Always Online Web Site
HQ: Austin, Texas
HP 3000: Remote Series 917
OS: MPE/iX 5.5
MIS Staff: Outsourced to
Springfield CyberLink (800.638.6245)
Solutions: Open Market Web Server,
Performs: Commercial Web services
It's not always easy to practice what you preach, but having an HP 3000 and the Springfield CyberLink experts makes hosting our NewsWire web sites a low-effort endeavor that's yielding high productivity. Now we're adding a search engine to the many months of information we've been delivering to our subscribers, integrating our site's HP 3000 host with technology on other servers.
When we set out to deliver our HP 3000 information online, having an HP 3000 at the heart of the operation was high on our list of specifications. We also needed something that would be easy to manage from our Web editor's chair and hacker resistant. It needed to be reliable, too. Picking an HP 3000 was a philosophical choice, but no amount of sentiment would overcome any technical limitations.
The HP 3000 presented no limitations. We serve up text-based Web pages to the paid subscribers of this newsletter, posting our stories well in advance of the mail date. We also post graphics with some stories, including some screen shots and photos in more colors than we print in our newsletter.
We post a lot of material, all of it available in a menu that serves as an archive of articles. That means we needed Web host service that gave us an easy way to post stories quickly. Springfield CyberLink (800.638.6245, www.springfieldcyberlink.com), a Internet and Web hosting division of 3k Associates that uses HP 3000s alongside other servers, gave us all we needed -- using several tricks native to the HP 3000 as well as some nice features of their e-mail facility which runs on the 3000.
Publishing through e-mail
Many Web sites get populated with pages through File Transfer Protocol (FTP), the most common file exchange program among networked computers. While the HP 3000 has this capability, we needed something that left us with a better way to archive our postings to our Web sites. When you send an FTP transmission, a lot of FTP clients don't leave a record behind of what's been sent. CyberLink provided us the magic we needed by using the HP 3000's command files.
When a story is ready for transmission to the Web site, we simply mail it to the Series 917 that hosts our Web sites. We send a plain text transmission with a special password and routing line at the top of the file, followed by the HTML code that makes up all Web pages. The Series 917 receives the file in a mailbox that's part of NetMail 3000, a mail application for MPE systems. Special filters in NetMail send the file to a waiting HP 3000 command file that routes the posting to the correct directory among CyberLink's Web sites hosted on the 3000.
Having the e-mail interface was important. It gives us a way to track our previous postings without being online, since we operate in dial-up mode at the NewsWire. Our Eudora e-mail software stores HTML transmissions and lets us re-use the materials we create and test locally. Since NetMail accepts MIME files, the binary transmissions of graphics files get the same treatment as any text we send.
CyberLink also verifies what we sent has been safely received. Once the command file executes, it mails us back a message with the name of the file we just transmitted and notice of its status.
We started our Web site as a free service to the community, posting occasional stories without any security. But when the NewsWire extended its full information service to the Web, we knew we had to protect the investment of our paid subscribers. Establishing password and ID security on the HP 3000 was no problem for the folks at Springfield CyberLink, either. They created a separate subscriber-only area for the full feed of news and graphics, and put it behind the common ID authentication dialog box you see on paid Web services around the world.
Any password-based system obviously needs passwords. Being HP 3000 people, the CyberLink folks knew we'd need an automated way to manage the passwords and IDs for our subscribers. They gave us a simple maintenance Web page, secured behind a password and ID, that lets us add, delete or list the passwords and IDs which we assign.
Since the 3000 uses an operating system that differs from Unix and Windows NT, it has proven immune to hacking attempts. The system can limit access by controlling IP addresses. Springfield CyberLink uses the Open Market Web Server software on the Series 917, but we haven't needed a secure version of that software yet. We don't take credit cards for subscription orders over the Internet yet, so we don't need electronic wallet capabilities.
However, we do fulfill trial subscriptions from our site. People who browse the FreeNews site (www.3000newswire.com/newswire) can fill out the survey that starts a trial subscription online. That information is then automatically mailed to another e-mail address here at the NewsWire.
Searching our archives
While the HP 3000 has been a great workhorse for the NewsWire over the past year, no platform can do everything. After we posted more than six months of online issues, it became evident that we had a great resource at hand for keeping track of what's happening in the 3000 market. We needed an affordable search engine to share that resource with our subscribers as well as make it available to writers and editors working on articles for us.
After some investigation, the Springfield CyberLink people came up with a shareware search engine that lets us get started with these capabilities. The engine, htdig, runs on a Pentium PC under Linux, the freeware version of Unix that hosts many a Web service. When subscribers click on the Search the NewsWire link, they communicate with this Linux server, which looks up the keyword requested and points to the article that's hosted on the HP 3000.
We're not experts on networking or on the intricacies of the Internet. We're a publishing company that needed a way to deliver what we learn over the Internet. Springfield CyberLink provided all the know-how we needed, taking us from a simple set of Web pages to secured, subscriber-only areas to new search functionality that integrates the HP 3000 host with other systems.
CyberLink and the HP 3000 make Webcasting easy for us, doing the technical legwork and relying on proven solutions like MPE. We're one of several companies who choose to host their Web information on the HP 3000. Manufacturing tool supplier Quantum Software, integrator WorkGroup Solutions and memory system supplier Strategic Memory also host their Web sites on the HP 3000 at CyberLink. The site is also host to the popular 3k Associates pages, which include HP 3000 help wanted listings and a comprehensive directory of HP 3000 vendors. After more than 18 months of Web service from HP 3000s, we can say the HP 3000 has lived up to our expectations. About the only thing higher than those has been the level of service.