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Name Servers

A name server translates a domain name, like thehungersite.com, into an IP address, such as 206.43.192.76. When you type "http://www.thehungersite.com" into the address bar of your browser, your browser goes to a name server and matches the domain name, thehungersite.com, to the correct IP address. Once the browser has the IP address, it knows where on the Internet to find the site that you have requested.

(In case you don't know what The Hunger Site is, please check it out: it will only take you a few seconds, it will cost you nothing, and someone who needs it will get something to eat.)

Setting up the name server is the most technical aspect of the whole cheap domain process. In order to take advantage of the free name server offered by The Public DNS Service, you'll have to write your own "zone file." I should make it clear right now that I don't know a whole lot about zone files; some of it is pretty obvious, but some of it is not (well, not to me, anyway). I did, however, manage to get mine working, so hopefully I can at least get you that far. If you want to learn more, The Public DNS Service FAQ contains a list of DNS resources.

As was the case with the domain registration, you'll have to look ahead a step (2 steps, actually) in order to complete this one. In your zone file, you'll be pointing your new domain name to the IP address at which your site can be found. In order to create the zone file, therefore, you have to know where your site will ultimately reside. You'll be using the Capibara Free Domain Project (please note that as of May 2001 the Capibara Free Domain Project is in flux, and you may wish to try MyDomain.com) to map your domain, so you'll have to find out Capibara's IP address. You can find this information at Capibara's site (it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Capibara project at this point), but for the unmotivated, the IP address you need is "209.85.70.11".

To create your primary and secondary name servers at The Public DNS Service, choose Create Primary DNS from the menu; as is the case with Joker.com, you'll have to register before you can proceed. Once you've registered, you'll be presented with a form which contains 3 fields. 2 of these, Domain and E-mail, are fairly self-explanatory; the third, called simply RRs, is anything but self-explanatory. This is where you'll write the zone file.

Allow me to reiterate that I know very little about zone files. I got through by using the very handy Example button at the bottom of the form, which causes a window to pop up providing a sample zone file; this file provides examples detailing how to set up name servers, RP records, addresses for canonical names, IP addresses for networks not connected to the Internet, an IP address for the zone itself, aliases, and various types of MX records. Fortunately, you don't need to know how to do most of this stuff (at least, I don't think you do). In fact, if you just want someone to be able to get to your site by entering your domain name into the address bar of their browser, then your zone file should be fairly straightforward. Here's a simple zone file, based on the one I use for tookish.net, with comments explaining what each line does (or, at least, what I think each line does). Line breaks are indicated with a double slash (//):

First, the actual name servers have to be specified, both primary and secondary (throughout this page, replace "domain.com" with the domain that you are actually setting up, e.g., "tookish.org"):

domain.com. IN NS ns1.granitecanyon.com. //
domain.com. IN NS ns2.granitecanyon.com. //

Now, an RP record has to be specified; the lines following "IN RP" are e-mail addresses in DNS e-mail format, where the '@' is replaced by '.'. I think (don't quote me) that this is essentially contact information. The 1st one ("e-mail.yahoo.com") denotes an address outside of your domain from which changes to the DNS will be accepted, so you want to make sure to put your current e-mail address here. You'll receive an error when you submit the file if the last e-mail address on this line and the 1st e-mail address on the next (in this case both "admin.domain.com") do not reside within your domain; chances are, however, that if you're using the techniques described here, you don't have any e-mail addresses in your domain. Not knowing what else to do, I simply created a bogus address. The 2nd line contains your domain handle, which you can obtain by entering your domain name into the whois query form on the CORE site. "IN TXT", refers, I think, to a text file that supposedly contains contact data for the domain administrator. Whether or not this file is accessible using your handle, I don't know, but I figure that as long as you provide your handle, anyone who needs any information regarding your domain can find it there:

domain.com. IN RP e-mail.yahoo.com. admin.domain.com. //
admin.domain.com. IN TXT "John Doe, NIC handle: COCO-12345" //

According to the example zone file: many e-mailers expect the name localhost to exist in a domain with this specific, reserved address. 127/8 or 127/255.0.0.0 is the address of LOOPBACK-NET, 127.0.0.1 is reserved to mean this host on the LOOPBACK-NET. Sorry, again I'm not 100% sure what this means, but I know you can't submit your file without this next line; just use IP address provided:

localhost.domain.com. IN A 127.0.0.1 //

Here's where you actually point your domain name to your IP address, i.e. the IP address of the Capibara Free Domain Project:

domain.com. IN A 209.85.70.11 //

Finally, if you want people to be able to access your domain at http://www.domain.com, in addition to just http://domain.com, you'll have to create a canonical name called www.domain.com:

www.domain.com. IN CNAME domain.com. //

If you're not planning on setting up e-mail addresses @domain, then that's all there is to it. When all is said and done, the actual file is only 7 lines long, and looks like this:

domain.com. IN NS ns1.granitecanyon.com. //
domain.com. IN NS ns2.granitecanyon.com. //
domain.com. IN RP e-mail.yahoo.com. admin.domain.com. //
admin.domain.com. IN TXT "John Doe, NIC handle: COCO-12345" //
localhost.domain.com. IN A 127.0.0.1 //
domain.com. IN A 209.85.70.11 //
www.domain.com. IN CNAME domain.com. //

If, however, you wish to create e-mail addresses @domain, you will have to add a few more lines. Because I haven't actually done this, I'm simply going to point you to the information you need. I can't make any guarantees about the quality of this service (I haven't tried it for various reasons unrelated to its quality or lack of same), but it looks legitimate. The service is everyone.net. If you use this service, please let me know how well it worked for you so that I can pass that information along here.

Allow me, one last time, to insist that I hardly know what I'm talking about with reference to zone files: all I have going for me is the fact that my zone file seems to work. If you came across anything here that you know to be wrong, please let me know. Thanks.

Once you've finished creating the zone file, you can hit the Send button to submit it to The Public DNS Service. If there is a problem with your zone file, you will receive an error message, and you'll be sent back to fix it. Otherwise, the file will be submitted, and an e-mail will be sent almost immediately to the address you provided in the E-mail field on the form, in this case "e-mail@yahoo.com." In addition to providing you with a copy of the file you just submitted, this e-mail will contain instructions to reply in order to have the changes implemented. Simply reply to the message, and within a few days you should find that your domain is pointed to the Capibara Free Domain Project (you'll know because entering the URL of your domain into the address bar of your browser will take you to Capibara's This domain has not yet been mapped . . . page). While you're waiting for this to take effect, you can proceed to the next step, hosting.

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