Your very own Internet - an Intranet

You have just been promoted - from Network Administrator to - Web Master! You need help, lots of help.

I have said this before on the course, write it down, the plan that is, for your new web server set-up. Start planning what needs to be done. Every client I have talked to recently has wanted either a "presence" on the Net or an in-house net (intranet). It seems that all this needs Pentium Pro machines with NT4 and 32MB of ram, main-frame hard disk capacity and so on. Oh I forgot, you need to be able to generate web pages in html and lots of java input. Which means a very expensive Web page production package.... Get the picture?

It seems that most have forgotten the roots of the Internet and the World Wide Web. You don't need a heavyweight machine, lots of memory and disk space for an in-house web server. The requirement is very basic, a 386 will do, even a 386sx, say 8MB of memory, 120MB hard disk, Network adapter, vga mono monitor and a keyboard. You have a choice of operating system, no not NT, though you can purchase a server version which will allow many users. No the choice is either Windows for Workgroups with TCP/IP 32bit or Linux. The 32 bit TCP/IP upgrade for WFW is free, yes free and available for download from Linux is totally free and can also be downloaded for free from a great many sites on the net. It is also available on CD-ROM, where the cost of distribution is the cost of the package. The system - Linux - is a 'free' form of unix for Intel and other processors.

[This machine and software configuration is suitable for experimentation purposes as well.]

The Linux option

Linux has TCP/IP networking built in, an ftp server and unix system administration. The last may be a drawback as it uses command line driven utilities with inscrutable options. Various Web Servers are available, again for free, which can be set up from other workstations if necessary. The NCSA's httpd web server can be downloaded from their site for free. The Apache web server is also freely downloadable. Both work well and can serve workstation pc's on the network running all the current browsers.

The Windows for Workgroups option

The 32bit TCP/IP upgrade can be downloaded for free and applied to an existing 386SX pc on a network. If you do so, set the slider control to network runs fastest in the control panel applet for the network. You won't be using this pc for applications so it makes sense to make it a 'server'. A shareware web server is available called whttpd. Shareware is a concept which you may not be familiar with, it concerns your 'honour'. You get to use the software for 30days usually and then if you wish to continue using it, you must pay the author of the software for the use of it. This is usually a small amount of US dollars, unfortunately with our current exchange rate this tends to be pricey, but not as much as a branded product.

This does however allow you to set up a web server with html pages and access it from your networked pc's.

Step 1 - Network set-up

Your first requirement is to change your network protocols to TCP/IP. This can be easy or expensive, depending on your existing network. If you have Novell installed this could get messy and is one of the reasons why Novell has lagged way behind in the Intranet/Internet stakes. TCP/IP add-ons for Novell have been expensive in the past as they were additional packages. With Windows for Workgroups 3.x the addition of a new protocol is very easy and the software cheap - its free! With NT, TCP/IP is already there, simply add it from the master disks or CD. With Windows 95, TCP/IP is also on the CD and is simplicity itself to add. There is one ‘gotcha’ though, the choice of the node numbers. You must know if your network is to be connected directly to the Internet. If it is, the node numbers for all your user pc's and servers will have to be 'registered'. This will cost around R400 to R500 and is to ensure that no duplicate nodes are connected to the net. If it is never to be connected, your life is simpler, but not completely so.

Remember to document the numbers for each pc. You can do this using MSD.

IP Addresses for ‘private’ networks.

There is a recommended set of IP numbers for networks that are not going to be connected to the internet contained in RFC1597. RFC1597 details IP addresses for use by ‘private’ networks. This allows you to accidentally connect to the Internet without causing grief. Addresses are :- to to to

NOTE: I suggest that you copy the 32bit protocol addition to a shared directory on a network pc and install from there. Go to each pc and install over the network.

If you have DOS based pc's that are networked, don't despair, packet drivers are freely available for TCP/IP connection. A packet 'shim' of software is also available for WFW networks that rides on top of NDIS drivers, allowing DOS attachments as well called DISPKT. This is also available for download. This allows you to use packet software such as NCSA’s Telnet and FTP to communicate with your Unix server.

The Nitty Gritty - checking out the Hardware & Software

NIC Checking software.

When you buy a network card you get with it a driver disk. On this disk is usually a combined setup and test program for the card. Using this test software you can check the cards functionality, whether it is set to the correct port address, interrupt as well as testing the cable connection. Most test software also allows you to check communications between two Pc’s with the same network adapter. Note the adapter hardware node address (MAC address) down for future reference.

Ping - your right hand man.

For TCP/IP Ping has to be the simplest and most useful test program. Using Ping you can check your own set-up to see if TCP/IP is correctly set. To do this use “Ping localhost” and Ping will send packets to the same machine. If that is ok and you don’t get “host unreachable” then you can Ping someone else on the network to test cables, routers and gateways. You can use Ping with a name. eg “Ping John” if the name is known to the pc. Check the HOSTS file for names and ip addresses.

Ipconfig - WFW helper

In Windows for Workgroups you can check the TCP/IP configuration using a program called Ipconfig. When run it will give a display of your TCP/IP settings.

The WFW/Win95 TCP/IP package.

In Win95 you can use WinIpCfg to check your TCP/IP settings.

Hosts and LmHosts files.

Most small networks do not need a Domain Name Server set-up and use a simple HOSTS file set-up to resolve names to ip addresses. HOSTS is a plain text file that usually lives in the Windows directory/folder. However in WinNT it is in the Windows\System32\drivers\etc.

