There are literally hundreds of website building tools out there. Most of them are complicated, and most of them are big. Those that aren't don't seem to work as well. What I needed was something that was standards compliant, totally free, wholly Java based and small enough to run on a commercial webserver for not too much money. The list quickly narrowed to zero and got filled instead with things that looked like they were free, but weren't.
'Free' Software Honeypots
There are lots of free Content Management Systems and portal products out there but they are not really free. They are just a free front end to a basically commercial product. They offer something quite fancy for nothing, but once you start to use it you realise that the free version doesn't have all the features you want, and for that you have to pay. Or they use a proprietary plugin architecture, which is not standards compliant. Once you develop your plugin or portlet for that platform, you are locked in. Sooner or later you need support or something more or they start charging and wham! you are caught in the trap. Or the company goes out of business, or decides to change everything overnight and your project is wrecked. The naïve young programmers fall for this every time, but us old mice have been caught by the tail once too often.
I wanted something that was really truly 100% free, and I eventually found Jetspeed 2. It's not as fancy as some other portal offerings but it doesn't have any strings attached. I don't know at this point if it is really right for my needs but it is based on Pluto, which is the reference implementation of JSR 286, the Portlets 2 standard. Hardly any commercial products adhere to this yet, but Jetspeed does. There's no hidden commercial product behind it, and it's not too complicated. Best of all it seems to run (not sure yet) in 64MB of VM memory, so it might be deployable on a commercial webhosting site. My only worry is whether users will be able to easily update HTML type content. But to find out I have to use it first. The old Catch-22.
So this blog is really a document for me and for anyone else who wants to know how to set up their own first class customisation of Jetspeed. That's the ambition anyway. Let's see if we get there. Heh heh. :-)