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Frequently Asked Questions

Table of contents:








Advanced questions


Do you provide Internet dialup access?
No, Dragonfire does not provide Internet access directly; Dragonfire only provides services to those who already have access to the Internet. In other words, Dragonfire is an Internet Service Provider, but not an Internet Access Provider.

Can you host a MUD / MUSH / chat server / etc.?
Not at present. Our services are limited to those described on these pages.

I only need 5 megabytes of space. Can I pay less than the price for a 25MB account?
No. Our primary cost is bandwidth, not disk space, and that is what most of the account fee is used to cover. We do not offer reduced prices for accounts using less than 25MB of disk space.

I noticed all the entries for downtime on your system event log. Just how reliable is Dragonfire?
Although we obviously try to keep our servers running as smoothly as possible, it would be fair to say that we don't expect or aim for 100% uptime: There is definitely some truth to the old adage "you get what you pay for," and a side effect of the comparatively low prices we charge for accounts is that we cannot afford to have our systems watched 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We also do not guarantee any certain percentage of uptime, though Dragonfire does average above 98% uptime over the long run. If you require 100% uptime for your site and immediate response to server problems, you might be best off looking for a more expensive service provider.

A note on the above: If you are having trouble reconciling the claimed 98% uptime average with the large number of downtime entries on the system event log, take a closer look at the entries. Many of them are on the order of 10 minutes or less--which is less than 1% of a day--and the entries date back to early 1997, with rarely more than one entry a week.


Accounts and Dragonfire's rules

Your rules seem pretty strict! How can I be sure you won't just delete my account on a whim?
Dragonfire's services are based on mutual trust. We ask that you trust us to implement the rules fairly; in return, we trust you to abide by your best interpretation of them, and we try to work out any problems via E-mail (or other means) before resorting to measures such as deleting files or suspending service.

Can my friend put some of her pages on my account?
Yes; we do not require that you be the only one to use your account. However, be aware that all files on your account -- no matter who authored them -- are your responsibility as the owner of the account.

Can I give my password to someone else and let them update my site while I'm on vacation?
Yes, you can. Again, however, everything on your account is your responsibility -- the excuse "but I didn't put those files there" isn't valid. Make certain that anyone to whom you give your password is familiar with Dragonfire's rules. Also, it goes without saying that you should never give your password to anyone you do not trust.

Can I upload commercial/copyrighted software to my account for backup purposes?
While it is generally frowned upon, it is legal under copyright law for you to upload one copy of a commercial or copyrighted software product to your Dragonfire account for backup purposes. However, if you do so, you must upload the software to a private directory; failure to do so will most likely cause your account to be terminated on account of software piracy. See the SITE CHMOD command in Dragonfire's FTP guide for information on making a directory private.

Using accounts

Should I keep a copy of all my files on my own computer?
Absolutely! You should never use leased space to store your only copy of your files, because you have no guarantee that the files won't suddenly disappear. We don't know what files may be important to you, and if you forget to renew your account, all your files may be irretrievably deleted. Always keep at least one copy of all your data on a computer you have full control of. This applies to all service providers, not just Dragonfire.

What's the difference between "username" and "account name"?
Username is the "name" by which you are known to Dragonfire; you use your username (and password) when connecting to Dragonfire to upload to or download from your account, or when requesting changes in your account. Account name is the name by which you are known to the rest of the world; the account name is used in web and anonymous FTP URLs and E-mail addresses.

Can I change my username?
In the vast majority of cases, no. If you think you have a good reason for getting your username changed, you can always ask, but don't be surprised if the answer is "no". The reason for this is that many system control and data files are indexed with usernames, and changing a username would essentially require deleting the old account and creating a new one.

How about my account name?
Account names can be changed; however, be aware that there is no "change-over" period -- your old account name will stop working immediately when the new one becomes active. Also, you cannot choose an account name that is the same as an already existing one except for case -- for example, if someone else is using the account name "joe", then you can't use "Joe" or "JOE".

Okay, so how do I have it changed?
How do I have other account details (e.g. my E-mail address) changed?
What if I want to cancel my account?
Send mail to containing your username, password, and the requested change(s). (If you want to change your password, that can be done via Telnet; see below.)

