FAQ — Frequently asked questions

Registration for a wiki account

Anyone is allowed to view wiki pages. However, if you wish to change or create pages then you will need a wiki user account. The following steps explain the procedure:

  1. Fill out the account activation form. These instructions should help avoid delay in processing your form:
    • Select "Wiki" account for activation
    • Select "Guest" in the User Information section
    • Provide your organization's name in the "Company" field
    • Write "Sensor Physics" in the "Associated with which STAR Branch" field
    • Write "Satellite Meteorology and Climatology" in the "Division" field.
    • Provide your e-mail, physical address and phone number
    • Write "GSICS wiki" in the "Brief explanation of account necessity" field
    • Print your name, sign, and date in the "User" field
    • Leave fields "Branch Chief" and "Division Chief" empty!
  2. Scan and email the form. (ALERT! Remove "NOSPAM" from the email address.)
  3. Create a wiki account at UserRegistration.
  4. You will be notified when to take the NOAA on-line IT security course.
  5. Email the course completion certificate to have your account given editing wiki privileges

I have never used a wiki before! Where do I start?

From here.

Who to contact with any question about this wiki?

NOAA GSICS Processing and Research Center (ALERT! Remove "NOSPAM" from the email address.)

What is Foswiki? What is its version on this server?

Foswiki is an open source enterprise-level collaboration software. It is the software responsible for this wiki. More information is available at http://foswiki.org.

The current version running on this server is: v2.1.2.

What is web? What is topic?

These two terms are specific to Foswiki. Understanding them is essential for using Foswiki's documentation as well as proper utilization of its features. Topics are described in detail at TopicsAndWebs. For the purpose of this FAQ, only its definition is cited here:
The basic building block of a Foswiki site is called a topic, identified by a unique, hopefully descriptive, WikiWord title. It may seem easier just to call them pages, but specifically a topic is the content of a page.

Likewise, webs (note the lowercase "w") are described at ManagingWebs. A brief summary is cited here:
A Foswiki site is divided into "webs", or groups of topics - each one represents one subject, one area of collaboration. Administrators can add, rename or delete webs. At file level, a web is a directory with text files as topics. A number of webs are fixed: System for documentation, Main to store user pages and site-wide preferences, Trash for the topic recycle bin. Other webs can be created as needed.

So, armed with that technical knowledge, Development wiki is one of the webs available on this Foswiki site and this wiki page is a topic whose wiki word title is "FAQ".

How to find information in this wiki

Finding information in this wiki is possible in several ways:

  1. All existing topics are listed in WebTopicList (available as "Index" in the right bar). More verbose listing is available at WebIndex.
  2. Using the search tool at WebSearch (as "Search" in the right bar).
  3. The list of 50 most recently changed topics is given at WebChanges (as "Changes" in the right bar). The bottom of that topic contains links to list 100, 200, 500, 1000, or all changed topics.
  4. Using topic tags. Tags are like keywords that those with a wiki account can assign to any topic. There is no limit on how many tags one topic can have. All currently available tags are listed in the so-called tag cloud on display in the right bar of every topic. Tag's font size indicates frequency of its use. Clicking on any of the tags there lists all the topics tagged with it.

I have some information for the wiki. Where to put that content?

Only registered wiki users (see detailed instructions on how to register) can create new topics or alter the existing ones. If you are not a registered wiki user ask someone who is to do it for you, preferrably in your organization. If that is not possible, contact NOAA GPRC (ALERT! remove "NOSPAM" from the email address).

Registered wiki users can either choose to create a new topic or add their content to an already existing topic. Several good suggestions how to accomplish that are given in the Foswiki's documentation.

One way for creating new topics not mentioned explicitly in the documentation is using WebCreateNewTopic, available on every wiki page in the right bar as the Create new topic link. Steps to follow when creating a new topic with WebCreateNewTopic are:

  1. Fill out the Topic name field. Use only valid characters for a WikiWord. If you really really must use a non-wiki word for new topic's name, check the box just below the Topic name field.
  2. Select a topic parent for the new topic from the drop-down list available after clicking on Pick from a list for the Topic parent field. By default, new topic's parent is the topic from which you arrived to WebCreateNewTopic. If you are not sure which topic should be the parent select (no parent, orphaned topic). Topic parent information is used when displaying the breadcrumb i.e. the topic hierarchy. For example, this topic's hieararchy is: "GSICS Wiki>Development web>FAQ (04 Sep 2013, AleksandarJelenak)".
  3. Leave unchanged the Use template field.
  4. If all the above steps are done correctly, the Create this topic button will be activated. Click on it and you should end up in editing mode of the new topic.
  5. Add your content. Click on the Save button.
  6. Congratulations! You have created your first Development wiki page! yes
Apart from the above instructions on creating and editing topics, there is nothing more to it. If you have something to add to the wiki go ahead and do it in the easiest way possible for you. There are no any specific rules on what kind of content should go where. Wikis are about collaboration among a group of users. The most important thing is that your content finds its place — any place! — on the wiki. Someone else with more wiki skills may come later and make corrections to improve the presentation or organization of the original content. Remember that all changes on the wiki are versioned and therefore reversible. Nothing will be lost with future editing. So focus on getting your content initially on the wiki. Everything else can be fixed later.

If that new content is in the form of a file, Foswiki supports attaching any type of files to a topic. Instructions how to do that are in the Foswiki documentation.

