Washington Apple Pi

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Don't Discard That Rotten Apple --;
Make It an Internet Server, Part I

© 2000 Richard S. Sternberg

Washington Apple Pi Journal, May/June 2000, pp. 25-30, reprint information

When my ten year old returned from summer camp knowing how to make a Web page, I decided that, I, too, could create my own Web site. Though I haven't programmed anything larger than a calculator since around 1978, I realized, after a little more thought and a skillful assist from friends on the TCS, that I had just about everything I needed to create and manage a complete multihosted Web and mail server for almost an unlimited number of Web sites of unlimited size and to host unlimited email accounts sufficient for a medium-sized law office as well as my family's use. As a challenge for the winter holiday season, I decided to prove that I could accomplish all of this for free. I missed by $129, and that's because I got lazy.

More and more people and businesses want or need their own Web sites --; Web sites they can control. Business owners and individuals who want to make themselves easier to find want their Web sites to be something in their own name. More of these people are getting connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week with more affordable, high-speed connections. And more people find that they have old, unused, Ethernet-capable Macs that are too old and slow to be useful in a modern office, but aren't ready for the scrap heap. If you are one of those people, all of the ingredients are there for you to create and control your own Web presence.

This will be the first of two articles on how to save an old Macintosh from scrap and use freeware or cheap shareware to set up a single-line multihosted Web server for unlimited hosts and domains. In this segment, we'll talk about how to use freeware and widely available non-specialized Web authoring tools to create a Web page even your child could make, and, we'll cover registering your domain names, so you can pick your names and decide what your piece of cyberspace ought to look like. We'll also discuss the minimum hardware requirements so you can decide if the project interests you.

Next issue, we'll use freeware to make a ploddingly slow 680x0 series computer host a rather adequate small business or personal Web server and email server. We'll conclude by discussing the creation of your own domain name server (DNS) so that all Internet middlemen between you and your customers --; or your friends and family --; fall out of the picture. Sadly, I haven't completed the domain name server yet. If that project fails, this end product may still cost a small annual fee for secondary hosting from a commercial Internet service provider (ISP), but that's still better than outside services.

The objective is to demonstrate that you can control your interface with the Internet using little more than scrap silicon and freeware. And if a lawyer can do this as a winter holiday project, it can't be too impossible --;--;

Minimum Requirements

The key to this miracle is Apple's Open Transport 1.3, which is included as part of Mac OS 8. While most of the documentation suggests that the servers can run on System 7.5.3 and later and some earlier versions of Open Transport, I can only verify that it works with Mac OS 8.1 (you might recall that the earlier releases of OS 8 suffered from some reliability issues) and Open Transport 1.3. The magic you need from Open Transport is its facility for using the Mac's hidden ability to perform single-line multihosting. In a Wintel or Linux server, you'd need multiple Ethernet cards and controllers along with complex routing tables, filters, and rules individually programmed to route information to serve multiple domains; the magic word "multihosting" allows that to become remarkably simple on a Mac. But the term "or later" may be limited: Apple has indicated that single-line multihosting capacity may be excluded from the new OS X. My Centris 610 may be a better Web server than its much, much later and faster descendents.

You will also need at least one fixed IP address. While that address need not be on-line all the time, it will be easier to complete --; and it makes much more sense for a Web server --; if it is. An Internet Protocol, IP address, is a set of four numbers in the approximate form, which is the primary IP address of my host. The need for a fixed IP address means that you could not use your TCS account as a router to your internet servers, because the TCS, like almost all dial-up systems and some other protocols, assigns a variable IP address to you when you sign into the TCS servers.

This implies another requirement: your machine must be able to use Ethernet. Unlike other platforms, you will need only one machine and only one IP address to serve as many domains or secondary IP addresses as your memory allows. I experience no recognizable service deterioration serving five IP addresses and eight domains, plus email service, on my low volume site. Most of the information you may read about server abilities is written by programmers, whose experience is in preparing for major site traffic or ISP servers; real small business or personal use internet servers don't seem to be able to approach the traffic volume that can slow my ancient, war-weary Centris. Converting my non-Ethernet-ready Centris 610 required some swapping with another Ethernet-ready Centris 610 and a $35 Ethernet adapter, but most creative people ought to be able to find a relatively free source for a scrapped Ethernet-ready machine.

