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
contains a proposal which might constitute the outline for that
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?
How often are account statements issued?
How current are account statements when issued?
XII. Information Dissemination
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
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
Is documentation available for each subsystem and application
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
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
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
C. Technical Capabilities and Requirements
Is there an index of system capabilities?
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
Are names divided into adjectival qualifiers? What are
these called? Are there restrictions? Defaults?
Describe the editor(s) characteristics. What documentation
Are there in-line editing features (e.g., erase
immediately preceding character, erase entire line)?
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
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?
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
[ This RFC was put into machine readable form for entry ]
[ into the online RFC archives by Alan Ford 10/99 ]