Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Using Abyss Personal Web Server for Classroom

Let me first explain the background. I am working as Reader at Xavier Institute of Social Service, Ranchi. Ranchi is the capital of Jharkhand - a state in country of India. At XISS, I teach marketing and research related subjects in three different departments - Information Management (IM), Marketing Management (MM) and Financial Management (FM). Each department has different requirement of teaching and from time to time i need to give my students handout and notes.

XISS is served with a 2 GB data pipe taken from the Internet Service Provider - BSNL. The 2 GB data pipe feeds into a single server from where it is distributed to the faculty and students using Wireless Area Network. Now, in the city of Ranchi, the ISP services are more down than up, and as such using the internet for distributing the notes and softwares via the internet was a major pain. I tried uploading the notes to various file sharing sites - but the result was the same. With the ISP being down most of the times the students had difficulty in accessing the notes. Using cyber-cafe's for the download was an expensive proposition as they charge Rs. 10/- per hour and Rs. 3 for per page print. Even then, most of the cyber-cafe's were dependent on BSNL and the net result was the same. No or low net connectivity.

As the students were all equipped with a laptop, most of the times they came to me with flash-drives to get the notes and the handout's. But this posed a major risk for my computer as most of the students either had a free version of some anti-virus and some of them did not have an anti-virus. You can get an idea of the problem, if you consider that in the last six months, i had to reformat my system two - three times to get rid of viruses which had come from the student's flash-drives. Furthermore the time taken to scan a flash drive, copy and then give it back to the students (about 240 of them) was a time consuming process.

I wanted a solution which allowed the students to access the notes quickly without being a pain to me. While thinking about the problem, I realized that the XISS central server was "on" even when BSNL was down. And this gave me an idea - Why not run a small web-server on my computer (which has a static IP) and then ask the students to download the files and notes from my computer.

To this end i started looking around for a small web server. Microsoft's PWS was an option but my previous experiences with it were not very good and i was reluctant to use it. Apache was way too powerful for what I had in mind. Whenever in such a dire need, my friendly free-ware site comes to my rescue. I went over to www.freewarehome.com and it pointed me to Abyss Web Server X1. I downloaded Abyss and installed it on my computer. Installation was a painless process and was done in a jiffy. The Abyss web server can be configured to install as a windows service, automatic startup on windows logon or manual startup. This gave me a high degree of flexibility and i choose to used the manual startup option. This meant that, me and only me, decided when my server was up and running.

Abyss X1, said the documentation, can only manage a single site - which was fine by me. When i clicked the icon it started up and configured itself to listen to port 80. No issues there. Configuration is done by web-based console which is always available on the localhost. So, to cut the long story short, Abyss X1 was up and running in no time. I was surprised by the ease with which i could start, stop, and configure Abyss Web Server X1. More importantly it comes with complete documentation which makes the process even more simple. And what is more, Abyss Web Server X1 has excellent anti-hacking protection built in. So novice web-masters like me can relax.

Reading the documentation informed me that the directory "htdocs" was the root directory. So up i went and created three (3) sub directories in it IM, FM and MM. And bingo, I was done. I copy-pasted the documents and notes in to the various directories and gave the students the link for example "http://192.168.XXX.XXX/IM/" (for IM students) and informed them that the server will be up from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (my office timings) and that they can download or read the documents online from the given link.

Here is a screen shot from my computer running the Abyss Web Server X1:

The experiment is on for the past two days and i am happy to report that things are working out perfectly okay. Except for some of the students messing up the URL things are hunky dory. I thank Aprelium Technologies for making such a wonderful product available to the masses at no cost. And yes, if you are looking for a personal web server, which is easy to manage and use - look no further "Abyss Web Server X1 is here"

4 comments:

  1. i have a question about abyss. is it possible to host websites that can be viewed for anwhere in the world? or is it that with abyss websites can only be viewed on a local network

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  2. I finished my PMIR from XISS in 06. Good to see a tech change sweeping the campus and someone using tech to help pedagogy. Thumbs up ! Would like to meet you while I am down at Ranchi. Subroto, DM HR Whirlpool, Gurgaon(09212710371)

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  3. Hi,
    Sorry to interfere. It seems that you want to distribute some documents/information around the campus.

    Using of web server is one solution to it if you don’t have LAN (Local area network) in your campus. If you have LAN then why don’t you just share the files with read only permission. I don’t know what OS you are using but XP’s file sharing protocol is pretty good against hacking. (You can keep a constant watch on who is connected to your computer through a simple s/w Share-Watch, which is just a file (no need to install anything make your computer busy).

    I haven’t used “Abyss Web Server”, but I think such unknown-simple-easy to use web servers are very easy to hack. Please take extra caution that your question papers are not stored in the computer where you have installed web-server.

    I think the situation might little complicated than I have assumed which has led you to use a web-server.

    ( By the way, I was looking for a Whirlpool showroom in Gurgaon !!! :D)

    you can reach me -- arghya(at)ra101.com

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  4. Anonymous5:00 AM

    I have been using Abyss for over a year now and it is not a mickey-mouse app.

    It is run all over the world and the free version is just as secure as the pro version. Great product!!

    GP

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