It is probably a good idea to use a machine with a good complement of memory. The servers we'll be using run much better if virtual memory is turned off. An original equipment supply of four or eight megabytes may cause problems, but you need not fill the machine as you might today. The 44 megabytes already in my Centris work just fine.

Finally, the documentation for most of the server software I used says they require at least a 68020 processor, as in the original Mac LC, but, as a practical matter, the price and availability difference between a 680LC40 or PowerMac 6100 and an LC is insignificant, and Social Engineering, the publisher of the Web server we'll be using, states that its Web server will run significantly faster on a 6100.

Objectives and Terminology

Your objectives should probably include setting up multiple domains to serve Web pages and email. If all you want is a simple, single Web domain, the effort involved in this project is probably not worthwhile when commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) charge as little as $7.95 per month to host your domain name, and they provide rudimentary email service and five megs of Web space. If you don't insist on having your own domain name, that is, something like www.SternbergLaw.Net, free Web hosting is widely available. This set of articles is only worthwhile if you want to host multiple Web sites.

We need to discuss some terminology before proceeding, even though that's not as fun as making a server. It essential to use consistent terms to understand what are otherwise reasonably easy concepts, but none of the major commercial or shareware publishers use the terms consistently. This article adopts the definitions used by Andreas Pardeike, author of a wonderful Web server plug-in named Welcome, not only because his technical support, pricing, and product are superior, but because everyone else's usage of these terms, specifically including Apple and Social Engineering, is inconsistent and not helpful. Indeed, even if you don't use Mr. Pardeike's Web server plug-in, Welcome, for virtual multihosting, statistics, or rules and routing, his Web manual was key in my understanding of basic concepts necessary for this project. You can download the Welcome manual and plug-in at http://welcome.pardeike.net.

Domain: A domain is a name registered in the InterNIC naming system for you. SternbergLaw.Net is a domain, of which www.SternbergLaw.Net is a host name (name or alias of a particular machine). By registering your domain with the InterNIC, computers connected to the Internet anywhere can be directed to any information you are providing under that name and to the host computer on which that information is stored.

Host: A host is a computer on the Internet offering some service (such as a Web site). While often used as a synonym for domain, because the role of the domain naming system (DNS) is to link hosts and domains, it is much more precise to use the word host when referring to the computer performing Web, email, or other Internet services, and domain when referring to the domain when referring to the Web, email, or other Internet service.

IP Address: An IP (Internet Protocol) Address is the unique numeric address of a machine on the Internet. Since computers speak in numbers and most people speak much better in words and names, the domain naming system was created to perform the arduous task of converting the unique numeric addresses used by computers into unique words and names used by people, and vice versa.

DNS: A DNS is both a reference to the Domain Naming System and to a computer protocol that provides domain naming system services

Multihosting: Multihosting is the art of cleverly using a single computer to respond as if it were several separate computers, each with their own unique host name. Multihosting might be the most frequently misdefined term in modern computing. I have seen it named IP Aliasing, Secondary IP Address Support, IP Masquerading, Multihoming, and IP Multinode Support. Multihosting is the ability of one computer to act as a host for more than one domain.

Virtual Hosting: Virtual hosting performs the trick of multihosting by allowing the DNS to "advertise" multiple host names for a single machine. The host names are registered in the InterNIC DNS as all appearing at the same IP address. Since nothing in the DNS rules prevents more than one host name from being pointed at a single IP address, this is permitted. The host is provided with some method of distinguishing between the host names when requests come to its IP address. This trick has the disadvantage that the DNS will fail to work when providing a reverse lookup. Because it can only return one host name, it will return the primary host name listed in the DNS for that IP address. This prevents some secure services from being used on a virtual domain.

Single-line Multihosting: Single-line multihosting performs the trick of multihosting by enabling the host to answer multiple IP addresses using a single Ethernet card and line to the Internet. Each host name has its own IP address.

I chose to set up my Web server as a single-line multihosted server. I had no article like this to help me. I was worried about incompatibility problems. I decided I could always add virtual hosts to my system after I use up all of the available IP addresses, but I wanted to keep this as simple as possible. If you only have access to limited IP addresses, or if you can't get single-line multihosting software like I did, or if you don't care about how you multihost, or if you don't want to go through the hassle of unlocking your Mac's single-line multihosting potential, virtual hosting may be a better choice for you.

Let's get registered!

