Creating a Client-Server Database System with Windows 95 and Linux

Here's the way to develop a dial-on-demand database cluster in Linux.
Configuring a Dial-On-Demand Server

As mentioned above, we are supposed to configure the dial-on-demand servers in a symmetric manner, i.e., the connection can be started by any server, and once the connection is established, any machine on either side can access the server on the other side, no matter where the connection started. In this case, IPtranslation, which is always mentioned in the diald documentation for connection to the Internet, is not needed. This will simplify the configuration of diald.

We install diald on the server and make it automatically start up after the system boot-up. A sample of the configuration file, diald.conf, is shown in Listing 2.

Listing 2.

The addroute script is executed when diald starts. All the accesses to the remote site are routed to the IP address that activates diald (aaa.bbb.fff.eee in diald.conf). For example:

/sbin/route add -net aaa.bbb.fff.0 \ # remote LAN
                                              # IP address
netmask gw $4 \
window 2048 metric $5 dev $1

We skip the connect script for diald, since it should be similar to the connect script for pppd. It should be noted that the default gateway of all clients in a local LAN should be changed to the IP address of the local server. You may check the completion of this phase by accessing (e.g., using ping, FTP or TELNET) the remote server from any PC in the local LAN. The modem will dial out, and the server will successfully log in to the remote server. However, you will receive no response from the remote server if it has already configured diald in the same way.

System Integration

The reason for the blocked connection between two servers with diald can be explained in the following way. Since both servers are ready to connect to the other side, the route tables of both servers have a route to the IP address for activating diald if the destination of any packet is to the other side. Therefore, for example, serverA starts the connection to serverB and sends packets to serverB after the connection is established. However, the return packets cannot come back to serverA, since the default route in serverB to serverA is to start diald in serverB. ServerA cannot receive the return packets from serverB through the established connection.

We solve this problem by using the ip-up.local and ip-down scripts of pppd. ip-up.local is executed whenever pppd establishes a connection successfully. So, we delete the route table entry to serverA in serverB when pppd starts a connection. Here is a sample of ip-up.local.

/sbin/route del aaa.bbb.fff.0 # remove remote IP
                                  # route

It should be noted that the script has no negative effect on the dial-up service from a stand-alone PC. When the connection is finished, the route table should be recovered. So the ip-down script file, which is executed when pppd stops the connection, is used like this:

/usr/lib/diald/addroute sl0 \ \
aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd \       # server IP address
aaa.bbb.fff.eee \       # IP address will be activated
                        # by diald
Basically, it is the same as the addroute script with the same parameters as when diald starts. After this phase, you should be able to access the remote server from any machine in the local LAN. The remote server can access the local server at the same time. Moreover, a stand-alone PC can dial up and access the server from anywhere.

Conclusion and Future Plans

NORA has been installed and tested on several sites over a three-month period. There has not been a single crash or failure on the server machines. We also set up other services such as file and print servers (Samba), a web server (Apache), etc. Linux is truly a stable, flexible and extensible OS.

We are planning to use ISDN to replace the traditional phone lines to improve the transmission time for large objects like X-ray photos. We are also porting the client software to Linux, so the stability of the whole system can be improved.

All listings referred to in this article are available by anonymous download in the file

Liu Kwong Ip ( obtained a B.Sc. in Information Technology from the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. He is now working for Northern Oral Science Institute as a system consultant.


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