freebsd website questions

Simon L. Nielsen simon at
Sun Jun 22 13:30:50 UTC 2008

On 2008.06.19 14:21:02 -0500, Ken Dreyer wrote:

> I am a college student assisting the OpenAFS project with redesigning
> their website. One of the OpenAFS elders mentioned that he liked the
> layout and functionality of FreeBSD's site. I was hoping you could
> give me a few pointers :)
> If you could start from scratch and do things over again, would you
> prefer to use xml/xslt/Makefiles? Most website software has some sort
> of web-based content editor, but I suppose this means no more editing
> with vim/emacs. On the other hand, the current setup seems to limit
> dynamic interaction, as Murray observed in his blog. How much of an
> effect does this have on the community?

It's important to decide what the goal is.  For the main FreeBSD web
site we want all new content to be vetted by trusted people before it
goes, so I that makes the text/file based aproach compared to a CMS
based system is less of a problem.  If you have many
clueless^Wnon-tech people who have to update a site, the tradeoff's
will be different.

I very much prefer static built web sites whenever possible, where one
reason is that I much rather want to edit pages in $EDITOR (emacs for
me) than in some web browser.  Having a static built web site also
mean you can test things off-line much simpler.

Static web sites also makes the publishing part much simpler, in that
you can do it with plain HTTP web server.  This reduces security
problems and means you need much less power of the web site (which is
really nice for traffic spikes).

You can do a lot of fancy things with dynamic web sites, but
really... how often do you need it compared to the pain it causes.

WRT. how to do it with todays technologies I would go with XML + XSLT
+ make as I done for my personal website .
This is based on code which came from a PoC (I think -
not sure) via the TrustedBSD project.

> Murray had mentioned that the XML syntax can be raise the barrier to
> entry for those who aren't web designers. What are some ways around
> this?

Personally I don't really think HTML is that complex and, depending on
your users, should not really be a real problem.  Some people find CMS
(e.g. wiki) markup language simpler, I really think it's the same only

> Lastly, I see that your community uses your wiki a lot. What are your
> thoughts about MoinMoin from an infrastructure admin's point of view?

[hat: main admin]

Generally moinmoin is rather painless to work with from an
administrative point of view and it just takes care of itself.  There
are some work required for upgrading but it turns out not to be as bad
in practice as one should think after reading the moinmoin docs.  I
would still always run it in a FreeBSD jail or similar, but its
security track record is generally OK, especially compared to what
else is out there.

One nice thing about moinmoin from admin point of view is that since
it's entirely file based it's pretty simple to duplicate the wiki to
run test upgrades.  This can of course be done if you have an DB
backend, but not quite as easily.

> I noticed that the Fedora project moved from MoinMoin to Mediawiki
> recently, and I wondered: if you were able to start from scratch, what
> wiki software would you use?

I would probably go with mediawiki as I find it a bit more nice to
work with from a user point of view, but I haven't been admin on a
mediawiki installation, but I hear it's also rather painles.

In a later mail you mention mirrors having PHP or not.  It really
depends on who your mirrors are.  If mirrors are run by people with
security clue they will likely be sceptical of mirroring PHP

(PS. yes, I dislike PHP strongly, among other things, due to the
crappy security record.)

Hope this helps a bit.

Simon L. Nielsen

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