Chapter 13



WAIS


In the first edition of this book, this section was pretty empty. Actually, it was completely empty, but this time I have a WAIS program written for Microsoft Windows to talk about.


EINet WinWAIS


With WinWAIS, EINet plugs a hole in the WinSock suite of applications. Since EINet currently makes a World Wide Web browser and is working on an FTP program, I'm sure we will see more integration of these products in the future (similar to what they have already done on the Macintosh).


Basic Usage

Make sure you're connected to the Internet, launch WinWAIS, and from the File menu select New Question. WinWAIS brings up a new question window and presents you with a dialog showing the contents of your wais-sources.

Figure 13.23: WinWAIS Select Source dialog.

Double-click on the Directory of Servers at Thinking Machines Inc. source in the left-hand list to copy it over to the right-hand list of selected sources, and then click on the OK button to close the Select Sources dialog. The problem is that WinWAIS only ships with one useful source, the Directory of Servers at Thinking Machines Inc., so you must use it to find additional sources that you can then use in specific searches. Let's look for information about the 104th Congress.

In the Unnamed Question window's Tell Me About field, type 104th Congress. You've already selected the Directory of Servers at Thinking Machines Inc., so that's where your search for the 104th Congress takes place. Click on the Ask button to send the search to the WAIS server.

Figure 13.24: WinWAIS Question window.

WinWAIS asks the WAIS server which sources might contain information about the 104th Congress. When the search comes back, the Information Found field lists 35 items that might have something to do with the 104th Congress. As you can see in figure 13.45, some of them may be pushing it a bit, but many of them contain information that might be relevant (the numbers to the left of the result list items represent scores; the higher the better).

NOTE: The "score" in WinWAIS is merely its method of displaying ranking information about which results are most likely to answer your question.

If you select one of the sources in the Information Found field, you can click on the Save button to save it to your wais-sources collection, or you can click on the View button to see what its description says (see figure 13.25).

Figure 13.25: WinWAIS View Source Description dialog.

If you click on view, you are given the option to save the currently selected source, and to ask the same question you just asked with the new source. You can repeat the process with the rest of the sources listed here, and perform other searches on the Directory of Servers to try other searches.

In fact, the process of searching for a specific piece of information in a source is exactly the same as that of searching for a source. Instead of the Directory of Servers source, you select whichever one is appropriate and enter a different search phrase in the Tell Me About field. For instance, I want to find out what crime legislation is being considered, so I ask WinWAIS to tell me about the crime bill (see figure 13.26).

Figure 13.26: WinWAIS crime bill question.

The results are mixed, probably because the phrase "crime bill" is fairly common. However, WinWAIS did find H.R. 3 and a whole bunch of crime-related bills and amendments, and if you select H.R. 3 you can either View it, Save it, or Add it as a reference with the Add Ref button. If you click on the Add Ref button, that document title appears in the Similar To field. Clicking on the Ask button results in somewhat different information, because WinWAIS now realizes that I'm more interested in stuff relevant to H.R. 3 (see figure 13.27).

Figure 13.27: WinWAIS crime bill question II.

That about covers using WinWAIS's basic features. You can save questions, which is a good way of avoiding the Select Source dialog (which I find rather clumsy). Also, if you want to create a new question that's similar to an existing one, you can select Clone Question from the File menu.


Special Features

One problem with WAIS applications is that sometimes the document that you find is quite large, which can make scrolling through it to find the actual piece of information you wanted a bit tedious. To help, WinWAIS has Find and Find Again commands in the Search menu.

Although it's not currently all that useful, WinWAIS can search local WAIS sources. This means that if you had a program to create a WAIS source of information on your hard disk, you could use WinWAIS to search through it. I want to be able to do this fairly badly, since I store a lot of text and have trouble finding specific pieces of information quickly.

Finally, although there's no need to mess with them, WinWAIS provides a few preferences that make life easier. Most notable are the capability to default to using a specific source in new questions, and the capability to save sources in a specific directory so you don't have to collect them manually when you accidentally save them somewhere else on your hard disk (see figure 13.28).

Figure 13.28: WinWAIS User Preferences dialog.


