OpenACS began as a sophisticated data model for community web sites, along with a large number of web/database templates written in Tcl. Over time, it has grown into a much larger project with a number of facets: independent packages that can upgrade both programs and the data model, the ability to work seamlessly with either Oracle or PostgreSQL and a sophisticated templating system that separates programs from the HTML output. And, OpenACS comes with a huge number of prebuilt applications that do about everything you would want for a community web site, from weblogs to fora and FAQs to an ecommerce store. With nothing more than your web browser, you can create a site in very little time.
And indeed, I find myself recommending OpenACS again and again to nonprofits that want to create on-line communities, reach out to their constituents, conduct discussions among the members or publicize information easily, without needing to know much in the way of technology.
That said, OpenACS has a number of issues. First and foremost is the learning curve. Zope's learning curve is difficult because there are so many technologies to understand. OpenACS has a much simpler model, but it stores absolutely everything in a relational database. This means the data is all in one place, but relational databases are notoriously bad at dealing with hierarchies, and all of the clever OpenACS developers in the world cannot mask that.
Thus, learning to work with OpenACS requires that you learn how to implement a simple object inheritance system and the extensive API that allows you to do it. If you haven't ever written stored procedures or worked with databases containing dozens or hundreds of tables, then you may be overwhelmed by the knowledge necessary to work with OpenACS.
OpenACS also suffers from little documentation for developers and none for end users. OpenACS is admittedly a complex system that can be difficult to describe to nontechnical people, but it can be maddening to find nothing to help with that. To their credit, the main openacs.org site was recently remodeled and rewritten shortly before I wrote this article and seems to have made some positive headway in this direction.
Finally, I find it somewhat ironic that OpenACS has become increasingly sluggish over time. Granted, this is because the latest version (4.x, as of this writing) is far more clever about users, groups and permissions than its predecessors, and checking these things with each HTTP request takes time. In addition, the developers know many optimizations still can be made, such that each request doesn't require quite so many database queries.
Several days before I wrote this article, a new report appeared on the Web describing how Yahoo has settled on PHP as a web programming environment. I personally prefer to work in other languages and wouldn't relish the idea of rewriting all of Yahoo in a new language. But for Yahoo's particular needs, it seems like PHP is indeed a good choice. I give them credit for considering all of the options, weighing the pluses and minuses and coming to a conclusion that fit their needs.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I am a firm believer in finding a technology that meets the needs of the problem at hand. As a developer, this means I'm constantly forced to learn new languages, technologies and techniques. At the same time, this means my clients can get a solution that's appropriate for their problems, and I gain broader skills and depth as a software engineer.
The fact that these systems are available free of charge via the Internet means that the only thing stopping you from trying them is time and some effort. I strongly encourage you to find the time to work with them; you and the people you work with will undoubtedly enjoy the results.
Reuven M. Lerner is a consultant specializing in web/database applications and open-source software. His book, Core Perl, was published in January 2002 by Prentice Hall. Reuven lives in Modi'in, Israel, with his wife and daughter.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide