Grading Base

Docker: Debian system with convenience grading scripts
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A docker container that includes a stable Debian Linux and convenience commands for grading a student submission. Commands include tools from capturing the test output to submitting a feedback back to the grading service.

This container is just a base and does not include tools for different programming and scripting languages. Thus, actual grading/assessment containers should derive from this container via the FROM instruction in their Dockerfiles.

You can find many grading containers on the apluslms page on docker hub. Containers starting with grade- are relevant for this purpose.

Version of grading base has format <major>.<minor>. Major is updated when there is backwards incompatible change. For example, when deprecated tool is removed. Minor number is updated every time there is something new, where that bug fixes, added features or update on the debian base image. Derived containers typically use format <tool version>-<garding-base version>u<update>, where tool version is the version from upstream, grading-base is the version of this container and update is number that indicates update on containerisation. So, for example, grade-python 3.5-2.2u1 means that there is python 3.5 on top of grading-base 2.2 and it's first update after initial release. Update part is optional and can be omitted.

The container entry point, the grade wrapper

Container has grade wrapper /gw set as the entry point. This means that everything executed within this container (or derivative) is executed through this script.

The wrapper will take care of redirecting output (stdout and stderr) to /feedback/grading-script-errors. In addition, the script will make sure that the working directory is set correctly. After the grading script has been executed, the wrapper will execute grade. Thus, the grading script does not need to call cd or grade anymore.

The wrapper has three different operations, based on the first argument.

  1. If the first argument starts with /bin/ or is --exec, then arguments are executed and the wrapper itself stops here. No redirections are done and grade is not executed.

  2. If the first argument is --sh, then rest of the arguments are evaluated with sh -c "$*". This makes strings with quoted text possible in mooc-grader environment.

  3. The typical case. Argument list is executed as is.

The exit code from the grading script is stored in the grading-script-errors, but the grade wrapper always exits with 0.

Filesystem layout

  • /submission/user

    Files for the solution submitted by the student are stored here. This path can be used as working directory.

  • /exercise

    Exercise files are mounted here in a read only mode. With mooc-grader, that means the path you entered in mount. Typically, this includes and unit test files.

  • /feedback

    Grading script should store feedback in this path. Most utility commands do so, including capture, testcase and grade. In the future, mooc-grader will read files from this path instead of expecting a post request.

    • /feedback/points:

      Final points. Valid format for the data is <points>/<max_points> e.g. 5/10. You can use points to update this file. Points are read by grade.

    • /feedback/out:

      Feedback that is going be presented in the LMS. Typically, data is in html format. You should use pre to wrap plain text to html. You can capture feedback with capture pre <command>, for example.

    • /feedback/err:

      Error messages from a student or a testing code. If present, grade will append this inside a pre tag at the end of the out file. This file typically contains stderr from the test code. For example, capture redirects stderr to this file. If stderr is normal output (e.g. with python unit tests), then you should consider using err-to-out.

    • /feedback/grading-script-errors:

      Errors that should be visible only to the staff. This file is added as a part of grading_data with key errors and send to the grading service. Then, data can be shown in the LMS to the course staff. Data is expected to be plain text messages from and other tools. By default, /gw redirects stdout and stderr from the to this file.

    • /feedback/submission-set-error:

      If this file contains true, then the submission is set in an error state in the LMS. You can use set-error in your script to set this file.

  • /feedback/<number>

    A single feedback item. A set of these directories is considered the feedback list. Typically, one folder matches one test case. For now, this feedback list is not fully supported and the tool create-test-feedback is provided to render these directories to /feedback/out. Nevertheless, this allows building tools and scripts that export feedback in this format. In future, different templates can be used to render the feedback list in the grading service. The grade tool will automatically merge these directories to a single html file, if grading service doesn't support feedback as a list.

    For every numbered path (feedback item), there can exists any number of files, but following files are typical. Following files are supported by create-test-feedback and a basic template on the grading service. More advanced or specific templates can of course deviate from those.

