Notes for Personal Information Providers
This Document outlines the options, procedures and technicalities
involved for those wishing to publish their own information on the
World Wide Web. Three points need to be considered:
Making your Documents accessible
Prospective publishers have a choice of building and running their own
Web Server or using one run by Information Services on its SUN7
machine. A Web Server is able to access documents from either its own
reserved filestore space or a specially-named directory in a user's
own filestore space. Thus to become a Personal Information Provider
requires that you have an account on the SUN7 computer.
Not all students and staff are eligible to have an account on SUN7. If
you are in doubt, please contact the Computing Help Desk on extension
47171. Those who do not normally qualify will need a written letter
of support from their Head of School before such an application can be
considered by Information Services.
SUN7 users do not have access to the Web Server's reserved space thouh
they are able to create their own directory from where the Web Server
is able to read documents. Thus, any registered SUN7 user is easily
able to become a Web publisher.
The remainder of this document sets out the (minimal) procedural and
technical considerations for publishing on the World Wide Web using
Information Service's SUN7 Web Server.
Preparing your own Documents
This is a task for which there are almost as many solutions as there
are publishers! The final form of any document to be published must
exist in a form known as HyperText Markup Language or HTML for short.
Such documents can be written from scratch using Text Editors, a
variety of HTML authoring tools or converted to HTML from whatever
form the originals are in.
Users with access to Microsoft's Word for Windows Version 6.0A and
above and enhanced with Microsoft's free add-on known as Internet
Assistant are perhaps in the most favourable position. With such an
arrangement, HTML versions of Word for Windows documents can very
quickly be generated. Similarly, WordPerfect users can make use of
software known as Internet Publisher. However, dealing with this
fully is beyond the scope of this document.
In both of these cases, the HTML documents can be prepared on a PC and
transferred from there onto the SUN7 machine using an FTP program such
as CuteFTP, SmartFTP or FTPX. The Host Name will be
web.bham.ac.uk; the Directory Name public_html.
Code of Conduct
Code of Conduct for Information Providers
should be read by prospective users of this facility prior to making use of it.
The University has issued a
Code of Practice covering publications and communications.
You will first need to register as a Personal Information Provider.
This can be done on-line using the SUN7 command,
pip_reg. To use this command, you must first login to
the SUN7 computer using your own Useraname and Password.
The registration program will ask you to:
- Give your preferred name;
- Give your email address;
- State whether this is a new application or a
change to an earlier one;
- Summarise the type of information you wish to
- Summarise details of links you intend to
- Acknowledge that you have read and understood a
number of documents relating to the use of University and Computing
- Acknowledge the responsibilties required of
Personal Information Providers using Information Service's SUN7
The command will create the necessary directory, called
public_html immediately beneath your Home Directory and a
Link using your Email Address. The data captured by the pip_reg
command is sent to the Webmaster who will complete the registration
and send a confirmation by email, usually within a couple of working
Users wishing to make use of this facility should note the following points:
- You will need to give others execute access to
your Home Directory. If you have registered as a PIP using
pip_reg then your Home Directory will be given this access.
Once you have logged in, you can do this using the UNIX command:
chmod o+x ~
where ~ stands for your Home Directory.
i.e. you actually use the ~ character rather than replace it
with the name of your Home Directory.
- Create a directory called
public_html immediately beneath your Home
Directory. This will not be necessary if you have already registered
as a Personal Information Provider using the pip_reg command
as this will be done for you.
This can be done using the UNIX command:
You must then give others (i.e. the world) execute access to this
directory. If you have registered as a PIP using pip_reg
then your public_html directory will be given this access.
This can be done by using the UNIX command:
chmod o+x public_html
If you do not have an index.html file (or link) and you require the
server to deliver a UNIX-style directory listing, then you must give
others read access to the directory. If you have registered as a PIP
using pip_reg then your public_html directory will
be given this access.
This can be done by using the UNIX command:
chmod o+r public_html
As an aside, this would then allow other SUN7 users to see the directory
listing using the UNIX command, ls.
- All documents that you wish to publish must be
located in your public_html directory or below.
To `move' to this directory from your Home Directory, use the UNIX
If you create further directories beneath
public_html, then you must give others
execute access to them in the same way as you did with your
public_html directory. The earlier note on whether or
not read access is required applies as well.
