Deploying Your Own Server to Production

Projects that want to control their own data under protocols different from e-mission, can run their own copy of e-mission. The e-mission server is easy to install on a laptop for local development, and the same steps can be used to install a basic server on *nix for small projects. This page lists the few additional steps for such a deployment. It also provides recommendations for more complex deployments. All the software is fairly standard, so the published documentation can form the basis of additional customization.

Basic instructions

Development installation

Install the server following the development dependencies ( and installation instructions ( Note that:

deployment is as simple as pulling from the repo to the real server and changing the config files slightly.

$ git clone

While following the instructions to start the server, make sure to point to the python binary from the anaconda distribution.

Upgrade to production

Configure the server

All server configuration files are in conf. You need to copy the corresponding sample files to copy specific functionality - e.g.

$ cp conf/net/ext_service/habitica.json.sample conf/net/ext_service/habitica.json

Full list of sample files can be determined dynamically.

$ find conf -name \*.sample

Configuring the webserver

By default, the server runs over http. But for production systems, you should really use SSL. It's easy to use SSL, with services like Just do it now.

We use cheroot to provide SSL support. The SSL certificate and private key should be specified in conf/net/keys.json.

$ cp conf/net/keys.json.sample conf/net/keys.json
$ vim conf/net/keys.json

For scalability, you can also choose to run behind a reverse proxy, or run your database on a different server.

Configuring authentication

This is configured in two steps. - The auth method is configured in conf/net/api/webserver.conf - The settings for the auth method are configured in conf/net/auth/<auth_method>.json.

For more details on configuring an auth method, see Configuring authentication.

Configuring push

We use silent push notifications on iOS as a backup in case the visit notifications don't work (there have been some reports of this on iPhone7 devices). So configuring push is a good idea to avoid excessive power drain on iOS.

Push notifications are configured in conf/net/ext_service/push.json.

  • If you are deploying a new UI on the existing e-mission app, ask me for the auth token.
  • If you are deploying your own app, create an ionic account, register your app, and obtain an auth token for push.

Configuring other services

The server has a number of integrations with both internal and external services - e.g. nominatim, habitica, push notifications, etc. The relevant configurations are in the conf/net/int_services and conf/net/ext_services directories. Since these are integrations, they are not core to the functionality of the server, and can be configured as desired.

Configuring logs

The sample log configuration is intended to be reasonable. The one caveat is that it logs to /var/tmp by default which is unencrypted. So if deployed on a cloud server, the cloud admins can see the logs and try to reconstruct the data. So to be really careful, the logs should also be set to a location on edfs - e.g. setup

$ sudo cryptsetup -y luksFormat /dev/xvdc
$ sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/xvdc xvdc
$ sudo mount /dev/mapper/xvdc /mnt/logs

and then change the config to point to /mnt/logs, e.g.

"filename": "/mnt/logs/emission/intake-errors.log.gz"

Configuring the phone app

The connection settings on the phone are at www/json/connectionConfig.json. The sample file (connectionConfig.production.json.sample) should be filled in with the URL of the production server and the auth method from Configuring authentication

Note, you should also cutomize your client-app with a custom server: Create a new custom client. Currently, the aggregate related URLs (heatmap, metrics tab) are hardcoded. They need to be changed to your server URL in:

  • www/js/heatmap.js
  • www/js/metrics.js

It is also necessary to edit the Content-Security-Policy in www/index.html so that connections to your own server URL are allowed.

Starting processes

The server needs three ongoing processes. The instructions here are for *nix systems. I've filled in what I've found for Windows equivalents, but they are untested. Any Windows installers, please correct them as required.

The webserver

It would be good to have this set up with a watchdog so that it can automatically restart if it goes down (e.g. due to out of memory errors). I use the supervisord watchdog ( If you want to use the same, the e-mission configuration that I use is

command=sudo ./e-mission-py.bash emission/net/api/
where /code/ and /log/ are separate encrypted filesystems.

  1. Note that supervisord only runs on python 2.7, although e-mission is now on python 3.6. You need to set up a parallel py27 environment to run it. e-mission/e-mission-server#530
    $ conda create -n py27 python=2.7
    $ source activate py27
  2. Setup supervisord and configure it based on the instructions ( - e.g.
    $ pip install supervisor
    $ echo_supervisord_conf > ~/supervisord.conf
  3. Since supervisord will run from the py27 environment, but we want e-mission to run from the emission environment, use an absolute path in the batch file /code/e-mission-server/e-mission-py.bash by replacing python -> /home/ubuntu/miniconda3/envs/emission/bin/python.
  4. Run supervisord ( - e.g.
    $ supervisord -c ~/supervisord.conf
    $ ps -aef | grep python
    ubuntu 24344     1  0 04:02 ?        00:00:00 /home/ubuntu/miniconda3/envs/py27/bin/python /home/ubuntu/miniconda3/envs/py27/bin/supervisord -c /home/ubuntu/supervisord.conf
    root   24347 24346 17 04:02 ?        00:00:00 /home/ubuntu/miniconda3/envs/emission/bin/python emission/net/api/
  5. If your install requires a password for sudo, you may only see one python program after start, and get an error in the /log/emission/emissionpy.err.log file (sudo: no tty present and no askpass program specified). You can fix this by enabling passwordless sudo for your root/admin user.