How to follow topic changes

There are two ways to follow changes on this wiki:

  1. Utilize the web feed from the WebAtom topic (available in the right bar as "Wiki web feed"). Note that some web feed readers may have trouble picking up the feed; Microsoft Outlook and Mozilla Thunderbird have been confirmed not to work. But Mozilla Firefox and Google Reader do work.
  2. Sign up for notification emails at the WebNotify topic (available from the right bar as "Notifications"). Instructions how to sign up are given on that page. For information on how to configure this service for yourself click the Notification help button on the page. Emails are sent from a cron job several times per day and only if there are any changes since the last run.

Is it possible to avoid notifying others about a topic change?

It depends on the notification service. If a new version of a topic is saved by clicking on the Quiet save button available in the edit and preview modes then the change will be invisible to the notification email service. However, the topic's new version will show up in the wiki's web feed.

What is a Foswiki extension (or plugin)? Where to find out what extensions are installed on this Foswiki site?

Foswiki extensions (or plugins) are software programs that expand or enhance default Foswiki capabilities. The list of all available Foswiki extensions is at http://foswiki.org/Extensions/AllExtensions.

Extensions installed on this Foswiki site are listed at InstalledPlugins. Each extension comes with documentation available by clicking on the extension's name in the list.

The wiki is too slow

Check your page load time with this URL: http://www.numion.com/stopwatch/Start.html?Url=https%3A%2F%2Fgsics.atmos.umd.edu%2Fwiki%2FDevelopment%2FWebHome

The result will be displayed at the very top of the page. Below are some already reported load times:

Location Load Time (seconds) Remarks
Local ~1.5 From the building where the server is.
Northern Virginia ~3 Verizon FiOS
Northern Virginia ~4 iPhone over AT&T 3G
Darmstadt, Germany



Original test that got me complaining

Update: 2011-05-30 - much faster now!

Tokyo, Japan ~20  
The Tokyo result is clearly an outlier and likely caused by some site-specific factors. All other reported times are similar.

While more responsive wiki is always our goal, there are several factors to keep in mind when evaluating its performance:

  • The computer hosting this wiki is also used for several other wikis and as a GSICS data server. It is to be expected its performance will exhibit slowdowns sometimes.
  • Websites built for a single purpose are typically more responsive as they are optimized for their use cases.
  • Foswiki is designed to allow easy addition of new content and capabilities (via extensions). Each wiki page is generated from a hierarchy of templates and macros that are processed at the time of the request. Browser caching should help when viewing wiki pages but not during editing.
  • Foswiki is implemented as a number of REST web service handlers. These handlers are run on this site as CGI scripts. While CGI is known to be the slowest method of generating web pages it is the most widely deployed for wikis and is the default for Foswiki installation.
Taking all of the above and the current levels of wiki usage into account there is no reason yet for any specific changes. Please report if you experience any noticeable slow downs and include the load time from the above URL if possible.

Why my web browser reports security certificate warning when accessing this wiki?

This is a known issue when accessing U.S. government websites via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This server sends its security certificate to the web browser as part of establishing a secure (encrypted) connection. This certificate, among other things, contains information about the organization (that's us) which issued it. Your web browser reports a warning because it does not recognize us as an organization authorized to issue website security certificates.

There is no other known workaround but to manually override your browser's security warning. Trust us! We put great effort in securing this server and actively monitor its use to detect any suspicious behavior. We need to re-issue the security certificate every year so do not be surprised when your browser reports a warning again even if you have overridden it in the past. Just do it again.

Does the wiki support writing mathematical equations?

Yes. Mathematical equations marked-up with LaTeX commands are supported. General information on LaTeX can be found here. Detailed instructions on how to utilize LaTeX commands in topics are here. A wiki page showing some of the capabilities is here.

Can I use the wiki to manage actions?

Yes, you can. The wiki relies on the ActionsTracker plugin for this functionality. Consult its documentation for all the details on working with actions. What is described here can be regarded merely as the introduction for a busy professional.

An action is created in a topic using the %ACTION% macro. The example below illustrates how to use the macro when creating a GSICS action. Note that of all the macro attributes shown only action_ref is really not required for proper macro function. For all the supported ways to express the due date see the plugin's documentation. The who attribute best works when it contains either a wiki user name or an email address. Also, the macro supports only assigning an action to a single person. If a group needs to carry out an action the best approach is to select one person who will act an the group's point of contact and name him in the action.

...Action item text...

Creates this:
Action Ref. Description Assigned to Due date State  
Dummy123 ...Action item text... (go to action) DonaldDuck 01 Jan 2030 open edit

Note the little pen icon at the right end of the action item's table. Clicking on it will open up an edit window where changes to an already created action can be made. This is the only way to change action's status.

Once actions are created, they can be displayed in different topics with the %ACTIONSEARCH% macro. This macro brings to bear the full power of the %SEARCH% macro so visit its documentation for all the ways how to specify search criteria. For even more powerful formatting of search results, see the special topic for that.

One way how to search for actions is given below. This searches for all action items in this topic.

   format="|$due| $who |$state|$action_ref| $text $link|"

The search yields:
01 Jan 2030 DonaldDuck openDummy123 ...Action item text... (go to action)
Topic revision: r21 - 04 Sep 2013, AleksandarJelenak
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