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NFC: NFC server (techie computer geek stuff)

The topic recently came up about the NFC having its own server.

This *may* not be too difficult.

I seem to recall that when I was working for Duke U., the University was
open to the idea of gratis web site hosting for educational
not-for-profit web sites.

I am sure that we've got some subscribers here who work in a University
environment.  If even one of you can get a commitment from your IT
department to allow the NFC to place a server on a University IP
address, that eliminates the largest expense of the NFC having its own

The second largest expense is the box itself.  Thankfully, these are
getting really cheap and $500 should now buy something that would suit
the needs of the NFC very nicely.  This is a one time expense, though in
the distant future component upgrades may be necessary to keep up with
the growth of the internet into unforseeable directions.  All of the
software needed is FREE.

At that point, the only recurring expense is about $75 every two years
to maintain hold of the domain name.  We would perhaps also want to
contract with an ISP to provide DNS services as well as backup for the
email services should the NFC server go down for planned or unplanned

I took the liberty of checking, and unfortunately the nfc.org domain is
GONE.  But nativefish.org is available.  Until the NFC can sort out what
to do long-term about the server, I'd suggest at least jumping on the
name (or any name agreed upon) so that it is there when we are ready for

What does this buy us?  Well I have been thinking of that.  It buys us a
lot, actually.

1) Mailing lists moved to NFC domain.  The NFC will be in complete
control of the mailing list server and will not have to deal with a
third party ISP for server administration.  Add on mailing lists for the
regions and chapters to help maintain coordination at the local level. 
I think it would also be nice to have a national mailing list for local
officers to coordinate with one another to share experiences and ideas
on how to increase local awareness and participation, run fund raisers,

2) NFC email addresses.  At the minimum, all officers would have
official NFC email addresses.  Conceivably, all NFC members could have
NFC email addresses (either actual email boxes on the server, or
preferably a forwarding service that would immediately forward all email
to their true email address at the member's ISP).  The forwarding
service is great because it uses very little in the way of server
resources, but it gives a service back to the NFC members in that
everyone will have a permanant email address that never changes, even if
the member jumps from one ISP to another.

3) Enhanced web services.  Imagine what is possible when we have GIGS of
free space available to build a web server.  Yeah, it is hard to imagine
filling that much space.  But we will be unrestricted by the ISP with
regards to updating software on the server, adding new modules to the
web server to allow online commerce or dynamic web page content.

4) Mailing list archives for all mailing lists.  See my previous message
to Josh about how we can improve the archives.

5) IRC.  Forget this Java chat business.  It doesn't even work through
firewalls.  An IRC server will allow folks to run whatever software they
want in order to join the chat.  A java chat window can still be
provided for those who do not have/want IRC software on their systems. 
We would also be able to host different channels simultaneously so that
regional coordinators can set up chat sessions with chapters on-line,

6) Newsgroups.  We can gate the mailing lists to newsgroups which some
people prefer.  The newsgroups will only be on the NFC server and we can
enable security to prevent spamming from happening.  This is a great
low-bandwidth alternative to the web-based archives for people who want
to look back through the history (though generally newsgroups are set to
expire messages after so long).  We could also potentially host all
aquarium and relevant conservation newsgroups that are on the public
Usenet backbone, giving a one-stop place for all NFC and related forums.

7) File serving.  This gets to another idea.  Currently it would be very
hard to coordinate, but with a server set up properly it would be
possible to coordinate an "NFC-Authored" book.  Another nice
fund-raising idea plus it would be a nice addition to any fishkeepers
library.  Between all of us, there is enough knowledge and experience on
sunfishes to write a detailed book on the family.  Same goes for
darters.  And so on.  

8) Automated functions.   If we convert the existing article library to
something more industry-standard, like DocBook (subset of SGML), the
server could on-demand serve up automatic conversions to plain text,
HTML, PostScript, etc.  With or without pictures.

9) DATABASE - Here's the real treat for us.  With a relational database
running, and a bit of ramp-up time to get it working right, it would be
quite easy to start tracking data about fish collections, breeding
programs, wish list, etc. and automate the distribution of the fish wish
list, or notify relevant parties if a person just started working with a
species that someone else is already looking for, etc.

The list goes on and on.  Limited by imagination more than $$$.  With
some proactive fund raising I think the server is easily within reason. 
Operating costs are almost nothing if we find a home with a University. 
We've already got some great volunteers working with the current system
who's skills would be directly transferrable to our own server.

Chris Hedemark
Hillsborough, NC