Overall Evaluation

WinWAIS is a good, simple program that does its job well, but there are some areas that could stand improvement. I'd like to see a better way of selecting sources, since going to a menu and selecting from a dialog for something you do all the time is a pain. Perhaps a scrolling list attached to each question window would work well. In my experience, you frequently want to change sources and it shouldn't be a difficult process. You can retrieve WinWAIS from either of the following:

ftp://ftp.einet.net/einet/pc/EWAIS204.EXE

ftp://ftp.tidbits.com/pub/tiskwin/EWAIS204.zip

You can contact the WinWAIS folks at pc-shareware@einet.net. or license-info@einet.net WinWAIS is $35 shareware from the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC), which is an industry consortium formed by several computer companies a few years ago. If you use WinWAIS for more than 30 days, MCC requests that you pay your shareware fee. Send checks payable to MCC to:

EINet Windows Shareware MCC 3500 West Balcones Center Drive Austin, TX 78759-5398 USA


Gopher


The University of Minnesota's Gopher system lends itself to graphical interfaces, perhaps more so than WAIS. Because Gopher is inherently a list-based system, it maps perfectly to separate windows of lists, between which you can switch back and forth, clicking on interesting items to explore deeper in Gopherspace.


WSGopher


WSGopher is a complete Gopher client with a standard Windows interface, and was developed by EG&G of Idaho, Inc. I've spent enough time in Idaho Falls to know that there's really not a lot of things distracting programmers from their tasks there in the wintertime, so I'm not surprised at the excellent job they've done in WSGopher.


Installation

Installing WSGopher is a matter of extracting the files from the self-extracting archive file, wsg-12.exe, and creating a program item in Windows. In the case of WSGopher, be careful to fill in the Working Directory with the directory where wsgopher.exe and wsgopher.ini reside.


Basic Usage

A graphical Gopher client is pretty intuitive by nature. But there are a few concepts that make using Gopher a lot clearer. The main concept is that Gopher servers are collections of files, other Gopher servers, and other information links.

It's important to know that a primary function of Gopher servers is to reference to other sources of information. The goal is to make this reference transparent.

To demonstrate this behavior and to show nearly everything you need to know about using WSGopher, open the application and type Alt-E to open the bookmark editor window. This window shows you about all of the Gopher servers specifically mentioned in the wsgopher.ini file, and enables you to connect to one by selecting it from the list and clicking on the Fetch button (see figure 13.29).

Figure 13.29: WSGopher bookmark editor.

If you choose the list item All the Gopher servers in the world, you get a list of items on your main WSGopher window which is just that. This is a bit daunting to say the least. Double-clicking on any of these items presents you with the main screen from that server.

The last important note about WSGopher is an explanation of the use of icons. Some are obvious -- such as the yellow file folder icon, denoting a collection of documents or other folders. I might have chosen a different icon for local folders as opposed to Gopher server links, but I guess that transparency is part of the concept. Other icons you will find on the screen are the readable document icon, the standard paper with lines and a corner folded, and the generic binary icon, covered with ones and zeros. A complete listing of icons is explained in the help file but is also replicated in figure 13.30 because it can be difficult to find.

Figure 13.30: Explanation of WSGopher icons.


Special Features

WSGopher accommodates searches of Gopherspace via both Archie and Veronica, making it a quite versatile way of exploring the Internet file spaces.

If you find a treasure trove in Gopherspace, you probably want to make sure that you can find your way back at some future time. WSGopher has made that easy by implementing bookmarks. By typing Alt-S, you can save the current window as a bookmark and return to it at any time by choosing Edit Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu and choosing it from the bookmark list. The Recent Menu shows you recent Gopher servers you've seen and allows you reattach by selecting it.


Overall Evaluation

WSGopher is as good as I've seen, including some commercial versions like WinGopher from NOTIS Systems Inc, and NetManage's from the Chameleon 4.0 distribution. I'm not a heavy Gopher user, but for my needs WSGopher is more than enough.


Administrative Details

EG&G is a government contractor doing mostly DOE work at the Idaho Nuclear Engineering Labs. The copyright notice included with WSGopher is makes it clear that it is freely distributable and protected by U.S. copyright laws. Aside from that, distribution is done from two main points:

ftp://dewey.tis.inel.gov/pub/wsgopher/wsg-12.exe

gopher://boombox.micro.umn.edu:70/11/gopher/Windows/wsg-12.exe


HGopher


HGopher is another freeware Gopher client you might want to try. It has a reasonably easy interface to figure out, and, as the author puts it, has a lot of neat little icons for straining your eyes (see figure 13.31). What it doesn't provide you with is a multiple-document interface (MDI), so you have to live with viewing only one window at a time (however, you can have three simultaneous connections, and apparently three articles get cached).

Figure 13.31: HGopher at work.

As of this writing, it looks like development of HGopher has been abandoned. Nonetheless, it provides a decent interface for Gophering about, and if you are looking for an alternative to WSGopher, then this may be worth a try. Installing the program is a simple matter of unzipping the archive. You can find the file at:

ftp://ftp.ccs.queensu.ca/pub/msdos/tcpip/winsock/hgoph24.zip