Chebucto Suite has been distributed free-of-charge to other community networks who are using it successfully. Further development work is required to make it easier to install and manage for personnel of only modest technical skill and experience. This development will make CSuite a practical, inexpensive choice for communities of all sizes whether they have access to advanced technical support or not.
This proposal seeks funding of $99,600 over two years to further the development work and provide support to communities using the result. After this initial development work, it is expected that ongoing development will be managed on a volunteer basis and that ongoing support will be self-financing through the contributions of communities using CSuite.
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:
Although fully functional, CSuite is under active development and is not yet suitable for general distribution. For the very adventurous, we are making snapshots available but can offer no support other than that available on a mailing list dedicated to this purpose. The first step to obtaining CSuite software is to subscribe to the mailing list by sending mail to firstname.lastname@example.org containing the one-line message "subscribe csuite-dev".
As of July, 1995, we are very close to having the first distribution ready for testing.
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 envision a single fill-out form for configuration and installation and full set of administrative tools for monitoring and controlling the system. All the software 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.
To a user in another community, a VCN appears to be their own. They dial a local access number. They enter through a home page that focuses on resources in their community. They seek assistance from members of their own community. They join their own local society which helps to sustain their network.
To an information provider from another community, the VCN appears as their own community resource. They coordinate with other people and organizations in their community. They focus on local events and resources while being able to link to provincial or worldwide resources through standard World Wide Web links.
For the local organization running a VCN: they organize the local information, they receive local members dues, they organize training for users and Information Providers (IPs). They ensure that enough local dialup lines are provided and paid for. They provide support for local Public Access Terminals (PATs) by organizing and training volunteer teams. They receive training for their trainers from an established organization, they do not have to worry about central computers, Internet connections or technical administration. When they have problems they have someone to call.The initial startup of their community net is a much less daunting task.
The host community that provides resources for one or more VCNs belonging to other communities must incrementally improve their facilities and resources: more disk space, more computer capacity, increased Internet bandwidth and more support and operations personnel.
The software on the host computer(s) must be able to support the illusion of multiple autonomous Community Networks in one: when a user connects, their location must determine what home page they see, what registration process they see, what address they are asked to send their memberships and donations to; the VCN administrators must be able to independently approve IPs and assign locations to them, they must be able to access their own membership database and generate reports from it. These capabilities are only a few of those that must be provided.
Chebucto Suite is now capable of much of what is required but it will need more development to handle all the necessary tasks.
The physical arrangement to accommodate VCNs is very straightforward. Within a community, the VCN organization provides a bank of local dialup modems connected to the host community by a leased line or other technology. These modems could be leased from an existing Internet Service Provider (ISP) where one already has a presence in the community. Where there is no existing ISP, the local VCN could establish its own facility or contract with an ISP to establish a presence.
Some additional part-time assistance will allow existing CCN and Dalhousie Computing Science staff to participate in the work and provide support to communities using CSuite.
Specific future plans include:
7 months salary for programmer $21,000 benefits for above 3,000 workstation for above 7,000 part-time assistants 9,000 benefits for above 1,000 Total 41,000April 1996 - March 1997
salary for programmer $36,000 benefits for above 5,400 part-time assistants 15,600 benefits for above 1,600 Total 58,600
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.
Saskatoon recently launched using CSuite. Groups in Ukraine, Slovenia and Australia are using or planning to use it.