4.0993 SPRIRES Humanist Database at Syracuse (1/139)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 6 Feb 91 17:47:09 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0993. Wednesday, 6 Feb 1991.

Date: Sun, 3 Feb 1991 23:59:42 EST
From: Ron Kalinoski <ACDRLK@SUVM>
Subject: An alternative way to access Humanist wisdom

Research Computing Services at Syracuse University has for some time
been working on a way to provide access to Listserv archives that is
more direct and efficient than using the Listserv database functions.

We are now at the point where we would like to invite members of
Humanist who are interested to try our approach and provide us with
feedback. We are treating this as an experimental trial. For the
next three months, we will monitor the usage of the system and based
on the results, we will decide whether it is practical to continue it
or not.

There are two major components in our Humanist archive system:

1. SPIRES/PRISM. SPIRES is a text-oriented mainframe database package. PRISM
is the name of the user interface to the databases stored in SPIRES.
2. SUINFO is a special command we use to allow users to access our
IBM mainframe without having an account.

How the System works:

We have created a SPIRES application which owns a BITNET userid that has been
subscribed to Humanist for quite some time. It receives Humanist messages
along with everyone else. Each message it receives is automatically
indexed and added to the Humanist database it manages. It "recognizes" 8
different fields: volume, issue, date, sender, userid, node, subject,
and text. The information contained in these fields becomes searchable by the
user. The full text of all the messages is indexed, so searching is quite
flexible and robust. When you specify a search, the results are presented in
an abbreviated form. You may easily display the full text of the messages
which appear to be of interest based on the subject and heading.

To access the Humanist database from your site, you must be able to use
TELNET. Many BITNET sites also provide Internet access, although some
still do not. TELNET is an internet command which establishes an interactive
session between your computer and a remote host computer. In effect, you
log on to the remote host and interact with it as though it is a local
connection. In the case of our Humanist database application, remote users
will TELNET to our IBM mainframe, which is called SUVM.ACS.SYR.EDU.
(detailed instructions are attached below).

There are certain advantages to the SPIRES approach we have been developing,
compared to the standard approach of using the Listserv database functions
which have been discussed in Humanist recently. First, you establish a direct
interactive connection with the database and have the full power of PRISM
at your disposal. Searching for information is typically an iterative process,
and you modify your strategy based on the results you get. Using the
Listserv functions through Bitnet is a cumbersome process of sending
search programs via email to the listserv and waiting for a message in

Advantages also apply to those who are responsible for managing the
computer resources on campus - if people start to use the SPIRES database
in preference to actually subscribing to the Listserv, only one copy of the
Listserv transactions is stored on disk, rather than n copies. When the
Listserv traffic is large and/or when n is large, this can amount to a
substantial reduction in disk storage required to meet the information
needs of users.

There are a few limitations of the SPIRES database approach, however. One is
that saving search results as a file to be sent to your home account is not
supported with the current version of our system. This is primarily due to
the way in which we had to limit functionality in order to achieve anonymous
login. The way around this is to start a logging program on your home computer
before accessing the Humanist database. Logging programs are commonly used
on micros and mainframes to capture interactive sessions as a file - the
commands you enter and the responses that appear on the screen are all saved
to a log file you specify.

We encourage Humanists to try out the database features of SPIRES and let us
know what you think. We have so far created only two Listserv databases
in SPIRES ( Humanist and NOTIS-L (at the request of our Library staff)).
Before developing additional applications, we would like to get feedback
from remote users about their attempts to use these.

If you wish to contact us directly, please send email to:

ACDRLK@SUVM (Ron Kalinoski, Associate Director, Research Computing Services)
BBALAKRI@SUVM (Bhaskaran Balakrishnan, SPIRES Programmer).



This method of access assumes that you have TELNET which connects to
SUVM in transparent/full screen mode. Non IBM sites may have to use
TN3270 instead of TELNET.

a) TELNET to Suvm.acs.syr.edu [Internet addr:], i.e.
telnet suvm.acs.syr.edu

b) Once you are connected, i.e., you get the logon screen, move the
cursor to the Command line and enter "SUINFO". See example:



This is the third line (the first two being for USERID and PASSWORD).
If you get an error message, hit RETURN and type SUINFO <RETURN> again

c) Once you are logged in, you may get several messages (the LOGMSG).
If this spans more than one screenful, you have to hit the
CLEAR key (for TN3270 users: this is usually 'Control Z') to proceed
to the next screen. You have to do this whenever you see a
'... MORE' at the bottom right hand of the screen.

d) You will get a brief introductory message and be asked to confirm that you
would like to continue. Typing 'y' will take you into PRISM (SPIRES)
which holds the the HUMANIST database.

e) You will be asked to select from a menu once you are in PRISM. Enter
the word HUMANIST on the line labeled YOUR RESPONSE which is the same
line that the cursor is on. Having done this follow the directions
on the screen in order to use the system.

f) Within PRISM you can make use of 'PF keys' that allow you to get commands
executed without having to type them out. The PF key settings will depend
upon the kind of keyboard you are using, but the default PF key settings
of <ESC> 1 through = (on the main keyboard) ought to work. In other words,
PF06 can be effected by hitting <ESC> and then 6 on your keyboard and PF12
by <ESC> and the = key. You may at times have to clear the screen --
the default key setting is <ESC> and '.' [ESCAPE key and the period].

If you have problems with the PF keys, you can type the equivalent

In the current implementation, this is not obvious.

If you have any problems, send an email message to:

Bhaskaran Balakrishnan <BBALAKRI@SUVM.ACS.SYR.EDU>