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March 1998


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Network Applications Course Explores Internets, Intranets

What is the fastest client you can design that fetches files from a web server and stores the contents in a local file?

That was the question for students participating in the "Internet Derby." The Derby featured anxious contestants, speeds measured in milliseconds, and spectators crowding around ... a laptop computer.

The Derby was the fifth and final project in the new senior-level ECE 4564 Network Application Design course. The course focuses on applications built on top of standard Internet protocols, complementing other courses in telecommunications networks and network architecture.

"Computer networking has become an increasingly important area of knowledge for computer and electrical engineers," said Professor Scott Midkiff, the developer of the course. "There are both hardware and software components of networks. We have a telecommunication networks course that covers communications issues, and a computer and network architecture course. However, neither of these courses addresses the area of systems built from networks, including both internets and intranets, which is the purpose of ECE 4564."

The course is design-oriented, with five projects that comprise 60 percent of a student's grade. In addition to the Derby, the projects involved developing client and server programs to implement a mailbox protocol; developing an HTTP server; developing an HTTP client that tests the availability and access time for a World Wide Web page; and developing a light access protocol (LAP) client and LAP-HTTP gateway that could be used by a device such as a hand-held device that would not have the processing power, storage, or display capabilities for protocols such as HTTP and languages such as HTML.

What was the fastest client developed for the final project? The Derby was won by Honglian Wu, an ECE graduate student, with a speed of 281 milliseconds for the benchmark set of web files. "This was very fast for this problem," Midkiff said. "However, it should not be compared to standard web browsers, since our clients only implemented the network part of a browser - the part that requests and fetches files from a web server - and did not implement the graphical user interface portion."

The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virginia Tech

Last Updated, April 29 1998
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