TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Installing and Using a Wiki

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Wiki

Installing and Using a Wiki

What are Wikis and how to use TWiki

by Mihalis Tsoukalos

The idea for this article came after reading the "Time Management for System Administrators", an excellent book by Thomas Limoncelli. In the book, Limoncelli states that although he has heard about Wikis, he has not had a good opinion about their usefulness because of their strange and somehow funny name. The same thing happened to me. I thought that I should not deal with Wikis because of their humorous name. Limoncelli's book changed my mind, and therefore I decided to learn more about Wikis. I'm writing this article because I find Wikis so useful.

What Are Wikis?

A Wiki is an environment based on Web technologies that allows its users not only to read, but also to change HTML pages in an uncomplicated and simple manner. This makes Wikis very practical for groups and individuals that work using text and hypertext. The more you use and add to a Wiki, the more useful it becomes, and the more useful it becomes, the more you want to add new and more accurate information.

The word Wiki has its roots in the Hawaiian word "Wikiwiki" that means "quick" or "hurry up". The first Wiki was made by Ward Cunningham back in 1995.

The Wiki Philosophy

Every Wiki that respects itself supports, more or less, certain functionalities, while some Wikis support more advanced features. The principles that Wikis conform to, include the following:

  • Editing capabilities. This is the most distinguishing functionality. Only in special and rare situations, certain pages cannot be edited. The edition prohibition should be avoided as it is against the Wiki philosophy.

  • The capability of connecting (linking) a certain Wiki page with another. This functionality creates new structures. As you are going to find out, this feature is supported by what is called a WikiWord. If the referenced Wiki page is not present, and you try to click it from your Web browser with your mouse, this page is going to be automatically created, ready for editing!

  • The capability of keeping historical information about every page in a Wiki. This feature actually stores all previous page versions for all Wiki pages. This makes it easy to find the changes that happened in a page. This is an extremely critical feature because it can protect us from both malicious users and users that change information by mistake on a Wiki page.

  • The capability of examining recent changes. This is a separate informational page that is automatically created by the Wiki itself, and either lists a given number of changes in a page or the changes that happened in a page for a given period of time.

  • The SandBox or PlayGround capability. This capability is similar to the testing grounds in a rally race or like your piece of paper for keeping notes. Using Sandbox, you will learn how to use the whole Wiki system by creating experimental Wiki pages that are later going to be deleted by the system. Experiment in PlayGround as much as you like without fear!

  • The search capability. Last but not least, is the Wikis' capability of searching either whole pages or page titles by keywords. In Wikis with many users and many pages this is an extremely important tool.

Installing TWiki on Mac OS X Tiger

Our Wiki of choice is called TWiki, and is a high- performance, advanced Wiki with many capabilities. In this section you are going to learn how to successfully install TWiki and start working with it. By using it more, you are going to feel more comfortable with it, and therefore you are going to be more productive. What you should have already installed in your Mac are the following:

    1. Apache Web Server: this is installed by default. This article assumes a clean install of Apache and its config files. If Apache is not already running, the following command, executed at the Terminal, will start it running:

    big:~ mtsouk$ apachectl start

    2. The Perl programming language: Tiger installs Perl by default, so, you should not have any problems unless something is terribly wrong with your installation. The Perl executable is located in/usr/bin/perl. The current Perl version, at the time of writing, is 5.8.6.

    3. Various UNIX command line tools: Tiger installs by default most of the required UNIX tools, so you will not probably have any problems.

    4. The RCS software that mainly supports and administers changes in text files. If you have already installed Developer Tools you have RCS already installed. On my Tiger 10.4.6 the rcs binary is installed in /usr/bin/rcs. If, for some reason, you do not have it, you should download the latest Xcode Tools installation package and install it from there.

Most of the installation work must be done inside the main configuration file of the Apache Web server. It is not a particularly difficult job, but you should concentrate while making the changes, as a small typo can make Apache not work at all. Let's see analytically.what the required steps for installing TWiki are:

    1. You should download and install the latest version of TWiki from the URL <http://www.twiki.org/>. At the time of writing this article, the latest TWiki version (Production Release as it is called) is 4.0.1 <http://twiki.org/p/pub/Codev/Release/TWiki-4.0.1.tgz>.

    2. You should now give the following command from a Terminal application in order to uncompress TWiki's files:

    tar zxvf TWiki-4.0.1.tgz

Before executing the above command, it would really useful to be in a separate subdirectory that you created somewhere inside your home directory. The execution of the tar command creates many subdirectories and files as can be seen in figure 1.



