The World Wide Web

Geneticists share genome data with colleagues. Fans of Anne Rice talk about her latest books. Hundreds of programmers team up to create a free Unix system called Linux.
Using Linux to Contribute to the Web

DOS, Windows, and Mac users can happily access the Web with a browser. But the extra dimension Linux adds is the ability to become part of the Web—the ability to make information available to others via a Web server.

Setting up a Web server is certainly more difficult than using a browser, but is still surprisingly easy. This ease of use allows a large number of Internet users to contribute to the Web project. And Linux makes a great platform for a Web server because of its small size and speed. With the growing body of Internet Linux users, the potential is enormous.

Httpd is a popular Web server available for Linux. Its creator, NCSA, is the same group that developed Mosaic.Httpd will consume about 200K RAM while running. The program itself uses very little disk space. Just allocate enough disk space to hold all the pages of Web information.

The burden of the Web on a Linux server was tested by creating a working Web site on a i386-33 Linux machine. During a 40 day span, the PSU Linux WWW received 5375 requests from 1328 different sites around the world. This is an average of 6.9 requests per hour and 165 per day. The Web requests never interfered with any work being done by other users at the machine. A Linux system can easily provide Web services and have horsepower to spare.

To get httpd and set up your own Web server, look for httpd in the Linux Software Map. For full documentation on httpd, look at http://hoohoo.ncsa.uiuc.edu/. This site has all the documentation needed for installation.

The Web Means Business

The Web has attracted a surprising amount of attention from the commercial world. This is a testament to its effectiveness. No other existing system has the clean design, flexibility and momentum that the Web enjoys. “It's the killer application of the Internet,” says Eamonn Sullivan of PC Week. “I know everyone says that now, but that doesn't make it any less true.”

PC Week Labs discovered Linux during the course of setting up a Web server. The result is they continue to use Linux on their server, and Linux won PCX Week's Product of the Week for April 18, 1994. Press exposure of this sort will inspire new and exciting business applications for Linux.

The number one buzzword in business today is client/server. The Web and Linux fit perfectly into such a system. A documentation solution for a large organization can be quickly and effectively developed with the Web.

For example, a business might be grappling with the documentation requirements of ISO 9000, the process quality standard of the International Standards Organization. Using the Web with Linux servers and clients running Mosaic, documents related to ISO 9000 can be sorted in one location, updated only by the group responsible for that process. But anyone inside the organization can view the documents. The Web is an easy, open solution to a thorny problem.

Exciting Possibilities for the Linux Community

Still, the greatest potential of the Web lies with the Internet-connected Linux community. As Linux continues to prove itself to Internet users, the audience for a Linux Web will grow. By distributing data around the world, enormous amounts of information can be conveniently accessed from any Linux machine. There are already a number of Web servers which have manual pages and info files on-line. Hook into the Web and save space.

The first possibility is for manual pages and info pages. This infrequently accessed information can be viewed via the Web instead of storing copies on every machine. There are already a number of Web servers which have manual pages and info files on-line. Hook into the Web and save space.

Using FTP to access files can be difficult for novice users. A Web browser provides a friendly interface for getting files from FTP sites. Common FTP sites can appear as links on a Web page. Newsgroups, also, can be accessed via the Web. Hypertext links between followups are automatically created.

Subscribing to mailing lists can be automated. Using fill-in forms, users could select links to subscribe and unsubscribe. In the same way, they could register with Linux User Counter.

To better bring the Linux community together, a Web server can be configured so that each user has a home page of information about themselves. A tree of Linux information can be developed, right down to individuals. New Linux users would register themselves, and their home page, with some local server. Every new local server would register itself with a central server. Now the location and interests of each Linux user are easily available.

Lastly, there is potential for information beyond mere man pages. Linux is extraordinary in the quantity and quality of online information available. Because of the contributions of groups like the Linux Documentation Project, information about nearly every aspect of Linux use are available. All of these manuals, information sheets, and FAQs can be made available on the Web.

What makes this possibility so exciting is that each manual can be stored in one place—the author's home site. So when a document is updated, the author has only one central location the change it. Although the documents would actually be scattered around the world, to the Web user they would all appear on one easy-to-locate Web page. The Web provides an optimal system for both authors and users.

The World Wide Web is still in its infancy. The first half of 1994 saw triple-digit growth in Web traffic. By encompassing older systems of information access, like gopher, the Web guaranteed instant compatibility.

Native Web information is exploding. Through the Internet and through CD-ROM distribution, the Linux community is finding many new and creative uses for this flexible technology. No doubt more and better uses will be forthcoming. It is certain that the phenomenal growth of the Web will continue.

Bernie Thompson ran the PSU Linux WWW during its 3-month life span. He can be reached at bjt105@psu.edu.

Bernie Thompson (bjt105@psu.edu) Bernie Thompson ran the PSU Linux WWW during its 3-month life span.

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