When I started to write Rockets, I had a crazy dream. Then the dream came true, and I didn't know what to do.
The dream of newLISP on Rockets was to produce something unique and interesting, and share it with the world. I wanted to show that you could make a lightweight web framework that could make functional and fast websites with a minimal amount of code. And I wanted to do it with LISP, because I had fallen in love with that language.
I had some experience making websites with the Dragonfly framework, including my own personal site. That framework wasn't being updated any more, though, as the author had moved on to other things. So using Dragonfly as a starting point, I wrote my own framework. It was an intellectual exercise for me, and when it was finished I didn't have much else I wanted to do with it. It was out in the world, and other people could use it for free and add to it or extend it as they wished.
That was five years ago.
Since then, I got a new job where I used Rockets to launch one major internal tool, and prototype others. But the company I worked for was all-in on Python, and so I was strongly encouraged to learn and use that language. There's nothing wrong with Python-- it's a clean and flexible all-purpose language with strong library support and a large community. There is a lot of comfort and safety in Python.
In that time, I've read essay after essay from people who once used LISP to do amazing things and who have all moved on. Paul Graham, after failing to convert the world to his own new Lisp dialect, launched the successful Y Combinator startup incubator. Andy Gavin, who by his own admission was a "diehard LISP advocate" for twenty years, coded Crash Bandicoot and four Jak & Daxter games in his own Game Oriented Object LISP language. Now he codes in Ruby and says that "Libraries and implementation matter a lot. Momentum too." And the author of the Dragonfly framework, after bemoaning that not enough people picked up his object-oriented framework for newLISP, left the language entirely.
And here I was, coding in Python at work and thinking of LISP fondly, like one does of a first love. The years went by and memories got hazier. Was I just going to be the next person in a long line of coders who abandoned LISP?
Surely all these smart people had a point. Why go it alone with LISP when you can use something popular like Python and enjoy tons of libraries and support? Why struggle with something that's so different and unpopular and a bit weird?
But then again, why did all these smart people spend so many years (and even decades) doing exactly that?
In my spare time, I am a science fiction author. I have a new book coming out next year and I needed a website to help market it. I thought about setting up a site on Squarespace (yes, I listen to a lot of podcasts!) It's fast and easy, you can customize it to look like you want and... it would be just like all the other author book websites that nobody reads. I wanted something very different and unique. Something nobody else would have.
And then I thought about Rockets.
Now, I had already partially converted my personal site from Dragonfly to Rockets, but this was just using the new headers and login system, and doing some find-replace on a few functions (you can read about how to do that here: http://newlisponrockets.com/rockets-item.lsp?p=85). Much of the site was a bunch of custom code that just worked for my personal site, and wasn't the same as the site you get from the newLISP on Rockets GitHub repository. So Rockets did some things and my personal blog did some other things, but neither of them did what I wanted from a new website to promote my book. And my personal website was looking a bit old-fashioned anyway, and it was running on an ancient t1.micro instance on AWS that was expensive and barely supported and needed to be moved over to a new instance years ago.
That's when it hit me. I needed a new version of Rockets. One where I could recreate my personal blog and also have a marketing site for my new book, using the same framework. With a simple Apache configuration, Rockets already supports multiple sites-- I have several different sites running on that one AWS instance (see here for how that works: http://newlisponrockets.com/rockets-item.lsp?p=99). But I want a single codebase that can make different-looking sites depending on what you want.
newLISP on Rockets has a few advantages other than uniqueness. It is fast--wickedly fast. And it's simple-- the whole design principle was to make the simplest possible framework for making dynamic websites. What it's missing are features. I had thought that other people would take the basic Rockets framework and add their own features, but I think a lot more people would rather have a simple website with all the basic features ready to go.
To get there will take some time and effort on my part. But I have a good motivation to do so-- my own new website-- and I'm writing out a plan for me to get there. I'm going to make a new thread to report on the work being done. At the end, I hope to launch Rockets 2.0-- a basic but full-featured blog, ready to go, out of the box, batteries included.
I'm excited about the journey!
It's been a while since I've updated this site, but it's not because I haven't been working on Rockets! In fact, I've been using and improving it at my job, and I'm doing work for not only the 1.0 release but some design work for what I want to see in Rockets 2.0!
In the mean time, I've made a new script that will do all the installation and configuring for Rockets on a bare-bones Ubuntu 14 LTS server (NOTE:The script has also been tested and adapted so it will work on Ubuntu 16 and 18). All you have to do is install the OpenSSH server when you're creating your server, then log in via SSH, type
sudo chmod +x install_rockets.sh
Pre-compiled binaries for newlisp are available for Ubuntu and Debian, but getting a RPM for CentOS is a bit harder. Another option is to compile from source, which is always fun. I tried this recently on CentOS 6.5.
First, get the source. Go to newlisp.org and go to the Downloads page. You will find something that looks like "download from newlisp.org: newLISP v.10.6.0 source". Right click on that link and copy the URL to the clipboard.
