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Features And Hardware Requirements

SSL Explorer is actually available in two flavors: the basic "Community" edition and an enhanced "Enterprise" edition. Complete feature lists for each version are available at 3SP's Website, but here are a few to whet your appetite:

"Community" edition features

  • Granular policy-based rights management
  • No concurrent user restrictions
  • Remotely browse Windows file systems via Windows Explorer
  • Reverse proxy Web forwarding feature
  • Configurable authentication schemes
  • Access your desktop remotely
  • Connect using any modern Web browser
  • No dedicated appliance necessary
  • Supports Wake-On-LAN - bring up systems remotely
  • Supports Microsoft Windows XP/2000/2003 and Red Hat Linux 8.0 or later (other Linux distributions are unofficially supported)

"Enterprise" edition features (in addition to "Community" features)

  • Commercially supported
  • Enhanced Authentication including SSL client certificate, LDAP, public-key
  • Bi-directional split-tunneling
  • Full auditing and reporting capabilities
  • Lightweight remote management applets supporting SSH1, SSH2, Telnet and VNC remote access protocols
  • SSH-based remote management CLI (alpha)

One other important difference is that the Java VPN client included in the "Enterprise" edition provides a connection more like a conventional IPsec VPN as opposed to the port forwarding/tunneling functionality of the Java VPN client included in the "Community" edition.

Commercial support plans are available for a fee for both the "Community" edition and the "Enterprise" edition of SSL Explorer. Visit the 3SP Ltd. Website for more details on the support options available.

For the purposes of this article we'll be looking at the free "Community" edition.

The SSL Explorer software package can turn a humble PC into a full-fledged SSL VPN gateway. SSL Explorer software is released under the GPL and is written in Java. All that is needed for a PC to become a server is Windows 2000/XP/2003 and the Java Runtime Environment 5.0 (JRE). It is also possible to install it on Linux distributions such as Redhat and Fedora. However, for this article, we will concentrate on the Windows platform.

All that is required on the client side is a Java-enabled Web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. As far as hardware requirements go, SSL Explorer will run on a very humble PC. It will easily accommodate one to five concurrent users running on a Windows XP box with a 2 GHz Intel Celeron CPU with 256 MB RAM. You can actually get away with even a little less if you choose to install it onto Linux instead of Windows.

Prepare For Installation

The "Community" edition of SSL Explorer is distributed as an archive file with source code that needs to be compiled using the Apache ANT utility, available at You will also need the 1.5.0 Java Runtime Environment (JRE), which is available at Make sure that the JRE package you download is at least version 1.5.0 or higher. Both Apache ANT and SSL Explorer require the JRE as both are Java applications.

Download and install the JRE first, then install Apache ANT. ANT does not come with an installer so we need to just extract the contents of the archive file into a suitable place on our system. If you wish, you can use "C:Program FilesApache ANT" as I did.

After the installs are done, we need to set up some environment variables so that our system can find the ANT and Java binaries. Go to the Windows Control Panel and select the System icon. Once the System Properties window is displayed, select the Advanced tab, click on the Environment Variables button and do the following:

  1. Create a new system variable called ANT_HOME and make its value the directory location of ANT. On my machine I placed ANT in C:Program FilesApache ANTapache-ant-1.6.5.
  2. Next, we need to create another system variable called Java_HOME and we will make its value the directory location of the JRE. The JRE is installed in C:Program FilesJavajre1.5.0_07.
  3. Lastly, we need to modify the PATH variable. Add the following to the PATH variable:

The semicolons are there to separate the PATH entries. Now we can move on to the installation of SSL Explorer itself.

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