ISP-Planet: Multi-featured SOHO Server
May 14, 2000, 14:10 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Lisa Phifer)
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By Lisa Phifer, ISP-Planet
The Rebel.com Net Winder OfficeServer is an
Internet and Intranet server that supports mail, web, file, and
printer sharing services for UNIX, Linux, Microsoft, and Apple
networks. Security features include firewall and optional VPN.
Includes a built-in serial interface for ISDN adapter or modem and
a parallel port for direct printer connection.
The Rebel.com NetWinder Office Server is a powerful,
multi-featured Internet access and office server solution for
branch offices and small businesses. The desktop unit is remarkably
compact and the form factor is decidedly "New Millenium",
à la iMac and iPaq. Inside, the NetWinder system
supports an impressive list of services for Internet - web, mail,
domain naming, file transfer, dynamic host configuration - and
complements these with file and print sharing for local office
networks running UNIX, Microsoft, and Apple network operating
systems. With the NetWinder, small offices can make use of the
kinds of publishing and collaborative tools typically found in
large enterprises, at a fraction of the cost.
A desktop model with one 10/100 Mbps and one 10 Mbps Ethernet
starts at $999.
The rackmount model starts at $1665.
The NetWinder system runs Linux on a StrongArm processor. The
compact desktop model we evaluated ships with a 6 GB disk and 32 MB
of memory (10 GB/64 MB and 10GB/128MB versions also available). The
rackmount model starts with a 10 GB disk and 64 MB of memory (also
available in 10GB/128MB and 20GB/128MB configurations). One 10/100
Mbps and one 10 Mbps Ethernet provide connectivity for internal and
external LANs, respectively. Keyboard, mouse and monitor ports may
be used for "developer" access to NetWinder OfficeServer
Setting up the NetWinder
The NetWinder can be used with a DSL or cable modem, ISDN terminal
adapter, a dialup or ISDN modem, or any "wide area network" router
that provides an Ethernet-to-Internet connection. The User Manual
provides very helpful network "schematics" to assist in making the
correct physical connections between PCs, hubs, the NetWinder, and
the different modems or routers you may use for your Internet
|The Rebel.com NetWinder OfficeServer is configured
from a web browser run on a PC on your internal LAN using a set of
web pages provided on the Quick Start CD-ROM. These well-documented
pages take you step-by-step through a series of web forms that
explain the configuration process while gathering local network and
Internet connection information needed to drive the automated
configuration. The entire process takes between 10 and 15
If you are creating a new office LAN or wish to renumber your
office LAN, the NetWinder's Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol
(DHCP) server can be used to assign IP addresses automatically for
your entire network. If you are adding the NetWinder to an existing
office LAN, when you complete the necessary forms, QuickStart takes
the information provided and automatically searches your local
network and proposes a suitable IP address and subnet mask, based
on the traffic it sees on the LAN.
displays self-configuration results and requests confirmation
It's helpful to have all the PCs that comprise your LAN powered
up so that QuickStart can get the most accurate picture of the
addresses you have already assigned. (In our tests, we did find it
necessary to correct the subnet mask we used on our local network.)
When you choose to activate settings, the OfficeServer reboots with
the new configuration information.
To further configure and customize NetWinder features, you must
reconnect your browser and present Administrator credentials.
|Enter the Administrator username and password
created as part of the QuickStart process. From the Administrator
Mode menu, create user and group accounts, enable and configure
web, email, DNS, print and file services, modify network and
security (firewall) configuration parameters, and choose optional
services, such as Virtual Private Networking.
User and Group Accounts
Creating user and group accounts is simple and straightforward.
Click on the "User" or "Group" URL to access the web forms that let
the administrator add, edit and remove a user and assign or remove
a user from a group. Users are automatically assigned a mailbox and
personal web space. The user's mail persona is also used for
threaded discussion lists. The Administrator controls user naming
and passwords, as well as how much disk space any individual may
use (a disk quota).
From the Administration Mode menu, you can exploit a feature rarely
found in SOHO appliances, Virtual Hosts. Virtual Hosts lets you run
multiple web, email and FTP servers from a single OfficeServer.
Individual organizations within your company can have multiple
custom or vanity naming for their intranet or extranet servers
(e.g., the same NetWinder can be referred to as sales.corecom.com,
ftp.corecom.com and mailhub.rebel.com). The Administrator can
exercise considerable control over Virtual Hosts and can select
whether a Virtual Host will share or have its own IP address
(called Name- and IP-based Virtual Hosting, respectively). This
same feature on the rackmount model will be extremely attractive to
ISPs who constantly seek ways to optimize rack space.
