Setting up your own local TCP/IP Network

Second and third phone lines can be fun, ISDN, T1, and T3 connections to the Internet can be even more exciting, but developers tired of slow connections and limited access privileges can take advantage of a more interesting (and much cheaper) option - having your own microserver in your office, connected to your development machines by a TCP/IP connection over standard network wiring. TCP/IP, initially developed for gigantic computers on intercontinental networks, has descended into the price range of the personal computer. If you can afford to set up a dedicated machine (maybe two if you don't want to disrupt an already existing network), you can set up your own small version of the Internet in a cubicle, letting you explore the mechanisms behind Internet services and use that knowledge to build better and more interactive Internet publications.

Many people, even dedicated computer junkies who dream in HTML and mentally plot out clickable maps on subway posters, are intimidated by the prospect of becoming system administrators of their own UNIX or Windows NT machine. However, the costs and difficulties of running such a system are declining. With some initial hard work, a PC, and some ethernet cards, developers can easily assemble a complete client-server network that lets them look in on both sides of Internet connections, making scripting and debugging much simpler. By setting up your own system, you get much more control over your development and testing environment, improved (and simpler) security, and fast connections. When and if the time comes, it's much simpler to connect the microserver's operations to the Internet and upgrade the server than it is to build a system from scratch.

Planning is critical - you need to decide what kind of PC to use, what kind of operating system to set up as your server, what kind of server software to set up, and what kind of connections to make to the computers you already have. Then you may have to tinker with everything to make sure you can use it within your office and still make connections to the rest of the Internet - but by the time you've finished setting this up, you'll know more about the Internet than anybody else except the serious sysadmins who run the gigantic networks that keep the whole system going.

Hypertype's system consists of a Mac connected by ethernet to a PC running either Linux and the NCSA httpd Web server or Windows NT and the O'Reilly Web Site server. Please read at least the planning section before proceeding to the step-by-step instructions for setting up these systems.

Copyright 1995 by Simon St.Laurent. All rights reserved. You may print this document for yourself or others at no charge, but commercial distribution without permission is prohibited.

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