A reminder: Never send your password to any address other than Messages from the Dragonfire administration will always ask you to send your password to that address. If you receive a message asking you to send your password elsewhere, forward it immediately to so that we can look into the matter and take any action that may be appropriate.

How do I change my password?
Telnet to and log in as you would with FTP; you'll then be given the opportunity to change your password, by typing your old password again followed by your new password twice. If you change your mind, simply close the Telnet connection and your password will remain unchanged.

But I forgot my old password! What can I do? Can you tell me my password?
One of the security features of all multi-user systems is that all passwords are encrypted using a "trapdoor" function; in other words, once a password is encrypted, there is no way to decrypt it and get the original password back. So no, we can't tell you what your password is. What you can do, however, is send mail to saying that you forgot your password. We will then send a message to the E-mail address we have as your current address, to verify that you were in fact the sender of the message; reply to that message (make sure you quote the entire message in your reply!) with your username and a new password.

I signed up for domain services, but when I try to connect to my hostname, it doesn't work! What's wrong?
There are two possible reasons. One is that due to the nature of domain name service (DNS), which is used by computers on the Internet to look up the numeric addresses of named systems (like, it may take up to a day for a new hostname to become visible throughout the Internet. (This applies to changed hostnames as well.) The other reason is that, with the current version of our web server, adding or deleting a virtual host requires restarting that web server process, which is something we prefer not to do too often since it can take several minutes; thus, even after your hostname resolves, it may be several hours before the web server process is restarted and your hostname starts being serviced.

How do I upload files to my account?
Using an FTP client. See Dragonfire's Quick and Dirty FTP Guide for an introduction to FTP. Note specifically that you must upload non-anonymously; that is, you must use your username and password to upload. Also, you must use your hostname when connecting to Dragonfire to log in with your username and password. (For example, if your account name is "joe", you should connect to "". This is the same as the hostname in your FTP URL.

Can I E-mail my files to you to put on my account?
No; you must upload them yourself using FTP. E-mail messages with included files will be ignored.

When I try to FTP to my account, I get a "Login incorrect" error, but I know my password's correct.
Make sure that:

Can I create directories on my account?
Yes, as many as you like. Again, see Dragonfire's FTP guide for information on how to do so.

Can you create directories for me on my account?
No, we will not do that; see the previous question for how to do so yourself.

How do I delete files?
See Dragonfire's FTP guide. Note that most Web browsers are incapable of deleting files; you need to use a real FTP client.

I have these "." and ".." directories all over the place. What are they? How do I get rid of them?
Those are perfectly normal, and in fact, you can't delete them. They are special names used to refer to the current directory and the parent of the current directory, respectively. If you have a DOS or Windows system, try the following at a DOS prompt:

md c:\newdir
dir c:\newdir

You'll notice the "." and ".." entries there, too. (To delete the directory you just created, type: rmdir c:\newdir)

I can go into other Dragonfire users' directories! Can they go into mine? Can they delete my files?
On Dragonfire, users' directories are by default readable by everyone. This means that other people can see what files you have on your account. However, it does NOT mean people can change or delete your files! One of the important features of multiuser computer systems (as opposed to, for example, Windows) is that they protect your files from being changed by other users unless you explicitly give permission for that to happen.

If you prefer that users be unable to look around in your directories, use the FTP command:


See Dragonfire's FTP guide for how to enter raw commands.

Why do some of my directories have this "->/home/ftp/users/..." after them?
That indicates that that directory is really a symbolic link to a physical directory located elsewhere on Dragonfire. In this case, it indicates that directories so marked are actually located on the anonymous-FTP disk -- this is necessary because of security features in the FTP server intended to prevent anonymous users from getting access to files they shouldn't.

Why do some of my directories show up as files?
Some graphical clients don't interpret symbolic links correctly and display them in the "file" window instead of the "directory" window. If this happens to you, complain to your client's author and use the "change directory" command to get into the directory. In general, you will only have symbolic links if your account has anonymous FTP access enabled.

I can't connect to Dragonfire; it just says "Login incorrect." But I'm sure I remember my password correctly. What's wrong?
Remember that both usernames and passwords are case-sensitive; that is, capital letters are different from lower-case letters. So, for example, if you requested a username of "John", you must log in with the username "John", not "john" or "JOHN".

