Skynet CGI FAQ
Over the last number of years a couple of people have been having trouble with
their cgi scripts and asking me and others questions, Heres a few of the most
frequently asked questions and their answers
What's this "Internal Server Error" stuff
This is just a generic message, in practically every case it means that
youve made a mistake in the perl (or whatever) script or in the
web page that launched it.
It's a perl cgi and it is isnt working
The first line of the scripts state where the interperter is, most of
the perl ones youll get will say
on skynet (and most linux boxen) perl is located in /usr/bin so change line 1
That still didn't work
Permissions are usually really wrong, not alone must your public_html be
chmod a+x so that the webserver can change dir to it, so must
and the cgi scripts themselves MUST be chmod a+x so that they can be
run! Also if you chmod a+w on them then the webserver will not run them
as its a security risk for you. So setting all permissions on is not going
Still not working
Bloody dos ^M, if you use a perl script written in dos or that class
of os, and uploaded to skynet then it too will fail as there's shit chars
in there that dos uses that linux (and unix in general) doesn't, the
dreaded ^M's, they dont display in many unix editors so you might not be
aware of their existance, vim users can use vim -b to see them, the best
thing to do if you dont know whats going on is to do
thatll remove the ^M's if they're there.
Uploading the cgi file itself from dos to unix using ftp with the ascii
option on instead of binary does this automatically, which is why the
option exists in ftp.
I don't know why the program is failing, how do I find out ?
There exists an error log of httpd disasters on orac that you can look
at. First telnet to www.csn.ul.ie, the machine where the webserver is run
from. Now for example in one term do
tail -f /services/entity/logs/error_log
and a continous list of errors will flow by you as they happen, the best
thing is to do
tail -f /services/entity/logs/error_log|grep username
replace username with your own, now youll get errors belonging to you.
now try and access your cgi and see what happens, you will get useful
info if theres a problem that the webserver encounters with your cgi.
ctrl-c will kill that listing btw.
I still cant get it right
Make sure to edit the launching html file to show the location of your
Ack bloorgle, I'm going to go absolutely mad, run amock and shove this
cgi so far up the ass of the first person i meet, it just doesn't work.
It can be handy in your telnet session to actually run the cgi raw, i.e
and see does it even try to run, it wont work properly in most cases
as you wont have passed any arguments to it, but it should spit something
like html out, not
"error on line 10"
if it does then there's your problem on line 10,
I get a "malformed headers" error message
If the script doesnt work, and you get malformed header as the error
message from the tail on www.csn.ul.ie on the error log that you should
be doing, then remember that the first line of output should be
there should be a blank line after that befome the html starts.
(There are other options for Content-type, but thats the most usual
I still get "malformed headers"
If the owner of the files is different that the user whose cgi-bin dir
there are in, then you'll get this message. This probably will only
happen to incompetent sysadm trying to help folk by leaving scripts
owned by root in other peoples dirs, so remember to change the ownership
to the user himself.
What language should I write cgis in
You should write cgi scripts in perl or sh or some scripting
language rather that c/c++ as if you do then if the website is moved
from one architecture to another then they will work fine, otherwise
they wont, and youll have to recompile. The reasoning here is that
we might get a sun box someday, and the website would move onto it. but
of course it might move back in case of failure of one computer or
for other reasons, so keep those cgi's in perl or sh or something of
I wrote it in c/c++ anyway and its still not working and I did
everything else I was supposed to
Maybe, just maybe you are returning a non 0 value from your c code, or
have defined main as void main(void) which i believe they happily teach
you to do happily in certain unnamed courses, but this can cause grief as
the return value is undefined, and some webservers give out if the cgi
doesnt return 0 (success) and gives errors.
My script which calls another program doesnt work, but the program
definitely is installed on skynet.
The webserver runs on www.csn.ul.ie which is currently a different
machine from www.csn.ul.ie which is on orac.csn.ul.ie. The program
probably isn't installed on that machine. Both machines should share the
same /usr/local and the user directories. While there are similar installed
software on both, the webserver probably has a smaller set of programs
installed on it. Shout at the sysadm about this.
If you want to write cgi's using perl or anything, dont aimlessly
fart around pushing lines of perl all over the shop, adding 200 and
then run it and be surprised it doesnt work, do it one small
bit at a time, line by line if you're new to it, very few write more
than a few line of anything without an error, and with cgi's it can
be hard to track down whats wrong.
Caolan McNamara (1999) <firstname.lastname@example.org>