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Open Source content management systems


CONTENT MANAGEMENT systems facilitate the building/maintenance of dynamic web sites/portals/blogs. This week NetSpeak takes a look at the various open-source content management systems.

Thanks to the availability of content management systems, creating a feature-rich web site by a person/organisation is no more a skill-intensive job done by trained professionals. A content management system enables an author to create/alter/edit/delete content on a web page without any HTML or other web skills. Generally CMS tools come packed with many ready-made applications that include discussion board, user management, poll facility, search engine and chat module. Another highlight of these tools is the availability of the web-based data entry interface that allows the content author to directly feed the relevant content.

As with other areas on the Net, in CMS also, the open-source movement has a spectacular hold. Its widespread popularity has led to several open-source CMS programs with varying features. An obvious advantage here is that as the source code is freely available, one can customise a site to any extent.

Most of the open-source CMS programs are written in PHP/ PERL and run in the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/PERL) environment. That is, with minimum knowledge of such web scripting languages as PHP and PERL and access to a web server with database support, one can launch a web site in a few minutes.

Another point worth noting is that the installation requirements/procedures of almost all open source CMS tools follow a common pattern. In most cases, you need to run a set-up script, which will prompt you to provide such parameters as database name, password and the like. For example, to build a web site with the free CMS package, phpWebsite (http://phpwebsite.appstate.edu), after extracting the archive to a directory under the web server's document root, run the set-up script, which will take you to a few input forms and ultimately the site. That is, you will have your site with all the features ready in a few minutes and to achieve this you need not be a highly skilled web technician.

As already mentioned, numerous open-source CMS tools are in place. Plone (http://www.plone.org/), PHPNuke (http://www.phpnuke. com), Postnuke (http://www.postnuke.com/) are a few examples. This abundance of choice presents a challenge to the netizen. Of course, he can download each one of them and test for suitability. But this is a cumbersome and time-consuming process. So, we need a service that steers a person/organisation in the direction of choosing the right CMS tool. This is where the on-line service, opensourceCMS, which provides the opportunity to test different CMS tools from anywhere on the web, becomes significant.

OpensourceCMS

OpensourceCMS (http://www. open sourcecms.com/) is an on-line service created to give the user a chance to experiment with "some of the best php/mysql based free and open source software systems in the world". The service features more than thirty powerful CMS packages that include Mambo (http://www.mamboserver.com/), phpWebThings (http://www. phpdbform.com/), PrattCMS (http://prattcms.sourceforge.net/), ezPublish (http://www.ez.no/) and XOOPS (http://www.xoops.org).

You can select a tool of your choice and try out its features. The service allows a user log-in to any of the sites hosted at its server as administrator, who can manipulate its various elements in whatever way the user wants.

As the service provides full access to a site built through a specific tool, the user gets an opportunity to test all the features of the tool. This way the service enables him/her to arrive at an appropriate tool that fits his/her needs without having to download/install/configure the various packages one by one.

DNSStuff: an on-line DNS query service

While on the Net, you face situations that require you to know more about a remote server. For example, you may need to locate the IP address of the server whose domain name is known or you may need to get the registration details of a domain name. Sometimes your requirement may be to trace the route through which a message from your machine travels to the target. Tools/services such as Whois, Traceroute and the like enable you to obtain the details mentioned above. In this regard an on-line service that provides a common interface for invoking such services as Whois, Traceroute would be quite handy. The DNSStuff (http://www.dnsstuff.com/), which can be used to accomplish such tasks as obtaining the domain name /IP details, checking the validity of an e-mail address, tracing a packet route and more, is a good example.

Another useful on-line service (brought to this author's notice by the NetSpeak reader S. Srinivasan) worth a trial is the Geobytes `IP address Map lookup service' (http://www.geobytes.com/IpLocator.htm) that can be used to determine the geographical location of an IP address.

Thespoke.net: Microsoft Blogging service

A few weeks ago this column mentioned the on-line news service MSN Newsbot (http://uk.newsbot.msn.com/), which was launched recently by Microsoft. Now this company has entered another popular segment, the blog hosting service, which is currently being led by Blogger (http://www.blogger.com). To start a weblog on the blog hosting service provided by Microsoft, access the link: http://www,thespoke.net and run through the sign-up process.

Beonex communicator

Here is another free open-source, multi-platform browser (Beonex Communicator — http://www.beonex.com/) that loads pages reasonably fast. As the browser comes bundled with a chat program (chatzilla), you can use it for both web browsing and chatting.

J. Murali

Email the author at: murali27@satyam.net.in

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