Another possible cause is using the wrong hostname to connect to Dragonfire. You must use the hostname to log into your account; using will not work--that machine supports anonymous FTP only.

When I telnet to, it only lets me change my password, then logs me off. What's wrong?
Nothing; that's the intended behavior. Dragonfire does not offer shell accounts at present.

What's my home directory (sometimes called "system path")?
The format for home directory names is /home/X/username, where X is the first letter of your username, and username is your full username. (Note that your home directory does not use your account name in the path; it uses your username, which is what you log in to Dragonfire with.) For example, user "JohnDoe" would have the home directory /home/J/JohnDoe, and user "jsmith" would have the home directory /home/j/jsmith. Note that the value of X is case-sensitive: if your username begins with a lower-case letter, then X must be replaced by the same lower-case letter.

So my home directory is, right?
Wrong. Read the previous FAQ more carefully.

So what is the home directory used for, anyway?
The home directory is only used when you upload files to your account, using your password. It does not appear in URLs; it is only for you to use when you log in to your account via FTP. (CGI scripts may also need the home directory to be able to access data files.)

When I go to my home directory, it shows a different path, like /home1/username. What's going on?
That's normal behavior; the directory described in the previous question is actually a pointer to a real directory somewhere else. This is necessary since directories are occasionally moved around (see next question). Just use the /home/X/username path for all of your transfers, and you'll be fine.

Help! I was uploading/downloading something and I suddenly started getting "No such file or directory" errors.
Home directories will sometimes be moved from one disk to another in order to make the best possible use of the available space. We try to avoid moving any directories while people owning those directories are connected to the server, but if you do experience something like the above, the solution is generally just to disconnect and reconnect.

Can I change the names of the web/FTP directories I signed up for?
Yes; however, the change can't be made simply through FTP. Submit an account change request as described above. (If you change the names of your web/FTP directories yourself, you may no longer be able to access your account via the web or FTP!)

How do I find out how much disk space I'm using?
Use the account information form at

I haven't used up my disk quota, but Dragonfire is telling me "No space left on device" or "Illegal seek". Why?
That indicates that the physical disk on which your files reside is full. We do keep close watch on disk free space, so informing us of this condition is unnecessary, but we may not always be able to solve the problem immediately. The account information form ( will tell you how much space is available on the disk your account is located on, as well as the anonymous-FTP disk.

What is "bandwidth"?
Bandwidth is, defined simply, traffic over time; in other words, the sum of everything uploaded to and downloaded from your site over a certain period of time. If, for example, you have a 10kB index page on your site, and 50 people access it each day, then your site has 500kB/day of bandwidth. However, be aware that all data is included in bandwidth--this includes HTML pages, images, sound files, and even your own updates to the site.

How can I check my bandwidth usage?
Use the account information form.

Does the 100MB/day bandwidth limit for accounts include files I upload and download using my username and password?
Yes. In general, however, this will not be a problem; we have found that for accounts with more than 10MB/day of total transfers, user FTP sessions are typically less than 1% of that total.

What happens if I exceed my bandwidth limit?
Typically, we do not take action until your average bandwidth use exceeds your limit; in other words, if on one particular day you happen to exceed your limit, that's okay. However, if your bandwidth is continuously over your limit--or if you exceed it by a large amount in a single day--we may require payment for you to increase your account's bandwidth limit (the amount will be the difference between your current level and the required new level prorated by the time left on your account). In such a case, we normally give 30 days either to receive payment from you or for you to reduce your bandwidth use. If neither of those happens in the 30-day span, only then do we impose stricter measures, which usually means restricting access to your account so that you cannot exceed the limit (other users will get error messages from the server). In rare cases where the bandwidth excess is huge, we may suspend the account, but normally this will not happen.


What's the URL for my anonymous FTP directory?
Unlike other account information, account names are not case sensitive, so (for example) if your account name was Joe, you could use either or to access your files.

When I go to my anonymous FTP directory, my client says the directory is "undecipherable". What's wrong?
If I go to /users, there's nothing there!
This is intentional behavior. The "users" directory cannot be read by users; you will need to go directly to whatever directory you're trying to access. While you may not be able to see the name of that directory, depending on your FTP client, you'll still be able to list files, download, and upload as usual.

