Hopkins in Cyberspace By Mike Field ----------------------------------------------------------------- Does this column help? What cyberspace questions would you like answered? Please e-mail comments and suggestions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Cyberspace" in the subject line, or fax us at 516-5251. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Will the Constitution be amended, say for example, to include a balanced budget amendment? Statistically speaking, the chances are slim. Of more than 10,000 possible amendments introduced into Congress since 1789, only 27 have become law (and one of them was to repeal an earlier amendment). Ah, you wonder, what are those 27 amendments and when did they pass? To find out it's not necessary to call Congress or search the shelves of your local library. Using anonymous ftp you can retrieve the complete text of the Constitution and examine it at leisure on your own computer. In the Feb. 13 issue of the Gazette, we connected to ftp.spies.com and then followed the path /Gov/US-History to the directory where documents like the Constitution are stored. Using a Mac or Windows-based ftp program this is a fairly simple matter that requires only point-and-click ability. Remember, though, when transferring files to click on the ASCII format as Binary transfer is meant for moving programs, not text. A menu selection on your screen will allow you to choose between the two. Those without either an Apple Mac or an IBM compatible with Windows can still transfer files using ftp, assuming the necessary software is already installed on the computer (a systems operator can help with this). The Feb. 13 column explained how to use this software to connect to a remote source and call up the directory of documents and programs available. Usually, the first directory will contain further subdirectories arranged by topic; these will be marked by the letter "d" at the beginning of the line. Individual text files are marked with a dash "-" at the beginning of the line. The word at the end of each line is the title of the subdirectory or file and will generally give some information about what is contained within. This is part of what the screen will look like when you connect to ftp.spies.com and enter dir at the first prompt: drwxr-xr-x 2 wiretap files 512 Aug 23 02:33 .cap drwxr-xr-x 4 wiretap files 512 Jul 1 1993 About -rw-r--r-- 1 wiretap files 791 Apr 6 1993 About_Gopher drwxr-xr-x 3 wiretap files 512 Sep 29 02:38 Books drwxr-xr-x 4 wiretap files 512 Jul 1 1993 Etext drwxr-xr-x 30 wiretap files 1024 Aug 30 01:08 Gov drwxr-xr-x 16 wiretap files 512 Jul 1 1993 Library For our purposes, the only information on the screen we are concerned with occurs at the beginning of each line where a "d" means subdirectory and a "-" means file, and at the end of the line, where the item is titled. For instance, this menu contains a subdirectory titled "Gov," a good place to begin looking for government-related documents such as the Constitution. To move to that directory, you will need to use the "change directory" command, which is generally "cd" followed by the subdirectory you want to move to. In this example, we will need to type cd Gov at the command line (which is the ftp prompt, ftp>). Keep in mind that these commands are sensitive to use of upper- and lowercase letters. Typing cd GOV will not work, because the remote computer will look for a subdirectory labeled "GOV" and ignore the one labeled "Gov." A complete list of possible commands is available by typing help at the command line. After entering cd Gov the directory will disappear from your screen, and in its place will appear a message confirming the change of directories: "250 CWD command successful" followed by the ftp prompt. Call up the new subdirectory by typing dir at the prompt, and repeating the entire process to move from the "Gov" directory to the "US-History" subdirectory. Again, call up the directory of files within this new subdirectory by typing dir. Within the US-History directory are more than three dozen different files (all identified by the dash "-" at the beginning of the line) including one titled "us-const.txt," our copy of the Constitution. To retrieve the file, use the "get" command: at the ftp prompt type "get" then leave a space and follow with the name of the file, as in get us-const.txt. Remember these commands are case sensitive, so copy file names exactly. If the command is entered correctly, the remote computer will acknowledge this with a string of lines telling how many bytes of information are transferred, ending with the message "Transfer Complete." The text of the Constitution is now in your computer! To retrieve it, exit ftp by typing bye at the prompt. The remote computer will acknowledge this by replying "Goodbye." To retrieve the text of the Constitution look for the file labeled "us-const.txt" in the root directory of the prompt in which you initiated the ftp process. For example, if you entered ftp from C>, the file will be in the root directory of your C drive. The file is stored in ASCII format. You can read it by calling it up through WordPerfect or other word processing programs.
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