How I Installed Willie IRC Bot on Debian Wheezy
How I Installed Willie IRC Bot on Debian Wheezy

Willie is an IRC bot written in Python that I’ve recently started using. This blog post describes how to install Willie on Debian and as usual I will be using virtualenv to isolate this Python application from the rest of the system.

Installing Python

First you’ll need Python.

sudo apt-get install libpython2.7 python2.7 python2.7-dev python2.7-minimal

The following will also be required to enable all the features Willie supports.

sudo apt-get install enchant python2.7-dev libxslt1-dev libxml2-dev

Remove any apt installed Python packages that we are about to replace. The versions of these packages in the Debian repositories soon get stale.

sudo apt-get purge python-setuptools python-virtualenv python-pip python-profiler

Install pip.

sudo python2.7

Use pip to install virtualenv.

sudo pip install virtualenv --upgrade

The Snakepit

Create a “Snakepit” directory for storing all the Python virtual environments.

mkdir ~/Snakepit

Create a virtualenv for Willie

The following will create a new virtualenv called willie using Python 2.7 as the interpreter.

virtualenv -p /usr/bin/python2.7 ~/Snakepit/willie

Working on a virtualenv

Activate the virtualenv for Willie.

source ~/Snakepit/willie/bin/activate

Your shell prompt will change, something like (willie)user@host:~$, while a virtualenv is being worked on to indicate which virtualenv is currently active.

While working on a virtualenv you can pip install what you need or manually install any Python libraries safe in the knowledge you will not upset any other virtualenvs or the global packages in the process. Very useful for developing a new branch which may have different library requirements than the current stable release.

When you are finished working in a virtualenv you can deactivate it by simply executing deactivate.

Install Willie

I’ve decided to use Python 2.7 to run Willie and therefore have to install backports.ssl_match_hostname which is not required if you use Python 3.3.

pip install willie backports.ssl_match_hostname

Additional functionality

Willie has no external dependencies, besides Python. However, some of the modules do have external dependencies. So install the following Python modules so that I can make use of everything Willie can do.

pip install feedparser pytz lxml praw pyenchant pygeoip ipython --upgrade

Configure Willie

I am not going to explain to how to configure Willie because all that good stuff is very well documented by the project.

But for reference, my default.cfg looks something like this:

nick = nicofyourbot
user = nicofyourbot
name = Give You Bot A Name
host =
use_ssl = true
verify_ssl = true
port = 6697
owner = nicofthebotowner
channels = #example
nickserv_password = ************
prefix = \.
timeout = 120

userdb_type = sqlite
userdb_file = /home/username/.willie/willie.db

Willie as a daemon

From this point on I assume you’ve completed the first run configuration of Willie and have .willie/default.cfg in your home directory.

Add the following to /etc/init.d/willie.

# Provides: willie
# Required-Start: $local_fs $remote_fs
# Required-Stop: $local_fs $remote_fs
# Should-Start: $network
# Should-Stop: $network
# Default-Start: 2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop: 0 1 6
# Short-Description: Willie IRC Bot.
# Description: Start and stops the Willie IRC bot for a given user.

# NOTE! Replace with the user you want to run Willie.

HOMEDIR=$(getent passwd $willie_USER | awk -F: '{print $6}')

startd() {
    if [ -f ${CONFIG} ]; then
        echo "Starting Willie for $willie_USER"
        start-stop-daemon -c $willie_USER -u $willie_USER -x $DAEMON -S -- --config ${CONFIG} --fork --quiet
        echo "Couldn't start Willie for $willie_USER (no $CONFIG found)"

stopd() {
    echo "Stopping Willie for $willie_USER"
    willie_PID=$(pgrep -fu $willie_USER $DAEMON)
    if [ -z "$willie_PID" ]; then
        echo "Willie for USER $willie_USER: not running."
        kill -15 $willie_PID

status() {
    willie_PID=$(pgrep -fu $willie_USER $DAEMON)
    if [ -z "$willie_PID" ]; then
        echo "Willie for USER $willie_USER: not running."
        echo "Willie for USER $willie_USER: running (pid $willie_PID)"

case "$1" in
    start) startd ;;
    stop) stopd ;;
    restart|reload|force-reload) stopd && startd ;;
    status) status ;;
    *) echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/willie {start|stop|reload|force-reload|restart|status}"
       exit 1

exit 0

Set the permissions.

sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/willie

Check that you can start/stop Willie.

sudo /etc/init.d/willie start
sudo /etc/init.d/willie status
sudo /etc/init.d/willie stop

Add willie to the startup/shutdown sequence.

sudo update-rc.d willie defaults

And that’s it. Willie is now running as a daemon inside a virtualenv.