© 1996-2003 Jan Wolter, Steve Weiss
Backtalk is an advanced web-based computer conferencing system written and distributed by Jan Wolter and Steve Weiss. For general information about Backtalk, see the Backtalk home page. This document describes the procedure for installing Backtalk on a Unix system. The Backtalk Glossary will help you with some of the terminology used here.
We have expended substantial effort to make the installation process for Backtalk as simple as possible, but it is still more complex than most other packages. There is more to it than just doing "./configure; make install". (Though that might be all it takes in a few cases.)
The complexity of installing Backtalk is partly due to Backtalk's high degree of configurability, and partly due to the necessity of interacting with your http server, which may be configured many different ways. The installation process is not, however, as complex as the bulk of this installation manual would suggest (because we do rather run on, don't we?). However we do recommend reading through this manual as you do the installation. If you have questions or problems, please contact us at contact page, so that we can help you and refine this installation guide.
Backtalk must run on a host running some brand of Unix. Sorry, no Windows or Macintosh OS9 versions are available (or likely to be any time soon). Our objective is to make it work on any flavor of Unix. It has actually been tested on a fair variety of Unixes, including (in decreasing order of thoroughness):
One of the key decisions that you will have to make, and which will impact much of the installation process, is what kind of authentication you wish to use. When Backtalk users connect to your conferencing system, they will give a login name and a password to identify themselves. Backtalk can be configured one of three main ways:
Installation will be a bit more complex than the other option, and you will need to obtain the separately distributed mod_auth_external package, and the "pwauth" program included in that package. This is a free extension to the Apache http server which enables secure authentication from Unix shadow password files.
Backtalk supports a fairly large number of moderately standard authentication databases, so there is at least a chance that one of the existing configurations will work for you without modification. If your user database is in an SQL database, then it may be fairly easy to make Backtalk work with that database, as Backtalk's SQL interface is pretty easily customizable. Otherwise, you may have to do some C coding to implement a new authentication module for Backtalk. This is a bit more challenging, but it's still probably going to be a lot easier to modify Backtalk to play nicely with your other applications than to modify them to play nicely with Backtalk.
These installation instructions won't tell you too much about how to customize the authentication system beyond the normal array of options built into Backtalk. There is a separate document with advice on how to customize Backtalk's authentication system to work with pre-existing user databases. Aside from that, the installation is probably going to be similar to the standard "backtalk accounts" installation procedure described here.
To set up Backtalk with real Unix accounts, you will need root access on your system. An installation with Backtalk accounts, however, can be done by anyone with enough access to install cgi-bin programs, though it is simpler if you have root access.
Backtalk can be convinced to cooperate nicely with web versions of Yapp, but it's a somewhat finicky process. Getting along with command-line Yapp or Picospan is simpler.
Once you've decided which of these major variations you want, you are ready to start the installation process. Separate pages describe each part of the installation process: