How useful is GCG nowadays (vs Macs)

Foteos Macrides macrides at sci.wfeb.edu
Tue Mar 28 19:01:33 EST 1995

In article <PMR.95Mar21094050 at unst.sanger.ac.uk>, pmr at unst.sanger.ac.uk (Peter Rice) writes:
> In article <3kk4le$3j6 at apakabar.cc.columbia.edu> mr48 at namaste.cc.columbia.edu (Mark Reboul) writes:
>>   It seems clear there are technological benefits to GCG users' having 
>>   the package documentation available via WWW, perhaps with access 
>>   limited to users at each licensed institution, or even possibly with 
>>   any licensed site free to give wide-open access to any and all comers
>>   in the world (if in fact that were ever to be authorized by GCG). 
>>   But everyone thinking about this notion ought to keep in mind the 
>>   distinct possibility (I would go so far as to call it a *fact*) that, 
>>   if either type of increased access results in decreased revenue for 
>>   GCG in terms of manual sales lost, then GCG will raise their license 
>>   fees to make up the difference. 
> There is an added problem. Users could get very attached to their WWW
> versions of the manuals, but GCG have been changing the way the manual
> is produced. The User Guide, for example, no longer comes with source text
> in the package (because it is written in a completely different way now).
> The WPI Guide never had available source (because it was never produced
> in the old way).
> GenHelp could also be a candidate for change in future - at present on Unix
> it is trying to look exactly like a VMS help file. As more users migrate
> from VMS to Unix that is going to become harder to use.
> That means that existing ways of producing the WWW versions of documentation
> are likely to break in the future.

	Don't confuse process with product.  The format of the raw manual
and help modules in the GCG distribution is not of concern.  Something
will always be there which can be acted upon by a procedure for producing
screen displays of the information, and consequently it will always be
possible to develop a procedure which renders the information as HTML for
display by WWW clients.

	For example, though standard VMS genhelp.hlb and genmanual.hlb
libraries are no longer supported in v8, David Mathog provided a script
for creating them via the .fil files, and thus we can still use the VMS
HELP gateway for accessing the help and manual modules (including the
WPI Guide), fetched from the .hlb "database" by a CGI script, based on
the client's request (URL), and converted to HTML "on the fly" for
display by the client.

	Perhaps your reference to "WWW versions of the manuals" is based
on the way it was done for Unix, i.e., as a physical foo.html file set
that in installed on an http server.  That's OK, but it involved a good
deal more manual labor, which may need to be repeated for successive
updates of the GCG package.  It might be worthwhile for the Unix folks
to start thinking about an entirely automated, script-based procedure
as well -- so the Unix folks similarly can simply apply the scripts to
whatever arrives in successive GCG updates, and presto, the HTML-based
access to the help and manual has been updated as readily as everything

	I say this in prepraration for comments on the preceding question
of whether the public access via http servers might have an impact on GCG
renenues.  A concern about that had not been indicated to me by Maggie
Smith in our communications about our making the genhelp and gemanual
libraries public access via the VMS HELP gateway.  Her expressed concerns
were about the phrasiology of the copyright/permission statement, and
that we keep the service updated to the latest GCG release.  Since the
site licenses include the right to print any number of copies, I had
assumed the charges for pre-printed manuals were simply a matter of
cost recovery.

	So I asked Maggie explicitly about that today.  Her answer was
that GCG does generate some income for sales of pre-printed manuals,
and that they anticipate that there might be some loss of income due
permissions for public WWW access, but they were willing to suffer it
for the sake of good will.

	If freeware, entirely script-based procedures for HTML renditions
of the GCG help and manual become available for Unix as well, the issue
of public WWW access would become moot.  Any licensed site with WWW
services could install the scripts with Level 1 protection for their
users with WWW clients.  GCG could help distribute the scripts via
their servers --  or start maintaining such scripts themselves as part of
the package, with instructions on how to set it up, and confidence that
the lastest versions of the help and manual modules will be presented,

	Think about it 8-).

 Foteos Macrides           Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology
 MACRIDES at SCI.WFEB.EDU     222 Maple Avenue, Shrewsbury, MA 01545

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