How do I make a message show up when people go to my directory?
Upload a text file containing the message into that directory and call it ".message".

How can I make a file or directory private?
See the SITE CHMOD command in the Quick-and-Dirty Guide to FTP.


What's the URL for my web site?
Unlike other account information, account names are not case sensitive, so (for example) if your account name was Joe, you could use either or to access your site.

Where's my page? Why can't the server find it?

How can I create a web page?
One tutorial can be found at

Alternatively, if you don't want to learn HTML, there are a number of web page design programs around. One such, HotDog, can be found at (Note: Dragonfire does not endorse these or any other programs or tutorials.)

Can I use the XYZ program to create my pages?
Any program that creates HTML files can be used to create your web pages. However, Dragonfire does not support the server-based "extensions" used by some products, notably Microsoft FrontPage, for web site management. (See the question about FrontPage for the reasoning behind our decision regarding the FrontPage extensions.) You should use a standard FTP program to upload your files.

Can I use the Netscape Gold HTML editor to publish my pages?
We have heard various reports that the Netscape Gold editor's "publishing" function does or does not work with Dragonfire. If you want to use Netscape Gold to create your page, we recommend that you create it on your computer and then upload it to Dragonfire using normal FTP methods.

I uploaded some pages, but the server still says it can't find them!
If you chose a separate web directory when you requested your account, all of your web page files must go in that directory, or in a subdirectory of that directory. (The directory will be automatically created for you along with your account.)

When I go to, I see all my files, just like FTP. How do I make my page come up?
The page that you want as your "home" or "index" page must be named either index.html or index.htm for this behavior. Note: filenames are case-sensitive, so names like "Index.html" or "INDEX.HTM" will not work!

What is CGI? Does Dragonfire allow CGI scripts/programs?
Yes, CGI scripts are allowed on Dragonfire. See below for information what CGI is and on using CGI.

When I try to access an HTML file in my cgi-bin directory, I get "Document contains no data."
This occurs if your HTML files have the execute permission bits set. Use the SITE CHMOD FTP command to change the file's permissions to 644 (or 666 for a world-writable file--scripts sometimes need these).

Does Dragonfire allow server-side includes (SSI)?
Yes; Dragonfire supports NCSA-format server-side includes in .shtml files, i.e. files whose names end in .shtml. Additionally, server-side-include CGI scripts (the <!--#exec cgi="..."--> tag) are supported in .html and .htm files.

Does Dragonfire support secure transactions?
We are currently investigating SSL support, but we do not yet offer this service.

Does Dragonfire support Java applets?
Strictly speaking, support for Java is a function of web browsers, not web servers; however, Dragonfire's server will recognize and identify Java bytecode files (.class files) as such. Note that the class filenames must end in ".class". Also make certain you upload the class files in binary mode, or browsers may not be able to execute them. (If you see a "java.lang.ClassFormatError", a likely cause is that you uploaded the file in ASCII mode instead of binary mode.)

Are MIDI files (for use with Crescendo, for example) supported?
Yes; the file type is "audio/midi", so make sure your program is configured correctly.

Is RealAudio streaming supported?
Yes and no. We do not use Real Networks' streaming server; RealAudio files will be sent via HTTP just like any other files. However, it is easy to stream RealAudio files via HTTP; see Real Networks' instructions for HTTP streaming.

Can I password-protect some of my pages?
Yes; access control with .htaccess files is supported. An .htaccess-editing utility, which will allow protection of directories with passwords, is available at

Does Dragonfire support Microsoft FrontPage extensions?
No. We do not and will not support Microsoft FrontPage extensions due to numerous and serious compatibility and security problems. If and when an alternative becomes available, we will judge whether that alternative is suitable for use.

How can I make imagemaps work?
There are a number of programs available that will let you create imagemaps graphically; a good place to look for them is on Yahoo's list. When saving from one of these programs, be sure to select NCSA output format rather than CERN (if your program gives you a choice). Also be certain you upload the resulting .map file in ASCII (text) format, or your imagemap will probably not work.

