LJ Archive


Developing Webs, Even If You're Not a Spider

Shawn Powers

Issue #197, September 2010

Ever since the early 1990s, we've been stuck on the Web like a fly visiting a spider. Of course, for us, the Web is a useful medium for information delivery, and no giant spider is coming to eat us (depending on the Web sites we visit, I suppose). Although our passion for the Web hasn't ebbed during the past two decades, the Web itself has changed drastically. This month, we focus on Web development. It's exciting to see how integral the Linux operating system is to the Internet, and as the Web changes, so does the way we develop for it.

Behind most good Web applications, there is a database humming along providing data to the user quickly and efficiently. Reuven M. Lerner shows us Redis, which is a high-speed storage and caching system for databases. It's a bit like memcached on steroids. Be sure to take a look if your database could use a speed boost (and really, what database doesn't?). Thankfully, Daniel Bartholomew follows Reuven with a one-two punch and gives us a review on the Zmanda Recovery Manager. The fastest database in the world is useless if you can't recover its data from a disaster, so you'll want to read Daniel's article before going into production.

Although databases are important for any good Web application, for end users, they're about as exciting as watching paint dry—that's where user interfaces come in. Thankfully, many content management systems exist to do all the heavy-lifting for us. Jerad Bitner and Nate Haug show off Drupal this month. The LinuxJournal.com Web site runs Drupal, so we can attest to how wonderful it is for managing large Web sites. Jerad and Nate explain how Drupal can do the same for your Web site, and they provide some tips and tricks to make it perform well regardless of how big your site might become.

For many developers, simply managing content isn't what they need to accomplish. In that case, we've given you a couple different ways to tackle your specific problem. Paul Barry demonstrates how to use App Engine. App Engine is a way to create webapps on Google's infrastructure, completely free. (Well, if your webapp becomes extremely popular, Google will charge you, but initially it's free, which is a price that's hard to beat.) Google's App Engine is extremely flexible and constantly improving, and Paul shows the ins and outs of this relatively new technology. If its newness or its Googliness turns you off, perhaps Christopher Schultz's article on developing Web applications with Java/JSP will be more what you're looking for in a platform. Java has been around for a long time, but that doesn't mean it's old-fashioned. Christopher shows how to make cutting-edge programs in a time-tested language.

Many of us aren't developers at all. I'm certainly not, and yet I still look forward to the Web development issue because I can point my developer friends at new ways to make my life as an end user more exciting. Rick Rogers, for instance, walks through the process for developing portable Web applications for Internet-enabled devices. Whether you use an Android phone or an iPad tablet, or if you just prefer to run mobile apps on your computer (a little user-agent trickery in your browser usually can help there), Rick's article is one you'll want your developer friends to check out. A beautiful Web page is great, but when you're looking at a three-inch screen, it's nice to have a viewing experience designed for such small real estate.

Finally, this is Linux Journal. If this month's issue focus isn't quite your cup of tea, we still have tons of stuff to feed your Linux addiction. Kyle Rankin shows us the ropes with GRUB2, a significant change from the GRUB we all know and love. Dave Taylor teaches us about exit codes to help make our shell scripts a little smarter. Mick Bauer continues his series on transparent firewalls. Even I get into the act with some tips on starting a LUG in your area. Add to that our regular lineup of tech tips, letters to the editor and new product announcements, and you've got an issue bound to inform and entertain. The great thing about Web development with Linux is that no matter how long you stay tangled in this issue, no giant spider will come to eat you. We hope.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for LinuxJournal.com, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at info@linuxjournal.com. Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on Freenode.net.

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