An Overview of Chebucto Suite

Chebucto Suite provides a powerful and easy-to-use interface and management platform for community network systems, Free-Nets or other environments where interchange of information and access to the Internet are key aims. It has been assembled by volunteers (see end) to the Chebucto Community Net (CCN) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and consists of the integration of programs developed elsewhere along with modifications, other programs, documentation and training materials developed by CCN.

Chebucto Suite is based on World-Wide Web (WWW) protocols which were developed at CERN in Switzerland and have now become the driving force for the explosive growth of the Internet. These protocols allow access via both lowest denominator text-only interfaces and the latest graphical browsers. Most of the development has been concentrated on the text-only interface, but we are increasingly using Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts to make the functionality available on any platform.

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.

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 containing the one-line message "subscribe csuite-dev".

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 move Chebucto Suite from its current status of a functional system that requires considerable expertise to install and maintain to the goal stated above will require a modest development effort that is beyond the means of the current volunteers. We estimate that a single skilled employee working for one year can make the transition to the point that further improvements can be continued by volunteers.

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.

Saskatoon recently launched using CSuite. Groups in Ukraine, Slovenia and Australia are using or planning to use it.

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 (
Trent MacDougall (
Gerard MacNeil (
David Murdoch (

Documentation Team:

Rob Currie (
Carlos A F Freitas (
Bonny Lee (
Gerard MacNeil (
Christopher Majka (
David Trueman (

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