Registering a domain name is shockingly easy, as some of the recent advertisements have suggested. There are four companies that provide easy name checking and either reservation or registration. The original was the InterNIC found at http://www.nic.com/, but there are others at http://www.register.com/ and many other places. Until recently, your ISP could register the address for you, and send your payment later, but NIC now wants its payment up front and my ISP, at least, declined to bill me. The price for a domain name in the .com, .org or .net range is $70 for two years, conveniently payable by secure connection with a credit card. The sites are all quite self-explanatory, and I'd suggest you go there yourself, rather than going through an ISP, if only because you can check all the names you ever considered to see if they're available, as shown in one recent television commercial.

Figure 1: One of the many sites which can help you register your domain name.

Note that Register.com offers domains that end in .md. For medical doctors only --; supposedly --; but the Internet is a flashback to the Wild West when it comes to rules. I can't imagine in that environment that there'd be much enforcement, anyway. Folks from Maryland therefore might consider that the country of Moldavia is selling its assigned domain names to Americans --; supposedly to medical doctors. Moldavia has been assigned the suffix .MD. I don't know the details regarding price and registration, but it isn't hard to find. I did not obtain a .MD address, because the consensus in my family was that a domain like Sternberg.MD would confuse people and would not be associated by most people with "the Sternbergs of Maryland." If I was Montgomery County, however, I'd forget about that .gov stuff and snap up Montgomery.MD.

Before you can register your selections, you will need information like the name and registration information of the responsible party. Once you've completed creating all of the servers to be described in this series of articles, you'll be able to be your own responsible party, but in the meantime, you have a few choices:

  1. wait until you're done setting up everything, and then register and hope everything actually works without prior testing;
  2. reserve the name for an additional cost while you get everything arranged so nobody steals your favorite name (I actually lost my first choice --; after considering this project for nine months --; by half a day after I sent in the order to register to my ISP, and I've been told that some of the registration sites sell name request inquiries to "entrepreneurs" who reserve and try to re-sell the names);
  3. get the registration information from your current ISP or a temporary hosting site and "park" the domain name(s) until your Web server is working, while designing and testing your Web site designs from their host in the meantime. Registration rules assign the domain to you, and you can transfer the domain when you wish. Services like minimal hosting can cost as little as $7.95 per month per site, or $49 per year for secondary Web hosting, which merely points your domain name to a host elsewhere.

Creating your site

So much has been written about top-of-the-line Web authoring software, that I was petrified about creating my own site more than about creating a server --; until my ten year old returned from a day of summer camp with a basic explanation of how to craft a Web site. Still, all my friends --; and all the pros --; united to tell me the job of writing a simple site could not be accomplished without software packages ranging in price from $129 to $350. Since the cost of a commercial Web authoring package seems impractical, especially if one considers the drafting time and the risk of failing and having to hire a professional anyway, I refused to purchase a Web authoring tool.

I didn't have to. I already owned the tool that became my second favorite Web drafting software, Microsoft Word '98. My first choice, Netscape Composer, which is included in Netscape Communicator, is free. If you merely want to post a résumé or brochure or many things you can write or present in Word, try using the "Save as HTML" command in the File menu, and then open the resulting document in Composer. Or, open your favorite Web site in Communicator, and, so long as you comply with applicable copyright laws, save the results as a file on your drive. Or, use one of the many, many models provided with Word.

Be ready to say "Shazam!"

I'm busy posting basic résumés or practice descriptions of attorneys with whom I work as fast as I can get the attorneys to send them to me in electronic form. Creating each new Web page now takes me a few minutes.

This is much easier than anyone wants to tell you. At the very least, you will learn that the qualities you are seeking in a good Web page designer are not programming skills. With the automation of html language writing, any average fourth grader can master a sufficient level of html authoring. For better-designed sites, you are looking for page layout and creative design skills, rather than programming skills.

Setting up Open Transport for Single-line Multihosting

If you have an old System 7 Mac, your first step will be to upgrade it to Mac OS 8, unless you wish to brave new ground and try this under System 7. Even with pre-Mac OS 8 machines, multihosting can supposedly be achieved with Open Transport and cheap shareware products like IPNetRouter. And it is fairly easy to tell whether you've successfully unlocked multihosting by pinging it. You won't be able to bring some older Macs past OS 8.1, but 8.1 will do fine.

Before you upgrade your Mac to Mac OS 8, reformat your drive, then strip everything off the machine which isn't discussed in this article other than a spare copy of Netscape Navigator. The server we are going to be creating will not be fully secure, but it will be more secure and much more competent than Apple (or Windows) Personal Web Sharing. While there are no known security holes that could be used to affect your applications or data, why take chances? Erase all prior data and reformat the drive. If that sounds too time-consuming or troublesome, don't bother.

