Norconex is proud to announce the release of Norconex HTTP Collector version 2.8.0.  This release is accompanied by new releases of many related Norconex open-source products (Filesystem Collector, Importer, Committers, etc.), and together they bring dozens of new features and enhancements highlighted below.

 

Extract a “Featured Image” from web pages

[ezcol_1half]

In addition to taking screenshots of webpages, you can now extract the main image of a web page thanks to the new FeaturedImageProcessor. You can specify conditions to identify the image (first one encountered matching a minimum site or a given pattern). You also have the option to store the image on file or as a BASE64 string with the crawled document (after scaling it to your preferred dimensions) or simply store a reference to it.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Limit link extraction to specific page portions

[ezcol_1half]

The GenericLinkExtractor now makes it possible to only extract links to be followed found within one or more specific sections of a web page. For instance, you may want to only extract links found in navigation menus and not those found in content areas in case the links usually point to other sites you do not want to crawl.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Truncate long field values

[ezcol_1half]

The new TruncateTagger offers the ability to truncate long values and the option to replace the truncated portion with a hash to help preserve uniqueness when required. This is especially useful in preventing errors with search engines (or other repositories) and field length limitations.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Add metadata to a document using an external application

[ezcol_1half]

The new ExternalTagger allows you to point to an external (i.e., command-line) application to “decorate” a document with extra metadata information. Both the existing document content and metadata can be supplied to the external application. The application output can be in a specific format (json, xml, properties) or free-form combined with metadata extraction patterns you can configure. Either standard streams or files can be supplied as arguments to the external application. To transform the content using an external application instead, have a look at the ExternalTranformer, which has also been updated to support metadata.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Other improvements

This release includes many more new features and enhancements:

  • To create a document checksum, you can now combine metadata with content.
  • The TextPatternTagger can now extract field names dynamically in addition to values.
  • The ReplaceTagger and ReplaceTransformer now support empty/null replacement values.
  • There are new configuration options on the GenericHttpClientFactory:
    • “authFormParams” to add arbitrary parameters to authentication forms.
    • “authPreemptive” to use preemptive authentication with BASIC authentication.
  • The Amazon CloudSearch and Elasticsearch Committers both have a new “fixBadIds” flag to safely handle URLs that do not meet product limitations.

For the complete list of changes, refer to these product release notes:

Useful links

10 Year Anniversary

 

Letter from the President,

 

Do you know that Norconex turned 10 this year? That’s right, Norconex was founded in 2007 and I could not be prouder to be president of Norconex as we cross this important milestone.

Our company’s numerous achievements would not have been possible without our amazing employees. They are smart, committed, loyal, and all have client satisfaction at heart. Having such a great team is precious beyond words.

I am also taking this occasion to thank every one of you, customers and partners, for having played a vital role in Norconex success. We can’t thank you enough for choosing our services and products, making us the success that we are.

We plan to keep growing our relationship in the years to come and continue to offer you the best.

 

We are looking forward to the next 10 years!

 

 

Sincerely,

Pascal Essiembre

President


WHAT THE FIRST 10 YEARs at NORCONEX LOOKED LIKE.

In this new business age that we all currently operate in the overall landscape sees shorter company lifecycles and much more exits, frequently and rapidly. Turning 10 is an enormous accomplishment for any company. Successful organizations know that many factors play a role; hard work, team dynamics, dedication and perseverance.

In fact, some of the key principles to longevity have helped Norconex navigate throughout the years.

Getting our start as a small professional services company 10 years ago the company has since set its footing as the specialist in enterprise search products and services.  We’ve also developed into providing professional support to customers for enterprise search and crawling solutions. As the cloud has become more secure and gained in popularity, Norconex began offering SaaS (Search as a Solution) and implemented our first fully hosted application.

Norconex also launched two search/discovery analytics products:

With thousands of users, Norconex made its mark in the open-source space by launching universal filesystem and web crawlers integrating with any search engine or repositories (such as Solr, Elasticssearch, HP IDOL, Azure Search, AWS Cloudsearch, etc.)

