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Coping with the Internet system

Library Systems Newsletter [August 1992]

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Librarians who have recently begun to use Internet report having considerable difficulty. The problem stems, in part, from the large number of networks and systems which are interconnected. it is essential to have the exact address to get to a specific system. And, of course, the user has to know which system he or she wants to access.

Every computer hooked to the Internet has a unique "IP Address" or "Internet Number." Each machine must have a fully qualified domain name (FQDN). Either an Internet Number or a FQDN can be used to contact a computer over Internet. A new machine in the ABC office of a government agency may establish itself with a name such as ABC.GOV. Some networks prefer to give their computers unique personal names such as GALILEC.ABC.GOv. An Internet user can only establish a connection with a distant site by typing a string of commands which includes every character.

If the user's interest is topical, BITNET (the Because It's Time network) is an excellent way to start as a new Internet user because it maintains an automated system to keep track of an extensive list of mailing lists. Each electronic mailing list helps route public messages dealing with a specific subject area to all interested users. Users can join a list by adding their E-mail address under a particular subject heading. The BITNET system will pass that name on to lie computer on Internet that maintains the list and assist with its mail flow. Messages that deal with the chosen topic dill be forwarded. The master list of topics is quite large. If the list is not available through the local LAN, it can be requested by sending Internet E-mail to LISTSERV@BITEIC.BITNET. The body of the text in the note should contain the command "list global."

An alternative to mailing lists is USENET news. USENET computers exchange articles and messages that are sorted by "newsgroup." USENET users can tap into the news feed, read messages on any topic and post responses or questions. This is different from the mailing list design, which sends only message topics that have been requested, and sends them directly to each user.

The mailing lists and USENET news have general appeal to individuals. For library staff and patrons interested in accessing online patron access catalogs and other major data bases, the best approach is through a command called "anonymous FTP" (file transfer protocol). Anonymous FTP was developed because remote users usually had to register and receive verification before they could set up an account on a new computer. Once users gained access they might learn that the target computer didn't have the wanted information. Anonymous FTP created a way for all users to gain access to thousands of computers without spending the time a energy to set up accounts on those computers or files which have been designated as publicly available. Users can gain access and copy what they want. Users who want to search an OPAC or other publicly available files need to create an FTP connection to log onto a system through Internet. (The main Internet protocol for creating a connection and doing work on a remote machine is called telnet.) With anonymous FTP, one can log onto another system as a foreign'' user (user name "anonymous") and create a temporary password prompt with one's own E-mail address to sites can monitor who is using their system.

The challenge, of course, is learning which sites allow anonymous FTP connections and what they make available. Curious new users can learn a lot by checking out "Archie", an automated query system at McGill University. Archie was set up to allow quick scans of anonymous FTP sites around the world. It now lists the contents of close to 1,000 FTP sites with more than a million files of free information. The easiest way to gain access tc Archie is to establish a telnet-protocol connection to an Archie o'server." The server should answer with a LOGIN prompt. Enter "ARCHIE" to proceed. After a short greeting and some news updates, an "ARCHIE" prompt appears. Typing HELP will bring up a set of instructions. Various inquiries can be made using the "PROG" command.

Since many computer operators are limited to just E-mail connections with Internet, Archie can also be queried by sending a message to the address "ARCHIE@ARCHIE MCGILL. CA." The single word "HELP" should be included in the body of the message. This should prompt a reply with details about how to use the E-mail Archie server.

View Citation
Publication Year:1992
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 12 Number 08
Issue:August 1992
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss, Contributing Editor
Subject: Internet applications
Record Number:5114
Last Update:2023-11-07 09:43:14
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00