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CGI Programming With Perl 5

by Gunther Birznieks, Scott Guelich, and Shishir Gundavaram

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The appearance of the second edition of CGI Programming with Perl heralds the beginning of the neoclassical era of Web service. CGI--or common gateway interface--is the original back end for client-driven, dynamic Web-page service and deserves consideration as the Romulus of the Internet Empire. But, where first-edition author Gundavaram described the lonely Romulus laying the brick foundation of dynamic Web-page service in 1996, second-edition collaborators Guelich and Birznieks have pitched in to resurrect Romulus amid the crowded streets of modern Rome. Why bother? Surely four years have brought technological revolutions (Java, PHP, ASP, ColdFusion) that render CGI's original brick-by-brick approach as obsolete as, say, Roman mythology--or bricks and mortar.

And yet not. It is an ambiguous blessing that the original CGI persists, adhering to the underside of Web service by the duct tape that is Perl. This point is not missed by Guelich, Gundavaram, and Birznieks, whose advocacy of CGI is both bolstered by the growing applications module base of Perl and tempered by their awareness of CGI's structural limitations. Both new and returning readers of CGI Programming with Perl should browse the last chapter first in order to appreciate the proposed solutions to CGI's greatest sin: its impractical slowness in a world of a million-hits-per-day Web service. The chapter describes CGI-compatible FastCGI and mod_perl technologies that circumvent the process-spawning slowness of the simple CGI. Advanced users might want to skip directly to O'Reilly's fine mod_perl tome, Writing Apache Modules with Perl and C, by Lincoln Stein and Doug MacEachern.

The authors' second pass at CGI pedagogy is a lucid, honest, and expanded account that develops functionality of dynamic Web pages in a rational progression--from HTML client-server and CGI syntax basics to general input/output, forms, e-mail, graphics, and simple database applications, including maintaining client state and data persistence under the otherwise stateless HTTP protocol. The authors offer synopses of cookies, JavaScripting, server security, and XML, all of which are described in detail in other books.

Whether or not neoclassical CGI is fast enough for your purposes--perhaps for guarded intranets--bear in mind that CGI is the standard to which every other Web server has had to respond. The second edition of CGI Programming with Perl is still the best introduction to the classics. --Peter Leopold

Book Description
Programming on the Web today can involve any of several technologies, but the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) has held its ground as the most mature method--and one of the most powerful ones--of providing dynamic web content. CGI is a generic interface for calling external programs to crunch numbers, query databases, generate customized graphics, or perform any other server-side task. There was a time when CGI was the only game in town for server-side programming; today, although we have ASP, PHP, Java servlets, and ColdFusion (among others), CGI continues to be the most ubiquitous server-side technology on the Web. CGI programs can be written in any programming language, but Perl is by far the most popular language for CGI. Initially developed over a decade ago for text processing, Perl has evolved into a powerful object-oriented language, while retaining its simplicity of use. CGI programmers appreciate Perl's text manipulation features and its CGI.pm module, which gives a well-integrated object-oriented interface to practically all CGI-related tasks. While other languages might be more elegant or more efficient, Perl is still considered the primary language for CGI. CGI Programming with Perl, Second Edition, offers a comprehensive explanation of using CGI to serve dynamic web content. Based on the best-selling CGI Programming on the World Wide Web, this edition has been completely rewritten to demonstrate current techniques available with the CGI.pm module and the latest versions of Perl. The book starts at the beginning, by explaining how CGI works, and then moves swiftly into the subtle details of developing CGI programs. Topics include:

  • Incorporating JavaScript for form validation
  • Controlling browser caching
  • Making CGI scripts secure in Perl
  • Working with databases
  • Creating simple search engines
  • Maintaining state between multiple sessions
  • Generating graphics dynamically
  • Improving performance of your CGI scripts

Book Info
Shows how to use CGI to deliver dynamic content on websites. Demonstrates current techniques available with the CGI.pm module and the latest versions of Perl. Explains how CGI and the underlying HTTP protocol work, and then moves quickly into the important details of developing CGI programs. Previous edition: c1996. Softcover.



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