9th meeting of the Belnet Workgroup on Information Servers

Date: February 27th 1997

Place: Belnet offices,Wetenschapsstraat 8, B-1000 Brussels


Peter Van Rossem, Patrick Vanouplines, Paul Nieuwenhuysen, François Vanderseypen, Pieter Liefooghe, Wim Holemans, Paul Borgermans


Herman Van Uytven, Viviane Vermeire, Anne-Mie Vandermeeren, Herman Peeters

Present from Belnet SST

Marc Roger, Jan Torreele

Have left the workgroup

Nils Meulemans (good luck to Nils in his new job)

Table of contents

  1. Introduction of new members
  2. Approval minutes of previous meeting
  3. Review agenda
  4. Presentations
  5. Liaisons
  6. Status Belnet
  7. Work package 1: Information servers
  8. Work package 2: Search tools
  9. Work package 3: Subject lists
  10. Other items and next meeting

1. Introduction of new members

François Vanderseypen is the new member of the VUB library who will be working on the Internet Starters Kit.

Jan Torreele is one of the new members of Belnet. He will take over the responsibilities of Webmaster at Belnet (among other things).

Paul Borgermans is working at the SCK-CEN in Mol.

2. Approval minutes of previous meeting

No special remarks.

3. Review agenda


See table of contents

4. Presentations


5. Liaisons

5.1. Catalogue of the Belgian Internet Landscape

Pieter Liefooghe (VUB - INFO) explains the goals of the project, that is offering up-to-date information about Internet sites in Belgium, through means of a graphical map based on a satellite image. This map is divided into blocks, where on the lowest level a pixel in a block represents a square of 25x25 meters.

Behind the map is a database which contains information about sites - primarily universities but others can be included - and the database contains keywords to offer a search of the database and find sites. The structure of the keywords is based on the Yahoo index.

Registration of a site will be automatic, to have as little maintenance as possible. Site registration is based on DNS-names, where one DNS-name represents one site. One site can only be registered once. This means that a site e.g. http://www.somesite.be/SFX and http://www.somesite.be/SOF can not both register, one of them (at least) require as separate domain.

Sites are represented by bullets, where the color of a bullet indicates the kind of site. There have been some problems with the color of the bullets, but those are now solved (more colors were used in the colorpalette). The images are made using GIF, to have a small processing time to generate the images. Every map-image offered to the user is about 40 Kb.

The html-templates in which the blocks and sites are represented are finished, and the graphical interface is also finished. More work has to be done to create the database, and include search tools and scripts on the database.

The test phase should start in April, the final project should be operational in June/July. A demonstration may be given at the next WG-IS meeting.

A preview of the pages will become available before next meeting, the address will be sent to the mailinglist.

5.2. Internet Starters Kit

For the Internet Starters Kit, a person has joined the VUB Library team to work on this project, François Vanderseypen. His first plans are to work on a power-point presentation, which will explain the very basics of the Internet. It may be expanded later to cover more topics.

All members of the workgroup are strongly recommended to make comments on the contract that was signed beginning of December 1996, and to the idea of making a power-point presentation, the contents (when available), and all future developments in this projects. They can mail to the mailinglist of the workgroup or to the president of this workgroup. Comments on the contract are expected before the 22nd of March 1997.

References to existing power-point presentations can be sent to François Vanderseypen.

The complete project - not only the power-point presentation - should be terminated by December 1997.

5.3. LDAP project proposal

Nils Meulemans suggested in the last meeting to make a proposal to have an "LDAP backbone" at Belnet. The UIA is probably going to use this directory service in the future, the library in Antwerpen is already using it to manage internal information.

Before making a project proposal, Wim, Marc and Peter - and others are welcome to - will look into this protocol, and check if it is possible to offer it to the Belnet community without making a proposal for it (cfr the proxy server).

Current clients software supporting LDAP is Microsoft Internet Mail and in the future also Netscape. A JAVA interface should also be available to query an LDAP server. The server software itself should be available at no cost for educational sites.

For more information on LDAP, see the report of the meeting in September 1996.

5.4. Other proposals

Other project proposals can be made at any time. Contactperson is Olivier Vandenput of the DWTC, but you best contact president of this workgroup as a spokesperson.

6. Status Belnet

6.1. New members at Belnet

Belnet engaged several new employees, among which Jan Torreele, counting now 6 members. Most persons at Belnet are responsible for different topics, but it is best that in case of problems or questions you mail to the Service Support Team, sst@belnet.be.

