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Old 02-05-2008, 12:10 PM   #1
Howard Allen
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Folks--

I'm very naive in these matters, so this question could either have a simple answer or a very complicated one--I dunno.

My ISP gives me 10 MB of free web space, which I'd like to use to park files for others (members of a club) to download. I can FTP files to the web space, but I'd like to protect some of the files with a password/login scheme so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can get them.

Is this something that I'd have to get my ISP to set up, or is there a simple freeware-type of utility or easy-to-use commercial software that will construct such a "gateway"--as I guess it's called--or is this something I'd need advanced knowledge to do (PHP programming, etc.)?

(Mac OSX, BTW)

Thanks in advance!

   
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Old 02-05-2008, 12:32 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Howard Allen View Post
Folks--

I'm very naive in these matters, so this question could either have a simple answer or a very complicated one--I dunno.

My ISP gives me 10 MB of free web space, which I'd like to use to park files for others (members of a club) to download. I can FTP files to the web space, but I'd like to protect some of the files with a password/login scheme so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can get them.

Is this something that I'd have to get my ISP to set up, or is there a simple freeware-type of utility or easy-to-use commercial software that will construct such a "gateway"--as I guess it's called--or is this something I'd need advanced knowledge to do (PHP programming, etc.)?

(Mac OSX, BTW)

Thanks in advance!
Are you going to maintain a database of club members who can access these files, or will they register themselves? How will you know who is a member of the club, and who is not?

There are a good many userid and password mechanisms out there, some far more complex than others. However, first you need to decide who controls what, and what are the consequences, if any, if some non-member gets at the files. Try to avoid anything too complex.

Incidentally, 10 Mb is a small disk space by today's standards, so I wonder how practical your overall idea is going to be.
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Old 02-05-2008, 08:17 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
Are you going to maintain a database of club members who can access these files, or will they register themselves? How will you know who is a member of the club, and who is not?

There are a good many userid and password mechanisms out there, some far more complex than others. However, first you need to decide who controls what, and what are the consequences, if any, if some non-member gets at the files. Try to avoid anything too complex.

Incidentally, 10 Mb is a small disk space by today's standards, so I wonder how practical your overall idea is going to be.
Thanks for the input.

Here's the scenario: I distribute a PDF version of a club newsletter to fewer than 100 members. I currently FTP the file to my webspace, then send an email message to the recipients, with a link to my webspace, telling them to click it and download the newsletter. I'd like to make the file available to paying members (I'd email them a password) but keep it unavailable to freeloaders, as much as possible.

The size of the PDF is rarely more than 2 MB, so the 10 MB webspace is not really an issue (unless the password gateway stuff takes more than that!). I'd remove the file after a few weeks grace period for tardy downloaders.

I could simply password protect the PDF file, but it's extremely irritating to have to key in a password every time you open the file locally (few of these people will have the full version of Acrobat, so most couldn't disable the password even if I told them how).

It seems like every second website on the net has a security login screen, so I was hoping it was a trivial matter--I'm beginning to think not.

   
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Old 02-05-2008, 11:32 PM   #4
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Quote:
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I could simply password protect the PDF file, but it's extremely irritating to have to key in a password every time you open the file locally (few of these people will have the full version of Acrobat, so most couldn't disable the password even if I told them how).
Why not ZIP it, and password-protect the zip file? That way they'd only have to use the password to extract it once - and it might even end up being a smaller and faster download.

(ZIP passwords seem to be crackable, but you'd immensely reduce the number of people who could read it anyway.)

   
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Old 02-07-2008, 12:40 PM   #5
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Thanks, Marjolein--
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Why not ZIP it, and password-protect the zip file? That way they'd only have to use the password to extract it once - and it might even end up being a smaller and faster download.

(ZIP passwords seem to be crackable, but you'd immensely reduce the number of people who could read it anyway.)
Excellent idea--I should have thought of that myself, as it's something I've done in the past for my work clients.

