Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Huh! Windows 98 as Macintosh!!!

I have heard stories that people who get selected into Microsoft have to go through 6 or 7 levels of interviews; and that the final interview most of the time's is taken by one of the top honcho's. I was never quite lucky to work in Microsoft but if the practise is true then they should stop wasting their time and money. I mean how stupid can you get. Take a look at the picture below:



Enlarge it if you so wish. I got the webpage when I was trying to update an old system which has Windows 98 installed on it from Internet Explorer 6.0 I was completely floored. ROTFLOL would be a better word. Look at the second line it says: "This website is designed to work with Microsoft Windows Operating System only".

I am completely lost. AFAIK and remember, MS Windows 98 is a Microsoft Windows Operating System. Right or wrong? Can anyone explain? I know you have stopped support for MS Windows 98 - but the stupid error page is the pits. I mean, ........ I guess you know what I mean.


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"