NetAlive Corporate Edition

Overview

The corporate edition lets a Webmaster create an information service. The service can be internal to a company (intranet) or on the public Internet. The Webmaster can:

One creates a service by modifying the Valley Talk application with the NetAlive system and posting the result to the Web. The modification can be done either by a Webmaster or NetAlive Inc. under contract.

Controlling sources

A Webmaster controls NetAlive's sources at four levels:

1. Pre-configuration. Users install NetAlive pre-configured for certain sources. For example, the "Valley Talk" configuration monitors a selection of Silicon Valley hi-tech sites. A Webmaster might change Valley Talk and save the result as "XYZ Corporate News."

2. Agent palettes. Users control NetAlive sources by replacing agents with agents from a palette. NetAlive comes with a default palette containing a variety of agents of general interest. However, the company can remove agents from a palette if they are contrary to the company's interest or otherwise inappropriate. To remove agents, a Webmaster loads a palette in the NetAlive design tool, removes agents, and saves the result to a Web server.

Creating a new Valley Talk source3. New agents. A Webmaster can add completely new agents. By making a new agent, the company can expose employees to specific industry- or company-wide information or corporate information specific to the user. Sources can reside on any Web server inside or outside the company's internal network and can be documents or databases. If the source has the same "format" as an existing source, adding a new agent can be as easy as changing the URL in an existing agent. In other cases, the Webmaster must write a Perl script to convert the source's format to NetAlive's internal form. Most Webmasters can write Perl scripts. See the figure below.

The figure (right or above) shows the construction of an agent. The "category" selector selects a agent within a palette. The form in the main screen selects the source language, source code, rerun period, etc. The "Quick Edit" button brings up the "Edit" window for editing of the Perl script. The Design tool's features are more extensive; see http://www.netalive.com/tool.htm.

4. Permitted reconfigurations. A Webmaster can control the amount of reconfiguration permitted by end-users to the following levels:

  1. No configuration changes allowed. Suitable for a kiosk in a corporate lobby.
  2. User may change parameters within existing agents but cannot change agents. For example, the user could change the ticker symbol for a stock-price-reporting agent (if it was so configured) but could not replace the stock-price-reporting agent with a sports agent.
  3. User may configure agents from those available in a palette, but cannot use other agents. If the company decided to eliminate a sports-related agent, this would prevent an employee from going to NetAlive's Web site to get the agent anyway.
  4. Unlimited configuration permitted. For the Webmaster.
  5. Access control. A Webmaster can create multiple versions of applications, palettes, and agents varying items 1-4 above. If the server distributing them has access controls in place, the resulting system can be effective for controlled information.

Adding New Source Agents

Source agents have three parts: a URL, a Perl script, and a setup GUI.

The URL specifies the Web document that the agent will process. The URL is often hard-coded. However, the user can also change a portion of the URL through the setup GUI.

The Perl script is the central feature of a source agent. The Perl script converts raw data from the Web (typically HTML) and outputs data records neatly divided into fields. The first function of the Perl script is to read data from the Web, which requires an understanding of the document's format. Then the Perl script must create data records consistent with some objective.

Proper selection of the agent's objective is a strategic issue. The Webmaster must decide how to separate a document into ideas. Is each sentence an idea? Or each paragraph? The answer depends on the data on the document and the use to which it is put. However, once the document can be divided into ideas, each gets the following fields:

  1. Headline. A description of the concept as a single line of text. Since the headline may be truncated for display, the important words or phrases should appear at the beginning. If empty, the system will display the concept using only the graphic.
  2. Call-to-action URL. A URL responsive to a user's request for more information.
  3. Source name. A phrase describing the source.
  4. Graphic URL. If the idea has an associated graphic, this is its URL. If this field is blank, the system may present the idea without graphics or with generic graphics.
  5. Advertisement URL. The URL of a graphic that the system will display periodically.
  6. Advertisement call-to-action URL. A URL to which the user is directed if they express interest in the advertisement. [Not implemented.]
  7. Numeric value. A numeric field, such as a price. Reserved for future use in price comparison applications. [Not implemented.]

The Perl script may be hard-coded or the user can change a portion of it through the setup GUI.

The setup GUI is very simple in the current version of NetAlive. The NetAlive design tool permits each agent to have several textual parameters. The user sees an application-specific caption for each parameter and can edit the value of the parameter. NetAlive replaces certain keywords in the URL and Perl script with the values of the parameters.

Valley Talk network engineering issuesControlling Network Resources

Webmasters can place NetAlive's binaries on an internal Web server for added security. The NetAlive system supports automatic updates of "plug-ins" and "applets." Maintaining NetAlive binaries on an internal Web server gives the company control over updates and eliminates security concerns about importing binaries from outside the internal network. See the figure (right).

The figure (right or above) shows the NetAlive system accessing an internal "Security Server" (1), but which defaults to NetAlive Inc.'s server (2).The figure shows NetAlive accessing an external source directly (3) or through an internal server caching the data (4). The figure above also shows an internal server with internal data (5).

Webmasters can control the path through the network to NetAlive sources. Each agent can access data from an arbitrary URL. By favoring sources from internal or external servers, the company can control the load on internal servers versus gateways, etc. Furthermore, a Webmaster can configure internal servers to "cache" data from external servers (this may require permission from the external server's owner due to copyright concerns). See the figure above.

Webmasters can control update schedules. Each agent contains parameters that control how often a user's computer access the source when left running continuously. A Webmaster can set these parameters in the palette to trade-off network bandwidth for currency on a source-by-source basis.

Changing the Alert

The NetAlive default alert is a Macromedia Director movie played through a Shockwave plug-in. Macromedia Director is a widely-used multimedia design tool.


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This is part 5 of a 5 part document:
NetAlive News Gathering Valley Talk News Magazine Details.and Use
Adding a New Source Corporate Edition
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