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Webadmin SOC2008

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Revision as of 21:20, 21 April 2008 by BugQ (Talk | contribs)

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This is bugQ's proposal for GSoC 2008.

Picture Frame.png This page contains the design document for an enhancement or feature. It is a work of collaborative development, and may not represent the final design. If you are not part of the development or design group, please post comments and suggestions on the talk page and not in the middle of the design.

BZFWeb will be a web-based control interface for the BZFlag server. As opposed to the existing Javascript/HTML tool for generating config files, this interface will let a BZFS admin control the server remotely through a web browser, and will thus allow other administration and configuration tasks as well. These include, among other things, saving the configuration on the server-side, reading and clearing logs, and controlling and checking the status of the daemon. Ideally, there would be a way to control every aspect of the server from a web browser. The primary focus in designing the interface will be ease of use, but only when not at the cost of security or portability.

An example feature lacking in `bzfs_conf.html` is the ability to edit and save the several other config-related files, like badwords and helpmsg, from within the browser. This is reasonable, since Javascript can't usually write to disk, but for this project, it's a necessity. It could be as simple as a text field, but a more sophisticated interface might be useful, such as a table of banned IP addresses with a custom input form and buttons to remove addresses from the list. Depending on the of complexity and layout of these, a separate page for the editing interface for each file might also be warranted. On the other hand, the daemon will overwrite a few files on exit for the things that can be changed by server commands, like the banlist, so a better option for those might be to let the user issue commands to the server from the web interface, which would give control over other parts of the server, as well.

The user should be able to choose from plugins and maps in pre-defined folders, and upload custom maps. Depending on the relative difficulty, maps might be validated on upload or BZFS will check them on startup. (Although it would be interesting to do the same for plugin files, there probably wouldn't be any nice way of keeping it secure.)

Javascript will be used sparingly, in places where it makes the interface easier to use. Since not all users allow Javascript, of course, any client-side input validation will be mirrored on the server side. If time allows, and if it would add to the usability of the tool in certain areas, some use of asynchronus Javascript messages through XMLHttpRequest might be explored. However, the entire interface must lose no functionality where user scripting is unavailable.

There should also be very few external tools used in this project, so that it can be deployed as widely as possible. It could be written in PHP or another common scripting language, but that would require whatever language chosen to be present on the host machine. Since BZFlag itself is written in C++, using that language would eliminate the dependency. It would also allow the admin interface to be implemented as a plug-in, using the in-port HTTP feature of the BZFS API, which would likely make it more convenient to deploy. However, in order to ease development, I may use a scripting language to create a working prototype and use that as a blueprint to rewrite it in the lower-level language.

BugQ will be carrying out tests on the config files generated by the tool as well as hosting a test server for others to try and give comments on. Suggestions on unnecessary or possible new features should be added to the talk page.