Figure 1: The root directory structure of TWiki

    3. You should now give the following command:

    sudo vi /etc/httpd/users/mtsouk.conf

      given that your username is mtsouk. Depending on your own username, you should give the respective command. Also, instead of using the vi editor, you can launch your favorite text editor. [Ed. Note - If you know what you're doing, you can make this change in your global httpd.conf file, too...but if you know what you're doing, you probably already knew that] In the above Apache configuration file, the following text was added:

    # Added for TWiki :
    ScriptAlias /wiki/bin/ "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/bin/"
    Alias /wiki/ "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/"
    <Directory "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/bin">
        AllowOverride all
        Options +ExecCGI
        Allow from all
    </Directory>
    <Directory "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/data">
        Deny from all
    </Directory>
    <Directory "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/lib">
        Deny from all
    </Directory>
    <Directory "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/templates">
        Deny from all
    </Directory>

    4. After setting up your Apache Web server, you should also make a small change in a file called /Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/bin/setlib.cfg. You should change the value of the twikiLibPath variable as follows:

    $twikiLibPath = "/Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/lib";

    5. Then you should also run the following command:

    sudo chown -R www /Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI

    6. You should now make sure that the "Personal Web Sharing" service is turned on. It is located at the Sharing collection of settings inside System Preferences.

    7. The last thing you should do is, to restart Apache in order to activate the changes you made to its configuration file. This can be done using the command that follows:

    sudo apachectl graceful

That's all! Now you are ready to use TWiki from within your own browser! Start at URL <http://localhost/ wiki/bin/configure>, where you should define some primitive parameters. Figure 2 shows how your own picture should look like.



Figure 2: The http://localhost/wiki/bin/configure URL of TWiki

Currently, you should not worry about the displayed error messages, as this is the initial execution of TWiki. By pressing the "General path settings" button, and then going near the end of the displayed page, you will be able to adjust some parameters that are related to directories. The good thing is that TWiki makes proposals about most of the parameters, so you will not have to write them manually. Chances are that most of the proposals are correct! Now, please press the Next button at the end of the page, and you will get a page similar to the one shown in figure 3.



Figure 3: Giving the new password after pressing the "Next" button

You should now define your password by giving it twice, so that the system knows that you typed it correctly. You then press the "Set Password and Save changes" button to tell TWiki to store the new password, and you are directed to a new page that shows the committed changes. You should now press the "Return to configuration" button, at the end of the page. You will then return to your starting configuration page. This TWiki page will contain some warnings or errors, but you can ignore them. Then, you will have to make some changes at the "Store Settings"option. The changes you have to do must be analogous to the settings that are presented in figure 4. Given that your username as well as the installation directory are different from mine, you should adjust your settings accordingly.



Figure 4: Fixing some of the TWiki parameters

You will also need to copy an icon file named favicon.ico inside directory /Library/ WebServer/Documents. favicon.ico is the small icon that is sometimes displayed on the left of the web address field in your web browser. It is also necessary to have the CGI::Session perl module correctly installed. I prefer to utilize the CPAN Perl module, when I want to install a new Perl module, because I find it very handy and easy to use.

You are almost ready to start using the actual capabilities of TWiki. By directing your web browser to the URL <http://localhost/wiki/bin/view>, you will see figure 5.



Figure 5: Using Twiki

Administering TWiki

After successfully installing TWiki, you should now learn how to administer it. In this section, I will speak about the most important administrative tasks, as mentioning all of them would probably require a dedicated book chapter!

Creating a new Web

A Web is an autonomous independent area in TWiki that collects similar pages. It is a good practice to create Webs that have no logical relation to each other.

If you want to create a new Web with TWiki, you should go to the http://localhost/wiki/bin/view/TWiki/ManagingWebs URL. This is illustrated in figure 6. The reason for creating a new Web is mainly for separating logically different areas.



Figure 6: Creating a new Web.

As the text in figure 6 reads, you can rename a web by using the Tools section in its WebPreferences topic, whereas, you can delete a web by moving it into a Trash web.

Administering Users

There are mainly three important tasks that are user-related, and require an administrator to act on:

    1. Resetting a password. You should be a member of the TWikiAdminGroup, have a valid email address and go to the http://localhost/ wiki/bin/view/TWiki/ResetPassword URL in order to reset a password. The instructions inside the email that TWiki sends, will inform the user about the required actions that she needs to take.

