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Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan and Peter Deutsch, students at McGill University in Montreal, asked the same question. Unlike the weather, though, they did something about it.
They created a database system, called archie, that would periodically call up file libraries and basically find out what they had available. In turn, anybody could dial into archie, type in a file name, and see where on the Net it was available. Archie currently catalogs close to 1,000 file libraries around the world.
Today, there are three ways to ask archie to find a file for you: through telnet, a "client" Archie program on your own host system or e-mail. All three methods let you type in a full or partial file name and will tell you where on the Net it's stored. If you have access to telnet, you can telnet to one of the following addresses: archie.mcgill.ca; archie.sura.net; archie.unl.edu; archie.ans.net; or archie.rutgers.edu. If asked for a log-in name, type
and hit enter.
When you connect, the key command is prog, which you use in this form:
followed by enter, where "filename" is the program or file you're looking for. If you're unsure of a file's complete name, try typing in part of the name. For example, `PKZIP' will work as well as `PKZIP204.EXE'. The system does not support DOS or Unix wildcards. If you ask archie to look for `PKZIP*', it will tell you it couldn't find anything by that name. One thing to keep in mind is that a file is not necessarily the same as a program -- it could also be a document. This means you can use archie to search for, say, everything online related to the Beatles, as well as computer programs and graphics files.
A number of Net sites now have their own archie programs that take your request for information and pass it onto the nearest archie database -- ask your system administrator if s/he has it online. These "client" programs seem to provide information a lot more quickly than the actual archie itself! If it is available, at your host system's command line, type
archie -s filename
where filename is the program or document you're looking for, and hit enter. The `-s' tells the program to ignore case in a file name and lets you search for partial matches. You might actually want to type it this way:
archie -s filename |more
which will stop the output every screen (handy if there are many sites that carry the file you want). Or you could open a file on your computer with your text-logging function.
The third way, for people without access to either of the above, is e-mail.
Send a message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You can leave the subject line blank. Inside the message, type
where filename is the file you're looking for. You can ask archie to look up several programs by putting their names on the same "prog" line, like this:
prog file1 file2 file3
Within a few hours, archie will write back with a list of the appropriate sites.
In all three cases, if there is a system that has your file, you'll get a response that looks something like this:
Host sumex-aim.stanford.edu Location: /info-mac/comm FILE -rw-r--r-- 258256 Feb 15 17:07 zterm-09.hqx Location: /info-mac/misc FILE -rw-r--r-- 7490 Sep 12 1991 zterm-sys7-color-icons.hqx
Chances are, you will get a number of similar looking responses for each program. The "Host" is the system that has the file. The "Location" tells you which directory to look in when you connect to that system. Ignore the funny-looking collections of r's and hyphens for now. After them come the size of the file or directory listing in bytes, the date it was uploaded, and the name of the file.
Now you want to get that file.
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