About the NorfolkNet Website

In case you've been wondering (ok, not very likely, but possibly some of you were), I've put a little information together about the technical and operational details of this website. I'm writing with techies and knowledgeable amateurs in mind, so I didn't shy away from trade jargon; I apologize in advance if I confuse some of you, and hope you'll still try to follow along.

Server Configuration
The NorfolkNet pages are hosted on a server farm (in Pennsylvania, though in cyberspace, home is anywhere :-). The NorfolkNet server has a fast CPU, lots of memory, and most important, blazing fast redundant connections to the internet. It runs Unix, which means I have the full Unix command-line environment available for administering the site, configuring the web pages, and writing scripts. For an old Unix hand, this is both more pleasant and more productive.

The original (6/2/1999) server specifics:

Pentium II 400 MHz, 512k cache
128 MB main memory
FreeBSD operating system
Apache web server
multiple DS-3 lines (45 Mb/s)

The upgraded (12/2/2001) server:

Pentium III 933 MHz
256MB memory
newer FreeBSD, newer Apache, and upgraded network

The early 2005 server:

AMD 1800 MHz
512MB memory

The server as of 9/16/2005:

Pentium 4 3000 MHz
2048MB memory

The server as of 12/01/2008:

2 x Core 2 Duo 2.33 GHz
2048MB memory
FreeBSD 6.2

The server as of 5/27/2015:

8x Core i7 920 3.67 GHz
4096MB memory
FreeBSD 8.2

Page Creation Software
Other than boot-strapping a few of the early pages using Netscape Composer, the pages have been entered and maintained by hand. (As a consequence, the resulting HTML is often almost as easy to read as the page itself; take a peek with [View | Page Source] in your browser). I have tried page layout software on and off in the past, and have not been overly happy with the process. Over the years (I've been writing web pages for five years now) I've grown used to the fine-tuned control that hand-built pages allow, and now find the simple tools commonly available limiting. For images I use a combination of cjpeg/djpeg, xfig, xpaint, gimp, and the pnm utilities augmented by a suite of home-grown image manipulation programs.

I compose either at home on my PC, then upload modified pages, or edit pages directly on the server (and later download the page to bring my PC up to date). I run FreeBSD and Linux at home, but occasionally have cause to walk over to our home PC to use Windows (98; I don't believe in the MS upgrade treadmill.)

I've built my PCs from parts, and keep them up-to-date with periodic piece-by-piece upgrades. Currently (9/2005) I use a mostly-SCSI system running an AMD Athlon at 2200 MHz with 512MB memory, 18+250 GB of disk, nVidia video and a SoundBlaster Live! soundcard with Klipsch speakers. The video is overkill for my needs, but I find that having a nice, hiss-free audio system is really nice.

Layout and Philosophy
I try to make minimal assumptions about the hardware and software that visitors are using. I create pages for optimal viewing at 800x600. I myself prefer an 800x720 window in which to browse the web. That fits a good amount of text on the page, yet does not create endlessly long lines that go on and on without a break. And 800x720 fits nicely on a 1024 x 768 screen, leaving a few other windows visible for e-mail, quick edits, a telnet session or two, or an occasional reference lookup.

Most of the pages are deliberately kept simple -- some might say Spartan -- for several reasons. I'm a fan of the art of printing, and appreciate a simple, elegant layout. I also want to keep down the amount of data that must be downloaded to view a page, to make pages render faster, save time, and basically because it's a nice thing to do. Simple pages are more likely to be rendered the same in all browsers (which is also why I use a restricted subset of HTML and avoid platform-specific features like fonts). Although we now use DSL, I still try to keep the page size below 80KB. I know what a pain cluttered, graphics-rich sites can be, and am all too aware how slow large pages are over a modem. In fact, I still browse with automatic image loading disabled (a holdover from my dial-up days), and almost never enable JavaScript. This combination results in faster page loads, faster redraws, and no banner or pop-up ads. And finally, simple pages are faster to create and easier to maintain.

The information contained in the web pages is obtained mostly from fairly obvious sources. We find out about things in quite ordinary ways, but we do try to keep an eye out for items of interest. We also receive the occasional e-mail message with information which we then post on the page. We limit our selections to the more general interest; however, we try to not cull submitted notices and requests.

There is no explicit directive about the maturity level of the audience. We realize this site is maintained as a public place, and as such, it should conform to the accepted norms of behavior. So we keep it short, clean, and to the point.

The copyright on web pages, like on any creative work, normally belongs to the author. This does not stop me from shamelessly cribbing text from e-mails received; I figure that's why they were sent. Unlike many sites that put up the copyright banners before penning the first line, I figure at this point, the page has a low enough profile that the de facto copyright is sufficient. Typically, this means you can read, archive, and make limited copies of the information you find here, as long as it's for personal and not commercial or for-profit use. Unless otherwise identified, the icons, text, and photos that appear on the page have been created by us or have been contributed to the site.

Privacy Policy
NorfolkNet has a simple privacy policy:  we may be curious, but we are not nosy. We do not set cookies, do not ask you to register, do not ask personal information, do not take ``surveys'', do not track your browsing behavior, do not mine the click trail. We do examine the logs kept by the web server (which are minimal -- the date and time, page requested, address of requesting host, number of bytes transferred).

We do like to occasionally tally the number of hits the site receives, and to check where our visitors come from (which shows up only as eg. comcast.net or aol.com, and does not include specific account information). And, come to think of it, we would like to mine the click trail, as that would tell us more about our site than about you, the visitor.

We do ask that new contributors identify themselves and verify that they live in town, as this ensures that all posts are in fact the opinions of a real live person. We normally limit posts to residents only; this keeps the forum small and focused, keeps the volume manageable, and avoids getting flooded with out-of-town opinion and commentary. In exchange we can edit the messages for typos, and help the less computer-savvy also be heard.


Last updated 9/16/05.