    • .../title: A title or a display name for this feedback item.
    • .../status: The status of this feedback. Valid values: skipped, passed, failed, error.
    • .../points: Points given from this item.
    • .../max_points: Maximum points that could be given from this item.
    • .../out.txt: Stdout from the test.
    • .../err.txt: Stderr from the test.

Utility commands

Following utility commands are provided in the path.

  • testcase [-t title] [-p points_on_success] [-s only_if_zero] CMD...

    Defines a single test case. Useful when running multiple commands for grading. Creates /feedback/<number> directory with increasing number for every call.

    If title is provided, it's stored in /feedback/<number>/title.

    If points_on_success is provided, it will be written to /feedback/<number>/max_points. If CMD exits with 0, then it will also be written to /feedback/<number>/points.

    If only_if_zero is provided and not 0, then CMD is not executed and testcase exits with non-zero exit code.

    Status of this test is stored in /feedback/<number>/status accordingly.

  • capture [-o out] [-e err] [-u user] CMD...

    Changes the ownership of the working directory to user, executes the command as user, and captures the stdout to out and the stderr to err. In addition, capture ensures that the environment does not contain REC or SID (the variables used for posting feedback).

    By default user is nobody, out is /feedback/out and err is /feedback/err.

    For example, capture pre ./my_test will execute ./my_test as nobody and redirect stdout and stderr to /feedback/out and /feedback/err.

    If you need to run captured code as root, then use capture -u root.

  • asuser [-u user] CMD...

    Drops privileges to the user and executes CMD. See command capture, which does output redirection before calling asuser.

    NB asuser must be executed as the user root, as we can only drop privileges.

    In addition to privileges, asuser makes following changes to the environment variables:

    • set USER to the user
    • set HOME to the home path of the user
    • set UID to the numerical id of the user
    • set GID to the numerical id of the main group of the user
    • drop locations ending in */sbin from the PATH
    • remove REC and SID (used to post feedback to MOOC-Grader)

    New in version 2.8.

    Changed in version 3.1: Added environment variables UID and GID

  • pre [-c class] CMD...

    Wraps the stdout of the command into <pre> HTML element and escapes any HTML inside. Can be chained, e.g. capture pre ./ arg1 arg2

    Option -c can be used to set HTML class for the element.

  • points <points> [only_if_zero]

    Add points to given and maximum points in /feedback/points. If the file exists, it will be updated. If only_if_zero is given and not zero, then only maximum points are changed.

    This can be used in conjunction with capture to give points conditionally. For example,

    capture ./
    points 10 $?

    where $? is the exit code from capture.

  • title [-c class] [-e element] [-O] <text>

    Writes text inside HTML element element to /feedback/out. The element is h1 by default, but can be changed with -e.

    Option -c can be used to set HTML class for the element.

    Flag -O changes the output to stdout.

  • grade [points/max]

    Submits the feedback back to the grading service. The grade wrapper will execute this command after the grading script. This command exits without changes if it is executed for the second time, thus grading script can call this too, but is not required to.

    If no argument is provided, there isn't /feedback/points and any of /feedback/<number> directories exists, then create-test-feedback is executed before reading the feedback.

    Gets granted points in priority order from: a) argument in format "5/10" b) /feedback/points file in format "5/10" c) /feedback/out including lines "TotalPoints: 5" and "MaxPoints: 10"

    Gets feedback as HTML from /feedback/out, and wraps /feedback/err into pre with alert-danger class at the end. If /feedback/appendix exists it will be included at the very end.

  • replace [-o out_file] REPLACE=in.txt [ANOTHER=another.txt] <template_file>

    A simple string replace tool for handling untrusted inputs. The tool reads template_file and replaces all shell variables given as arguments with contents of the given files. For example, when given REPLACE=in.txt and template_file, then all instances of $REPLACE and ${REPLACE} in template_file are replaced with contents of the file in.txt. Note that, if there exists a new line in the end of in.txt, it will be removed when the file is read.

