3.1 Which Name Server?

If you plan to set up your own zones and run name servers for them, you'll need name server software first. Even if you're planning on having someone else run the name servers for your zones, it's helpful to have the software around. For example, you can use a local name server to test your zone datafiles before giving them to your remote name server administrator.

Microsoft ships a name server on the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM, but you have to install it separately from the OS. This server, which we call the Microsoft DNS Server, is the server we cover in this book. It's notable because it sports a nice graphical front-end for configuring the server. This isn't the only name server available for Windows Server 2003, however. There are several others. Many are ports of BIND, which has traditionally been a Unix-based name server. If you're more comfortable configuring BIND than learning to configure a new name server (even with a GUI), you might consider running the latest version of BIND (9.2.2 as of this writing) on Windows Server 2003.

BIND 9.2.2 compiles on Windows Server 2003 without any modification of the source code. However, since many people lack the software necessary to compile it, the Internet Software Consortium distributes a compiled version from its web site at http://www.isc.org/products/BIND/bind9.html.

If you decide to run BIND on Windows Server 2003, we suggest you pick up a copy of DNS and BIND. That book concentrates on the BIND implementation; this book emphasizes the Microsoft DNS Server.

3.1.1 Getting the DNS Server

If you've read to this section, we'll assume you've decided to use the Microsoft DNS Server. Before proceeding, you'll need to install the name server and its configuration front-end from the Windows Server 2003 CD-ROM. For detailed instructions on this process, see Chapter 4.

3.1.2 Handy Mailing Lists and Usenet Newsgroups

Now that you've installed your name server, it's important to keep abreast of DNS and name server developments. Three Usenet newsgroups are helpful for this: microsoft.public.windows.server.dns, microsoft.public.win2000.dns and comp.protocols.dns.bind. The new microsoft.public.windows.server.dns focuses on the Windows Server 2003 version of the Microsoft DNS Server, but includes discussion of older versions, too. microsoft.public.win2000.dns concentrates on the Windows 2000 version of the Microsoft DNS Server. comp.protocols.dns.bind is more BIND-centric (as the name indicates) but is an excellent source of information about the art and practice of running domains and name servers. It arguably has a better signal-to-noise ratio than the Microsoft newsgroups and is also available as a mailing list, bind-users@isc.org.[1] A searchable archive of the list can be found at http://www.isc.org/ml-archives/bind-users/.

[1] To ask a question on an Internet mailing list, all you need to do is send a message to the mailing list's address. If you'd like to join the list, however, you have to send a message to the list's maintainer first, requesting that he or she add your email address to the list. Don't send this message to the list itself; that's considered rude. You can reach the maintainer of a mailing list by sending mail to list-request@domain, where list@domain is the address of the mailing list. So, for example, you can reach the BIND users mailing list's administrator by sending mail to bind-users-request@isc.org.

Microsoft's online support site, at http://support.microsoft.com/, is a valuable source of information about known bugs in the name server and updates to the code. Also, be sure to checkout Andras Salamon's "DNS Resource Directory" at http://www.dns.net/dnsrd/ for pointers to online DNS resources and documentation.

Another mailing list you might be interested in is the namedroppers list. Folks on the namedroppers mailing list are involved in the IETF working group that develops extensions to the DNS specifications, DNSEXT. For example, the discussion of a new, proposed DNS record type would probably take place on namedroppers instead of the BIND users mailing list. For more information on DNSEXT's charter, see http://www.ietf.org/html.charters/dnsext-charter.html.

The address for the namedroppers mailing list is namedroppers@ops.ietf.org, and it is gatewayed into the Internet newsgroup comp.protocols.dns.std. To join the namedroppers mailing list, send mail to namedroppers-request@ops.ietf.org with the text "subscribe namedroppers" as the body of the message.

3.1.3 Finding IP Addresses

You'll notice that we gave you a number of domain names of hosts that have ftpable software, and the mailing lists we mentioned include domain names. This should underscore the importance of DNS: see what valuable software and advice you can get with the help of DNS? Unfortunately, it's also something of a chicken-and-egg problem: you can't send email to an address with a domain name in it unless you've got DNS set up, so how can you ask someone on the list how to set up DNS?

Well, we could give you the IP addresses for all the hosts we mentioned, but since IP addresses change often (in publishing timescales, anyway), we'll show you how you can temporarily use someone else's name server to find the information instead. As long as your host has Internet connectivity and the nslookup program, you can retrieve information from the Internet namespace.

To look up the IP address for ftp.microsoft.com, for example, you could use:

C:\> nslookup ftp.microsoft.com.

This instructs nslookup to query the name server running on the host at the IP address to find the IP address for ftp.microsoft.com and should produce output such as:

Server:  ns1.mindspring.com

Name:    ftp.microsoft.com 

Now you can ftp to ftp.microsoft.com's IP address,

How did we know that the host at IP address runs a name server? Our ISP, Mindspring, told us?it's one of their name servers. If your ISP provides name servers for its customers' use (and most do), use one of them. If your ISP doesn't provide name servers (shame on them!), you can temporarily use one of the name servers listed in this book. As long as you only use it to look up a few IP addresses or other data, the administrators probably won't mind. It's considered very rude, however, to point your resolver or query tool at someone else's name server permanently.

Of course, if you already have access to a host with Internet connectivity and have DNS configured, you can use it to ftp what you need.

Once you've got a working version of the Microsoft DNS Server, you're ready to start thinking about your domain name.