sipb's grumpy fuzzball
students' portal


The MIT SIPB Webserver

SIPB's webserver

The story of our server.

Once upon a time ... was first started in the summer of 1993 (probably July); it may be among the first 100 WWW servers in the world. The original webmasters were:

As time went on, they began collecting more webmasters. In the late 1990s, we began mirroring the top layer of the official MIT webserver,, on In August of 2004, MIT Information Services and Technology took over maintainence of from SIPB. SIPB's services migrated to

Slightly more detailed timeline

MIT Information Services and Technology takes over from SIPB. SIPB's services moved to Where else would you put all your stuff for the world wide web?

The top-level page from was moved onto the server, to assist users who start from in an attempt to navigate the MIT official web site.

The web pages were redesigned and the web server was changed from a SPARCstation 5 running SunOS 4.1.4 and Apache 1.1.1 to a SPARCstation 20 running Solaris 2.5.1 and Apache 1.2.4.

URLs of the format work now. See documentation for more details.
An MIT events calendar is now available. Enter your groups events.

We finally made documents on the comment and counter scripts.

The SIPB Weather Gateway is now back online after being on an extended sabbatical.

Attention 1996 graduates - learn about services and activities available to MIT alumni, including new Email Forwarding for Life (EFL) now under development.

2/17/1996 is now running the Apache web server. We hope this will alleviate some recent performance problems.

Additionally, we are now serving on both port 80 and 8001.

Mikael Sheikh has created an online book exchange for MIT students.

Toby Elliott has provided us with an on-line, searchable version of the IAP Guide. (Plus, here's a list of SIPB IAP courses (plug, plug))

Whoa! A short period of silence was held for the moment that the webmaster queue went to zero! Doh, another home page request :-)

The original SIPB webpage is back because of nostalgia and popular demand.

The original, full-color graphics are back! The colors were originally reduced some time ago to save on server load.

ClariNet put more comics into news, so we have them here now. Check out the new pages off of our comics page.

Rei got sick of there not being any stats. So there are now some stats, generated by a modified wwwstat. Here. So it's a little flaky....

Digitized copies of your MIT Card photo are now available; to get a copy, bring a blank, PC-formatted 3.5" floppy disk to the MIT Card Office (E32-200). There is a charge of $3.00 (an additional $3.00 will be charged if you do not provide a disk) and a turnaround of 3 days. Pictures are saved as JPEGs (usually between 6kb and 12kb) and have resolutions and color depths of either 341x363x256 or 512x400x256, depending on when your card was issued. You will be required to sign a release form authorizing the MIT Card Office to copy your photo onto disk.

Student URL's are now shown in the mitdir directory. The directory is updated from the lists on and For more information, finger

Some time (months) ago, Eric set up an imagemap facility which lets people put clickable imagemaps in web pages provided via . He wrote some documentation for setting up imagemaps on, but only just remembered to mention it here.

Up until very recently, the master copy of the root directory of our web server was stored on the local hard disk of our web server. This made regular maintainence of these files a hassle, as it required the webmasters to log in to our already heavily loaded server and modify them there using puny unix editors like vi, instead of using emacs or other more bloated text editors (which would make the system load even higher than it already is.

Recently, Eric set up our web server so the master copy of the root directory lives in AFS (a network-distributed filesystem), where the webmasters can edit it directly, from any Athena or SIPB workstation. Changes to the master files are copied onto the local disk of our web server every night around 4 AM.

Rei was silly and wrote something to let you see how hosed the webmasters are.

Eric got bored of people sending him mail asking for an image transparentization package for every random operating system known to man, so he wrote TransWeb. It allows virtually anyone on the web to create transparent images. It's pretty cool, though using it causes our web server to do a whole lot of work, and raises our already high server load.

We've just finished setting up a new comics page: Bizarro, by Dan Piraro.
This complements our Dilbert page. You can find links to both pages from our new comic strip page. If we set up any new comics, you will be able to find them on this page.

Last calculated, we were getting roughly 500,000 connections a week. In closely related news, the Decstation 5000/25 which was was falling over (i.e., crashing) a lot. We swapped it with a SparcStation, and its performance has been much improved. The old Decstation (no longer a web server) has been moved back into the SIPB office and reinstalled as an ordinary Athena workstation, and has been renamed bill-the-cat. :-) (later note: The decstation has since been reclaimed by IS, who lent it to us in the first place; bill-the-cat is now the sparc/classic it was 6 months ago.)

What fun. A listing of some of the more frequently asked policy questions pertaining to our server.

New listing, the Commercial Sites Founded by MIT Community Members! Just what we needed, a new list to maintain and more requests to handle....

The server machine is very hosed. As always, donations of service-contracted spiffy machines are very welcome. :-)

To reduce the load on the server, the graphics have been altered to have fewer colors. Let us know what you think. You can still view the originals in
rei's homepage.

Web fever is at an all time high! We get tons of homepage addition requests, plus over 200,000 connections a week! Wow!

Oh, and please don't use the comment gateway to send forged email. We might just have to hunt you down and make you add homepages for 29 hours in a row.

More silly and occasionally useful CGI scripts than you know what to do with! All of the silly things that Matthew has been doing for the past few months have been CGI scripts, and therefore not integrated into plexus. But now, you can experience them too.

More stuff to come!

Hey! We actually got around to updating to NCSA HTTPD. It's here, it works, it's faster and it's harder to pronounce than 'Plexus'. Thanks to Eric for actually finishing this.

Maps of MIT Workstation Clusters, with hyperlinks from each workstation to a query about that workstation.

A cybermystic novella, vh485, written by Nic Kelman, maintained by Richard Lachman.

Matthew and Jake's Adventures! With new installments!

The MIT What's Cool list. (MIT people, please add stuff you provide to this list)

Matthew and Jake Fly a Kite

New Hardware!!! We upgraded to a dedicated DS5000/25(Maxine) named anxiety-closet. (of course all URLs should still be via The server should be less hosed, at least for a little while. :-)

Yipee! Classes are over. Finals have begun. Some of the

Hey, we may have lost a couple webmasters, but we just got a new one, too!
Mike Bauer ( is our newest webmaster. Be nice to him.

Matthew has written a zwrite gateway that lets you send zephyr messages to MIT students.

A pair of new services, not fully polished, but functional: a finger gateway and a machine information gateway. If you think that this is just another finger gateway, then you should try fingering at or any other hostname which resolves to more than one IP physical machine.

A fun new toy ... StoryFun. Code by mkgray, stories by various people ... and you, of course. (Still being polished).

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