New mirrors reflect need to cut costs of net working

August 6, 1999

The Higher Education National Software Archive, a collection of 1.3 million programs and other files gathered from the internet, was this week reborn as the National Mirror Service.

By "mirroring" the contents of popular internet sites worldwide, the service helps higher education institutions avoid the charges they would otherwise pay for data coming via JANET's transatlantic "fat pipe".

That may not be the main consideration for individual researchers and students, who are more likely to be attracted by the prospect of a shorter search for what they want, followed by a quicker download. Like Hensa, the new service is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee and based at the universities of Lancaster and Kent. But the old north-south divide, with Unix software at Kent and the rest at Lancaster, has gone. "Now the service is essentially duplicated at each site, which means we are more resilient," said technical manager Mark Russell.

For the computing researcher about to write a new utility in Perl or TCL, it remains the place to check whether someone has already written the required program (they usually have).

Users from other disciplines will find a growing collection of databases, graphics, audio, video, mirrored web pages and Midi files of classical music.

There is a search engine, online help and, if all else fails, a help desk to provide advice.

To ensure the mirrored data is up to date, the original sites are checked at least once a day for any changes. Popular sites are checked every six hours.

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