Then, from an SSH shell, type
wget (right click to paste the link here)
This will download the source code in tgz format. Unzip it by typing:
tar zxvf newlisp-10.6.0.tgz
Then cd to the new directory. This is where you'll compile and build the source code.
First, however, you will need some essential libraries, and you'll have to add some links so that the makefile knows where to find them.
sudo yum install libffi-devel
sudo yum install readline-devel
sudo ln -s /usr/lib64/libffi-3.0.5/include/ffi.h
sudo ln -s /usr/lib64/libffi-3.0.5/include/ffitarget.h
sudo make test
sudo make install
Edit file: /usr/share/newlisp/modules/sqlite3.lsp
(set 'files (list
"/usr/lib64/libsqlite3.so.0.8.6" ; CentOS --- add this
"/usr/lib/libsqlite3.so" ; SuSE Linux
"/usr/local/lib/libsqlite3.so" ; Linux, BSD, Solaris
"/usr/pkg/lib/libsqlite3.so" ; NetBSD
"/usr/local/lib/libsqlite3.so.13.3" ; OpenBSD 4.6
"/usr/lib/libsqlite3.0.dylib" ; Mac OSX Darwin
(string (env "PROGRAMFILES") "/sqlite3/sqlite3.dll") ; Win32/MinGW
Edit file: /usr/share/newlisp/modules/crypto.lsp
(set 'files '(
"C:/Program Files/gnuwin32/bin/libeay32.dll" ; XP
"C:/Program Files (x86)/gnuwin32/bin/libeay32.dll" ; 7
"/usr/lib64/libcrypto.so.10" ; CentOS --- add this
"/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libcrypto.so" ; Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
"/usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libcrypto.so"; Ubuntu 12.04
"/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libcrypto.so.1.0.0" ; UBUNTU Linux 13.04
"/usr/lib64/libcrypto.so" ; Fedora, CentOS 6.x
"/usr/lib/libcrypto.so.18.0" ; OpenBSD 4.6
"/usr/lib/libcrypto.so.19.0" ; OpenBSD 5.0
The little cartoon rocket was cute, but I think it's time for a more exciting image for the front page.
I modeled and rendered the rocket image in Blender and made the textures in Photoshop. The background is a photo from NASA.
I've been setting up a lot of new sites lately using newLISP on Rockets. Here's the process for making a brand new site from scratch.
This assumes you've already got Linux and Apache installed on the server. This is easy to do with Ubuntu Server-- just select "LAMP" at install time. All these instructions are for Ubuntu but they should work on other Debian-based Linuxes.
Your web directory should be in /var/www.
sudo dpkg -i newlisp_10.5.4-1_i386.deb
sudo apt-get install sqlite3
Options FollowSymLinks +ExecCGI
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews +ExecCGI
allow from all
AddHandler cgi-script .cgi .lsp
Total votes: 92
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I'd been putting off doing a Forgot Password module for newLISP on Rockets because it is such a pain doing it properly. You can't just have one click to reset a password, because what if someone else knows your user name or email? Then they could change your password to whatever they want!
So what most sites do is let you trigger a reset, then send a confirmation message to that email address, and then make you retrieve the email and click on a special link to reset your password.
Funnily enough, on another site I'm developing I was testing logging out and logging in, and you know what? I forgot my password. So I figured this was as good as an excuse as any to build a Forgot Module! (And no, I couldn't just grab the password from the database, because it's encrypted for security!)
I wanted the whole thing to be only a single page for simplicity. rockets-forgotpassword.lsp is the page that handles triggering the email, confirming and sending the email, and resetting the password, so the code flow may not seem obvious at first glance. The emails contain links of unique identifiers (sometimes called GUIDs) that expire after an hour and are matched with email addresses of the people who sent them, so people won't be able to guess them either. The tokens are stored in a file called reset-tokens.lisp. This file is automatically generated if it doesn't previously exist.
One more thing: to get the email links to work, the module needs two additional configuration options in Rockets-config.lisp:
(set 'AdminEmail "email@example.com")
(set 'SiteURL "newlisponrockets.com")
I've been wanting to update newLISP on my development box to see what neat new changes and features are available. Unfortunately, it's a 64-bit Ubuntu install, and pre-packaged binaries are only available for i386 (32-bit) on newlisp.org.
So what to do? Well, compile from source of course!
First get the source:
tar zxvf newlisp-10.4.5.tgz
sudo apt-get install libffi-dev
sudo apt-get install libreadline6 libreadline6-dev
sudo make install
sudo nano sqlite3.lsp
"/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libsqlite3.so" ; Ubuntu
"/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libcrypto.so.0.9.8" ; Ubuntu
Today I relaunched my personal website at http://www.jeremyreimer.com. It had previously been running on Dragonfly, a web development framework that inspired me to write Rockets.
Converting the code was really easy. All it took was the following:
1. Replace all instances of (print) with (display) and (println) with (displayln)
2. Remove Dragonfly-specific functions like (web-root) that are no longer necessary.
3. Make sure to start each page with:
(load "newlisp-rockets.lisp") ; this is where the magic happens!
(display-footer "Jeremy Reimer")