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A Squeak-based Wiki server

THIS WEEK's main theme is based on the free open source programming language Squeak and the Wiki web server Swiki developed with it.

Wiki server: A Wiki is a collaborative web site with pages editable by anyone on the Net anytime. NetSpeak has earlier featured several free tools available on the Net that can be deployed to build Wiki sites. Here, another free feature-packed Wiki server, developed using the programming language Squeak is explored. Before moving further on this subject, let us look at the features and potential of Squeak.

Squeak: Squeak is a free open-source implementation of the object-oriented programming language smalltalk. Available on multiple platforms that include Linux, Mac and Windows, squeak can be downloaded free from: http://www.squeak.org. The language, which has the strong support of an active user community, has many powerful commands for features such as multimedia, networking and graphics.

Components of squeak archive: When you extract the squeak archive, generally you will find a squeak image file (file with extension `.image'), a changes file (file with extension `.changes'), a sources file (file with extension `.sources') and the squeak interpreter, also called the squeak virtual machine (VM). Barring the interpreter, the files are platform independent.

If you are a Windows user, you can access the squeak short cut through the normal `Start/Programs/Squeak.' Once the software is loaded, you will see the squeak's interface with many windows. You may either minimise or clear these windows so that you will get a clean interface. To access the features/tools of squeak, you have to invoke squeak's main menu (also called `World' menu) by clicking on a blank portion of squeak desktop.

For example, if you want to access the e-mail reader that comes as a part of squeak, click on a blank space on the desktop and invoke the `World' menu. Now, select the option `open' and then click at the option `email reader.' Apart from the email reader, you can access squeak tools such as web browser and IRC client this way.

As already mentioned, squeak provides rich tools for many network related tasks. For example, with just one command, you can grab a web page and place its contents on the clipboard. Here is the code to do it (taken from the link: http://minnow.cc.gatech.edu/squeak/116):

Clipboard clipboardText: `http://www. squeak.org/' asUrl retrieveContents content.

To try this code, first invoke the `WorkSpace' window using the World menu (invoke the `World' menu, select `open,' then select the option `workspace'). Now, type the above squeak code in the `WorkSpace' window and execute the command (right-click, then click on the `do it' button). At this point squeak will fetch the specified web page from the Net and put it on to your machine's clipboard. To test whether the command worked or not, invoke a text editor, and paste the clipboard content.

Swiki (Squeak+Wiki = Swiki): Swiki, the Wiki web server developed through squeak is another excellent squeak-based product. After downloading the Swiki archive, it will take only a few seconds for you to implement a Wiki web in your machine or Intranet.

Like other Wiki servers, Swiki allows you to host Wiki web sites with pages that can be edited by anyone on the Web. You can also create new pages.

A notable feature of Swiki is that you can have password protected web pages and can lock portions of a web page to prevent others from changing existing content; they can only add new content to the page.

Every page in a Swiki web site contains a set of buttons that provide access to various features/tools. Another feature worth mentioning is the facility lets you upload documents to the web server, which can later be accessed through the page from which it was uploaded. This will be of immense use to people involved in collaborative work. For example, students from the same class can use this facility to share documents on a specific topic. For more details, check out: http://minnow.cc. gatech.edu/swiki

Swiki.net: a free Swiki service

Perhaps some of you may like to avoid the hassles of downloading/installing the Swiki server or may not have access to a server to try out this tool. You may then try out the free Swiki web hosting service, Swiki.net (http://www.swiki.net/). This free service can be used to create your own Swiki with a URL of the form `your-name.wiki.net.' By just going through a simple sign-up process, you can create a feature-packed Wiki site for free. Check out the demo Swiki (http://netspeak-wiki.swiki.net/) created by this author.

It is likely that many of you maintain a web page or are planning to have one. It is obvious that a vibrant discussion forum is an essential component of a vibrant and interactive web site. If you are running a collaborative web site an active discussion forum with tools that enable users to create their own discussion threads is a must. Though many free tools are available to build forums, many of them need database support that may not be available on all free web space services. SimpleForum is a simple PERL-based forum tool that can be easily deployed to incorporate discussion forums on your site. For more details, check out: http://simple forum.go.dyndns.org/.

Computer Profiler

There are times when you may want details of your computer — such as memory installed, used, not yet used; details on the CPU, disk drives, network interface and printers. Try out the free software `Computer Profiler,' available for download at: http://www.karenware.com/ powertools/ptprofiler.asp.

Apart from displaying all the above information, the utility lists out details of all the programs installed in your machine. From this list you can make out details such as whether the program is a system component or it can be uninstalled. You can even save the displayed information on to a disk or copy to the clipboard.

J. Murali

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

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