Now, clean install Mac OS 8.1, or, Mac OS 8, as I did. Upgrading to 8.1 is free from Apple at http://asu.info.apple.com/swupdates.nsf/artnum/n10491). I strongly recommend a clean install of the operating system. While you're installing, leave out Apple's Personal Web Sharing, or turn its extension and control panel off using Extensions Manager after the installation, and restart the computer; Personal Web Sharing, if left on, may seize Web serving port 80, leaving it unavailable for the new Web server, and Personal Web Sharing is reported to be immensely slower, incapable of multihosting, and problematic.

Keep a copy of a small version Netscape Navigator that will run on the Web server, so you'll have easier access to the Web from the server to retrieve missing files and software during the installations. But, if you can't find Netscape Navigator because, like me, you deleted it when you wiped your hard drive clean, "don't worry, be happy." I threw out my ancient version of Netscape Navigator, and my server is working fine.

You must now tell the computer to use the IP address. For testing purposes before you go on-line, you may wish to set up a private network with another computer away from the Internet, but this isn't mandatory. To create a private network inaccessible to the world between two Ethernet connected Macs, just supply each with IP addresses which are perfectly acceptable locally, but which are improper in the Internet naming conventions. The IP address 192.168.2.nnn is commonly used for this in text books, and I suggest you use the first three segments for testing, but insert your future actual IP address for the nnn segment. Later, it will be easy to make the changes that'll put you on line. Call your ISP and get the IP addresses you'll be assigned for your server. As an aside, an IP address can be used for many things, so don't ask your ISP the wrong question when seeking an IP. Your ISP won't know what IPs you have for your server; they won't even know you have a server, and they may get confused and give you the IP address for the server you are using on their host. You want to know what IP addresses are assigned to you. For example, we have the series from to, which our ISP assigned to us assuming we were going to put PCs on all but the first two addresses. Our available IP addresses are any in that series, except the first two. I chose to "locate" my Internet hosts at through

Open the TCP/IP control panel.

Fig. 2: The TCP/IP control panel, set to test the address

Yours will probably connect via Ethernet, rather than Alternate Ethernet (see Fig. 2), but you want to insert your primary host address, or your test address, in the IP Address. Use this submask for testing, but eventually switch to the data provided by your ISP for IP Address, Subnet mask, Router, and Name servers. You may list your domain names as I have under Additional search domains, since this will help internal searches from your machine, but it is optional and not worth the discussion time in a novice article.

If you want to single-line multihost, you must create a new file called "IP Secondary Addresses" using a text-only editor, like the free SimpleText which comes with all Apple systems. The file name is critical, and is exactly as written without the quotation marks. The file, which must be saved as a text file and placed in the Preferences folder inside the System Folder is extremely important and must be perfect. Simply list each additional IP address after the primary address. The text after the semicolons in my example are merely comments and are ignored by the system).

Fig.3: My IP Secondary Addresses file during testing; addresses later changed to 216.50.13.nnn

;Put in Preferences Folder
;Opens Open Transport 1.3 capability to use multihoming, a.ka.,
; IP Aliasing, Secondary IP address Support, IP Masquerading,
; "Multihoming", IP Multinode support
;See Apple Notes at http://til.info.apple.com/techinfo.nsf/artnum/n30337
;List each secondary IP address, with optional sm and rt variables
;In this example,, the number before the secondary
; addresses,would be the primary IP address set in TCP/IP control panel

After you close and save this file properly, restart your computer. To test if its working, go to another machine on the same private network, or, if you started on the Internet using a legal IP address routed by your ISP to you, you should be able to ping the machine using a common freeware utility like MacPing, Mac TCP Watcher, or IPNetMonitor. A variety of Mac-based web tools can be found at:



or at


by selecting Macintosh and doing a search for "Internet".

You should now be single-line multihoming. For now, your machine is all dressed up with no place to go. But, next issue, after you've had time to design your Web pages, pick and register some domain names, find and set up an old Mac for multihosting, and think about whether you want to single-line multihost or virtual multihost, we'll go on to set up the Web and email servers.

In the meantime, if you want to read this article in a Web-savvy form, with active hyperlinks to all of the sites listed, "visit" me at http://www.RSSternberg.org/Multihost.html.