The Nuts & Bolts Of The Internet

Last Updated: 20th June 2003


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Introduction
Nuts & BoltsThe Internet communicates at many different levels, but the most common one you use when using the World Wide Web, is the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, better know as HTTP. Apart from this, there are several other protocols in use (some unfortunately are proprietary and are not available to Amiga compatible Operating Systems) but those that can be handled by IBrowse² are detailed in this section.

http://
The Hyper Text Transfer Protocol as the name suggests, is used to transfer data from the server to your web browser across the Internet. The data in question is constructed from the Hyper Text Markup Language, better know as HTML, hence the name Hyper Text Transfer Protocol.

http:// data is handled by IBrowse² via the internal HTTP engine, and is displayed in the main Display Area of GUI. As the majority of this documentation is geared towards the use of web pages, please refer to the other chapters for further information.

https://
As we have seen, web pages are transferred using HTTP. However, what happens with web pages for online banking, or shopping sites where the data that is transferred needs to be secure ? Using a system called Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL as it is better known, an additional protocol based on HTTP was created. Known as Secure Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTPS, the data that is transferred is encrypted using various strength keys to ensure the data cannot be read by prying eyes.

https:// data is handled by IBrowse² via the internal HTTPS engine, and is displayed in the main Display Area of GUI.

Please refer to Preferences » Security, Preferences » Security » Ciphers and Preferences » Networks for configuration options for https:// support, and the SSL chapter for further information on how SSL works.

ftp://
Transferring files is a major part of the Internet, whether it is from a web site or from a specific file server. There are two common methods used: HTTP transfers which we have already covered above, and FTP transfers, which simply stands for File Transfer Protocol. ftp:// links from a web page, as far as the user is concerned, are handled in the same way as http:// transfers - you click on the link, the browser negotiates the connection and the file download commences.

However, there is an alternate method for downloading files via FTP, where you connect directly to the actual FTP server itself. IBrowse² features a built-in FTP engine that allows you to connect to, navigate around, and download files from, any compatible FTP server, such as Aminet.

To access the FTP server directly, you need to enter the server address into the Location gadget in the same way you would enter a web site address, but specifying ftp:// for the protocol. If the server address begins with ftp., you can omit ftp:// and IBrowse² will automatically append it to the address for you.

FTP Address Completion Example
Example of FTP address completion
There are two ways of logging on to an FTP server, either anonymously or with a valid username and password. For the majority of servers, connecting anonymously is the common method. For this, you don't need to do anything except ensure you have Preferences » Security » Use e-mail for anonymous FTP login enabled, and your (valid) e-mail address entered under Preferences » User info » Default e-mail address. Alternatively, some servers will require a specific username and password, usually supplied to you by the administrator of the FTP server. In these cases, you will be prompted to enter the details when connecting to the server, or they will be supplied in the FTP link in the form ftp://user:password@ftp.servername.com in which case IBrowse² will automatically enter the details when connecting to the server.

Connecting to an FTP server for the first time, you will be presented with a text based listing, similar to what you would see doing a directory listing in a Shell/CLI prompt. Navigating the FTP server is fairly straight forward, the directory names are links, so clicking on them with the left mouse button will follow that link into the server, just the same as clicking a link on a web page.

FTP Listing Example
Example of an FTP listing
The configuration of FTP servers varies somewhat, but usually there will be a directory set aside for the general public to use, known as simply pub. This is often the first place you would visit if it is available, as it will contain files or directories that are freely available to anonymous users. Once you have located the file you require, clicking on the link will commence the download, which will be handled by the Download Manager in the usual way.

mailto://
When browsing the World Wide Web, you will probably notice many web sites have a "contact us" section, which usually contains various e-mail addresses, such as sales, support, webmaster etc. In order to make things a lot easier for the user, the mailto:// protocol was introduced to enable clickable links for e-mail addresses. These links can be used in one of two ways, either to transfer the e-mail address to an e-mail client, or to enter the details into an internal e-mail program to the browser.

Whilst IBrowse² does not contain a fully-fledged e-mail client, it does provide a simple E-mail Composer, which will let you construct a simple e-mail to send. If you require a more comprehensive e-mail system, you should configure IBrowse² to use an external client, via Preferences » Network » E-mail & Telnet » Type (Mailto:).

Please refer to Preferences » Network » E-mail & Telnet for configuration options for mailto: support, and Windows » E-mail Composer for further information on using the E-mail Composer.

telnet://
The telnet:// protocol is used to connect from your computer to a remote computer. This is not the same as when you surf the World Wide Web however, as when you use telnet to connect, you then actually login to the remote computer and execute the commands you provide, on that actual machine. This means you can telnet into a Unix/Linux based machine from your Amiga, and execute the Unix/Linux commands such as ls and rm, rather than the Amiga compatible commands dir and delete.

Telnet is often used via the World Wide Web for an application known as MUD (Multiple User Dungeon or Multiple User Dimension). MUDs are usually text based adventure games in which you take on the role of a player within the MUD world, and then interact with other players within the world as you play the game in realtime.

Obviously, telnet has its more serious uses but the above is a good example of using telnet if you would like to try it out and ensure you have configured your preferences correctly. Please refer to Preferences » Network » E-mail & Telnet for configuration options for telnet:// support.

Info For more information about MUDs, visit http://www.mudconnect.com/.

gopher://
The gopher:// protocol is a method of easily retrieving text and file-based information distributed on various machines on the Internet. Using the built-in gopher engine in IBrowse², you can connect to Gopher Servers and move from machine to machine in just the same way as you do when surfing the World Wide Web.

Originally designed by the University of Minnesota, gopher was very popular and became an Internet standard; in fact, it could be classed as the original World Wide Web before it became all glitz and glamour! Like most things however, technology has moved on and gopher is used less and less now.

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