The AutoMagic Web Site
When I first started writing web pages, they were always static
pages: straight HTML. If there was any CGI at all, it was only to
handle forms. No doubt every beginning web master starts out that
way, and if your web site never grows beyond a handful of pages,
that's probably fine. However, as your site grows in complexity,
static pages become burdensome and quite annoying to maintain.
One aside before we dive in completely:
there is a technical difference between dynamic pages and generated
pages that the rest of this article is going to generally ignore. A
or whatever) or may be generated completely from a CGI script. A
generated page can be just static HTML as it sits on the server,
but that HTML very well could have been created by a script or
other program (and of course nothing prevents such a page from also
including dynamic content). What sort of scheme you use to produce
pages varies with your needs and preference; I use all methods
myself and you probably will too.
For example, let's look at the various things that need to
happen when I add a page to my site:
- First, it needs to appear in at least two index pages. This
article belongs in the general Unix
Articles index, the Sitemap index,
and in the Unix Programs index (because it
- Within the main Unix Articles index, any article may need to
appear in more than one place. This article will appear under
Programming, Code, Web/HTML and Perl.
- Every article has links to every "related" article, book review
or link. If those had to be updated manually every time a new page
is added, that alone would be long, tedious and error-prone (there
are more than 200 separate articles at my site as I write this, and
of course more are added every month).
- Every new article has to be added to the proper place in
- The search engine uses index files that need to have
information about this new article added in.
- Each article displays site index navigation links at the top.
Of course, I change that from time to time, and again I don't want
to have to update every article.
- Similarly, each article contains a copyright notice that I may
want to adjust, and each article contains style sheet information
that determines font sizes, etc. I wouldn't want to have to go
through every single article because I decided that the color of my
<H2> tags should change!
All of this is handled by Perl scripts. The generation of the
style sheet classes and the copyright notice is just simple SSI
(Server Side Includes): a line in each file has this, for
<!--#include virtual="/cgi-bin/copyright.pl" -->
As you may already know, such a line (on a server that supports
SSI) will cause the displayed web page to have the text generated
by the script that it calls. The "copyright.pl" generates the
boilerplate copyright, and a similar line generates the style
The rest of it all happens because one line that describes the
article is added to a data file that a number of other programs
read. That data file looks like this:
ARTICLES:/Unixart/linppp.html:Red Hat Linux as a PPP Server:January 1999:Tony Lawrence:Linux|Networking
ARTICLES:/Opinion/java.html:Java? :January 1999:Tony Lawrence:Opinion
ARTICLES:/Reviews/wt5.1.html:Winterm 5000 Terminal:January 1999:Tony Lawrence:Reviews|Modems/Terminals|Networking
ARTICLES:/Reviews/proxyserv.html:Review of Netscape Proxy Server:February 1999:Tony Lawrence:Reviews|Security|Networking
ARTICLES:/Unixart/linkfail.html:Kernel Link Failures:September 2000:Tony Lawrence:Installation|Kernel/Internals
ARTICLES:/Reviews/logmon.html:Logmon Inactivity Reporter:September 2000:Tony Lawrence:Reviews
ARTICLES:/Opinion/technofable.html:Technofable- James Richardson:September 2000:James Richardson:Opinion
ARTICLES:/Linux/linrh70.html:Red Hat 7:October 2000:Tony Lawrence:Linux|Reviews
ARTICLES:/Unixart/vdom_eng.html:Mail in a Virtual Domain:October 2000:Roberto Zini:Mail|Installation
Every index page gets information from this file by way of a
Perl script. Additionally, every page shows pages related to itself
by another script that also reads this file.
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Many of the products and books I review are things I purchased for my own use. Some were given to me specifically for the purpose of reviewing them. I resell or can earn commissions from the sale of some of these items. Links within these pages may be affiliate links that pay me for referring you to them. That's mostly insignificant amounts of money; whenever it is not I have made my relationship plain. I also may own stock in companies mentioned here. If you have any question, please do feel free to contact me.
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