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Instant Messaging Services with ejabberd on Debian 5 (Lenny)

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Ejabberd, the "Erlang Jabber Daemon," is an extensible, flexible and very high performance XMPP server written in the Erlang programming language. With a web-based interface and broad support for XMPP standards, ejabberd is an ideal general-use and multi-purpose XMPP server. Although ejabberd is considered "heavyweight" by some, mostly due to the requirements of the Erlang runtimes, it is incredibly robust and can scale to support heavy loads. It even includes support for hosting multiple domains virtually.

This installation process assumes that you have a working installation of Debian 5 (Lenny), that you've followed the steps in the getting started guide, and that you are connected to your Linode via SSH as the root user. Once you've completed these requirements we can begin with the installation process.

Contents

XMPP/Jabber Basics

Though you can successfully run an XMPP server with only a passing familiarity of the way the XMPP network and system works, understanding the following basic concepts will be helpful:

Install ejabberd

Make sure your package repositories and installed programs are up to date by issuing the following commands:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade --show-upgraded

To install ejabberd and its required dependencies, issue the following command:

apt-get install ejabberd

The default installation is complete and functional. The installation process creates a self-signed SSL certificate. If you want to use a commercially signed certificate, place the certificate file at /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.pem. A self-signed certificate is sufficient for many jabber applications.

If you have not already configured your /etc/hosts as follows, please do so before you continue. This will allow your Linode to associate its hostname with the public IP. Your file should have an excerpt that looks something like this (use your Linode's public IP address instead of 12.34.56.78):

File excerpt: /etc/hosts

127.0.0.1    localhost.localdomain   localhost
12.34.56.78  squire.ducklington.org  squire

With the hostname configured, you're ready to begin configuring ejabberd.

Configure ejabberd

Ejabberd's configuration files are written in Erlang syntax, which might be difficult to comprehend. Thankfully, the modifications we need to make are relatively minor and straightforward. The main ejabberd configuration file is located at /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg. We'll cover each relevant option in turn.

Administrative Users

Some users will need the ability to administer the XMPP server remotely. By default this block of the config file looks like this:

File excerpt:/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg

%% Admin user
{acl, admin, {user, "", "localhost"}}.

In Erlang, comments begin with the % character, and the access control list segment contains information in the following form: "{user, "USERNAME", "HOSTNAME"}". The following examples correspond to the users with the JIDs of admin@ducklington.org and squire@ducklington.org. You only need to specify one administrator, but you can add more than one administrator simply by adding more lines, as shown below:

File excerpt:/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg

{acl, admin, {user, "admin", "ducklington.org"}}.
{acl, admin, {user, "squire", "ducklington.org"}}.

All users specified in this manner have full administrative access to the server, through both the XMPP and web-based interfaces. You will have to create your administrative users (as described below) before they can log in.

Hostnames and Virtual Hosting

A single ejabberd instance can provide XMPP services for multiple domains at once, as long as those domains (or subdomains) are hosted by the server. To add a hostname for virtual hosting in ejabberd, modify the hosts option. By default, ejabberd is only configured to host the "localhost" domain:

File excerpt:/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg

{hosts, ["localhost"]}.

In the following example, ejabberd has been configured to host a number of additional domains. In this case, these domains are "squire.bucknell.net," "bucknell.net," and "ducklington.org."

File excerpt:/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg

{hosts, ["squire.bucknell.net", "bucknell.net", "ducklington.org"]}.

You can specify any number of hostnames in the host list, but you should be careful to avoid inserting a line break as this will cause ejabberd to fail.

Listening Ports

TCP port number 5222 is the conventional "XMPP" port. If you want to change the port, this is the section of the configuration that needs to be modified.

Additionally, you may want to enable SSL access for client-to-server (c2s) SSL/TLS connections if you or other system users are using a client that supports secured connections on port 5223. To enable this functionality, uncomment the following stanza.

File excerpt:/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg

{5223, ejabberd_c2s, [
                        {access, c2s},
                        {shaper, c2s_shaper},
                        {max_stanza_size, 65536},
                        tls, {certfile, "/etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.pem"}
                        ]},

Additional Functionality

The ejabberd.cfg file is complete and well commented, and from this point forward your server should run. However, you should take the time to become familiar with the options provided in this file. We would only add, regarding the multi-user chats:

By default, MUCs or Multi-User-Chats (chatrooms) are accessible on the "conference.[hostname]" subdomain. If you want the public to be able to access MUCs on your domain, you need to create an "A Record" pointing the conference hostname (eg. subdomain) to the IP address where the ejabberd instance is running.

Using Ejabberd

Once installed, the use and configuration of ejabberd is uncomplicated. To start, stop, or restart the server, issue the appropriate command from the following choices:

/etc/init.d/ejabberd start
/etc/init.d/ejabberd stop
/etc/init.d/ejabberd restart

By default, ejabberd is configured to disallow "in-band-registrations," which prevents Internet users from getting accounts on your server without your consent. To register a new user, issue a command in the following form:

ejabberdctl register lollipop ducklington.org man

In this example, lollipop is the username, ducklington.org is the domain, and man is the password. This will create a JID for lollipop@ducklington.org with the password of "man." Use this form to create the administrative users specified above.

To remove a user from your server, issue a command in the following form:

ejabberdctl unregister lollipop ducklington.org

The above command would unregister the lollipop@ducklington.org account from the server.

To set or reset the password for a user, issue the following command:

ejabberdctl set-password lollipop ducklington.org morris

This command changes the password for the lollipop@ducklington.org user to morris.

To back up ejabberd's database, issue the following command:

ejabberdctl dump ejabberd-backup.db

This command dumps the contents of the internal ejabberd database into a file located in the "/var/lib/ejabberd/" directory. To restore from the backup, issue the following command:

ejabberdctl load ejabberd-backup.db

For more information about the ejabberdctl command, issue "ejabberdctl help" or "man ejabberdctl".

If you would prefer to administer your ejabberd instance via the web-based interface, log in to http://ducklington.org:5280/admin/, where "ducklington.org" is the domain where ejabberd is running. Log in with the full JID and password of one of the administrators specified in the /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.cfg file.

XMPP Federation and DNS

To ensure that your ejabberd instance will federate properly with the rest of the XMPP network, particularly with Google's "GTalk" service (i.e. the "@gmail.com" chat tool) you must set the SRV records for your domain to point to the server where the ejabberd instance is running. We need three records, which can be created in the DNS management tool of your choice:

  1. Service: _xmpp-server Protocol: TCP Port: 5269
  2. Service: _xmpp-client Protocol: TCP Port: 5222
  3. Service: _jabber Protocol: TCP Port: 5269

The "target" of the SRV record should point to the publicly routable hostname for that machine (e.g. "squire.ducklington.org"). The priority and weight should both be set to 0.

Troubleshooting

If you're having problems getting ejabberd to start, or are getting obscure errors on the console, don't be discouraged; the errors generated by Erlang are often abstruse at best. The logs for ejabberd are located in the /var/log/ejabberd/ directory. If you're getting error messages look in these files, particularly ejabberd.log and sasl.log. Additionally, if ejabberd crashes, the "image dump" of Erlang will be saved in this directory. Begin your investigations for error messages in these files.

Furthermore, ejabberd's "Mnesia" database is stored in the /var/lib/ejabberd/ directory. If you think the database has become corrupted, delete the files in this directory (e.g. "rm /var/lib/ejabberd/*") and reload from a backup if necessary. This is sometimes required if the hostname of the local machine changes.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Last edited by Amanda Folson on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 (r2458).