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AOLserver is a darned good free HTTP server acquired by AOL and used on AOL's sites. But it is
freely available from the AOLserver home site, too.
I've been using it for years (see Techspex.com for an example of a
large site based entirely on AOLserver/Tcl.) And now that it's open-source (as of v3.0) I feel a lot
more secure about keeping it in my repertoire.
AOLserver's features may be summarized as follows:
AOLserver is based on the idea of scripting. URLs or URL
trees may be associated with C functions or Tcl functions (Tcl is a scripting language; more on
that below.) Scripts run in threads instead of in processes; this means that they run much more
quickly, with much lower server overhead. Apache can be made to do this, too, with things like
mod_perl and FastCGI, but AOLserver was written from the ground up with scripting in mind. It's
easy to extend and has a good, well-thought-out API.
- Database access
AOLserver defines an excellent database API. Drivers for
new databases are easy to write, and the API is well-integrated with Tcl. Furthermore, AOLserver
manages connection pools to the database. This is another time and resource saving, because
much of the overhead associated with CGI database access is simply the creation of a database
connection and its destruction after the CGI runs. AOLserver's complete database interface is
just icing on the cake; it's a set of quick tools for setting up and populating tables, very
convenient during development.
- Open source
Woo-hoo! As of version 3.0 AOLserver is not only free, but free!
And you know, since it's been open (it's not even out of beta yet) the community has been getting much more
vital. I'm seeing more original development and getting more questions about AOLserver.
AOLserver is an ideal implementation framework for any database-backed website. It's stable
(once you've learned a couple of pitfalls), runs on Unix, it's efficient because it doesn't start
up lots of processes and because it maintains pools of connections to the database, thus avoiding
the need to connect to the database for each hit, and what's more, you can
hire Vivtek to work on it for you or, of course, you can find other people to do so.
- AOLserver home page
Here you can download AOLserver, read the documentation online (very nice), and find out
what's happening with AOLserver in general. You can also subscribe to their mailing list.
- Tcl Information at SCO
A good page of Tcl links provided by the Santa Cruz Operation. Note that AOLserver runs Tcl 7.4,
which is hard to find documented elsewhere. While www.aolserver.com does document the entire
Tcl language for you, it doesn't document the Tcl C API...
- Man pages for the Tcl 7.4 C API.
And gee. Look where it is -- at the Santa Cruz Operation. Essential if you're serious about
||Database-Backed Websites: the Thinking Person's Guide to Web Publishing|
Philip Greenspun, Que, 1997. ISBN 1-56-276530-2
This book is just chock full of good ideas and philosophies about web site design on the
active level, i.e. interactive websites that make sense. You won't find much about layout or
graphics in this book, but you will find out about how to make the Internet work for you.
And Greenspun is heavily influenced by AOLserver. So for a good idea of what you want to do with
AOLserver, take a look at this book; it's well worth the $25 or so that it costs right now.
Check it out at
||Practical Programming in Tcl and Tk|
Brent B. Welch, Prentice-Hall, 1995. ISBN 0-13-182007-9
This is the reference book that we use here at Vivtek. Obviously, the Tk part isn't going to
help you a lot, but Welch provides solid documentation of how to use Tcl, and there aren't all
that many Tcl books out there.
Check it out at