Beneath Notice: Simulated Web Publishing on the LAN Copyright 2001-2002 Miguel Guhlin

PageMill, Claris Home Page, Frontpage, Dreamweaver...it's always the same. At some point in the workshop on web page design, someone asks, "What's this FTP I hear people talking about? How do I get the files from my computer to the web server?" It's a scary question for one simple reason--unless you have made special arrangements on a legitimate web server in your district or local education service center, you won't be able to demonstrate the process. And, the only alternative is to use a free web host (refer to sidebar) or say, as I have so many times, "Your next step is to contact your webmaster and find out how to get the files from your machine to their's."
BUT WAIT, WHAT ABOUT FREE WEB HOSTING?
Despite the plethora of sites that will host your web pages for free, I have found them to be a hassle. You have to overcome any one of the following problems: 1) Advertisement banners popping up on your web pages; 2) Restrictions on the types of files these sites will accept (for example, filename extensions are limited to html, htm, gif, jpg and others are banned); 3) Content filtering in a district will usually prevent easy access. And, if you've facilitated an intro web design class, bypassing the proxy server is not something you necessarily want to guide people through (much less encourage and still retain the amity of your network administrator). Showing people how to get to Yahoo's Geocities--which provides free hosting of your web pages--has been tough when you have the all-knowing proxy guarding the gate.
OVERCOMING THE ALL KNOWING PROXY
Before you get too excited in the hopes that this article is about escaping the boundaries of the firewall and content filtering software, let's back up a moment. The primary goal in a web design class after designing a web page is learning how to publish it. As a writing teacher, we write to publish--I create web pages to share ideas. Yet, in a simulated environment, publishing web pages can be difficult. So, the best alternative is a low-tech solution that does not involve breaking laws and avoids the frown of the all powerful network administrator.
WEB PUBLISHING: THE MECHANICS
Over the years, I have found that the mechanics of web publishing may take 1 of 3 forms:
1) Work on a local area network to place files in a shared folder.
2) Use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to copy files from your computer to the web server. A server is basically a computer on the network that provides storage space. It may also provide printing and other services, but in the case of web pages, it's always storage of some form or another. This file server may be accessible over the local area network and reside in your building or it may be physically distant and accessible over the Internet. Using free or shareware popular programs like LeechFTP (much better than WS-FTP and available online with a tutorial at http://www.mguhlin.net in Resources section) on the PC, or if on a Mac, Transmit or Fetch,you can copy files from your computer to the server. A web server, in turn, shares those pages out on the Internet. This allows you to enter the address for that web server and then the name of the folder where your web pages reside, and your work is shared.
3) Copy the files to a floppy disk and walk it over to the campus webmaster.
SNEAKER-NET? NO WAY!
Of the 3 approaches, the third is the least desirable. Publishing work over the network has almost eliminated the necessity of floppy disks. Whether this was due in part to the iMac's popularizing the concept, the fact that large files and folders just exceed the capacity of 3.5" diskettes has made it necessary to seriously consider the first two forms of web publishing. And, as CD-writers and ZIP drives increase in popularity, some may choose to skip the network. After all, now that we're all using the network, unless you're running fiber (like in Mt. Pleasant ISD), bandwidth is at a premium.
ON THE LAN
A campus in Northeast ISD (San Antonio, Texas) has teachers place completed web pages in a folder with all their graphics and other linked documents. This folder is then placed in the PUBLISH web folder on the campus' shared network drive. The campus webmaster checks the PUBLISH folder on a daily basis and then publishes the information to the World Wide Web. This approach is useful, but requires that drives be mapped or, at the very least, users know how navigate the campus or district network.
Another LAN-based approach that works especially well in workshop settings is to use free programs like Hotline (Go to http://www.shareware.com and type in Hotline). Hotline is free software that allows you to set up a server on any machine with an IP address quickly and easily. Thus, the workshop facilitator could set up the Hotline Server on the network in the lab, and students could use the Hotline client software to drag and drop their web site (in a folder) into the network drive.
Hotline works surprisingly well inside the firewall, and, in some cases, works as if the firewall wasn't there. Of course, despite this being free software available for use, I must mention that it is used inappropriately by some on the Internet. However, it offers much in the way of a quick, easy way to collect projects on a network using drag and drop.
SETTING UP AN FTP SERVER
For the campus webmaster, the expectation that teachers publish directly to a web host, whether it's a free, ad-paid host or the district's server, is too much. For the district technologist, it's a policy issue--no direct access to the web server. Yet, you still need to teach people how to FTP. It's a crime not to teach them.
A simple, cheap solution might be to use a program like BisonFTP. I first had occasion to use BisonFTP (http://www.bisonftp.com) when guiding clients in the setup of a web-enabled database. Frustrated with Windows NT and 2000 FTP permissions, I sought out a program that would let me run a program to make a computer into an FTP Server.
This FTP server would allow me to set up users and groups (to generalize the permissions users might have and save the work of creating permissions for each user) that gave me folder/directory level security. Two programs fit the bill; they include WFTPd (http://www.wftpd.com) and BisonFTP (http://www.bisonftp.com). Of the two, I came to prefer BisonFTP. Now, on a local area network or on the Internet, I am able to quickly setup an FTP Server that users can use to download and/or upload their web pages. I have great control the settings, and can be up and running quickly. Both programs have full featured demo versions, however, you may choose to purchase one. I paid approximately $30 for my copy of BisonFTP and was up and running on my home LAN within minutes.
AT LAST, I CAN ACCOMPLISH MY GOAL!
Most importantly, I am able to meet my goal of modeling web page design and web site publishing within one workshop, satisfying the oft-repeated request, "How do I FTP?"
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