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Computers on the World Wide Web use the HyperText Transfer Protocol to talk with each other. The HTTP provides a set of instructions for accurate information exchange. The communication between the client (your browser) and the server (a software located on a remote computer) involves requests sent by the client and responses from the server. Each client-server transaction, whether a request or a response, consists of three main parts 1. 2. 3. A response or request line Header information The body
A client connects to the server at port 80 (unless it has been changed by the system administrator) and sends a request. The request line from the client consists of a request method, the address of the file requested and the HTTP version number.
GET /mypage.html HTTP/1.1
The above request calls for mypage.html file using the GET HTTP method; the version of HTTP used is 1.1. After the request line comes the header data that consists of configuration information about the client and its document viewing preferences. The header is a series of lines, each of which contains a specific detail about the client and ends with a blank line. A header may look like this:
ACCEPT: */* ACCEPT_LANGUAGE:en-us REFERER:http://www.simplygraphix.com/wedes.html USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0) ...
Most of the lines in the header are self-explanatory. The ACCEPT identifies the various kinds of files which the client can display. The REFERER lines contains the document from which the request was generated. In the case above, it is webdes.html document fromhttp://www.simplygraphix.com web site that has sent the request. the The USER_AGENT specifies the browser and gives details on its version number. The body of the request will contain data sent by the client via POST method. The server now responds. Again, the response consists of three parts. The response line contains information on the HTTP version number, a status code that indicates the result of the request from the client and a description of the status code in 'English'.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
The HTTP version used is 1.1 and the status code 200 and 'OK' explain the result of the client's request. There are many HTTP server status codes and you can know more about them through the links given at the end of this page. The header from the server contains information about the server software and the document sent to the client.
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000, 13:25:54 GMT Server: NCSA/1.5.2 Last-modified: Sat, 22 Jan 2000, 05:15:43 Content-type: text/html Content-length: 12443
The header is followed by a blank line that indicates the end of the header information. From the example above, the server sends an html document of size 12443 bytes as shown by the Content-type and Content-length lines. The server line gives details about the server software. The rest is quite evident. One last point on the HTTP protocol- HTTP is a stateless protocol, which means that the connection between the browser and the server is lost once the transaction ends.
File Transfer Protocol - FTP
The File Transfer Protocol is an excellent method to transfer (download and send) files from one computer to the other over the Internet. Though you can transfer files using email, it is not a good choice especially when the file size is large or when you need to transfer several files. The objectives of FTP are to: • • • • promote file (programs or data) sharing efficiently transfer data from one computer to another encourage indirect or implicit use of remote computers provide a common platform for file storages among different hosts
FTP sites are storehouses of hundreds to thousands of files - programs, data, music, video etc. In order to upload or download a file from an FTP site, you need to know the login details - the FTP username and FTP password. Once connected, you can transfer files using thebinary or ASCII mode. The binary mode is used for binary files like executable programs, music, images, video etc. while the ASCII mode is employed for plain text files such as those created in Notepad, vi etc.
What is anonymous FTP?
On connection to an FTP site or FTP server, you would typically be asked the login details - a username and password. However, some severs enable what has come to be known asanonymous FTP. On Anonymous FTP servers you can log in with 'anonymous' as username and your email as password. You would then have access to all the data which has been placed in the anonymous FTP section.
FTP and web sites
The File Transfer Protocol is generally used by web developers to upload web sites to the host - the computer that stores the web site. For example, if you buy a web hosting package, the company would provide you with a username and password with which you'll connect to the FTP server to transfer your files.
FTP on your desktop
FTP is built into the Unix system and can be accessed by typing ftp at the Unix prompt. FTP is also available in Windows. You need to open an MS-DOS window and type ftp at the Dos prompt. The prompt will change to an FTP prompt. You can open an FTP site with the 'open' command. Type 'quit' to come back to the Dos prompt. To get help, type 'help' or '?' at the FTP prompt. This will list the commands available on your system - check the image below.
To get help on a specific command, type help [Command name] or ? [Command name]. So if you need help with the verbose command, type help verbose or ? verbose.
File Transfer Protocol and the browser
Modern browsers allow you to access sites using FTP. For example, if I need to connect to this web site from Internet Explorer (version 6) on the Windows XP system, I can simply type in ftp://www.webdevelopersnotes.com in the address bar. A login window then pops up (see below), in which I need to type in the username and password to connect to the host. I can then transfer files using the familiar drag-drop method. So one can actually work in the user-friendly environment of the operating system without knowing all the arcane FTP commands! Now isn't that cool?
If you plan to FTP on a regular basis, I suggest you use an FTP Client - a dedicated program for FTP. There are many FTP clients available (and some of them are freeware). The interface of each program varies, but the information required is almost the same. You should know your username and password of the site (if it is not anonymous FTP) and the server address. Here is a list of some FTP clients that I have used - FTP clients or FTP programs. I have also put a thorough tutorial on using FTP with a popular and free FTP client - Using FTP with FTP Explorer.
What is SMTP? The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol for sending emails
SMTP, which stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, is the technology used to send outemail messages. It goes hand in hand with POP (Post Office Protocol) that is, typically, employed for receiving emails from a web server to an email program or an email client. When someone sends you an email, it's transferred over the internet from one server to another using SMTP. When the message finally arrives at your email server, you can download it to your computer using an email client employing the Post Office Protocol.
