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Getting Started With ColdFusion at UNT

By Shannon Eric Peevey, UNT Central Web Support

Shannon will be teaching two Short Courses on ColdFusion this semester. Check the Short Course schedule for dates, times, and locations. -- Ed. 

In this month's Benchmarks Online article, I would like to give you a step-by-step guide for getting started with ColdFusion here at the University of North Texas. I know that there is a growing interest in ColdFusion, and as I have finally reached a place of relative calm, I am going to begin writing material that will help you to become acquainted with the ColdFusion server here at UNT. This material will cover a wide-range of topics about ColdFusion, and will help you to discover the magic and the ease with which you can use it.

As you know, the University of North Texas is a place of learning and openness, but in the area of technological security, UNT cannot afford to be open. We are being bombarded with worms, viruses, ports scans and hack attempts, and we must stay on our toes to keep these people out. (Sometimes, even with the security measures that we take, we still get hacked, or broken into.) As a cutting edge university, we understand the need for public access to personal information via the internet, but our main responsibility is to safeguard your information from prying eyes that would use that information in unseemly ways. That is why we only allow the use of ColdFusion for dynamic content on our UNT Websites. ColdFusion is usually considered more secure than many scripting languages, allowing us to be assured that the scripts that you are writing will not open security holes on our Web servers. If this were not the case, we would have to inspect every script that you wrote for possible security holes or exploits, and as we are fairly busy, we realize that this is not the best solution for either you, or Central Web Support. Therefore, we are happy to introduce...

ColdFusion: Getting Started

The first step in publishing a ColdFusion Web application at UNT is to E-mail Shannon Peevey, (that's me;-)), at the address found at the end of the article. In this E-mail, let me know that you are interested in writing an application, give me the name that you would like for your Web, and who you would like to have access to author pages for the Website. (I will need the EUID of these people.) After this, I will set up the Web on web2.unt.edu, the server that houses all of our ColdFusion applications, and create accounts for your students/faculty on this Web. You will then receive an E-mail confirmation which lets you know that you can access your Website. (It is important that you test Microsoft FrontPage access to your Website after I E-mail you. I am only human and have made a mistake or two in my life.) If you are having trouble accessing your account through FrontPage, contact me and I will double-check the accounts that I created for you.

After I create your Web and accounts, you will be able to connect to your Website and begin creating ColdFusion applications. It may take a little time to become acquainted with ColdFusion, (check out the second article in this series, "Your First ColdFusion Program", in next month's Benchmarks Online), but I am sure that you will be able to master the main ColdFusion Markup Language, or CFML, tags without much effort. After you have, you will probably find that you would like to store information in a database. If you do, you will need to create a database and upload it to the _private directory in your Web. (It is important to put the database in the _private directory, as this keeps prying eyes from accessing it's contents from over the internet.) Once you have uploaded the database, you will need to contact me to create a Data Source Name, or DSN, which is the interface through which your ColdFusion application talks to the database. You can tell me what you would like the DSN called, or, if you like, I can name it the same as the database. (Later in another article, I will discuss the use of the DSN and how you access the information from your ColdFusion application, but for now, just know that you will need contact me to create the DSN.)

That's it! When you have completed these few steps, you will have a working Website. But, before getting started writing ColdFusion code, I would recommend that you to do a little searching on the internet for sites that use ColdFusion and start gathering ideas to integrate into your site. (Look at the UNT Calendar at http://web2.unt.edu/calendar and you will see some of the work of our own ColdFusion guru, Kenn Moffitt. Another good site to check for examples of ColdFusion code is http://www.codebeach.com, and my June Benchmarks Online article, "Exciting New Features in ColdFusion 5", is a good source for links to ColdFusion sites around the world.) In next month's article, I will help you get started with writing ColdFusion code, and in the following month, we will look at the DSN and database interaction. So... until then, keep looking for ideas that you would like to implement into your site and ... E-mail me. I would be happy to get you set up!

Thank you and Good Luck!

To contact me, E-mail: speeves@unt.edu

-- The Passengers of Flight 93 --

Heroes Until the End!

September 11, 2001