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Tool Labs is a hosting environment for community developers working on tools and bots that help users maintain and use wikis. Tool Labs provides access to replicas of Wikimedia databases, allowing developers to easily re-use this information, for analytics, bot work, or by creating tools that help editors and other volunteers in their work. The infrastructure is supported by a dedicated group of Wikimedia Foundation staff and volunteers.

Quick start

  1. On wikitech, visit Create an account and create your Labs wiki account.
    • make careful note of the wiki username and "Instance shell account name" you choose
  2. On wikitech, Fill out an access request for the Tools project.
  3. In a command-line terminal, generate an SSH-2 RSA key. See Generating and uploading an SSH key if you don't know how.
  4. In a command-line terminal, enter: $ cat ~/.ssh/ (or similar) to display your public SSH key that you created above, then copy it.
  5. On wikitech, log in with your labs wiki account, visit Preferences > OpenStack tab and paste in your public SSH key.
  6. Wait for your requests to be completed (you should receive messages on your wikitech talk page).

Once this is all done you should be able to

  • Use SSH to login to Tool Labs. In a command-line terminal, enter: ssh
  • Use SSH-based utilities such as scp and sftp to transfer files between Tool Labs and your computer.
  • Create tools (see § Creating a new Tool account).


  • Your wikitech wiki username and your shell login username may be different. Visit Preferences > User profile and check "Instance shell account name".
  • The passwords you chose for your wikitech login and SSH key may be different.
  • When you login with SSH you are in your personal folder. To quickly go to your tool account enter: become tool_name
  • You will also notice that web service for your tool is not started by default. To start it enter: webservice start

What is Tool Labs


Tool Labs was developed in response to the need to support external tools and their developers and maintainers. The system is designed to make it easy for maintainers to share responsibility for their tools and bots, which helps ensure that no useful tool gets ‘orphaned’ when one person needs a break. The system is designed to be reliable, scalable and simple to use, so that developers can hit the ground and start coding.


Shared storage

Help:Shared storage

Architecture and terminology

Bastion hosts =
The grid

The Tool Labs grid, implemented with Open Grid Engine (the open-source fork of Sun Grid Engine) permits users to submit jobs from either a log-in account on the bastion host or from a web service. Submitted jobs are added to a work queue, and the system finds a host to execute them. Jobs can be scheduled synchronously or asynchronously, continuously, or simply executed once. If a continuous job fails, the grid will automatically restart the job so that it keeps going. For more information about the grid, please see § Submitting, managing and scheduling jobs on the grid.

Getting access to Tool Labs

See: SSH Help and Getting Started with Tool Labs

We strongly recommend against saving data or tools in any space that is accessible to individuals only. Tools and bots should be maintained in Tool accounts, which have flexible memberships (i.e., multiple people can help maintain the code!).

Using Tool Labs and managing your files

Tool Labs can be accessed in a variety of ways – from its public IP to a GUI client. Please see Help:Access for general information about accessing Labs.

The tools list

The Tool labs tools list page is publicly available and contains a list of all currently-hosted Tool accounts along with their maintainers. Tool accounts that have an associated web page appear as links. Users with access to the 'tools' project can create new tool accounts here, and add or remove maintainers to and from existing tool accounts.


Once set up, you ssh to Tool Labs via its bastion host, provided that a public SSH key has been uploaded to the Labs account.


if you get disconnected frequently during ssh, consider setting the ServerAliveInterval option to a smaller number (~5-20 seconds) when connecting:

ssh -o ServerAliveInterval=5

Updating files

After you can ssh successfully, you can transfer files via sftp and scp. Note that the transferred files will be owned by you. You will likely wish to transfer ownership to your tool account. To do this:

1. become your tool account:

yourshellaccountname@tools-login:~$ become toolaccount

2. As your tool account, take ownership of the files:

tools.toolaccount@tools-login:~$ take FILE

The take command will change the ownership of the file(s) and directories recursively to the calling user (in this case, the tool account).