If you choose to create your imagemaps manually, you can read NCSA's imagemap tutorial for information on creating imagemaps.

In either case, your imagemap tags should read:

<a href="/cgi-bin/imagemap/map-URL"><img src=map-image ismap></a>

where map-URL is the local URL (i.e. with the stripped from the front), and map-image is the path to the image to display, just like any regular <img> tag. For example:

<a href="/cgi-bin/imagemap/"><img src=main.gif ismap></a>

Can I create a form that mails the results to me?
At present we do not have a mail script, but the mailto: tag (<form action="mailto:your@email.address">) may work.

Do you have a guestbook script? How can I set one up?
No, we don't, nor do we support them; however, there are reportedly a number of CGI script archives around the Web, and you should be able to find such a script in one of them.

What other web page services does Dragonfire have?
A web page hit counter (see the counter documentation).

I have some utilities to analyze log files, and I want to use them to get statistics on my web pages. Where are your log files located?
Sorry, but Dragonfire's log files are not available for this or any other use. (Due to the amount of traffic Dragonfire receives and the resulting size of the log files, such programs would put too great a strain on Dragonfire, especially if several people tried using them at once.) However, summaries of log accesses for domain accounts are available via the account information utility.

I'd like to put a link back to Dragonfire's home page. Do you have a small version of your logo I can use?
Yes; it can be found here. To access the image without having to download it and then upload it into your directory, use this tag:

<img src="">

CGI scripting on Dragonfire

What's CGI?
A method for running programs from a web page. For all the gory details, visit NCSA's documentation site.

Can I put CGI scripts on my account?
Yes. At the moment, only Unix shell scripts and Perl programs can be used (as Dragonfire does not currently allow telnet access, compiling C programs is not possible). However, you need to follow these guidelines when creating and uploading a script:

If a script's documentation says that the script must be placed in the server's "cgi-bin" directory, ignore it; CGI scripts will function equally well in user directories (though you may need to change a URL or two in the script).

Note that Perl scripts which are designed to run under a specific version of Perl (such as Perl 5) should specify that number at the end of the first line of the script; for example, "/usr/bin/perl5" instead of "/usr/bin/perl". The version of Perl referenced by /usr/bin/perl is currently version 5, but that may change in the future when new versions are released, and different releases of Perl may be incompatible with each other.

I have a Linux system, or a C compiler that can compile Linux programs. Can I compile CGI programs in C and upload them to Dragonfire?
Yes, but with one restriction: We MUST be able to view the source of the program at any time we choose. This means you must upload the source to your account along with the executable, and you should make it reasonably clear where the source for any particular program is (for example, by placing the sources in the same directory as the executables, by using a "cgi-src" directory, or by including a "README" file in your CGI executable directory explaining where the source for each executable is).

We require source availability so that we can ensure that programs uploaded to the system are reasonably secure and are not trying to do unreasonable things (like obtain privileged system information). If we discover that a CGI program is behaving badly, we will be far more lenient if we have the source available and can verify that the program was made to do things it was not designed to do.

My script says it needs to be uploaded to the system's CGI-bin directory. How can I do that?
You can't. Don't worry, however; the script is making assumptions about Dragonfire's server structure which are invalid. Just follow the directions above for uploading a CGI script into your own account and you should be fine.

How can I reference data files in my CGI script?
Use your home directory (see above); for example, a file "data.txt" in your home directory would become "/home/X/username/data.txt" (where X and username are as described in the section about your home directory).

When I try to access my CGI script, the server just returns the script itself instead of running it. Why?
Make sure you have done the appropriate FTP SITE CHMOD command (see above). If you don't do this, the server will see the script as an ordinary file and just display it instead of running it.

My CGI script is returning "Document contains no data". What's wrong?
A common cause of this is uploading the script or any files it uses in binary mode. Make sure that not only the script but any associated files are all uploaded in ASCII mode. Also make sure that you upload to the correct hostname (see uploading instructions), as not doing so can cause your script to not work temporarily.

If that doesn't fix things, then check whether the first line of the script or the file mode is correct; see above for the steps to follow.

If neither of those is the problem, then there's probably an error in your script somewhere that's occurring before the script outputs any data; you'll have to test it yourself.