    2. Blocking out a user. Although, blocking out a user does not conform to the Wiki philosophy, it is sometimes required to protect the other users. You should not use it very often though. The way to block out a malicious user is to reset his password, for a period of time, without telling him. At the end of the period, you will tell the user his new password and allow him to use TWiki again.

    3. Deleting a user. By describing how "difficult" it is to delete a user, you should understand, well, how often (or rarely) this should happen J. You should first locate a file named .htpasswd. This file holds the passwords of the TWiki users. You should delete the line that begins with the name of the user you want to remove. On my system, this file is located inside directory /Users/mtsouk/Sites/TWIKI/data. Then, you should go to the TWiki page, found in <http://localhost/wiki/bin/view/Main/TWikiUsers>. This page holds the list with all registered users. Figure 7 shows that page on my setup. You should now edit that TWiki page, and remove the user you want. Finally, for security reasons, you should delete any granted special rights the user might have.



Figure 7: The list of all registered TWiki users.

Backing up TWiki

The last important task that I want to mention is how to take a backup of your TWiki data. On my setup, data files are located inside the data directory. I prefer to use tar in combination to gzip, to take backups, so that is what I will show you. Give the "tar czvf ../TWIKIdata.tgz ." command inside the data directory and you are done! If for some reason you do not have the required user permissions to execute a command, put "sudo" in front of the command and try it again.

Using TWiki

In this section, I will only mention the basic procedures of TWiki, and therefore you should look at the extensive TWiki documentation if you want to look for more information.

WikiWords

A WikiWord is two or more words put together without spaces between the words, each of the words being written with an Initial Capital. Each WikiWord represents a topic name and it is advisable to insert WikiWords as often as you can. Correct examples of WikiWords are MacTech, MihalisTsoukalos, MacIntel, and PowerMac, whereas faulty examples of WikiWords are macTech, Powermac, Macbook, and Powerbook.

User Registration in TWiki

The first thing you have to do after the setup is to register yourself in TWiki. Registration can be done from the http://localhost/wiki/bin/view/TWiki/TWikiRegistration URL. If you want to make yourself an administrator, you have to manually access the http://localhost/wiki/bin/view/Main/TWikiAdminGroup TWiki page, and alter the line that says "Set GROUP =" by editing it and adding you own name.

As User Management and Authentication policies are complex issues, it is advisable to check the http://localhost/wiki/bin/view/TWiki/ManagingUsers URL for more information.

Editing Pages

Figure 8 shows an example of editing a new Wiki page in Sandbox whereas figure 9 presents the HTML output of the page. You can see that a Wiki offers many facilities for making your job easier, when creating new Wiki pages. You can even create HTML tables the Wiki way, insert HTML code, insert JavaScript code, and make use of Wiki plugins like the Spreadsheet Plugin. By pressing the question marks on the upper left of the AppleInc, HardWare and SoftWare WikiWords, you can simply create (and edit) new pages for those WikiWords! When we say that ease of use is built in the philosophy of Wikis, we mean it!



Figure 8: Creating a new TWiki page.



Figure 9: The HTML output of Figure 8 input.

If you do not want to create a link for a word that is by nature in a WikiWord format, you should put an exclamation mark in front of it, like !ToDo.

You can find more information about editing TWiki pages at <http://localhost/wiki/bin/view/TWiki/TextFormattingRules>.

A Criticism on Wikis

I will now briefly mention some concerns about Wikis. Please keep in mind that the actual problem comes from users and not from the Wiki philosophy itself. The possible Wiki problems are:

    1. You cannot be forced to use a Wiki, and therefore a Wiki that is not frequently updated will become obsolete.

    2. Wikis are Open Source systems. Therefore, a company must accept the use of Open Source software in order to also accept and use Wikis.

    3. For any information to be useful, it must also be neutral. Biased information does not help the success of a Wiki.

    4. Malicious users may cause problems, although, it is observed that vandalism is fixed very fast.

    5. Flame wars and trolls can occur in Wikis.

Conclusions

It should be clear by now that using a Wiki has many advantages. Their simplicity offers ease of use, and makes many of your jobs simpler. Wikis can also be used for taking simple notes or for writing down certain procedures.

You should practice and keep working with TWiki in order to be able to use it efficiently. At first glance, it seems a little complicated to learn how to efficiently use TWiki. Nevertheless, frequent use will make you feel more relaxed.

You should understand by now the Wiki philosophy, be able to install TWiki, and make the most essential actions on your installed TWiki. Keep on practicing in order to become a Wiki guru!