I'm not worried about hackers. If they want to expend all that effort to bust into a newsletter about geology and dinosaur bones, they're welcome to it, and I feel sorry for them!

   
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Old 02-06-2008, 06:18 AM   #6
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Howard,

See my reply to Kelvyn.

Two years ago I was webmaster for an organization sending out newsletters and posting them on the website. In the newsletter on paper by mail days, we only provided newsletters to members who paid their dues, with a grace month at the beginning of a new year. Then we began to send out the newsletter to everyone on the list by email, whether they renewed or not, and consequently there are a lot of people on the list who think they are members because they get the newsletter, but they have not paid. When the newsletter got to be 10 Mb because the editor used the wrong techniques, we sent out a link to a PDF instead. Now we are sending out an email with the newsletter text directly in the email without a lot of formatting, but we still send it to everyone on the list.

Maybe you could just send out a different link for each to the paid members, but would the paid members share the link with the unpaid members? You need a simple solution, not something too technical or requiring lots of maintenance. I hope my ideas help you to get that.
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Old 02-07-2008, 01:23 PM   #7
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Thanks for the discussion!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dthomsen8 View Post
Two years ago I was webmaster for an organization sending out newsletters and posting them on the website. In the newsletter on paper by mail days, we only provided newsletters to members who paid their dues, with a grace month at the beginning of a new year. Then we began to send out the newsletter to everyone on the list by email...When the newsletter got to be 10 Mb...we sent out a link to a PDF instead...
You've recounted my experience, with uncanny accuracy! The newsletters-by-email phase was short lived due to all the attendant headaches: "Message not delivered: recipient's mailbox is full"; "I've tried and tried, and can't open the attachment--what's wrong?"; "I accidentally deleted the email--can you send it again?" ad nauseam

The problem of sending newsletters to delinquents who haven't paid their dues is a non-issue, as I have a very good membership database, and once they've passed the due-date, they get flagged with "expired" and receive no emails.

My newsletter is layout- and illustration-heavy (and multi-page), so just sending the text as the body of an email message is not a good alternative. I compose the newsletter in RGB in InDesign and make greyscale copies of all illustrations. Once the RGB version is finished, I simply "save as" and relink all the illustrations to the GS versions, giving me my "print" version, which is Docutech printed and mailed out.

This entire business of providing online newsletters can be framed from different philosophies, which is something I continue to wrestle with. I know another club editor who simply posts her newsletters to her club website for anybody to download. She claims that it hasn't made much difference in the number of paying club members. In fact, an argument might be made that it could attract more paying members from the general online public--the newsletters serve as an advertisement for the club. On the other hand, paying members (especially those who live out of town and can't partake of many club activities) would have a valid reason to say "why should I pay my membership dues, when I can just download the newsletter for free?"

   
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Old 02-07-2008, 12:09 PM   #8
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How about this:

FTP the PDF to a directory on your web site (rather than a publically accessible FTP directory).
Email a link to the PDF to your members.

Or better, put up a page with a link to the PDF and instructions for downloading the PDF, links to Acrobat Reader installers and such. Then send out the link to that page by email.

Paying members could share the URL with freeloaders but other than that, the PDF wouldn't be accessible to random browsers. The same people would probably share the password to ZIPs, password protected sites or anything else you come up with so it's not much less secure, and it's simple to implement.

If you suspect people of giving away the password, you could play games like creating a copy of the "landing" page for each paid member. For the member at your_email@testing123.cog, their "landing" page could be your_email.html

Your logs would tell you if somebody's hitting that page unusually often, which'd be suspect.

   
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Old 02-07-2008, 01:42 PM   #9
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Good ideas, Steve--

I'm going to study these options and see which ones might work for me.

   
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Old 02-05-2008, 12:40 PM   #10
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As long as this is not a Windoze server you can password protect a directory using .htaccess - check on your server control panel as it may have an option to protect directories already built in. But as it is "free" webspace it is highly unlikely that this will be available. It is possible to create the .htaccess password files and install thtm yourself, but is not easy. There is a guide here.

   
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