Starting a web site for distributing Fatigue Knowledge


F.A.Conle, Fatigue Design & Evaluation Committee of the SAE
Orig. Nov.14, 1999.
Web Page: http://fde.uwaterloo.ca/Fde/Startup/start1.html

Introduction

The purpose of this page is to help you start your own web site. It is probable that you already have your own web pages, but most people probably can not yet create or run programs that handle data or something sent in for processing by Netscape. These are termed cgi-bin programs. I'm assuming that you will probably want this additional capability to allow world fatigue researchers to try out your new theory or some form of public software module that you may create for people to use. At present it is not easy to provide this type of web computational server without having super user (root) access to the web site. It can get messy in the debugging stage to request another (root user) to make changes for you. It is quite possible that your present site may have this covered, however, and you will not need to create your very own web site machine. Setting up your own is not that difficult, however, and the following sections are intended as guides to help you work through it.

Getting Started

  1. The first step is to get some hardware. I'm going to assume that you have a net plug in the wall from which you can access the public internet. If you use a modem to cruise the net, this is not going to work, though you could serve through an ISDN line (probably too expensive). Modems are usually too slow for this type of thing. Users get impatient. Given fast cable modems you may have a chance, but these days (1999), your best bet to serve pages and handle cgi-bin calls is to be hard wired to your university net.

    The cheapest way to serve some pages and cgi-bin calls is to get a slightly older PC computer (a 486 is probably fine), and add about 4 to 10GBytes of disk. This should give you lots of room for serving fancy graphic images. If you intend not to serve too much graphics, 4GB is probably fine. At present the operating system, Linux, takes about 1GB, so the rest is yours to fill with fatigue stuff. You also need a CD disk reader, and of course an internet connection card.

    You could also use an old Sun SPARC 10 (or newer) computer workstation if you or other people are not using it.

  2. Buy, or borrow a CD containing the latest version of Linux for PC. You could load the whole thing for free from the net, but then you need to know a lot about the process. Generally its best to load from a CD. Two variants are popular ($30): I have personally only loaded the redhat version, but two other people have told me that SUSE is better. It is very popular in europe, and one seems to get more coverage of hardware variants. SUSE also comes with Beowulf, in case you want parallel computing later :)
  3. Ok, with the computer not yet plugged into the net, turn on the machine and load the CDROM for boot.

    Then simply answer the questions. The most unpleasant part is partitioning the disk, but the CD will figure out some defaults anyway, so even this should not be difficult if your happy with their suggestion. When you are done with the load, and do the reboot, the web server software, called "Apache" will be running. Total time to load and run is dependant on your CDROM speed and at 1X has taken me 3 hours (it was awhile ago). My guess is that you'll probably be done in about an hour with most newer CDroms.

  4. Users: When the machine is running you will need to create some user accounts - or at least one, yours. Theoretically you could use the initially existing superuser or root account, but this is only meant for administration normally. The manual will tell you which program to active to make user accounts (probably Gnome, wherein you can click your way to the administration- adduser tool)

Operating

Serving Web Pages If you prefer to create your own web pages on another Win-95.. machine, you can then transfer the pages to your own user account on your new Linux machine. I have a subdirectory in my user space called "Public_html" or something similar. Each user has the same directory. Anything that is in that directory can be served to the internet by apache. I can therefore create a web page on some remote machine and ftp it into the web server.
CGI-BIN Handling:
More on this a little later. Or if your desperate, I'll tell you how via phone.
conle@fmsrlb.srl.ford.com