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Linux Journal March 2013, #227 (Digital)

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Issue #227, March 2013

Remembering Spidey

Back before Google was born, and even longer before it became a verb, the World Wide Web was often searched by a little spider on a surfboard. Webcrawler was to many of us in the mid 1990s what Google is to the entire planet now. Of course, now I use Google to search the Internet, but in its day, that little spider was the gateway to knowledge. Times have changed, and the Internet has grown. Likewise, Web development in general has changed drastically during the past 20 years. Gone are the blink tags and "under construction" animated GIFs. Gone is Geocities. Even the giant AOL is a shadow of its former self. This month, we look at Web development as it is today, built on the best Web development platform available, which in our opinion, is Linux.

Our own Katherine Druckman starts the issue with a look at Drupal and what to expect with Drupal 8—specifically from the perspective of Drupal community members from all over the world. It's no secret Katherine loves Drupal, and she's able to share with us the views of kindred spirits. Feeling right at home himself this issue, Reuven M. Lerner teaches how to use Watir, a tool for browser-testing Ruby code without the need to start up and navigate the various browsers manually. If you test your code (and you should), Watir is worth checking out.

Dave Taylor continues his series on Cribbage this month, and turns a game I have always called "that one with the pegs" into an interesting and fairly complex script. If you like math, you'll fall in love with Dave's version of Cribbage. Kyle Rankin deals with Pi this month, but unlike Dave, Kyle's Pi is of the raspberry variety. He returns to his beer fridge, and makes it both more efficient and more modern. We're sure there are things the Raspberry Pi can't do, but so far, they elude us.

Even I get into the spirit of Web development a bit this month. Granted my contribution is about three lines of PHP, but it's an integral part of my column on problem solving with Linux. My dynamic DNS service decided to delete my account one day, so I decided to use Linux tools and scripting hacks to fix the problem on my own. If you need a primer on thinking outside the box, I guarantee my method doesn't exist in any box.

Alexander Castillo describes all the things a front-end developer should know about Drupal. Every version of Drupal brings new features, and for the last few releases, the learning curve has been declining steadily. Whether you're creating entire Drupal themes or just want to customize some CSS, Alexander's article is invaluable.

Developing code on your own dev box is a noble tradition and one that works well for many environments. Once the environment grows to include multiple developers, multiple environments for test and production and multiple locations, keeping things similar can be a nightmare. Ben Hosmer looks at Salt Stack and Vagrant this month. Although the two might sound like pirate names, they're actually a set of applications that can keep your development environments similar, with very little effort.

If you think JavaScript has had its day in the sun, and it's time for something newer, you're in luck. This month, James Slocum demos a completely different tool for interactive Web programs—Dart. The language is from Google, which implies it's not a fly-by-night idea. Dart is still very new, but the idea is exciting. James explains how it works and even gives a demonstration of it in action.

The Internet and the World Wide Web aren't going away any time soon. In fact, as Web sites become more and more complex, scaling to meet demand is a challenge. Pablo Graziano shows how to use Varnish as a reverse-caching proxy to speed up server response time and help scale heavy loads. Pablo walks through setting up, configuring and tweaking your system to squeeze every bit of performance possible out of your Web servers.

When Spidey the surfboard-riding Webcrawler was first introduced, it indexed a whopping 4,000 Web sites. The Web has grown significantly since then, and thanks to Web developers, its usefulness has grown as well. Whether your first search engine was Webcrawler or you were born after Google became a verb, this issue should be interesting. I know we liked putting it together.

136 pages.

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