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
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.
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
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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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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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?
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 ]