The HOSTS file is easy to set up and look after in a small network. A sample file called Hosts.sam is usually supplied with WFW and Win95 that you can edit and save as HOSTS. A word of warning here for those who use Notepad in Win95. The Notepad applet now insist on using an extension of .TXT and has to be told not to use it by entering the filename in quotation marks. Eg: “HOSTS”

Step 2 - Acquire an ‘old’ pc for the Server.

You only need an 80386 or low end 486 for the Web Server. It will need a network adapter, a moderate (100 - 250MB) hard disk, and 4 to 8MB memory.

Option a)

Set it up with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 or 3.1 and install the TCP/IP 32bit protocol as the only (default) protocol. This will keep prying eyes from playing with your disk.

Then install the Whttpd Web Server on the C: disk of the server. Add it to the startup group so that it runs whenever the pc starts. Transfer html files to it and start browsing the pages you have added. This won’t take very long, probably an hour to install and get running. Don’t forget to update the HOSTS file on everybody’s pc.

Option b)

Download Linux and NCSA’s httpd Web Server from the net or buy the CD’s. Install Linux as the operating system and NCSA’s Web Server (httpd). You can upload html files to the server using Windows FTP. Start browsing the pages you have added. This will take a little longer than option a, but provides unlimited users, higher security and eMail (POP3) all built-in.

Optional Web servers

Httpd from NCSA.

This is a free downloadable version of a Unix based Web Server.

Apache web server.

This is a free downloadable version of a Unix based Web Server.

WFW Web server.

This Windows Httpd is a shareware web server for Windows for Workgroups. It functions quite well and allows most of the normal features of a web server to be tried and tested.

Windows 95 Personal Web Server

This is supplied as part of the Windows 95 package in the later version. If you have an older version of Windows 95 you can download the PWS package from Microsoft via the Internet. The PWS also provides and ftp server as well so that for small groups of pc’s it can be used to distribute software and documents.

Step 3 - Install browsers

Your favourite browser has been getting fatter and heavier recently. Try using a lean one for those users who don’t have 16MB plus. I would suggest Internet Explorer 2.0 for Windows 3.x as it will work quite happily in 8MB. The new Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.x has also appeared and is supposed to be very light on system resources.


Whilst Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, is free and downloadable, it is heavy on system resources and will take a long time to download. It is available for both Windows 3.x, Windows 95 and Windows NT. Netscape Navigator is now free and but can be obtained over the net. The NCSA has also created 'Mosaic', a free browser which works well but requires Win32s added to Windows to function. Win32s is the 32 bit application interface written to allow 32 bit

programs to work under Windows 3.x as well as Windows NT. It is now obsolete, but needed for several net applications that run under Windows.

File Transfer programs

FTP is a standard method for transferring files over the net. FTP programs are freely available and most browsers also have a sub-function ftp module. This allows your user to select files using the browser and to download them easily to his/her pc's disk. For serious downloading the Ws-Ftp windows program works much better than a browser, using a split window arrangement similar to file manager.

News server

Usenet style news can also be run on a Linux box. The idea of network news was born in 1979 when two graduate students, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, thought of using UUCP to connect machines for the purpose of information exchange among Un*x users. They set up a small network of three machines in North Carolina.

Initially, traffic was handled by a number of shell scripts (later rewritten in C), but they were never released to the public. They were quickly replaced by ``A'' news, the first public release of news software.

``A'' news was not designed to handle more than a few articles per group and day. When the volume continued to grow, it was rewritten by Mark Horton and Matt Glickman, who called it the ``B'' release (a.k.a. Bnews). The first public release of Bnews was version 2.1 in 1982. It was expanded continuously, with several new features being added. Its current version is Bnews 2.11. It is slowly becoming obsolete, with its last official maintainer having switched to INN.

Html page creation

Again the proprietary software applications do have add-ons, some free and some not. However you can download free add-ons for Word and WordPerfect or you can obtain shareware packages that create and view html pages. Html is not a complex formatting process and you can learn it in a few hours and type it in Notepad to generate pages.

Creation of web pages.

Creating pages of HTML sounds scary but in reality it is incredibly easy. You can use notepad to type in the simplest tag/commands and have a reasonably good looking page in minutes. To do all the fancy and colourful extras you will need some form of HTML word processor. These are not difficult to come by as most are available as free add-ons to existing word processors. One useful gadget that is supplied free with the Windows 95 Powertoys is an HTML printer driver. This driver takes a formatted document with pictures and prints HTML to a file. The file and pictures can then be used by the Web Server.

Word 6 and 7 have an add-on called Internet Assistant which can be downloaded for free from Microsoft. Installing it you will be able to open an HTML document and format it add links and pictures and so on. The newer Word 97 has the HTML editing built-in. I have been shown layout and sizing problems with Word 97 which may make it better to use another editor.

If you are going to do this for any length of time it would be best to purchase something like FrontPage 98 or Hot Metal.

The next step from here

You have a company database that your colleagues need to access. You can set the web server to serve your users data with search facilities as well. The facilities can be easily set up using Visual Basic or QBasic.

The company newsletter or in-house magazine can now be issued weekly, with real life pictures and text with up-to-the-minute information. This assures the best informed employees, with the information really at their fingertips.

[This 'dated' piece is circa 1998. It is only here for historic purposes. JB 2006]