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Publishing your DCN committee minutes with MHonArc

If you are responsible for keeping minutes for a DCN Committee or other DCN-affiliated group, you can simply and quickly publish an archive of your committee's minutes using a program called MHonArc and a configuration file written by DCN that turns MHonArc's output into web pages consistent with DCN web page templates. When you're done, your committee's minutes pages can look like these examples.

These instructions should not require a great deal of expertise, but you will need to know how to:

  • Access your shell account (using a telnet program or a direct connection)
  • Use an e-mail program (e.g, PINE)

Let's get started!

    What if I use Eudora?

    Don't worry. Just because you store your mail on your desktop computer doesn't mean you can't take advantage of MHonArc. Eudora and some other programs that read mail off-line and store it on your hard disk still use standard mailbox formats. All you have to do is add one extra step: Transfer a copy of your mailbox file from your desktop computer to the DCN web server using a FTP.

    For example, in Eudora for Windows computers, mailbox files still exist, they just end in *.mbx. For more information on transferring files with FTP, see the DCN Technical Help pages.

  1. MHonArc converts the contents of a mailbox (also known as a folder) into a series of linked HTML pages. The first step, then, is to put all of the e-mail messages you want to publish in one mailbox. Using your e-mail program (e.g., PINE) , create a new folder on the DCN server and save all of the appropriate messages in that folder. For this example we'll refer to the folder as 'minutes'.

  2. Next, create a directory where the web pages will be stored. If you want anyone to be able to see these pages, the directory you choose must be a subdirectory of your public_html directory. (For more information on publishing web pages using the DCN server, see The DCN Web Authors' FAQ.)

    After logging in to your shell account using a telnet program or a direct connection, get to the UNIX prompt and use the UNIX change directory command cd to change directories to where you want the new directory to go. In this and all other examples on this page, what you need to type is bold:

    msmosaic@wheel ~ > cd public_html
    msmosaic@wheel ~/public_html >
    

    Next create the directory, which for this example we'll call 'minutes_archive', using the UNIX make directory command mkdir. Then we'll change to that new directory.

    msmosaic@wheel ~/public_html > mkdir minutes_archive
    msmosaic@wheel ~/public_html > cd minutes_archive
    msmosaic@wheel ~/public_html/minutes_archive >
    

    In the example given here, msmosaic would be replaced by your login ID. It is a good idea to keep this directory just for your meeting minutes web pages, as it can get very cluttered as more messages are added.

  3. Next, we run MHonArc to convert the e-mail messages to web pages. Below, the command to start MHonArc is given across several lines so that it is easy to read. When you type the command, however, it should all be on one line.

    msmosaic@wheel ~/public_html/minutes_archive >

    /usr/local/etc/httpd/wwwlib/mhonarc
    -rcfile /usr/local/etc/httpd/wwwdocs/tools/mhonarc/examples/DCN.rc
    -title "This Committee Minutes Archive"
    -ttitle "This Committee Minutes Archive"
    ~/mail/minutes

    What does all this mean? First we called the MHonArc command. Because it is not a frequently used program it is kept in a special directory and you need to type the full path, as shown. The first argument to the command -rcfile specifies that MHonArc should use the configuration file DCN.rc. This file formats the web pages to give them the DCN's look and feel. The next two arguments -title and -tt itle specify the name of the archive index and the archive index by subject, respectively. Both of these default to 'Mail Index' if the argument is not given. The last argument ~/mail/minutes is the path to the folder we are arc hiving. Be sure to replace this argument with the path to the mail folder we created in step #1. The location of your mail folder must always be the last argument.

    While MHonArc runs, we'll see something like this:

    Reading resource file: /usr/local/etc/httpd/wwwdocs/tools/mhonarc/examples/DCN.rc ... Requiring content filter libraries ...
    mhexternal.pl
    mhtxtenrich.pl
    mhtxthtml.pl
    mhtxtplain.pl
    mhtxtsetext.pl
    Requiring charset filter libraries ...
    iso8859.pl
    Converting messages to .
    Reading ../minutes ....
    Writing mail ....
    Writing ./homepage.html ...
    Writing ./threads.html ...
    Writing database ...
    4 messages

  4. Last, we be sure the permissions are set correctly so that everyone can read our new archive, using the DCN's set_html command.

    msmosaic@wheel ~/public_html/minutes_archive > set_html

That's it! We're finished. The archive can be found at:

http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~yourloginID/minutes_archive/

...where yourloginID is your DCN Login ID and minutes_archive is the directory you created in step #2.

Notes and Customization:

The original mailbox is not changed
MHonArc leaves the original mail folder right where it is. You can continue to use it with your mail program and add messages to it.
The web pages are easily updated
When you add messages to the mailbox, you can add messages to the web page archive. Just go to the directory where your web page were output (see step #2), and run the command in step #3 again, but with the additional argument -add. This argument should go after the call to MHonArc.
You can run MHonArc without changing directories
Just add the argument -outdir (path) where (path) is the directory of your MHonArc web page archive. By default, MHonArc outputs to the current directory, as shown in the example on this page.
Turn off the thread index if it isn't helpful
The alternate thread index may not be useful if your messages do not include references to each other (e.g., USENET posts). If the thread index is not useful, you can turn it off by calling DCN_nothread.rc instead of DCN.rc in the -rcfile argument.
See Also:
The DCN MHonArc homepage
The MHonArc homepage at UC Irvine


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URL: http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/tools/mhonarc/committee.html
Last Revised: January 25, 1998