The Adventures of Systems Boy!

Confessions of a Mac SysAdmin...

External Network Unification Part 3: Migrating to Joomla

When last we visited this issue I had just gotten the venerable Joomla CMS to authenticate to our LDAP server. I decided to build a replica of our existing CMS, which is based on the Mambo core, and do some testing to see how easy it would be to port to our LDAP-saavy Joomla core. The Joomla site gives instructions for doing this, and frankly it sounded drop-dead simple.

It turns out it is drop-dead simple. The hard part is successfully replicating the existing Mambo site and all its requisite databases and components. To do this, I first copied all the files over to the test server. This is easy of course. Then I had to get the MySQL databases over. This was a bit more challenging. Using the command mysqldump was the way to go, but I encountered numerous errors when attempting this with the standard options. After some research I discovered that I needed to apply the --skip-opt option to the command. My final command looked something like this:
mysqldump --skip-opt -u mambosql -p -B TheDatabase > TheDatabase.bak.sql

I honestly don't remember why the --skip-opt flag was necessary, or even if it was the right approach, only that it seemed to do the trick: the dump completed without errors. So I copied the database over and set everything up on my test server exactly as it was on the original server, putting the Mambo site in the proper web root, and importing the databases on the test system. After some fidgeting — specifically, making sure the Mambo config file was edited to use the new server — I was able to get the test site working. The only problem was (and still is) that the admin pages don't work. No matter what I do, I can 't login and I'm told that my username and password are wrong, though they work on the front end. I suspect a problem with my dump. It's also possible that the admin pages require a different user — one I'm unaware of — than the front-end for access. Since I didn't build the original server, I can't be sure. But whatever.

The next part of this test was to try and port the Mambo install to the Joomla engine with the LDAP hack enabled. This turned out to be fairly straightforward: Install and configure Joomla (v.1.0.8 — later versions do not work with the LDAP hack) to authenticate to LDAP; copy over all the custom Mambo files to the new Joomla site (without overwriting any Joomla stuff); copy the Mambo config file over and edit it for the new site root; trash the "Installation" folder (we won't be needing it); and that was it. My old Mambo site was now running on an LDAP-enabled Joomla engine.

There were some major snags here though. Because I could not get into the admin pages (a problem that persisted even with the new Joomla engine), I could not configure user authentication. I was able to directly access the MySQL database, however, with phpMyAdmin. Here I was able to edit my user account to use LDAP rather than using the password stored in the MySQL database by entering "@LDAP" into the password field. This worked well in fact.

One feature, however — automatic user creation — did not work so well. That is, if a new user logs in — a user that doesn't yet exist in the MySQL database, but does exist on the LDAP server — what the LDAP Hack does is create the new user in the MySQL database with a flag that says, "Get this user's password from the LDAP database." Logging in as a new user on my test Joomla server produced erratic results. I'm assuming that this had something to do with the lack of admin access to the MySQL database.

Still, we've accomplished some things here. For one, we've figured out a method for porting our current Mambo CMS to an LDAP-enabled Joomla engine. Secondly, we've shown, at least in theory, that this system can work with LDAP. The next step will be to try all this out on a copy of our live Mambo CMS on the actual web server. Hopefully, when we do that, access to the admin pages will function normally and the LDAP hack can be configured so that new users are properly added at login. If all goes well, our CMS will be authenticating to LDAP in the next post in this series.

If all goes well.

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1:39 PM

Have you been able to play with Joomla 1.5.x and Leopard LDAP yet? What were the settings you had used in Joomla to get it to work?    

10:40 AM

No, we ended up ditching Joomla. It was taking too damn long for them to integrate the LDAP functionality we needed, and with every new update to Joomla the LDAP patch we were using would break. Development on that patch had stopped too. So it just wasn't going to work long-term for us.

LDAP was supposed to be built in to Joomla in the next version, and they were working on it when last I used Joomla — well over a year ago. If they still haven't figured out how to do LDAP natively in Joomla I would drop it like a hot potato if I were you. If that is indeed the case, then development on that project is too damn slow and completely unreliable.

We are now using Drupal, and doing so very happily. Drupal's LDAP support is not native (if memory serves) but it is much more well maintained so far. Knocking wood, but we've been pretty happy with it. It's also much easier for users to add content, and better for user management in general.


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