Allowing us to integrate seamlessly are two elite products from our line known as:

As industries changed and evolved over time, we eventually saw an important shift to open source search solutions. With that change Norconex has helped organizations convert from commercial architecture to open-source. Even as Google announced the discontinuation of their popular “Google Search Appliance” service our company has been consulting with GSA customers to help migrate their search needs to other platforms.

With the overall successful operation of our company for the past 10 years and with the implementation of key products and services, our organization has taken the steps necessary to give back to the community in several different forms. Since 2015 we’ve been supporting the movement in women’s soccer in Canada and became a proud sponsor of several young girl soccer teams near our headquarters.

The journey has been a fun ride with many learnings, successes and challenges along the way but we wouldn’t be able to be here without our amazing staff and clients. Thank you, and here’s to the next 10 years!!

Norconex released an SQL Committer for its open-source crawlers (Norconex Collectors).  This enables you to store your crawled information into an SQL database of your choice.

To define an SQL database as your crawler’s target repository, follow these steps:

  1. Download the SQL Search Committer.
  2. Follow the install instructions.
  3. Add this minimalist configuration snippet to your Collector configuration file. It is using H2 database as an example only. Replace with your own settings:
  4. Get familiar with additional Committer configuration options.  For instance, while the above example will create a table and fields for you, you can also use an existing table, or provide the CREATE statement used to create a table.

For further information:

Norconex just released a Microsoft Azure Search Committer for its open-source crawlers (Norconex Collectors).  This empowers Azure Search users with full-featured file system and web crawlers.

If you have not yet discovered Norconex Collectors, head over to the Norconex Collectors website to see what you’ve been missing.

To enable Azure Search as your crawler’s target search engine, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Azure Search Committer.
  2. Follow the install instructions.
  3. Add this minimum required configuration snippet to your Collector configuration file:
  4. You need to configure your index schema, the endpoint and index name from your Azure Search dashboard.  You will also obtain the admin API key from Azure Search Service dashboard.

The complete list of Committer configuration options is available here.  You will need to make sure the fields crawled match those you defined in your Azure Search index (can be achieved from your Collector configuration).

For further information:

Norconex just made it easier to understand the inner-workings of its crawlers by creating clickable flow diagrams. Those diagrams are now available as part of both the Norconex HTTP Collector and Norconex Filesystem Collector websites.

Clicking on a shape will bring up relevant information and offer links to the corresponding documentation in the Collector configuration page.

While not all features are represented in those diagrams, there should be enough to improve your overall understanding and help you better configure your crawling solution.

Have a look now:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) have been all the rage lately, used by many organizations, companies and even individuals. This rise in popularity can be attributed to the sheer number of services provided by AWS, such as Elastic Compute (EC2), Elastic Beanstalk, Amazon S3, DynamoDB and so on. One particular service that has been getting more exposure very recently is the Amazon CloudSearch service. It is a platform that is built on top of the Apache Solr search engine and enables the indexing and searching of documents with a multitude of features.
The main focus of this blog post is crawling and indexing sites. Before delving into that, however, I will briefly go over the steps to configure a simple AWS CloudSearch domain. If you’re already familiar with creating a domain, you may skip to the next section of the post.

 

Starting a Domain

A CloudSearch domain is the search instance where all your documents will be indexed and stored. The level of usage of these domains is what dictates the pricing. Visit this link for more details.
Luckily, the web interface is visually appealing, intuitive and user friendly. First of all, you need an AWS account. If you don’t have one already, you can create one now by visiting the Amazon website. Once you have an account, simply follow these steps:

1) Click the CloudSearch icon (under the Analytics section) in the AWS console.

2) Click the “Create new search domain” button. Give the domain a name that conforms to the rules given in the first line of the popup menu, and select the instance type and replication factor you want. I’ll go for the default options to keep it simple.

3) Choose how you want your index fields to be added. I recommend starting off with the manual configuration option because it gives you the choice of adding the index fields at any time. You can find the description of each index field type here:

4) Set the access policies of your domain. You can start with the first option because it is the most straightforward and sensible way to start.

5) Review your selected options and edit what needs to be edited. Once you’re satisfied with the configurations, click “Confirm” to finalize the process.

