SALBIN: PC Software for Accessing Internet Resources

Article excerpt


November 1991 was an important time for libraries in the United Kingdom. For the first time it became possible to gain direct access to the vast information community known as the Internet. During this month the X.25-based academic network JANET was opened up to the TCP/IP protocol, allowing any institution with the appropriate hardware an open link to Internet services. Although the Bodleian Library at Oxford University had been using JANET for some time to provide readers with access to remote catalogs and data services within the United Kingdom, it soon became clear that the Internet"would dwarf the resources the library had been able to make available previously. How to handle this influx of new information sources and how to make them easily available to readers became major challenges.

At the Bodleian, readers have had access to JANET-based resources with the help of a personal-computer software package known as SALBIN. Edinburgh University Library designed this package to provide a menu-driven interface to remote data services. SALBIN is a very user-friendly system; users select the information service they want from a menu, and the software handles all connection procedures. The user disconnects from a remote catalog or database by pressing a single function key. SALBIN also incorporates routines to handle occasions when it does not prove possible to make a connection, informing the user of the problem and returning to the opening menu. SALBIN is configured almost entirely by simple text files, similar to those employed by Kermit, and the language used is very straightforward and takes little time to learn.

With the advent of Internet access, it was logical to extend the SALBIN service already offered to include the new range of services that had suddenly become available. SALBIN allows the library to present the same interface to the newly expanded reservoir of information, integrating Internet services with those on JANET and the European X.25 network IXI into a seamless whole. The new service--known by the acronym BARD (Bodleian Access to Remote Databases)--provides access to 360 online catalogs and forty databases and has proved instantly popular with users.

SALBIN does not run the TCP/IP protocol directly but requires an asynchronous link to an IP service, such as a mainframe with a TELNET access facility, and this limitation may be a drawback for some libraries. At Oxford, it is possible to use the local Gandalf data network, which has access to a Nova server from which TELNET calls can be made. Using the Gandalf node proved especially useful, as the same system provides X.25 access to JANET and IXI. Note, however, that access via this link, which has a speed of 9,600 baud, is slower than running TCP/IP directly. The SALBIN software costs only fifteen pounds sterling and will run on very low grade PC compatibles (256K RAM suffices), potentially providing a way of recycling otherwise obsolete equipment.


Obtain the SALBIN Software

The only ftp site currently offering SALBIN is the HENSA public-domain software service operated by Lancaster University, United Kingdom. One can obtain a copy by anonymous ftp from MICROS.HENSA.AC.UK. The file name is MICROS/IBMPC/DOS/ F/F144/F144SALBIN.BOO. The archiving utilities DEBOO.EXE and PKUNPAK.EXE or ARCE.COM are necessary to unpack Salbin,which should be stored in a separate directory. DEBOO.EXE and PKUNPAK. EXE are available on HENSA, in the directory MICROS/IBMPC/DOS/TOOLS, under the file names DEBOO.MSG, DEBOO.BAS, DEBOO.BOO, and PKPAK.BOO. The ASCII file DEBOO.MSG gives full extracting instructions. All of the above files with the exception of DEBOO.MSG should be downloaded in binary format. The ARCE package is widely available on software archives, including HENSA (under the file name MICROS/ IBMPC/DOS/E/E638/E638ARCE. BOO). …