Multi-protocol File and Printer
The NetWinder supports major IP-based network operating system file
sharing and printer services: Windows File Sharing (SMB), Apple
File Sharing (AppleTalk over IP), and UNIX Network File System
(NFS). Drag-and-drop file sharing is a convenient way for users to
deposit files they wish to publish on personal and group web sites.
Cross-platform file exchange, enabled by running several file
sharing services on the NetWinder, is an added bonus, especially
when it can be used instead of NT server in offices where both Macs
and Windows PCs are present. Print server support is unparalleled
(no pun intended). Simply connect a printer you wish to make
available to your network to the NetWinder's parallel port to print
from any Windows computer on which you have installed the correct
driver. Choose Print server from the Services Menu, select a driver
for your printer, and you can add a PostScript-compatible printer
queue hosted by the NetWinder. You can also print from non-Windows
workstations via the UNIX lpr command and the Apple Chooser.
Web Services, Email Services, and
A personal web directory is created each time a user is added.
NetWinder's Web Page Creator provides a quick way to create pages
from templates: choose a template, enter text through the web form
presented, select images to download from your desktop, and you can
be published in minutes.
|Users can also create entire web sites using
desktop publishing tools and upload these to the NetWinder using
FTP or one of the file sharing services supported. Users can obtain
graphical web traffic reports of their virtual hosts. The InfoPlace
Document Manager provides sophisticated document indexing and
categorization and a powerful search engine one typically expects
from enterprise class Intranet servers.
In addition to supporting Internet email via SMTP, POP3, and
IMAP, the NetWinder provides users with powerful mail forwarding
and filtering features. Users can create vacation responses with
customized responses. They can also choose to silently discard or
selectively forward received mail based on the contents of any mail
header or the message body. These features can be used to process
spam and to determine if acceptable use
policies are being violated.
The NetWinder supports mail-based, public and private Discussion
|A discussion forum allows users and visitors who
register to collaborate by creating or posting messages to
discussion topics or threads. Threads help users select and stay on
topic: by choosing a thread, a user can see all the messages
previously posted on that topic.
Rebel.com has put considerable effort into securing or hardening
the Linux OS and applications on the NetWinder. Telnet can be
disabled entirely. Domain name service (DNS) can be configured to
support internal or external DNS, so small companies can avoid
exposing internal naming to outsiders. To control web access by LAN
users, use the NetWinder as a proxy and restrict access by port.
CGI and server-side "include" privileges can be granted selectively
to authorized users. By default, the firewall is configured to
prevent access from the "outside" or public Internet to computers
on your internal LAN, but allows access necessary to support your
web, mail, and ftp services. These defaults are suitable for many
small offices and businesses, but technical expertise is required
to configure the more "advanced" functions like port forwarding and
granular firewall rules. In keeping with this simple administration
strategy, NetWinder provides access to logging only through
advanced user interfaces (telnet and console). Companies seeking
virtual private networking solutions may download Smartgate VPN
from Progressive Systems via the Options menu. Licensed
OfficeServer owners get two client licenses with their system, and
may purchase additional licenses from Progressive Systems.
The NetWinder OfficeServer is a complete solution for businesses
that want the best of Internet access and applications plus
intra-office collaboration, file and print sharing. It is an
outstanding value for workgroup-oriented offices that require
Internet and Intranet application host and secure Internet
150 Isabella Street, 10th floor
Canada K1S 5R3
Phone: (613) 788-6000, (877)282-6735
Fax: (613) 230-8300
- LinuxPR: Rebel.com announces the release of NetWinder OfficeServer 1.5(Apr 05, 2000)
- Linuxcare: Arne Flones: A Small, Rugged Box(Jan 25, 2000)
- Ottawa Citizen: Cashing in on Linux(Dec 13, 1999)
- Byte.com: Jerry Adds a Rebel.Com NetWinder(Dec 06, 1999)
- LinuxPR: Rebel.com unveils the NetWinder RackMount(Nov 25, 1999)
- 32BitsOnline: Rebel.com's Netwinder: Little box, big value(Nov 10, 1999)
- LinuxWorld: NetWinder brings Internet server appliance for home offices & small businesses to life(Nov 03, 1999)
- Network Computing: Rebel.com OfficeServer Delivers Features, Performance With a 'Pastel' Attitude(Nov 02, 1999)
- Boston Globe: Small box, big server [Product Review](Oct 21, 1999)
- LinuxPR: Rebel.com unveils the NetWinder(tm) Office Server(Jul 14, 1999)
- BW: A `Rebel' With a Cause -- Hardware Canada Computing Re-Launches as Rebel.com(May 03, 1999)