 

It’ll take a few minutes for the domain to be ready for use, as indicated by the yellow “LOADING” label that shows up next to the domain name. A green “ACTIVE” label shows up once the loading is done.

Now that the domain is fully loaded and ready to be used, you can choose to upload documents to it, add index fields, add suggesters, add analysis schemes and so on. Note, however, that the domain will need to be re-indexed for every change that you apply. This can be done by clicking the “Run indexing” button that pops up with every change. The time it takes for the re-indexing to finish depends on the number of documents contained in the domain.

As mentioned previously, the main focus of this post is crawling sites and indexing the data to a CloudSearch domain. At the time of this writing, there are very few crawlers that are able to commit to a CloudSearch domain, and the ones that do are unintuitive and needlessly complicated. The Norconex HTTP Collector is the only crawler that has CloudSearch support that is very intuitive and straightforward. The remainder of this blog post aims to guide you through the steps necessary to set up a crawler and index the data to a CloudSearch domain in as simple and informative steps as possible.

 

Setting up the Norconex HTTP Collector

The Norconex HTTP Collector will be installed and configured in a Linux environment using Unix syntax. You can still, however, install on Windows, and the instructions are just as simple.

Unzip the downloaded file and navigate to the extracted folder. If needed, make sure to set the directory as readable and writable using the chmod command. Once that’s done, follow these steps:

1) Create a directory and name it testCrawl. In the folder myCrawler, create a file config.xml and populate it with the minimal configuration file, which you can find in the examples/minimum directory.

2) Give the crawler a name in the <httpcollector id="..."> I’ll name my crawler TestCrawl.

3) Set progress and log directories in their respective tags:

 

4) Within <crawlerDefaults>, set the work directory where the files will be stored during the crawling process:

5) Type the site you want crawled in the [tag name] tag:

Another method is to create a file with a list of URLs you want crawled, and point to the file:

6) If needed, set a limit on how deep (from the start URL) the crawler can go and a limit on the number of documents to process:

7) If needed, you can set the crawler to ignore documents with specific file extensions. This is done by using the ExtensionReferenceFilter class as follows:

8) You will most likely want to use an importer to parse the crawled data before it’s sent to your CloudSearch domain. The Norconex importer is a very intuitive and easy-to-use tool with a plethora of different configuration options, offering a multitude of pre- and post-parse taggers, transforms, filters and splitters, all of which can be found here. As a starting point, you may want to use the KeepOnlyTagger as a post-parse handler, where you get to decide on what metadata fields to keep:

Be sure that your CloudSearch domain has been configured to support the metadata fields described above. Also, make sure to have a ‘content’ field in your CloudSearch domain as the committer assumes that there’s one.

The config.xml file should look something like this:

 

The Norconex CloudSearch Committer

The Norconex http collector is compatible with several committers such as Solr, Lucidworks, Elasticsearch, etc. Visit this website to find out what other committers are available. The latest addition to this set of committers is the AWS CloudSearch committer. This is an especially useful committer since the very few publicly available CloudSearch committers are needlessly complicated and unintuitive. Luckily for you, Norconex solves this issue by offering a very simple and straightforward CloudSearch committer. All you have to do is:

1) Download the JAR file from here, and move it to the lib folder of the http collector folder.

2) Add the following towards the end of the <craweler></crawler> block (right after the specifying the importer) in your config.xml file:

You can obtain the URL for your document endpoint from your CloudSearch domain’s main page. As for the AWS credentials, specifying them in the config file could result in an error due to a bug in the committer. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you DO NOT include the <accessKey> and <secretAccessKey> variables. Instead, we recommend that you set two environment variables, AWS_ACCESS_KEY and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY with their respective values. To obtain and use these values, refer to the AWS documentation.

 

Run the Crawler!

All that is left to do is to run the http collector using the Linux shell script (from the main collector directory):

Give the crawler some time to crawl the specified URLs, until it reaches the <maxDepth> or <maxDocuments> constraints, or if it finds no more URLs to crawl. Once the crawling is complete, the successfully processed documents will be committed to the domain specified in the <documentEndpoint> option.

