Welcome to part 4 in our series of posts on various and interesting ways to network your classic Macintosh with Windows. In previous posts in this series, we have looked at networking using Dave, DoubleTalk and NetPresenz/Fetch. In today’s post, we are going to examine networking with a nearly forgotten gem that Apple introduced in Mac OS 8 – Web Sharing.
Since the web is involved, it is fair to say in the only slightly abstract that this post is a look at how to use HTTP to accomplish file sharing, complementing our earlier looks at using SMB (Dave and DoubleTalk) and FTP (NetPresenz and Fetch) for the same purpose.
Apple did something very clever when they introduced Web Sharing in Mac OS 8. If you point the Web Sharing control panel at a folder with no obvious web pages in it (i.e. no index.html), and you do not specify one of the files in the folder as the web page to serve, the Web Sharing web server defaults to a mode of operation Apple dubbed “Personal NetFinder”.
Personal NetFinder simply presents the inquiring web browser with a formatted directory listing of the folder. From that listing, users can view and download files to their heart’s content. They cannot UPLOAD files however, and so this is one-way file sharing. Even so, one-way file sharing can be quite useful and I thought that this made Web Sharing / Personal NetFinder worthy of a small post on its use.
Alright then, lets have a look. How do we set Personal NetFinder up? In classic Apple fashion, it is easy, easy, easy! Create a top level folder on your Mac’s main hard drive called something like “Web Site” (you can call it anything you want – I used that particular name myself) and copy all of the files that you want to share into it. I put in a few simple test files as we shall see in screen shots momentarily. Now select the Web Sharing control panel, and initially you should see something very much like the screen shot below (BTW, the screen shots in this post are taken from a Power Macintosh 7300/200, running Mac OS 9.1):
In the upper half of this control panel, you will see two Select buttons. Use the first of these two buttons to select the Web Site folder you just created in the step above, but don’t touch the second Select button! That is the button that selects the web page to serve when a browser comes calling. In the button’s default state, you will see that it says that no file has been selected and that the web server is using Personal NetFinder mode. This is exactly what you want.
In the bottom half of the Web Sharing control panel, you will see that Web Sharing is off, followed by a button that says Start, which will of course turn it on. Click that button and Web Sharing starts up. When you click this button, behind the scenes Mac OS starts its web server, which will then fulfill any browser requests that come into the Mac. The net result should look like this:
That is pretty much it! Your folder of content to share is now set up and Personal NetFinder is now serving it up to any inquiring browser. Time to test all this and see if it works! Noting that my Mac’s local IP address was 192.168.0.9, I swivel chair’d over to my Power Mac G5 Quad running Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger, fired up TenFourFox G5, and entered http://192.168.0.9 into the address bar. This sent the requisite web request to my Web Sharing Macintosh and it returned the following to TenFourFox G5:
Each file name in the NetFinder screen is clickable, and by left or right clicking each one, you can either view the file or download the file. I tried both, and both worked.
That is all it takes to share files using Web Sharing / Personal NetFinder. It is a simple and straightforward mechanism for sharing files FROM your Mac TO anything else on the network that has a web browser… and that would be pretty much everything these days, I would guess.
Setting up this approach couldn’t be easier. Create a folder, put the content you want to share into it, point the Web Sharing control panel at it, and start up Web Sharing. You are done! Now everything else on the network can see the files you are sharing and download any or all of them as they wish. How easy is that?
As some of the more web savvy readers out there may know, this sort of capability has lived on in the web browsers of today, although not in quite as elegant a form. If you point a browser at a web location that has no index.html file, you will get a simple index listing of the files in the folder. It is not as tidy, informative or as well formatted as Apple’s Personal NetFinder, but it will due in a pinch.
I tested this modern equivalent of Personal NetFinder as a final point for this post. Turning the tables, and using a classic Mac as the tester instead of the system under test, I used Classilla 9.3.2 on my Power Macintosh 7300 to access the default web page folder served up by my Power Mac G5 Quad (after removing the usual files that Apple preloads there and adding in a few of my own). The result can be seen below, and is not unlike Personal NetFinder, just not quite as elegant:
So, there you have it. Personal NetFinder, a largely forgotten gem that Apple quietly introduced back in Mac OS 8, and which provides a fine and easy to use mechanism for sharing files outwards from your classic Mac.
This post has examined the use of HTTP as a file sharing mechanism, adding to our earlier examinations of SMB and FTP as file sharing enablers. In the next post in this series (take heart, there are only two left!) we will tackle the file sharing problem from yet another new perspective, and see how we can use SSH to implement a specific file sharing scenario. Until then, happy networking!