The suggestion to replace supervisord is to use honcho or a windows service. Note that there might be tricky things to do with a batch file and polling to actually get watchdog functionality. Alternatively, you can use cygwin and apparently then supervisord just works.

The analysis pipeline

This pipeline segments the trips, segments legs within the trips, smoothes, assigns modes, etc. It is run via a cronjob. You can customize the frequency of the cronjob depending on the load on the server. A typical cronjob that runs once a day is

@daily cd /mnt/e-mission/e-mission-server && PYTHONPATH=. /home/ubuntu/anaconda/bin/python bin/ 3 >> /mnt/logs/emission/intake.stdinout 2>&1

The suggestion to replace cron is to use the scheduled tasks from the control panel, or the schtasks cmdlets from Windows powershell.

You can also install cygwin and get it to work with some effort.

The iOS silent push

As described earlier, we use iOS silent push as a backup for trip end detection. We also use it to trigger periodic syncs, and we allow users to configure their sync frequencies. So we need to have scripts that generate pushes for all iOS phones for the supported sync frequencies. This is also done using cron.

*/1 * * * * cd /mnt/e-mission/e-mission-server && PYTHONPATH=. /home/ubuntu/anaconda/bin/python bin/push/ 60 >> /home/e-mission/silent_ios_push.stdinoutlog 2>&1
*/10 * * * * cd /mnt/e-mission/e-mission-server && PYTHONPATH=. /home/ubuntu/anaconda/bin/python bin/push/ 600 >> /home/e-mission/silent_ios_push.stdinoutlog 2>&1
*/30 * * * * cd /mnt/e-mission/e-mission-server && PYTHONPATH=. /home/ubuntu/anaconda/bin/python bin/push/ 1800 >> /home/e-mission/silent_ios_push.stdinoutlog 2>&1
@hourly cd /mnt/e-mission/e-mission-server && PYTHONPATH=. /home/ubuntu/anaconda/bin/python bin/push/ 3600 >> /home/e-mission/silent_ios_push.stdinoutlog 2>&1

These are also cronjobs so the same techniques as the previous section (previous section) apply.

Suggested improvements

cryptfs (suggested)

If you are running your server on a cloud provider, and want to ensure that the cloud provider cannot access your data by looking at the files directly, you need to encrypt your filesystem. Some cloud providers provide encrypted storage solutions such as EBS on AWS, but they do not allow you to specify the encryption key (NOTE: This may have recently changed. Need to look up AWS key management services).

In order to have more control, you can use an encrypted filesystem such as cryptfs. Instructions for using cryptfs on ubuntu are at You want to ensure that the partitions for data and logs are encrypted - data for obvious reasons, and logs because they print a lot of private information that can potentially be reconstructed.

In order to ensure that a disk is mount encrypted, use the cryptfs instruction to create and open it in encrypted mode. Then you can simply replace the instructions using an unencrypted disk with the instructions for using an encrypted disk. For example, if you were going to use /dev/foo, you would first follow the instructions at to get /dev/mapper/foo. Then instead of creating a filesystem on and mounting /dev/foo, you would perform the same operations on /dev/mapper/foo.

Decrypt + mount after reboot

Note that if you encrypt the filesystem, you will need to decrypt the filesystem every time you reboot to allow the OS to continue accessing the data on it.

$ sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/foo foo
$ sudo mount /dev/mapper/foo <mount_point>

Running behind a reverse proxy/load balancer

You can also choose to run the server behind a reverse proxy/load balancer such as ngnix. In that case, the actual e-mission server will continue to run over HTTP. However, in order to make the development flow smoother, if the server is running over HTTP as opposed to HTTPS, it has no security. It uses the dummy-dev authentication method, which returns the user email as the (dummy) authentication token. This means that anybody who knows a users' email address can download their detailed timeline. This is very bad.

To force authentication, edit emission/net/api/ and set skipAuth = False.

818       # not really an important use case now, and it makes people have to change
819       # two values and increases the chance of bugs. So let's key the auth skipping from this as well.
820       skipAuth = True
821       print "Running with HTTPS turned OFF, skipAuth = True"

Running the database on a different server

You can also choose to run the database on a different server for greater scalability. In that case, you need to change this line from emission/core/ from localhost to your database server.

_current_db = MongoClient('localhost').Stage_database

The easiest option is to connect using the DB server hostname/IP - e.g.

_current_db = MongoClient('').Stage_database

but you can also use more complex configurations if your DB server is sharded, for example. A full list of the connection options is at

Make sure to set up a NAT and put your database server into it to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

TODO: Use a config setting instead of requiring code edits