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RFC 364 - Serving remote users on the ARPANET


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Network Working Group                       Marshall D. Abrams
Request for Comments: 364                   National Bureau of Standards
NIC  10606                                  July 11, 1972
References:  NIC 6801

                  Serving Remote Users on the ARPANET

Problem Statement

   Second only to the unavailability of the serving host, the most
   vexing problem encountered in attempting to use the service hosts on
   the NET has been the inadequacy of administrative procedure and
   information dissemination for remote users. This paper explores the
   problem and proposes solutions.

   When computer systems begin to service remote users, some of the
   operating procedures which produced a functioning environment for
   local users may not be satisfactory for those who are off-site. It
   may be that these procedures were already inadequate, but the local
   community developed a set of informal procedures to augment the
   formal ones. It may also be true that the established formal
   procedures were completely satisfactory for local users, but failed
   when an attempt was made to extend them to the remote user. In either
   case, this paper asserts that a problem exists and offers a set of
   suggestions for its amelioration.

Existing Information

   Having used (or attempted to use) the information currently
   available, I should first summarize the existing sources and indicate
   that they don't meet total needs. There is the resource notebook
   index. The index is an ordered list of attributes which refer one to
   the appropriate main entry for hosts exhibiting that attribute. When
   the index is completed, it will reference the main entries in the
   resource notebook, to which we now turn out attention. On the whole,
   the main entry contains a summary of the hardware and software
   services available. At this site, these entries serve as a "shopping
   list" from which we may select the service center hosts which may be
   suitable for the computing we wish to undertake. Some administrative
   information is also provided. Using the outline of a host-site
   subsection, this information consists of: I. Personnel; V.B.  Rate
   structure; V.D. Long-term storage; VII. Login; VIII. Operator
   Communication; IX. Miscellaneous; and X. Programs. The discussion
   under "IX. Miscellaneous" included a statement of intention to
   include an elaborated documentation section in a future revision of
   the resource book. This is most urgently required. This paper

   contains a proposal which might constitute the outline for that
   section.

   Another source of information concerning serving hosts is the NIC.
   Some sites have submitted existing documentation to the NIC; some
   have even written special documents to assist network users. There
   are several problems however: It may be difficult to learn about said
   documents, especially for someone new to the ARPANET and/or the NIC.
   NIC policy is to lend the documents, which is fine for browsing but
   unacceptable for reference.

Information Required

   Employing a questionnaire format, I will now present additional
   outline entries which might be used to supplement NIC 6801.

   XI.  Administrative Procedures relating to Financial Arrangements

        Who does a prospective user contact?

        Is there a way to sample using the system (gratis)?

        How does one open an account for computer services?

        How does one obtain the necessary blank administrative forms?

        Can all expenses (e.g., manuals, postage) be charged to the
        computer services account?

        How does one determine the status of his account?

        What is the relationship of a number of users to accounts?

        How can one determine the charges accruing during a session?

        How often are account statements issued?

        How current are account statements when issued?

   XII. Information Dissemination

        A.  Documentation

        Is there a "beginners pocket"? Does it contain examples?

        Is there a list of documents available? Where?

        Where are published documents sold?

        How does the remote user obtain these documents?

        May document purchases be charged to the account?

        How are errata sheets distributed?

        How often are manuals updated? How are updates announced?

        What local documentation is available/necessary?

        What manufacturer hardware/software documentation is
        available/necessary?

        Is manufacturer documentation available from the same source as
        local documentation and with the same arrangements?

        What is the mechanism for resolution of conflicts amongst
        manuals?

        Is documentation available for each subsystem and application
        program?

        Is there a printed newsletter or equivalent? If so, what is the
        procedure for becoming a subscriber? For obtaining back issues?

        Is there a "message of the day" automatically presented?

        How does an irregular user keep informed of past "messages of
        the day"?

        Is there an on-line information service like a newspaper? How
        does one obtain "back issues" of the "newspaper"?

        B.  User Assistance

        Is there a (required) single point of contact for remote users?

        What is his level of technical competence?

        What is his level of administrative responsibility?

        When the contact person cannot answer a question will he follow
        it up with the appropriate in-house person? Will the remote user
        be referred to the in-house person?

        To what extent will a remote user be permitted or denied access
        to technical and administrative staff?

        What priority does the local user have relative to the remote
        user?

        Is there a telephone service for answering questions?

        Is INWATS or equivalent provided?

        What are the service hours?

        Is there an on-line assistance mechanism? How does it work?

        Is there a mechanism for sending messages to an off-line user
        consultant?

        C.  Technical Capabilities and Requirements

        Is there an index of system capabilities?

           1. Communications

              How do you log in (or whatever it is called)?

              What device assumptions are made concerning lines per
              page, columns per line, (seperate) line feed, (seperate)
              carriage return, (combined) carriage return line feed,
              horizontal tab, vertical tab, form feed, and back space?

              Have any of the non-printing ASCII characters been
              assigned non-standard functions?

           2. Command language

              What is the minimum set of control statements required?

              Where are the control statements documented?

              What are the installation defaults on control statements?

           3. File System and Editor(s)

              What are the attributes of the file system? Describe the
              naming conventions of the defaults.

              How is a set, subset, and superset of "files" defined,

              related and named?

              What is the minimum information about the file system that
              is required in order to use the editor(s) and language
              processors?

              Are names divided into adjectival qualifiers? What are
              these called? Are there restrictions? Defaults?

              Describe the editor(s) characteristics. What documentation
              is available?

              Are there in-line editing features (e.g., erase
              immediately preceding character, erase entire line)?
              Describe.

           4. Languages

              What language processors are available?

              How are the processors implemented (e.g., batch compiler,
              interpreter, incremental computer)? What difference does
              it made to the user?

              What is the compitability of your language dialect(s) with
              the standard and with other dialects?

              To what extent can program units written in different
              languages communicate? Discuss data types,
              representations, and structures as well as subroutine
              linkage conventions.

   XIII.  Operations

        What measures are in effect to preserve the security of one's
        files and accounts?

        Can a remote user direct printing, punched cards, plotting, etc.
        to an on-site device? How does he get his output mailed to him?

        What off-line secondary storage is available? How is it used?
        What does it cost?

        How does the remote user request, renew, release, mount and
        demount tapes and disk packs?

        What arrangements are there for mailing off-line storage media?

        Is the operating staff aware that there are remote users?

        Are there services available to local users not available to
        remote users; and conversely?

        Is there on-line file storage? What does it cost? What limits
        are imposed?  How often is it backed-up?

        Does the announced operating schedule consider users in
        different time zones?

        Is the announced schedule closely followed?

        How are remote users notified of changes in the schedule?

Implementation

   Much of the information suggested herein as being beneficial for
   remote user would also apply to local users. Perhaps much of it
   already exists in local documentation. I assert that the remote user
   is usually unable to easily find the information, especially when he
   works with several remote hosts. Presenting the information in a
   format that followed a standard outline would certainly be a service.
   I also recognize that preparation of this information might involve a
   duplication of effort, and would possibly produce two documents which
   had to be updated when changes occurred. One solution is to follow
   the outline in producing a guide to the literature available from the
   host site.

            [ This RFC was put into machine readable form for entry ]
              [ into the online RFC archives by Alan Ford 10/99 ]

 

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