Software for Community Networks

Chebucto Suite (CSuite) is a group of software applications and custom interface that... can be used to establish and operate community network systems, Free-Nets or other environments where interchange of information and access to the Internet are key aims.

CSuite has been assembled by volunteers (see end) to the Chebucto Community Net (CCN) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and includes both programs developed by others and other programs, documentation and training materials developed by CCN. In many instances applications available from other sources have been modified to reflect the requirements of a comunity network.

Chebucto Suite is based on World-Wide Web (WWW) protocols which were developed at CERN in Switzerland and have fueled the explosive growth of the Internet. These protocols allow access via both...

CSuite is NOT a Dinosaur!

While development is still committed to supporting the text (Lynx) browser interface for dialup, CSuite fully supports a graphical interface and other InterNet services. As an example, CSuite can be administered using a local or http link and graphical browser.

The needs of users, site managers and organizations will continue to be met through the on-going development of new services that provide additional user features, administrator utility and ...contribute to the sustainability of community networks.

The Challenge...

CSuite development has been has been approached with a goal of creating community network software that reduces, as much as possible, the need for the intervention of a system administrator.

This has the effect of reducing the technical resource necessary to establish and operate a community network and thus makes a community network possible in smaller communities.

As examples... the development of CSuite has included:

Much of the development work of CSuite has already been integrated back into the publicly available version of lynx (University of Kansas). However, there is considerable added value only resident in CSuite. This includes the integration necessary to provide a complete, but constrained, user environment:

Perhaps more significant are the tools and framework for managing the system as a whole:

All parts of Chebucto Suite developed by CCN are now and will remain free to use for groups dedicated to free access to information. Parts of CSuite that have been developed elsewhere are presently free to use for these groups, but remain governed by any conditions attached by the original authors.

The ultimate goal of Chebucto Suite is not only to provide an excellent and highly functional user interface, but also to be easy to set up and administer.

We have created a single fill-out form forconfiguration and installation and are completing a cd-rom "express-install" that will make installation of an evaluation site very easy!

A range of possible platforms...

CSuite is intended to be portable to both low-end and high-end machines and easily distributed over many machines.

The achievement of this goal will allow a small community with limited financial and technical resources to run a full-fledged information and communications system with a minimal investment and very modest expertise and training. On the other hand, the largest communities will be able to also run Chebucto Suite on the most sophisticated distributed systems. The net effect will be that development in the most fortunate communities will benefit the least fortunate as well.

We invite the participation of others in the realization of this goal.

Specific future plans include:


A number of existing or developing community networks are using or planning to use CSuite. Here is what they say:

Dan Trottier, Chair - Technical Committee, Hamilton-Wentworth FreeNet, Hamilton, Ontario:

The Hamilton-Wentworth FreeNet is due to go on-line by the end of April/95. We have considered several different interface packages including FreePort and Gopher but found the Chebucto suite of software and support files to be the most flexible and supportable environment for our needs.

The developers and volunteers at Chebucto have done an excellent job of integrating standard freely available software into a coherent and stable environment for electronic information exchange. Based on widely accepted Internet standards the Chebucto software allows our FreeNet to interchange information with millions of other users and sites around the world.

Randy Dodge, Vice-President St. John's InfoNET Assoc Inc.:

The St. John's InfoNET (aka St. John's Free-Net) will launch on Apr 4, 1995 using the Chebucto Suite software provided by the Chebucto Community Net. Without this software, we were faced with a decision of making something home-grown or paying for the Freeport package. The Freeport software wasn't to our liking and we were impressed with the maturity and features of the Chebucto Suite - we installed and were running within 4 hours !

We are quite grateful to Chebucto Community Net for their work and will be helping with the Suite development as we proceed.

St. John's InfoNET would not have been able to launch on schedule without the Chebucto Suite.

This list is sadly out of date (Aug. 97)...! Hopefully over the next week I'll get it revised... ab934.

Chebucto Suite Authors:

In addition to those who have contributed to packages developed elsewhere that we are using as part of Chebucto Suite (who are credited in the text above), the following volunteers to Chebucto Community Net have participated. This list is, of course, not exhaustive -- it excludes many people who have tested the software and documentation -- a valuable contribution.

Technical Team:

David Trueman (
Landon Boyd (
Trent MacDougall (
David Murdoch (
Gerard MacNeil (

Documentation Team:

David L. Potter (
Renee Davis (
Gerard MacNeil (
Rob Currie (
David Murdoch (
Bonny Lee (
Leslie Foster (
Matthew F. Wulfman (
Carlos A F Freitas (
Christopher Majka (
David Trueman (
Joan Brown-Hicks (
Carol Sin (
Landon Boyd (
Andrew Dacey (