Software Install/Config via WWW

Daniel W. Connolly (
Tue, 20 Sep 1994 22:22:41 +0200

In message <>, Jay C. Weber writes:
>I just installed prerelease 2 of our Webmaster's Starter Kit (WSK).
>This is the over-the-web way of configuring, installing, starting,
>and extending (with maintenance tools) a Web server.

Wow! Software install/config over the web! Fantastic!

And it works! (I just tried it out... smooth and easy.)

Some quick thoughts:

* after I downloaded the shar distribution, I have to invoke
sh bootkit.shar
For all I know, this will do a /bin/rf -rf ~ or something nasty
like that. Granted, it's shell source code and I can read it, but...

In general, it's not good to teach folks to download and run random
programs from the net.

My suggestion is that you allow (encourage) users to check the
authenticity of the distribution by including (in the instructions
on the web) all sorts of info including, but not limited to:

- bytecount
- gnu checksum
- svr4 checksum
- bsd checksum
- md5 checksum
- PGP signature

For legal reasons, you should probably say something like "by
downloading this distribution, you release EIT from all liability...
but here's how to contact us for support if you have trouble..."

This is a FANTASTIC demonstration of "home shopping" on the net. We've
all known for a while that it was possible to do this sort of thing --
it's just a matter of testing, support, documentation, and all those
nasty real life things.

I hope this is a success and that lots of other software distributors
follow suit. Getting software from the net could really be revolutionized
this way. If you think about it:

* every PC, Mac, and unix box ships with TCP/IP, SLIP, PPP,
and a forms-capable WWW client. (It'll happen soon. I'd say
within a year, 90% of new boxes will be WWW capable. Most
businesses will have a net feed of some sort. Home TCP/IP feeds
may take a while, but they're coming...)

* Marketing info for zillions of products is available on the
web. We start with archie, which tells you almost nothing
about almost everything, and we enrich it via USENET, HTTP,
and perhaps other services/protocols to include abstracts, reviews,
Seals Of Approval, guides, and other catalog/magazine info.
This is were all this URN/URC stuff of replication and
authentication comes into play.

* Users pick the product they like, fill out a form to select
the platform/configuration. A custom distribution is built,
and shipped over the net. (Licence/fee negotiation will eventually
become part of this process. Watermarking software to
trace pirated copies will become a reality.)

The user can get online doc over the web, or choose to download
the documentation, or order printed copies. (A third-party
market for bound documentation will probably spring up...)

* The user follows the instructions on the web for installing
and configuring the software.

* The user can submit bug reports through the same WWW client
interface -- or browse other bug reports with resolutions.
(again: this facilitates a market for third-party support).

> Linux and NT
>ports are under consideration.

I volunteer to beta test the Linux port. Or consult, or whatever it
takes to get a linux port done.

I'd love to see linux software distribution completely migrated to
this model. I think it would be great for all the software in the
linux archives to be available this way. The free software community
is the place to research these issues and markets and see how they

Then folks will eventually be willing to pay for documentation,
support, and maintenance for some products. They might be willing
to pay for search services, reviews, consulting, and a whole spectrum
of products.

>We love feedback! Send mail to

I hope you don't mind that I copied www-talk.