    Please notice, the only valid shell variable names can be used, i.e. names consisting of letters, numbers and the underscore.

    This tool is wrapper around envsubst and the above command is basically the same as the following:

    REPLACE=$(cat in.txt) ANOTHER=$(cat another.txt) \
        envsubst '$REPLACE $ANOTHER' < in_file > out_file

    Keep in mind that for some purposes sed and envsubst are simpler, but when handling user input, replace might be cleaner.

  • stdio-diff [-c] [-s] [-S] [-p pass_text] [-P] [-f fail_text] <in_file> <expected_out> CMD...

    Simple text comparison wrapper based on diff. Given in_file and expected_out, script will execute CMD with in_file as stdin and store it's stdout. Finally, it will compare expected_out to stdout of the CMD. The output from diff is revealed to the user, unless fail_text is provided.

    Option -c makes output case sensitive. Option -s makes output space sensitive. There needs to be space between words, but amount doesn't matter. Option -S makes diff totally ignore space (removes all space before comparison).

    By default, ok is printed when the output matches the expected. The string can be changed to a custom value with -p or to nothing with -P.

    This command can be used with capture and testcase. E.g. capture pre stdio-diff in.txt out.txt ./student_code.

  • create-test-feedback

    Combines feedback items from /feedback/<number> directories to /feedback/out. This is automatically executed by grade if preconditions apply.

  • err-to-out

    Appends the /feedback/err to /feedback/out without alert-danger class. Useful for unit test frameworks that produce the feedback into stderr.

  • force-charset CHARSET

    Converts recursively all files in working directory from any recognizable charsets into desired charset, e.g. utf-8. Discards unconvertible characters. May be useful to sanitize output from exotic student environments.

  • set-error [msg]

    Sets submission error state by writing true to /feedback/submission-set-error. If msg is provided, then it is written as the reason to /feedback/grading-script-errors.

  • chpst, setuidgid, softlimit and setlock

    These utilities are used internally, but can also benefit when writing grading scripts. First one provides the other three. Read linked documentations for more details.

  • envsubst

    Substitutes environment variables in shell format strings.

    An example usage:

    $ echo 'My $COLOR dog is huge.' | COLOR=brown envsubst '$COLOR'
    My brown dog is huge.
  • time

    Utility to measure statistics about timings (e.g. CPU usage).

  • timeout

    Utility command to set wallclock timeouts for commands. You can use this to make sure a test fails after some timeout, so you can run second test before container is killed.

  • gitlab-api-query [-u git_url | -U git_url_file] TESTS.. GIT_HOST [api_token] [require_fork]

    Checks information in GitLab API (v4) at the given host for given git_url. If no git_url is provided, then it is read from git_url_file. Default for git_url_file is /submission/user/gitsource, which is created by mooc-grader types.stdasync.acceptGitAddress for example, The git_url should end with username/repo or username/repo.git.

    GitLab API often requires authentication and a api token should be set in api_token. If the parameter starts with . or /, then it is expected to be a file containing the token.

    Supported tests:

    • -p: require that the project visibility is set to private.
    • -f forked_repo: require that the project is a fork from forked_repo (e.g. username/upstream_repo).

    Command exists with non zero if no tests are provided.

  • git-clone-submission PRIVATE_KEY_PATH [file paths...]

    Clones repository from URL submitted as gitsource file into /submission-repo. The private ssh key allows access to repositories where the public key pair is added as a deploy key. Prints status and exits non zero if fails.

    • file paths...

      List of expected files to check inside the repository. The files are moved into /submission/user and the contents are written as appendix to end of feedback.

Utility commands for grading image Dockerfiles

  • apt_install <package>

    Calls apt-get update and apt-get install with list of packages. Takes care of correct options and cleaning temporary files in the end.

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