Handling permissions

if you're getting permission errors, note that you can also transfer files the other way around: copy the files as your tool account to /data/projects/<projectname>.

Another, probably easier, way is to set the permission to group-writable for the tools directory. For example, if your shell account's name is alice and your tool name is alicetools you could do something like this after logged in as a shell user

become alicetools
chmod -R g+w /data/project/alicetools
cp -rv /home/alice/* /data/project/alicetools/
One-time steps per tool

First, you have to do some preparatory steps which you need only once per tool.

become <YOURTOOL>

If you have not installed composer yet:

mkdir ~/bin
curl -sS | php -- --install-dir=$HOME/bin --filename=composer

If your local bin directory it not in your $PATH (use echo $PATH to find out), then create or alter the file ~/.profile and add the lines:

# set PATH so it includes user's private bin if it exists
if [ -d "$HOME/bin" ] ; then

Finish your session as <YOURTOOL> and start a new one, or:

. ~/.profile

Now you are done with the one-time preparations.

For each instance of core

The following steps are needed for each new installation of MediaWiki. We assume that you want to access MediaWiki via the web in a directory named MW — you are free to use another name. If not already done:

become <YOURTOOL>


cd ~/public_html

If you plan to submit changes:

git clone ssh://<YOURUSERNAME> MW

or else, if you only want to use MediaWiki without submitting changes:

git clone MW

will do and spares resources. Next, recent versions of MediaWiki have external dependencies, so you need to install those:

cd MW
composer install
git review -s

Now you should be able to access the initial pre-install screen of MediaWiki from your web browser as:<YOURTOOL>/MW/

and proceed as usual. See how to create new databases for your MediaWiki installations.

Joining and creating a Tool account

What is a Tool account?

A Tool account is the "user" associated with a Tool on Tool labs. Although each tool account has a user ID, they are not personal accounts (like a Labs account), rather services that consist of a user and group ID (i.e., a unix uid-gid pair) that are intended to run the actual tool or bot. Anyone who has access to Tool Labs can create a Tool account.

  • Unix user: tools.toolname
  • Unix group: tools.toolname

Members of the Tool account's Unix group include:

  • the tool account creator
  • the tool account itself
  • (optionally, but encouraged!) additional tool maintainers

Maintainers may have more than one tool account, and tool accounts may have more than one maintainer. Every member of the group has the authorization to sudo to the tool account. By default, only members of the group have access to tool account's code and data.

A simple way for maintainers to switch to the tool account is with become:

maintainer@tools-login:~$ become toolname

In addition to the user/group pair, each tool account includes:

  • A home directory on shared storage: /data/project/toolname
  • A ~/public_html/ directory, which is visible at
  • Database access credentials: ~/, which provide access to the production database replicas as well as to project-local databases.
  • Access to the continuous and task queues of the compute grid

Joining an existing Tool account

All tool accounts hosted in Tool Labs are listed on the Tools list. If you would like to be added to an existing account, you must contact the maintainer(s) directly.

If you would like to add (or remove) maintainers to a tool account that you manage, you may do so with the 'add' link found beneath the tool name on the Tools home page.

Creating a new Tool account

Members of the ‘tools’ project can create tool accounts from the Tools home page:

  1. Navigate to the Tools home page.
  2. Select the "create new tool" link (found in the "Develop your own tool" section).
  3. Enter a "Service group name". The service group name will be used as the name of your tool account.

Customizing a Tool account

Once you have created a tool account, there are a few things that you can customize to make the tool more easily understood and used by other users. These include:

  • adding a tool account description (the description will appear on the Tools home page beside the tool name)
  • creating a home page for your tool (if you create a home page for the tool, it will be linked from the Tools home page automatically)

Creating a tool web page

To create a web page for your tool account, simply place an index.html file in the tool account's ~/public_html The page can be a simple description of the tool or bot with basic information on how to set it up or shut it down, or it contain an interface for the web service. To see examples of existing tool web pages, click any of the linked tool names on the Tools list.

