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Relax FAQ

Copyright (C) 1998-2005, Matti Tukiainen <ktmatu@nic.fi>. All rights reserved.

This file is part of Relax.

Relax is distributed with NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND. No author or distributor accepts any responsibility for the consequences of using it, or for whether it serves any particular purpose or works at all, unless he or she says so in writing. Refer to the GNU General Public License (the "License") for full details.

Firstly, to tell the truth, these are not frequently asked questions. In fact, these questions have never been asked.

Table of Contents

What is Relax and what does it do for me?

Relax is a specialized web server log analysis tool for referrer information processing.

Relax reports tell you the quantity of visitor you are getting from the leading search engines, as well as the most popular keywords being used. This information is useful for improving search engine rankings or determining which keywords to buy from search engines.

Relax can be integrated with Etsin to, for example, check how different keywords are positioned in search engines.

Relax generates lists of URLs directing to your pages. This information can be used to tell who is linking to your site, and to trace obsolete or misspelled links.

Does it run on Unix, Windows, VMS?

All platforms where Perl is available should be OK. I have developed and tested Relax on SunOS, Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows 2000. All other platforms are untested and it's quite possible that some minor modifications are needed. Reports from BSD, IRIX and Amiga users indicate, however, that Relax runs perfectly well on these platforms.

Is it 100% accurate?

It's only as accurate as your log files. In practice this means that the answer in no, because:

Sometimes browsers simply mess things up and send completely wrong information. So, don't be surprised if you find bogus links from sites like http://www.washingtonpost.com/, http://www.cnn.com/ or http://www.playboy.com/ directing to your site.

Does it handle really big log files?

A typical 256 MB desktop system can easily handle log files that can be hundreds of megabytes in size. Relax is not the fastest log analyzer, but the more memory on the computer, the better performance can be expected.

How to keep Relax up-to-date?

Search engine business is constantly in the state of flux. This means that Relax must be regularly upgraded to recognize new search engines and modifications made into existing ones.

Starting with Relax 2.5 the process to upgrade Relax became a lot easier than it used to be. Now you can download more recent parser module from http://ktmatu.com/software/relax/ and copy it into the directory where you have installed relax.pl or relax.exe. Updates are available quite often, usually once a week.

Relax for Windows supports new Relax Update Service. This service makes it easy to get parser updates.

How to get rid of "Your Engines.pm file is rather old..." message?

Your Engines.pm file is rather old and must be updated to get accurate results. See "How to keep Relax up-to-date?" for more information.

Why is the documentation so sparse?

Taken from alt.folklore.computers:

Real Programmers don't do documentation. Documentation is for simps who can't figure out the listing.
Real Programmers don't write specs -- users should consider themselves lucky to get any programs at all, and take what they get.
Tom Van Vleck <vanvleck_tom@tandem.com>

Are those command line switches documented anywhere?

Yes. They are briefly explained in the relax.cfg file.

How to limit the number of items on reports?

To take the engine report as an example, positive values like $command_line {"engine_report"} = 3; (or -re3) indicate that only those search engines which generated three or more visits are listed, e.g.

        1395    Yahoo!
        504     AltaVista
        82      GoTo.com
        54      HotBot
        5       Direct Hit
        5       Search.com
        4       canada.com
        3       Inference Find
        3       MegaSpider
        3       SavvySearch
        ...14 (17)

Negative values like $command_line {"engine_report"} = -3; (or -re-3) instruct Relax to print only the three most frequently used search engines, e.g.

        1395    Yahoo!
        504     AltaVista
        82      GoTo.com
        ...37 (457)

Please remember to check that

$command_line {"all_reports"} = 0;

before you make any other modifications!

What log file formats are supported?

WebSTAR code is still quite untested.

What to do if my log file formats is not supported?

What to do if all log entries are not mine?

First you have to pick your own entries from the log file. This can be done with Unix rooted utilities like grep, fgrep and egrep.

