How to Find Anything on The Internet (Part 2)

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FILE SEARCHES

Searching for a website is fairly easy. Searching for a single file or program across the wide expanse of the Internet is another story.Suppose you want to find a specific program, say a budget calculator you read about in a magazine review. You know the name of the program (for this example, "budcalc.zip"), but you forgot where you could download it from, and you can't find the article. Time to use a file searcher such as Gopher, Archie, Veronica, or WAIS.

Gopher is a document search and retrieval system on the Internet. It's fairly easy to use and doesn't require special software. Basically, it's a menu-driven system that narrows down what you're looking for, then tells you where you can find it. It is by no means comprehensive, and the results vary from Gopher listing to Gopher listing (there are hundreds of them), but you'll usually find something close to what you're looking for.

To use Gopher, you must first access a Gopher site. Gopher site URLs look similar to website URLs, with the exception that "gopher" replaces "http." You'll commonly find Gopher sites through university and government Internet sites. The University of Southern California's Gopher site is a good one to start out with:
gopher://cwis.usc.edu

When you access a Gopher site, as noted earlier, you'll be presented with a menu of choices. Select the choice that is closest to what you are looking for, and you will be presented with another menu of choices. Each menu you reach will be narrower than the preceding one. In this way, you can manually "zero in" on the information you're looking for.

For a complete guide on how to use Gopher, access this FTP site:
ftp://ubvmsb.cc.buffalo.edu/internet/gophern/

If you want an automated search that you don't have to manually work through, try Archie. Archie is a system developed by two graduate students that scans FTP sites (which contain downloadable files) for the program you want. In order to use Archie, you'll need Archie software. America Online and Compuserve are implementing Archie, and should have it by the time you read this. If you are accessing the Internet on your own through a SLIP/PPP connection, check with the manufacturer of your Internet software and/or your Internet service provider for the program you should use. You should be able to get an Archie program as shareware.

Be forewarned, an Archie search can take a long time. Also, when our example search is completed, we have a list of FTP sites that contain any file called "budcalc.zip." We won't have any descriptions, so we just have to access an FTP site from the list, download "budcalc.zip," and hope it's the proper program. If not, try another site.

Veronica is an Archie-like search tool that works with the Gopher system. When you go through the Gopher menus, you'll probably see references to Veronica searches. If you select a Veronica search, you will be Telnet'ed into a computer containing Veronica software. You can then execute a search as you would with Archie.

The final file search tool is WAIS, which stands for Wide Area Information Servers. A WAIS search produces results that are scored as to the similarity with your search criteria. For example, if you were searching for a particular phrase ("To be, or not to be, that is the question," for example), your first reference in the results might have a score of 1000. That means that the reference (probably a Shakespeare-related site or file) contains the exact phrase you entered. Other references with less precision will follow.

Finally, if you don't want to use a search tool, and are just looking for files, there are a number of Internet sites that contain huge numbers of files ready for downloading. Many of these sites include file descriptions, but some do not. Here are just a few examples of some of the "file dumps" on the Net:

C-NET SEARCH: http://www.shareware.com
FILEPILE: http://www.filepile.com
JUMBO: http://www.jumbo.com/
SHARE: http://www.fagg.uni-lj.si/SHASE/
SIMTEL MIRROR: ftp://oak.oakland.edu
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