Installing and Operating a VOH Site

This is a first draft

Starting with HTML

When getting started with a Virtual Office Hours operation, the first thing that one needs to do is get a directory from which to start. This can be a directory underneath the server root, as it is with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA (the site at which this service was developed, henceforth referred to as our site), or it (the directory) can be an individual's home account (such as, an option which is particularly useful if your sysadm will give you an account just for the voh service.

At our site we are taking advantage of the fact that with most server's when a directory is requested by a browser, the file index.html is automatically accessed. This allows us to use the short and easy to remember URL: Therefore our "home page" is actually called index.html.

Each of the classes that the site services is a directory of its own, and the motif of above is extended. Each class's home page is an index.html file that resides under a directory named for that class, giving, again, a fairly short, easy to remember URL.

Getting the Question Answer Stuff Running

The short list:
  1. Download the scripts from the distribution area.
  2. Move the scripts into the server's cgi-bin directory. Make sure that they are executable by the server.
  3. Make the appropriate edits to the scripts based on the suggestions made in the comments.
  4. Set up your voh.conf file. This file is the main config file and you just put one line per class (See the voh.conf instructions in the example file).
  5. Set up a qa.html file and questions directory in each class's area. The qa.html file requires a <!-- begin --> line for prepending (this can be removed, but the script has to be modified). Both of these files must be editable by the owner of the server's process (which is often user=nobody group=nogroup). We do this by making both files owned by the group nogroup and giving the group write permission (775 for the directory and 664 for the qa.html file).
  6. Set up the questions submission form so that it provides the proper lecture= field to the script.
  7. Edit the link to the script on the home page for the lecture to have the proper lecture= field.

That should be it...

The long list:

Virtual Office Hours is fairly easy to install. The following steps should get you to a working site in about 15 minutes. All kinds of customization can be done, but that takes more work and is up to the user.


That's it.
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mjw // // Last revision: April 25, 1997