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Austin Tate :: Blog :: Moodle/SLoodle Experiments Issue 10 - Cron and the Zombies

October 30, 2011

Its Halloween, and the Zombies have attacked!

There has been a bit of a  struggle to get the "cron" job running on the Moodle setup.  cron.php is an admin routine that is run every few minutes to do a number of maintenance things, like pulling in information feeds, external blogs, clearing away pending messages, etc.  It need a bit of setting up and a couple of different mechanisms using the Windows Task Manager had not been working correctly.

I had settled on a way to initiate the cron.php script by calling it from a job every few minutes which launched the Firefox/Mozilla browser run the job, and then should have terminated.  I got that suggestion off blog postings by others who has similar problems getting cron to run.  It seemed to work after I set it up on testing, so I left it for a day or so...  But when I came back... spookily... there were many "Zombie" processes running.  My colleague experienced in these matters tells me that happens when you launch a browser to run a script in a web page and he had seen this issue before.

We are also still working to get the outward bound e-mail going on our Moodle 2.1.2 setup on Windows.  This is way more complicated than it should be with many layers involved.  Settings are all over the place in Apache, PHP, Moodle and beyond your machine in the SMTP server you use, as well as perhaps in multiple firewalls and out bound messaging spam filters on the way.  We have been gradually picking our way through these layers.  Our University will not allow e-mail out with a "from" address that is not validated as a legitimate University address - sensibly.  So we are having to use a "Moodle Admin" address personally tied to a staff member at the moment, which is not ideal. We have established a "noreply" address that will validate now too. More layers to work out before its working properly I am afraid.

In general, I also am finding a lot of Moodle settings are hidden away a bit or are in several places or in multiple layers whic all need to coordinate. Things like e-mail setup is under Site Administration -> Plugins -> Message Outputs -> E-mail.  The site admin/support e-mail addresses also appear there and in Site Administration -> Server -> Site Contact.  Rooting round to change the roles an individual is assigned is also convoluted, rather than just a set of check boxes off the user page you have to edit roles... and not via the edit button but by knowing to click on the role title hyperlink. And some roles are considered "System Roles" which are changed on a different web page.

Keywords: Cron, IDEL11, Moodle, Second Life, SLoodle, Zombies

Posted by Austin Tate


  1. I wonder if one day we'll look back at all these layers and think how difficult we made things for ourselves!  But there is always a great deal of complexity going on even when what is on top is intuitive and straightforward.  I've also been exasperated by layers and settings for both WebCT and Moodle and that's without very high level access privileges.  For end users – whether teachers or students - there's a danger that by the time they've worked out where to put things, they've forgotten why they wanted to! 

    On the other hand, I like the fact that this kind of work behind the scenes forces engagement with logic – and recognising that different people will employ different kinds of reasoning for how the layers should work.

    Love the Zombie!

    Christine SinclairChristine Sinclair on Tuesday, 01 November 2011, 15:28 GMT # |

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