Internet Online Services: archie
The Internet, begun two decades ago as an experimental
research and government agencies but later expanded
to include a significant
number of commercial corporations, provides access to
an almost staggering
amount of data and a wide range of information services.
In this article,
I describe in detail one of these services, archie.
I outline the
functionality of archie, explain how to use it, and
involved with getting and installing two popular archie
on your system.
If you're not already connected, read the sidebar "Getting
to find out how to get your system or systems connected
to the Internet
at a level of service that's right for you. In a subsequent
I will discuss another Internet service that is rapidly
popularity, gopher. For your reference, the sidebar
There?" summarizes some of the most popular services
to Internet users.
What Is archie?
Information, including free software, on the Internet
in the form of publicly accessible files made available
use of anonymous ftp. Anonymous ftp allows access to
files on particular
systems without requiring logins or passwords. Finding
out which sites
offer anonymous ftp and what files and software might
from them is where archie comes in.
Archie is a means of maintaining and searching indexes
of the files
available from anonymous ftp sites on the Internet.
of files are maintained on designated sites on the Internet,
archie servers. Numerous sites on the Internet operate
archie servers, each containing the same information.
Figure 1 lists
The information provided by an archie server comes in
two forms. First,
there is a database of filenames collected from all
ftp sites. This database is updated regularly, typically
once a month.
The second type of information, called the "whatis"
contains additional data describing the subject or function
files. This is useful when the filename you are searching
bear no resemblance to its purpose, particularly if
Without archie, finding what you are looking for would
be worse than
thumbing through every page of a book, frantically searching
to a particular topic. With it, a whole world of knowledge
is merely an ftp session away.
You can retrieve information from an archie server through
several interfaces. The simplest interface requires
only that you
have the capability of sending and receiving electronic
mail to one
of the archie servers. You send an email message to
at the server, issuing an archie command in the text
of your message.
The results of your command will be mailed back to you.
Once you have found what you are looking for, you must
find a way
to access it. Many anonymous ftp sites offer access
via email for
users who cannot use ftp to connect directly to that
site. This is
usually accomplished by sending mail to username ftpmail
at the desired
anonymous ftp site. Commands to ftpmail closely resemble
"normal" ftp, and are entered in the text
of your mail message.
If you have the ability to use telnet to connect to
other sites on
the Internet, you may choose the telnet interface to
establish a connection
to an archie server, as in the following example:
[2111:~ ]xanadu% telnet archie.rutgers.edu
When prompted for a login name, enter archie. You will
not be asked for a password, and will soon see the archie
At this point the archie server is ready to take your
commands. Figure 2 shows a summary of the commands available
the telnet interface. Most of these are also available
using the email
interface. A sample archie telnet session appears in
Figure 3. In
this example, a telnet connection is established with
the archie server
at Rutgers University. The maxhits variable is set to
of 4, to limit the search result to a maximum of four
search command, prog, is then used to search for file
containing the substring "xarchie". What is
returned are entries
for ftp servers matching this search, along with the
all files matching the search. From the abbreviated
output given in
the figure, you can see that two sites contain what
appear to be compressed
tar files of the xarchie software. One site has version
of xarchie, the other has version 1.3. Once you have
a list of potential
locations for the files you want, you can just fire
up ftp and go
archie Client Programs
Archie client programs connect to archie servers using
a special protocol
known as Prospero. These clients allow you to query
an archie server
without having to connect to it with telnet and log
in. This is typically
the preferred method of accessing archie databases,
as it places less
of a burden on the computers which act as archie servers.
There are two primary archie client programs, archie
The former is a command-line archie client, with archie
as arguments to the command. The latter, xarchie, is
an X Window application,
providing a graphical user interface to archie. Both
via anonymous ftp from several locations on the Internet.
Using the telnet interface, I found several sources
for archie and
xarchie. I used the anonymous ftp server ftp.cs.widener.edu
to get archie version 1.4.1 and xarchie version 1.3
(there's a more
recent version of xarchie, version 2.0, which uses the
X11 R5 libraries;
but, since this version of the X Window system is perhaps
not as widespread
as X11 R4, I elected to use the earlier version of xarchie).
clients were in the form of a compressed tar file.
Having acquired the two files with ftp, I set about
on my Sun workstation. Each package consists of the
source code, makefiles,
and various other support files to assist in compiling
the software. On my Sun workstation, running SunOS 4.1.3,
I was able
to build the command-line archie client with no modifications
makefile. You should check the value of the ARCHIE variable
makefile, and make sure it is set to an appropriate
(the available servers are listed in the makefile).
Give some thought
to this, as this will be the default server that the
will connect to (it's a good idea to pick one that is
close to you). After editing the makefile, simply run
the make command.
If all goes well, you will have an executable file called
you should then copy to a common directory found in
your users' PATH
variable -- perhaps /usr/local/bin or something similar.
You can then copy a "man page," archie.man,
to a common
location on your system for online reference pages.
That's it, you
have an archie client.
Those of you with X Window-based workstations or terminals
prefer the xarchie client. Compiling this gets a little
than the command-line client, but is still straightforward.
includes a file, called README, with detailed instructions
xarchie up and running on your system. If you are familiar
and Imakefiles, you'll have no problem.
The xarchie client has an intuitive graphical interface,
queries much easier. Buttons and pull-down menus across
the top of
the window give access to the settings and commands.
lists give the server names, directory names, and file
by the archie server as a result of your query. Simply
search term in the text field in the lower portion of
click on the Query button at the top, and after (usually)
wait, the results of your query will display. Using
your mouse and
the scroll bars, search through the list of results.
If you find what
you are looking for, you may be able to get the file
by clicking on the Ftp button at the top of the window.
Both archie clients are easy to use, and definitely
to be preferred
over interactive telnet sessions by archie servers.
offers a way to query the "whatis" database,
however. I prefer
the graphical user interface of xarchie; if you're a
little more adventurous,
go out and find xarchie version 2.0.2, the interface
is much nicer
than version 1.3.
Archie has become an invaluable addition to my systems
"toolbox." Using the xarchie client, I am
able to find and
retrieve software and documents that I would otherwise
not even know
about. As an example, I recently stumbled across a number
relating to Solaris 2.2, the latest offering from Sun
in the UNIX SVR4 arena. These documents proved to be
worth their transfer
time in gold, as I had just struggled for several days
with many of
the features of Solaris which they dealt with. I have
to locate a number of software packages that have become
additions to the computer systems I manage, including
the Perl programming
language, the GNU project's compilers and other development
the COPS security software, and more. All of these are
if only you know where to look.
Archie can do a lot for you, even in the narrow scope
it covers. To really exploit the power of the Internet,
to explore some of the other services. In a subsequent
discuss gopher in detail, including how you can use
gopher to provide
information to the users of your systems.
Krol, Ed. The Whole INTERNET User's Guide & Catalog.
Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., 1992.
About the Author
Chris Bush began his UNIX life in 1984 as a college
student, typing in troff commands for research documentation.
Chris has a B.S. in Computer Science
from the University of Buffalo, and is currently working
on his Masters.
He can be reached electronically at email@example.com.