Let's suppose that the top-level URL of your site is http://www.example.com/~somebody/ and the log file is located at /www/logs/referer. Now you can use something like this to extract your own information:

% grep somebody /www/logs/referer > mylog
% relax.pl -ra1 mylog


% grep somebody /www/logs/referer | relax.pl -ra1

Please be patient! Results will not appear immediately as those log files can be huge in size.

How to analyze weekend data only?

So, you have a monthly/weekly log file, but you are only interested in what happened to your site during the weekend. Try something like:

% egrep "(07|08)/Oct/" log-file | relax.pl - -crelax.cfg -oreport.html

How to use archive files?

Archive file feature significantly speeds up the generation of historical reports incrementally over time from a set of log files. This feature also reduces the storage requirements, because old log files are no longer needed. Instead of crunching old log files many times, Relax can write results into a machine readable archive for later use.

To generate a historical report historical-report.html containing data from log-file-2002-01 and archive.dat it's possible to try something like:

% ./relax.pl -crelax.cfg -ohistorical-report.html -aarchive.dat log-file-2002-01

A month later it's possible to create a new historical report, now containing data from log-file-2002-01, log-file-2002-02 and archive.dat:

% ./relax.pl -crelax.cfg -ohistorical-report.html -aarchive.dat log-file-2002-02

It's also possible to generate other reports directly from an archive file, without specifying any log files:

% ./relax.pl -ra1 -oother-report-2002.html -Aarchive.dat

Why do I have trouble with relative filenames containing "~"?

NB. This feature was fixed in Relax 2.50.

Unix shell cannot recognize "~" (home directory) because it is not the first character. Instead of this:

% relax.pl -c~/Relax/relax.cfg ...

use absolute filenames or $HOME like here:

% relax.pl -c$HOME/Relax/relax.cfg ...

What is "-" referrer?

It indicates that the referring URL was unknown, the page was loaded from user's bookmark file, the address was manually typed, or the page was fetched by a robot or crawler. Nowadays many browsers can also be configured to not send any referrer.

How to get rid of "-" referrer?

Try something like this in your configuration file:

$command_line {"exclude_refs"} = '^\-$';

What is this strange local target "favicon.ico"?

It is one of those "great" Microsoft inventions. If someone using Internet Explorer or other browsers supporting this feature bookmarks one of your pages, the browser also tries to get an icon, favicon.ico, from your site. If found, this icon is shown next to page's title on the bookmark list.

Previously it was possible to use favicon.ico as an indicator that someone had actually bookmarked the page. Nowadays browsers like Phoenix and other applications like UCmore fetch this file without any connection to bookmarks.

For more information about favicon.ico, see:

Does Relax mess the results of my other log analysis program?

No, but if you are somewhat paranoid, it is also possible to run Relax off-line on a different computer.

How to use Etsin?

Click a keyword in Relax reports. As a result Etsin page opens with all necessary data transferred from a report (if this fails or the data is incorrect, please check the installation guide for more information). With one click you are now able to check what kind of search results these keywords could have given in different search engines, how popular your page is, and how to improve it.

If your page is not well positioned, you can use those dictionary links and search term suggestion services to find out related words and stress them on your page.

You can also get design suggestions if you click links in the page checker section.

Why is it called Relax?

Referrer Log Analysis X. I haven't yet found any rational explanation for the letter X.

How much does it cost?

Nothing, Relax is absolutely free in all senses - it is freely redistributable, and no payment is required. However, I strongly encourage you to let me know that you are using Relax. The easiest way to do this is to join the Relax announcement mailing list (to subscribe, send a blank email message to <relax_announce-subscribe@yahoogroups.com>). This moderated, very low-traffic mailing list is just for major announcements.

I am also available for private consultation. If you need assistance with technical tasks such as Relax installation and configuration, managing and analyzing traffic data or other search engine related issues, please don't hesitate to contact the author, Matti Tukiainen.

If you like Relax, you can also visit The Hunger Site to give food for free to hungry people in the world.

You can also support Relax development by donating money.

All these things are totally optional - there is no pressure or obligation for you to do anything.

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