To confirm that the documents have indeed been uploaded, you can go to the domain’s main page and see how many documents are stored and run a test search.

Norconex released version 2.7.0 of both its HTTP Collector and Filesystem Collector.  This update, along with related component updates, introduces several interesting features.

HTTP Collector changes

The following items are specific to the HTTP Collector.  For changes applying to both the HTTP Collector and the Filesystem Collector, you can proceed to the “Generic changes” section.

Crawling of JavaScript-driven pages

[ezcol_1half]

The alternative document fetcher PhantomJSDocumentFetcher now makes it possible to crawl web pages with JavaScript-generated content. This much awaited feature is now available thanks to integration with the open-source PhantomJS headless browser.   As a bonus, you can also take screenshots of web pages you crawl.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

More ways to extract links

[ezcol_1half]

This release introduces two new link extractors.  You can now use the XMLFeedLinkExtractor to extract links from RSS or Atom feeds. For maximum flexibility, the RegexLinkExtractor can be used to extract links using regular expressions.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Generic changes

The following changes apply to both Filesystem and HTTP Collectors. Most of these changes come from an update to the Norconex Importer module (now also at version 2.7.0).

Much improved XML configuration validation

[ezcol_1half]

You no longer have to hunt for a misconfiguration.  Schema-based XML configuration validation was added and you will now get errors if you have a bad XML syntax for any configuration options.   This validation can be trigged on command prompt with this new flag: -k or --checkcfg.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Enter durations in human-readable format

[ezcol_1half]

Having to convert a duration in milliseconds is not the most friendly. Anywhere in your XML configuration where a duration is expected, you can now use a human-readable representation (English only) as an alternative.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Lua scripting language

[ezcol_1half]

Support for Lua scripting has been added to ScriptFilter, ScriptTagger, and ScriptTransformer.  This gives you one more scripting option available out-of-the-box besides JavaScript/ECMAScript.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Modify documents using an external application

[ezcol_1half]

With the new ExternalTransformer, you can now use an external application to perform document transformation.  This is an alternative to the existing ExternalParser, which was enhanced to provide the same environment variables and metadata extraction support as the ExternalTransformer.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

Combine document fields

[ezcol_1half]

The new MergeTagger can be used for combining multiple fields into one. The target field can be either multi-value or single-value separated with the character of your choice.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

New Committers

[ezcol_1half]

Whether you do not have a target repository (Solr, Elasticsearch, etc) ready at the time of crawling, or whether you are not using a repository at all, Norconex Collectors now ships with two file-based Committers for easy consumption by your own process: XMLFileCommitter and JSONFileCommitter. All available committers can be found here.

[/ezcol_1half]

[ezcol_1half_end]

[/ezcol_1half_end]

More

Several additional features or changes can be found in the latest Collector releases.  Among them:

  • New Importer RegexReferenceFilter for filtering documents based on matching references (e.g. URL).
  • New SubstringTransformer for truncating content.
  • New UUIDTagger for giving a unique id to each documents.
  • CharacterCaseTagger now supports “swap” and “string” to swap character case and capitalize beginning of a string, respectively.
  • ConstantTagger offers options when dealing with existing values: add to existing values, replace them, or do nothing.
  • Components such as Importer, Committers, etc., are all easier to install thanks to new utility scripts.
  • Document Access-Control-List (ACL) information is now extracted from SMB/CIFS file systems (Filesytem Collector).
  • New ICollectorLifeCycleListener interface that can be added on the collector configuration to be notified and take action when the collector starts and stops.
  • Added “removeTrailingHash” as a new GenericURLNormalizer option (HTTP Collector).
  • New “detectContentType” and “detectCharset” options on GenericDocumentFetcher for ignoring the content type and character encoding obtained from the HTTP response headers and detect them instead (Filesytem Collector).
  • Start URLs and start paths can now be dynamically created thanks to IStartURLsProvider and IStartPathsProvider (HTTP Collector and Filesystem Collector).

To get the complete list of changes, refer to the HTTP Collector release notes, Filesystem Collector release notes, or the release notes of dependent Norconex libraries such as: Importer release notes and Collector Core release notes.

Download