May, 1993

When I first set up the plexus server at MIT, I set it up on a machine named charon. Charon was SIPB's catch-all machine for new stuff and testing and such. By default, a web server wants to allow people to connect on the default port, which is port 80, because nobody else had dibs. By using 80 it means they don't have to put a number after the hostname in the URL. The UNIX operating system, however, has some rules about who is allowed to use the ports below 1024.

Basically, the rule says only 'root' can use these ports for servers. 'root' also has permission to read and write any file on the machine. 'root' is also known as the 'super user', which is a cool name, but not nearly as cool as the title I would bear after I finished setting up the webserver: 'webmaster'. So, when I wanted to set up the server, some people were nervous about running the web server as 'root' because if there was a security hole, it might allow someone to break into our system as root. This would be bad. So, I didn't run it as root.

Plexus, the server we were running, by default used port 8001 if it wasn't running as 'root' and this is what I did. So, the SIPB web server stayed exclusively on port 8001 until we switched to Apache.