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Why Arent You Using CGI?


The very name CGI used to send chills up my spine. Foryears I put it in the 'too-hard-basket'. But like mostthings in life, CGI is not as scary as it seems. Ifyou have a cgi directory on your website and you knowhow to FTP files, chances are you can have a CGIscript up and running in less than 20 minutes.

CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is not a programminglanguage but a standard that allows visitors tointeract with your website. CGI scripts can be writtenin a number of different languages but most arewritten in Perl (Practical Extraction and ReportingLanguage).

This article gives you details of five free CGI scriptsthat will do the following:

1. Mail out your Newsletter from your server 2. Track the number of times your free E-Book is

downloaded 3. Rotate banners on your website 4. Create your own auto responders 5. Allow visitors to recommend your website to friends

At the end of this article are details of where todownload these 5 free scripts. But first, here aresome basic guidelines on how to configure and installCGI scripts:

1. CGI programs usually come in a zip file. Unzip thefile and open the README file. This document will giveyou instructions for configuring the program file.

2. Open the program file using a text editor such asNOTEPAD (the program file will usually have the fileextension .cgi but may have other extensions such as.pl).

In most CGI programs you will have to configure thefollowing 4 items:

(a) the path to perl

This is where the perl program resides on your server.The path will usually be:

#!/usr/bin/perl

but could be:

#!/usr/local/bin/perl

If you're unsure what your 'path to perl' is, checkyour web host's online 'manual' or FAQs. If you can'tfind it there, simply ask your web host.

(b) the path to sendmail

Most CGI programs notify you when your visitors havecompleted a particular action, and for that, theprogram needs to know where the 'sendmail' programresides on your server. The path to your UNIX sendmailprogram will usually be: /usr/sbin/sendmail

But it could also be something like this:/usr/lib/sendmail

Again, check the documentation on your web host'swebsite, or simply ask your web host.

(c) the absolute path to your CGI directory

The absolute path tells the CGI program exactly whereto find the file (or files) that it needs to open.Unfortunately, the absolute path to your CGI directoryis not something you will be able to guess or deduce -it is completely arbitrary and depends entirely on howthe system administrator at your web host haspartitioned your host's hard drive.

The easiest way to find out your absolute path is toask your web host. Another way is by using telnet -just type in pwd (print working directory) and thatshould give you your absolute path.

(d) Your email address

This is the address that the CGI program will use tonotify you when an action has been completed.

3. Uploading

Upload the program files to your cgi-bin (or adirectory off your cgi-bin) using ASCII mode. Neveruse BINARY mode, as this will play havoc with theline-breaks in the script.

4. Set the File Permissions using CHMOD

CHMOD (changing mode) is the term for setting securitypermissions on files. The README file will usuallytell you the permissions that you need to set for eachfile. The script file will need to be set to 755. Thisallows the file's owner to read, write, and executethe file; anyone else can only read and execute it.

You can set the permissions using telnet, but theeasiest way is to use the built-in option in your FTPprogram.

5. Calling the Script

Now that you've configured the script, uploaded it andset the permissions, it's time to try it out! You dothis by 'calling the script' using a URL in an HTMLdocument. This is what the URL for calling your scriptwill normally look like:

yourdomain.com/cgi-bin/script.cgi

Again, the README file should have specificinstructions on how to call the script. In addition,most CGI programs are accompanied by a web pagethat contains the form your visitors would use tocall the script.

And now here are the details of the 5 free CGIscripts I mentioned earlier:

-----------------------Subscribe Me Lite-----------------------

Subscribe Me Lite is a program that allowsprospects/customers to automatically subscribe and/orunsubscribe themselves from your mailing list. It hasa built-in mass mailing form for sending out yournewsletter or updates.

More Information:cgiscriptcenter.com/subscribe/index2.html

-----------------------Rob's File Tracker-----------------------

Rob's File Tracker is a perl script that counts filedownloads or click-thrus to any file. Very useful ifyou want to know how many people are downloading yourfree E-Book.

More Information:robplanet.com/cgi/tracker/

-----------------------AdRotate Pro-----------------------

AdRotate Pro is an ad rotation program that's easy tosetup and easy to use. Features include unlimitedrotations, expiry by date, views or clicks, defaultads for when all ads are expired, and customerreports.

More Information: vanbrunt.com/adrotate/

-----------------------MasterRecommend-----------------------

This script allows visitors to recommend your websiteto a friend by sending an email, without leaving yourwebsite. The program will also send you a copy of yourvisitor's message (nice to know what your visitorsthink about your website).

More Information:willmaster.com/master/recommend/MasterRecommendmanual.html

-----------------------Master Auto-Responder-----------------------

This is a standard auto-responder program. Thescript allows you to set the "From:" and "Subject:"lines for your auto-response.You can also choose toreceive a copy of each email that the auto-responderreceives.

More Information:mastercgi.com/howtoinfo/howautoresponderswork.shtml

If you need more help installing your CGI scripts, hereare two excellent free tutorials:

spider-food.net/install-a-cgi-script.htmlstefan-pettersson.nu/scripts/tutorials/installcgi.html

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Michael Southon has been writing for the Internet for over 3
years. He has shown hundreds of webmasters how to use this
simple technique to build a successful online business. Click
here to find out more: ezine-writer.com/
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