ServersVQ Server: The Truly Personal Web Server

VQ Server: The Truly Personal Web Server




A truly personal Web server, vqServer runs on any operating system supporting Java applications — Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris — and is designed for individuals and smaller companies wishing to serve Web pages from a modest PC.

To run vqServer, you’ll need a Java Virtual Machine (JVM), versions 1.1 or 1.2. Both Internet Explorer 4 (or better) and MacOS 8.1 (or better) have this JVM, while other OS users will need to seek out a JVM (Sun and Windows users can find this at the Sun Web site; Linux users can find it at the Blackdown Web site.) In addition, Sun and Linux users will find it easier to install vqServer with X Window or XFree86 running, although it is possible to run vqServer without X running.
A truly personal Web server, vqServer runs on any operating system supporting Java applications — Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Solaris — and is designed for individuals and smaller companies wishing to serve Web pages from a modest PC.

Installation is a matter of unzipping the downloaded file (you’ll need an unzip program with Linux; the gzip command found in most Linux distributions will work), placing the files in the correct locations, and then launching vqServer as an executable (under Windows) or from the Java interpreter. (Windows NT users can configure vqServer as a service, but that requires a little extra work, as explained in the online documentation.)

When you’re finished, you’ve actually installed two servers: an HTTP server on port 80 and an administration server on port 9090.

Easy Admin

Administering vqServer is a simple affair, performed by connecting your Web browser to the Control Centre. This application, which is password protected, oversees functions like file locations, aliases, logfiles, hit, authorized users, access control lists, file types, sessions, general session settings, the TCP/IP port where the server listens for HTTP requests (the default is 80 for a Windows system and 8080 for a UNIX system), and more. Also, you can set the minimum and maximum number of threads the server keeps available for handling requests; when you set a minimum number of threads you’re also enabling thread caching, which improves performance by decreasing the overhead associated with creating, maintaining, and destroying threads. This is where you can shut down a server, abort all HTTP connections (useful when there are errant Java servlets and CGI scripts), or stop all loaded servlets.

The file-handling capabilities in vqServer are noteworthy. Instead of forcing you to stick your files into a public directory, vqServer uses aliases to map requests to actual filenames. The noteworthy aspect to this is that you can associate actions with specific filenames: to send the file, to redirect a request to another location, to run a Java servlet, or run a CGI script.

In addition, aliases control who has access to a file, which brings us to a discussion of vqServer’s security features. vqServer manages access from a list of users and passwords, as well as access control lists. When you associate an alias with an access control list, only those users listed in the access control list have access to the file.

vqServer keeps track of users on a detailed level: when the users were first registered and the last time they accessed your Web server, what ACLs are associated with the user, and more.

Emphasis on Java Servlets

The emphasis in vqServer, not surprisingly, is on Java servlets, which can be more efficient than CGI scripts. The Control Centre in vqServer is a Java servlet, and there are a few other example Java servlets included with vqServer. Since vqServer conforms to version 2.0 of the Sun servlet specification, there shouldn’t be too many problems when running outside servlets. In addition, vqServer does allow CGI scripts to be run.

You won’t ever see a large corporate installation of vqServer: it’s simply not the sort of feature-rich product that cracks a corporate consciousness. But if you’re looking for a relatively secure Web server for a personal site — say, if you’re running a small Web site from your office or departmental computer, chiefly for file-sharing purposes — then vqServer is worth checking out.

Pros: Free, 7 Easy to install, 7 Java-based server runs on any platform supporting JVM, 7 Files and directories can be password protected, 7 Browser-based administration allows for remote administration, 7 Excellent online documentation

Cons: Limited capabilities, 7 no support for any APIs other than Java


New in v1.9: Added developer’s toolkit, API documentation, and support for Microsoft JVM, Developers’ toolkit and API available, Customisation toolkit available, Performance improvements, Bugs fixed; Release Notes


Upgrade Meter:
3

New in v1.9.17:
Minor bug fixes, performance enhancements and a partial implementation of Sun’s servlet specification 2.1.
Release Notes


Upgrade Meter:
1

New in v1.9.55:
Option to disable reverse DNS lookup added to the system settings page of the control center;
incorrect HTML in directory listings fixed;
servlet loader bug that could result in creation of two servlet instances with the same alias was fixed;
bug preventing the correct display of connections in the GUI window after selecting View|Clear window was fixed;
servlet classloader modified so that servlets located in Java libraries or on the CLASSPATH must be explicitly named in an alias;
error page initialization parameters added to file upload servlet;
About dialog added to GUI window;
session IDs now include a random number, which makes it almost impossible for potential attackers to guess another user’s session ID;
Command-line parameters can be specified for CGI script interpreters;
Windows installation program now asks users to change the default system administrator user ID and password during installation.
checks for certain URLs that can cause certain JVMs to crash;
Release Notes


Upgrade Meter:
2


This article was originally published on Jul 11, 1998

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Version Reviewed: 1.9

Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard
Date of Original Review: 7/11/98
Updated: 11/30/00

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