a jaundiced eye: stuck
for thursday, march 13, 1997.

Part two of Redundant, Part two.


Every web server in existence can be configured to look for a given file when the user doesn't supply anything more than a directory name. On Apache, by default, this file name is "index.html". Microsoft's IIS uses "default.htm" - despite the fact that FrontPage uses "index.htm" or "index.html" as its default filename. In order to change this you must muck around with the Win95 registry - which Microsoft created in order to compete with Apple's ResEdit, you would think. A dangerously unstable, but fortunately unsupported, application has been provided to deal with this - regedit.exe.

The issue here is not so much that Microsoft is incapable of internally communicating certain information between development teams. The issue is that it is rare for page developers (here distinguished from site designers or site architects) to use the server-assigned default filename for a given directory index. Many page designers develop their sites entirely without the aid of a server. As such, they do not get much chance to take advantage of the servers' powerful features, including Aliases, Server Side Includes, and default filenames.

When testing files using the file:// method, everything may seem fine - but when you upload your files to the server, nothing works. Anybody ever had this problem?

I once got a resume from someone who wanted a job doing HTML coding. I received the resume on a floppy disk, copied the files onto my hard drive for future perusal, and reformatted the floppy. It turned out that the links in the documents were all relative to the floppy: <a href="file://a|filename.htm">... Needless to say, the applicant wasn't hired.

But it really isn't the fault of the folks who use the lousy software out there so much as it is the fault of the folks who design such lousy software. I should be able to configure my editor and my browser to recognize the standard file in a given directory. This way if I have to develop and test my pages on a local file system I can be reasonably sure that I have optimized them to work with my server.

The net result of this whole debacle is URLs like the following, which combined with slack sysadmin/webmasters allow me to view entire site trees.


When I go to


I get an ISP's home page because they don't understand Virtual Hosting. When I go to


if the webmaster has not denied directory browsing, I can see the whole tree. I can't however, figure out which of the hundreds of files (ever think to use directories, people?) is the default document I'm looking for.

Let's start leveraging the power of the server. And please don't make me type another URL like


ever again.

Steven Champeon

r e c i p r o c a t e

Permanently archived at: http://www.jaundicedeye.com/browse/stuck/031397/

© 1997-2001 Steven Champeon. All rights reserved.
All slights reversed.