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When Memory Isn't Enough, Try WAIS

by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor --

Even with Easy View, you may find it difficult to find those little tidbits of useful information you know you read in TidBITS. Thanks to a dedicated TidBITS reader, those of us with Internet access now have another option: WAIS.

WAIS, which stands for Wide Area Information Servers, is an Internet-based network approach to information retrieval developed jointly by Thinking Machines Corporation, Apple Computer, and Dow Jones. It allows users to access information based on keyword searches; the list of items likely to be of interest is returned sorted in order of probable relevance to the search. Users may then select the documents they wish to view, and screens of text are sent across the network.

Last week, Ephraim Vishniac, one of the WAIS developers at Thinking Machines, set up an indexed archive of TidBITS issues on the Internet using WAIS. This means anyone can use WAIS to retrieve any article or group of articles.

If you already know how to use WAIS, just use the source "macintosh-tidbits.src" on Or, to search not only TidBITS but also the voluminous info-mac archives and comp.sys.mac.programmer digests, use "macintosh-news.src" instead.

If your Mac is connected to the Internet and uses MacTCP, you can use Macintosh client software to access WAIS. The software may be FTP'd from; look for WAIStation-0-63.sit.hqx. There are also WAIS clients available for a variety of other platforms such as DOS, Sun, and VMS. Check on, or, if you're in Europe, check first on in the directory /pub/networking/service/wais. Alternately look for the comp.infosystems.wais Frequently Asked Questions list that specifies where each version may be located.

If you don't have a Mac on the Internet but you do have access to an Internet-connected computer that offers telnet services, you can use the screen-based WAIS (swais) service along with a VT100 emulator. Just telnet to and enter the username wais (all lowercase) at the login: prompt. This swais service isn't pretty but works for those of us who don't have real Internet connections for our Macs.

Either way, use the source document "macintosh-tidbits.src" located on, and specify one or more keywords that will enable the WAIS server to find the information buried in TidBITS that you want to see.

If you're interested in more details about WAIS, browse through the files available in the /wais directory on via FTP, or skim the articles in the comp.infosystems.wais newsgroup.

Information from:
Ephraim Vishniac --
comp.infosystems.wais FAQ