Archived at Pineapplesoft
The Pineapplesoft Link newsletter covered a wide range of technical topics, see the archived issues.|
The newsletter was first emailed in 1998. In 2001 Benoît discontinued it in favour of professional writing for magazines.
The July 1998 page was archived in 2003 to preserve the original content of July 1998.
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Welcome to the seventh issue of Pineapplesoft Link.
Last month's article on domain names proved very popular. Based on the comments I received, the right mix seems to be some "technical" topics like XML, Java and CORBA and some "background" articles like domain names.
This month is more in the "technical topics" track and I'll discuss the web servers. I have also added a short piece on XML/EDI in Europe. Finally there's the usual section on Pineapplesoft activities that is packed with news.
Please continue to send your comments or suggestions to [address removed, the newsletter is no longer published thank you for your support].
Pineapplesoft Link, July 98:
In the last few years, the web has become one of the most popular computer applications. New PCs come loaded with a web browser (although there's much discussion on which web browser it should be). The statistics are red hot: more users, more hosts, more sites, more pages are added daily.
However the web could extend even further in our lives. It is not unlikely that, in the near future, most devices will have web capabilities. But that does not mean, they'll all have a web browser!
What is a Web Server?
When you visit a web site, two software applications work together. On your computer, there is a web browser (typically Netscape Communicator or Internet Explorer) and, on the site computer, there is a web server.
As web surfers, we are very familiar with the browser but the server role is just as important. It's the server that keeps all the pages and sends them, upon request to the browser. Without servers, there would be no web because the browsers would not be able to retrieve remote pages!
Popular servers include Apache, a free package that is the most popular Internet server, Netscape SuiteSpot, a very complete server from the maker of Communicator and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), a free server included with Windows NT Server.
The Server is Everywhere
There are also many simple web servers that works great on desktop PCs. You too can be a web site!
Why would you want a web server on your computer? The web server is also the basis of an Intranet. Install a simple server, hack a few pages and, in no time, you have created a simple Intranet site. It is a very simple solution to share documents or your agenda with your co-workers but remember that you can no longer turn off your computer -- lest your Intranet is no longer accessible.
The latest versions of Windows 95 and Windows 98 ships Personal Web Server. If you don't have it, you can download it free of charge from the Microsoft web site. My personal preference is for Netscape FastTrack (http://home.netscape.com), which is a very powerful yet easy to use server. O'Reilly WebSite (http://www.ora.com) is another strong choice. What I really like about O'Reilly is the one version that ships with a book "Building Your Own Web Site". The book teaches you everything about building a web site and the software allows you to do it!
But Really Everywhere
However web servers are particularly attractive for non-computer devices. Thanks to progress in electronic chips, a web server can be installed on virtually any device: garden watering system, answering machines, video recorders, etc. In practical terms, it means you can hook these devices to the Internet, or an Intranet, and remotely control them from a PC with a browser.
Imagine you are in the office and you suddenly realise you forgot to water your garden. No big deal, just connect to the web site of your watering device and turn it on! Sounds like science-fiction? It's not. People are building such devices today. The main problem is not the hardware but the pipe. Few homes have the right kind of Internet connection but cable modems and xSDL promise to change that. Both cable modems and xSDL offer more bandwidth to the home. Finally IPv6, the next version of the Internet core protocol, is ready to accommodate more than one device per square meter on Earth!
One of the most intriguing products in that field is probably the web-enabled keylock. In large buildings the ability to remotely control which doors are open and which are closed is essential. At least one vendor has put a web server in its keylocks to support just that. Using a simple web browser, guards can check the building in minutes.
There are many advantages to building a web server in devices. To name but a few: the web is familiar and easy to use. It is also universal. To control the device, there is no need for fancy hardware or software -- a very common web browser suffices. Like the Internet, it's universal: it works both from home and from the other side of Earth. Finally, it's cheap. Web tools are widely deployed.
What About Security?
At this point, you may be worried about security. What if a villain opens the door through the web? What if your mother-in-law screw up your video programming?
Security is a very important issue but lots of work has been done on securing the Internet. There are many standard security and authentication mechanisms to choose from.
The web is stretching to new horizons and it could stretch
to places we never thought of before. Imagine controlling
your house, from the heating to the cooking, through you web browser -- worldwide!
XML/EDI in Europe
If you read this newsletter since the beginning, you know I have been very active in developing XML/EDI, through the XML/EDI Group. We started the Group almost one year ago, before XML was formally adopted as a standard, because we thought it was a great solution for electronic commerce, particularly EDI.
Things have evolved positively. We won the support of many players and, today, few question that XML and electronic commerce have a long way to go together. On July 5th, CEN/ISSS Electronic Commerce Workshop announced a project, with the co-operation of the XML/EDI Group, to promote and study the application of XML/EDI in Europe.
CEN/ISSS is the arm of the European Standardisation Body in charge of the information society. What the Electronic Commerce Workshop does is evident by its name.
The project has just been approved and we are still looking for partners (not to mention financing) but I encourage you to visit the project homepage at http://www.cenorm.be/isss/workshop/ec/xmledi/isss-xml.html.
As a background to the issue, I recommend the Netscape View Source article I wrote in February, "EDI on the Internet", available from http://developer.netscape.com/viewsource/marchal_edata.htm.
Seminars on XML/EDI remain very popular. I spoke before Edifrance at the end of June. My special thanks to Pilar Barea and Claude Chiaramonti for organizing the event.
June was a very busy month and there are so many announcements to make that I don't know where to start.
First, Pineapplesoft's new logo. If you have not visited the web
site recently, you have probably missed it. In my view, the logo
perfectly symbolizes IT: it has both a very formal part and an
exuberant, lively top. Just like good IT which is a mix of
formalism and creativity.
No less than two new articles appeared in June:
Also developer.com ranked the February issue of Pineapplesoft
Link (What You Need to Know About XML) as a "Cool Resource".
Which gives me a smooth transition to another award.
Pineapplesoft web site was designated among the top 100 New
Technologies web sites and Business sites in Belgium. Thank you for
Last but not least, the demonstration site, Emailaholic.com, is
up and running. The site is still young and features only one
applications that demonstrates a database-driven web application.
It gives a fun tour in smileyland, written in Java with an object
database and CORBA. We will gradually introduce new services for
emailaholics, those people who use email regularly.
About Pineapplesoft Link
Pineapplesoft Link is published freely, every month via email. The focus is on Internet applications in its broadest sense: distributed and mobile computing, e-commerce, Java, XML, etc. The articles target people interested or concerned about technology either personally or professionally.
This issue of Pineapplesoft Link may be distributed freely for non-commercial purposes as long as attribution (including the URL: www.psol.be) is given. For commercial redistribution, please contact me .
Editor: Benoit Marchal
Acknowledgements: thanks to Sean McLoughlin MBA for helping me with this issue.
Back issues are available at http://www.psol.be/old/1/newsletter/.
Although the editor and the publisher have used reasonable endeavors to ensure accuracy of the contents, they assume no responsibility for any error or omission that may appear in the document.
Last update: July 1998.