Finding Out More

Zen and the Art of the Internet

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 Finding Out More
Internet Resource Guide
The NSF Network Service Center (NNSC) compiles and makes available an
Internet Resource Guide (IRG).  The goal of the guide is to increase the
visibility of various Internet resources that may help users do their
work better.  While not yet an exhaustive list, the guide is a useful
compendium of many resources and can be a helpful reference for a new
Resources listed are grouped by types into sections.  Current sections
include descriptions of online library catalogs, data archives, online
white pages directory services, networks, network information centers,
and computational resources, such as supercomputers.  Each entry
describes the resource, identifies who can use the resource, explains
how to reach the local network via the Internet, and lists contacts
for more information.  The list is distributed electronically by the
NNSC.  To receive a guide, or to get on a mailing list that alerts you
to when it is updated, send a message to
The current edition of the IRG is available via anonymous FTP from, in the directory /resource-guide.
Requests for Comments
The internal workings of the Internet are defined by a set of
documents called RFCs (Request for Comments).  The general process
for creating an RFC is for someone wanting something formalized to
write a document describing the issue and mailing it to Jon Postel
(  He acts as a referee for the proposal.  It is then
commented upon by all those wishing to take part in the discussion
(electronically, of course).  It may go through multiple revisions.
Should it be generally accepted as a good idea, it will be assigned a
number and filed with the RFCs.
The RFCs can be divided into five groups: required, suggested,
directional, informational and obsolete.  Required RFCs (e.g.,
RFC-791, The Internet Protocol) must be implemented on any host
connected to the Internet.
Suggested RFCs are generally implemented by network hosts.  Lack of
them does not preclude access to the Internet, but may impact its
usability.  RFC-793, Transmission Control Protocol, is a must for
those implementing TCP.
Directional RFCs were discussed and agreed to, but their application
has never come into wide use.  This may be due to the lack of wide
need for the specific application (RFC-937, The Post Office Protocol) or
that, although technically superior, ran against other pervasive
approaches (RFC-891, Hello).  It is suggested that, should the facility
be required by a particular site, an implementation be done in
accordance with the RFC.  This ensures that, should the idea be one
whose time has come, the implementation will be in accordance with
some standard and will be generally usable.
Informational RFCs contain factual information about the Internet and
its operation (RFC-990, Assigned Numbers).
There is also a subset of RFCs called FYIs (For Your Information).
They are written in a language much more informal than that used in
the other, standard RFCs.  Topics range from answers to common
questions for new and experienced users to a suggested bibliography.
Finally, as the Internet has grown and technology has changed, some
RFCs become unnecessary.  These obsolete RFCs cannot be ignored,
however.  Frequently when a change is made to some RFC that causes a
new one to obsolete others, the new RFC only contains explanations and
motivations for the change.  Understanding the model on which the
whole facility is based may involve reading the original and
subsequent RFCs on the topic.
RFCs and FYIs are available via FTP from many sources, including:
The archive, as /rfc/rfc-xxxx.txt, where
xxxx is the number of the RFC.
from, in the directory /RFC.
They're also available through mail by writing to, with a Subject: line of send RFC-xxxx.TXT, again
with xxxx being the RFC number.
``Knowledge is of two kinds.  We know a subject ourselves, or we
know where we can find information upon it.''
Samuel Johnson
Letter to Lord Chesterfield
February, 1755
a book of quotes said April 18, 1775 .. the book of Johnson's works
said it's 1755; I'll go with the latter.