SMTP function and importance
The main function of text based SMTP protocol is to "push" emails - it cannot "pull" them from servers which is why you also need POP. The "outgoing" mail server protocol helps servers communicate with each other and facilitate the delivery of the email message.
SMTP functions in two ways. Firstly, it verifies the configuration of the computer from where the email is being sent and grants permission for the process. Secondly, it sends out the message and follows the successful delivery of the email. If the email cannot be delivered, it's returned-to-sender or bounces back. The enhanced version of SMTP called Extended SMPT or (ESMTP) is employed for sending images and other file attachments along with emails.
SMTP and spamming
Since SMTP does not authenticate the sender, it has been exploited for sending spam. And because of this, most ISPs keep a close check on the number of outgoing email messages from each account. In fact, ISP generally do not allow account holders to send email from other SMTP address but their own and they do this by quickly blocking ports 25 (and/or 26). This leads to the most common complain - cannot send emails - from subscribers who configure a non ISP email account, such as those from their web sites or web based email providers, in a email client. The problem can usually be ironed out by contacting the ISP and asking for their SMPT outgoing server address, port number and authentication information.
What is POP - its use, importance and function
POP or Post Office Protocol is a technology used for downloading messages from an email server to your computer. Just like most other things on the internet, email too is based on the client-server model and POP is the language used in the communication between an email clients and a server.
Are POP and POP3 the same thing?
Yes! POP3 is actually version #3 of the Post Office Protocol and this means the technology has gone through a couple of iterations before finally arriving in its present form. Did you know that when someone sends you an email, it doesn't arrive directly at your computer? The message first comes to a computer that's connected to the internet 24/7 and is stored there. Such a computer is known as a web server and to receive email messages it runs a special program called the email server. Depending on the kind of access allowed, you can check your emails using a web browser or employ a dedicated email program (also known as an email client). Email clients are programs that let you send and receive email messages from your computer. There are several popular free email clients like Outlook Express, Windows Mail Vista, Windows Live Mail and Thunderbird. If you use Windows, you already have an email program pre-installed on your system - Outlook Express on Windows XP and Windows Mailon Vista. Some time back Microsoft released a new email client which they call Windows Live Mail meant to "replace" Outlook Express and Windows Mail Vista. Get step by step instructions on how to download Windows Live Mail and install it on your computer.
Importance and usage of POP
The POP technology is used to build a communication channel between an email client and a server. It sets rules for downloading email messages that are stored on an online hard disk to your local computer hard disk. Using POP you can download all emails to your computer and, thus, view them anywhere you want - even without an internet connection. Yes, an active internet line is required to download messages from the server but once they come to your computer, you can sever the connection. You'll appreciate the importance of POP if you have ever faced a problem in accessing email messages (even the old ones) from an online account such as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail. Maybe the net connection wasn't working properly, maybe you were at a location where internet wasn't available or maybe the email service was down... whatever. And frustration is what follows. Now imagine the brighter scenario of keeping a copy of all your emails on your computer using a using POP enabled email program. Agreed you'll still not be able to check for new messages but you at least have access to old ones.
Do all email servers use POP?
No - it depends on the service provider and the web server configuration. Typically, email accounts from ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and those you create on your web site come with POP access. Online email service providers like Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, AOL and Gmail have different policies when it comes to POP access. For instance, you can enable POP on Gmail accounts for free - you can do this yourself. Yahoo! Mail charges you about $20 per year access your account through POP. For Windows Live Hotmail users, there is some good news finally; POP on Hotmail is gradually being rolled out - it's available only to subscribers in some countries at the time of writing and I hope it will soon be included on all accounts.
Why don't all email services allow POP access?
Well, since the protocol lets you to download messages to your computer via an email client, you'll have no need to checking your messages on the web based service. This means you would hardly ever log in to your online account and, thus, would not "pay" for your free access by either looking at the advertisements or, less so, clicking on them! All free web based email accounts, even Gmail, are supported by the advertising. The companies show these ads expecting subscribers to compensate the privilege of free access by checking out the sponsored products or services.
How do you access email through POP - Post Office Protocol?
As mentioned above, your email service should provide you with a POP access. Please check with them. Once you get a POP enabled email account, all you need is an email client that can use the Post Office Protocol. Windows users are lucky because a free email client is available on all versions. In fact, Microsoft has released the new Windows Live Mail email client which can be downloaded for free from their web site. Accessing emails through POP is a simple affair. You only need the username, password and the email server address. The incoming email server address is, typically, pop.THE-DOMAIN-NAME.com or simply THE-DOMAIN-NAME.com. For step by step instructions on using POP with Windows based email clients please refer the list below:
• • • • • •
Setup new email account in Outlook Express Configure Gmail on Outlook Express Configure email account on Windows Mail Vista Add Gmail on Windows Mail Vista Setup Windows Live Mail email client Setup and configure Gmail on Windows Live Mail
FYI, the Post Office Protocol is employed only for downloading emails and goes hand in hand with SMTP or the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol which is used for sending emails. POP enabled email account can also be accessed via a web browser as long as the service provider has put up an interface (a graphical user interface, usually) through which the account can be managed.
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