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rfc:rfc364

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

Abrams [Page 1] RFC 364 11 July 1972

 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?

Abrams [Page 2] RFC 364 11 July 1972

      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?

Abrams [Page 3] RFC 364 11 July 1972

      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,

Abrams [Page 4] RFC 364 11 July 1972

            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?

Abrams [Page 5] RFC 364 11 July 1972

      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 ]

Abrams [Page 6]

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