Subject: Access to free software
From: ghost@ALADDIN.COM (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 93 09:33:50 PDT

> L. Peter Deutsch writes:
> : What distribution?  Free software often floats around the net with
> : absolutely no indication of where to send fixes.  The most recent comment
> : in the copy I got was dated 1985, with no indication of which of the 6
> : listed authors is taking responsibility for distribution and fix
> : integration.
> True.  Very true.  So this implies that we need a new kind of database
> for free software.  Archie will tell us 'what' and 'where' but not
> 'who' (if it does, I can't make it do it).  So we need to add the
> 'who' to archie or create something additional.
> John McDermott

This is a good example of my observation that the free software world
is Unix- and Internet-centric.  Statistically speaking, almost no
computer users have access to the Internet for anything except mail,
and every hour of access costs real money.

Probably the most useful service of this kind would be a mail-based
response server that did archie-like keyword searches and that
delivered a lot more information in response to a query -- just like
the bad old days of batch processing, when you had to make programs
print out a lot of information because the turnaround time was so
long.  As McDermott suggests, this would be most helpful if authors
included more information in the files in a form that the retrieval
program could extract.

A program of this kind that ran at every site that keeps a GNU
archive, and that required no manual intervention for updating, would
be really great.  Someone could probably construct one out of a
combination of archie, the mail response servers that already exist,
and some logic for caching the results of queries so as not to put a
big load on the file system.

There were two papers at the recent San Diego Usenix conference on
locating resources in the Internet, by some people from the
University of Colorado; maybe they'd be interested in creating
something along these lines.  Their Essence prototype is available
for anonymous FTP from;
e-mail addresses are in the cc: line of this message.

Too bad it's the *other* Peter Deutsch who is the author of archie.
He might be interested in this, too.

L. Peter Deutsch :: Aladdin Enterprises :: P.O. box 60264, Palo Alto, CA 94306, ...decwrl!aladdin!ghost ; voice 415-322-0103 ; fax 322-1734
	    "Implementation is the sincerest form of flattery."