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The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine
Contributor: In-house

The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine is an easy-to-install search engine for local and remote sites. We review the search engine that promises to offer high quality search queries and results at the fraction of the cost of paid subscription services.

Introduction
The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine is a product developed by Fluid Dynamics Software Corporation ( www.xav.com ) which runs from offices in Delaware, US. The following application description has been carefully scrutinised and edited by us and is based heavily on information generously provided by Fluid Dynamics Software.

Special Offer
Fluid Dynamics offers a 10% special offer discount to users of AbleStable®. Go to http://www.xav.com/scripts/search/ablestable.html to enjoy this benefit.

General Description
The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine (we'll mostly refer to this as FDSE from here on) is a search engine that you install on your own web site. Visitors to your site use it to find files on your site or on a small cluster of sites. FDSE returns fast, accurate results from a template-driven architecture. Freeware and shareware versions are available with Perl source code included.

FDSE contrasts with search engines like Google and AltaVista which search the entire Internet. FDSE limits its' searches to web sites that you define, and can handle about 10,000 documents in all (far far less than a large search engine like Google but more than enough for all but the largest web site. Although FDSE handles less documents than larger search engines, it is qualitatively identical to them.

Technical Description

Suitability
FDSE runs well on Unix, Linux, and Windows, and is completely template-based: you control the entire look-and-feel of the site by editing text/html template files. The code is modular and heavily commented for the benefit of those who want to change the code at source.

FDSE runs entirely on a Perl-CGI-enabled web server so visitors aren't redirected to a separate centralised server to get their results (as with Atomz and Freefind). FDSE is not suitable for non-CGI web servers, or for searching files when a web server is not available, such as a CD-ROM. FDSE was designed to provide a rich feature set which requires more memory and processor power and may not therefore be suitable to those with limited hosting facilities.

Description
FDSE is a 'flat' search engine, that is, it accepts keywords and shows a ranked list of search results. It does not organise pages into browsable categories and subcategories like Yahoo.

The FDSE code is 100% pure Perl, and you can use the system with plain file databases. In addition you may also configure your own keyword-triggered banner ads.

FDSE offers highly customisable filter rules allowing you to programmatically control which web pages are included in the index. Resource-intensive actions like indexing entire web sites are spread across multiple CGI executions using META refreshes. This prevents web server timeouts due to excessive resource usage, and allows the action to recover if some individual CGI executions fail.

Although searches are limited to text and HTML files, you may also search PDF files with a free helper application (help file). A document's text, keywords, description, title, and address are all extracted and used for searching.

Search Results
In action FDSE provides a feature-rich search results display which includes: the title, description, size, last modified time, and address of each document. FDSE lists search results by relevance, that is, documents are sorted by the number of keyword hits, so that the most relevant document appears first. Search terms found in the title, keywords, or description are given additional weight.

In addition to the comprehensive features above there are a host of others which go beyond the scope of this article. We'd recommend visiting Fluid Dynamics Software's web site ( www.xav.com ) to view the comprehensive feature list which includes international support, auditing, and site blacklisting.

Review
The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine is one of those rare products that show how software should be produced. Larger businesses may shy away from investing in what is an outstanding search engine with the mistaken belief that nothing this good could come at so reasonable a price, they'd be wrong.

Search Enabling: Options
If you want to search enable your web site you have four options:

1. Use an external search-enabling service
2. Use Microsoft's Front Page indexing system (you'll be restricted to Windows servers allowing Microsoft Front Page extensions)
3. Install search enabling software on your server (only an option for those hosting their sites on their own server)
4. Purchase software that allows you to search enable your site using JavaScript, CGI, Perl or another commonly acceptable server protocol

FDSE comes into the fourth of these categories.

Outsourcing Search Enabling
We'll briefly touch on the first category as this is the only option for many web sites: that of choosing to outsource your search enabling.

There are a few good search enabling services out there, the most notable being Atomz, Free Find and Pico Search. Of these we feel Pico Search provides more for your money and we like the flexibility it offers in the kinds of searches and results it provides. The main drawbacks for independent and small companies of subscribing to paid search enabling services are the ongoing costs and outsourcing issues associated with them.

Atomz, Free Find and Pico Search offer 'free' search enabling, but there's an unacceptable payoff, all free search enabling comes with associated banner advertisement. If you're running a commercial site we'd strongly advise against this method of search enabling your site as it carries two distinct and important disadvantages: firstly, banner adds drive traffic away from your site, and secondly, you have no control over the businesses who advertise on your site. Search enabling solutions like the Fluid Dynamics Search Engine does not run banner adds and allows search enabling on web sites for a one-off low payment.

The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine in Action
In use FDSE installs easily, there's an 'auto install' option that runs from the FDSE developer's site for those who are not confident about installing CGI or Pearl scripts on their server. Once installed the first and most welcome sight is the Administration Area (which is accessible over the Internet and is password protected). The Admin Area is well thought out with a host of intuitive template driven commands.

As users of FDSE browse through the various Administration sections they'll soon realise they've invested in a comprehensive and powerful search engine for their web site. We were very impressed by the level of control and customisation available, and by dedicating a little study and time, web sites can offer searches that are comparable to those that only paid subscription could previously boast.

There are also very powerful features of FDSE that we have only touched upon so far. FDSE allows web sites to position advertising against certain keyword searches. If you have an informational or portal site that you wish to generate revenue by charging advertisers to advertise on keyword search results FDSE provides a solution. This feature would be particularly suitable for larger sites processing hundreds of searches per day. FDSE also allows you to monitor your web site's search requests which is an invaluable tool in assessing the effectiveness of your site's structure and content delivery.

FDSE allows users to manage their searches easily by allowing users to rebuild their indexes from the Administration Area. The Indexes form the source information of the search engine as it 'scans' previously indexed information very quickly on the server then passes the results back to the viewer as search results.

Conclusion
If the Fluid Dynamics Search Engine is set up well (and that's an easy task with the excellent Administration Area), FDSE can produce fast accurate search results. One of the few improvements we'd like to suggest for any future release of FDSE is to broaden the kinds of files that can be searched for. We'd like to see the easy implementation of Flash and pdf files as search options from within the Admin Area, and perhaps the development of the Administrative Area to include more ready made search boxes with help comments to assist users in implementing a site wide search engine. We're certain this would be easily achievable and a real benefit to the general user.

In conclusion, if your server offers CGI and Perl, we have no hesitation in recommencing the Fluid Dynamics Search Engine as an excellent search enabling system for your web site. FDSE offers you what you need, a dependable, affordable and highly configurable solution.

The Fluid Dynamics Search Engine is available at www.xav.com. Users of AbleStable® can enjoy a special offer discount of 10% on FDSE. Go to http://www.xav.com/scripts/search/ablestable.html to enjoy this benefit.



     
       
 
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