with mod_wsgi, see the Flask guide for mod_wsgi.


Hedwig requires Python 2, version 2.7.8 or later. Alternatively an earlier version of Python 2.7 could be used with the backports.pbkdf2 library. It should also run on Python 3, version 3.4 or later.

The following Python modules should be installed:

  • astropy
  • docopt
  • docutils
  • Flask
  • healpy
  • jinja2_orderblocks
  • msgpack
  • mysql-connector-python
  • Pillow
  • pymoc
  • PyPDF2
  • python-magic
  • requests
  • SQLAlchemy

There are also facility-specific requirements:

  • JCMT
    • jcmt_itc_heterodyne
    • jcmt_itc_scuba2


In the etc directory, you will find a file called hedwig.ini.template. This file should be copied to create the configuration file hedwig.ini. You will then need to edit the file to complete the configuration.

  • database

    • url

      This is the SQLAlchemy URL for the database you wish Hedwig to use. The example configuration file contains URL formats for SQLite and MySQL. (These are the two databases which have been tested with Hedwig. In theory any database supported by SQLAlchemy should be usable, but may require additional tuning of the Hedwig database access code, as has been done for these databases.)

    • pool_size and pool_overflow (optional)

      These configure the SQLAlchemy pool. They can be left blank to use Hedwig's defaults (size 15, overflow 5).

  • application

    • name

      This is the name by which the system will refer to itself. You can alter this if you want it to be called something other than "Hedwig".

    • secret_key

      This is the key used by Flask for its secure cookie session system. Since Hedwig uses this system to authenticate users, you must be sure to enter a good random string here. The Flask quick start guide recommends 24 random bytes.

    • facilities

      Here you can list the facilities for which you wish to accept proposals. Hedwig has a basic facility configuration called "Generic" which you can use to test the system. It also forms the basis for specific facilities. To indicate multiple facilities, you can give a comma-separated list. Each facility can either be a plain name, in which case the classes defining the facility are loaded from a submodule of hedwig.facility, or as a full Python module and class name, if the classes cannot be placed in the Hedwig namespace.

    • log_file (optional)

      If this entry is set, it configures the location to which errors and warnings from the web application will be written.

    • grace_period

      This specifies a time delay, in minutes, beyond the specified end of each call for proposals. Calls may be closed (by the poll process) after this delay.

  • upload

    In this section you can configure maximum file size upload limits (in MiB). The Flask MAX_CONTENT_LENGTH will be set to the maximum of the sizes given here. Please check that your database will accept files of the selected size --- see the Database section for more information.

  • email

    • server

      Here you should enter the name of a mail server to which Hedwig can connect to send email messages.

    • from

      This specifies the from header which should be used. You may wish to use your proposal support mailing list address here to allow people to reply directly, for example:

      Hedwig <proposals@some-observatory.org>
    • footer_title (optional)

      A title to display under the application_name in the signature part of the email, e.g.:

      Some Observatory Proposal System
    • footer_url and footer_email (optional)

      An optional URL and email address (which may or may not be the same as that in the from header) to show in the footer of email messages.

  • utilities

    This section contains the paths to various applications which Hedwig uses. You may need to customize this section if the applications aren't in their typical location.

    • ghostscript

      Used to process files (PDF and EPS) uploaded as part of a proposal.

    • firefox

      Used in the integration test system. (See the next section for details.)

  • ads


    This is an API token for the Astrophysics Data System, used to look up ADS bibcodes and DOIs. To obtain a token, create an account for the new version of ADS and select "API Token" under "Customize Settings".


The Hedwig unit tests can be run with:

PYTHONPATH=lib python2 -m unittest discover

(You can omit the PYTHONPATH setting if you have activated a "virtualenv" or already set PYTHONPATH as described above.)

Hedwig also includes a Selenium-based integration test. This also acquires the screenshots used in the documentation. It can be run with:

PYTHONPATH=lib:util/selenium python2 -m unittest discover -s ti

Note that the tests use the example configuration file hedwig.ini.template in order to avoid requiring configuration. Unfortunately this means that you may need to adjust the path to Firefox in this file so that it points to a (typically older) version of Firefox supported by Selenium.


After configuring your database in the hedwig.ini file, you can create the initial database structure using the hedwigctl tool:

scripts/hedwigctl initialize_database

If you need to update an existing Hedwig database when an update to the software leads to a change to the database structure, you can use Alembic to help you make the change. Configuration for Alembic is included with Hedwig. You can generate a migration script with:

alembic revision --autogenerate -m 'Description of change ...'

And then apply the changes with:

alembic upgrade head

The script will be created in the util/alembic/versions directory. It is often necessary to adjust the script slightly. For example to provide a server_default keyword argument for new columns without defaults which do not allow nulls. (The server_default is an SQL string representing the default value. This could, for example, be "0" for a boolean column.)

When deploying a live copy of Hedwig, don't forget to set up a database backup system. One way to do this is to set up a Cron job to run mysqldump regularly.

Please ensure that your database's settings regarding maximum query size permit Hedwig to store and retrieve the maximum upload file size as set in the configuration file. For example, with MySQL and the default max_pdf_size of 10MiB you might wish to set the maximum packet size to 15MiB:


Running a Test Server

For testing purposes, a stand-alone copy of Hedwig can be run using:

scripts/hedwigctl test_server

You can also add the --debug command line option to enable debugging and automatic reloading. Note that this enables the Werkzeug Debugger which provides tracebacks and provides access to a Python shell. It should never be run in a manner accessible to untrusted users! When this option is specified, hedwigctl configures the internal server to listen on localhost only.

Managing Administrative Access

Once you have created an account (with person profile) via the Hedwig web interface, you can grant administrative access using the hedwigctl tool:

scripts/hedwigctl admin --person 1

This requires the person identifier, as seen at the end of the URL of your profile page. This will typically be 1 for the first account created. You can repeat this process to grant administrative access to additional people. You can also revoke administrative access by adding the --remove command line option:

scripts/hedwigctl admin --remove --person 1

Finally you can list people with administrative access using the --list option:

scripts/hedwigctl admin --list

Poll Process

In order for the web interface to remain responsive during busy periods, Hedwig was designed to take certain background tasks offline. These are:

  • Closing calls for proposals.
  • Sending email messages.
  • Processing uploaded figures.
  • Processing uploaded PDF files.
  • Looking up publication references.
  • Preparing feedback messages.
  • Processing uploaded clash tool coverage files.

In a live copy of Hedwig, you will need to keep a poll process running to perform these tasks. You can do this with a Cron job such as the following (with the path to Hedwig completed):

*/10 * * * * cd ..../hedwig; source venv/bin/activate; hedwigctl poll --pidfile poll.pid --pause 15 --logfile poll.log

This example checks every 10 minutes that hedwigctl poll is running and uses a 15 second pause between polls for tasks to perform. The process is controlled by the poll.pid file and a poll.log file is written --- both of these will be in the Hedwig directory if the job is defined as given above.

If you need more control over the background processes, you can poll for specific types of tasks.


You can use Sphinx to build the documenation with:

sphinx-build -b html doc doc/_build/html

Updating a Live Instance

If you would like to update the version of the Hedwig running in a live deployment, there are a number of steps which you should perform to ensure that the processes is completed smoothly. These include:

  • Ensure you have an up-to-date backup of your database, especially if the update requires changes to the database schema. (See the Database section above for information about mysqldump.)
  • Run the Selenium test to generate updated screenshots for the documentation (as described in the Tests section) and copy them to your web server, if necessary.
  • Stop any running poll processes and temporarily disable any Cron jobs which would restart them.
  • Update the software version. The exact steps required would depend on how you installed Hedwig --- if you have a Git clone installed in "editable" mode into a "virtualenv", this can be as simple as performing a Git pull.
  • Run the unit tests, being sure that you are testing the new version of the software. This may indicate if there are any additional software dependencies which need to be installed.
  • Update your configuration file if necessary, for example if new options have been added. (Compare your hedwig.ini to hedwig.ini.template to check.)
  • Check for special updates requiring manual intervention. Notes and scripts to help with this can be found in the util/update directory.
  • Update your database if the schema has changed --- see the notes on using Alembic in the Database section.
  • Restart the web application. For example, using Apache, you can touch the hedwig.wsgi file, provided WSGIScriptReloading is enabled, which it is by default.
  • Try accessing the web application. There may be delay loading the first page as Apache restarts Hedwig.
  • Restart your poll processes or re-enable the Cron jobs which run them.
  • Add any new database tables to your backup system.
  • From the site administration menu, check the email messages and processing status pages for tasks stuck in the "Processing" or "Sending" states.


This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.