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Introduction

Construction and maintenance of a 400 pages site (in four languages!) are not very simple tasks. Fortunately, there are lot of free software available and they reduce greatly the difficulty. Moreover, they allow me to keep this site free. Rather than inserting a lot of icons and links to original sites of the softwares I use, I prefered to write this page which tries to pay homage to their authors.

Free software

In free software, free is not related to price but to freedom. To my mind, the best free operating system is Linux. Of course, if you don't want to spend a lot of time playing with your system so as to configure it, a good choice is to use the RedHat distribution (version 5.2). You can also try the Suse distribution, which is even easier to install. Debian is another excellent distribution. Linux means freedom of choice!

But Linux wouldn't have appeared without the GNU Project which gave birth to the free software concept.

HTML is a bit boring

Indeed! Despite its name, HTML is not a computer "language": it is a very limited markup language. It is not possible for instance to define macros. in order to make life easier, I DON'T use a wysiwig editor. I think they don't simplify anything and moreover, they maintain the illusion that the Web is "wysiwig" which is entirely false: each navigator has its own way to display the same page. I use the following tools:
  • emacs:
    This is the BEST text editor that ever was. Period. Some strange people don't use it under unix for very strange reasons. Some say (which is true) that emacs is not available on every unix computer, so it is better to use vi which comes bundled with unix... I'm not really convinced by this kind of pseudo-logic.
  • html-helper-mode:
    Ok, emacs is great. But I think the bundled html mode is not so great, so I use the html-helper-mode provided by Nelson Minar.
  • htmlpp:
    Unfortunately, this is not enough. So I use htmlpp, a great preprocessor, written in Perl by Nicolas Thiery. This software allows to include files into others, to define macros, etc. It simplifies greatly both writing and maintenance of a big site.
  • GNU make:
    As pages are now a sort of program (written in htmlpp), I need to compile them into html. In order to have an automatic compilation, I use a makefile, but of course, I use the best make utility, the GNU one.
  • weblint:
    Finally, I need to check my pages are valid HTML 3.2 code. I use for this task weblint (version 1.020), a very powerful tool indeed.

And one day, GIMP was created

I've been waiting for a long time for a Real Program (TM) under Linux. I mean something which was not a development tool or a system utility. Something the Windows/Mac Os world was good at. There was Applixware, a very good office bundle, compatible with Word, Excel and so on. But this was a commercial software.

And one day, Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis created the GIMP. The GIMP is nothing less than a free Photoshop, even better and faster than the original one, with plug ins, scripting language, and so on. To my mind, the GIMP is nothing less than the best software under Linux, a proof that Linux can beat Windows/Mac os at their own game. Of course, every graphic part of this site is made with the GIMP.

What about the Web?

As everybody (half the web servers in the world!), I use the apache web server. Fast, reliable, free, what else do you need?

In order to provide searching services, I use htdig, a great tool.

My server uses qmail for mail handling. Qmail is probably the best mail transport software currently available (and, of course, it is free, but unfortunately in a more restrictive manner than the GPL). In order to handle mailing list, my server uses the companion software to qmail, ezmlm, which is also the fastest and the most secure mailing list software available.

Mail archives are converted to html with MHonArc a very nice perl open source program.


copyright 96-99 Fabrice Rossi (rossi@fr.darkover.org)

source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)