Automatic software downloads from an HTML page?

Subject: Automatic software downloads from an HTML page?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 14:08:18 -0400

For various software utilities that I've downloaded, the Web site
typically offers an automatic download function. For example, after
filling out an HTML form to register my name and address, I click a
Submit button, and once processing of the form is complete, the Web
site redirects me to a download page. A typical page has the message
"click here if the download doesn't start in 5 seconds", with a link
to a file or file handler. Usually, the download begins
automatically; if not, clicking the link starts the download.

So: How is this done? Is it a simple matter of specifying the URL for
the file on the server? Does it require .ASP programming or a CGI (or
other) script?

What I'd like to do is use Paypal's "but it now" buttons to handle
the payment processing for a downloadable file. The documentation for
this feature states that you can specify a redirect page (i.e., the
next page the Web browser should display once payment processing is
complete), so in theory, it should be possible to provide the URL of
an automatic download page, and the file should download automatically.

In practice? Who knows! Has anyone tried this? Any obvious drawbacks
I'm missing? I do have a shopping cart installed (CubeCart), but I'm
not happy with how it works... it's not a particularly efficient
interface, and the software e-mails a link to download the file
instead of automatically downloading the file, and the e-mail is
eliminated by spam filters more often than I'm comfortable with.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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