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SITO: A Behind-the-Screens Look

A peek into the technology behind SITO, if someone dares to care.

The Core

Most of what gets dumped out to the browser of you, the discerning viewer, is the results of many magical mystical processes on our beloved server. The majority of these processes are programs (or "scripts", when used on a résumé) written in Perl, an ancient language sharing common roots with Finnish. And let's not forget the very base-stump of the server: the operating system and web server, played this evening by the venerable FreeBSD and Apache, respectively. This all used to run on a random Pentium box we found in the trash! However, in these modern times, as of roughly Halloween 2003, we are cranking on a new, zestier chunk of hardware donated to us from Novia, ever-friends of SITO!

This Perl base is supported by many other wonderful open-source products, most notably MySQL, the software equivalent of a magic talisman that allows you to throw things into a big pile and find them later. Sort of. This is accented on the rare occasion by its cousin PostgreSQL, which is harder to type.

As a side note, I would, at this point, like to put in a big, mushy rant about how all of the wonderful artists, collaborators, viewers, fans, evangelists, and workers that have been supportive of SITO over the years are truly the core of SITO. But this is supposed to be about technology, right? So I will save it for our [in-progress] blubbering "No, Thank YOU" page.

The Code

Certainly, these wonderful open-source packages didn't glue themselves together. Custom-made, state-of-the-art software has to be written to do this gluing. Oodles of such software was (and is being) written to make the gears that grind behind the clockface of SITO. Surprisingly, this software development project is headed by a team of one Lego Mindstorms RCX Robot and Mitra, Monty and Bug, three cats at the SITO Labs.

Human assistance is provided by Ed Stastny and Jon Van Oast. These SITO soldiers have been genetically altered to process caffeine 87% more efficiently, and have had a three-block-long coffee umbilical cord strung from Stumptown Coffee, grafted to holes trepanned in their heads.

Libraries

A collection of Perl libraries provide the basic routines for the main chunks of SITO. One of the fundamental functions in this mix is SUE library, which allows the user's identity to be tracked and used between all the other libraries and scripts.

The Cookie Crumbles

SUE makes use of "cookies" for user identity and "session tracking". We have gone to great lengths to make SITO available under as many different browser-scenarios as possible (even lynx!), with as little compromise to functionality as we can. However, we felt that it was too much of a technical burden to attempt to track a visit to the site without using cookies. Cookie-less and cookie-hating visitors can still peruse the site as a so-called "guest" user, and see very little difference. And if you are cookie-free and still want to participate in Synergy collaborative projects (normally requiring a SITO ID, and thus, cookies), let us know, and we will work something out.

SITO leaves behind four cookie crumbs, shown below. Three are SUE-related, and the fourth is a "session" ID, which mostly is used to remember non-SUE "guests" as they move from page to page.

Power to the People!

SUE users are able to control just about any information on SITO that has to do with them. From demographic information (like user name and home page URL) to copyright preferences to custom notification of site news, SUE allows users to fiddle with these things, based upon their SITO ID.

News-trackin'

Site-wide "news" events (artist additions to projects, important notes, discussion posts, and many more) are tracked, and thus can be reported to users in a variety of ways. This home-made SITO News core winds its way to the furthest corners of SITO activity. We don't even know what it is keeping track of any more.

Talk About It

Also creeping around in the cracks of SITO is a (yet again) custom-built Discussion system, with a variety of topics, including a topic for each SITO ID holder!

All of these bits of bits are stored and manipulated in the good hands of MySQL. Gee, I sure hope that doesn't crash!

Celebrity Guest Appearances

Several found-on-the-net software packages make cameos around SITO. This list includes:

The Close

If you have any questions about the workings behind SITO, please contact us. We have nothing (much) to hide!

For those curious, we will most likely release the software we wrote to interested parties, once we let it run its course for a while, in order to let it settle in place. Our only real hesitation is fear of the overhead of supporting this monster!!

And finally, all of SITO code is 100% Bug-Free. No, really!

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