You will also need to start a webservice for your tool.

1. Log into your Labs account and become your tool account:

nn1l2@tools-bastion-03:~$ become nn1l2bot

2. Start the web service:

tools.nn1l2bot@tools-bastion-03:~$ webservice start

Creating a tool description

To create a tool description:

1. Log into your Labs account and become your tool account:

nn1l2@tools-bastion-03:~$ become nn1l2bot

2. Create a .description file in the tool account’s home directory. Note that this file must be HTML:

tools.nn1l2bot@tools-bastion-03:~$ vim .description

3. Add a brief description (no more than 25 words or so) and save the file. You can use basic HTML markup in the file.

4. Navigate to the Tools list. Your tool account description should now appear beside your tool account name.

Configuring bots and tools

Tools and bot code should be stored in your tools account, where it can be managed by multiple users and accessed by all execution hosts. Specific information about configuring web services and bots, along with information about licensing, package installation, and shared code storage, is available at the § Developing on Tool Labs section.

Submitting, managing and scheduling jobs on the grid

Every non-trivial task performed in Toolforge should be dispatched by the Grid Engine, which ensures that the job is run in a suitable place with sufficient resources.

The basic principle of running jobs is fairly straightforward:

  • You submit a job to a work queue from a submission server (for example
  • The grid engine master finds a suitable execution host to run the job on, and starts it there once resources are available
  • As it runs, your job will send output and errors to files until the job completes or is aborted.

Jobs can be scheduled synchronously or asynchronously, continuously, or simply executed once. If a continuous job fails, the grid will automatically restart the job so that it keeps going.

To schedule jobs to be run at specific days or time of days, you can use cron to submit the jobs to the grid.

Scheduling a command more often than every five minutes (e.g. * * * * * command) is highly discouraged, even if the command is "only" jsub. In these cases, you very probably want to use 'jstart' instead. The grid engine ensures that jobs submitted with 'jstart' are automatically restarted if they exit.


Mail to users

Mail sent to (where user is a shell account) will be forwarded to the email address that user has set in their Wikitech preferences, if it has been verified (the same as the 'Email this user' function on wikitech).

Any existing .forward in the user's home will be ignored.

Mail to tools

Mail can also be sent "to a tool" with:

Where "anything" is an arbitrary alphanumeric string. Mail will be forwarded to the first of:

  • The email(s) listed in the tool's ~/.forward.anything, if present;
  • The email(s) listed in the tool's ~/.forward, if present; or
  • The wikitech email of the tool's individual maintainers.

Additionally, is an alias pointing to mostly useful for automated email generating from within Labs.

~/.forward and ~/.forward.anything need to be readable by the user Debian-exim; to achieve that, you probably need to chmod o+r ~/.forward*

Web server

Every tool can have a dedicated Web server running on either Kubernetes or if necessary the Grid Engine.

You are encouraged to run web services on Kubernetes.

More information about the differences between Grid Engine and Kubernetes later in this documentation.


The default lighttpd Web service type runs a lighttpd web server configured to serve static files and PHP scripts from the tool's $HOME/public_html directory.

Using webservice command

You can use the webservice command to start, stop, restart, and check the status of a webserver.

webservice command example:

$ become my_cool_tool
$ webservice start

Use webservice --help to get a full list of arguments.


The 'tools' project, like all labs projects, has access to a directory storing the public Wikimedia datasets (i.e. the dumps generated by Wikimedia). The most recent two dumps can be found in:


This directory is read-only, but you can copy files to your tool's home directory and manipulate them in whatever way you like.

If you need access to older dumps, you must manually download them from the Wikimedia downloads server.

/public/dumps/pagecounts-raw contains some years of the pagecount/projectcount data derived by Erik Zachte from Domas Mituzas' archives.

CatGraph (aka Graphserv/Graphcore)

CatGraph is a custom graph database that provides tool developers fast access to the Wikipedia category structure. For more information, please see the documentation.