Internet, Computer, and Technical

Can I really build my own Chipping/Traders web page?
What is a Web Host and why do I need one?
How can I find a free Web Host?
What software do I need to build my own web page?
What is FTP and do I need it?
How can I put pictures of my chips on the Internet?
Is it ok to use images from other web sites?
What is a URL and why do I need one?
What is a Personal Domain and do I need one?
What are Cookies and how do I enable them?

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What is a Personal Domain and do I need one?
A Personal Domain, or Domain for short, is sort of a short web address alias for a longer web address. Personal domains allow you to have a URL such as "http://www.chipjunkie.com" instead of "http://www32.brinkster.com/chipjunkie/default.htm". Having a personal domain has several advantages...

  1. Personal domains are almost a necessity if you're a business. People have short memories, and you need a short web address for them to remember.
  2. Personal domains also allow multiple web sites that are hosted on the same web server to appear as if they're independent. "http://www.mychips.com" and "http://www.yourchips.com" might actually be on the same web server in separate subdirectories.
  3. Personal domains also allow a web site to have multiple aliases. "http://www.microsoft.com", and "http://www.ms.com", and "http://www.windows.com" can and might all point to the same web page.

Personal domains must be purchased from a registered domain provider such as Register.com. These providers typically have search engines so you can see if your desired domain name is available. If so, you can then register it with them for a fee that historically has been around $25. The domain is then registered to you for a year. If you choose not to renew it (or forget to!), someone else can register it when your registration expires. Once you've purchased and registered your domain, you must inform your web host so that they can configure it to point to your web pages.

For personal web pages, whether you register and use a personal domain or not is more a matter of preference since most likely your site will be a non-profit site and ease-of-access to it will not be a critical factor. Before you choose to register a domain, check with your web host because most of them require you to upgrade to a paying account before they will allow you to use a personal domain.

What is a URL and why do I need one?
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is a fancy name for Internet, or web, address. This is the address that a viewer will type into their browser to visit your web page. For example, the URL for this web page is "http://www32.brinkster.com/chipjunkie/beginners.htm".

Every web page on the Internet has a unique URL. You must know the URL of your web pages so you can give it to your desired audience so they can use it to visit your pages. URL's are NOT case-sensitive, so it doesn't matter if you capitalize letters or not when entering them into your browser. Below is a breakdown of the components of a URL, if you're interested (or bored).

The "http://" defines the protocol. For web pages, this will usually be "http://" or "https://". The text before the first period is the name of the computer where the web page resides. In the example above, it is "www32" - for most web pages it will be "www". The text before and after the next period is the Domain. In this example it is "brinkster.com". the .com extension designates the domain as a Commercial domain. You will see many other domain types such as .net (network), .edu (education), .mil (military), and .org (non-profit organization). The text after the slash following the domain name is typically a directory name on the computer and domain specified. In our example, this is "/chipjunkie/". The text following the directory is the file name of the web page - in our example, "beginners.htm".

So as you can see you can use the URL to determine that we're visiting the "beginners.htm" page in the "/chipjunkie/" subdirectory of the "brinkster.com" domain on the "www32" computer, and we're using the HTTP protocol.

Is it ok to use images from other web sites?
This is a sensitive question. Many developers of personal, non-profit pages, see no problem with saving images from other web sites for use on their own. However, others who've invested time and possibly money in creating these images see this as stealing and object to it. As a rule of thumb, if you're not positive it's ok to use an image, email the author of the original page and ask their permission. Odd are, if you're polite about it, they'll let you use it.

That being said, once you obtain permission to use an image, make sure you copy it to your own disk space on your own web host and reference it there in your web pages. If you simply reference the image by its URL on the original page, everytime someone views your web page, the computer will have to visit the original page to get the image. This is bad because it wastes the viewer's time, wastes the original author's bandwidth, and poses the risk of not displaying the image at all if the original author's computer is not online.

How can I put pictures of my chips on the Internet?
First you must obtain a digital image of the chips. You can use either a digital camera or a scanner to accomplish this. I highly recommend scanning chips instead of photographing them. You will get a much clearer and closer image with a scanner than with a digital camera.

