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Post-installation steps

Using the command-line interface

The command-line interface of Soapbox Legacy is an executable file called tootctl residing in the bin directory within the Soapbox Legacy root directory. You must specify which environment you intend to use whenever you execute it by specifying the RAILS_ENV environment variable. Unless you are a developer working on a local machine, you need to use RAILS_ENV=production. If you are sure that you will never need another environment (for development, testing, or staging), you can add it to your .bashrc file for convenience, e.g.:

echo "export RAILS_ENV=production" >> ~/.bashrc

If so, you won't need to specify it each time inline. Otherwise, calls to tootctl will usually go like this, assuming that the Soapbox Legacy code is checked out in /home/mastodon/live:

cd /home/mastodon/live
RAILS_ENV=production bin/tootctl help

Creating an admin account

In the browser

After signing up in the browser, you will need to use the command line to give your newly created account admin privileges. Assuming your username is alice:

RAILS_ENV=production bin/tootctl accounts modify alice --role admin

From the command line

You can create a new account using the command-line interface.

RAILS_ENV=production bin/tootctl accounts create \
  alice \
  --email \
  --confirmed \
  --role admin

A randomly generated password will be shown in the terminal.

Filling in server information

After logging in, navigate to the Site settings page. While there are no technical requirements for filling in this information, it is considered crucial for operating a server for humans.

Setting Meaning
Contact username Your username so people know who owns the server
Business e-mail An e-mail address so people locked out of their accounts, or people without accounts, can contact you
Instance description Why did you start this server? Who is it for? What makes it different?
Custom extended information You can put all sorts of information in here but a code of conduct is recommended

After you fill these in, simply hit "Save changes".

Setting up regular backups (optional, but not really)

For any real-world use, you should make sure to regularly backup your Soapbox Legacy server.


Things that need to be backed up in order of importance:

  1. PostgreSQL database
  2. Application secrets from the .env.production file or equivalent
  3. User-uploaded files
  4. Redis database

Failure modes

There are two failure types that people in general may guard for: The failure of the hardware, such as data corruption on the disk; and human and software error, such as wrongful deletion of particular piece of data. In this documentation, only the former type is considered.

A lost PostgreSQL database is complete game over. Soapbox Legacy stores all the most important data in the PostgreSQL database. If the database disappears, all the accounts, posts and followers on your server will disappear with it.

If you lose application secrets, some functions of Soapbox Legacy will stop working for your users, they will be logged out, two-factor authentication will become unavailable, Web Push API subscriptions will stop working.

If you lose user-uploaded files, you will lose avatars, headers, and media attachments, but Soapbox Legacy will work moving forward.

Losing the Redis database is almost harmless: The only irrecoverable data will be the contents of the Sidekiq queues and scheduled retries of previously failed jobs. The home and list feeds are stored in Redis, but can be regenerated with tootctl.

The best backups are so-called off-site backups, i.e. ones that are not stored on the same machine as Soapbox Legacy itself. If the server you are hosted on goes on fire and the hard disk drive explodes, backups stored on that same hard drive won't be of much use.

Backing up application secrets

Application secrets are the easiest to backup, since they never change. You only need to store .env.production somewhere safe.

Backing up PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is at risk of data corruption from power cuts, hard disk drive failure, and botched schema migrations. For that reason, occassionally making a backup with pg_dump or pg_dumpall is recommended.

For high-availability setups, it is possible to use hot streaming replication to have a second PostgreSQL server with always up-to-date data, ready to be switched over to if the other server goes down.

Backing up user-uploaded files

If you are using an external object storage provider such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud or Wasabi, then you don't need to worry about backing those up. The respective companies are responsible for handling hardware failures.

If you are using local file storage, then it's up to you to make copies of the sizeable public/system directory, where uploaded files are stored by default.

Backing up Redis

Backing up Redis is easy. Redis regularly writes to /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb which is the only file you need to make a copy of.