A Poor Man's Database
Huh? What's that?
You've all heard of a Poor Man's Copyright: when you come up with a
great idea and you send it to yourself in the mail to prove it was your
idea. Getting a real copyright can be a pain, and sometimes isn't worth
the effort. A poor man's copyright doesn't have all of the benefits of
a "real" one, but for the small stuff - it usually gets the job done.
When designing a website, the same sort of problem can arise, you have
a project that needs a database
setup, but you either don't have the money
for a database package, or it's such a small database, that using a
commercial package isn't worth the trouble.
Here's one such scenario: I was designing a site for two movie theaters in Georgia. They wanted their movie showtimes
on their site, with a link to the movie's website, a picture, a rating,
etc. I tried doing it the old fashioned
HTML way, but I found that I was typing
in the same information over and over, (after all, Kate Winslet is
always a star of Titanic). They change the showtimes 2 or 3 times a
week, so I found myself typing in that information too many times. The
approximately 10 movies a week certainly didn't merit a
or Oracle. So I decided
to use a series of small text files as a database instead.
is an interpreted language that's available on most web server
packages. It's not platform or operating system dependent, and it's easy
to learn and use.
OK-This is a great idea. What do I need?
The recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, 2 ounces of chocolate and...
- 1 web server with FTP access: It must have CGI and Perl capabilities (most
modern web servers do). A "small business" account from an
ISP will generally
work, Geocities, Tripod or Angelfire accounts will not; they don't have CGI access.
A note about Windows NT IIS servers -- your server's administrator may
need to add the Perl language to the server. A free copy can be downloaded
ActiveState Tool Corp
- 1 copy of WS-FTP, or another FTP
program that supports
All scripts will need to be set to "7-5-5"
which means you should check all boxes in the owner column, and the read
and execute box in the group and other columns.
- 1 copy of
CGI-LIB.PL. This is a Perl library that will make your HTML forms useable in a Perl Script.
- Knowledge of a programming language: You don't need to know Perl, but
this article assumes that you know variables and loops and other common
- Know where the Perl program is located on your web server. Also know the
path to your documents. A quick email to your system operator should
get you these pieces of information. Still not sure? There's more
information about this later on in this article. A note about Windows NT IIS servers -- on a properly configured NT
server, knowing where Perl is located is not necessary