Bibliography and References


Mihalis Tsoukalos lives in Greece with his wife Eugenia. He is currently writing, "Widget Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach" that will be published by APress. You can reach him at <tsoukalos@sch.gr>.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Macs Fan Control 1.4.4.0 - Monitor and c...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
calibre 2.69.0 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Evernote 6.9.1 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
jAlbum Pro 13.5 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more
jAlbum 13.5 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results - Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Google Chrome 53.0.2785.143 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Chromium 53.0.2785.143 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 53.0.2785.143: [Security Fix] High CVE-2016-... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.1.7.1524 R8 - Financi...
Save 20% on QuickBooks Pro for Mac today through this special discount link QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track... Read more
Sierra Cache Cleaner 11.0.1 - Clear cach...
Sierra Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for macOS X. SCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many macOS X functions. Novice and expert... Read more
Default Folder X 5.0.7 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more

3 tips to aid your journey in Banner Sag...
Stoic Games brings us another viking epic in the guise of Banner Saga 2 this week. It’s a sweeping tale, richly animated and draped in melancholy and moments of beauty. The game’s been received as a much improved follow up to the first entry in the... | Read more »
Pumped BMX 3: Beginner tips and tricks
There’s a whole lot more to Pumped BMX 3 than meets the eye. Your goal is to perform a wide array of sweet flips and tricks, but that’s easier said than done. It takes well practiced timing and coordination, and the game doesn’t really explain that... | Read more »
Cybird’s latest release - BFB Champions...
Launched in the UK in early September, BFB Champions’ newest update is loaded with great new features, and looks set to outshine the original version by taking it out of soft launch and giving it a new lease of life. | Read more »
3 apps to boost your focus
As someone who works from home, my workspace is a minefield of distraction. Cats, tasty snacks, the wind blowing past my window, that cleaning that I suddenly can’t put off any longer. If I let distraction takes its course, I find that soon half... | Read more »
Pumped BMX 3 (Games)
Pumped BMX 3 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The final instalment of the smash hit #1 rated BMX game is here! Following on from the insane success of Pumped BMX 2, Pumped 3... | Read more »
4 games like Burly Men at Sea to inspire...
Burly Men at Sea is out today and it looks a treat. It tells the tale of three Scandinavian fishermen who leave the humdrum of their daily lives to go exploring. It’s a beautiful folksy story that unfurls as you interact with the environment... | Read more »
3 reasons you need to play Kingdom: New...
Developed by a tag team of indie developers - Thomas "Noio" van den Berg and Marco "Licorice" Bancale - Kingdom is a vibrant medieval fantasy adventure that casts players as a king or queen who must expand their empire by exploring the vasts lands... | Read more »
JoyCity have launched a brand new King o...
Great news for all of you Game of Dice fans out there - JoyCity have just released a brand new limited edition pack with a really cool twist. The premise of Game of Dice is fairly straightforward, asking you to roll dice to navigate your way around... | Read more »
Burly Men at Sea (Games)
Burly Men at Sea 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Burly Men at Sea is a folktale about a trio of large, bearded fishermen who step away from the ordinary to seek adventure. | Read more »
3 tips for catching the gnarliest waves...
Like a wave breaking on the shore, Tidal Rider swept its way onto the App Store charts this week settling firmly in the top 10. It’s a one-touch high score-chaser in which you pull surfing stunts while dodging seagulls and collecting coins. The... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

CAZE Annouces New Zero 5 Case for Jet Black i...
Hong Kong basd CAZE has announced Zero 5 case for iPhone 7/ 7 Plus, one of the world’s thinnest clear hard cases, measuring just 0.5 millimeters. CAZE has been producing and improving the Zero 5... Read more
Nest Egg Inventory App for iOS Offers Conven...
Campbell, California based Winprogger LLC has announced the release and immediate availability of Nest Egg – Inventory 4.1.22, an important update to their easy-to-use, yet comprehensive inventory... Read more
Factor4, LLC Launches Apple iOS and Android G...
Factor4, LLC, which offers gift and loyalty services to the SMB marketplace, has released free mobile applications that enable merchants to process via all Apple and Android devices. The Apple and... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina Apple MacBook Pros on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Apple refurbished 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2016 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook... Read more
1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $50
Adorama has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $50 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini (Apple sku# MGEM2LL/A): $449 $50 off MSRP To purchase a mini at... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $759. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook... Read more

Jobs Board

Systems Architecture Prototyping - *Apple*...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Akron,...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Hardware Design Validation Engineer - *Apple...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
Systems Architecture Prototyping - *Apple*...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- South B...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.