Use the scanner or camera to capture an image of your chip and then save the image on your computer (typically in a .jpg or .gif format). Once on your computer, you may choose to use a graphics program to adjust the image. It may need cropping or resizing. You want as clear an image as possible in as small a file as possible. Often, you can reduce a file's size by reducing the number of colors contained in the image if your graphics program is capable of this.

Once your image is adjusted, you now have a couple of options for putting it on the Internet...

First, if you have a web page, you can add the image to the page (using an <IMAGE> tag) and then FTP the new image and the updated page to your web host. See What is FTP and do I need it? for more information on FTP.

Second, you may be able to upload the image to a 2nd party's web site such as The Chip Board (see the File Upload link) where you'll be given a link to it to use as a reference in a bulletin-board post or email.

What is FTP and why do I need it?
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. When you build your web pages, you build them locally on your computer's hard drive. For your visitors to view them, they must be located on your web host's computer's hard drive. FTP is a mechanism used to transfer the files from your computer to your web host's computer.

To "FTP a file", you need an FTP utility (program) in which you will enter the address of the web hosts computer. You then use it to connect to that computer. Once connected, you may move files from your computer to the host's computer in the FTP utility. When you're finished, simply close the connection and go view your new web site!

The FTP program list at Tucows.com lists dozens of freeware/shareware FTP program from which you may choose. I personally recommend WS-FTP LE (freeware) and CuteFTP (shareware).

It is important to understand that some web hosts provide web-based File Upload Managers that negate the need for you to purchase and use a separate FTP program. I use Brinkster.com which has such a feature that saves me from having to purchase a separate FTP program.

What software do I need to build my own web page?
You basically need two software programs to build a web page - a graphics program and a page editor.

While you technically do not need images to build a web page, a web page without graphics is not nearly as appealing, and unless you have some dynamite context, will probably not encourage any repeat visits. That being said, I strongly encourage you to use graphics in your home page. You can avoid going to the expense of buying a graphics program by using MS Paint or another rudimentary shareware graphics program, but you'll find that an inexpensive but feature-rich program such as Paint Shop Pro will be worth its weight in gold to you if you plan to build many web pages at all. I used Paint Shop Pro to create all the graphics you see on here on my ChipJunkie web site.

In addition to a graphics program to build your images, you will need a web page editor to build the pages themselves. A web page editor can be as simple as the Notepad text editor that comes with Windows, or as rich as MS FrontPage or DreamWeaver. I personally use Notepad (it's FREE!) to build my pages, but others like the What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) format of the more full-featured programs (they're NOT free). Regardless of which you choose, you'll use the editor to control the layout and content of your web pages. The content is made up of text and, if you choose, graphics.

The only other software you need to build a page is your Internet Browser. This will allow you to view your page as you're working on it so you can see what your viewers will see.

WebMonkey has an excellent tutorial for beginning web developers (that's you!). And if you find it confusing, they even have a more simple one aimed at kids!

How can I find a free Web Host?
There are dozens of web hosts who will host your pages for free. Disk space, bandwidth, and features are the most important criteria in selecting a web host. And a free web host will offer you a limited amount of each to you for free hoping that, once you're signed-up with them, you'll find that you need more of at least one of the three so that you'll upgrade to a paying account (I did - see below for why). Let's look at what each is and why it's important.

Disk Space - Each page you build will take up a certain amount of space on the hard drive of a computer. Since this space is not limitless, a web host can only alot so much space to each customer. Disk space will be measured in megabytes (Mb) and web hosts typically will offer 5Mb - 50Mb as part of their free accounts. 10Mb will be more than enough for most chippers' pages. However, if you plan on building dozens of pages with hundreds of chip scans, you might need 50Mb or more.

Bandwidth - bandwidth, or Data Transfer, is the measurement of how much traffic your visitors generate as they view your web pages. Again, since usually their bandwidth is not limitless, most web hosts alot only so much to each customer. Bandwidth will be measured in megabytes or gigabytes (1Gb = 1000Mb) as well and defines how much data can be transferred from your pages to your viewers' computers each month. Most web hosts will offer between 100Mb and 2Gb although many web hosts offer Unlimited bandwidth. 1Gb will be enough for most chippers' pages. However, if you anticipate lots of traffic to your site, you may want to select a web host offering unlimited bandwidth.