It is also recommended that you build a link, called
index.html. If there is a principal document (or Home Page)
in this directory then use its filename in the link command. If not,
construct a new document, itself an HTML file, which simply informs
the caller that no further information is available. Use this new
filename in the link command.
- Create a document to describe what is available
and provide links to Web documents elsewhere. This is an HTML
document. You must give others read access to this and any other
files you create.
The principal document in the public_html directory
is known as the Home Page. If you wish to nominate a document as the
one callers are given by default, then the Home Page is the one to
The name of your Home Page in the public_html
directory should have a prefix of either homepage, or
home and a suffix of either html or
htm. This allows for files created on some PCs (where
the prefix and suffix have a maximum of 8 and 3 characters
respectively) to be uploaded onto the SUN7 without the need to rename
- Each file uploaded to the SUN7 machine must be
given an appropriate file access setting allowing it to be read by
the Web Server program.
This can be done using the UNIX command:
chmod o+r filename
where filename will be something like homepage.htm.
If you wish to set this file-permission for all files in a directory,
simply use the UNIX command:
chmod o+r *
Note:You could slightly modify this command as
follows and add it to the .profile file in your
chmod o+r public_html/*
Then, whenever you log in, the commands in .profile
will be run automatically. So, after uploading a batch of files from
your PC or Mac, you need only log in to the SUN7 and then immediately
logout (using the exit command).
- All URLs to your documents will begin with:
where linkname is based upon the Email Address specified at
the time you used the pip_reg command to register as
In general, this will be either the Mailbox name, taken from your
Central Mailname, or your SUN7 UserId. The examples below show how the
linkname is used in a URL.
- The URL of the Home Page for the SUN7 user,
jonesjo, could be:
If jonesj gave her Central Mailname, J.O.Jones, when using the
pip_reg command to register as a PIP, then the URL
Please note that the alternative (all lower-case) URL:
may also be used.
- It is recommended that your create a link to your
Home Page using the UNIX command:
ln -s filename index.html
where filename is the name of the file which you wish to be
delivered by default, i.e. when a caller uses a URL which does not
terminate with a filename.
If this file is in any other directory (below public_html)
then you can choose any name
If you have a link as described above then the URL may be written simply as:
where linkname is either jonesj, J.Jones or j.jones
If a caller omits the filename part from the URL, then the server will
first look for a file called index.html. If
index.html points to the Home Page, then that
effectively becomes the default.
If there is no index.html present, then the server
will provide what is more or less a UNIX directory listing. This could
include old versions of documents or ones not yet ready for
release. Thus it is good practice to avoid this happening by including
- Access to documents can be permitted or denied
according to the network address of the Web Browser making the
request. Access control is based upon a per directory mechanism.
Thus, to apply restrictions to a particular document you will need to
do the following:
- Create a separate directory.
- Place the document in it.
- Create a file called .htaccess in this
directory with appropriate instructions.
- According to the type of restriction used, you may need to
create files called .htpasswd and .htgroup.
- Restrictions defined in the control file apply to ALL documents in
- Documents needing different restrictions will need to be placed in
another directory with the appropriate .htaccess control
A detailed discussion may be found in the document,
Restricting Access to Web Pages.
- If you'd like to see details of who has been
accessing your documents using the
- If you want to publish information related to a
community group or student society you're involved in, then you may
like to consider the following scheme which gives you a neater URL to
Suppose you wish to publish information for a student society, say the
Mexican Society, then you could create a sub-directory called
MexicanSociety in your public_html
directory. The Webmaster could create an additional Linkname, called
MexicanSociety which points to this sub-directory.
(The sub-directory and link names need not be the same though it's
recommended.) Hence, the URL which points to the Mexican Society pages
To make matters more convenient, the Webmaster could also create a
further Linkname, mexicansociety, pointing to the
same sub-directory. If callers then typed a purely lower-case URL
(which some are inclined to do) they would still get to the correct
This scheme has a major advantage in that should you need to transfer
responsibility for publishing the information to someone else, the URL
can still be used. After the web pages have been moved to the other
person's account, you should then ask the Webmaster to remove the
existing Linkname and define a new one.
This scheme easily extends to allow one person to publish information
for more than one such group.
This document is maintained by Roy Pearce and was last updated in June
If you have any comments, please