Another thing to check for in Perl scripts is the presence of "require" lines, usually near the top of the file; if there are any such, you'll need to find the files named in those statements. For example, if you see a line:


you'll need to find the file "" and install it on your account as well, in the same directory as the script. You may also need to insert your home directory at the beginning of the filename, for example:


or perhaps:


As with (nearly) everything else on Dragonfire, remember that filenames are case-sensitive; "" and "" are different filenames.

Finally, if your script still isn't working, you should test it on another system to make sure there are no syntax or similar errors in the script. A Perl interpreter for Win32 systems is available at

My CGI script needs to write to data files. How can I let it do that?
There are two options you can choose from; both involve changing file access modes with the FTP SITE CHMOD command. Each has its own disadvantages compared to the other, so you'll have to decide which you prefer.

My CGI script needs to use program X. Where is it located on the system?
Locations for some commonly used system programs:
sendmail   /usr/sbin/sendmail
date       /bin/date
mail       /bin/mail

My CGI script needs to connect to an SMTP server to send mail. Do you have one?
Yes; the hostname is

My CGI script still doesn't work! Can you help me?
Sorry, no; we do not generally provide assistance with CGI scripts. We do not have the time or resources to deal individually with the myriad problems which can arise when installing a CGI. Moreover, we have found from experience that most problems reported come from not following the instructions in the FAQ correctly (despite a number of claims to the contrary). As with anything else, make sure you read the instructions carefully.


What's the difference between basic domain service and full domain service?
It is explained more fully on the domain account information page, but in short, the difference is that basic domain service provides only an IP address and a hostname in the domain, while for full domain accounts we also provide DNS (domain name service) for a domain name of the account owner's choice as well as automatic E-mail forwarding for all mail sent to that domain.

Can I have a basic domain hostname like instead of
No; we do not allow any sub-domain hostnames to be used with basic domain accounts.

Can I get a mailbox like
Full domain service includes automatic forwarding for all mail sent to your domain. You do not need a Dragonfire E-mailbox to take advantage of this. Note, however, that at present it is not possible to have different domain addresses go to different mailboxes.

This forwarding service is not available for basic domain accounts.

Can I get different hostnames in my domain to point to different locations?
Can I get a second domain and have it point inside my current domain?
Not at present; these are not services we currently offer.


Reminder: Web/FTP accounts do not include E-mail access. E-mailboxes are available separately.

What's my Dragonfire E-mail address?
Your account name followed by Note that your account name, not your username, is used in your E-mail address (though this is obviously a moot point if your username and account name are the same).

How do I configure my mailreader to use my Dragonfire mailbox?
The actual names of parameters vary between different software packages, but should be similar to the following. If you want to contribute exact setup procedures for a particular mailreader, send mail to

Important note about Dragonfire E-mailboxes: If you want to save any messages, you should do so on your own computer, not on the server. Leaving messages on the server may lengthen the time it takes to retrieve your mail; more importantly, if your mailbox exceeds your mail quota (default 10 megabytes), you will be unable to receive any new mail.

Where is my mail stored on Dragonfire?
Your mail is stored in a file in the directory /var/spool/mail; the filename is the same as your username (the same as your POP/IMAP username in your mailreader). This file is a text file which contains all of your messages, one after the other. You should not modify or delete this file yourself, as you may become unable to receive or download mail!

I can't download my mail! What's wrong? What can I do?
Like other service problems, the number one cause of problems downloading mail is simply Internet trouble--problems in the Internet between your system and Dragonfire. You may want to try waiting a little while before downloading your mail again, or checking with your Internet service provider.

If you consistently have problems, a last-resort option is to use FTP to download your mail. Connect to and enter the same username and password you use for reading mail normally; then download your mail file (see above for the location of that file). Since your mailreader may not be able to read this file, you may have to use a text editor (such as Notepad or Wordpad in Windows) to read your mail this way.

Advanced questions

I can't ping or traceroute to some of the hosts. Are they down?
Not necessarily; some of the machines on our network are configured or firewalled not to respond to ping requests. In general, pinging is sufficient to obtain information on routes and packet loss and delay to Dragonfire.

Andy Church
Last update: 5 December 1998