Features - Web hosts offer a wide range of features such as Usage Statistics, File Upload Managers, Database Access, and Server-Side code handling (ASP & CGI). If you're really interested in knowing all the statistics of who's viewing your pages, you might choose a host with advanced Usage Statistics. I chose a host with a free File Upload Manager which saved me from having to buy an FTP program. If you are an advanced web developer and wish to store information in a database or to run server-side code such as ASP, you will want to select a host that offers such services.

You can lots of free web hosts at CompareWebHosts.com. This is a useful site that compares dozens of free web hosts by what they offer in terms of disk space, bandwidth, and features. I chose Brinkster.com as my free web host, and I highly recommend them.

Also, you'll find that hosts differ in terms of what platform (operating system) they run on their web servers. It is usually Windows, Unix, or Linux. For basic web pages it doesn't matter what the operating system is. If you have advanced pages that contain ASP, CGI, etc., you may need to be more selective and choose a host that can accomodate your needs.

One final word... in selecting a "free" web host, make sure you check to see if there is a Setup fee. There are some hosts that won't charge you monthly, but will charge you a one-time fee up front to set up your account. There's no need to pay this fee. Find you one that is truly free.

What is a Web Host and why do I need one?
For your new web pages to be accessible to web surfers, they must reside on a computer that is connected to the Internet. You could house them on your own PC, except that, like most of us, you're probably not connected to the Internet 24x7 - so they'd only be visible to web surfers while you were online. Also, these web surfers must know the "address" of your computer so they can find your pages on it. Unfortunately, the address of your computer changes every time you connect to the Internet, so you're unable to provide a stable, static address to your viewers. This is where a Web Host comes in.

A Web Host is a company that "hosts" your pages on their computers. Their computers are connected to the Internet 24x7 so your viewers can access them at any time. Also, a web host is able to provide a static address for your pages, so you can provide it to your viewers and they can use it to reliably view your pages at any time. The computers that host your pages are referred to as Internet Servers or Web Servers.

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) such as AOL, MSN, Earthlink, etc. may act as a web host, and you may be entitled to free hosting with them if you are a paying subscriber to their Internet access service. However, if you cannot, or choose not, to use your ISP, there are dozens of free web hosts on the Internet. See How can I find a free Web Host? for more information on finding free web hosts.

Can I really build my own Chipping/Traders web page?
Absolutely. You can even do it without a degree in computer science. All you need are a place to put your new page, a few key tools, and your own imagination.

First you'll need a home for your new pages - in Internet parlance, this is referred to as a Web Host. See What is a Web Host and why do I need one? for more info on web hosts.

Next, you'll need a software program to build your page and possibly a graphics program to create your images for it. See What software do I need to build my own web page? for more information on these tools.

Finally, you may need an FTP program to move your new page from your computer (where you built it) to the web host's web server (computer). Some web hosts (such as Brinkster.com have a File-Upload utility that negates the need for an FTP program (which saves you money). See What is FTP and do I need it? for more info on FTP programs.

What are Cookies and how do I enable them?
A Cookie is a very small text file placed on your computer by a web page. It is essentially your identification card for that page, and cannot be executed as code or deliver viruses. It is uniquely yours and can only be read by the web page that gave it to you.

A Cookie's purpose is to tell the web page that you have been there before and are returning. Cookies save you time. If you personalize pages, or register for products or services, a cookie helps the web page remember who you are. Next time you return, it knows to show you the information you requested. Or, when you register for another product or service, all you need to do is type in your e-mail address and a password. It will then fill in any questions you've already answered.

For Cookies to work, you must "enable" them in your web browser. To enable cookies in Internet Explorer, click the Tools menu, then click the Internet Options menu. Once the window opens, click the Privacy tab, and move Settings slider to desired level of protection. When you're done, click OK.

For a thorough explanation of Cookies and how to enable them in different browsers, visit this page.

For a list of reasons why you may not want to enable cookies, visit this page.