A few of my friends worried about an impression that would be given by the article I wrote for the July edition of Monitor. They felt that I might have given an impression that FLORA volunteers are not supportive of the National Capital Freenet.
This is not the case; a good example of cooperation was mentioned in Gordon's FREEbytes column the same month with the discussion of the Ask the Doctor resource. This important information resource makes use of publishing resources on NCF and FLORA, and is housed and distributed by both organizations.
You can access the answers from the doctors either by typing 'go ask-doc' on the Freenet, or by accessing a WEB URL of <http://www.flora.ottawa.on.ca/ask-doctor/> . The full archive of all answers is available via both methods, and the archives are searchable by subject with the WEB based news-reader on FLORA.
As the proprietor of FLORA I'm often asked how we are able to offer services to the community without having any phone lines. People are familiar with the National Capital Freenet and their Internet Access Provider, but often not sure where FLORA fits into this picture.
The best way to really explain this concept is to discuss how the Internet works. In the June issue, Ray Richards mentioned Client-Server technology in his LANstuff column. The idea is very simple: The client software asks a question of the server, and in response the server replies to this question by returning or accepting some data, or performing some task.
The Internet is almost completely client/server based. When you click on a link to retrieve a WEB page, your client software (IE: Your WEB browser such as Mosaic, Internet Explorer, Netscape, Lynx) asks a question of a server: "Can you return me the information associated with this URL?", and the WEB server then responds by returning that WEB page. As Mark discussed in the July issue (FIDOCop), this server can be on your local LAN, on your Internet Access Provider(IAP), or anywhere on the Internet. Once your computer is connected to the NET, there is no real geographic limit of where your Client software can ask questions from.
Most people think of their Email accounts as being provided only by their IAP. If one thinks about the client/server model more, they will realize that retrieving Email from your own provider is just one such option. It is possible to pick up a mailbox that is stored anywhere on the Internet, assuming that Mailbox provider wishes this to happen. There are companies that make a living off of this; POBox.COM is a company that provides Email forwarding as well as selling mailboxes which you can pick up from anywhere on the Internet. In this way you are not tied to any single entry point to the Internet to pick up your Email.
Community Networks can also provide this type of Service. There have been discussions of the National Capital Freenet offering mailboxes to users from the Internet using the client/server model. FLORA Community WEB has been offering Email accounts to volunteers since FLORA first opened.
Mailboxes are also a service that I offer to my customers, and it has come in handy. Richard Lamothe can read his Email from his local network, his home or his cottage, and he dialed in to a Halifax IAP when he was there. No matter where he is, he can access his custom Email address of firstname.lastname@example.org.
All such services can work this way. The volunteers maintaining the Canadian Homeschool Resource Page are connected to the Internet from different places in Canada, but are able to work together and maintain a shared group of WEB pages on our server located on Sparks St. in Ottawa.
FLORA concentrates on discussion groups and other services that need to be able to be shared, regardless of what method a person using to access the Internet. It is our wish that people will get to know and interact with other people in the Ottawa region. Without this involvement in our own communities, the Internet becomes similar to the television with the viewer just observing what other people have to say.
Since FLORA is not providing services that would be in competition with an Internet Access Provider, these providers work well with us. One of FLORA's sponsors (as well as its Internet Access Provider) is Prestech. Prestech is a company that provides modem dial-up access through it's acquisition of Resudox. They see FLORA as a service that can be of benefit to their customers, and since FLORA is connected directly to them, it is just that much faster for their customers to interact with the services at FLORA.
Another good way to access FLORA (as well as the rest of the Internet) is through the Ottawa Public Net. This organization makes use of a model that is very similar to how television works. With television, you are not directly paying the costs for the programs you are watching. Instead, advertisers are paying these costs in order to have you look at their advertisements. Ottawa Public Net works the same way. You are not directly paying for your Internet access, but are looking at an advertisement placed there by the organization paying for your access.
Once you have viewed the advertisement, you are then free to access the full riches of the Internet; Including getting involved with Ottawa-wide discussion groups via FLORA and getting to know your neighbors just that much better!