6.2. Virtual Software Library

Once more a discussion was made about VSL (Virtual Software Library). Wim Holemans and Paul Nieuwenhuysen have very positive experiences with it, and it would be nice if a reference to this site could be included on the WWW pages of Belnet, together with Archie. Questions were asked about the amount of use of Archie, stats are available on the Belnet WWW server.

VSL now has several domains, shareware.com, search.com and cnet.com

6.3. FTP server

Belnet now has 20 Gb of disk space available on their FTP server. Useful suggestions to mirror other sites can be sent to the SST. Better use of the FTP server at Belnet may be gotten from using a proxy server which can rewrite URL's (squid, see below).

6.4. Connectivity of Belnet and International lines

There was a question in what way end-users may become informed about the status of Belnet and international connections. Beside ping and traceroute not much is available. Members at INFO-VUB are working on a program that measures round-trip-times and packetloss for connections to some (specific) sites, to be able to report the load of the line(s).

A map where the connections are represented with colors - e.g. green, yellow, red - may be interesting to show to the users, but may be totally irrellevant as a site may be geographically in a totally different place than in the topology of the network.

7. Work package 1: Information servers

7.1. Cashing in Belnet/Belgium

Wim Holemans recently inquired about possible changes in proxy setup on different sites. Little or no changes were reported with regard to a couple of months ago. Belnet has set up a proxy caching server for all Belnet sites, which they can can configure as a parent proxy server (proxy.belnet.be:8000). There is also a possibility to use a proxy.pac (http://www.belnet.be/proxy.pac) which some browsers (netscape) can use to configure the proxy server themselves.

The Squid proxy/caching server is considered the most performant, and furthermore is free.

Belnet has several proxy peer agreements with other European countries and Internet providers, to function as a sibling. There is no problem to use other proxy servers in Belnet as a sibling, but the performance of it should be examined.

There were remarks about the privacy of the logfiles at Belnet, and whether they would be used to determine the activities of the institutions, or members at the institutions. There is no need for concern, the logfiles are only used to make statistics. 

Another feature of caching is URL redirection for FTP downloads, where the server at Belnet could be used to rewrite the URL requested, and to offer the same document from a more nearby server (mirror). Therefore it would be interesting to have a list of mirror sites in Belgium with good connectivity to offer such an URL redirection (see the next section).

7.3. Useful FTP sites in Belgium

Wim Holemans will make a list of sites with good connectivity which offer items of interest to the Belnet community. This list can also be used to do the URL redirection as discussed in the previous section. You can send interesting nearby sites to the workgroup's mailinglist.

If you have interesting items that you wish to see mirrored by Belnet, suggest them by sending a message to the Belnet Service Support Team.

7.4. Internet News

Belnet has banned some groups a couple of months ago which contained pedophelic material. But other groups which might contain similar material may still exist. Marc Roger explains that the News medium is not the right platform to distribute binaries. But at the present time no further actions will be taken. In the future - likely a couple of months - the ISPA (Internet Service Providers Association) - which is currently being founded - should announce rules which internet service providers should respect.

8. Work package 2: Search tools

As Hans Arents has left the workgroup - we wish him all the best - his page is left unmaintained. Herman Van Uytven was willing to adjust the KUL search page as an alternative for Hans's search page, but this is not as functional, especially to novice users, so there was a strong preference to keep the pages from Hans as the prime search pages index.

In previous meetings, it was suggested that Belnet could take over the page and maintain it. Jan T. and a student working for the VUB library will try to contact Hans to check with him if Belnet could take over the management of his search page. Jan T. is willing to do so, though he may not have the time to determine the quality offered by the different (new) search sites on the Intenet.

9. Work package 3: Subject lists

Nothing was discussed.

10. Other items and next meeting

10.1. Election of a new chairman.

As usual there were lots of candidates to become chairman (sigh :-). The current vice-chairman was willing to become chairman, until the next meeting where other candidates can come forward.

Paul Borgermans volunteered for vice-president, and was also elected. Congratulations to Paul :-)

10.2. Information '97

A 2-day convention about information will be organized in September 1997 (17th and 18th) at the Royal Library . Suggestions and ideas to bring forward to this convention are always welcome, as well as ideas for possible demonstrations.

10.3. Next meeting

The next meeting will be held at the Belnet premises on May 6th 1997, starting at 9:30. In case demonstrations are to be given, Belnet has to be informed in advance so they can prepare the installation of material for the demonstration.

Updated: Mon Mar 3 10:03:20 MET 1997
Maintainer: Peter Van Rossem