Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting started with django, heroku, and mongolab

Long post here -- I just spent a couple hours going from zero to mongo with django and heroku.  Here are my working notes.

For this test, I started from a pure vanilla django project:
django-admin startproject testproj

I made a single edit to, adding "gunicorn" to the list of INSTALLED_APPS.

For setting up django on heroku, I basically followed the description given in these very good notes by Ken Cochrane.  I've done this before and there were no surprises, so I'll skip the stuff about setting up heroku and git.  I did nothing special except install gunicorn.

Here's my Procfile:
web: python testproj/ collectstatic --noinput; python testproj/ run_gunicorn -b "$PORT"

This is overkill at the outset--we don't have any static files, so collecting them doesn't do anything.

And my requirements.txt:

That got me to the famous django opening screen, live on heroku:
It worked!
Congratulations on your first Django-powered page.

Just to emphasize that I've done nothing special so far, here's the tree for the git repo I'm using.  (I've suppressed .pyc and *~ files.)

    ├── Procfile
    ├── requirements.txt
    └── testproj

(Come to think of it, there should probably be a .gitignore file in there as well.)

Let's pick up from the point.

I added the mongolab starter tier (free up to 240 MB) to the heroku app.  I did this from the heroku console, because I wanted to see what options were there.  (Oddly, none of the dedicated tiers show up there.)  In the future, I'll probably just use the command line:
heroku addons:add mongolab:starter

Next, I followed the instructions on heroku's documentation, and grabbed the URI:
heroku config | grep MONGOLAB_URI

The MONGOLAB_URI is in the following format:

At this point, heroku's documents stopped being much help, because they don't cover python.  So I switched over here instead.  I wanted to understand all the steps, so I refrained from copy-pasting.

I installed a few supporting libraries
pip install pymongo django-mongodb-engine djangotoolbox

And added the appropriate lines to requirements.txt

I then configured the database in
    'default': {
        'ENGINE': 'django_mongodb_engine',
        'NAME': 'heroku_app1234567',
        'USER': 'heroku_app1234567',
        'PASSWORD': 'abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz',
        'HOST': '',
        'PORT': '31117',

Note: With versions of django-mongodb-engine over 0.2, ENGINE should be 'django_mongodb_engine', not 'django_mongodb_engine'.  Get this wrong and you'll see something like:
'django_mongodb_engine.mongodb' isn't an available database backend.
Try using django.db.backends.XXX, where XXX is one of:
    'dummy', 'mysql', 'oracle', 'postgresql', 'postgresql_psycopg2', 'sqlite3'
Error was: No module named mongodb.base

I never did anything about the "current bug" that Dennis mentions.  Apparently it's been patched, whatever it was.

Quick check: so far, running locally (./ runsersver) and pushing to heroku both work.  The next step is to add a model or two.  Time to fix that:
django-admin startapp onebutton
from django.db import models

class ButtonClick( models.Model ):
    click_time = models.DateTimeField( auto_now=True )
    animal = models.CharField( max_length=200 )
I was going to build a stupid-simple app with a single button to "catch" animals from a random list and store them in the DB, but it's getting late, so let's just jump to the proof of concept.

Going straight to the django shell on my computer...
$python shell
>>> from testproj.onebutton.models import ButtonClick as BC
>>> c1 = BC( animal="Leopard" )
It works!  Open up the mongolab console (through the add-ons tab in heroku) and the database shows a single record in onebutton_buttonclick collection.

We still haven't written views and templates, and (more importantly) validated that the heroku app can talk to the DB over at mongolab, but I'm going to call this good enough for now.  Mission accomplished.

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