by July 6, 2001 0 comments

Active Server Pages is a
technology from Microsoft that lets youquickly create dynamic Web pages
using simple server-side scripts. Using languages like VBScript and
JavaScript, scripts embedded in HTML let you do a variety of things like
provide user logins, change the content depending on the user, change the
time of the day, and most importantly, connect to back-end databases and
store, retrieve and manipulate data using the Web as a front-end. Go to
almost any modern e-commerce or shopping site on the Net, and you’ll see
that the extension of the file is ASP. (For details on ASP, see my series in PC Quest,
September (page 104) and October (page 152) 1998).

However, ASP has (or had) one
major drawback. Unlike Perl, which is available for almost any platform, ASP
could be run only on Win NT servers with IIS 3 or above. (Win 9x with
Personal Webserver 4 also supports ASP). But not any more. Using Halcyonsoft’s
iASP, you can serve ASPs from a variety of Webservers and operating system
platforms, which of course include Apache 1.3.x on Red Hat Linux 5.x and

Installing iASP

installing iASP on Red Hat Linux 6.1, you need to have the latest Java
Development Kit installed on your system. This month’s PCQ CD contains the
pre-release version of the JDK1.2 and that works pretty well.

First, install JDK into
/jdk-1.2 on your machine. Next shut down the Apache Webserver. This is
required as iASP makes a few changes in the configuration files and things
don’t get updated if the server is running. You can do this by using the
command “/usr/local/apache/bin/apachectl stop”, assuming Apache is
installed in /usr/local/apache.

Next, install the RPM file of
iASP on the CD using “rpm —ivh iasp*.rpm”. This will create an
iASP directory in /usr/local and copy the required files in it. Now go to
this directory and edit the following files–,,,, In each of these, you’ll
see a line starting with JAVAHOME=. Add the path to where you installed the
JDK. In our case, make the line, JAVAHOME=/jdk-1.2.

Now run the
script in this directory. If you’ve set the variable correctly, you’ll
be able to configure iASP on your system without any problems. Simply answer
the questions as they come. The script asks for the name and version of the
Webserver you’re installing iASP to, and the path to the Apache conf
directory (typically /usr/local/apache/conf) and you’re on your way. To
start the iASP server, run the file. Then restart your
Webserver using /usr/local/apache/bin/apachectl start. Note that if you’ve
custom modules compiled for Apache, these might conflict with iASP. I did
have some problem installing iASP when I had one such module. Removing it
and reinstalling Apache solved the problem. The Indian scenario

There are many who would like to believe
that Open Source software is ideally suited for a resource-challenged country like India.
Those who do so, miss the point that lies at the core of the Open Source movement. The
success of Open Source software has very little to do with the fact that it’s mostly
(though not always) without cost. While many Open Source users are attracted to it because
it’s free, almost always, they stay with it for a much better reason—Open Source
products are also better. A quick look at the list of Indian corporates who’ve
embraced Open Source solutions will drive home a pertinent point—not one of them is
on the list because they couldn’t afford a commercial solution. Free beer gone flat
never attracted anyone.

As one regular poster to the Linux-India
mailing list said: "To believe that cost is an issue with Open Source, is to
misunderstand the etymological roots of the word "Free". Indians are Free, but
Indians are not cheap". He wasn’t just waving the tricolor. He was talking
reason—pure, sound, technical reason. That he was economically right too, was

The success of the Open Source development
model derives from the opportunities provided by the Internet. It’s commonly
acknowledged that cheap (free) Internet access in American (not to forget Finnish)
universities was the fuel that drove the movement. The corollary to this is also sadly,
true—since the bulk of Indian universities took an inordinately long time to get
connected, the list of native Indian Open Source products while growing, still remains
miniscule. What little (but commendable) development that exists here is initiated by
commercial firms porting popular Indian applications to Linux (Tally is a superb example).
The message is clear—as you sow Internet access, so shall you reap Open Source.

It’s time to reverse the trend now.
And fast. Several institutions and universities, notably the IIIT (Hyderabad), as well as
small universities like the Goa University are setting up infrastructure and facilities
for students to jumpstart local Open Source development. Short-term training
programs—like the recent ones on the Linux kernel at the IIIT and on Open source for
corporates at Goa University—are first lunges in clawing our way back into the race.
The list of speakers and resource persons at these two programs reads like a who’s
who of Indian Open Source gurus. The Advanced Center for Informatics (ACI), set up at Goa
University with generous support from the National Informatics Center (NIC) of the
Government of India, aims to promote development, and disseminate support and training for
Open Source products in India. With a firm and steady eye on the economic opportunities
presented by Open Source, the ACI even plans to set up an Open Source incubator for
student projects to help them raise venture capital. It always helps to have a bank next
to a lab.

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